Basic nutrition calls for feeding your body wholesome plant foods, high-quality proteins, and good fats. It’s the optimal design for good health. It closely resembles the Mediterranean Diet, which commonly consists of dishes containing olive oil and fresh vegetables. This Mediterranean Baked Chicken is the perfect culmination of ingredients that cultivate good health and deliciousness. Obviously, it contains chicken, so it’s appropriate to serve as a main dish. The other ingredients, however, are the true stars of health and flavor.
When selecting chicken, choose organic and pasture-raised if this option is accessible to you. Pasture-raised means that the chickens will have abundant access to fresh air, grass, and insects, which are their natural form of food. Just like people, chickens are what they eat, breathe, and feel, so select the highest quality that is accessible to you. Generally, chickens raised on organic pastures are recognized as the healthiest and highest quality. At the end of the day, though, do the best you can, and don’t stress too much. After all, perfect is the enemy of good, and stress is toxic, too.
This dish is a crowd-pleaser and pairs wonderfully with a slice of whole grain bread and either a mixed greens salad or cooked kale. If you don’t like an ingredient listed, don’t let that deter you; follow the recipe but eat around whatever it is you don’t like. The recipe can be cut in half if the servings are too many, but we think you’ll want leftovers of this one. On the road? Make it in your Instant Pot! Pressure cooking for 8-10 minutes should be just right.
Mediterranean Baked Chicken
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 lbs. chicken breasts
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slice tomatoes and olives in half lengthwise and set aside. OR, to save time, leave them whole!
Place minced garlic, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add olive and whisk vigorously. (Dressing will not combine completely; don’t worry about separation.)
Lay chicken breasts in a 9x13” baking dish. Spread tomatoes and olives evenly over the top.
Give the vinegar and oil mixture one last stir, then pour over chicken, tomatoes, and olives.
Sprinkle the dish with 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley. Optionally, sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese prior to serving.
Leftovers reheat well and will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Fennel seeds have a very distinct flavor. If this flavor is undesirable, fennel seeds may be omitted. A very small amount (as called for by the recipe) does add subtle complexity to the dish, so don’t be afraid to include them unless you’re strongly opposed.
For a warmer and heartier version (and if using feta), sprinkle feta over the dish when the chicken is finished baking. Heat oven to broil, and place dish back in the oven for just a couple of minutes. This will melt the feta and give the dish a nice, rich flavor.
Any combination of fresh basil, oregano, and thyme may be added along with the parsley. The above recipe is very flavorful as is, but the addition of more fresh herbs will only enhance the flavor of the dish. Feel free to include fresh herbs according to your preference.
Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein. One 4-ounce serving contains over half of most people’s protein needs for one day. Like other animal proteins, it is a great source of B-complex vitamins and is particularly high in niacin. It also contains a significant amount of the trace element selenium, which is crucial for enzymes that function as antioxidants in the body. Olives are incredibly rich in phytonutrients and are traditionally known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, and antioxidant properties. Their high monounsaturated fatty acid content is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes, of course, offer their own notable variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.