While still on the subject of reconnecting with long lost friends, I was at a dinner party a few years ago when I heard the unmistakably distinctive voice of artist Yassi Mazandi. We met only once briefly 20 years earlier at a pool party in Los Angeles, but Yassi is not someone you easily forget – however long it is between seeing each other, which thankfully is quite often these days. She’s has an insatiable curiosity

Dinner at my place a couple years ago

Dinner at my place a couple years ago with Yassi, Kay, Craig (Yassi’s husband), Ryan, Yvonne, and Austen

with a naughty little girl quality about her that make her completely irresistible. Her free-spirited, enormous heart often reminds me of my beloved Grandma Ellie – both unpredictable yet quite likely to dance on a tabletop should the inclination strike. Ellie would have adored Yassi!

Yassi in the studio - photograph courtesy of Lileth Rocket

Yassi in the studio – photograph courtesy of Lileth Rocket

Not long after our unexpected reunion, Yassi called me to say “you must come play in the clay with me at the pottery studio.” I naively made a huge batch of Chicken Marrakesh and Quinoa (Yassi sticks to a gluten-free diet ruling out couscous) for everyone at the studio, then trundled along thinking what a lovely change from the usual “ladies that lunch” social gathering. I had no idea just how mind-blowingly talented my friend had become, or how silly I would feel.

My amateur endeavor versus...

My amateur endeavor versus…

There I sat pinching together the most rudimentary clay ashtray (the smallest thing I could think to make, so as not to be too obvious), surrounded by some of the worlds most talented sculptors, while Yassi sat carving and manipulating the final touches in her still pliable piece of clay for one of her ceramic flowers – we must have looked like a scene from a Woody Allen film! Nonetheless, it turned out to be an absolutely enchanted afternoon. My chicken went down a storm, and they all made me feel quite welcome, despite my clearly amateur artistic endeavor.

Yassi and her ceramic flower - photo courtesy of Tim Hailand

Yassi and her ceramic flower – photo courtesy of Tim Hailand

I knew that day that Yassi was on the verge of great success, and I’ve witnessed her meteoric rise in the art world with pride and joy ever since. Her first solo show at JF Chen caught the eye of an important collector and trustee at the Metropolitan Museum (New York), which ultimately led to Yassi being invited as artist-in-residence at the the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation on Captiva Island, Florida. Her work has since been exhibited internationally and resides in major collections around the globe.

“During her residency at the Robert Raushenberg Foundation, Yassi took advantage of the opportunity to explore other media – namely painting, printmaking, and photography – translating three-dimensional scans of her sculptures into two dimensions, which she calls sculptographs. She digitally manipulates aurasmic colors, in hues ranging from electric bright pink to midnight blue, and ultimately prints some on canvas and paper, some of which she works by hand, sanding and painting the surfaces. The shapes take on astronomical dimensions in this form, appearing like generative novas or other cosmic events.”

Red Velvet Food Shakra - Yassi Mazandi

Sculptograph: Red Velvet Food Chakra by Yassi Mazandi

The Sacred Wheel, an exhibition of Yassi‘s most recent ceramic sculptures and works on paper will open at the Maloney Fine Arts Gallery on January 11th – February 22nd. If you’re in the Los Angeles area during that time I highly recommend taking the time to see the world through Yassi’s spectaular creative vision – you will not be disappointed!

Chicken Marrakesh

Until then, you can feast on the same Chicken Marrakesh dish I served at the studio. I know it seems like a lot of ingredients, but it is well worth the effort…especially if you want to shake up the same old, same old chicken doldrums. PCA Tip: double the recipe, cool, package and freeze the extra servings for another feast (at a later date) without the effort!

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients

Chicken Marrakech

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divideed
  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken cut into pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 pound sweet potato peeled and cut into 3/4
  • 1 1/2 cups 99% fat-free chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley chopped
  • 1 large orange zest and juice

Directions

Chicken Marrakech

  1. On a large plate, mix together the flour and turmeric; set aside.
  2. Heat 1/2 of the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Working in batches (don't overcrowd the pan or the chicken will not brown properly), add to pan and brown on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove to a plate tented with foil to keep warm. Reserve the unused flour mixture to thicken sauce later if desired.
  4. Add remaining oil to the pan along with the onions, and cook until softened about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne. Cook stirring frequently to toast the spices until they are fragrant, about 1-3 minutes.
  5. Add wine to deglaze (stir up any brown gooey bits from the bottom of the pan), and let the wine reduce, about 5-6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, carrots, sweet potato, and chicken broth. Bring to boil, cover with lid slightly ajar and reduce heat to medium-low. Let the chicken simmer for another hour.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of cilantro, parsley, orange zest and juice. Adjust seasonings, and cook another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until chicken is so tender it starts to fall from the bone.
  7. If you prefer the sauce to have a thicker consistency, mix 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved flour mixture (discarding the rest) with 2-3 tablespoons of warm water in a small container. Slowly add to the thin paste to the simmering stew, stirring constantly until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

Serve hot over Pistachio-Raisin couscous, garnished with remaining cilantro.

Heat To Eat

Vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly; or bring to a slow boil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 18-20 minutes.

Notes

This recipe is easily adapted for slow-cookers to make life easier too. I'll brown off the chicken, deglaze the pan I browned the chicken in while reducing the wine to 1/2 cup, reduce the amount of broth used to 1 cup, and throw all the other ingredients together in the slow cooker, then cover and cook on low for on high 4-5 hours or low 8-10 hours.

PS: Watch the video below to learn more about the Personal Chef Approach and how you can save the time to enjoy fabulous shows like Yassi’s, and still get healthy dinners on the table nightly!

PPS: Maloney Fine Art is located at 2680 S. La Cienega Blvd.(between Venice & Washington Blvd.), Los Angeles, CA 90034

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  • January 8, 2014
    2:27 am

    Love your blog Julie and love this dish…can’t wait to try it x

    • January 9, 2014
      10:41 pm

      Thanks Sharon – bon appétit!