Middle Eastern Chicken Kabobs and Yellow Rice

Good weather days are far and few around here.  Even in the summer it seems like we’re plagued by either scorching heat waves or severe thunderstorms.  When that perfect day does arrive, there’s nothing better than savoring a meal al fresco with some friends.  The fresh air heightens one's senses and brings out the flavor in food.  With good company, laughter and conversation can lingers well into the night.  So light some candles and savor the moments.  Today I’m sharing a delicious chicken kabob recipe I recently served on the patio to a group of friends.  I am also including a roasted red pepper sauce which pairs nicely with the chicken and my favorite yellow rice.

2 – 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
1 cup yogurt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp crushed pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon zest of 1 lemon

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, except the chicken, to make the marinade.  Add the chicken and coat well.  Cover and refrigerate for about 5 hours.  Place chicken on skewers and grill until cooked through.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

2 red bell peppers
1 ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, chopped
2 – 4 Tbsp. broth, stock or water
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Roast peppers on a baking tray at 400 F for about 30 – 45 minutes, or until skin is charred.  Remove peppers from oven and place in a covered contained to sweat, which helps to remove the skin.  When cooled, peel off the skin and discard along with the seeds and membranes.  Chop roughly.  Heat the olive oil on low and gently sauté the shallot and garlic for a few minutes.  Place these, along with remaining ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Adjust thickness of sauce to desired consistency by adding broth, stock or water as needed.  Season to taste.  Serve alongside chicken kabobs as dipping sauce.

Yellow Rice

¾ tsp turmeric, ground
¼ tsp cumin, ground
Pinch of cinnamon, ground
Pinch of coriander, ground
1 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
2 cups broth and/or water
1 ½ cups basmati rice, washed until water runs clear

In a medium pot heat the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and coriander for about one minute.  Add the butter, allow it to melt, and add the garlic.  Cook for about one minute.  Pour in the broth and/or water, add the bay leaf and cloves, and bring to boil.  Add the rice, stir once and cover.  Cook for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand covered for about 10 minutes.  Fluff with fork, and remove the bay leaf and cloves before serving.

Happy Summer

Beef Bolognese Sauce

Beef Bolognese is a rich, thick, meat-based tomato sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. It is traditionally served over pasta but I prefer it over zucchini noodles or more recently, fall-appropriate spaghetti squash.  This recipe is a combination of many difference sources I looked into when learning to make this sauce.

1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 lbs. ground beef, grass-fed/organic
¼ cup dry red wine
¼ cup stock of choice
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried thyme
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large, heavy pan over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, and carrot.  Sauté until soft.  Add beef and sauté until browned.  Add wine, and bring to boil.  After about 1 minute of boiling add stock, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic and herbs.  Reduce heat to low and gently simmer for about 30 – 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Wild Salmon Patties

These patties are great for a quick and easy meal, paired with soup or salad.  The recipe calls for common ingredients most people tend to have on-hand.  If you are not gluten-free you can substitute the almond flour for wheat or spelt flour.

While we're on the topic of fish, I would like to add how crucial it is to consume only wild caught fish.  According to Dr. Mercola, wild fish have a more complete micronutrient, fat, mineral and antioxidant content because they eat a natural diet.  Farm raised fish, on the other hand, are fed an artificial diet consisting of grains, such as corn and soy, most of which are genetically modified.  Due to this unnatural diet, the nutritional content of the fish is greatly altered.  While it may be much fattier than wild salmon, it contains far less healthful omega-3 fatty acids and also less protein.

Ingredients
6 oz. can of wild salmon, drained
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. green onions, minced
1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 – 2 Tbsp. ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp. almond flour (optional)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 365 F. 
Combine all ingredients except the flour in a mixing bowl.  If the mixture's consistency is runny, sift in the flour and combine well.  Shape mixture into equal-size patties and place in a shallow baking pan lined with oiled parchment paper.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, flip and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Drizzle with lemon juice prior to serving warm or cold.  These patties can also be pan fried in coconut oil, if you prefer.

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs

These meatballs are not a traditional Moroccan dish, but the presence of exotic herbs and spices gives them a strong North African accent.  Our family already likes lamb, so these easy and delicious meatballs were a big hit around here.  In this recipe ricotta cheese is used in place of breadcrumbs, which makes this a gluten-free dish, and I always like that!

I served these meatballs over zucchini noodles, topped with homemade tomato sauce. Zucchini noodles are a healthy, grain-free alternative to pasta.  They are simple to make and taste great.  Cut zucchini into thin, noodle-like strips using a knife, vegetable peeler or mandolin.  To cook the “noodles,” blanch them in salted water for 2 – 3 minutes.  They can also be lightly sautéed with or without oil; I prefer to use coconut oil.

To make the tomato sauce, sauté minced garlic (2 – 3 cloves) over medium heat, add a teaspoon or two of dried basil and oregano, a bay leaf, and 3 – 4 large chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes break down; season with sea salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the bay leave prior to serving.

Ingredients
1 lb. ground lamb
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. green onion, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Mix all the ingredients together.  Form the mixture into small balls. Use a light hand when mixing and forming the meatballs to ensure that the meat is not to compact, but rather light and tender.  Place onto a lightly oiled, rimmed baking dish.  Bake for about 30 minutes, turning once half way through.

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Fall-Off-The-Bone Lime Chicken Drumsticks

One of the worse culinary faux pas has to be under-cooked chicken.  I not only like my chicken to be fully cooked but actually fall-off-the-bone done.  I normally make this recipe using only sea salt and pepper and it turns out great.  However, lately I have been obsessed with all things lime and cilantro so I decided to add them to my chicken recipe...and voila!

I like drumsticks because not only are they a cheaper cut of meat, especially when buying free range/organic, but also because I prefer dark meat, which comes out crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  You can also use chicken thighs, given they are skin-on and bone-in which insured that the chicken remains moist and absorbs a deeper flavor as it cooks.  I prep the chicken in steps – marinate in the morning, broil and load into the slow-cooker at lunch time, and it is ready just in time for dinner.

Ingredients

12 chicken drumsticks (about 3 lbs.)
¼ cup lime juice, freshly-squeezed
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

Place the chicken, lime juice, garlic, sea salt and pepper into a large zip-lock bag or a bowl.  Toss to combine ingredients and evenly coat the chicken.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat broiled.  Remove chicken from marinade and arrange in a single layer on a shallow baking dish.  Broil on high for about 10 minutes, flip and broil another 5 minutes on the other side, until nicely browned but not burnt.  Turn off the oven and let cool before removing chicken. 

Layer the chicken into a slow cooker and pour the liquid from the baking dish over the chicken.  Cook on low for about 5 – 6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle chicken with fresh cilantro.