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.

Early Harvest - Spring Sorrel

Spring is in full swing around here.  The rain and the warm sunny days have been good to our vegetable garden.  Even though the tomatoes just got planted today and the cucumber seeds went in the ground last week, we have already had an abundant sorrel harvest. 

In Russia and Ukraine it’s called “shchavel” (щавель); there it is grown in almost every garden and used to make a soup called green borscht.  However, one can only eat so much green borscht, so I began experimenting with different recipes.

Sorrel is a perennial leafy green or herb belonging to the same botanical family as rhubarb and buckwheat.  Its tart, acidic, lemony flavor can be quite exquisite when paired well.  The herb's sharpness is due to oxalic acid, which, in large quantities can be toxic.  When sorrel is cooked its tartness wanes, making it a wonderful compliment to fish or chicken and an excellent candidate for sauces.  It can also be used in soups, stews, and tarts.  The raw tender leaves can be added to salads and green smoothies.

Fish with sorrel sauce is a staple of French cuisine.  Here I paired it with broiled salmon but it can also complement halibut, cod or sole.  The sauce will also work well over potatoes or rice. This recipe is from Mother Earth Living.

1 Tbsp. butter
2 shallots or 1 onion, chopped
2 cups fresh sorrel leaves, stems and heavy veins removed, chopped
1⁄4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add shallots or onion and cook until soft.
Add sorrel and cook gently until sorrel wilts.
Add white wine and cook until reduced slightly.
Add cream and lemon juice, cook over medium heat until sauce slightly thickens, about 6 to 10 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.