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grilled chicken kebobs with tzatziki

Wow. I have really neglected my little blog for a long time. But I do have a very good reason and her name is Adele.

She’s the little cutie pie on the right. The beauty on the left is mine.  :)

Look at those little faces….what a great moment in time.  I mean, seriously….the multi-colored fingernails?  Priceless.

Adele is our new little rescue pup and we just love her.  Actually her name is Adele ‘Pickle’. That’s my daughter being funny. I was going for Piper, but was overruled. I know having a second pup may seem a bit crazy since we already have one crazy hound….

But I couldn’t resist her because most times sometimes my heart wins out. It’s just how I’m built. But, wow did I forget how much work a puppy is. She is taking up most of my time these days and I am really busy otherwise! She came from a rescue shelter complete with a parasite, pneumonia and tape worms. Lovely.

For a while  we weren’t sure she was going to make it, but with a little love (shoving baby food down her throat with a syringe), antibiotics and an IV, she pulled through. And now when she has accidents in the house we don’t mind so much anymore.

When we first got her, I mistakenly thought that “mellow and cuddly” was her disposition, but we didn’t realize she was sick. Now that she’s healthy and eating again, she’s doubled in size in just a few weeks, runs around falling over her paws trying to escape our yard, pees constantly, and bites everything in site, including me. Did you see Marley and me?  Yep. She bounced back with a vengeance.

We still love her.

So I finally found some time to find my way back here.  Since I’m not home in time for dinner most nights during the week these days, I always cook on the weekends. I am a big believer in eating together as a family. Even if you’re a family of two like we are, I think it is very important time together. I grew up eating dinner every single night with my family and I know it was definitely a big part of making me the person who I am today.  And that’s a good thing….I think.

So I planned a big Sunday dinner for us a few weeks ago. I had talked to my mom earlier that week and she was talking about chicken kebobs that she had recently made. I was craving them after our talk, so I made some on that Sunday with rice, a salad and tzatziki on the side.

Have you had tzatziki?   It’s delicious.  It’s sort of like an appetizer/sauce to dip bread and other things into. I think I should probably credit the Greeks for this one. It’s made with Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil and sometimes lemon, dill, mint or parsley.

I used fresh dill and it was amazing. I highly recommend it for this after tasting it.

Tzatziki is always served cold, with bread, but I could find lots of other things to dip into it. Like chicken kebobs.  :)  And don’t you love Greek yogurt?  It’s so good, and really good for you, too.

I usually put honey over it for breakfast, but it’s good for savory things like this too. I had never made tzatziki myself before, but I found some recipes that I had and sort of made up my own version.  It was so easy, too!  I love when I discover how you can whip up something so tasty with so few ingredients in very little time.

So all you do is scoop the seeds out of a few cucumbers….you don’t want them making your tzatziki too watery.

Slice them up and sprinkle with some salt to pull out even more water.  Look at what comes out after 30 minutes…

Then I put them into my mini-Cuisinart, with some olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, fresh dill, salt and pepper…..

And mixed this into the yogurt.  Done!

Well, almost.  You really need to let it rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This gives the flavors a chance to develop. It comes out tangy from the yogurt and lemon…and tasty from the garlic, and fresh dill.  I will now be making this forever.

So we’re still grilling, right?  Summer is officially over, but I will be grilling until the snow is too high for me to get to my grill. This particular Sunday was a beautiful sunny and 75 degree day in Chicago, so we grilled. I had the feeling that it was our last summer-like weekend. It’s now fall, and we really have to soak these days up here in Chicago because we all know what’s coming. Pretty soon we’ll be digging our cars out and drinking hot chocolate to defrost our frozen fingers.  Sigh.

So I didn’t really do anything fancy with the chicken. That’s the great thing about grilled chicken; you don’t really have to.

If you use olive oil, salt, garlic and any herb, chances are when you grill it, it will be delightful.  So that’s basically what I did, adding some lemon zest and flat leaf parsley because I had some.

That being said, I can’t stress enough how important it is to marinate the chicken for at least a few hours, maybe even overnight if you have that kind of time (I didn’t). The marinade gets a chance to do its job and the chicken comes out amazing. I put the chicken pieces in a ziplock bag and threw it in the fridge for a few hours before putting the skewers together.

I cut up the veggies and kept them separate. For the veggies I used onion, peppers and mushrooms. I would have used cherry tomatoes too if I had some.

The warm grilled chicken with the cool and tangy tzatziki was a pretty perfect combination for a late summer night. I threw a crusty baguette on the grill at the last minute so we could dip that into our tzatziki too.  YUM.

We dined al fresco and my girl talked for over an hour about her new middle school and all of her new friends and the boys who are now texting her…… and I mean like, OMG!  Everything is so exciting! And I just have to take her to Hollister because when she was there the other day with Ryann and Annika she saw like the cutest dress that was 50% off and that means it’s only like 17 dollars or something….and she really hopes coach Adam lets hers play goalie in her game next Sunday for at least like the first half…and did she tell me about Miss Larson her homeroom teacher?  She’s SO COOL!! …..and on and on and on as we devoured our dinner.

Yep…this is exactly what I was after.  :)

Grilled Chicken Kebobs with Tzatziki
Inspired by Carole McCann

For the Chicken:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon (I would go organic since you are using the rind)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp Kosher salt
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix to coat with the marinade. Put chicken in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight if have that kind of time.

For the Kebobs:

If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes first.  This will help prevent burning, although if you look up there in my photo, mine still burned at the ends but they were fine. Also, my mom gave me this tip: use 2 skewers for each kebob for easier turning.  That way your meat and veggies won’t twist and turn when you flip them, and everything will cook evenly.

You can cut up whatever veggies you like. I did green pepper, onions and mushrooms. Just make sure to try to cut the pieces evenly for even grilling.

So taking two skewers, thread them with a piece of chicken, and then veggies, alternating as you go. I brushed some olive oil over each skewer and added a pinch more salt. Some people like to keep the meat and the veggies separate on their own skewers. I think this has to do with wanting the veggies to cook longer so they aren’t too hard. I like the veggies a tiny bit al dente, not too mushy.  And I think they look prettier this way!  But you can do either.

Heat up your grill with a medium flame, and brush the grates with oil.  Put the kebobs on and leave them for 10 minutes without touching them.  You want a little bit of a sear. After 10 minutes turn them over, and they will only need a few more minutes.  They are done when the chicken doesn’t feel ‘soft’ when touched.  (That’s what Mom told me, and it works).  Don’t cut into them and let all the yummy juiciness run out. I know it’s tempting, but don’t.  They’ll be done if they feel done to the touch.

For the Tzatziki:

3 cups Greek yogurt
juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
1 tbsp Kosher salt for salting cucumbers
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out the seeds. Discard seeds. Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 tbsp salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor (I used my beloved mini-Cuisinart) add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed and maybe some more black pepper. Let this rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving. 

This will keep for a few days or more in the refrigerator, but you will need to drain off any water and stir each time you use it.

And one more important thing to keep in mind:

Do not use the marinade from the bag to baste the chicken with as it’s grilling! NO NO NO.  This is contaminated marinade from the raw chicken. If you do this, you’ll be putting raw chicken juice all over your cooked meat and you don’t want to make anyone sick. Trust me, I’ve seen this done and I realize that it’s easy to forget this.

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