Like the namesake of the natural hot spring high in the West Elks, I’ve been in quite a hot spot this week; quite literally, its been so freakin’ hot, I’ve been forced to reveal my pallid legs to the general public prematurely of spring. (If that wasn’t scary enough, I’m sure my sweaty armpits, a result of the anxiety caused by the legs, really put my sexy level over the top.) Anyways, back to the bubbling hot spring— Conundrum that is— that I’ve been in:
I have been at a loss of what to cook all week. The unseasonably scorched weather has really thrown me— and the planet I imagine— for a loop. This may seem like a small trifle to you, but for me its quite earth shattering. Not to be overly dramatic, but without cooking, I’m just not me. So, what broke my spell of ambivalence? Well, Global Warming delivered me a swift kick in the ass, and any indecision went packing.
Normally, mid-march is a snow-filled in Colorado. March also happens to be my birthday month, and I remember more than a few occasions where Father Winter greeted me with a blizzard on my birthday morn. Not so this year. The temps topped at 70 degrees this week! Not only was this t-shirt and skirt weather, it meant my taste buds where begging for some crisp, green, palette-cleansing fare. So, while I was stuck on figuring out the next late-winter seasonal fare I would present to you all, I finally took a long hard look into my newly-revealed, pale-skinned legs, and realized nothing sounded worse than stew or lentils. So, this week, I’m going with the weather, and my taste buds, to warm weather fare.
Here is a fresh and spicy meal to welcome spring. (Or the answer to the rash heat wave that Sir Global Warming has presented us with, whichever way you choose to look at it). This dinner is ready in less than 45 minutes and is complimented by a refreshing cocktail recipe. Plus, go ahead and pull out that grill, you know its been begging to be taken out of hibernation. Ok, maybe this meal is a large swing in the direction of summer, but hey, I’m an all or nothing kind of gal.
Crash Course: How to welcome warm weather with a bang!
Chicken Shawarma Skewers with Cucumber Yogurt Dipping Sauce and Grilled Zucchini Flatbreads
PLUS: Refreshing Cucumber Spritzers
This meal is inspired by my yearnings for cool, refreshing flavors, to cleanse the palette of deep smoky spice. My take on a Middle Eastern-inspired, Mediterranean spread, these blending of flavor are the perfect mixture for a warm-weather day. Both the shawarma skewers and flatbreads are grilled, making this meal ideal for those who just can’t wait to pull out their grill. This dinner is meant to be eaten with your hands, dipping and dabbing into the sauces. While there are a number of ingredients, each component of this meal is relatively straightforward. And believe me, the flavors you’ll enjoy when your done cooking, will be a celebration for your mouth. No need for forks here; treat this meal as a cocktail party and dive in. So, get going and Cheers!
Active time: 45 min
Total time: 45 min
Chicken Shawarma Skewers:
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ tsp. coriander
- 1 tbsp. & 1 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. crushed fennel seed
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. paprika
- 1 ½ tsp. tumeric
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 16 wooden skewers
Yogurt and Cucumber sauce:
- 1 cucumber
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tsp. dried dill
- 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- Pinch salt and pepper
Grilled Zucchini Flatbreads:
- 6, 6’’ whole-wheat pita breads
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ tsp. olive oil
- 1 cup feta cheese
- ½ red onion
- 1 medium-sized zucchini
- Fresh-cracked pepper
- ½ cup fresh cucumber juice
- 20 ounces soda water
- 2 tsp. agave nectar
- Handful of fresh herbs, preferably basil or mint
1. Heat grill to Medium High heat. If you are not quite ready to pull out your grill, you can prepare this whole meal on the stove. For the shawarma skewers, use a cast iron skillet, and heat to Medium. Trim the skewers down so they will fit inside the skillet, and cook as the recipe directs. Grill flatbreads in broiler on high, directly on oven shelf, watching closely to prevent burning. Each flatbread should take no more than five minutes.
2. To prepare the yogurt sauce, peel cucumber and slice into ½- inch portions. Using a Cuisinart mixer or blender, blend into a chunky pulp. Line a cereal bowl with a paper towel— use at-least 2-ply for proper strength— and transfer cucumber mixture into towel. Squeeze cucumber pulp inside of paper towel, letting juice drain into bowl. Squeeze until you have between ¼ and 1/3 cup cucumber juice, set aside. Transfer cucumber pulp from paper towel to another bowl. Add yogurt, lemon juice, dill, and sesame oil and blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. To prepare the chicken skewers, combine all the spices in a small bowl and blend. Using a clean cutting surface— preferably plastic— cut chicken into half-inch thick strips. Place strips in a shallow dish, and sprinkle half the spice mixture evenly across the chicken. Pat spices into chicken, and flip over. Sprinkle remaining spice mixture, on up-turned side of strips, and repeat patting.
To easily cut chicken breasts, cut through the white muscle that holds the thick part of the breast together. Slice breast perpendicularly to cutting board, to ‘butterfly’. (As the name implies, the breast should be split to look like the insect’s wings.) Then, working with the grain of the meat, slice breast into strips.
4. Working one strip at a time— keeping in mind a needle and thread motion— use wooden skewers to puncture meat. Meat should lay flat on skewers. 2 pounds of chicken should make approximately 16 skewers. When all the chicken has been skewered, drizzle with oil and cook on grill for 3-4 minutes. Flip with tongs, and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
5. While chicken is grilling, prepare flatbreads. Wash zucchini, and slice on a slight angle into thin, ¼-inch ovals. Open garlic cloves by applying pressure with the flat side of a knife, and slice into halves. Drizzle pita breads with ½ tsp. each of olive oil. Using the pieces of one clove per pita, rub garlic with open-side down, over the entire surface of bread. Leave cloves on bread. Arrange zucchini on flatbreads, dispersing evenly. Add approximately 1 tbsp. thinly-sliced onions to each flatbread. Crumble equal portions of feta on each flatbread. Finish with cracked pepper. Cook on grill, on top of aluminum foil, but not covering the top. Flatbreads are ready when cheese melts, at approximately 7 minutes.
To easily slice an onion: Cut the top off the onion (this is the side without the roots). With the flat, top-side down, cut whole onion in half. Then, cut each half with flat side down, down the center without cutting to the core. Hold the end— the roots— of the onion, slice using downwards motions. Place the tip of the knife down first, and then follow through, to better control the size of the pieces. (Pieces will be in quarter portions.)
6. Now, don’t forget the cocktail! Using whatever fresh herb you have on hand— I used basil— pull 3-4 leaves off stalk and slap between hands. (This will let out the natural oils in the herb, and allow more of its flavor to come through.) Place in bottom of pint glass and muddle with a bit of soda water. Add at least 1 tbsp. fresh cucumber juice, ½ tsp. agave nectar, and 2 oz. of either vodka or gin. Fill glass with ice and cover with another pint glass (or martini shaker). Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour into rocks glass, and add soda. Repeat for each cocktail.
7. Assemble meal components on table, give yourself a pat on the back and Enjoy! Serve meal with hummus if you wish.