Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marinated Greek Chicken Kabobs

With Autumn in full force here in Chicago, this may well be my last grilling recipe of the year.  But it is an excellent recipe and is a great way to produce a low-fat yet delicous meal.  Grilled chicken breast has never been on my menu because it simply is too lean to be very good on its own when grilled.  But if you use this classic Greek recipe for chicken kabobs, you will find they are tender and flavorful and will become a regular on your grilling menu.


I first tasted chicken prepared this way while we were in Greece several years ago.  Earlier I posted about the Traditional Greek Salad and my travels to the Greek islands. 

Greek cooking traditions date back thousands of years and Greeks today eat some of the same dishes their ancestors did in ancient times.  A Greek, Archestratus, is thought to have written the first cookbook in 350 B.C.

Served with Long Grain Rice
The Greek diet has been influenced by traditions from both the East and West. In ancient times, the Persians introduced Middle Eastern foods, such as yogurt, rice, and sweets made from nuts, honey, and sesame seeds. When Rome invaded Greece, the Romans brought with them foods that are typical in Italy today including pasta and sauces. Arab influences have left their mark in the southern part of Greece. Spices such as cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves play a prominent role in the diet of these regions.

Most meals conclude with strong coffee as well as ouzo , an alcoholic drink flavored with anise.

As you can see here, I paired the dish with wild rice which is also popular in the region.  I had fresh peppers from my garden in abundance so I used those along with red onions.  You can use whatever you like in the kabobs, so long as they will cook in about 20 minutes, which is the total grill time for this dish.

Like all marinated food, some planning must go into this meal.  The chicken needs to marinate for 4-6 hours.  You could probably get away with 3 hours, but if you have less time, I would pass on this recipe until you can properly marinate the chicken.

Finally you can see that instead of using traditional skewers I used these grill baskets, which were a gift from my sister.  For many things I prefer the skewers but for this dish I feel the baskets actually work better and are easier to control.  This is because they are easy to turn and cook on all four sides.  Additionally in the grill baskets, the chicken is less likely to stick to the grill grates.  If you use traditional skewers, make sure the grill  grates are well oiled.  If you use the baskets as I did, just open them and turn them over to drop out the grilled ingredients, then place on your serving plates.  This recipe makes four adult-sized serving.

Ingredients
8 ounces low fat Greek (plain) yogurt
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (or crushed dried)
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

Directions
1. Zest and juice half a lemon.  In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  If using the optional Feta cheese, add to the mixture and using the back of a spatula, smooth out the large chunks of feta cheese and mix in.  Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and stir.  Cube the chicken into 1-2" pieces and place in the yogurt mixture and turn to coat. Transfer the coated chicken and all of the marinade to a plastic storage bag, squeeze out air and zip tightly.  Marinate 4-6 hours in the refrigerator.

2.  Preheat your outdoor grill and clean grates.

3. Cut the pepper and onion, and toss in olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning of your choice.

4. Remove chicken from the marinade and shake off excess.

5. Thread the chicken, onion wedges, and green bell pepper pieces alternately onto skewers, or use kabob baskets.

6. Grill over medium-high heat until the chicken is no longer pink, turning to brown lightly on all sides  (5 minutes per side, about 20 minutes in all.) (Note:  With a gas grill cook with grill closed.)

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