Some days, I have very specific kitchen plans, and wake up with a sense of purpose. I organize my time like a champion and manage to make mains and sides with ease, perfectly timed and delicious. Other days, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be cooking. When the morning draws to an end, I’ll ask Jé: “so, what should we eat?” Then the back and forth begins. Well, we have this. This is going bad soon. We could de-thaw that?
Today, I found myself in category two. We seemed to be experiencing some sort of lazy vacation hangover. After a late night of home improvement and watching movies, we woke up early this morning with no real purpose to our day. It was sunny, which was unexpected, and we both migrated outside with our morning drinks and found a place in the sun. We took a stroll around the yard, analyzed the progress of our plants and listened to the birds sing and watched as our favorite couple made trip after trip into the hedges to feed their newly hatched babies.
After what seemed like no time, I realized that even though we woke up early, it was nearing 11:00 and I had no idea what I was making for lunch. And so it began. Luckily, it was over and done in no time. We had chicken. We needed to cook it. It was sunny. A BBQ was clearly in order. I had two ideas: tandoori chicken kebabs or… Would it work? I’d bookmarked a Bon Appétit recipe while searching for new ways to cook all of those salmon filets, that just happened to be incredibly tempting: green salmon shawarma.
In America, a kebab (keh-bab) is meat or vegetables cut into small pieces and placed on a skewer and grilled to order. In Europe, a kebab (kay-bab) is something a bit different, what I used to call a gyro. It’s a Middle Eastern specialty coming from Greece, Lebanon and even Syria, involving various meats (usually lamb and turkey, I think) that are placed on a large horizontal skewer that turns for hours. The meat is them shaved off and served with pita-style bread, vegetables and a tangy white sauce. Kebab shops have taken over France, which is not a good thing. The quality is lacking, and sometimes the poor hygiene practices of these fast food restaurants can even endanger your health. Which is why I have, sadly, not eaten a kebab in years.
This changes everything. I don’t need sub-par, greasy street food anymore, because I can make a fresh, delicious, fantastic and way-better alternative at home. And now, so can you! I took the best of the globe’s interpretation of kebab and made Middle Eastern-inspired kebab kebabs on the grill, in my back yard, while taking advantage of the sun’s fleeting rays. I also managed to whip up some quick flat bread, pickled onions and cabbage and a tasty chick pea salad while Jé was manning the BBQ. Not bad for a day of 100% improvisation!
I hope you’ll try this recipe. Even if you don’t plan ahead, all the different elements can be prepared and cooked in about 2 hours. If you do plan ahead, everything could easily be made the day before and then all you’ll have to do is grill, assemble and eat!
Herb-marinated chicken shawarma kebabs
Adapted from Bon Appétit’s Green shawarma salmon
1 C fresh cilantro/coriander
1/4 C fresh mint leaves
1/4 C lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (or less if you don’t really like garlic like we do!)
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cardamom
1 t ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C fat free or full fat thick, greek yogurt or fromage blanc
3 T olive oil
3 chicken breasts, fat trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
In a blender, combine everything but the olive oil and the chicken and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Turn the mixer back on and slowly stir in the olive oil, tablespoon by tablespoon. Place the chicken cubes in a shallow baking dish and pour 3/4 of the marinade over them. Using a spoon, distribute the marinade evenly over the chicken and refrigerate. Reserve remaining marinade to use for sauce if you plan on making these kebabs into full-on Middle Eastern sandwiches, which I highly recommend. If raw garlic isn’t your thing, add the garlic to your blender at the end of the process and remove a few spoonfuls of the sauce before adding it, or remove less sauce and dilute it with a little more yogurt and lemon juice.
This particular meal was a bit last minute (I started marinating the chicken around 11 am), so mine only marinated for about two hours. The chicken was pretty flavorful, but I think it would benefit from another 1-2 hours in the fridge, or even overnight if you plan ahead.
Once you’re ready, heat a BBQ until very hot, and you can only leave your hand above the coals for about 3-4 seconds before pulling away. Take your skewers and add the chicken, piece by piece, crowding the pieces and making one compact mass of meat. Save any remaining sauce and brush it on the kebabs during the cooking process. Throw them on the grill and turn them often until thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes, depending on the intensity of your grill. I recommend throwing a bell pepper or two on with them, they’re perfect with the chicken in a sandwich! I also made quick pickled onions and cabbage for the gyros using this recipe. For a perfect flatbread recipe, look no further. These worked out perfectly: we were able to throw them on the grill at the last minute right alongside the chicken and peppers. Simply brush them lightly with olive oil on both sides and turn them often so they don’t burn. I also served this dish with a fabulous citrusy, spicy chick pea salad. The recipe will be up on Friday!