Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dinner on a Stick

It may not be warm in Portland, but the sun has intermittently been out!  It makes me crave barbecue and citrus, as opposed to the slow-cook and braising goodness that's been warming us this winter.  Our grilled Mediterranean-ish dinner tonight was a result of married inspirations:  a side dish craving and wonderful weather. 

The side dish I speak of was inspired by a jar of Trader Joe's peppadew peppers.  I remember meeting peppadews for the first time at my specialty food job, where they were just cutting into the culinary scene.  They're marinated in oil like other regular and roasted Italian and Greek-style peppers, but they have a flavor all their own.  A faint undercurrent of spiciness coupled with a savory sweetness make these the maraschino cherries of antipasti.  They taste fantastic simply stuffed with a small ball of fresh mozzarella or soft goat cheese as a snack, or they can be sliced up and added to sandwiches, salads, wraps and pasta. 

When I bought this new jar on Friday, I had an idea.  I bet peppadew hummus would be awesome.  I made that pumpkin hummus at Christmas, and I've been enchanted by the homemade hummus flavor possibilities ever since. 

What should we have with homemade hummus, I wondered.  Lamb chops would be phenomenal, but Matt doesn't like lamb near enough to justify the effort and expense.  My foray into lamby deliciousness needs some appreciative guests over (I'm looking at you, Brynne...).  I wasn't too happy with my last tagine, a flavor-lacking Cooking Light disappointment.  I just had a gyro-ish dinner earlier in the week during sandwichpalooza. 

What about kabobs?  It was a proposition tinged with danger.  I've been burned by kabobs, literally and figuratively, since our first apartment five years ago.  I remember making a bunch of kabobs and trying to char them on a chintzy little charcoal hibachi on that first patio.  I wasn't patient enough to wait for the coals to really heat up, so I threw the skewers on when the grill was still barely room temperature and they just kind of gelatinized on the grate.  I've had sticks break, salmon disintegrate, chicken stay raw.  We just hadn't been able to make it work too well.  However, at Christmas this year Matt got a barbecue set that came with four long, metal skewers to replace our toothpick-like wood versions.  Maybe the stability of the quality equipment would make this time different.

With a meal game plan in mind, I prepped the ingredients for food processing.  The basic recipe for hummus is extremely simple:  chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt.  All the customization goes from there.  You can change the chickpeas to white beans, change the olive oil to the oil from sundried tomato jars, add fresh herbs like basil or cilantro.  I added three whole peppadew peppers along with the jar's oil, coupled with my favorite extras:  cumin, smoked paprika, a pinch of cayenne and fresh parsley.  Homemade hummus needs a lot of tasting and adjusting to get the flavor the way you like it, so be ready to add a little extra lemon, salt, tahini or whatever as you puree and taste.  Make it ahead of time so it can chill in the fridge and marinate the spices a bit. 

We thawed steak and chicken for the kabobs, which I prepared to each of our tastes.  For lemon-and-complex-flavored hating Matt, I tossed the sliced steak with Pampered Chef's Crushed Peppercorn and Garlic Rub, salt and olive oil.  I got fancier and much more fun with the chicken, which was tossed in olive oil, fresh basil, parsley, lemon juice and Penzey's Tandoori spice.  Each bowl hit the fridge along with the hummus to marinade into flavorful perfection. 

I knew I was entering a new world of competent supplies just preparing the kabobs with the meat, thick zucchini chunks and red onion pieces.  Even the tough, uncooked summer squashes slid onto the metal kabobs without even the slightest effort.  I stabbed myself in the palm way too many times to count with the wooden ones.  Unlike the past, they were also destined to cook on an easy-to-heat and evenly cooking barbecue. 

While the couscous was fluffing on the counter I went out to check on Matt and the cooking.  He demonstrated his new kabob-flipping technique he's worked out to keep the vegetables and everything from plummeting into the fiery abyss--embracing the entire kabob with the barbecue tongs, so they all lift and turn at the same time.  We're all growing so much in our mad skills.

The hummus had all of the goodness and complexity of peppadews, and the chicken was perfect:  bright, moist and popping with freshness.  The steak was good, just kind of boring (although Matt hated the lemon chicken, so the options were good).  After a week of eating out and rainy-weather soups, it was great to embrace the alternative.  I've even got leftovers to brighten up inevitable Monday; a postcard from a weekend that's turning out to be fabulous.

Peppadew Hummus
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup tahini
2 tablespoons peppadew jar oil (or olive oil)
3 peppadew peppers, sliced in half
3 garlic cloves, sliced in half
1/2 of one lemon, juiced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Place all ingredients in food processor.  If it is too thick, add additional oil.  Taste hummus for spices, adjust according to taste.  Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for at least a 1/2 hour before serving.

Tabitha's Way Better Chicken Kabobs
2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into large chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil chiffonade
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
The juice of 1 fresh lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp Penzey's Tandoori spice
Salt and pepper
1 small zucchini, sliced into large chunks
1/3 red onion, sliced into large chunks

Toss chicken chunks with basil, parsley, lemon, olive oil, Tandoori and salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to overnight. 

Remove from refrigerator.  Use to skewer 2 large metal skewers, alternating with zucchini and onion slices.  Grill about 7 minutes per side, until chicken is cooked through.  Serve with couscous, hummus, pita bread and a mojito.

1 comment:

  1. Love your dinner on a stick...awesome looking grilled chicken kabobs:)