Monday, June 2, 2014

Mediterranean Night!

I'll have to admit, sometimes I might have a minor tendency to stick too close to my comfort zone with cooking.  This comfort zone includes but is not limited to: chicken, potatoes, rice, squash, peppers, garlic, oregano and basil.  I can't help it if I know what I like!  I decided it was about time I break my usual routine and try to make something I've never attempted before...Mediterranean.  After scouring the internet researching traditional Greek and Mediterranean spices, I dove right in and came up with my own chicken souvlaki recipe with couscous, toasted pita bread and spinach salad.  After seeing how good it tasted (on the first try nonetheless), I'm definitely stepping out of my comfort zone more often!
To get an authentic Greek flavor, I made a marinade for the chicken using 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp. minced onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. each of black pepper and oregano, and a pinch (1/8 tsp.) each of paprika, rosemary and thyme.  After adding these ingredients to a small bowl, I squeezed the juice of 1 lemon over the top to bring out the flavors of each spice while adding that hint of citrus that's classic to Mediterranean cuisine.  I whisked it all together and let it rest on the counter while I prepared the chicken skewers.

I cut the chicken into cubes, about 1" or 1.5" in size.  I used half of a red pepper and cut it into 1" pieces as well to match the size of the chicken.  I added the chicken and peppers to the marinade and used a spoon to mix everything together really well.  Time to skewer!

Since I don't have a grill accessible to me in my apartment, I decided I was going to sear the chicken on the cooktop and then transfer it to the oven to finish cooking thoroughly.  This meant I had to cut the skewers in half since the 18" length would definitely not fit in a sauté pan!  Be sure to rinse the wood or bamboo skewers under warm water to prevent burning during the cooking process.  I alternated adding pieces of chicken and red peppers to each skewer, and kept adding pieces until I ran out.  This was 5 mini skewers for the two of us.  I transferred the skewers to a 9"x 9" baking dish and poured the rest of the marinade over the top of the chicken to let all the delicious flavors of the onion and garlic infuse the meat.  I popped the dish into the refrigerator for a couple of hours until I was ready to start cooking!

I preheated a large skillet over medium heat on the cooktop, and also preheated the oven to 375 degrees.  Once the skillet was warm, I added the chicken skewers, leaving about 1" (or however much wiggle room I could make) in between each skewer in order to avoid overcrowding the pan.  I rotated the chicken every 2-3 minutes, once each side started turning a golden brown.  There were a couple of sides of each skewer that couldn't really stand up on their own without rolling over, so I left these sides to finish cooking in the oven.  I transferred the chicken skewers to a cooking tray lined with aluminum foil, and finished these off in the oven for about 10 minutes while I made the couscous.

I kind of cheated with the couscous.  I bought Near East brand garlic couscous and cooked it according to package instructions, adding finely diced red pepper, yellow squash and minced garlic.  After it rested for 5 minutes, I sprinkled in some black pepper, oregano and thyme to add a little bit of the marinade flavor into the couscous.  While the couscous was resting, I toasted up a pita drizzled lightly with olive oil and salt on the cooktop over medium high heat, flipping after 2-3 minutes.   To add some more veggies to dinner, I served everything with a spinach salad with some Craisins and toasted pecans.  DELICIOUS!

...and Howie covered dessert! ;)

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