Grillin’ Middle Eastern-style

Published 9:26 pm Friday, July 25, 2014

Grilling is all the rage in the summer months, and it is fun to eat good food off the grill. Perhaps you could take the grilling a little farther afield by using spices from other countries. Middle Eastern food is just one of my favorite (almost as much as Indian) but grilling can be a global venture if you use the right spices.

There was an article in the latest ‘bon appétit’ about grilling in Lebanon. Grilling there is the most widely shared culinary technique throughout the region. Cooked close to the flames, the meat takes on a crisp char and a succulent texture. My greatest treat while living in Dubai in the early 70s was grilled goat kebabs. They are my fondest memory of really good food from that time. People from that area of the world set up their mangal (a low rectangular grill) and grill chunks of lamb or chicken threaded onto skewers with pieces of tail fat in between. Yum!

This Moroccan chicken recipe has cumin, paprika, and parsley which gives it a great taste. The garlic sauce on top of the chicken inside the pita adds a zing. This would be a great summer grill instead of the usual hamburger or steak. Add some hummus and tabbouleh and you have a party!


Chicken Brochettes

8 servings

Dark-meat chicken is the best for grilling; since it will not dry out because of more fat.

Garlic Sauce

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Kosher salt

½ cup olive oil

3 Tbsp. plain yogurt


2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2” pieces

2 garlic cloves, chopped

½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

Vegetable oil for grilling

Warm pita bread

Strained yogurt, chopped tomatoes and fresh mint leaves (for serving)

Special Equipment: Sixteen 8” bamboo or metal skewers

Garlic Sauce: Place garlic in a mortar; season with salt and pound to a very fine paste. (Alternatively, place garlic on a cutting board, season with salt, and mash with the side of a chef’s knife.) Transfer garlic paste to a small bowl and gradually whisk in oil.

Very gradually whisk yogurt into garlic mixture until emulsified. (Add too fast and sauce will break. If it does break, gradually whisk in 1 tsp. water just before serving.) Garlic sauce can be made six hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Chicken: Toss chicken, garlic, parsley, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl; season with salt. Cover and chill at least two hours.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat, and oil the grate. Thread chicken onto skewers. Grill, turning occasionally, until cooked through, eight-12 minutes. Serve with garlic sauce, pita bread, yogurt, tomatoes, and mint. Chicken can be marinated 12 hours ahead. Keep chilled.


Tomato and Cabbage Tabbouleh

8 servings

A proper tabbouleh will be mainly vegetables and herbs, with just a small smattering of bulgur. This recipe is different because of the cabbage.

1 cup bulgur (not quick-cooking)

½ medium head green cabbage, cut into 1”-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)

1 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia, finely chopped)

4 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large

3 cups coarsely chopped fresh mint

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. Aleppo pepper, or ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

Place bulgur in a large bowl and add 1 ½ cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40-45 minutes.

Toss bulgur, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season with salt.

Do Ahead: Tabbouleh (without oil and lemon juice) can be made 4 hours ahead. Toss with oil and lemon just before serving.