I imagine I’m sitting outside a tiny restaurant, white-washed stucco walls under a bleached umbrella, on a chair that wobbles on the uneven tile. I’m in a cotton maxi dress with tanned skinned under dappled sunlight, wavy salt-blown hair, looking great. (Hey, it’s my daydream- and in daydreams, everything is clingy but flattering in a way that maxi dresses are NEVER really flattering on me. Just go with it.)
The sky is bright royal blue; the water, striking teal; flawless beaches stretch below rocky cliffs, and seagulls that never crap or chase after you or try to grab your food are calling from high above on the wind.
I know next to nothing about the Mediterranean, but that’s definitely how it appears in my daydreams. This song always plays in my head when I think of anything coastal Mediterranean. Ugh. I’m a stereotype.
Please, don’t let that embarrassing little daydream confessional steer you clear of this chicken. Are these Turkish? Lebanese? Vaguely Middle Eastern? I’m not quite sure, but the marinade… it’s got a lotta stuff going on. It’s complex. Herby from the thyme, the mint, with some warmth from the aleppo and red pepper flakes. The tomato paste brings a savory-sweet backbone.
I know, the list of ingredients call for a lot of “things,” which is slightly daunting. Don’t be daunted. Put your leftover tomato paste in the freezer, save the rest of the bell pepper for easy fajitas, pick off some of that mint that’s taking over… the neighbor’s garden. She won’t mind. Breathe. Marinate. Open an adult beverage and hit the grill. You can even put on a maxi dress.
You can start your prep the night before by mixing together all of the marinade ingredients except the fresh mint and refrigerating; then stirring in the chopped mint and chicken to marinate for an hour or so before firing up the grill.
Inspired by Saveur
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (white or dark meat- I like a mix of breasts and thighs (!))
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon finely diced red pepper
1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint (to taste)
1 tsp. each aleppo pepper, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and dried thyme
1/2 tsp. each oregano and black pepper
1 clove garlic crushed (I use 1/2 tsp. fermented garlic paste)
skewers or a grill pan
Mix together all of the ingredients but the chicken. Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces; stir into the marinade and refrigerate, allowing to sit for at least an hour and up to 8 hours. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water. Before grilling, brush the grates with peanut oil or another high-heat oil to prevent sticking. Skewer up the chicken and grill on medium high for 5-6 minutes, then flip and continue grilling for another 4-5 minutes, until both sides are nicely charred. Serve with kachumbar, rice, on top of a salad, or in a pita. Or however you want. Leftovers are delicious!