Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Orange and Herbs are Zingy Seasoning Combo for Grilled Chicken Kebabs and Beets

You will know who you are as you read this, but a close friend has forever taken issue with me about eating enough fruit.  Her refrigerator is packed with berries, oranges, and apples, and she keeps a basket of peaches and bananas on her counter.  Desserts and salads always contain fruit. When I go to dinner over there, she and her sister take great pleasure in cutting up a giant fruit salad.

I say I feel a little gypped without lettuce. She claims I don’t eat enough fruit.

My refrigerator, on the other hand, is loaded with vegetables.  While I eat a banana a day for potassium and berries in smoothies, I reach for cucumbers and tomatoes, sprinkled with sea salt, for a treat.  My salads are packed with cut up veggies, accompanied by some token romaine.  

Well, I’ve changed my ways somewhat. This summer I’m grilling cherries and peaches to go with meats, serving them mixed with herbs and grilled sweet onions.   And I’m addicted to the zingy combination of orange and herb marinades and bastes for poultry, meats, fish, and vegetables.

For concentrated orange flavor, I cook down fresh or unsweetened juice until it is syrupy. This takes only about 10 minutes, resulting in a sweet-tart citrus reduction.  When you combine that with honey and herbs, such as sage, tarragon, mint, oregano, basil, thyme, or lavender, the flavor is divinely fresh-tasting.

(Grilled oranges are wonderful, too; peel them and slice them horizontally, then grill the slices until marked.) 

This marinade makes enough for marinating the chicken and drizzling on the kebabs and fresh beets.

See there, friend, I’m making headway.  

Herbed Honey Orange Chicken Kebabs

3/4 cup unsweetened orange juice
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs: thyme, marjoram, sage, oregano
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pour orange juice into a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil, uncovered, until juice reduces to 3 tablespoons, 10 to 15 minutes; raising and lowering heat as necessary to keep it softly boiling but not boiling over. Pour into a medium bowl and let cool completely.

Lightly pound chicken breast halves to even thicknesses between pieces of plastic wrap.  Cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips.

Add garlic, olive oil, honey, orange rind, herbs, and salt and pepper to orange juice reduction. Measure out and reserve 2 tablespoons for beets. Add chicken to remaining marinade in bowl and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Prepare grill.  Thread chicken strips on skewers; place on oiled grill rack. Grill, covered, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Makes 2 servings. 

Grilled Beets
The hot fire of the grill brings out the earthy sweetness of beets.

4 medium beets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Reserved 2 tablespoons orange-honey mixture

Cut off beet greens to within 1 inch from bulbs.  Scrub beet thoroughly.  Place in a saucepan of boiling water;  boil 15 minutes or until just tender when pierced with tip of a sharp knife. Drain and cover with cold water.  When beets are cool, slip peels off.

Preheat grill for medium-hot.

Cut beets into 1/2-inch slices.  Toss with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Place on oiled grill rack; cover and grill until well marked and tender on both sides, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to serving plates and drizzle with reserved orange honey mixture. 

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debby maugans
from the author of Small-Batch
Birmingham News   Table
Small Batch Bistro
Asheville City Market