Middle Eastern food is one of my favorite food regions of the world. It’s unpretentious, using herbs instead of sauces to heighten the flavors of rice and often grilled meats. Unfortunately, it’s also highly underrepresented, which is why I was so excited that this month’s Monthly Mingle, hosted by Dirty Kitchen Secrets, featured Lebanese food.
Lebanese food is great, using primarily poultry and lamb as its protein. Often, the meat is marinated in lemon or yogurt to tenderize it, and flavored with za’atar, garlic, chilies, and other great herbs. I made Shish Taouk (Chicken Kebab in English, and Jujeh Kabab in Farsi), a dish that’s traveled across the Middle East during the many changes of empire lines of the region. The Lebanese version uses sumac in the marinade, in addition to more traditional ingredients. Tender and smoky, this dish is really fantastic.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
5 sprigs thyme
5 cloves garlic, smashed
2 T sumac
3 T dried thyme
3 T sumac
6 Roma tomatoes
2 med yellow onions
Cut the chicken into cubes that are about the same size, about 2″ x 2″. Don’t worry about too much precision here, but you want to make sure they’ll cook at the same rate.
In a shallow baking dish, squeeze the juice of three lemons (don’t worry about the seeds) over the chicken, add thyme sprigs, smashed garlic, and sumac. Marinate for at least one hour. The chicken should actually take on a whitish color when it’s ready to be grilled.
Quarter the onions and slice the eggplant and zucchini into large chunks. Thread the veggies onto skewers and season with za’atar. You can also add marjoram, savory, or any other spices you like. Traditionally, za’atar varies household by household anyway.
Grill chicken and veggies to desired done-ness and serve with Basmati rice. Sprinkle with additional za’atar if you want.