Sunday, April 17, 2011

Moroccan Chicken Skewers with Fennel, Orange and Olive Salad

My method for coming up with a meal varies from day to day.  Sometimes it's simply a time issue - and out comes a box of pasta and whatever I can dredge up from the veggie drawer.  Many times it's a money issue, then I stretch dinner with potatoes, tortillas or rice along with a small amount of meat combined with veggies.

Then there's my veggie box.  Every Thursday is like Christmas for me.  I get to determine menus based on what's inside.  This week I got two bulbs of fennel.  With a certain licorice-esque flavor, it's a definite "love it or hate it" kind of veggie.

I'm on the "love it" side so with fennel in my veggie box, the seemingly always present oranges, preserved lemons in my fridge and a newly purchased just-for-fun tube of harissa (a northern African chile and spice paste), Morrocan food was beckoning me.

Seated just across the Mediterranean from Spain, Moroccan food is characterized by brothy tagines and couscous.  Fruits, vegetables, honey, spices, are the major flavoring agents.

I decided to take the flavoring profile and create a grill-friendly recipe that would use the herbs I had in my fridge as well as the fennel and oranges.  Combined with a little quinoa in lieu of the more typical Moroccan accompaniment of couscous, this meal is both gluten-free and low-carb.


Veggie Box - fennel, mint (from herb garden)

CWYG List Items - chicken, spices, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, oranges, quinoa, olives

Moroccan Chicken Skewers with Fennel, Orange and Olive Salad

Chicken and marinade:

1 tsp each cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, garlic powder
1/2 tbsp each salt and cumin
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey (I didn't use this, but could tell it should have been there)
1/2 tbsp harissa, optional (use a large pinch of red pepper flakes instead for heat)
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 large yellow onion cut intoe 1 1/2" chunks
6 12" wooden or metal skewers (soak wooden skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes)
2 bulbs fennel
3 oranges
a handful of oil-cured or kalamata olives, pitted and halved
extra virgin olive oil

Herb Sauce:
a large handful of mint leaves (1/2 cup)
a large handful of cilantro leaves (1/2 cup)
2 preserved lemon quarters, rinsed and chopped (Use a tbsp of lemon zest, a tsp of salt and the juice of the lemon instead)
2 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To serve:  cooked quinoa, rice or couscous

In a bowl or zip-loc bag, mix the all the marinade ingredients.  Add the chicken and mix well to the marinade.
Marinate for at least 30 minutes but up to 24 hours is fine.

Prepare salad.  Remove fennel fronds if present. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise.  Remove any tough outer layers, then remove the core by cutting a deep "V" around it.  Cut the fennel halves into quarters then thinly slice.  Transfer to a large bowl.

For the oranges, use a cutting board with a well around the side or set a smaller cutting board inside a deep-sided cookie sheet to catch the juices.  (The juice is part of the dressing.)  Cut the two ends off the orange then cut down the sides removing the peel and pith to expose the flesh.  Drain off any juice into the bowl with the fennel and sprinkle the fennel with salt.  This will slightly wilt the fennel.  Slice the oranges 1/4" thick then cut the slices into quarters. Add to the bowl with the fennel.  Add the olives and drizzle with olive oil.  Let stand til time to serve.

For the herb sauce, place all the ingredients in a blender or mini food processor.  Blend well.  Taste to see if it is seasoned well, then add salt if necessary.

Heat your grill (or broiler if you don't have a grill of some sort).  Thread the chicken and onion on the skewers then place on the grill.  Grill on each side for about 3 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the onions are browned.

Place the skewers on top of quinoa and drizzle with the herb sauce then add the fennel salad on the side.

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