Rockin’ Moroccan Grilled Chicken with Charred Lemons

Go ahead; call me a broken record. Al fresco dining is one of my favorite parts about the warmer months in Park City, and we’ve had a string of amazing meals on the patio recently. During little heat waves, it can get tricky to enjoy dinner outside (note to self: research shade umbrellas), but I know that in a short couple of months, we won’t have the option anymore. So, unless it’s raining, we eat outside! The food just seems to taste better with bare feet and a view of Cholula exploring the hillside.

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A couple of weeks ago, I got inspired to experiment and made rockin’ Moroccan grilled chicken. It was SO GOOD. Moroccan cuisine is about building layers of flavor with a ton of sweet and savory spices. Just like with the ribs we made recently, the dish involved almost every spice in my drawer. Check out this line-up! The combination hits every flavor note (warm, spicy, smoky) and, along with some oil, garlic, and sugar, resulted in a complex and delicious marinade. And just look at the vibrant colors in the bowl!

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While the chicken soaked in the flavors of the marinade, I made a simple pearl couscous salad. First, I toasted the couscous in a bit of butter, and then added chicken broth. The couscous absorbs the broth like rice. While it cooked, I chopped a whole jar of roasted red peppers along with plenty of fresh basil and mint. I stirred the peppers and herbs into the couscous after it had cooled a bit. I also added a generous helping of crumbled feta cheese, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and the juice of half of a lemon. I tossed in a handful of toasted pine nuts for more crunch.

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This beautiful salad can be served chilled, but it’s great at room temperature, too- perfect for al fresco dining or a picnic. Yum!

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While John grilled the chicken, basting it occasionally with the remaining thick and spicy marinade, I made a cucumber-dill sauce to serve on the side. In a bowl, I combined Greek yogurt, minced garlic, chopped cucumber and cherry tomato, lots of fresh dill, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up.

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When the chicken was almost ready, John threw a few halved lemons right onto the grill, juicy side down to give them a caramelized char. He also toasted a few pieces of naan, which is a type of Middle Eastern oven-baked flatbread. Let’s eat!

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The sun was still hot when we sat down for supper, shining on us for at least another half an hour before it tucked behind the hill. We soaked in the golden hour anyway, distracted by our Moroccan-inspired spread. Isn’t it mouth-wateringly lovely?

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Before diving in, we squeezed our charred lemon over the chicken. Grilling the lemon made its sweetness come forward. The creamy coolness of the cucumber-dill sauce balanced the powerful flavors of the chicken, and the crunchy texture from the cucumber and pine nuts in the salad was divine. We scooped bits of chicken into our naan bread, piling a spoonful of cucumber sauce on top.

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The chicken itself was absolutely delicious– the spice mixture has a kick from cayenne but also a hint of sweetness from the sugar. The cumin and paprika add a smoky depth while the nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon bring a savory warmth to each bite. It’s hard to determine which spices are actually in the recipe because they marry so well in the finished dish.

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Despite the hot sun and the extra huge servings of chicken, we stayed at the table long after the sun hid behind the mountain and our plates were basically empty. This meal will amazing in fall or winter, but was just about perfect on this day in late June. Cheers to summer!

Rockin’ Moroccan Grilled Chicken with Charred Lemons

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons, halved

In a bowl, combine all of the spices. Place chicken breasts in a large plastic bag. Add oil, garlic cloves, and spice mixture. Rub well to coat all sides of the chicken. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour (more is better).

Grill the chicken breasts on high heat, basting often with the leftover marinade. When the chicken is almost grilled through, place the lemons on the grill, juicy side down, until they get a nice char. Serve with herbed couscous salad, cucumber-dill sauce, and warm naan. Cheers to warm summer days that make you forget how long winter is. YUM.

Herbed Pearl Couscous with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta

You’ll need: 

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup each of basil and mint, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • A squeeze or two of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a smallish sauce pot, melt the butter. Add the dry couscous and toast for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken broth, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover, and let cook for 8-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool. For serving, combine cooked couscous, red pepper, basil and mint, feta, pine nuts, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Delicious chilled or at room temperature. YUM.

Cucumber-Dill Sauce

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup English cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 (or more) fresh dill, chopped
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy with something spicy in the sunshine. YUM.

Hungry for more? Check out the collection of recipes on the FOOD BLISS page

The New 52: A recipe for each week in 2015

One year ago: Four days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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