I've mentioned a few times (O.K., maybe a dozen) that we are at a disadvantage when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables here in our corner of the southwest. Believe me, I've tried my best to grow things that have no business being in the desert. Moisture-free climates, triple-digit temps, and delicate basil leaves simply don't mix. Despite this fact, because I was determined to grow my own basil in efforts to lower my pesto product cost, a potted basil plant took up residence in our kitchen sink for several weeks. Because my ingenius solution made it difficult to rinse dishes and it looked really strange popping out of our sink, I finally gave in, tossed the plant, and started making my pesto out of the more reasonably priced bagged arugula from Trader Joe's. I also became optimistic when my tomato and pepper plants showed signs of surviving, but those too met their demise during the first scorcher of the season. I know, I need to let it go.
The one type of vegetation with which we have been given a big green thumbs up is our small but thriving collection of citrus trees in our backyard. These guys really seem to relish the hot and dry climate, and our crops of grapefruit, Valencia oranges, limes, and Meyer lemons grow more abundant each year. We used to think that we hit the jackpot (pardon the Vegas term) with a yield of ten lemons. This year, however, with projected numbers well into the 200s, I have already considered filling up a box and setting up my own little lemon stand on the corner. Considered, mind you. There's not a snowball's chance in Vegas that this will actually happen.
What I have done over the past year is save all of my lemon recipe ideas in a little file, so that when the fruit is ripe, I will have plenty of good uses for it. Although the lemons are just starting to turn yellow, and they still need another few weeks on the tree, I dipped into the file for last nights dinner, so I could start to use up my bottled lemon juice, which I figured I wouldn't need for awhile. I've made this recipe many times, and for the small amount of effort involved, it is always very well received. The simple lemon-thyme marinade keeps the chicken moist, and the tart acidity is a nice contrast the the sweet and spicy satay sauce. This is great to serve at parties or as a light meal (replace those chicken fingers!) Here are my extra tips for these Asian-inspired appetizers:
- The chicken really does require the entire 6 hours, preferably longer, to marinate and achieve a lemony flavor. The lemon is too subtle if the marinating time is shorter.
- This chicken would also be wonderful served over a summery salad, with colorful peppers, blanched sugar snap peas, or asparagus tips. Make a light lemony vinaigrette to serve over the salad.
- The fresh gingerroot may be replaced with 1 teaspoon of ground ginger. Mincing fresh gingerroot can sometimes prove to be a challenge. In addition to prolonging its shelf life, peeling and then freezing the gingerroot facilitates mincing or grating, so I just keep my supply in the freezer.
Lemon-Thyme Chicken Skewers with Asian Satay Sauce
For the chicken
¾ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the satay dip
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely diced red onion
3 cloves minced garlic
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sherry
2 teaspoons lime juice
Prepare the chicken: In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Add the chicken breasts, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
Prepare the satay sauce: In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, cook the sesame oil, olive oil, red onion, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper until the onion is transparent, 10-15 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, ketchup, sherry, and lime juice. Cook the sauce for 2 more minutes and then set aside to cool slightly.
Grill the chicken: Heat a grill or a nonstick grillpan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breasts, turning once, until just cooked through, 12-15 minutes. Cool slightly and then cut on the bias in ½-inch thick slices. Skewer the chicken with wooden sticks and serve with the satay sauce.