This month’s recipe redux challenge is:
A Vacation-Inspired Recipe –
Start unpacking your favorite vacation memories. Think about a trip you took state-side or internationally and create a healthy recipe from an unforgettable meal you enjoyed. Or, create a recipe from a native ingredient you saw or tasted on your travels.
The hot summer sun seemed unbearable. I felt sweat trickle down my neck as we made our way down the large streets from our holiday apartment to the Sagrada Familia. Designed in the late 1800s, this Roman Catholic Church was one of Antoni Gaudi’s Gothic Masterpieces – one of the most unique of its kind. It was a hot day. It was also an extremely busy day. I stepped into the packed cathedral shuffling slowly behind the group of tourists in front of me waiting to tour the church. Camera flashes, whispers, wailings, conversations of unfamiliar languages came in from all directions. I tried to walk away from the crowd to enjoy the grandeur of this breathtaking architecture surrounding me. This was definitely a fascinating cathedral, unlike others I had seen previously. It still had symbols of diety and stained glass windows like other English Roman Catholic churches, however the simplicity of its design made it seem more modern. For one thing, the ceiling was covered in primary shapes of overlapping circles, squares to form a beautiful, elegant pattern.
All around me, towering grey pillars branched out like oak trees to support the decorated, patterned roof. The long flight of stairs seemed daunting. I took one step at a time making sure I wouldn’t bump into the person in front of us. It was almost impossible not to feel small and claustrophobic. I gulped – this was going to be a LONG tour.
As I turned to the last bend, there was an open window! I immediately ran to it for fresh air. Gasping and breathing heavily, I leaned against the sturdy walls. Up here, it felt cooler. A swift breeze gently caressed my face, and I turned in the same direction to see the view in front of me – there was stone cobbled roads, small houses, buildings – “wow”, it was breathtaking.
And then it finally hit me – I was in Spain.
By the time we were done it was 5pm. Dinnertime. The streets were practically empty. I never quite got use to the late dinner schedule that the locals here seem to be accustomed to. Breakfast at 10, Lunch was at 2 and dinner of tapas at 10. It definitely made it quite convenient for us to avoid the traffic.
Where to get food? As we walked around the streets feeling lost and confused, a large burly man approached us. He stuck a menu under our nose and beckoned us to his store. I could see the hesitant look on my mum’s face. My dad, being the rather adventurous explorer and being very hungry, followed the man to the front of his shop. With broken English, he showed us what was one his menu and told us it was “very good”.
It was Döner kebabs. Honestly I had never had one before and I really wasn’t in the mood to have it. What I wanted was something more Spanish – paella maybe…tapas…or even croquettes, or some of their fresh seafood. I looked over at my sister’s weary, unsure and tired expression on her face. Kebabs? She didn’t think so either.
My dad not seeming to notice turned to us and said “Let’s try this”
In less than a few minutes, the large man brought out large wraps filled with tender, barbecued chicken, drizzled with tzatiki, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce that was impossible to stuff all into one bite – even for my dad. My eyes widened at the size of this ginormous stuffed bread. Luckily, the man sliced it in half so we could each take a half to eat. I stretched my mouth as wide as possible could and bit into the wrap.
Mhmm.. Juicy, succulent, creamy, fresh, sweet, spicy..simply pure deliciousness. I was in pure bliss and heaven.
It was so good. I looked up to see my sister’s mouth smeared with yogurt sauce, and my dad who had already downed half of his kebab.
I am surprised by how much detail I remember from 8 years ago. Strangely enough, these kebabs is one of the ONLY things I remember from the week I spent in Spain.
Unfortunately, I’ve never had the opportunity to recreate it at home, but this months’ recipe redux gave us the perfect opportunity. As we were cooking up this chicken shawarma, I couldn’t help but think back on my vacation in Spain. After all, chicken shawarma is sometimes known as the Arab equivalent of the Turkish Döner kebab.
It was hard to replicate the barbecued, smokey flavors of rotisserie chicken on a spit, but no one seemed to notice. As I watched my guest dive into their chicken shawarma wraps, I heard silent “oohs” and “ahh” and “mmmhhss”. I smiled and chuckled, as I fondly recalled my own reaction that mirrored theirs when I first had the Spanish kebabs. I piled everything onto my plate and hurriedly bit into my own wrap – shut my eyes – and savored the moment. Once again I felt myself travel back to Barcelona 8 years ago. Buen Provecho!
- 12 boneless, skinless Chicken thighs
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3 tbsp grated ginger
- 6-8 large cloves garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 3/4 tsp paprika
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 3 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- zest of 2 lemons
- juice of 2 lemons
- fresh coriander, chopped
- salt and black pepper
- 3 long chinese eggplants
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp chopped dill
- black pepper
- 2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 2 cucumbers, diced
- 1/2 red onion, finely minced
- 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tsp oregano/basil/italian mixed herbs
- salt and black pepper
- fresh coriander leaves
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 cup chickpea water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 1/4 cup raw cashew, soaked
- 3/4 cup water (or a little more)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp honey/agave/maple syrup
- 3 tsp onion salt
- 2 cloves cloves,
- 1 tsp dried dill/ 2 tsp fresh dill
- black pepper
Garnishes: Fresh coriander, dill, diced avocados, GF tortillas (or homemade tortillas)
How to Make:
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Chicken: Mix all the ingredients for the chicken marinade. Toss the chicken thighs in. Set in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours or even overnight.
- In non-stick skillet, brown the chicken on both sides for 2-3 minute.
- Bake chicken for 15-20 minutes. (If you like to char your chicken till golden brown, then you can bake it for an extra 6-10 minutes).
- Hummus: In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, place your garlic cloves to toast and brown. Alternatively you can roast your garlic in the oven for 1 hour at 350F (wrapped in aluminum foil).
- Add the roasted garlic and all the other ingredients for the hummus into the blender. Blend till smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep in the fridge for up to a week. (You want to serve this cold).
- Ranch Dressing: In a clean blender, add in all the ingredients and blitz till smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep in the fridge for up to a week. (You want to serve this cold).
- Tomato-cucumber Salad: Prepare all the ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. Set aside in fridge.
- Eggplant: Slice your eggplant into 1/4″ disks. Toss in with the herbs and spices.
- In a large baking sheet, lay the eggplant out in a single layer.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cover to keep warm or set aside and reheat on a non skillet pan.
- Garnishes: Dice some avocados, heat up tortilla/pita bread.
- To eat this: Take a tortilla or pita, spread on the hummus. Add a few slices of chicken and/ or eggplant. Add some salad, avocado and drizzle ranch dressing. Fold into a roll like a burrito. Enjoy!
How to Serve:
Traditional Method: Chicken Shawarma is traditionally a popular Middle eastern street food or sometimes known as the Lebanese sandwich. The chicken can be grilled, sautéed and sometimes even cooked on a rotisserie and is served on thick pita bread with Toum (garlicky sauce), or even a Savory Yogurt.
Our Method: We decided to take the best parts of the traditional shawarma and add in some of our favorite toppings for an extra-special gourmet chicken shawarma. Instead of making toum we decided on a garlicky hummus.To eat this delicious wrap, first smear the garlic hummus on your tortilla wrap (cheap, accessible, delicious substitute for the pita). Place a few slices of chicken/eggplant on top. Add some of your Israeli cucumber-tomato salad and some diced avocado. Drizzle with ranch dressing (for extra creaminess). Wrap it up and devour it!
Vegetarian Options: You can omit the chicken and roast pumpkin, sweet potatoes, zucchini. Make sure you season it with salt and pepper. It would be perfect!
Condiments: you can serve with traditional tzatziki instead of the “creamy cashew dressing” using coconut yoghurt, lemon, dill and cucumber. You can also omit the hummus completely, that is optional!
Gluten Free, Paleo options: Make or buy gluten free or paleo tortilla. To make it more interesting, you may buy different colors like we did making it more appealing for guests. We actually made some homemade buckwheat tortillas to go with it.
Paleo: You may skip the hummus and try to make another type of legume-free hummus (carrot, sweet potato, beet, zucchini) or substitute with a garlicky sauce.
Herbs: For these recipes feel free to use any combination of dill, coriander, parsley. They all work great!
Spices: For the chicken marinade, instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg, add ras-el-haout instead or even allspice!
Zoe & Mia
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