Turkish Chicken Kebabs

Most Mediterranean cuisines feature a version of grilled, skewered meat and vegetables such as these Turkish chicken kebabs. Just before serving, they are garnished with ground sumac [SOO-mak]. Sumac is a wild shrub that grows throughout the Middle East and southern Italy. The shrub’s dark red berries are dried and sold whole or ground. Ground sumac is used as a condiment and adds a tart, astringent, fruity flavor to food. You can find ground sumac at Middle Eastern and natural foods stores and some supermarkets.

  • 1 each Medium red onion, peeled
  • 1 each Medium zucchini, unpeeled, ends trimmed
  • 4 each Boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-in. cubes
  • 6 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 6 tablespoons Freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 3 each Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon Ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons Paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, or to taste, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil, for oiling grill      
  • 2 teaspoons Ground sumac* for garnish
  • Lemon wedges for garnish      

Special Equipment:
  • 8 to 10 (6-in.) bamboo skewers** soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
Cut onion in half, then cut each half into quarters; separate into pieces. Place onion pieces in a shallow dish, and set aside until needed.

Slice zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut zucchini into 1½-in. chunks. Place in dish with onion pieces, and set aside until needed.

Place chicken cubes in a separate shallow dish, and set aside until needed.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour half of marinade over onion pieces and zucchini chunks; pour remaining half over chicken cubes. Marinate all for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

Shake off any excess marinade, then thread marinated chicken cubes, onion pieces, and zucchini chunks onto soaked skewers, leaving a tiny space between pieces. Generously season kebabs on both sides with salt and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Clean grill grates with a stiff brush, then oil liberally to prevent sticking. (Note: To use a grill pan, preheat the pan to medium-high heat; add oil and heat through.)  

Place kebabs onto hot oiled grill, and cook for about 2 minutes. Without turning skewers, rotate them 90 degrees and continue cooking until the chicken is seared and crusty on the outside, about 2 minutes more; this will produce beautiful cross-hatch grill marks. Flip kebabs over, and repeat the process for the second side.

Remove skewers from grill, then transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then garnish with ground sumac and lemon wedges; serve warm or at room temperature.

* Ground sumac may be found in your local Middle Eastern market or online at zamourispices.com.

** Bamboo skewers typically come in packages of 100. Soak the entire package when you open it. After soaking, briefly drain any unused skewers on paper towels, then place in a large, plastic zip-top bag. Store in the freezer; no need to soak again before using.

Yield: 10 servings