Spice up your spring

Dust off that grill for the spring season, but leave the boring burger recipe in the drawer. This year, when you invite the crew over for a cookout, shake things up with an interactive, international menu. Bathe the meats (separate but well-matched rubs for tenderloin and chicken), prep the veggies (chunks of onion and zucchini), soak the skewers, and your work, my friend, is done. Fire up the grill and let hungry guests choose their own combos. Zesty dipping sauces and a lemony side salad (that's best served at room temp) round out the meal. If only guests would stay and do the dishes …

Recipes and text by Ashley Primis

Photographs and food styling by emulsion





  • Chili pepper beef skewers with chimichurri sauce
  • Middle Eastern spiced chicken skewers with yogurt-mint sauce
  • Couscous salad

each serves 4-6 people

For assembling skewers:
Soak 20 wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.
1 red onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces

Chili pepper beef skewers with chimichurri sauce

This one is really all about flavor: with buttery beef tenderloin, tenderizing isn’t required. Chili powder, coriander, and cumin add depth rather than heat so that the garlicky and bursting-with-herby-flavor chimichurri sauce stands out. (Pssst … save this sauce and use it to flavor anything and everything. Toss it over veggies on the grill, marinate chicken or shrimp, or mix in sour cream or mayo for a quick, party-ready dip.)

  • Chili pepper beef skewers with chimichurri sauce
  • Beef
  • 1 1/4 pounds beef tenderloin, roughly cut
  • into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2   tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2   teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2   teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Combine chili powder, ground coriander, and cumin to create the spice rub. Place beef cubes in a shallow dish; season with salt and pepper. Add spice rub, pressing it into beef to adhere. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When ready to cook, remove beef from the refrigerator, and build skewers with three to four pieces of meat and veggies. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Coat grates with oil. Grill, about 10-12 minutes for medium rare, flipping halfway through. Alternatively, place kabobs on a roasting or cookie rack on top of a sheet tray and roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Chimichurri sauce

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 1/4   cups whole parsley leaves
  • 3/4   cup whole cilantro leaves
  • 1/2   cup whole basil leaves
  • 1/4   cup plus 1 tablespoon extra
  • virgin olive oil
  • 11/2    tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Chop garlic clove in food processor. Add herbs, 1/4  cup olive oil, and vinegar and blend until well puréed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, mix again, and transfer to a bowl. Stir in remaining tablespoon olive oil, cover, and refrigerate. May be made one day ahead.

Middle Eastern spiced skewers with a yogurt-mint sauce

Classic Middle Eastern flavors like turmeric and ginger not only give bland chicken breast a dose of warming yet subtle flavors, but a look-at-me color. (Protect your mani with Saran Wrap, plastic bags, or disposable gloves so your yellow fingers don’t get all the attention.) Mint adds freshness to this cooling, Greek-inspired, low-fat dipping sauce. Don’t forget to mix and match — the sauces work well with meats and as marinades.

  • 1 1/2   lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast,
  • cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2   teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/2   teaspoon ginger powder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine turmeric, curry, and ginger powders in a bowl to create spice rub. Place chicken cubes in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Coat with spice rub, pressing it into chicken to adhere. Drizzle olive oil over chicken, toss to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When ready to cook, remove chicken from the refrigerator, build skewers with three to four pieces of meet and veggies. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high. Coat grates with oil. Grill about 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Alternatively, place on a roasting or cookie rack on a sheet tray and cook in oven at 425 for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Yogurt-mint sauce

  • 7 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4  cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/2   teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2   tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use; can be made one day in advance.

Couscous Salad

Lemony and textured with crispy cucumbers, sweet raisins, and red onions, this quick-prep salad is a nice alternative to traditional sides.

  • 1 box Near East plain couscous
  • 2/3   cup raisins
  • 1 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/4   cup diced red onion
  • 1/4   cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • 1/4  cup lemon juice
  • 1/4  cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Prepare couscous according to box instructions, substituting olive oil for butter and adding raisins to the water with the couscous after boiling. In a mixing bowl, combine cucumber, onion, and herbs. When couscous is ready and slightly cool, add to bowl with cucumber and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk lemon juice with olive oil and drizzle dressing onto couscous, tossing until well combined. Add in salt, pepper, and almonds and toss again. Keep couscous at room temperature until ready to serve.

Ashley Primis is the food and lifestyle editor for Philadelphia magazine. Her work has appeared in Lucky, Women’s Health, and Charlotte magazines.


Categories: Food & Entertaining, Home & GardenFeature