The last time I went to Los Angeles, I fell in love with a new place: Lemonade.
It’s a casual place with a dozen or so different outposts scattered around the greater L.A. area (including a charming one two blocks from my mother-in-law’s condo in Beverly Hills) but I’d never been to one until the most recent visit.
And I was wowed.
Think of Lemonade as a sun-drenched, uber-modern mini cafeteria in which the most imaginative salads, entrees and sides jump out at you. Happily, the prices are so-low that you want to eat there every day.
As much as I was smitten with their sandwiches, miso short ribs, chili and soups
it was their salads-– and their stunning presentation — that had me return multiple times within a few days.
Everything there is so tasty, fresh and vibrantly flavored.
Just look at the tuna tower I tried there.
Tuna, avocado, tomatoes, chickpeas — all for about six dollars.
So when my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas shortly after our last visit, I remembered one thing that remained on my wish list.
This is a beautiful cookbook with lush photography, terrific author notes and yummy, straight-forward recipes.
I’ve tried out a number of these recipes in the last couple months, but the one I tried on Monday night has been my favorite so far.
Greek-Marinated Chicken with Tzatsiki.
(photo courtesy Lemonade Cookbook/Victoria Pearson).
I love Greek flavors so trying this out was a no-brainer for me.
I assembled the ingredients for the main dish: chicken, garlic, oregano, Greek yogurt, pureed onion, red and black pepper and salt.
First off, get the best, thickest Greek yogurt sauce you can find for both the marinade and the tzatsiki.
Now that I can buy Fage at Costco, I always have a tub on hand for smoothies, baked goods and the occasional granola breakfast.
Look at how thick it is even with a good amount of Meyer lemon juice added to it.
I liked the tip of adding grated or chopped onion to the yogurt marinade — in retrospect, I think that really umph-ed the flavor of the cooked chicken.
The recipe calls for chicken breast halves but I didn’t have as long to marinate as the recipe recommended, so I thought smaller pieces would help speed up that tenderizing process.
I cut the breasts up, mixed the pieces together with the marinade, and then put the whole pan in the fridge for the day.
While that was stored away in the fridge, I followed the directions for the tzatsiki.
I haven’t made this garlicky cucumber yogurt sauce for a long time, so I followed the recipe and was pleasantly surprised by their salting trick; in times past my tzatsiki had been a bit watery and now I know it’s because I hadn’t done this step before.
If you prepare the cucumbers as they recommend (grated, salted, drained and then squeezed) you’ll end up with a really lovely thick sauce and almost a half cup of cucumber water to discard (although on a whim I instead added this green liquid to my bottle of sparkling water and it was surprisingly good).
The only modification I made to the tzatsiki was to use basil instead of the recommended dill; I prefer the herby fragrance of the former (and it’s blooming wildly in the herb garden outside my kitchen) but add the herb of your choice.
Mint or tarragon would work beautifully here, too.
When it came time to cook the chicken, I decided to grill it outdoors.
Sure, it was bit more arduous to cook lots of small pieces than a few bigger ones, but I like how crispy the pieces got on the edges.
I cooked up a pot of basmati rice while the chicken was grilling, and then I warmed up some pita alongside, too.
Time to ring the dinner bell.
Dinner was being served al fresco on our back patio.
(I love the enormous concrete and wrought-iron table we bought at Pottery Barn; we use it all the time during the warmer months.)
The chicken was wonderful — moist and juicy from its yogurt bath and with the tiniest bit of char from the grill.
All it needed was a squeeze of lemon, a little zest and a few pinches of Maldon salt.
The whole crew enjoyed it, and since I’d doubled the recipe, there were enough leftovers for Chicken and Tzatsiki Pita sandwiches last night (with the addition of hummus and arugula, they were crazy good).
Two delicious dinners from one night’s modest labor?
- For the Chicken:
- 1 C. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ½ C. fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, grated ( I used 1 small yellow one)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 4 (6 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 Tbs. canola oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- For the Tzatsiki:
- 1 hothouse cucumber, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise and seeds scooped out with a spoon (I used 2 smaller seedless Persian cucumbers and I just grated the whole thing except for the wee ends)
- 2 tsp. coarse salt
- 2 C. plain plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 Tbs. dill or 5-6 basil leaves, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- To prepare the marinade, in a mixing bowl combine the yogurt, oregano, onion, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and red pepper flakes, stirring with a spoon. Put the chicken in a plastic storage bag; add the yogurt mixture, and smoosh the chicken around to thoroughly coat the marinade. Press out the air, seal the bag, and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, preferably up to 2 days (I did it for just a few hours and it was perfectly fine).
- To prepare the tzatsiki, dice the cumber into small pieces or shred with the large holes of a box grater. Mix the cucumber pieces in a strainer with salt, and let stand in the sink or over a bowl for about 30 minutes, shaking and turning a a few times to drain the water. After the cucumbers are drained, squeeze them in a dish towel to get out most of the liquid, and transfer them to a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, dill or basil, garlic and pepper to combine. Refrigerate the tzatsiki for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to come together. Season to taste, adding a bit more salt and pepper if desired.
- When ready to cook the chicken, preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Rub the grates with oil to prevent sticking. Remove the chicken from the marinade, wiping off any excess yogurt so it doesn't burn on the grill. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with a fair amount of salt and pepper. Sear for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating them halfway through cooking to "mark" them. Turn the chicken over and grill the other side for 4 to 6 more minutes.
- Serve the grilled chicken with tzatsiki sauce.