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Thinking outside the bun: Three refreshing new recipes on the grill

Photo: arsheffield/Flickr


We all love our summer staples, but sometimes we need a break from the burgers, the corn, and the potato salad. These three recipes come together in a flash on your grill, and energize your menu (and your taste buds) with flavors from around the world.  It's time to introduce your family to their new favorite sunny evening meals.  


Chicken or lamb souvlaki with pita and tzatziki

Souvlaki can be made with any meat, but lamb and chicken are the favorites in my house.  These skewers are flavored with a traditional Greek marinade of lemon, garlic and oregano, and cook on the grill in about the time it’ll take you to warm your pita and make an easy tzatziki sauce.

Serves 4

Special equipment: 8 bamboo skewers soaked in water for 1 hour

1.5 lb loin of lamb (or 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts) cut into 1” pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 English cucumber

4 medium tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup Greek yogurt

4 rounds pita bread


Combine 2 tablespoons of the oil, 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice, one clove of the crushed garlic and the oregano in a medium bowl, then add the meat and mix well.  Refrigerate, covered, for an hour, or up to overnight.

Heat your grill to medium high.  Remove the skewers from the water and thread the meat onto each, leaving a little wiggle room between each piece to ensure even cooking.  Brush the meat with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then grill, turning often, for 10-12 minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and half of the cucumber and toss in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

For the tzatziki sauce, thinly slice the remaining half of the cucumber and add it to the yogurt.  Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, the remaining clove of crushed garlic, and season with salt and pepper.

Warm the pita breads on the grill for a minute or two.  To serve, place a warmed pita on a plate and top with some of your grilled meat, some of the tomato-cucumber salad, and a dollop of tzatziki sauce.


Thai grilled chicken lettuce cups with mango and sticky rice

Photo: dr.r.lam/Flickr


With its vibrant colors and invigorating flavors, this recipe both looks and tastes like summer on a plate.  Kids love the addition of the mango, lifting each bite with its juicy sweetness, and the lemongrass and fish sauce in the marinade help temper the sweetness with tangy and umami-rich undertones.  (Feel free to omit the rice if you’re cutting carbs, it works just as well.)

Serves 4

For marinade:

2 lemongrass stalks, inner white part only, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (such as canola)


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups short-grain rice

1 head of Romaine or Bibb lettuce

2 carrots, peeled

1 English cucumber

1 mango, ripe but still firm

1 bunch Thai basil

1 bunch fresh mint

1 handful beansprouts

Sweet chili sauce


Place all the marinade ingredients in a small food processor and blend until mostly smooth.  Place chicken breasts in a dish and pour marinade over them.  Refrigerate, covered, for an hour or up to overnight.

Rinse rice in cold water a few times, then drain.  Either cook in a rice cooker, or if on the stove, place in a covered pot over medium-high heat with 2 cups of cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, still covered, until all water has been absorbed and rice is cooked through, usually around 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and heat your grill to medium-high.  Cook the chicken, turning often, until browned on both sides and cooked through, around 15 minutes.  (Be sure to check for doneness as sizes vary.)

As the chicken cooks, prepare your toppings.  Slice the carrots, cucumber and mango into matchsticks.  Add to a plate along with the herbs and the beansprouts.  Remove the leaves from the head of lettuce, keeping them whole, and wash well.

Once chicken is cooked through, cut along the diagonal into ½” slices.  To serve, place a spoonful of rice in the middle of a lettuce leaf, top with a slice of chicken, and whichever of the toppings you choose.  Roll lettuce around filling and dip into sweet chili sauce.


Caribbean grilled pork sandwiches

Photo: star5112/Flickr


Here in Seattle, we’ve always had a soft spot for Caribbean pork sandwiches.  This recipe is an easy do-at-home version, swapping the hours of slow-roasting for a quick sear on the grill.  Serve with your favorite side salad for a perfect summer supper.

Serves 4

For marinade:

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup orange juice

½ cup lime juice

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon brown sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper


1.25 lbs boneless pork loin

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 yellow onions, sliced into 1” rings

1 large crusty baguette, sliced into 4 pieces


Leaves of Romaine lettuce, washed and sliced


Sliced pickled jalapeños (optional)


Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add pork loin and refrigerate, covered, for a few hours or up to overnight.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook for 3 minutes until beginning to soften, then reduce heat to low.  Cook slowly, stirring every now and again, until caramelized, around 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat grill to medium-high.  Remove pork from marinade and cut into 4 even portions.  Place pork between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet until around ¼” thick.  Cook pork for around 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

Slice the baguette pieces lengthwise, then place the cut sides on the grill and warm for a few minutes.  Spread the toasted sides of the bread with mayonnaise.  Place a piece of pork inside the baguette, then top with caramelized onions, lettuce, cilantro, and jalapeños.  

Jo Eike is a writer and a cook always in search of her next favorite recipe.  She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.

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