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Grill up a little something for everyone to kick off the summer season

Yogurt and spice-marinated chicken shawarma. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Yogurt and spice-marinated chicken shawarma. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Grilling season has officially begun. Last weekend, many grillers fired up barbecues and opened up bags of charcoal. Summer is officially off and running.

Looking for new ideas? Tips for getting the most out of the food you grill? Here are three new recipes as well as tips for getting everything on the grill cooked to perfection.

Yogurt and spice-marinated chicken shawarma. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Yogurt and spice-marinated chicken shawarma

This classic Middle Eastern favorite is full of big spices: turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, lemon and garlic. But it’s another ingredient that plays a key role. Yogurt is a great way to tenderize meat without breaking down the protein. It contains lactic acid and microbes, which provide a tangy flavor and result in exceedingly tender chicken. It also works really well with lamb or beef or on certain vegetables, like cauliflower.

The chicken should marinate for several hours or overnight, but not for any longer, and is then tightly placed on skewers. You can use wooden skewers (which must be soaked in cold water for an hour to prevent burning) or longer metal skewers, but the meat is pressed down so it’s touching and compact. The grilled chicken is served with warm pita bread, tahini sauce and tomato-cucumber-cilantro salad.

Serves 3 to 4.


The chicken:

  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs, cut in half horizontally, and then cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 small onions, cut in half
  • 4 pita breads
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters


  1. In a bowl or resealable plastic container, mix the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add a dash of hot pepper sauce or several if you like a spicier flavor. Add the chicken, toss to coat it all; cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.
  2. Make the tahini sauce; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot, about 350 degrees.
  4. Make the vegetable salad.
  5. If using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before draining.
  6. Place half the onion on a skewer. Skewer half the marinated meat on, pressing it down so there is very little room between pieces of meat. Top the skewer with another half of onion to hold the chicken on top. Repeat with the remaining onion and chicken.
  7. Place the chicken skewers on the grill and cook for 10 minutes. Gently flip the chicken over and grill for another 8 to 12 minutes on the other side. If the chicken is cooking too fast or getting burnt, move the chicken off the direct heat over to a corner of the grill that isn’t as hot. The chicken is done when there is no sign of pink inside and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F when tested with a meat thermometer. Place the pita bread on the hot grill and warm up for 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  8. Remove from the heat and serve with lemon wedges, warm pita bread, the tahini sauce and vegetable salad.

Tahini sauce

This is a wildly versatile sauce. Thin it out a bit with water or more lemon juice, and it’s a salad dressing. Serve it on sauteed greens, spoon it on cold noodles, roast it on carrots or other vegetables or spoon it on grilled fish or chicken. You can also use it as a dip for crudites.

Makes about ⅓ cup.


  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 to 2 large lemons, about ¼ cup
  • ⅓ cup tahini, well stirred
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • About ⅓ to ½ cup boiling water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients to create a smooth sauce. Add more water to create a thinner sauce.
  2. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, lemon juice or olive oil as needed.

Tomato, cucumber and cilantro salad

This is a quick, easy, refreshing summer salad that goes well with many grilled foods.


  • 1 ½ cup peeled cucumber, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup cubed tomato
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a medium bowl gently toss all the ingredients. Season to taste. The salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 hours.

Grilled artichokes with lemon and olive oil. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Grilled artichokes with lemon and olive oil

I don’t know why people don’t eat more artichokes. Is it that they look so unfriendly and like they might be complicated to cook? Nothing could be further from the truth. Here I parboil them to soften and then cut the chokes in half and scoop out the furry center. I finish them off on the grill and fill the center with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.


  • 2 large artichokes, leaf ends trimmed about ¼ inch, and stem trimmed about ½ inch
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the artichokes, cover, and simmer over medium-high heat for about 14 to 16 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes. They won’t be fully cooked, but if you try to pull out a leaf, it should come out with just a bit of tension. Drain and cool.
  2. Slice the artichokes in half across the center. Using a kitchen spoon or small sharp knife remove the fuzzy inner core of the artichoke, creating a kind of cavity on the center.
  3. Preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Spoon 1⁄2 tablespoon of oil into the cavity of each artichoke half and place on the hot grill. Grill for 5 minutes. Gently flip and grill for another 5 minutes. Flip over again, and grill for another 2 to 4 minutes, or until the leaves appear grilled and softened.
  4. Remove and divide the remaining olive oil and lemon juice on top of each artichoke half and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or room temperature with lemon wedges.

Grilled flat iron steak with soy-ginger marinade and grilled scallions. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Grilled flat iron steak with soy-ginger marinade and grilled scallions

A flat iron steak, also known as boneless top chuck steak, is super flavorful, comes from the shoulder area, is relatively inexpensive and is known for its rich, beefy flavor. Flat iron can be tough if not cooked properly, and the best way I’ve found is to marinate it for several hours and then cook it over a hot grill.

It’s delicious grilled with whole scallions and then served with white or brown rice sprinkled with finely chopped scallions and white sesame seeds.

Serves 3 to 4.


  • 1 to 1 ½ pound flat iron steak, can also use flank or skirt steak
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or black vinegar (black vinegar is a grain-based vinegar that’s aged for six months to several years. It’s prized for its earthy, aromatic flavor.)
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine or rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 scallions, root end trimmed and left whole


  1. In a large non-reactive bowl mix the soy, vinegar, wine, ginger, scallion and pepper. Add the steak and coat on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.
  2. Light a charcoal or gas grill until hot, about 400 degrees. Place a grill rack over the hot grills.
  3. Remove the steak from the marinade and place the marinade in a small saucepan. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat, reduce to low, and simmer for 8 minutes.
  4. Place the meat over the hot grills and grill for about 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the meat is 130 degrees for medium. Grill the scallions for about 2 to 3 minutes per side until soft and turning golden.  Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing on the diagonal. Serve with the hot marinade on the side or spooned over the sliced meat.

Other grilling recipes and tips

Grilling tips:

  • Make sure your grill is clean. Do not use a wire brush to scrub off any debris; wire brushes have been found to be dangerous as the small wires can break off and cling to food.
  • A grill rack is great to have on hand for grilling vegetables or skewers or anything where little bits can fall off into the grill. The rack will keep the food protected and elevated from the grill itself.
  • Have a meat thermometer by the grill when grilling chicken, lamb, beef or fish. It’s the best way to tell when your food is ready without cutting into a piece of meat to see if it’s still raw in the middle.
  • In general, always insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and be sure not to hit a bone. And remember that meat continues to cook after it’s been removed from the grill. Remove the meat when it’s about 5 degrees below the ideal temperature to allow for resting time when the temperature will continue to rise. If you like you can loosely cover the food once it’s off the grill with foil to keep it warm.
  • Beef should be around 125 to 135 degrees for rare, 130 for medium rare and 135 for well done.
  • Chicken and turkey should be around 165 degrees.
  • Pork should be around 145 degrees for medium rare and up to 160 degrees for well done.

Other favorite grilling recipes:

  • Click here for grilled fish recipes.
  • Click here for a grilled cod recipe.
  • Click here for a grilled fruit recipe.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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