My family and I recently dined at a Mediterranean restaurant in West Hollywood called Fig and Olive. The restaurant is beautifully designed with lots of light and open spaces. It’s modern, but warm, with a distinctly Italian feel. Fresh rosemary grows everywhere within the restaurant. Olive oil bottles and barrels line the walls.
Fig and Olive is pricey, but we were celebrating a special occasion so we decided to splurge. I’ve been hearing about it for weeks, so I was excited to give it a try. Every dish on the menu sounded amazing. I had the Mediterranean Branzino glazed with fig and 18 yr. old balsamic vinegar, snow peas, fig, and Koroneiki Olive Oil. My friends shared the Fig and Olive Mediterranean Tasting, which included a dish I’ve never seen before– grilled olive oil steak on fresh rosemary skewers. What a fabulous idea! I left the restaurant feeling inspired.
Looking into the history of rosemary, I found out some fascinating things. The herb rosemary has been used in Mediterranean cooking for centuries. It is a member of the mint family, an evergreen shrub that thrives in moist environments (hence its Latin name Rosmarinus, or “dew of the sea”). It is one of the most prized culinary herbs, used often in Italian cooking.
In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Ophelia waxes poetic about rosemary as she descends into madness…
There’s Rosemary, that’s for Remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.
Shakespeare might have known something that modern science is just beginning to discover. Recent studies suggest that rosemary may sharpen memory and brain function. Apparently, the ancient Greeks knew it, too– they wore rosemary in their hair to fortify their memory. According to the “Oxford Companion to Food” by Alan Davidson, this association between rosemary and memory has persisted throughout history: “In medieval times, and indeed throughout history, people have tended to attach more importance to the medicinal than to the culinary properties of rosemary… Sir Thomas More… wrote: ‘I lett it runne all over my garden walls, not onelie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and therefore to friendship.”
Rosemary also happens to be an excellent herb to use for grilling. In addition to its delicious flavor, it has been shown to reduce carcinogens and break up cancer-causing compounds that can form when meat is cooked on a smoky grill.
This week, I decided to create my own version of Fig and Olive’s rosemary skewers. I made it with lemony marinated chicken chunks… lemon and rosemary are a fabulous flavor combination. I also added a little whole grain Dijon to the marinade for kick, along with garlic and a touch of honey. I grilled the skewers directly on the rosemary stem, which infused the meat with even more flavor and aroma. The rosemary skewers looked a little sad after grilling, so I re-skewered them on fresh rosemary for a more beautiful presentation before serving.
The meat turned out wonderful– tender, juicy, and bursting with herby lemon flavor. I added a Dijon Mayonnaise dipping sauce to add another level of deliciousness (you could also serve it with tahini sauce if you prefer). The result was truly spectacular. I recommend using a high quality organic mayonnaise for the sauce, it will really improve the flavor.
With the summer weather and grilling season upon us, these skewers are a fun and easy dish that will wow your guests. They’re heart-healthy, low carb, and gluten free (with a certified GF mustard/mayonnaise). To stretch these and make a more economical dish, you could alternate chicken chunks on the skewer with your favorite grilling vegetables– zucchini, summer squash, and mushrooms would all work well. A fabulous option to grill up for any occasion!
Note: Don’t marinate the meat for longer than the suggested 2 hours. The acid in the lemon juice will break down the meat. 2 hours is plenty of time to infuse the chicken with fresh, lemony flavor. Enjoy!
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- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (about 1 lb. total)
- 8 fresh rosemary stems (10-12 inches long each)
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 1/2 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard, divided
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper
- Cut chicken into 1-1 ½ inch chunks. Thighs will cook up juicier, breasts have less fat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. If using kosher chicken meat, go light on the salt, as the meat will already have some saltiness. Place chicken pieces into a shallow bowl.
- In a small bowl, pour lemon juice, zest, olive oil, 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard, honey, garlic and chopped rosemary leaves; mix well.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Rinse and dry the eight rosemary stems, then pull most of the leaves from the stem. Reserve 1-2 inches of leaves at the tip of each stem. These are your skewers.
- Remove marinated chicken from the refrigerator. Skewer the chicken chunks onto four of the rosemary skewers. Reserve the other four skewers.
- Generously grease your grill before preheating to prevent the chicken from sticking. Grill the skewers over a medium flame for 8-15 minutes (cook time will depend on the size of your chicken chunks and the heat on your grill). Cover the chicken as it cooks so that smoky rosemary flavor permeates the meat.
- Turn the skewers periodically, until the chicken chunks are cooked through and the meat is evenly grilled. Cut a larger chunk open to check for doneness.
- When chicken is cooked, un-skewer the chicken chunks from the charred rosemary skewers. Re-skewer them on the fresh rosemary skewers.
- To make the Dijon Mayonnaise, combine mayonnaise and the remaining ½ tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard in a small bowl; stir well.
- Serve as a dipping sauce with the grilled chicken skewers.