A Memorial Day Twist

For your first meal of the grilling season, try chicken and all the fixings flavored with the greek quartet of garlic, lemon, oregano, and olive oil.

A cookout that's easy to prepare, yet not your standard sticky barbecue. A cookout that's easy to prepare, yet not your standard sticky barbecue. (Photograph by Jim Scherer, styling by Catherine Kelty)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Adam Ried
May 25, 2008

Grilled chicken is a Memorial Day crowd pleaser that, almost reflexively, most of us slather with smoky, tomatoey barbecue sauce. This time, what do you say we forgo the 'cue and give the bird a distinctively Greek stamp with the pungent, flavor-packed quartet of garlic, lemon, oregano, and olive oil? In fact, there's no reason that a couple of side dishes can't get in on the Aegean action, too. Grill some eggplant with the chicken, and serve the grilled foods with a cool yogurt sauce and satisfying rice salad. The sauce, by the way, is no mere afterthought. I think a lemony sauce gives grilled chicken a stronger citrus flavor that most marinades. The garlic gets a one-two flavor punch as well - a bit of sharp, fresh garlic in the sauce, underscored by the mellow flavor of fire-toasted garlic right on the chicken.

Grilled lemon chicken and eggplant with yogurt sauce
Serves 4

Grilled pita bread is a nice accompaniment; brush a little olive oil on it and throw it on the grill along with the eggplant. If you have grilled eggplant left after the meal, chop it roughly and add it to any remaining rice salad.

6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed to a fine paste
3 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
6 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely grated zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 2 large lemons, plus
1 lemon, sliced, to grill for garnish (optional)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds, cut into 8 pieces, or
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
1 large eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled if desired and cut into 3/4-inch-thick rounds

In a medium bowl, mix garlic and oregano; transfer 1 tablespoon of this mixture to another bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. To the remaining garlic-oregano mixture, add parsley and lemon zest and juice, and stir to combine. Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons of this mixture to a small, nonreactive serving bowl, add yogurt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Stir to blend, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To the remaining garlic-oregano-lemon mixture, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well. Rub a portion of the seasoning mixture between the skin and meat of each chicken piece, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably longer.

Prepare a two-level fire in a charcoal grill (see "Kitchen Aide") or preheat a gas grill on high. Sprinkle the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper and grill (if using a gas grill, adjust one burner to medium-high heat and the others to low heat), skin side down and without moving (except in the case of large flare-ups), over medium-high heat until skin is crisp and rendered, about 6 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue grilling until the second side is well browned, about 6 minutes longer Meanwhile, add the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil to the reserved garlic-oregano mixture, stir to blend, brush both sides of the eggplant slices lightly with the seasoned oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Keeping the chicken pieces skin side up, move to the cool side of the grill. Grill the eggplant slices (an lemon slices, if using), without moving, over the hot side of the grill until well browned, about 6 minutes. Turn the slices (including lemon) over and continue grilling until second side is well browned, about 6 minutes longer. Remove chicken, eggplant, and lemon from grill, arrange on a platter, and serve hot with the yogurt sauce.

Aegean rice salad
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed to a fine paste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
3/4, cup extra-virgin olive oil Pepper
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
3/4 cup (about 20) Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise
1/3, cup chopped fresh mint

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rice, return to a boil, and cook uncovered until rice is just tender, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Drain the rice and spread into a wide, even layer on the baking sheet; cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Vigorously whisk in the olive oil, and season with additional salt, if desired, and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, toss sliced red onion with 3 tablespoons of the dressing and set aside.

To make the salad, in a large bowl, combine the cooled rice, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and dressing; toss to combine and let stand to blend flavors, about 15 minutes. Add reserved onion and the mint, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at

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