In Memory of the Sun and the Sea: Mediterranean Grilled Chicken.

Ten years ago this summer, I packed up my belongings, dug up my passport, took a deep breath, and decided to hie me over to the UK for what would ultimately become the most informative, influential eighteen months of my underage life. It was a time full of adventure, both mundane and spectacular–my first office job, my first car race, my first night spent sleeping in a random field in France, my first adventures in cookery, and my first real love. It was also the time of my first road trip, a three week, hell-bent sprint across Greece in Sylvester, the big white Honda. In our trusty steed, we drove the length of the entire country on the shiny, new, terrifying 1.5-lane freeway (occasionally on two wheels)  not stopping until we reached the Westernmost regions. We had no a/c, and we couldn’t read the street signs.

It was AWESOME.

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Along the way we saw a wide and amazing variety of Very Old Things; we saw monasteries perched on top of towering fingers of rock; we saw boy racers accidentally hurling themselves off winding mountain roads; we saw oracles and spiders the size of goldfinches; we saw rooms full of skulls and harbors so beautiful I thought I might never recover. We left one of our passports in a hotel somewhere near Patras, only realizing it after we’d driven the many hours back to Athens. We listened endlessly to the Chemical Brothers, Blur, and Madonna, the only cassette tapes we managed to score after we realized that there were no acceptable radio stations that far west. I went through a gallon of sunblock and still got a tan; he called me psipsina. We swam and napped and ate delicious food. I learned to read maps in Greek, and my skin smelled like the sun.

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…And of course there was the food. I don’t even know where to begin to describe it. The honey, the olives, the cheese, the eggplant…So, I will just say: it was all fresh, and bright, and amazing. This week’s culinary adventure was conceived in honor of these memories, taking some of the flavors I remember best and mashing them all together to create a salty, bright, honeyed grilled chicken dish, resonant with rosemary and lemon. It’s easy, and surprising, and more or less guaranteed to put you in the mood for summer. Especially if you can put it on a grill.

It’s no Greek vacation, no wild and grand road trip, no first love…but it’ll do for now. It’ll definitely do until wind, and wings, and wheels conspire to bring me another adventure..

Grilled Mediterranean Chicken

The Paste:
10 black oil-cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp sesame seeds
zest of one lemon
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/3 c olive oil
2-3 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness. Get your aggression out.

  1. Make the paste by tossing all ingredients except the chicken into your trusty food processor. Rub 3/4 of the finished paste all over the chicken.
  2. Fire up your grill (or trusty grill pan) over medium-high heat, and cook 3-4 minutes on each side–until the inside just ceases to be pink. Let it rest, covered, on a plate for a few minutes.
  3. Take the remaining paste and mix it up with a little white wine (or chicken stock)–heat it gently in a small saucepan until it resembles a sauce. Pour liberally upon the finished chicken.
  4. Serve with some sort of vegetable matter and see just how long you can go before you lick the plate. Easy!
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