By contributing writer Mary Cressler
Grilling season is officially upon us! In my house, we barbecue and grill year round, but as the masses come out of a long (long) winter and cold wet spring, they become eager to dine outside.
For summer gatherings it’s common to grill up the usual burgers, dogs, ribs, etc., but as vegetables become more abundant, I start to crave grilled veggies. There’s nothing like biting into a freshly grilled tomato or mushroom that has been lightly seasoned and cooked with just a tiny bit of char.
As far as proteins go, I’m a poultry fan, but chicken can so easily become overcooked on a hot grill. One way I’ve found to manage this is to marinate chicken in yogurt before cooking. The creamy marinade fills the chicken with moisture and texture, helping it to stay juicy and flavorful during the grilling process. Adding a few spices helps to provide incredible flavor.
For a crowd, I LOVE preparing vegetable and yogurt marinated chicken grilled skewers. It’s a bit of work to cut and thread all the ingredients, but it serves a ton of people without breaking the bank. For a healthy summer dinner (equipped with wine pairing), grilled veggies and yogurt marinated grilled chicken skewers is a budget-friendly meal that serves a crowd!
We prepared our favorite vegetables (cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, red bell pepper) along with red potatoes, all tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. I recommend grilling your vegetables and meat on separate skewers to ensure that your meat cooks properly without overcooking your vegetables.
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in 1½ inch cubes
- Combine all ingredients (except the chicken) in a large bowl and mix well. Mix in the chicken. Cover and chill for up to four hours (can do as little as an hour).
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto metal skewers, evenly spaced. Discard marinade. Place kebabs on grill and let cook until browned and cooked through on each side, about five minutes total (internal temperature of 165 degrees).
- Serve with additional vegetable skewers and favorite side dish (couscous, rice, quinoa, or potatoes)
For grilled vegetables, I often crave Grüner Veltliner. This Austrian varietal pairs great with spring and summer vegetables. However, my local wine store was very limited on their offerings, so I decided to go with a Spanish Albariño and a domestic white blend instead. They are two very different wines, but I suspected they both would contribute different attributes to the dish.
2010 Licia Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($13)
This wine offers lemon, orange, herbs, grapefruit, and green apple aromas. Fresh and slightly spritzy on the palate with lingering grapefruit, fresh acidity, and a lemon zest minerally finish. On it’s own it was a bit simple, but it was nice and refreshing with the food. Squeezing a bit of freshly grilled lemon over the food really enhanced the citrus notes in the wine and created a fresh and crisp feel. Overall it is a dry and crisp aromatic wine to have on hand for light summer dishes.
Evolution White Wine, 17th Edition, by Sokol Blosser ($15)
The 17th edition of this non-vintage wine is a blend of Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Chardonnay.
The wine is very aromatic with floral, tropical, and exotic fruit dominating. The aromas lead you to think the wine may be sweet, but it has just the right amount of sweetness on the palate balanced out by fresh acidity. This wine is smooth and crisp with citrus, apricot, pineapple, nectarine, and green apple flavors and a cooling feeling to the finish.
Most recommend this wine with Asian fare because of the floral notes and slight sweetness, but I think it’s incredibly versatile and pairs beyond the typical spicy and sweet Asian cuisine. It was excellent with the chicken and grilled veggies providing a very different experience than the Albariño. The grilled meat and veggies tamed the intense aromas, provided a nice overall balance and a refreshing palate cleanser between bites, and offered a nice sweetness to balance the grilled vegetables. It’s a versatile wine to have on hand this summer.
Cheers to a fantastic grilling season everyone!
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Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners.
She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.