Cilantro, lime flavor a waist-friendly kebab

Kebabs, such as these Cilantro-Lime Garlic Chicken Kebabs, are fun to prepare, beautiful to look at...
(Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
Story by Elaine Gordon
(Special to The Washington Post)
Sun, May 26, 2013
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Grilling is a simple way to feed your family well this summer.

Start with a lean meat and a healthful marinade and then allow the grill to strip away additional fat for a heart-healthy and waist-friendly final result. Plus, grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in foods, which adds flavor without additional calories and fat.

With these guidelines, grilling can be a great way to prepare healthful meals:

Lighten up your marinade. Store-bought marinades are often high in sodium, sugar and preservatives. So, forget the bottled stuff and opt for a homemade marinade, which lets you control the sodium, sugar and oil content. You can add flavor with fresh herbs, citrus juice and pungent vegetables such as garlic, onions or shallots.

Select lean protein. Opt for lean or low-fat cuts of meat and poultry (and remove the skin to avoid extra fat and cholesterol). Trim the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking. Grilling is also a great way to achieve your recommended eight ounces of seafood per week. Select seafood rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or trout. You can even go vegan on the grill and try a homemade bean or lentil-based burger.

Incorporate fruits and veggies. Load your grill with colorful fruits and vegetables. They are naturally cholesterol-free and packed with nutrients and fiber.

Kebabs are a perfect way to incorporate these ideas. They are fun to prepare and beautiful to look at, yet can be extremely healthful as well. Half of your plate will be filled with fruits and vegetables simply by alternating them with meat on the skewers. Plus, kebabs are an easy way to control portion size.

The accompanying simple recipe features a bold marinade that gets its flavor from fresh lime, cilantro and garlic. Plus, it has a touch of sweetness from honey to help balance out the other intense flavors. You could even add a little jalapeno pepper to the marinade for added heat.

The kebabs use lean white meat chicken breast and a combination of antioxidant-rich red bell pepper, peach and ataulfo mango. Ataulfo mangoes (sometimes labeled as champagne mangoes in the grocery store) are similar to other mango varieties but tend to be sweeter, juicier and less fibrous. They are small and have golden yellow skin. The red bell pepper provides Vitamin C and lycopene, a phytochemical that has been said to benefit heart health and reduce risk for prostate cancer. Plus, it adds a crunchy sweetness that works well against the juicy fruit. The red onion contains anthocyanidins, which may promote blood vessel health, and provides an additional flavor boost when nestled against the chicken chunks.

Cilantro-Lime Garlic Chicken and Mango Kebabs

If it’s still a bit too early to find peaches at your local grocery store, try pineapple or nectarine, both delicious on the grill. Serve with brown rice or a fresh salad.

You’ll need to soak 12-inch wooden/bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour. The chicken needs to marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.

For the marinade and chicken:

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

For the kebabs:

  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 firm peach, pitted (may substitute a nectarine or pineapple chunks)
  • Flesh of 1 champagne (Ataulfo) mango

For the marinade and chicken: Combine the cilantro, oil, garlic, lime juice, honey, sea salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor; puree to form a smooth marinade. Transfer 1/4 cup to a large zip-top bag and pour the rest of the marinade into a small bowl.

Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks and add to the bag. Seal the bag and massage to coat the chicken. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-low (325 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal; when the coals are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 8 to 10 seconds. Use cooking oil spray to grease the grill grate (off the heat).

Meanwhile, make the kebabs: Cut the red onion into 4 equal sections, then separate the layers a bit. Stem and seed the bell pepper, then cut it into bite-size pieces. Cut the peach and mango into bite-size chunks.

Fill the skewers by alternating layers of red onion, peaches, the marinated chicken, bell pepper and mango. Brush them with the remaining marinade. Transfer the skewers to the grill, close the lid and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, then turn the skewers over, close the lid and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the fruits and vegetables are slightly softened.

Serve hot. 4 servings.

Per serving: 260 calories, 28 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 210 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 15 grams sugar

Elaine Gordon is a master certified health education specialist and creator of EatingbyElaine.com.

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