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Summertime Kickoff Recipes: Grilled Chicken Gyro Lettuce Wraps, cool sides, starters

Are you looking for some healthy Memorial Day Weekend food options? Well, look no further! Michelle Dudash, RDN, registered dietitian, chef and author of the upcoming The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook is helping us kick off the big weekend right with recipes from her new book.

CHICKEN GYRO LETTUCE WRAPS

Ingredients:

I love gyros. So why not create a version that we can make at home with chicken? Marinate the chicken overnight for the full-flavor effect.

FOR THE CHICKEN:

  • 1 1⁄2 pound (683 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or breast fillets
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated, plus 2 tablespoons (30 ml) juice
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
    1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SANDWICH:

  • 8 outer leaves iceberg lettuce
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Very thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 thin dill pickle spears
  • Tahini Sauce (page 118) or Cucumber Yogurt Salad (page 44)

Directions:

  • To make the chicken: Place the chicken on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Pound to 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick and cut into 6 pieces. Combine the rest of the chicken ingredients in a wide, shallow dish, making the marinade. Coat the chicken in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
  • When ready to cook the chicken, move the oven rack to 6 inches (15 cm) below the broiler element. Preheat the oven to low broil. Place the chicken on a baking sheet or broiler pan. When the broiler is ready, place the chicken in the oven on the top rack. Broil until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes.
  • Tuck the chicken into the lettuce wraps and serve with the tomato slices, onion, pickles, and Tahini Sauce or Cucumber Yogurt Salad. Or both!

Suggestions and Variations

Gyros can also be made with lamb meat, like loin chops or rump.

TOTAL PREP AND COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES, PLUS MARINATING TIME • YIELD: 4 SERVINGS, 1 GYRO EACH

PER SERVING: 150 CALORIES, 3 G CARBOHYDRATE (1 G FIBER, 0 G ADDED SUGARS, 2 G NET CARBS), 26 G PROTEIN, 3 G FAT, 280 MG SODIUM.

CUCUMBER YOGURT SALAD

In my Sithoo’s house, leben was as much a staple as ketchup was in other homes. She made it by simmering whole milk until it was “so hot that you couldn’t hold your pinky finger in it,” as she liked to explain, followed by squeezing the liquid from the curd while wrapped in cheesecloth.

I think you will appreciate the shortcut I use in this recipe—head straight for the store-bought Greek yogurt! To make it extra rich and delicious, I use 2% or whole-milk yogurt, rather than nonfat yogurt.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced into half-moons (1 3⁄4 cups [210 g])
  • 1⁄2 cup (115 g) 2% plain Greek yogurt, pouring off any liquid from the top
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. You may enjoy the salad immediately or chill until ready to serve, pouring off any liquid.

Recipe Note:

A hard-core purist would salt the cucumbers first, let them sit for 30 minutes, then pat off the liquid released. That’s just not my style. I’m hungry and pretty much want things ready instantly. After pulling the salad from the fridge, however, I will drain off the excess liquid. If you’d like to go the purist route, however, just wait to add more salt to the salad until you’ve tasted it first.

TOTAL PREP AND COOK TIME: 15 MINUTES • YIELD: 5 SERVINGS, 1⁄4 CUP (60 G) EACH

PER SERVING: 24 CALORIES, 2 G CARBOHYDRATE (0 G FIBER, 0 G ADDED SUGARS, 2 G NET CARBS), 3 G PROTEIN, 1 G FAT, 242 MG SODIUM.

TAHINI SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 cup (60 g) tahini
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

To make the tahini sauce: Combine the tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl.

ITALIAN-INSPIRED GUACAMOLE WITH BALSAMIC, RED ONION, AND BASIL

I’m guacamole- and avocado-obsessed like you, most likely. So why not create a guacamole with an Italian twist? Balsamic is an awesome pairing with avocados. A favorite snack of mine during prime-time avocado season is to mash avocado on a cracker and spritz it with balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large, ripe avocados
  • 1 large tomato, diced, divided
  • 1⁄4 cup (140 g) diced red onion
  • 1⁄4 cup (10 g) chiffonade basil (stack leaves, roll, and slice thinly)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
    1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (16 g) toasted pine nuts or chopped almonds

Directions:

  • Peel and pit the avocados, saving the pits. Mash the avocados in a medium bowl using the sides of 2 large spoons. Stir in half of the tomatoes*, onion, basil, balsamic, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and pepper. Place the pits back on top of the guacamole and cover with plastic directly on the surface to prevent browning.
  • When ready to serve, garnish with the nuts and the remaining half of the tomatoes.

Suggestions and Variations:

Serve with red bell pepper planks, almond flour crackers, or low-carb chips.

Recipe Note:

  • Since tomatoes release water when in contact with salt, only stir in enough tomatoes for the amount of guacamole you will enjoy immediately to prevent a watered-down version. Or use drained, canned, diced tomatoes.
  • When selecting perfectly ripe avocados, look for those with skins that are mottled with green and black. Then hold it in the palm of your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. A ripe avocado should yield to gentle pressure, but not be soft or mushy. If it’s still completely hard, leave it on the counter for a couple more days.

TOTAL PREP AND COOK TIME: 20 MINUTES • YIELD: 8 SERVINGS, 1⁄4 CUP (70 G) EACH

PER SERVING: 108 CALORIES, 7 G CARBOHYDRATE (4 G FIBER, 0 G ADDED SUGARS, 3 G NET CARBS), 2 G PROTEIN, 9 G FAT, 152 MG SODIUM.

MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA SALAD WITH AVOCADO

I adore quinoa salad, and you can prepare it in limitless varieties. Here is a Greek-themed play on it. Enjoy it as a side salad, or sprinkle cheese, beans, and nuts on top to make it a complete lunch meal.

Ingredients:

  • 3⁄4 cup (139 g) uncooked quinoa
  • 11⁄3 cups (313 ml) vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (8 g) coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley or mint
  • 1⁄4 cup (25 g) olives
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons [30 ml])

Directions:

  • Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, if you have one, and drain. Otherwise, skip this step. Bring the quinoa and broth to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat without lifting the lid and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Drizzle with the olive oil, then spread it out on a plate to cool it quickly.
  • Add the cucumber, salt, pepper, tomato, scallions, parsley, and olives to a large mixing bowl. Add the quinoa once it has cooled to room temperature. Gently fold in the avocado and lemon juice.

Suggestions and Variations:

  • Sprinkle in pomegranate arils during peak season, which runs mid-late fall through early winter, in place of the tomatoes. The arils add a juicy, poppy crunch.
  • If you love feta cheese, a sprinkle of that in this salad is also delicious.
  • Roasted pistachios or almonds sprinkled on this salad add a nice crunch.

TOTAL PREP AND COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES • YIELD: 8 SERVINGS, 1⁄2 CUP (125 G) EACH

PER SERVING: 125 CALORIES, 16 G CARBOHYDRATE (3 G FIBER, 0 G ADDED SUGARS, 13 G NET CARBS), 3 G PROTEIN, 6 G FAT, 205 MG SODIUM.

BURRATA CHEESE WITH BALSAMIC-MARINATED STRAWBERRIES

If you’re a cheese lover, you will fully appreciate the extra creaminess of this Italian cheese, comprised of a mozzarella shell encasing oozy, thick cream. It has so many applications: as an appetizer, plopped on a salad, melted over pasta, and yes, as a final course. Because why not? But try to cut into only the amount of burrata you will use in one sitting, as you will lose the tender consistency over time once the package is open and cheese is cut.

In this recipe, I dress up the burrata with marinated strawberries. Make sure you’re only using fragrant and sweet strawberries, trimming off any white shoulders.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (170 g) diced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1⁄4 cup (36 g) sliced almonds
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 1 large (8-ounce [226 g]) ball burrata or 2 small (4-ounce [113 g]) balls
  • In a bowl, combine the strawberries, balsamic, and honey.

Directions:

  • Toast the almonds in a dry sauté pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, a few minutes, reducing the heat to low as needed.
  • For the basil leaves, there are two different ways you can prepare them. Either snip the tiny leaves and use them whole. Or stack larger leaves, roll them the wide way, and thinly slice into ribbons using a sharp knife or kitchen shears.
  • When ready to serve, drain the burrata. If serving buffet-style, leave the burrata whole and place it in the center of the platter. If plating individually, cut into portions. Spoon on the strawberries and juices. Sprinkle with the almonds and basil.

Make It for the Whole Family

Even my husband, who usually does not enjoy sweet mixed with savory, loved this dish. However, another substitute for people who like things more traditional is using ripe, quartered cherry tomatoes instead of strawberries. Omit the honey and sprinkle with sea salt.

TOTAL PREP AND COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES • YIELD: 4 SERVINGS

PER SERVING: 221 CALORIES, 8 G CARBOHYDRATE (2 G FIBER, 3 G ADDED SUGARS, 6 G NET CARBS), 8 G PROTEIN, 18 G FAT, 77 MG SODIUM.

Recipes from Clean Eating Kitchen: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook: Quick and Easy High-Protein, Low-Sugar, Healthy-Fat Recipes for Lifelong Health 

By Michelle Dudash, RDN

For more from Michelle, visit DishWithDudash.com.

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