Have you ever thought about your culinary family tree?
In a Jewish genealogy course, Sam and I mapped out our clan’s past and I realized that what we had on hand was more than just our family story – we had the makings for a wonderful menu. Mexican tacos that Sam’s dad ate as a youngster, Irish potato pancakes and corned beef that my maternal grandmother made when she thought of home, and Romanian stuffed cabbage that my father’s mother received from generations of hamish cooks. We chose to feature our ancestral fare at our wedding, alongside an artistic display of our family tree, as another way of melding of our families’ traditions. They are cuisines that we continually turn to when cooking at home – when planning a celebration or in search of comfort food- and I wonder to what extent these tastes are inherited.
I also got to wondering if there might be any precedent for our propensity for Asian flavors – a category of tastes that are decidedly absent from our food family history. A flurry of family emails helped me clarify most of the details of a story from Sam’s side of which I had a fuzzy recollection. When Sam’s paternal grandfather attempted to emigrate from Lithuania to America in the early 1900s he was rerouted to Mexico. In that country he tried all kinds of pursuits to support his family – furniture stores, curio shops, and some farming. He grew barley that sold to the Tecate beer company (that explains a family devotion to beer). He also farmed seaweed along the Ensenada coast, laid it out to dry and trucked it to San Francisco for sale in Chinatown. Perhaps the olfactory memory of all that salty seaweed crept into our culinary family tree.
And what emerged into our kitchen is sushi pie, numerous stir fries, and these lime chicken kabobs. In truth the lime and cilantro in the dish sway it towards Mexican cuisine, but the scallions and soy careens it towards Asian cuisine. And when you marinate anything in garlic and ginger, broil it up and serve it with some reduced sauce, you are sure to get a mouth-full of umami. It’s that savory flavor that makes you smack you tongue on the roof of your mouth. We decidedly are fans of both, and will continue to turn towards foods we grew up with and that are stuck in the branches and pots of our family tree.
Lime Chicken Kabobs
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tsp lime zest
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp honey
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbps chopped scallions
2-4 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
In a large bowl, mix together the soy sauce, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, garlic, honey, cilantro and scallions. Add chicken cubes to the bowl and toss it in the dressing until it is well coated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 4 hours.
Once the chicken cubes are done marinating, place them on kebob skewers alternating them with the onion cubes and cherry tomatoes. Save marinade.
Preheat broiler to high. Broil kebobs 4 to 6 minutes then flip and broil another 4 to 6 minutes. In the mean time bring the marinade to a boil to reduce slightly and kill bacteria. Serve the kabobs drizzled with the boiled sauce.