Food & Wine

An herb-lover’s take on summer salad + grilling

Photos Courtesy of Rita Held
Tandoori-style kebabs and Thai-inflected rice salad, below, are simple to make but complex in taste.

Sheltering in place has impacted our everyday lives in so many ways. I’m retired now, so the impact is much lighter on me than others. Although we’re ordering more takeout dinners lately to support local businesses, I’m grateful for what I have and what I can do in my kitchen these days.

As a lifelong professional recipe developer, I have lots of ingredients to play around with, especially spices and herbs in a kitchen drawer, fresh herbs growing in pots outside this time of year and our farmers’ market – with a face mask, of course.

My chicken kebabs are perfect for grilling now. And a Thai rice salad as an accompaniment is very refreshing. Both bring food diversity to the table. That’s what much of life is about – delicious differences and flavors that bring smiles.

Yes, the ingredient list is long in my grilled chicken kebabs, made tandoori-style. Yet most are spices that are easy and fast to measure. It’s a balanced combination that, along with mild seasoned rice vinegar, makes deliciously aromatic tender chicken kebabs similar to those cooked in tandoor clay ovens in India. The marinade is also tasty with fish. These kebabs can be cooked in a broiler if you’re not grilling. And though fresh ginger root is not an everyday ingredient for some cooks, it’s easy to prep and worth trying if you’re not familiar with it. Just peel it and chop. Or substitute 1 teaspoon ground ginger instead. If your pantry is petite and you’re daunted by a list of eight dry spices, try Morton & Bassett’s Tandoori Spice mix. Omit the fresh ginger and garlic, but keep the 3/4 teaspoon salt.

If you want to substitute fish for the chicken, marinate firm fish such as halibut or salmon no more than eight hours, and thinner fish filets for only two to three hours. Grill whole pieces of fish, not skewered fish.

The trio of mint, basil and cilantro, along with tangy-sweet seasoned rice vinegar, gives my take on a refreshing rice salad its Thai orientation. Instead of white rice, I use a chewy, short-grain brown rice, which should be cooked in advance and chilled. Store it covered in the refrigerator. You can substitute long-grain brown rice, or any other rice you prefer. Nakano seasoned rice vinegar is my go-to rice vinegar. If you’re able to find or grow Thai basil, reduce the amount to 2 tablespoons – it’s a lot stronger than Italian (Genovese) basil. To make this a main-course salad, add 2 cups diced cooked chicken.

Los Altos resident Rita Held offers more cooking ideas on her blog at

Have a food story to share yourself? Email food editor Eliza Ridgeway at [email protected]

Grilled Chicken Kebabs – Tandoori Style

• 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
• 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
• 1/2 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
• 1/4 cup ginger root, coarsely chopped
• 1 large clove garlic
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 2 teaspoons coriander
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 pounds chicken tenders
• 8 10-inch skewers

In blender, combine yogurt, seasoned rice vinegar and remaining ingredients except chicken (and skewers, of course!). Cover and blend until smooth.
Place chicken in nonmetallic bowl or sealable plastic bag. Add marinade and stir to coat chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight, stirring chicken one or more times while marinating.
If using wood skewers, soak skewers in water 30 minutes. Drain chicken well and discard marinade. Thread chicken onto skewers.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill kebabs approximately 8 minutes over direct heat with cover closed. Use metal spatula to turn kebabs. Grill with cover closed 6 minutes more, or until chicken is no longer pink inside.
Serves 6-8.

Thai Rice Salad with 3 Herbs

• 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• Zest of 1 lime or small lemon
• 1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil (optional)
• 4 cups cooked short-grain brown rice, chilled
• 1 medium cucumber, seeded and sliced
• 2 green onions, sliced
• 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
• 1/3 cup each chopped mint, basil and cilan-
In 1-cup measuring cup, whisk together seasoned rice vinegar, peanut oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime zest and, if desired, hot chili oil.
Add remaining ingredients to large bowl. Pour dressing over and stir to combine.
Serves 8.

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