Lemon brings a zestiness to the pesto marinade in this recipe for Grilled Lemon Basil Pesto Chicken Kabobs with Zucchini. Perfect for a summertime dinner.
“They’re getting so big,” she says, looking in the direction of my kids who are busy playing in the water with splashes and jumps.
So big indeed. They’re 10 and 13 now. How’d that happen?
But it’s not my children’s ages that strikes me, but the realization that this woman who has known me since I was a young teenager – perhaps even longer – now sees my own kids reaching that age. We’re standing on the beach of my childhood and I remember the time before she owned her house, when my friends’ families would rent it year after year. It’s now become the beach of my children’s childhoods too. Will they someday speak to a longtime neighbor as I am?
If there’s an intrinsic space I can call home, it’s this one. Though I grew up in New York, my summers belonged to Connecticut and the family home we had there. And though I have moved far north to Maine, this is still where I come back to. This is still the place where I can release all the stresses that bind me with a few breaths of the salty air and a little digging of my toes in the sand.
This is where I learned to swim. This is where I was a little girl, then an older girl, then a teenager, then a woman. This is where I lived after college graduation. This is where I’ve spent summers with my own kids.
This is where I first began to really cook.
This is where I still cook, sometimes. This is where I’ve cooked this week.
The first night I cooked, it was a recipe from my new cookbook, The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, which comes out in September. The steak tacos on the cover. The second time I cooked wasn’t planned, but I volunteered to fill a void in the family dinner plan for the week.
“What are you making?” I was asked once, twice, three times. I didn’t know. Not yet. I was still deciding between proteins. Though I wanted to work with fish, chicken seemed like a better choice given various food restrictions.
How to Make Grilled Lemon Basil Pesto Chicken Kabobs with Zucchini
For the marinade, I created a Lemon Basil Pesto Marinade. It’s similar to the one I use for Skillet Chicken with Pesto Marinade.
Marinades need an acid to help them penetrate whatever they are marinating. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed, provides that here. It also takes the comforting, warm flavors of basil pesto and adds a bright tanginess. Once stirred, you reserve some – you’ll use it to brush on the kabobs later – and then mix the chicken together with the rest. Seal the bag or cover the container and chill it all together for a few hours so the flavors of the marinade mingle with the chicken.
For the zucchini, you want wide chunks – about an inch wide. But then cut each piece into quarters. You don’t want the veggies to be bigger than the thickness of the chicken. The grape tomatoes can be used as is.
Thread the chicken, zucchini and tomatoes onto skewers. I love how orderly the prepared kabobs look.
Then grill them, until they’re cooked through. Don’t forget to brush them with additional lemon basil pesto sauce while they’re cooking.
And enjoy. These kabobs are delightful served with other lemony dishes like Lemon Shallot Quinoa with Cucumbers and Tomatoes, Blistered Shishito Peppers with Lemon and Sea Salt or Lemon Garlic Corn and Black Lentil Salad.
- 1 cup basil pesto
- 1 lemon , juiced
- 2 lbs raw chicken tenderloins (tenders), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 zucchini , cut into 1-inch slices and quartered
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the pesto and lemon juice. Reserve 1/4 cup of the mixture in a covered container. Chill.
In a resealable bag (or glass bowl with lid), combine the chicken and the remaining lemon basil pesto mixture. Seal the bag (or close the lid) and chill for at least 2-3 hours.
Now, it's time to make the kabobs. Gather your ingredients (the prepared zucchini, tomatoes and chicken) as well as skewers. Thread each skewer with 3 pieces of chicken, 3 pieces of zucchini and 3 tomatoes in this order: chicken, zucchini, tomato. Repeat until all the chicken has been used. Any remaining zucchini and tomatoes can be threaded onto skewers for veggie kabobs (recommended: 6 zucchini, 3 tomato to each skewer).
Heat the grill to medium-high (about 500 degrees). Place kabobs on the grill. If they don't all fit with space between them, cook them in batches. Cook, flipping once, until tender and cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Brush with additional lemon basil pesto sauce while cooking. Remove to a serving platter.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.