His story opened with a recounting of childhood stunts that landed him in the town’s police station more often than he can remember. But his days of being a delinquent end abruptly, replaced by the promise of Olympic glory when he discovers a talent for running. As a lieutenant in the US Army Air Forces in 1943, he survives a plane crash but is stranded in the ocean for 47 days on a raft. During this time, he and two other survivors are attacked by enemy air forces and miraculously survive; he also comes face-to-face with a shark and lives to tell about it. At the end of 47 days they see land but instead of reaching safety, they are captured and become prisoners of war.
You might be inclined to think all these adventures are the product of a writer’s imagination but these things actually happened to Louis Zamperini. He is now 94 years old and his long-awaited visit to my church arrived this weekend. Never have I seen such a happy man, full of life despite his advanced years. His spirit and fervor were infectious, his story of brokenness and healing most inspiring but it was his smile that melted my heart. I went home that day eager to learn more about him. Laura Hillenbrand (of Seabiscuit fame) wrote an account of Mr. Zamperini’s life in Unbroken. Ms. Hillenbrand once commented that after writing Seabiscuit she didn’t think she would ever come across a more interesting character…that is until she met Mr. Zamperini. How right she was.
I prepared this dish the evening before hearing Mr. Zamperini speak. The much needed rain arrived this weekend and though welcome, the clouds put a gray cast on most of the day. I wanted something bright and cheery on my plate that night, something festive. I chose my vegetables accordingly when I visited the market and ended up with this colorful dish. Subconsciously I must have wanted to celebrate something, but what? Having started to read Unbroken and anticipating the church visit the following morning, maybe a part of me wanted to celebrate someone’s life well-lived. If I were lucky enough to have Mr. Zamperini in my home, I would proudly offer this dish in a celebratory meal and tell him that I would like to be just like him when I grow up!
* These chicken kabobs were marinated in rum, lime, orange, ginger, honey and a few other ingredients I saw fit to throw in. The meat is light and brightly-flavored and was complemented by the barley which I cooked first in chicken stock. I was curious if I could coax out more of the barley’s nuttiness if I stir-fried it like I do leftover rice and I was pleased to discover that it worked. I added chopped bell peppers and a dash of soy sauce for color and flavor, making it a nice accompaniment to the chicken.
** You may have noticed on the last couple of posts the other dish in my pictures that I have not mentioned. My husband’s favorite salad of late is this simple red cabbage with avocado and mushrooms. It is tossed simply in a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette–he has been requesting it every night.
Rum and Citrus Chicken Kabobs with Stir-Fried Barley
* Serves 2
- Juice of two limes
- Juice of 1/2 orange
- 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon honey (feel free to leave this out if you use more sugar or vice versa. I was playing around so added both)
- a pinch or two of dried chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1/3 cup rum
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 large boneless, skinless half breasts of chicken, cut up for the kabobs
- 1 cup barley
- 2 1/2 cups stock (I used chicken)
- 2 bell peppers, in large pieces for the kabobs and chopped small for the barley.
- 2 shallots
- a few mushrooms
- oil for stir-frying barley
- soy sauce, about 1 tablespoon
- To prepare the marinade, combine the ingredients from the limes to the 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 1 1/2 hours. If you use the honey, you may want to combine it with the citrus first and heat to dissolve.
- To prepare the barley, combine with the stock in a small saucepan, bring to a boil then simmer until cooked. I started out with a 2:1 ratio of liquid to barley but that wasn’t enough. I kept adding stock until the barley was cooked, after about 45 minutes. I might have ended up adding an additional 1/2 cup. Fluff with a fork and let cool slightly.
- Prepare the kabobs on skewers, alternating meat and vegetable pieces. I ended up with 4 skewers with a couple of extra pieces of chicken.
- For this dish, I used my stovetop cast iron grill pan. If you use your grill outside, cook as you normally would. On the stove and over high heat, it took about 10-12 min for my kabobs to cook. At one point, I covered the grill pan so the steam would help the meat cook a bit faster without drying out the chicken.
- While the kabobs are cooking, heat a bit of oil in a pan over high heat and cook the peppers until they start to brown a little, about 2 minutes. Add the barley and stir-fry for another two minutes. Add the soy sauce, stir and take off the heat.
- Plate and serve.