A great way to kick off the start of barbecue season, these lively skewers pack a lot of flavor. Taking a cue (wink) from Northern Chinese barbecue, we dust the skewers in a fennel seedy spice blend when they come off the grill. The crisp asparagus-and-fennel salad is a fun contrast to the meaty, smoky skewers—perfect for a cool, late-spring evening with friends. To round out the meal, we highly recommend pairing these with the Pine Nut Pepper Schmear (page 110).

Get Ahead: The fennel sprinkle holds for up to a week in a sealed container. After that, it may start to clump. 

Fennel Sprinkle

  • 1 tablespoon ground toasted fennel seeds

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

    TST_Kismet Cookbook cover Kismet: Bright, Fresh, Vegetable-Loving Recipes Sara Kramer & Sarah Hymanson
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar

  • ½ teaspoon onion powder


  • 1½ pounds chicken thigh meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 yellow onion, quartered

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and stem removed


  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into ¼-inch rounds

  • ½ teaspoon honey

  • Grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about ½ lemon)

  • ⅓ cup olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped

  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved thinly on a mandoline

  • ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds (just the green frilly parts)


  1. Make the fennel sprinkle: In a small bowl, combine the ground toasted fennel, salt, sugar, and onion powder. Mix to combine. Store, covered, until ready to use.

  2. Marinate the chicken: Place the chicken pieces in a sealable container. In a blender, combine the onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, and rosemary leaves and blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into the chicken container and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

  3. Load 5 pieces onto each skewer for a total of 8 skewers and stash in the fridge until ready to grill.

  4. Prep the salad: In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups water and ¼ cup of the salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch for just 5 seconds.2 Drain in a colander and set aside.

  5. In a medium bowl, combine the honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, capers, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk together and set the bowl of dressing aside.

  6. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.3 Grill the skewers, turning, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side, 12 to 15 minutes total.

  7. Place the cooked skewers on a platter and, using a fine-mesh sieve, dust on all sides with the fennel sprinkle. Add the shaved fennel, asparagus, and fennel fronds to the dressing bowl and toss. Spoon the salad over the dusted skewers and serve.


Feel free to buy boneless, skinless thighs for ease, but you get extra points for deboning skin-on thighs and getting a little crispy skin in the mix.

You want still-crisp asparagus. It doesn’t need more than a dunk in boiling water.

You may want to use a rag or paper towel to oil the grates before grilling to help avoid any skewer stickage.

Excerpted with permission from “Kismet” Copyright © 2024 by Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson. Photographs copyright © 2024 by Chris Bernabeo. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group.”

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