Kebabs are a weave of function and flavor. The concept is simple, but the execution takes some know-how to get dinner on the table.
Protein that stacks up
Uniformly cut cubes or meatballs shaped in similar sizes will ensure even cooking. Beef, chicken or pork are obvious choices. But here are other options:
LAMB: The traditional choice of meat for Turkish shish kebabs. Ground lamb meatballs are the preferred style of the meat.
FISH: Use 1-inch cubes of firm-fleshed varieties such as tuna, swordfish, halibut or mahi mahi.
SHELLFISH: Work with shelled large or jumbo scallops and lobster-tail meat.
SAUSAGES: Cut into 1-inch rounds and keep the casings on to hold the fillings together.
Threading with flavor
Fruits and veggies that take the heat Consider how easily cut produce exudes water when choosing what to skewer or what form of the produce you use. Whole foods or large chunks work best. Brushing with olive oil locks in flavor and aids the cooking process.
Here are more tips:
TOMATOES: Whole cherry or grape varieties should be put on the grill during the last few minutes of cooking. The longer they cook, the more they will deflate.
ONIONS: When meat is halfway done, put onions on grill. Cut surfaces should be golden brown, and the inside should be cooked, not raw.
NECTARINES, PEACHES AND PEARS: Just-ripe fruit adds just a touch of sweet to your kebab mixtures.
POTATOES: Density can make potatoes problematic. Partially cooking in the microwave and then finishing on the grill will get them to the dinner plate at the same time as the other foods.
ASPARAGUS: Always trim tough ends.
GARLIC: Kebabs are a great roasting vehicle for large cloves.
Dijon-wine steak kebabs: Marinate 1 1/4 pounds boneless beef round tip steak (cut into 1-inch by 1 1/4-inch pieces) in 2 tablespoons each water, red-wine vinegar and coarse grain Dijon mustard, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons canola oil and 1/2 teaspoon coarse grind black pepper. Refrigerate 6 hours to overnight. Remove beef, discard marinade. On 8 metal skewers, thread the beef alternately with red onion cut into wedges, yellow squash chunks and red bell pepper pieces. Grill 8-10 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally. Serve with long grain and wild rice, broccoli florets and a salad.
Rosemary Lamb Kebabs With Bell Peppers and Mushrooms
Yield: 6 kebabs.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoon each:+ cumin and salt
1/2 teaspoon each: black pepper and ground coriander
1 1/4 -pounds lamb leg or shoulder, trimmed and cut into 18 cubes
12 medium whole mushrooms
2 bell peppers (any color)
1 large red onion
1 large zucchini, cut into 12 pieces
1. Mix vinegar, garlic, rosemary, cumin, salt, pepper and coriander.
2. Thread 6 (12-inch) metal skewers alternately with lamb, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion and zucchini. Baste with sauce.
3. Broil 4 minutes per side for medium-rare or to desired doneness.
TURKEY KEBABS WITH GINGERED MUSTARD SAUCE
Yield: 4 servings.
1/2 cup honey mustard
8-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 pound boneless, skinless turkey cutlets, cut into 1-inch strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into squares
8 cherry tomatoes
1. Combine mustard, pineapple juice, sugar and ginger. Reserve 1/3 cup of this sauce in a serving bowl.
2. Alternately thread pieces of turkey, pineapple, pepper and tomatoes onto metal skewers. Grill or broil kebabs over medium heat 15 minutes until turkey is cooked through. Turn and baste often with remaining pineapple-mustard sauce.
3. Serve kebabs with reserved sauce. If desired, serve with rice.
Teriyaki Vegetable Kebabs
Yield: 4 servings
(Adapted from The Vegetarian GrilL)
1 package (12 ounces) firm or extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tamari (see note),
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup orange or pineapple juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 stalk broccoli, florets cut into bite-size pieces, stalk sliced
1/2-inch thick (optional)
4 ounces snow peas
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 small onions, cut in 1-inch pieces
4 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed
Cooked white or brown rice
1. Wrap tofu in a kitchen towel. Place cutting board on tofu and weight with heavy can. Set aside 30 minutes to drain. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
2. For marinade, heat oils in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tamari, lime juice and sugar; heat to boil. Whisk orange juice and cornstarch into a smooth paste. Stir into tamari mixture; cook until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Cook broccoli in microwave or boiling water, if using, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking; drain.
4. Reserve half of marinade; pour remaining half into shallow dish. Add tofu, broccoli, snow peas, bell pepper, onion and mushrooms; toss gently to coat. Marinate 30 minutes.
5. Prepare medium-hot grill. Thread tofu and vegetables onto skewers (see note). Grill, turning occasionally, until vegetables are cooked through, 10 minutes. Serve skewers atop rice. Pass reserved marinade.
Recipe note: Tamari is a thicker version of soy sauce available at natural food stores and Japanese markets. If using wooden skewers, soak in water 30 minutes to keep from burning.
Skewers of Pork With Zucchini and Green Onions
Yield: 4 servings
(Adapted from Random House Barbecue and Summer Foods Cookbook)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/4 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2- inch thick slices
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1. Stir together garlic, oil, lemon juice, vinegar and curry powder in shallow bowl. Add pork, onions and zucchini, tossing to coat. Cover; marinate, refrigerated, 3 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare medium-hot grill. Thread pork loosely onto skewers (see note below), alternating with onions threaded crosswise and zucchini. Cook, turning occasionally, until meat is browned and no longer pink inside, about 15 minutes. Season with salt.
Recipe note: If using wooden skewers, soak in water 30 minutes to keep from burning. Nutrition information per serving.