Laura Kurella Sticks with Skewers!


Whether you are having guests or merely a family meal, the versatile beauty of skewers allows you to use any combination of meats, seafood, fruits, or vegetables to please every palate. And, because the food is cut into bite sized pieces, they cook quickly so no one is stuck over a hot grill. Photo by Laura Kurella

Whether you are having guests or merely a family meal, the versatile beauty of skewers allows you to use any combination of meats, seafood, fruits, or vegetables to please every palate. And, because the food is cut into bite sized pieces, they cook quickly so no one is stuck over a hot grill. Photo by Laura Kurella

Meat on a stick is the world’s oldest form of barbecue. Almost every culture has its own version: Japanese yakitori, French brochettes, Oriental satay, Peruvian anticuchos, Spanish pinchos morunos, Armenian shashlik and Turkish shish kebabs.

According to “A Mediterranean Feast” by Clifford A. Wright, the origin of skewer roasting is tied to the Turkish history of nomadic and seminomadic life, when cooking “on-the-go” over open-field fires was common.

Ironically, our civilized, modern life has made us more “on-the-go” than ever, making skewers the perfect food for summer grilling. Whether having guests or merely a family meal, the versatile beauty of skewers allows you to use any combination of meats, seafood, fruits, or vegetables to please every palate. And, because the food is cut into bite sized pieces, it cooks quickly so no one has to be stuck standing over a hot grill.

Another added bonus is that skewers can be prepared in advance, allowing the chef to join in on all the family fun!

You really can enjoy the world on a skewer. Turkish, Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Southeast Asian cuisines all offer their own rendition.

Cubes of meat can be tossed with a few spices that often are mixed in yogurt or buttermilk, which adds a tangy flavor and helps tenderize the meat. For example, Turkish lamb kebabs are typically marinated in pureed onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.

The simple secret to skewers is in the marinade. Marinades not only infuse flavors not found naturally in the food, but they also add extra moisture, which helps prevent food from drying out during cooking.

When using marinade, be sure to get most of the air out before sealing the bag so the contents are covered with the marinade. Turn the bag often while marinating to ensure even coating of all pieces.

Many supermarkets now carry packaged spice blends as well as bottled marinades and sauces, perfect for lending flavor to quick-cooking skewers. I say experiment. Try using your favorite salad dressings or sauces with your favorite cut of meat or seafood.

I’ve found that a sweet French dressing, like Lighthouse brand, is great on shrimp, and Asian oyster sauce is quick and easy way to make the most of beef. Simply coat cubed beef steak (I use tenderloin tips) with the oyster sauce just before and immediately after grilling and you can closely mimic that great taste of those “Sizz Steak” appetizers served in Chinese restaurants.

Try experimenting with the skewers too. A strong rosemary stem makes a good and flavor-infusing skewer.

For those of you who are in a real hurry, look for pre-assembled skewers in the meat and frozen food sections of your favorite grocery store.

It is so easy to make skewers at home, its a surprise they’re not a mainstay. After all, what’s more fun than eating your meal on a stick?

Here are a few flaming feasts guaranteed to make a superb skewered supper- ENJOY!

Laura Kurella is an award-winning recipe developer, self-syndicated food columnist, home cook, and lifelong resident of the Midwest Great Lakes Region. She welcomes your comments at laurakurella@yahoo.com.

South Pacific Skewers

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken
breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (15 1/4 ounce) can unsweetened
pineapple chunks
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 large green pepper, 1 inch pieces
12 medium mushrooms
18 cherry tomatoes
Hot cooked rice

Place cubed chicken into large shallow dish.

Drain pineapple, reserve 1/2 cup juice. Set pineapple aside. In a small saucepan, combine juice with soy sauce, vegetable oil, brown sugar, garlic powder, ground ginger, dry mustard and fresh ground pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour over chicken. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade. On a skewer, alternate chicken, pineapple, green pepper, mushrooms, and tomato pieces. Grill kabobs over hot coals 20 minutes or until chicken is done, turning and basting frequently with the reserved marinade.

Serve over hot rice.

Servings per recipe: 6. Per serving: Calories 237; Fat 12g; Carbohydrate 18g; Fiber 3g;Sugars 12g; Protein 15g. (Nutrition information is approximate.)

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Skewers

1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle Chiles in adobo
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and
de-veined
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, combine the honey, Chile pepper, garlic, and salt. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove shrimp from marinade, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp through the tail and head onto skewers. Grill over direct high heat for 2 to 4 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time and basting with reserved marinade. Arrange skewers on a serving dish and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Servings per recipe: 6. Per serving: Calories 124; Fat 1g; Carbohydrate 13g; Fiber 0.1g; Sugars 12g;Protein 16g. (Nutrition information is approximate.)

Grilled Veggie Skewers

1/4 cup light soy sauce
3/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup pineapple juice
12 cherry tomatoes
12 slices Japanese eggplants
12 mushrooms
12 small onions
2 yellow peppers, cut in 1 inch
squares
12 slices yellow squash
12 slices zucchini
12 pineapple chunks

In a blender, soy sauce, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, parsley, thyme, oregano, ground pepper, garlic, ginger, honey, and pineapple juice. Blend for 2 minutes.

In a large plastic bag, combine all cut vegetable then pour marinade over them and seal bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove vegetables from marinade, reserving marinade. Thread vegetables onto skewers then grill on a medium-high flame, turning and brushing with marinade, for 10 minutes or until cooked.

Servings per recipe: 6. Per serving: Calories 374; Fat 28g; Carbohydrate 29g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 13g. Protein 6g. (Nutrition information is approximate.)

Sizzlin’ Steak Skewers

2 pounds beefsteak
2 bell peppers, cut in 2-inch chunks
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Adolph’s seasoning
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 cup lime soda

In a large plastic bag, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, white vinegar, garlic powder, Adolph’s seasoning, and lemon-lime soda. Cube steak into 1 1/2 inch chunks and place in marinade. Refrigerate at least 8 hours. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade, and thread meat and peppers alternately on skewers. Grill skewers on high, basting frequently with reserved marinade, for 5 to 7 minutes or until desired doneness.

Servings per recipe: 6. Per serving: Calories 288; Fat 4g;Carbohydrate 25g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 19g; Protein 38g.(Nutrition information is approximate.)

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