FOOD MAGAZINE: Stick to the grill -- Bring culinary history to the modern table

6/22/2005 2:53:24 PM

Kabobs, meat and vegetables cooked and served on skewers are a touch of man's ancient culinary past. They can be traced as far back as the second millennium BCE in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). They were peasant food, as they were cooked by shepherds on sticks over open fires in the fields where flocks grazed, according to "Food: A Culinary History" by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari. Commonly found, after their appearance in Mesopotamian cuisine, among many cultures that kept herds, kabobs have withstood the test of time. They have remained popular not only for their convenience but for the taste that is imparted by the use of marinades rich in herbs and spices or by simply adding the herbs and spices during the cooking process.

Staying true to tradition, kabobs are usually cooked on the grill, emulating the open fire in the shepherds' fields. But they can also be broiled or baked. Whatever the cooking method, there is some preparation that is required to get the best results.

Whether cooking beef, lamb, pork or chicken kabobs, all the meat cubes must be cut to nearly the same thickness so that they will cook at approximately the same time. Vegetables added to the skewers need to be cut the approximate thickness of the meat so that they, also, will cook evenly. When marinating meat for kabobs, the meat can be marinated from four hours to two or three days in the refrigerator. Vegetables must be brushed with an oil (canola, corn or olive), for flavor and to prevent them from sticking to the grilling or cooking surface.

Hailed as one of the first fast foods, not counting the preparation time, kabobs are ready in less than 30 minutes and can be a whole meal on a stick, unless you crave rice pilaf or spicy potatoes, both excellent partners for kabobs, with your meat and vegetables.

Choose your own sides, but for the kabobs, the key is the marinade. Many Middle Eastern and Indian cooks start their marinades with yogurt. It is a perfect tenderizer and "flavorizer" for kabobs or any meats being prepped for the grill.

Beef marinade

  • 1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar

Mix ingredients well and place in a plastic bag. Add beef cut in one inch cubes. Press air out of bag and seal. Make sure that marinade in contact with all the meat cubes. Refrigerate for 4 hours to 3 days.

Lamb marinade

  • 1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon rind
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Mix ingredients well and place in a plastic bag. Add one-inch cubes of lamb. Press air out of bag and seal. Make sure that marinade in contact with all the meat cubes. Refrigerate for 4 hours to 3 days.

Chicken marinade

  • 1 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. curry powder
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Mix ingredients well and place in a plastic bag. Add chicken breasts that have been boned and cut in strips. Press air out of bag and seal. Make sure that marinade is in contact with meat. Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.

Place meat on skewers alternately with vegetables until the skewer is filled. Place filled skewers on a hot grill and cook for approximately five minutes on each side.

  • Note: If wooden skewers are used, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using them