Welcome to my Summer Kabob Party. This is the first of a week long series featuring a different skewered delight every night.
This party started when Natasha at 5 Star Foodie asked me to do a guest blog post for her. Her only request was that I makeover some classic dish as part of her famed makeover series she does monthy at her blog.
I immediately knew I wanted to do a makeover to the ubiquitous backyard shish kabob. They seem perfect for seasonal grilling because the prep can be done in advance. The cooking is so simple even the non-cooks amongst can handle the culinary task. Leaving you time to throw your magic behind some other aspect of the meal.
Kabobs just lend themselves to makeovers too. Because just about anything can grace the skewer and still be considered a kabob, as long as it’s grilled. Meat, shellfish, fruit and vegetables all make terrific kabobs.
So if they are so easy and so versatile, how come so many of today’s backyard kabobs are just plain inedible?
Well, I think I know the answer. You see I was recently invited to a BBQ. It was one of those “bring whatever you want to eat and we’ll throw it on the grill when you get here” BBQs. Which is a very sensible game plan in the food phobic world we live in. Gone are the days when a couple of popular choices could make everybody happy. Shish, don’t get me started on that (“shish”, get it??).
Anyway, I was busy or lazy or something that day so I decided to stop by the grocery store to grab something to bring. Well when I got to the meat counter I saw packets of pre-made shish kabobs. It seemed like a great idea to me. This way no matter what side dishes are provided by the host, these skewers meant that I would be assured of getting some meat and some veggies on my plate. Done deal. I picked up a couple of packages. I chose beef. It was the standard kabob of backyard fame: Beef cubes, Onion Wedges, Cherry Tomatoes, Green Bell Pepper Slices and some kind of paprika looking powder shaken onto to them.
That odd red powder sounded an alarm bell in my head, but I ignored it. Foul as it was. Besides that powder turned out to be the least of these kabobs’ problems.
Later that evening, while gathered round the picnic table with my friends I remembered why shish kabobs are in such a need of a makeover. They have morphed into a jumble of disjointed ingredients skewered onto a stick next to each other, regardless of their compatibility or cooking times!
So no matter how good you are with the grill it’s impossible to get all those ingredients cooked properly at the same time. Medium-rare meat means raw crunchy onions. Properly cooked onions means tomatoes that have dissolved into the flame in a molten mush. Hence these Lamb Kabobs.
Today’s standard shish kabob is a complete disaster of foods that cannot possibly be cooked together and remain at their best. So I have decided that the most essential makeover the modern shish kabob needs is to go back to its roots. Back before too many things were stabbed onto the stick.
So I got online and began reading about our grilled little friend and found out that shish kabob’s origins are murky. Grilled meat on a stick may be Greek (Souvlaki), or it may be Turkish in origin. There are Greek references as far back as Homer. Turkish lore claims that soldiers who grilled meat over wood fires during the long campaigns of the Ottoman Empire were the first to make kabobs. They may have even called them kebab or kebap, which is Turkish for roast meat. But I won’t get in the middle of that rivalry…
So to start this Kabob Party I am turning to a Turkish recipe by Greg and Lucy Malouf from their cookbook, Turquoise. I have adapted it only slightly and I am calling it Turkish Lamb Kabobs with Pistachios and Soft Herb Salad.
I am serving my Lamb Kabobs on a bed of couscous, which is hardly authentic. But it is a good combination of textures in my mind. There should also be warm flat bread because it’s very nice to wrap the kabob in the bread and mingle the meat with the greens in the salad.
- 1 lb boneless lamb leg or shoulder
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 T sea salt
- 1 t ground cumin
- 1 t sweet paprika
- 1⁄2 t hot paprika
- 1⁄2 t ground nutmeg
- 1⁄2 t freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 c unsalted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 1⁄4 c shredded flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
- 1 c mint leaves
- 1 small red onion, sliced in very thin rings
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1⁄2 t ground sumac
- warmed flat bread to serve
Trim the lamb of any connective tissue or sinew, but leave the fat. Cut the meat into manageable chunks and grind it twice. Knead the ground lamb with the diced onion; 1‑tablespoon sea salt, cumin, both kinds of paprika, nutmeg and ground pepper for 2 or 3 minutes to combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Minced 1/4‑cup of the parsley, leave the rest whole for salad. Then add the pistachios and the minced parsley and knead briefly to combine evenly.
With wet hands, divide the seasoned ground lamb into four equal portions and mold each one around a flat metal skewer into a long sausage shape about 1‑inch in diameter. Set aside, covered up to one hour to come to room temperature.
To make the soft herb salad, toss the remaining parsley, mint and onion slices in a bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, oil salt, pepper, and sumac in another small bowl to make the dressing and set them both aside.
Prepare a charcoal grill until the coals are white but are still glowing red and quite hot. Spread the coals into a single layer and cook the kabobs, for 3 or 4 minutes per side, until cooked through.
Toss the reserved salad with the dressing. Serve the kabobs on warmed flat bread with some of the salad mingled with the meat.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD