As a most impressionable young lad, I often accompanied my parents out to dinner on many occasions. It was always a fascinating time, the dining rooms, the table settings, the service, and of course most importantly… the food! We had things that we never even dreamed about at home, as we had no idea as to how to prepare them! French was popular at the time, so we enjoyed that, but we also seeked out Scandinavian, German, Italian, Irish, Japanese, (or at least Asisan of some sort!) Cuban, Indian, Mexican, just about anything that we could find. Dining out was not only an experience, but also entertainment. I do not mean entertainment as in the kitsch of Theme Park-esque establishments, cloyingly saccharine down to the minutiae - although I did like those as a kid - but entertainment in the sense that it filled a few hours on an otherwise dull evening.
There was one instance I remember quite well, when we were visiting Atlanta, where we went a few times a year. The room was dark and smokey with lots of flickering lanterns, the music was lively, and the air was filled with the scent of heady spices and adventure. Women were dressed in colorful layers, with lots of gold spangles and trinkets. The men dressed unusually, “Are they pirates?”, I wondered of their puffy shirts and knee length breeches who frequently ran amok in the dining room with swords of smoking lamb and beef, offering them to each table. It was if I had been transported to another time and place - having left behind blasé 1970’s America and journeyed to a faraway land, one that previously only existed in Disney movies to me! Many years later I asked my mother about the place, and it turned out to be a temple of Turkish delights, the waiters probably weren’t running amok with swords… but you know, that’s how an eight year old mind sees things!
In adulthood, I know it is great fun, and very easy, to light up the backyard grill and toss something on it for and al fresco summer dinner, (I’ve done it too many times to count!) and often the simplest preparations are the most delicious. Yet, on occasion, there is a need to prepare something different - and for summer grilling Brian Beal Moore Catering has just the solution… Kebabs!
Grilling meats over fire has been a common practice in the Middle East, dating as far back as 790,000 years. In his epic work, The Iliad, Homer mentions pieces of meat roasted on spits. Excavations on the Aegean Island of Santorini unearthed stone supports for skewers used before the 17th century BC.
Kebab dishes originated in the medieval kitchens of Persia and Turkey. They were generally made with smaller chunks or slices of meat, or ground meat, often cooked on skewers over a fire. This cooking method has a long history in the region, where it would be practical in cities where small cuts of meat were available in butchers' shops, and where fuel for cooking was relatively scarce, compared to Europe, where extensive forests enabled farmers to roast large cuts of meat whole.
The word kebab came to English in the late 17th century, from the Arabic: كَبَاب (kabāb), partly through Urdu, Persian and Turkish. In Persian, the word is borrowed from Arabic. In Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's 10th-century cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh, kabāb is described as cut-up meat either fried in a pan or grilled over a fire.
The American Heritage Dictionary also gives a probable East Semitic root origin with the meaning of "burn", "char", or "roast", from the Aramaic and Akkadian. These words point to an origin in the prehistoric Proto-Afroasiatic language:*kab-, to burn or roast.
According to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller, in India, kabab was served in the royal houses during the Delhi Sultanate period (1206-1526 AD), and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan.
How to Make Kebabs:
1. Cut the ingredients into similar-size pieces and prepare as the recipe directs. If marinating, refrigerate 1 hour for fish and up to overnight for meat and poultry.
2. Preheat a grill to high. Thread the ingredients onto skewers.
3. Grill the kebabs, turning, until the ingredients are charred and cooked to desired doneness, 3 to 15 minutes.
If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes before grilling.
Traditional Shish Kebab: 2 pounds beef (sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes), 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar (white), 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, teaspoon garlic (minced), wedges of red onion, bell peppers, and mushrooms. About 24 hours prior to grilling, prepare marinade by combining olive oil, vinegar, cumin, coriander, paprika, and garlic. Pour marinade into a freezer bag and add beef cubes. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator until ready to grill. Remove beef from the refrigerator and thread meat onto skewers that have been sprayed with cooking oil. If using the optional vegetables, thread them onto separate skewers because they cook differently than the beef. Spray grill with cooking oil to prevent sticking. Grill for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Serve kebabs on the skewers or off the skewers over a bed of white rice, with grilled veggies, salad, and pita bread.
American Steakhouse: Marinate cubed beef tri-tip in 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon each soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chopped parsley and thyme; add salt and pepper. Skewer with onion, mushroom and boiled potato; grill.
Sesame Korean Beef: Marinate thinly sliced short ribs and scallion pieces in 1/3 cup each sugar and white wine, 3 tablespoons sesame oil, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1 grated Asian pear. Skewer so the meat lies flat; grill.
Authentic Beef Kefta: Mix 1 pound ground beef, 2 minced shallots, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons each cumin, coriander, paprika and dried mint, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Form 1-inch balls; skewer and grill.
Retro-Stuffed Peppers: Make Beef Kefta mix (No. 3), adding 1/2 cup chopped olives. Pack into hollowed baby bell peppers, skewer and brush with olive oil. Grill; add salt and baste with lemon juice.
Herbaceous Beef: Marinate cubed beef tri-tip in 1/2 cup olive oil, a smashed garlic clove, a pinch each of salt and red pepper flakes, and torn mixed herbs. Skewer and grill.
Spicy Beef Satay: Marinate thinly sliced flank steak in 2 tablespoons each lime juice and fish sauce, 1 tablespoon each sugar and hot chili sauce, and 3 tablespoons cilantro. Skewer and grill. Top with peanut sauce and peanuts.
Sweet and Spicy Chili Beef: Toss cubed beef tri-tip with 3 tablespoons each brown sugar and chili powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon each fresh thyme and pepper; marinate. Skewer and grill, basting with a mix of 1/4 cup each cider vinegar and brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon chili powder.
Barbeque Bacon-Beef: Boil bacon strips 5 minutes, then cut into pieces. Skewer cubed beef tri-tip, onion and bell pepper with cherry tomatoes and the bacon; season with salt and pepper. Grill, basting with a mix of equal parts barbecue sauce and olive oil.
Hungarian Beef: Marinate cubed beef tri-tip in 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 smashed garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 2 teaspoons crushed caraway seeds. Skewer with chunks of onion and bell pepper and grill.
Swashbuckling Buccaneer Pork: Boil 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons each salt and brown sugar, 2 teaspoons pickling spices and 4 garlic cloves. Add 1 cup rum, then cool. Add cubed pork tenderloin and marinate. Skewer with pineapple. Grill, basting with bottled jerk sauce.
BBQ Pork: Skewer cubed pork loin and grill, mopping with barbecue sauce.
Cajun Country Pork: Rub cubed pork loin with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning; marinate. Skewer and grill, basting with a mix of 1/4 cup each cider vinegar and brown sugar.
Thai Peanut and Curry Pork: Purée 2/3 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon each Thai curry paste and lime juice, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, and salt. Marinate cubed pork loin in half the sauce. Skewer and grill; serve with the rest of the sauce.
Mediterranean Fennel Pork: Sprinkle cubed pork loin with ground fennel seeds and salt and brush with olive oil. Skewer with bell pepper chunks. Grill, basting with lemon juice.
Maple and Spicy Squash and Pork: Skewer cubed pork loin and parboiled butternut squash; season with coriander. Grill, mopping with a mix of 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and chipotle hot sauce and salt to taste.
Hot Chile Thai Pork: Mix 1 pound ground pork, 3 tablespoons each chopped mint, cilantro and basil, 1 minced shallot, 1 minced hot chile and 2 tablespoons each fish sauce and lime juice. Form into 2-inch ovals; skewer and grill.
Garlic, Ginger, and Sesame Pork: Mix 1 pound ground pork, 2 chopped scallions, 2 teaspoons each soy sauce, grated garlic and grated ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon each sesame oil and salt. Roll 1-inch balls in sesame seeds, then skewer and grill.
Aegean Rosemary Lamb: Marinate cubed lamb leg in 1/2 cup olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, some fresh rosemary and 3 smashed garlic cloves; add salt and pepper. Skewer with zucchini and grill.
Classic Lamb: Toss cubed lamb leg with 1 grated onion, 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper. Skewer with lemon slices, onion and bell pepper; grill.
Indian Masala Lamb: Marinate cubed lamb leg in 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup each minced onion and cilantro, 2 tablespoons garam masala and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Skewer and grill; top with chutney.
Moroccan Lamb: Mash 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon each cumin, paprika and salt into a paste. Mix with 1 stick softened butter and rub onto cubed lamb leg. Skewer and grill.
Lamb Dolmades: Make Beef Kefta (No. 3) with ground lamb; wrap in grape leaves and skewer. Brush with olive oil and grill.
Israeli Lamb: Mix 1 pound ground lamb with 1 cup each minced onion and chopped parsley and 2 teaspoons each paprika, salt and pepper. Form into 2-inch ovals; skewer and grill.
Retro-Meatloaf: Form your favorite meatloaf mix into 2-inch ovals. Skewer and grill, basting with a mix of tomato sauce and olive oil.
Chicken Nicoise: Toss cubed chicken breast and pancetta, olives and cherry tomatoes with olive oil, oregano and salt. Skewer and grill.
Jerk Chicken: Marinate whole chicken thighs and pineapple chunks in 2 tablespoons jerk seasoning, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons lime juice. Thread on double skewers; grill.
Chicken Fajita: Purée 1/2 cup olive oil, a handful of cilantro, 2 seeded jalapenos, 2 garlic cloves and salt; add cubed chicken breast and marinate. Skewer with onion and poblano pieces. Grill, basting with lime juice.
Chicken Liver: Soak chicken livers in milk 1 hour; drain and pat dry. Skewer with bacon chunks and peeled cipollini onions. Season with salt and pepper; grill.
Peaches with Chicken Sausage: Toss quartered peaches with vegetable oil, fresh thyme and salt. Skewer with cooked chicken sausage; grill.
Smoky Adobo Chicken: Toss cubed chicken breast with barbecue sauce, salt and minced chipotles in adobo sauce. Skewer and grill.
Chicken Caesar: Mix 1 pound ground chicken, 2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Form into ovals, skewer and grill. Serve on romaine leaves with bread and more dressing.
Peanut Curry Chicken: Mix 2/3 cup coconut milk, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon each Thai curry paste and lime juice, and salt. Marinate cubed chicken thighs in half the sauce. Skewer with bell pepper chunks. Grill, basting with the remaining sauce.
Chicken Tikka: Marinate cubed chicken thighs in 1 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons garam masala, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 1/2 teaspoons each grated garlic and ginger, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and salt and cayenne. Skewer and grill. Serve with yogurt mixed with lime juice.
Chicken Teriyaki: Marinate cubed chicken thighs in 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Skewer and grill.
Bacon and Turkey Meatball: Heat 1/3 cup cranberry sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons each barbecue sauce and water, 2 teaspoons cider vinegar, and salt. Mix 1 pound ground turkey, 1/4 pound ground bacon, and salt. Form into balls, skewer and grill, brushing with the sauce.
Dill Salmon: Marinate cubed wild salmon in olive oil and chopped dill. Skewer and grill.
Hoisin Salmon: Marinate cubed wild salmon in 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce and 1 tablespoon each soy sauce, rice wine, honey and olive oil. Skewer with scallion pieces and grill.
Santorini Shrimp: Marinate large shrimp in olive oil and chopped marjoram, dill and garlic. Skewer with grape tomatoes and lemon slices. Grill, then top with feta.
Sesame Shrimp: Toss shrimp with 1 1/2 tablespoons each olive oil and water, 2 teaspoons each rice vinegar, toasted sesame seeds and soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Skewer and grill.
Chorizo-Shrimp: Marinate large shrimp and sliced chorizo in 1/4 cup each olive oil and minced roasted red pepper, 1 tablespoon cognac and some minced parsley and garlic. Wrap the shrimp around the chorizo, skewer and grill.
Chipotle Shrimp: Mix 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, the juice of 1/2 orange, 3 tablespoons minced chipotles in adobo sauce and salt. Reserve a quarter of the mixture; marinate shrimp in the rest. Skewer and grill, basting with the reserved mixture.
Bacon Wrapped Scallops: Boil bacon strips 5 minutes, then cut into pieces. Toss scallops with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and salt. Skewer with lemon slices and bacon; grill.
Mackerel a la Plancha: Skewer 4-inch pieces scored mackerel fillets. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and grill. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and serve with lemon wedges.
Swordfish Rolls: Sprinkle thin swordfish slices with lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Lay thinly sliced zucchini on top, roll up and wrap with sage leaves. Skewer with sliced lemon and tomato; brush with olive oil and grill.
Veggie: Marinate zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper chunks in olive oil, thyme, rosemary and garlic. Skewer and grill, basting with lemon juice. Season with salt.
Veggie Souvlaki: Mash 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon each coriander seeds and olive oil, and 1 teaspoon each cumin, paprika and salt into a paste. Brush on zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper chunks. Skewer and grill.
Curried Cauliflower: Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, curry powder and salt. Skewer and grill over indirect heat, covered.
Haloumi: Marinate cubed haloumi cheese in 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 3 minced garlic cloves, and 2 teaspoons each cumin, coriander, paprika and dried mint. Skewer with scallion pieces and grill.
Hoisin Tofu: Make Hoisin Salmon (No. 37) with extra-firm tofu instead of salmon.
Prosciutto-Fig: Wrap halved figs in prosciutto. Season with pepper, skewer and grill.