Green Plate Special: For perfect skewers, start with metal skewers

Columnist Christine Burns Rudalevige threads marinated pork onto a metal skewer. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

Flat metal skewers are the perfect tool to help eco-conscious cooks eat sustainably as the mercury rises in the height of summer. They cost about $1 each (compared to 7-10 cents for the disposable wooden or bamboo variety), but they’re reusable, allow for quick, even cooking of any type of meat, seafood, or local vegetables strung on them. , and retain said food. into position as you turn them early and often during the cooking process. The metal conducts heat, helping to cook the center of whatever has been skewered. And for those of us looking to cut down on our animal protein intake, this presentation stretches a pound of meat to feed a family of four without complaining about portion sizes.

The origin of kebabs is debated, but several books and websites agree on at least these facts: cooking meat on a metal rod dates back to the 17th century BCE on the Greek island of Crete. In 1200 AD. soldiers were known to grill bits of animal meat on their swords over open fires. The first written record of the word “kebab” is found in a poem, Kyssa-i Yusuf (The Story of Joseph), by the Tatar writer Kol Gali around 1377.

I respect the story of the dish, of course. But I’m still going to talk about cooking kebabs in modern times because I like mine so grilled – fully cooked, but still tender, juicy, and flavorful. My husband is painfully aware of my kebab requirements. He is usually responsible for tending the grill, as well as capturing the heat if they don’t arrive at the table to my specifications.

I do however try to set it up for success by preparing the skewers for cooking.

Rudalevige places a pork skewer on the grill. The meat was marinated in a mixture of miso, ginger, mirin and soy sauce. Arrange vegetables on their own skewers as they cook faster than meat. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

First, I’m assembling single-ingredient skewers. Even if cut to be the same size and shape, a piece of chicken will still take longer to cook than a wedge of onion. Meat and meatier fish like swordfish usually cook in 10-12 minutes (less for beef, salmon, or tuna if you like rare ones). Robust vegetables, such as potatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini and eggplant, take 6-8 minutes. Shellfish, such as scallops and shrimp, only require 5-6 minutes. And thinner vegetables, like asparagus, green beans or snow peas, as well as those that get mushy quickly, like cherry tomatoes or small mushrooms, only need 3-4 minutes.

Second, I marinate thin strips (never chunks because they take too long to cook) of raw meat in a mixture that includes a naturally tenderizing agent such as beer, buttermilk, cola, coffee, ginger, miso, tea, vinegar or yogurt. I reserve some marinade in a separate bowl before adding the meat so I can safely baste it over the fully cooked meat. The meat strips will take on flavors after an hour in the marinade, but the longer you leave them (up to 12 hours), the more tender the kebab will be. I thread the strips tightly onto a skewer to form a square formation, getting half a pound of meat on each skewer. This formation allows the cook to more easily rotate the skewers as they cook.

Third, I dress the vegetables after they have been cooked. Hot vegetables draw out the flavors of a simple vinaigrette better than cold ones. With zucchini, summer squash, and eggplant, I go a step further: first, I slice them very thinly lengthwise, sprinkle them with kosher salt, letting it extract the water from the strips so they can be easily threaded onto a skewer.

Finally, I ask that the skewers be cooked slowly over medium heat on racks that have both been cleaned and brushed with oil. Oiling the grates (rather than the skewers) helps prevent flame flare-ups that burn the outside of food while leaving the center undercooked. I advise my husband to let the skewers sit undisturbed for two minutes before you start flipping them, about every two minutes after that to cook them evenly. Of course, I’m not just sitting around watching Andy to make sure he follows these rules. I leave him alone with a local beer in one hand and tongs in the other. I set the table and wait for the perfectly cooked kebabs to arrive – because I hope they do.

Here are recipes for three marinades that will work for most of the fish, meat and vegetable skewers you throw on the grill this summer.

From left to right, beef marinated in coffee, chipotle, maple and lime; pork marinated in miso, ginger, mirin and soy sauce; chicken marinated in yogurt, curry, garlic and lemon; and sliced ​​zucchini. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

Coffee, chipotle, maple and lime marinade

That’s enough marinade for 1 pound of beef, very thinly sliced.

1/4 cup cold coffee
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of marinade. Place the meat in the marinade for at least 1 but up to 12 hours before skewering and grilling. Brush the cooked skewers with the reserved marinade before serving hot.

Miso, ginger, mirin and soy marinade

That’s enough marinade for 1 pound of pork, chicken, or meaty fish.

3 tablespoons white miso (shiro)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of marinade. Place meat, poultry or fish in marinade for at least 1 but up to 12 hours before skewering and grilling. Brush the cooked skewers with the reserved marinade before serving hot.

Yoghurt, Curry, Garlic and Lemon Marinade

That’s enough marinade for 1 pound of chicken, lamb or shrimp.

¼ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of marinade. Place the meat in the marinade for at least 1 but up to 12 hours before skewering and grilling. Brush the cooked skewers with the reserved marinade before serving hot.

Local food advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of “Green Plate Special,” both a sustainable food column in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her cookbook from 2017. She can be contacted at: [email protected]


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