Julie Giuffrida is Test Kitchen coordinator for the Los Angeles Times.
A kebab by any other name tastes just as good
It is no coincidence that small morsels of meat threaded onto skewers and cooked over an open flame are eaten on almost every continent around the globe. It’s kebab across the Middle East, North Africa and Greece; shish kebab in Turkey; shashlik in Russia and the Caucases; yakitori in Japan — and the list goes on. Of course, spices and favored cuts of meat vary in keeping with local cuisines. Still, the technique of cooking meat on sticks over fire is pretty much universal.
This Fourth of July, take a break from burgers and dogs and serve a variety of skewers. People love food on a stick: It is delicious, fun to eat and — best of all — easy to prepare. Mix and match combinations from different cuisines and you can celebrate the diversity of America right there on your plate. Or simply skewer up some meats and veggies and slather them with one of my colleague Ben Mims’ boozy barbecue sauces.
Start the party with panzanella with sherry vinaigrette. A cross between a bread salad and a caprese salad, it is both an appetizer and a salad on a single skewer — and there is no need to fuss with salad greens.
Marinades are a simple way to tenderize and add flavor to skewered meats and vegetables. Chermoula, a Moroccan spice blend ubiquitous in Northern Africa, was meant for seafood like shrimp and swordfish. Threaded with vegetables in addition to the fish, one skewer contains both a main course and a side of vegetables in one fell swoop.
Yogurt in the marinade makes chicken kebabs with dried lime and mint practically melt in your mouth. Marinated in sage, garlic and white wine, sausage, chicken and bread skewers are sort of like a mixed grill on a stick. Torsh (sour) kebab gets a tangy edge from a marinade of pomegranate and walnuts. The recipe also teaches a clever technique of cutting the beef so that it unfolds into a long, thin strip for threading onto the skewer.
Yakitori sauce, a seasoning made from soy sauce, mirin and sake (not to be confused with teriyaki sauce, which has a thick, shiny texture and sticky sweet flavor) is wonderful with chicken thighs.
An alternative to marinating is using a dry rub of spices and seasonings. The piquant rub on pinchos de gambas is so flavorful, it doesn’t require additional condiments. Tangy and slightly sweet, salmon skewers with tamarind sauce require no marinating either. Some of the sauce is brushed on the fish as it cooks and some is reserved to serve with the cooked salmon.
So, stick it to your guests with skewers of flavorful foods that are fun for them to eat and easy for you to prepare. It could be the tastiest and easiest Fourth of July menu ever. How fun is that?
Grilled shrimp skewers with charmoula
Charmoula -- a North African blend of fresh herbs and spices that includes garlic, lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper and oil -- is used to marinate shrimp before grilling.
YieldsServes 2 to 4
Salmon skewers with tamarind sauce
These salmon skewers with tamarind sauce, adapted from a recipe by chef Marcus Samuelsson, make a quick weeknight meal and also work well if you’re planning for company.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Sausage, chicken and bread skewers
This Italian-influenced "mixed grill on a stick" threads chicken (marinated in sage, garlic and white wine), rustic pork sausage and cubed sourdough together on a skewer.
YieldsMakes 12 skewers
Pinchos de gambas
Shrimp are marinated in smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice and one-third cup olive oil before grilling.
YieldsMakes 8 skewers
Chicken Kebab With Dried Lime and Mint
Dried limes, which have long been a staple of Persian cooking, impart to these tender, juicy chicken kebabs a special, distinctive tangy and earthy flavor.
Time1 hour 10 minutes, plus overnight marinating
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Chicken thighs with yakitori sauce
Chicken thigh meat is marinated briefly in mirin (sweet rice wine), sake and soy and served plain or skewered with green onion.
A variation of the Persian chelo kebab unique to the Caspian Sea region, here beef fillet is marinated in pomegranate and onion juices and finely ground walnuts and then grilled.
Panzanella with sherry vinaigrette
This is a riff on a panzanella bread salad and a caprese appetizer — a French bread crouton, plump ciliegine, cherry tomato and basil leaf drizzled with with sherry vinaigrette.
YieldsMakes 12 skewers
Grilled swordfish skewers with chermoula sauce
Chermoula sauce — olive oil with cilantro, garlic, paprika, cumin and a pinch of saffron — keeps these colorful swordfish kebabs moist and coats them with flavor.