Tidewater Kitchen - August 2010

 

Heaven on a Stick: Skewered Foods
by
Pamela Meredith-Doyle

 

It is always fun to cook food on a stick! Skewers are quick to make and easy to clean up. When the kids get to make their own combinations, they are much more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables, which promotes good eating habits.
The stick can be either a toothpick or a bamboo skewer, or a piece of food like a cucumber stick or sugar cane. I have even used candy canes for dessert skewers during the holidays.
Kabobs are great when accompanied by a salad and some rice or couscous.
Tips for Skewered Food
For sturdier foods, you may have to use a stronger skewer. For more delicate foods, you can use a skinnier skewer. Be careful when you grill, as the ends of the skewers may burn, so cover the ends with foil.
Don’t forget to soak wooden skewers for 30 minutes, as this slows the heating down.
Metal skewers are great because they clean easily and can be put in the dishwasher. They also hold the food and vegetables in place better.
Rosemary stems are great skewers. You just need to remove the leaves and dry them in a cool oven at 175°. After they’ve dried, put them in a resealable bag and use when you’re ready. They also need to soak in water for 20 to 30 minutes before use.
Cut ingredients into equal pieces. You want everything to be the same size so it will cook evenly.
When making the kabobs, make sure you don’t overcrowd the skewers. When the ingredients are spread out, they will cook more evenly and will caramelize better. This is especially important with fruits and vegetables.
An appetizer kabob should not have more than 2 or 3 pieces per skewer and should be on a 2- to 3-inch skewer. A main dish skewer should have 8 to 10 pieces. I always try to think about what a good dinner portion would be.
Watch the cooking times and make sure the foods that are on the skewer are all the same size. Put the longer cooking foods such as meat on the same skewer and the foods that don’t take as long on another skewer. These can be put on the grill a little later.

CHICKEN FINGERS on SKEWERS with TZATZIKI
Makes 4 Servings
4 chicken breasts cut into cubes
1 t. onion, grated
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 t. finely chopped garlic
1-1/2 t. ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
Yellow squash and zucchini, cubed
Tomatoes
12 8-inch wooden skewers, soaked for 30 minutes in cold water

Preheat oven to 425° or start the grill.
Mix all the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until very well combined.
Spray your pan or grill with non-stick cooking spray. Skewer the meat and veggies on the skewers. Wrap foil around the exposed ends of the skewers to prevent burning, or place a strip of foil across one end of the grill and lay the exposed end of the skewers on it.
Grill the kabobs over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side, about 6 to 8 minutes total. Serve 3 skewers per person with tzatziki on the side for dipping.
If you are cooking the kabobs in the oven, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is cooked and juices run clear.

TZATZIKI
2 cups fresh plain yogurt
3 T. chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
2 t. finely chopped garlic
1 t. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning, then chill. Keep in mind that chilling tends to reduce the flavor of seasonings, so don’t be stingy with the salt and pepper.

ROASTED SHRIMP and CUCUMBER STICKS with TOMATO SAUCE
Tomato Sauce with a Kick to drizzle on top or dip
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, halved, stoned and cut into 8 chunks
1 t. fresh lemon juice
24 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
8 8-inch skewers
1 lg. cucumber, peeled and quartered to cut into 16 inch-long sticks
8 cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the tomato sauce according to the recipe below. Then toss in the diced avocado and fresh lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Place all the shrimp on a jelly roll pan. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes or until they just turn pink.
To prepare the skewers, thread the shrimp and a piece of cucumber, cherry tomato, then shrimp again on each skewer. Dust with salt and pepper. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature. Serve with the tomato sauce.

TOMATO SAUCE with a KICK
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. fresh cilantro (or parsley, if you’re not a cilantro fan)

Heat oil in a heavy pot. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Pour the tomato mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the freshly chopped cilantro. I like to serve it at room temperature.

FRESHLY GRILLED TUNA KABOBS with a DELICIOUS CURRY SAUCE
Curry Sauce (recipe to follow)

3 T. olive oil
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 t. ground cumin
1 T. soy sauce
1-1/2 lb. high quality tuna steak cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks, about 24 in all (if you don’t want to use tuna, you can use halibut, swordfish or thick pieces of salmon)
8 8-inch wooden skewers, soaked
16 cherry tomatoes

Preheat the grill for 10 minutes to medium-high heat. While it is heating, make the curry sauce.
Combine the lime juice, olive oil, cumin and soy sauce in a zip-lock bag. Add the tuna chunks and marinate for 15 minutes. Remove the tuna and throw the marinade away.
Put the skewers together by adding one piece of tuna, then a tomato and keep alternating until you have a few pieces on each skewer.
Wrap the exposed ends of the skewers with foil so they don’t burn. Grill at medium heat, turning once, making sure you turn 4 times as you cook the kabobs for a total of 5 to 7 minutes. You can serve the skewers hot or at room temperature with the curry sauce.

CURRY SAUCE
1/2 pint of plain yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 T. mild or hot curry powder
1/2 cup green onions, sliced (just the white and light green)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t. fresh lime zest
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste to see if you need any other seasonings, then chill.

VEGETABLE SKEWERS with LOUIS DRESSING
Makes 4 servings
16 tiny new potatoes
Louis Dressing (recipe to follow)
16 cherry tomatoes
8 chunks of onion
2 small zucchini, cut into 8 chunks
16 small mushrooms (optional)
Olive oil
8 12-inch wooden skewers (soaked)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until they are just barely tender. Drain. Meanwhile, make the dressing.
Preheat the grill or the oven to 425°. Brush the vegetables with olive oil.
To assemble the skewers, thread 1 potato, 1 tomato, 1 onion, 1 zucchini and repeat.
Wrap foil around the exposed ends of the skewers to prevent burning. Cook on the grill for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm, 2 skewers per person, with dressing for dipping.

LOUIS DRESSING
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup bottled chili sauce
3 T. finely chopped onion
3 T. sour cream
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 T. chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Beat all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Store covered in the refrigerator.

GRILLED FRESH FRUIT STICKS with GINGER YOGURT SAUCE
Makes 4 servings
Honey yogurt sauce (recipe to follow)

2 T. sugar
3 T. butter, melted
8 8-inch wooden skewers, soaked
1/2 cup pineapple, cubed
Orange sections
Peaches in bite-sized pieces
Pears in bite-sized pieces

Prepare the yogurt sauce. Then dissolve the sugar in the melted butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat as soon as the sugar is dissolved.
Prepare the grill to medium-high heat or the oven to 425°.
To assemble the skewers, thread 1 cube of pineapple, 1 orange section, 1 cube of peach, 1 cube of pear. Brush the fruit with the butter/sugar mixture.
Wrap the exposed ends of the skewers with foil and place them on the grill or in the oven. Cook on the grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. If using the oven, cook for 15 minutes turning once. Serve with the yogurt sauce.

GINGER YOGURT SAUCE
3 T. sugar
1-1/2 T. boiling water
1-1/2 cups really good vanilla yogurt
3 T. finely chopped candied ginger

Dissolve the sugar in boiling water in a saucepan and cool slightly.
Beat the warmed sugar water into the yogurt with a fork in a small bowl. Stir in the ginger. Let stand for 15 minutes or more to give the flavors time to blend.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.