Simply put, I love kabobs. They are outdoor versions of fondu in a way, and fondu is retro these days.
I know this because I've see infomercials trying to sell fondu sets to the “x” generation who weren't around in the '60's and '70's. Yep, those were the days.
Moving on, have you ever wondered where the word “kabob” comes from and what it means?
Technically, we are talking about “shish kebabs,” and there are more versions and spellings of this term than I have room for in this article. However, almost all food historians are in agreement that this dish can trace its origins to the Middle East, and quite possibly, Turkey.
Folklore suggests that inner city inhabitants would cut their meat into small bite-sized chunks and cook them on skewers, primarily due to the lack of cooking fuel (wood) in their neighborhoods.
Other legends trace it to Iranian soldiers roasting small pieces of meat on the ends of their swords.
Whatever the origin, I love our current day kabobs. Here are some time tested tips, specifically tested by me, which will help you make your next excursion into “kabob-world” a success.
1. When you go to the market and see those beautiful kabobs sitting in the case, feel free to gander, but do not buy them. The markets mix veggies and meat on the same skewer for
aesthetic reasons, not for grilling efficiency. Meats do not cook at the same rate as mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, pineapples or bell peppers. Therefore, group the meats on one set of skewers and the veggies on another.
2. Use a nice marinade on the meat. In today's recipe, we used a very simple marinade that only needs 30 minutes of marinating time with the meat. Well worth it.
3. I know you have heard this from me before, but use indirect heat with some wood flavorings. It allows you to control the cooking process and infuse the meat and veggies with an authentic outdoor flavor.
4. Finish the veggies over direct charcoal to give them a little char. Specific directions below.
This recipe works for roughly 2 ½ lbs of pork loin.
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
• 2 cloves crushed garlic
• 2 Tbs chopped parsley
• 1 tsp crushed rosemary
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• Salt and pepper to taste
Cut 2 ½ lbs of pork loin into bite sized pieces. Marinate the pork pieces in a zip lock bag for a minimum of 30 minutes. Cut 2 bell peppers and 2 onions into small pieces. Clean 8 to 10 bell mushrooms.
Skewer the meat separately. DO NOT press the pieces together firmly on the skewer. Allow them to touch, and that's it. Otherwise, your cooking time will be way off.
Skewer the veggies on their own as well. Skewer the tomatoes separately. They will cook the quickest.
You are probably starting to notice that we separate everything based on cooking times.
Cook the pork over indirect heat for 20 minutes with the lid on. After 20 minutes, add the veggies, (other than the tomatoes) on the indirect heat side. Place the veggie skewers on top of the pork skewers.
Place the lid on the grill and cook the pork and veggies for another 10 minutes.
Move the veggies and pork over the direct heat. This will provide char to the veggies and texture to the meat. Don't walk away as flaming could occur. Be ready to turn the kabobs frequently to prevent burning.
After a few minutes, lay the tomato skewers on top of the veggies and meat, and place the lid on the grill for one last time to warm the tomatoes through.
Serve with cous cous, and enjoy your flavorful tour through the Middle East. I think you will learn to love kabobs too.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.