When I was a young, newly-married cook, my mother-in-law Lorna often made kebabs for a treat or company dinner.
Her ’70s old school style was to take pot roast — yes, pot roast — cut it up and marinate it for a day or so– before grilling the pieces along with whatever vegetables hit her fancy. I seem to recall canned small potatoes. I’ll admit I liked this meal just fine. I couldn’t believe it was pot roast and neither could anyone else. It was just like steak. Well, nearly.
(June, 2017 addition: my MIL tells me the marinating was just overnight–not days and days!)
There was something about fake-it/bake-it cooking that was incredibly popular in those days. Much has been written about this –insert raised eyebrows–era of cooking. All of our mothers and some of us participated in the party. There seemed to no longer be any need to cook all day long, right? Dishes that appeared to be one thing, but were really another, were a craze. I remember fake homemade salami, for example. No, not sexy charcuterie created for you personally by the sous chef. I’m talking the kind of thing that was made from ground beef all seasoned up kind of like a Halloween salami. Cool whip was also the thing; why would you whip cream, like it’s difficult? Cool whip, alone, needed a whole new block of freezer storage at the store. Before cool whip, grocery stores were half the size they are now. Ok, not half, but…. How about Mock Lasagna? “You Really Won’t Believe it’s not Butter,” (Oh, yes, I would.) Cheesecake, or anything else, made from jello, which might even have been combined with packaged dry pudding mix. (It was years before I knew you could make pudding without a box.) Hamburger Helper. Tuna Helper. And so on. God help me; I don’t know how we survived. But, you know, it was anything to keep you out of the kitchen for as long as possible or to not eat real fat or sugar. To serve your family TV Dinners was ok. Really, it was fine. No jaw dropping at all. What was in those potatoes??? (We had them rarely at our house, but my parents were both cooks.)
These days I’m looking to get INTO the kitchen and like to take you with me. Perhaps not spending all day long (at least not all the time), but we definitely don’t need to take all the shortcuts. We are not in a hurry. We want to spend more time at the table to coin a phrase.
In fact, I like the long way home every single time. Doughs that raise 10 times, stews that bubble merrily for hours and hours, meats that glory in their braise in the oven until you’re good and ready to bring them out. Wines that age for years and years and years and…well, maybe not quite that many years. I do want to drink all the wine in my cellar before I die. It’s on my bucket list.
But fun kebob recipes, while hefty and tummy-filling, are even easier than my mother-in-law’s 70’s recipes. I hadn’t made these in so long that I decided to take the easy way and find a marinade I didn’t have to think of. I include the link to the original recipe below; it also has chicken and shrimp kebobs so that guests can build their own. If you decide to follow the whole recipe (I’ve used just a part and changed a lot.), I’d caution against marinating the shrimp this long, and definitely against cooking the kebobs all mixed up for 10-15 minutes. Seafood will be dead wood if cooked that long and folks’d be chewing and chewing and chewing.
The steaks marinate just a couple of hours, which gives you time to chop the vegetables and make my rice pilaf–a perfect bed for any kebabs and it doesn’t even come from a box. If you’d like to do an easier/faster couscous that mostly does come from a box a la ’70s, scroll down to the bottom of the recipe. wiki below:
Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires. Persian kebab was served in the royal houses during various Islamic Empires and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan or pita.[2
Anti carb? Skip the rice pilaf totally while remembering how skinny your Asian pedicurist is. She eats 3 cups of rice at least twice daily and eats noodles for breakfast. I’m just saying.
STEAK AND VEGETABLE KEBOBS WITH RICE PILAF
4 generous servings
Read through the recipe before beginning at least 2 1/2 hours before dinnertime. Gas grill will need to pre-heat 10-15 minutes, covered, before grilling kebobs.
Only two of you? Store leftovers separately for up to two days and reheat gently in a covered greased skillet or on a sheet pan in a moderate (350 degrees F) oven. Heat veggies first and add steak for last minute or two.
- MARINATE STEAK FOR TWO HOURS in the refrigerator:
MARINADE FOR THE Dijon-Rosemary Steak:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 – 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
Mix marinade ingredients together and pour over steak cubes in a glass dish; cover and refrigerate for two hours.
2. SOAK SKEWERS, CHOP VEGETABLES, AND MIX VEGETABLE BASTING SAUCE
- 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into larges slices or two-inch cubes
- 2 large onions (you’ll use some for the steak)
- 4 ounces large mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
- 1 EACH red and yellow bell pepper cored, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2 – 2-inch pieces
VEGETABLE BASTING SAUCE:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- good pinch each salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
In a shallow casserole dish or baking pan, soak 8-inch wooden skewers in an inch of water for at least an hour to prevent burning on the grill. Set aside.
Microwave the vegetables for two-three minutes in layers in a glass casserole dish, covered. Repeat until you’ve pre-cooked all of the vegetables.(They need a bit of pre-cooking or they end up pretty underdone on the grill.) Lay vegetables out in groups on a rimmed baking sheet or on counter to make them easy to skewer.
Make the Vegetable Basting Sauce: Whisk together well in a glass measuring cup the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pinch each salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Set aside.
3. MAKE THE RICE PILAF… or Make some Rosemary Couscous (Scroll down for recipe.)
Rice pilaf should not be sticky, but rather be fluffy so that you can see and taste each ingredient. This is a basic and simple rice pilaf; there are many variations. You might add some toasted almond slices if you like or substitute fennel for the onions, for instance. You’ll need a 3-quart pot with a lid.
- 1 tablespoon each olive oil and salted butter (plus 1 teaspoon butter to stir in at end)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions or shallots
- 1 small stalk celery minced
- 1 small carrot, peeled, trimmed, and minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1/2 cup white wine or can sub water
- 1 3/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium
- Handful chopped fresh parsley
In a heavy three-quart pot with lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat, sauté the onions, celery, and carrots for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and thyme; cook one minute more.
Add rice; reduce heat just a bit and sauté the rice for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add white wine and broth; raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat at once, cover, and barely simmer until rice is nearly tender (don’t stir during this time)–about 18 minutes. Remove from heat, leave covered, and let sit five minutes. Fluff with fork. Stir in parsley and reserved 1 teaspoon butter, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or warm or at room temperature.
Rewarms well and easily if you’ve made this earlier or have saved leftovers.
Skip the Rice Pilaf and make this quick bed for your kebabs using a box of Near East Olive Oil and Garlic Couscous:
To a 2-quart sauce pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium flame. Sauté 2 tablespoons medium dice onions and 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary until onions are tender. Add 1 1/4 cups water, a tablespoon or so of the seasoning packet, and bring to boil; add box of couscous, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Another version I make is to also add a minced clove of garlic and 1/4 cup raisins to the onions; skip the rosemary, but season well with salt and pepper.)
4. MAKE AND GRILL THE KEBOBS.
Turn all burners on gas grill to high, cover, and wait 10-15 minutes to preheat before grilling.
Remove wooden skewers from water and pat dry with towels. Add steak, alternating with pieces of red onion to at least 2 skewers, depending on how large your pieces of steak are.
Add pre-cooked vegetables to the others (I like to mix the vegetables up, but do as you please). There should be at least 2 skewers full of steak and maybe 4 or 5 of vegetables.
Grill over direct high heat 10 or so minutes, turning every 3 minutes, or until steak is medium-rare–use an instant read thermometer to read about 125 degrees F- and vegetables are crispy on edges and tender through. Baste vegetables several times with the basting sauce or drizzle or brush on afterwards. Remove from heat to a large platter and tent with aluminum foil for 3 or 4 minutes before serving over rice pilaf.
5. SERVE KEBOBS ON A BED OF RICE PILAF.
Divide rice or couscous between 4 plates and top with a few pieces of grilled steak and lots of grilled vegetables. Half a skewer of steak and 1 skewer of vegetables should be plenty for each person.
WINE: Stick with a top of the rack California zinfandel, such as Seghesio, one of my favorites. Even the entry level is a lovely summer deck wine. (Or any other time.)
DESSERT: Too warm for much at summer’s end. Grilled peach halves with a drizzle of Amaretto might be just the thing.
PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: STEAK AND VEGETABLE KEBOBS WITH RICE PILAF
We made this on a night when the town threatened to float away. During prep, the skies darkened, the wind tuned up, tree limbs flew, and by the time it was the moment for grilling, all hell broke loose. Dave bravely grilled under the eaves on our deck while the skies rained rivers. Second photo, from KKTV–a local TV station–shows the intersection down the hill at 19th and Uintah, just a few blocks from our dryer than dry house up on the mesa on solid bedrock. How blessed we were.
We ate our kebobs happily in the near dark by glow of camping lantern (power was out by then) in the basement as our top level is in the midst of remodeling, readying for wood floor installation next week. At which time we’ll be camping. Will keep you posted, friends. Below: Dave and his Tucker
Below: taking out a wall that wasn’t in the original floor plan, but was added later. I’ve wanted this done for so long, I nearly cried when it came out. Before removing the wall, we–and all guests– had to go through a bedroom to reach the only bathroom on the main level. Now we walk right in!
If I can get a post off while camping, I’ll do so. Otherwise, I’ll catch up next week.
Sing a new song,