Simply Food: Marinated Chicken Kebabs

My mom used to make shish kebabs fairly often for dinner as I was growing up. We had a built in grill in our kitchen. A portion of one of the kitchen walls was made out of brick, had a chimney, and there was a grill right there in the center. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I mean, this was the house I lived in for most of my childhood. So, it seemed pretty normal. Now, I think that was pretty cool to have. I’d like to have that grill in my kitchen today. My mom could just grill right there in the comfort of her kitchen no matter what the weather brought to her area. She would put charcoal or wood underneath the grate and fire it up.

I also never thought of the origin of kebabs until I lived in England. They seemed like a regular American meal to me. Chicken or fish with vegetables cooked on a stick didn’t seem out of the ordinary or of a different ethnic origin. My mom just cut up pieces of chicken, or fish and lots of vegetables and placed this all on the grill. She would serve these kebabs with rice and salad. In London, there are kebab restaurants on every corner like our Starbucks. These places are packed around midnight when the pubs close or even later after the dance clubs close. Everyone wants a kebab after a long night out drinking and dancing. I guess it is the equivalent of a late night burger, Del Taco, or an all night diner.

One late night, I went into one of the many kebab restaurants in London and ordered myself one. They served me tons of thinly sliced meat and vegetables resting in a pita with a delicious yogurt sauce. This is what I would call a Gyro. I was confused. I saw that the meat was cooked on a spit, or a large metal skewer. I guessed that was what makes a kebab a kebab. It was still food cooked on a skewer. I discovered that different parts of the world eat them differently. I soon realized that Middle Eastern people ran kebab restaurants in London. Turns out, this is where it all comes from. In the Middle East, they cooked meats on these big spits. Then, they sliced thin pieces of this meat and served it in pita or with rice. Sticking meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers the way my mom made them is a version of this same thing. Many countries have their own versions of kebabs. All over Asia, they love to cook this way. A long time ago, I wrote an article about chicken satay. That is one of the Asian versions of this same type of cooking.

Memorial Day weekend is what our family considers the summer kick off. So, I decided to make kebabs. I am grilling chicken and vegetable kebabs and some just vegetable kebabs. I am using grape tomatoes, red onions, zucchini and yellow squash. As I was marinating the chicken, soaking the skewers and cutting everything up, I thought of a great idea for a summer party.

First, cut fruit, vegetables, fish, tofu and marinated meat. I think some chunks of pineapple would be perfect for this. I also love adding whole cherry tomatoes. You could cut up zucchini, squash, eggplant, and mushrooms. Then, fire up the grill and set out the skewers alongside all of the chunks of food. This way, everyone can make their own kebabs to their liking. If someone hates fruits and vegetables, they can make it all meat. If someone is a vegetarian, it can be all fruits and vegetables. Some people might want to make a variety. Next, they can grill their kebabs however and whenever they please. I’d set out buckets of wine and beer and big bowls of potato and green salad. I think I might start thinking of guests to invite and do this for next weekend.

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