(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Stick it to run-of-the-mill skewer recipes and instead pile on unexpected ingredients. Kabobs remain one of my all-time favorites because all it takes is imagination or a peek into cultures outside your own. Light, easy, quick-cooking (due to the small cubes involved) dishes that are perfect for warm-weather nights are the results.
Ted Allen, host of Food Network's hit series "Chopped" and author of "In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks" pinpoints new arenas in which to take a stab. One of his favorite dishes is scampi. Give Allen a few minutes in the kitchen and that will instead emerge as scampi skewers.
Imagine foods and flavors that make traditional pairs and line them up on metal or pre-soaked bamboo skewers instead, like the specialty that follows of balsamic pork and apple chunks with red onions.
Sometimes ethnic specialties we're used to eating on a plate surprise as outstanding skewer stars. Los Angeles Thai longtime restaurant Siam Cabin served up a memorable special of crispy orange chicken skewers (battered spiced chicken meatballs) draped in tangerine sauce over curry rice, proving imaginative sticks can inspire unique sides as well.
Dessert isn't even out of bounds.
The PBS series "Globe Trekker" took on Moroccan-style simmering apples with butter and cinnamon and bananas with thyme, olive oil, almond extract and honey. Alternating these on skewers, wrapping in foil and lightly grilling would put a twist on all the ordinary fruit skewers that may have come before.
Or simply take Pillsbury's suggestion of skewering chunks of cinnamon rolls, wrapping in foil, lightly grilling and then drizzling with chocolate and caramel sauces before serving.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
BALSAMIC PORK AND APPLE SKEWERS
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 medium orange)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 green apple, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 servings of cooked rice
Yields 4 servings.
Measure vinegar, brown sugar, orange juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper into a large zip-top bag. Seal and shake to combine. Cut pork chops into 1&1/2 inch cubes and add to the bag, seal and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to one day.
Soak bamboo skewers (if using) in water for 30 minutes or use metal skewers. Remove pork from the marinade, and place the marinade, minus the garlic, in a small saucepan. Heat the marinade to boiling and boil until slightly thickened and reduced by half, about 5 to 7 minutes. Reserve.
Skewer the pork, along with the apples and onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle grill pan with a little oil to prevent skewers from sticking. Heat grill pan (or broiler) to medium high. With a utensil, carefully place the skewers on the pan and grill for 4 minutes. Turn them a quarter of the way around and grill another 4 minutes. Finish grilling the remaining two sides for 4 minutes each, grilling the skewers for a total of 16 minutes. If using your broiler, broil for about 10 minutes total, carefully flipping once. Do not overcook the pork, or it will become tough. Remove hot skewers with a utensil.
Serve over rice and drizzle with the reserved reduced fully cooked marinade.
1/2 cup panko or dried coarse baguette bread crumbs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 & 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 & 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
Yields 4 appetizer servings or 2 to 3 entree servings.
Preheat oven to 425 F.
In a small bowl, combine the panko, butter, egg, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, wine, basil, parsley and salt.
Place 2 shrimp on a cutting board, nestled tail to body, forming a yin-yang design, and thread onto a skewer. Repeat with two more pairs of shrimp, 6 shrimp per skewer. Trim the skewers with scissors if necessary and if wooden to fit on the serving plates.
Put the shrimp in a baking dish. Cover with the butter mixture, dotting it on top. Bake until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Good served atop zucchini dishes, which absorb the butter and go well with the lemon flavor.
-In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate CooksQUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
If you didn't master science in school, SeriousEats.com
managing culinary director J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
wants to give you another chance in your own kitchen. Have you ever wondered why ingredients interact as they do or why one cooking process is superior to another? In the James Beard award-winning book, "The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
", Lopez-Alt entertainingly and informatively explains it all. Hundreds of recipes are dissected for your benefit, such as how to perfectly char a steak on the outside while its inside remains juicy or flip only fluffy pancakes rather than rubbery ones.Lisa Messinger
at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.