Summertime Skewers

When the temperature outside goes above 80 degrees, sometimes all you want to do is stay tucked away indoors in the air conditioning, with a large iced beverage nearby to keep you company. During a heat wave, it’s easy to subsist mainly on salads and sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean all hot foods need to go out the window. You just need to choose wisely so that stovetop time is minimized, or that the bulk of the cooking is moved to the outdoors. After all, summer evenings are a great time to take advantage of the longer sunlit days to prepare a simple meal on the grill. And, if it’s nice and balmy outside, it makes a great excuse for dining al fresco.

One category of food that makes for a nearly all-in-one dinner is the meat-and-vegetable skewer. Many cultures have a version of it, and the fact that the skewer is so customizable in terms of the proteins, vegetables, and seasonings/sauces used is probably why. Likewise, there are a variety of ways to serve it, most of which require minimal additional work: as-is, like the meat-on-a-stick served at the fair; placed on top of a green salad; wrapped in a piece of pita, naan or flatbread; or served alongside rice, couscous, or pasta.

 

Chicken and veggie skewers

 

Prep can be done earlier in the day or even the day before: Cut up (and marinate, if desired) the meat—or tofu—and vegetables into small, similarly sized pieces, keeping the individual items separate. Prepare any seasoning rubs, finishing sauces, condiments, and accompaniments.

When it’s almost time to cook, if you decide to use bamboo skewers, make sure to give them a good soak beforehand to prevent them from catching on fire. While the grill heats up, thread the ingredients close together onto the skewers, and place them on a baking sheet for ease of transport.

Because the skewers are placed over fairly hot, direct heat for a moderate amount of time, be sure to turn them occasionally to help them cook evenly. Any sauces containing sugar or fruit juices should be brushed onto the meat and vegetables only during the last few minutes of grilling. Otherwise, they are apt to burn.

If you love the idea of making skewers but don’t have a grill or would prefer not to use one, not to worry! You can just as easily broil the skewers in the oven, 3 inches from the heating element, instead. This summer, have fun coming up with flavor combinations to try, or start with the yakitori-inspired version below. 

Chicken & Vegetable Skewers with Sweet Soy Glaze

Bamboo skewers

If you prefer, you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs, but start checking for doneness a few minutes earlier. If using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes before grilling. 

Ingredients

Cremini mushrooms

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 tsp. grated ginger

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. cornstarch

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, halved

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 red onion, cut into 1-inch dice

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

1 lb. 4 oz. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Skewers on the grill

1. Whisk the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

2. Prepare an outdoor grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat.

3. Thread alternating pieces of chicken and vegetables onto 8 (12-inch) metal or bamboo skewers. Brush both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Grill the skewers until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 15 minutes, turning occasionally and brushing the skewers with the reserved sauce during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Serves 8. 

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