April 30: BBQ Recipes

From “A Nomad Homecook’s Perpetual Almanac Cookbook (The PAC)” (c) 2020 OTBI

Kebab (a.k.a. shish kebab) was an integral part of the daily diet of Indian royalty as early as 1200 AD, but since most Indians are vegetarian they do not take credit for its origination. Legend goes that “kebab” originated in the camps of Arab and Turkish invaders who used to roast meat chunks skewered on their sword edges. Although traditional Arab foods, of course, vary by the country, much of Arab food derives from the Ottoman kitchen. Most of the foods now identified as “Middle Eastern,” derrive from Ottoman Turkish cuisine. It is the absolute easiest campfire food. The spices are used to marinate the meat and make it tender.

A fun variation to note, “shawarma” is an Arabic rendering of the Turkish ‘turning’, in reference to the rotisserie-cooked nature of the meat, which “turns” around an axis. Similar naming conventions apply to the Turkish “doener,” the Greek “gyro,” the African “suya,” the Japanese “yakitori,” and the Brazilian “churrasco.”

Of the many regional flavors called by different names for “meat on skewers” around the world, a tasty version is the Greek “souvlaki”. Bold, bright flavors of lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic infuse the meat with a mental trip to the Mediterranean Sea while the tangy tzatziki offers a return to land. Greeks also use the term souvlaki to refer to a meal consisting of skewered meat accompanied by warm pita bread, a heap of lemon rice and a few dolmathes, a delightfully pungent steamed meat roll packaged in a tender grape leaf. My mouth waters every time I think of chicken souvlaki.

A flatbread of some sort is always served with the fire-roasted meat of many names. The Greeks prefer pita but you need a very hot oven to get a proper pocket to develop. I’ve found that naan bread offers a similar tender bite and seems to hold up well to the juices. Developed around 2,500 years ago, naan likely originated by virtue of an experiment, after the arrival of yeast in India from Egypt (where the yeast was being used to brew beer and make leavened breads since 187 BC). Naan in old Persian means “bread,” and in Iran indicates any kind of bread. It was likely invented between India and Pakistan. All the way around kebab with flatbread is enjoyed the world-over.


Souvlaki + Vegetable Kebabs

makes 8 skewers of meat and 8 skewers of vegetables

Soak completely immersed wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes.

Combine in a large bowl or sealable plastic bag. Reserve a quarter of the marinade for basting the meat during roasting.

Juice of 2 lemons, reserve 1 tablespoon for sauce

1tablespoon minced garlic

1 minced onion

3 crumbled bay leaves

1 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add the meat to the bowl and coat well. Cover and rest for 15 minutes of refrigerate up to 12 hours. 

2 pounds of 1″ cubed beef, chicken, or lamb

Season the meat. Thread the meat alternately with 2 onion wedge slices and 1 slice of zucchini, leaving 1/4″ of space between chunks.

salt and pepper

1/2 yellow onion, 2″ wedge slices

1/2 zucchini, 1/4″ slices

Season vegetables and toss with olive oil in a large bowl. Thread the vegetables alternately with 2 onion wedge slices onto skewers, leaving 1/4″ of space between chunks.

1/2 yellow onion, 2″ wedge slices

1-1/2 zucchini, 1″ chunks

8 cremini or 2 portobello mushrooms, 1″ chunks

1 pint cherry tomatoes

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Grill over high heat for 4-6 minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade before turning. Serve with tzatziki (below) and warm naan (see March).


Tzatziki Sauce

makes 2 cups (1/4 cup servings) of sauce

Combine in a medium bowl, whisking well between each addition. Refrigerate covered and use within 5 days.

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh mnt

2 tablespoons fresh dill

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup peeled, seeded and shredded cucumber

3 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon lemon juice


 Other yummy on-a-stick variations include (1″ chunks):

  • Chicken breast with eggplant, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, seasonings
  • Chicken thighs with yam, pineapple, teriyaki seasonings
  • Chicken thighs with summer squash, cherry tomato, mushroom, onion, seasonings
  • Pork tenderloin, yellow and red bell peppers, lemon, seasonings

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