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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2003

Summer sizzlers

Grilled Chicken and Grape Skewers.
Grilled Chicken and Grape Skewers.
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Bask in the glow of the Fourth of July by entertaining with a kabob party.

Plenty of new kabob recipes will leave you time to relax or join in the celebration. From skewered foods with names like kabobs, satays, or Italian spiedini, the combination of flavorful spices and grilling appeals to hosts and guests alike.

There's an international flavor to this method of grilling small pieces of food. Assorted spices, rubs, and marinades give a global feel to what has become the American plate.

Maybe it's because kabobs are bite-size and fun to eat. If the meat is tender, some folks eat appetizer-size versions right off the stick at cocktail or grazing parties. For sit-down dinners, the cook can remove the skewers before serving to make the grilled morsels easier to handle with a knife and a fork.

Grilled Chicken and Grape Skewers is one of those versatile recipes that can be served as an entr e on 12-inch skewers or as an appetizer on 6-inch skewers. Flavored with a marinade of garlic, chili flakes, oregano, rosemary, and lemon zest, the chunks of chicken are alternated with green grapes for bursts of sweetness.

For the cook, cutting the meat or poultry into bite-size cubes or strips works with a variety of flavors.

Grilled Beef Kabobs Over Rice is marinated with Italian salad dressing. You could call it the backyard version of one-pot cooking. Marinated beef is alternated on skewers with chunks of red bell pepper, onion, small zucchini, small yellow squash, and green bell pepper.

Other veggies that can be mixed with beef, pork, or poultry include mushrooms, tomato, chunks of corn on the cob, or new potatoes.

Securing the food on a skewer keeps the small pieces from falling through the grate whether you use metal skewers or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water.

Note that bamboo skewers often char during grilling.

Also, metal skewers help transmit heat to the interior of the meat, poultry, and vegetables.

Grilling calls for strong flavors.

Create Italian Spiedini skewers with pork tenderloin marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. Red bell pepper and onion kabobs are perfect with the pork. Serve on Italian bread.

Satays may be marinated cubes or thin strips of meat or poultry threaded on a skewer.

For an Indonesian satay, thread strips of pork tenderloin marinated in peanut sauce on bamboo skewers and grill quickly. Rice and a cucumber and yogurt salad are tasty complements.

The Argentine version of pesto is called chimichurri, which combines flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Marinate meat or poultry in chimichurri for an hour or two before cooking and then skewer and grill. Vegetable skewers of precooked sweet potato and poblano chili pepper chunks complete the menu with black beans and rice.

For Chinese kabobs, marinate the meat or poultry in a Chinese-style barbecue sauce alongside kabobs of pineapple, green peppers, and scallions.

Whatever version of kabobs you select, try the following steps:

w If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes to prevent charring on the grill.

w Cut meat or poultry into 3/4 to 1-inch cubes for even cooking. Thin strips of meat or poultry can be threaded.

w Cook over direct, medium-hot fire. Watch closely and turn frequently to prevent burning.

w Meat kabobs may take less time to cook than vegetable and fruit kabobs. Plan cooking times accordingly. Keep cooked kabobs warm on grill rack opposite fire.

w When grilling chicken kabobs, grill them over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes until the chicken is opaque throughout but juicy. Turn 3 to 4 times, brushing the chicken lightly with cooked sauce or marinade each time.

Note that there are vegetable kabobs like the skewered precooked sweet potato pieces suggested to accompany chimichurri. Ripe plantain can be peeled and cut into 1-inch thick pieces and threaded with marinated chicken onto skewers.

Grilling is said to bring out the “meatiness” of mushrooms while adding a delicious smoky taste. Mushrooms can be threaded onto metal kabob skewers or two-pronged metal skewers. To prevent them from sticking, marinate them in a mixture that includes oil or brush them with a flavored oil before placing them on the grill.

To grill fruit kabobs, use firm fruit, as softer fruit turns mushy. Firm pears, peaches, nectarines, pineapple slices, and whole bananas can be grilled. Take care not to overcook them.

There are so many possibilities among foods, spices, and marinades. Whatever you select, your dinner will sizzle.

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