Take This Stick and Grill It

Sometimes, at the end of a long week, we just don't want to think, even at the slower pace that a weekend allows.

I feel some of that brain sludge setting in myself, as I compose my weekend grocery list. What would be easy-breezy yet delicious? (Even those of us who cook and write about food for a living get weary.)

The answer: Get on the stick. Literally.

Pull out those skewers (wooden or metal, it doesn't matter) and thread 'em up with whatever you fancy: veggies, pineapple, chunks of tofu or fish, boneless chicken thighs, ground beef (for kubideh kebabs). The choices are endless!

A marinade need not be complicated; sometimes all those veggies need is a good brush of olive oil and a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper. Tofu likes to bathe in flavors overnight, even if it's simple soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil. Fish loves herbs and needn't be marinated in advance, as I explain in a kebab how-to video (Real Video file).

You don't need to turn on your brain for this Stick Chicken, Vietnamese style, which you marinate, throw into a Ziplock-style bag overnight and forget about until time to grill. If you're feeling ambitious, take a whopping five minutes to make this nuoc cham (Vietnamese fish sauce) dipping sauce. Definitely a cinch!

A few sticky notes to keep in mind:

Bamboo/wood skewers need to be soaked in water for about an hour before use, or they'll char up or even catch fire.

Keep like items on one skewer (All fish, all veg, etc), to help with even cooking. Likewise, when doing a veggie assortment, cut into similar shapes and shave down as necessary to have all items around the same size.

Oil-brush or spray grill grate to help minimize sticking.

If sticks have been sitting in a marinade, pat dry a bit to help minimize flame flare-ups and charring of your goodies.

Got a good stick to add to the fire? Share in the comments area below

By Kim ODonnel |  June 16, 2006; 11:38 AM ET Flames
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Don't forget the sugar cane! When split thin, it makes a great and flavorful skewer.

Posted by: Julian in Biloxi | June 16, 2006 12:27 PM

Do you think I could do skewers for a party for 10 people? Some chicken, some beef, some fish, and some veggie? Or would that be too much work and too many skewers?

Posted by: Katy | June 16, 2006 3:37 PM

Katy, estimate 2 skewers per person, perhaps 3. Depends how large your grill is and whether you're willing to grill in batches. The good part is that you can prep everything in advance; the work comes when it's time to grill. One other thing I didn't mention in my post is DON'T TURN MORE THAN TWICE. Fussed-over skewers end up looking like mangy dogs. Have fun.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 16, 2006 4:11 PM

Kim O'Donnell gives a recipe for Pesto with Garlic Scape....WHAT ARE GARLIC SCAPES ????? thank you A. Da Costa

Posted by: A. da Costa | June 17, 2006 2:29 AM

Da Costa, Please go here http://blog.washingtonpost.com/savoringsummer/2006/06/my_friend_the_garlic_scape_1.html
(under Seasonal Produce in the Archive area)
for all kinds of garlic scape fun. Briefly, the scape (or curl) is the shoot that grows out of the garlic bulb, first appearing as green and scallion-like, but if you don't cut it, will become hard and inedible. Maybe there's another name for it in Britain?

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 17, 2006 9:52 AM

a great marinade I made yesterday for chicken kabobs:
olive oil
fresh mint and cilantro
lemon juice
all mixed up in food processor. Sprinkle salt/pepper on top of chicken.

Posted by: EB | June 19, 2006 11:23 AM

This past weekend I did latin inspired "surf 'n turf" skewers. REAL simple. thin sliced flank steak in a lime, garlic, cumin marinade and shrimp in a pineapple, oil, garlic, (other stuff I'm forgetting) marinade. Put one end of the steak on the skewer, put a shrimp on top, thread the steak back over, another shrimp, then once more with the steak. Turned out well. The shrimp were a tad overdone, and the meat was a touch past medium, so it could have been cooked correctly, if I had the timing right.

Posted by: Hill Grill | June 20, 2006 11:36 AM

Do you have a recipe for cauliflower mash for those of us who are avoiding cream and copious quantities of butter?

Posted by: Jean | July 4, 2006 3:10 PM

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