Dinner on a Stick

Recipes by Nancy Johnson
Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

Nothing says summer better than a sizzling kebab from the grill. There is an art to preparing skewered food so that the vegetables cook through and the meat doesn’t turn to charcoal. First, cut the meat into large 2-inch chunks. Then, choose vegetables that will cook at about the same pace as the meat. Zucchini, cherry tomatoes, small mushrooms and soft fruits will usually brown in sync with tender meat. Peppers, potatoes, onions and other slower-cooking items may need to be parboiled or cooked on a separate skewer over indirect heat. Take advantage of the grill’s side burner to parboil or sauté accompaniments. If using wooden skewers, soak in cold water for one hour to avoid scorching on the grill.

GaryNancy’s advice against scorching is appropriate, as charred food and vegetables can bring out bitter flavors in both the food and the wine. Remember that overcooking can also easily ruin seafood and that any food will continue to cook until it cools. Keep in mind the impact that bastes, marinades, flavorings, seasonings, herbs, sauces and condiments will have on the flavor of your entrée, and take that into account when choosing wine.

Remember that sweetness in the food can make your wine seem tannic or drier and harsh. As the weather warms serve both whites and reds cooler than normal as they will show better, be more refreshing, and will retain an appropriate service temperature in the glass longer in the heat. As always, the wine/food match is focused on the main entrée or course being served, not the side dishes.

Grilled Beef Kebabs

Sauté mushrooms, peppers and onions on the side burner. A sliced tomato salad with a drizzle of buttermilk ranch dressing is a nice accompaniment. The steak can also be threaded with a slice of bacon that has been lightly sautéed. Place the bacon on the skewer first and weave around the beef chunks.

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup beef broth
1/3 cup olive oil
3 TBSP tomato paste (freeze the rest)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 lbs top sirloin steak, cut into 2-inch chunks

In a food processor, process onion, garlic, beef broth, tomato paste, salt, sugar and pepper until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix beef and marinade together. Marinate, refrigerated, for 1 hour. Remove meat from marinade. Discard marinade. Thread meat onto skewers. Grill over medium high heat 15 minutes or until medium rare and lightly charred, turning skewers every few minutes. Serves 4.

Gary – I would look for a soft red wine with expansive flavors for this entrée, but any dry red wine that fits your tastes will work. A good Côtes du Rhône/Garnacha, Bordeaux/Cabernet/Merlot or red blend, Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz, Aglianico, Zinfandel or Tempranillo would enhance the meat and be pleasant to sip while you enjoy the meal, company and weather.

Grilled Lemon Shrimp with Baby Red Potatoes

Try to find colossal shrimp for this dish, ideally weighing in at about 14 – 15 shrimp per pound. Serve this elegant entrée with Grilled Baby Red Potatoes (recipe follows) and Caesar salad.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP lemon zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
24 (about 1 1/2 lbs) colossal shrimp with tails, peeled and deveined

In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Whisk in olive oil. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour. Thread 6 shrimp on each of 4 long skewers. Discard marinade. Grill shrimp over medium heat 2-3 minutes per side or until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Serves 4.

GaryI would echo the lemon flavor in the marinade by choosing a crisp and flavorful white wine. Riesling made in a softly dry style from Australia, Alsace, Germany, Oregon, California or Ohio would be a good match, as would be a crisp, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc/Sancerre, Chardonnay or Grüner Veltliner. A dry Chenin Blanc/Savennières or crisp Italian white would also be a very enjoyable and pleasant paring.

Grilled Baby Red Potatoes

The potatoes are boiled before grilling to speed along cooking time. Change the flavor by omitting the paprika and adding dried or fresh thyme, oregano or rosemary to the marinade.

1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs baby red potatoes

In a large bowl, mash garlic and salt together. Mix in mustard, lemon juice and paprika. Whisk in olive oil. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp salt to water. Add potatoes and boil for 10 minutes or until just beginning to become tender. Drain. While still warm, cut potatoes in half. Toss potatoes with the garlic/oil mixture. Marinate 30 minutes at room temperature. Remove potatoes from marinade and place in a grill basket. Grill over medium heat 10 minutes per side or until tender and browned. Serves 4.

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