chicken and shrimp kabobs


Kabob dinner

My husband wanted an easy dinner.  That meant he didn’t want a lot of clean up.  We both went through our mental Rolodex (do they make those anymore?) of what we had eaten the last few times together as a family, and since we had recently covered the meat and pasta thing pretty well, I suggested kabobs and brown rice.  I had also been wanting to sneak shrimp back into meals, after my family had boycotted them for some reason, and felt this was a good opportunity to do so.  I got out all my metal grilling sticks, and all the ingredients on the counter and was ready to “throw this together”.  The problem with kabobs and “throwing this together”, is when a Type A personality has to make them.  Give a controlling, detailed oriented, anal retentive person a stick, and tell them to figure out a pattern using a variety of vegetables, shellfish and chicken – you are not setting yourself up for an “easy dinner”.  You are setting yourself up for wondering why it is 8:15, the grill hasn’t been lit yet, and you’re trying to make sure you don’t have an oddball kabob with an uneven amount of zucchini on it.  Oh and there are to be NO helpers in making the kabobs, because everyone else does it wrong.  This last go-round, my darling husband noticed that my kabobs looked color coded and mentioned something about being hungry, which was totally lost on me in the heat of spacing my chicken on the stick at 1/8″ spacing increments, so that they didn’t touch (so the heat circulated…a Bobby Flay tip gone to my head).  I saw my husband trying to put a green bell pepper with a red grape tomato, and it took all I had not to stab his hand.  He could sense the rework of the kabob that was about to take place, and so he chose to find another sporting event on television he otherwise would not watch, until my tetris-like kabobs were completed.
I don’t know what it is.  I like kabobs, and on the surface, they should be easy.  I guess it’s just me.  So I make sure I leave plenty of time to assemble, in case I am having one of those days where six grape tomatoes is just right on a stick and seven is too many.  Over the years, I have had plenty of experiences with the chicken being too dry, the mushrooms burnt to little nuggets and the squash raw, so at least now I know to put like items on a stick.  Armed with this information has made both kabob assembly and grilling a bit smoother, and my man looking at me a bit less like a crazy woman.  (Ok that will never change, but he married me!)

more veggiesveggie kabobs

chicken and shrimp kabobs:

1  lb. shrimp, shelled (I like the 26-30 ct size)
4  chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
8  oz package cremini mushrooms, halved if large
1  medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4″ thick pieces
1  medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4″ thick pieces
1  package grape tomatoes
1  large Vidalia onion, cut into 1″ chunks
1  green bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1  large red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1  head radicchio, halved and cut into wedges
3  lemons
1  16 oz. bottle Ken’s Lite Caesar dressing
metal or wooden skewers
Louisiana Hot Sauce

chicken and shrimp

get started on the kabobs:

Place the chicken and shrimp in a medium bowl or in a resealable bag.  Add half the bottle of caesar dressing.  Toss to coat.  Place all the vegetables except for the radicchio in a large bowl and add the remaining dressing.  Toss to coat.  Let everything marinate for 15 – 30 minutes.  If using wooden skewers, you need to pre-soak them so they don’t burn on the grill.  Light your grill and oil the grates.  Start skewering like items.  Skewer all the chicken together – leaving a small bit of space in between so it cooks evenly.   Then the skewer the shrimp – I skewer through the tail and then again through the body of the shrimp so they stay more secure.  Then skewer the squash together, and so on.  Add the radicchio and the onions onto skewers. You can even throw the lemons on a stick or directly on the grill.  Use them afterward to juice onto all the grilled meat and veggies.

skewersmushrooms and onions
Place the chicken skewers and squash skewers on the grill first.  After a few minutes, add the remaining vegetable skewers.  After turning the chicken and veggies, add the shrimp skewers.  Do not use leftover marinade from shrimp and chicken to baste anything on the grill – but you can use anything left over from the veggie bowl.  Take food off the grill as it reaches its level of doneness.  Use a cooking thermometer to check the chicken – 155 degrees it can come off the grill and under some foil to finish cooking.
Cook up some brown rice or couscous and squeeze the lemons and shake on some hot sauce, and you have fed 4 hungry people easy.

 grilled veggiesfoiled up

dig in

note: feeds four with leftovers.

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ratatouille spirals


Ratatouille Spirals

In a weird way, I think this dish is representative of me.  It is a dish that tries to please everyone.  It looks complicated, but is really straight forward.  And you are committed to it, even though it is a bit of a pain in the ass to make.  I saw this recipe in a magazine and knew right away I needed to make it.  I haven’t mastered it yet, because I think the proportions are off a little with both the veggies and/or the size of the pan, but nevertheless, it is still a good dish.  The first time I made it, I followed the recipe and used the anchovies.  The dish got an F.  The kids were coughing and dry heaving, and then my husband, because he still is a child, did the same. So, obviously the anchovies didn’t dissolve, and ruined the dish (for us).  My suggestion to pick around the anchovies got tossed about as fast as the dish did.  How was I ever going to bring back my dish that I was in love with for the strangest reasons?  Thankfully, the opportunity came up when my cooking soul mate called, and we decided to make dinner reservations.  As the night out drew closer, we made the convenient excuse to just get together and cook a meal ourselves.  We met to go food shopping for a menu that was basically nonexistent, with the exception of the spirals I was making.  But at 5:30pm, in the cheese aisle, our menu took shape.  I think that if we didn’t have a clock or a liver, we could have cooked all night.  Ok, so maybe just not a clock…kidding.  So after the cooking marathon, the hour on the clock told us we were tired and the empty bottles of wine signaled the immediacy of going to bed.  However, we had successfully made stuffed jalapeños with Brie, caramelized onion and mushroom ravioli, and of course, I got to make my spirals again.  This time, I substituted fresh basil for the anchovies.  I still didn’t fill the pan with spirals, but what I could fill was my belly and my fridge full of left overs!

zucchini slices

ratatouille spirals  (adapted from Bon Appetit)

3  lbs beefsteak tomatoes, scored with an “X” on the bottoms
3  TB extra virgin olive oil
1  medium onion, diced
2  large garlic cloves, minced
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2  cups cubed country bread
2 1/2  lbs medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
2 1/2  lbs small japanese or italian eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
3  roasted bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
20 – 24  fresh basil leaves
1  lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 x 2 inch sticks
freshly grated parmesan cheese

get started on the spirals:

scored tomatoes

In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds.  Drain them and then slip off the skins and halve the tomatoes crosswise.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes, keeping the juices and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large skillet, heat 2 TB of the oil.  Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and juices and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook while stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 TB of olive oil.  Toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden.
In a colander, toss the zucchini and eggplant with 2 TB of kosher salt (can be done in separate colanders), and let drain for 15 minutes.  Shake out the excess liquid and pat the slices dry.
Spoon the tomato sauce into a shallow 2 1/2 qt. baking dish and scatter the bread cubes on top.

bread in sauce

On a clean work surface, top each zucchini slice with a slice of eggplant.  Blot dry if necessary.  Place a strip of roasted red pepper and then top with a basil leaf.  Place a stick of mozzarella at one end.  Sprinkle each stack with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roll up.  Stand the rolls in the baking dish and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

assembly line

Cover with parchment paper or foil.  Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender and the ratatouille is bubbling.  Remove the parchment paper halfway through baking.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

rolls

note:  this dish serves 8 people