Can't quite decide what to fix for dinner tonight? Try skewers. Thread something -- almost anything -- on a stick and all of a sudden the food just seems fun.
With yakitori, your options are seemingly endless. Food editor Russ Parsons did a piece on yakitori a few years back, and it's a perfect, laid-back approach to a meal, whether you're serving a backyard full of guests, or just the family. Check out his recipe for chicken thighs with yakitori sauce below.
For something on the lighter side, bread salad skewers with sherry vinaigrette from Matt Armendariz are bright, colorful and oh-so-flavorful. And wonderfully easy, whether you're entertaining a house full of guests or simply serving the usual suspects.
Or perhaps take advantage of the summer weather, and head outdoors cooking dinner on the grill. Whip up a quick batch of charmoula (a North African spice blend combining bright fresh flavors including lemon, garlic, ginger, cilantro, paprika and a little olive oil), then marinate some jumbo shrimp to infuse the flavor (the recipe calls for a couple of hours marinating time, but the flavor infuses in as little as 30 minutes). Skewer the shrimp and grill them a couple of minutes on each side, and you're good to go. Serve the rest of the charmoula tableside if you want to add a little extra flavor!
For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHICKEN THIGHS WITH YAKITORI SAUCE
Total time: 40 minutes, plus grill heating and preparation time
Note: You will need bamboo skewers.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/4 cup sake
1. Cut each chicken thigh crosswise into three pieces. In a medium bowl, prepare the yakitori sauce by combining the soy sauce, mirin and sake. Set aside 3 tablespoons in a separate bowl. Add the chicken pieces and marinate, refrigerated, for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Soak the bamboo skewers in water at least 20 minutes. Start a two-stage fire on the grill, mounding the hot coals to one side of the grill (this will be the hot side of the fire).
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserve the marinade for brushing on the chicken during grilling). Thread the thigh pieces onto the skewers, a couple of pieces at a time, one skewer at the top and one at the bottom of each piece for greater control while grilling.
4. Grill the skewers over a medium-high flame, turning occasionally and moving from the hot side of the grill to the cool side as necessary to avoid flare-ups. Just before the meat is done, brush the meat lightly with a little of the reserved marinade.
5. Cook until the chicken is cooked through but not dry, about 10 minutes total. Remove to a platter and serve.
Each serving: 229 calories; 27 grams protein; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 11 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 99 mg. cholesterol; 259 mg. sodium.
PANZANELLA WITH SHERRY VINAIGRETTE
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12 skewers
Note: Adapted from "On a Stick!" by Matt Armendariz.
24 (1-inch) cubes French bread (from approximately ½ loaf)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch black pepper
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons stone-ground mustard
24 cherry tomatoes
24 small mozzarella balls (ciliegine)
24 basil leaves
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Toast the bread: In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic powder, one-half teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until golden, 10 to 12 minutes, turning every few minutes.
2. Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar with the shallot and mustard. Slowly whisk in the remaining three-fourths cup olive oil to emulsify. Season with one-eighth teaspoon salt, or to taste.
3. Onto each skewer, thread 2 toasted cubes of bread, 2 tomatoes, 2 mozzarella balls and 2 basil leaves. Just before serving, drizzle liberally with sherry vinaigrette.
Each skewer: 241 calories; 5 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; .66 gram fiber; 20 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 1 gram sugar; 222 mg sodium.
GRILLED SHRIMP SKEWERS WITH CHARMOULA
Total time: 15 minutes, plus marinating time
Servings: 2 to 4
Note: This recipe calls for bamboo skewers.
1 pound cleaned, tail-on jumbo shrimp (12 to 16)
Charmoula (see recipe), divided
1 large lemon, sliced crosswise into 1/8 -inch slices
Oil for the grill
1. Combine the shrimp and one-third cup charmoula in a large nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Ten minutes before removing the shrimp from the refrigerator, soak the bamboo skewers in water to prevent the wood from burning.
2. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and thread with the lemon slices onto the prepared bamboo skewers.
3. Heat the grill over medium-high heat. When the grill is hot, oil the rack and place the skewers on top. Grill the skewers until the shrimp are puffy, pink and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve immediately with the remaining charmoula sauce.
Each of 4 servings: 172 calories; 18 grams protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 168 mg. cholesterol; 218 mg. sodium.CharmoulaTotal time: 20 minutes
Servings: Makes scant 1 cup
Note: Store the charmoula for up to 1 week, refrigerated, in an airtight jar or plastic bag.4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika
Pinch cayenne powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 dried bay leaf, crumbled
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Using a mortar and pestle, or in the bowl of a food processor, grind the garlic and ginger to a paste. Add the chopped parsley, cilantro and lemon zest and coarsely mash. Stir in the lemon juice. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, cumin, bay leaf and saffron and grind to incorporate.
2. Slowly pour in the olive oil while blending to form an emulsion, then stir in the salt. Adjust the seasoning as necessary, then cover and refrigerate at least 1 day before using.
Each tablespoon: 64 calories; 0 protein; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 38 mg. sodium.