Kabobing with Greeks

According to the calendar, the season of spring began on March 19 this year, a day earlier than usual, and in a leap year as well.

Overall, the year 2020 has been a challenge for its first four months, and we’re all wondering where the reset button is. Weatherwise, many states, including Utah, were still seeing cold temperatures, snow, and hail.

Then May 1 came, Beltane, the midpoint between the beginning of spring and summer. The ancient Celtic meaning is “bright fire,” so what better way to celebrate is there than to barbecue?

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing and rules of engagement constantly changing, it can be difficult to cope in a positive way.

Go outside! Yes, you can still be safe at home in your own backyard, on the front lawn, on the balcony, or on the patio.

Look up and see the clouds. What forms can you imagine? Look at the plant life, flowering buds on the trees, small leaves unfolding to capture dew drops and shafts of sunlight.

This is personal, mental, and emotional nourishment – food for the mind and soul. With the body itself, it’s time to fire up the grill and imagine the culinary possibilities...of cooking food, not your body!

Come on now – no one can possibly be at the point of cannibalism yet!

Let’s take it to the Greeks and grill up kabobs, or what they refer to as Souvlaki.

Souvlaki (plural is Souvlakia) is a diminutive of the Greek souvla (spit), and there is evidence that cooking with skewers originated in Greece.

One excavation of the archaeological site Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini revealed stone sets of barbecues for skewers (Greek: krateutai) used before the 17th century BCE.

Alright kiddies: quiz time. Akrotiri was a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the volcanic Greek island of Santorini (Thera). What mythological creature lived in a maze underneath the king’s palace?

Insert Jeopardy theme music... Time’s up! The Minotaur!

Back to Souvlaki.Small pieces of meat or poultry and sometimes vegetables are grilled on a skewer. The grilled food can be eaten right off the skewer or pulled off and placed on a warm pita bread to make a sandwich.

If you’re looking more for a dinner entree, place the Souvlaki over rice or orzo (pasta-shaped like rice). The warm pita bread broken into pieces can act as a utensil.

This is a simple and easy meal that can be prepared for sports-oriented children (once those begin again). Get them home after their event and, while they are cleaning up, you can put this healthy meal together for them.

You can use chicken, firm cuts of seafood, or pork instead of beef. Vegetarians can indulge by substituting tofu or chunks of beefytasting Portobella (also spelled Portabella or Portobello) mushrooms for the protein, plus adding a larger variety of vegetables.

The marinade for the Souvlakia is simply lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, and garlic. The lemon juice helps break down the connective tissue in the proteins and tenderness is assured after grilling or oven roasting. For my recipe, I added capers for a little twang on the tongue.

Beef and Vegetable Souvlaki

Ingredients:

1 lb. beef cubes, trimmed of fat; 1 lb. mini sweet peppers, cut in half and seeded; 1 large onion, chopped; ½ lb. small button mushrooms; ¼ cup lemon juice; ½ cup olive oil; 2 Tbsp. minced garlic; ½ tsp. each of fine sea salt and ground black pepper; 2 Tbsp. minced parsley; 1 tsp. capers

Preparation:

In a large plastic container, combine all ingredients thoroughly; seal and refrigerate overnight.

If grilling, alternate beef cubes and vegetables on skewers. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes first to avoid burning. Place on a medium-high preheated grill; cook for 6 minutes before turning skewers. Cook another six minutes before serving.

If roasting, preheat oven to 450F. Place beef, vegetables, and remaining marinade into a large roasting pan or onto a large jelly roll pan in a single layer.

Cook for three minutes, turn beef; repeat. On third turn of beef, also turn vegetables (this will allow the beef and vegetables to caramelize). Turn beef a fourth time; cook for three minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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