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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Quick summer meal

Please welcome my guest chef, Judy Copek. An information systems nerd for twenty-plus years, Judy is a survivor of Dilbert-like re-engineering projects, 3:00 a.m. computer crashes and the Millennium Bug. In her writing, she likes to show technology’s humor and quirkiness along with its scary aspects.
Occasionally Judy takes a vacation that spins off into a novel. World of Mirrors was born when Judy and her husband visited the Baltic island of Rugen shortly after the reunification of East and West Germany. Time stood still on the idyllic island, yet all the elements of suspense were there: the Soviet Navy, ex-Stasi, Vietnamese “guest workers,” a dog that had formerly patrolled the Wall, and bad vibes from the days of the DDR.
 Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, New England Pen, and Toastmasters International. She has published poems, short stories and memoir as well as an earlier novel, The Shadow Warriors.
Sometimes one needs to produce a tasty meal when the “to do” list is long and devoting a lot of time to the task is impossible. Steak on the grill?  What about veggies? Salad? Dessert?

 Browsing through the newspaper ads, I saw shish-kebab meat on sale for $3.99 and I recalled an excellent recipe from days of yore, a recipe I have kept for over thirty years and still resurrect at least once a year. When I found the recipe, it was only for the marinade, not the cooking itself, with a cryptic note: Marinate 2 hours. 

 Not only did our local supermarket have the meat on sale, they had red bell peppers, baby bella whole mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and Vidalia onions on sale, too. I had some cooked rice in the freezers and a whole garden full of fresh herbs. Lots of lettuce, and a ready-made piecrust with some fresh rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries.  The fastest dessert ever is a crostata. 

 I’d make rice aux fines herbes, (sauté herbs with a little spring onion and garlic, add rice and heat). We are talking easy here.

 Sad experience has taught me that the vegetables I use for kebabs don’t always cook evenly. What happens is that the tomatoes fall off the skewers and the onion and peppers are half-cooked. A remedy is at hand. But first:  the ever-important marinade.

 Shish-Kebab Marinade for four shish kebabs

 Juice of ½ lemon

1/3 c. olive oil

½ cup sherry  (you can use white vermouth if no sherry)

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

1 T. salt  (I use about half that much).

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 t. curry powder

1 clove garlic (I’ll use two and smash them)

½ t. ground ginger  (by all means use fresh if you have it—this recipe predates assuming you can get fresh ginger)

1 small onion grated

Mix everything together in a large bowl, add cubed meat and toss. Marinate two hours.  Refrigerate, but remove ½ hour before you plan to grill.  Drain meat. There’s something about this combination of ingredients in the marinade that makes me keep coming back to it.

 About the grilling:

Cook the meat, the tomatoes, the onions and the red (you can use any color) pepper on separate skewers. This solves the problem of the overcooked tomatoes and undercooked onions. We remove everything from the skewers and serve meat and veggies together on a large wooden platter. 

 Let’s review the menu:

Shish kebab with onions, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes

Rice aux fines herbes (chives, thyme, oregano and a leaf or two of sage)

Green salad (your favorite lettuce)

Crostata of rhubarb, raspberries and strawberries

For the crostata, I always mix sugar to taste and either cornstarch or instant tapioca with the fruit so the juices don’t run all over creation. This is the time to line your baking sheet with baking paper for easy cleaning and ten put pie dish on the baking sheet. 

 The meat is lean and you’re ingesting lots of fruits and vegetables. Tastes terrific, too! 
Bon Appétit!





  1. Thanks for being here, Judy. I love that you use tapioca--my mom taught me that trick, and I even throw a handful into meatloaf before baking. Marinade sounds delicious.

    1. The minute tapioca is so useful for thickening. Of course, our old friend cornstarch works, too, but I like tapioca. Never though of using it for meatloaf!!!! Marinade is delicious. Hope you'll try it.

  2. Judy, just the right time for your recipe. We'll have veggie kabobs with other meats today.

    1. Veggie kebabs rock. Grilling season was really welcome this year in New England after our long, cold winter. There's almost nothing you can't grill: fruit, meatloaf, whatever.

  3. Replies
    1. It's an ancient recipe, but always reliable. We had unexpected company, and the gentleman, a gourmet cook, was very appreciative of his meal. Dessert was a big hit, too. Well, isn't it always?

    2. It is delicious and actually not much work if you have a family member who mans the grill. I use a Pillbury pie crust for the fruit and that takes mere minutes. Lots of time, then, to make a salad and rice. Love having fresh herbs in the garden, finally.

  4. Love your tips, June! Your marinade sounds similar to one I found in a Williams-Sonoma catalog for Moroccan chicken tadjeen with its lemon juice and curry. I can't wait till I can try yours!

  5. Oooh! You don't eat the whole elephant do you? :) Yes, the curry adds something to the marinade. I have to take care because I use a HOT curry powder. I buy a lot of spices from Penzeys Spices, and they have everything you ever heard of and them some.

  6. Just got back from a long weekend in Montreal where the food was delicious and different. The latest appetizer was sauteed mushrooms with a poached egg! We didn't try any poutine (cheese curds on French fries with beef gravy over all. Tempting, but probably a calorie bomb. The Botanic Garden was great (with a nice little restaurant) and the Old Town with its sidewalk cafes overlooking the river were most welcome after a long hike through town.