Kebabs: 101 and Cooking Challenge

I recently resumed my sojourn through all the episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations by watching the Berlin episode. I expected to see footage of beer, sausages, and quirky art explorations, but I wasn’t prepared to see a segment on Turkish food.

I learned from the episode that there has been a sizable Turkish population in Germany for decades. After showing locals play a Turkish domino game in a men’s club, there was a lengthy homage to kebabs.

I learned from the episode and some Internet sleuthing that there are three classes of kebabs (also spelled “kabobs” or “kebobs”): kebabs on a  skewer, called shish kebabs (“shish” means “skewer”), doner kebab, which is sliced meat, and kebabs made of ground meat fashioned into sausage shapes; they can be grilled off or on a skewer, or sauteed in a pan. The meat in the various kinds of kebabs can be worked over with a wet marinade or a tantalizing combo of dry spices. (Interesting trivia: Wikipedia spins a fable of shish kebabs being created by Persian soldiers who roasted meat on their swords, but this 1995 Ocala Star-Banner article disagrees–and provides some kebab recipes, to boot.)

I am a big proponent of grilling, and what better time of year to make kebabs than now?

Here are some kebabs I’ve made in the past. Not a lengthy list:

  • Chicken breast or lean beef (marinated in a Mediterranean herb blend, a little olive oil and red wine vinegar), onions and red and green peppers
  • This kofta kebab recipe, with lean ground beef. It was delicious, and it comes with a recipe for tzatziki sauce, the cucumber-based sauce that often comes with Greek food.

But I have a set of skewers, and I’m willing to learn and experiment. This inspires me to set up another cooking challenge for myself: a kebab recipe a week this summer. Check this space to see what’s up on the menu! (And if you decide to take up the challenge on your own, let me know what you come up with!)


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