We’ve been invited to a cookout next week with a kebab theme: The hosts are providing snacks, drinks, skewers, and grill. Guests are bringing food to be impaled. Neither Will nor I were much in the mood to work today, so we had a spirited e-conversation to determine what our contribution will be. We came up with a lot of good ideas, so I thought it would be fun to provide an abridged transcript here to give my readers some ideas for their own summer suppers:

Will: I want to create a shish kebob that has pineapple on it. Pineapple gets yummy and caramelized when you grill it.

Red Squirrel: Mmm–the cliched pairing would be pork, but I think beef and red onions would be a nice twist. Maybe even shrimp–or how about a shrimp and mango skewer?

W: Great. Steak, red onion, and pineapple; shrimp, mango, and ______. I’m trying to think of something that would harmonize not only in flavor, but also in texture and appearance. Perhaps something with a little kick–what about a mild chili pepper?

RS: I was thinking the same thing. Maybe poblano? That’s my new favorite secret ingredient. For both combos, I think a basic lime-garlic-cilantro marinade would be nice.

W: I think lime, garlic, and a little olive oil would be a good marinade for both. For the shrimp, we add cilantro. But for the steak? Tarragon. Yup, I said tarragon. (Or should it be chervil? Esquire editor A.J. Jacobs used to say that chervil was the funniest herb. After much back-and-forth, he agreed with me that fenugreek is the funniest spice.) Actually, a little red wine in the steak marinade might be nice, too. And Pernod for the shrimp!!

RS: No, I don’t think red wine would be good–think of the pineapple! Tarragon might work as the herb–it goes well with fruit (surprisingly yummy with fresh figs). If you want some alcohol in there, how about tequila in the shrimp marinade or rum in the steak one? Whoa–if you’re thinking shrimp + Pernod, how about making shrimp, fennel, and mango?

W: The shrimp combo is rock solid w/fennel and a citrus/Pernod marinade. Done and done! Now what if we moved the poblanos over to the pineapple and steak? Would that be too conceptually cluttered? I think you’re probably right about the booze.

RS: I think the rum should be nixed if we put poblanos on the steak skewer. Somehow I think that would be a weird combo. But I’m digging the idea of steak/pineapple/red onion with rum/lime/garlic. No herbs.

W: Fair enough. What kind of rum? A dark rum would impart more flavor once the alcohol evaporated off. Or what about bourbon?

RS: Hm, that’s intriguing–bourbon or dark rum would work equally well, depending on whether you’re going for a tropical or American flavor. I think tarragon should go back in the mix if we go with bourbon. Or how’s this for a kooky mix: steak, fresh green figs, and red onions in a bath of bourbon, tarragon, and garlic?

W: I like your kooky mix. Sounds fun, plus we Greeks dig the figs.

RS: Oh, and a final tweak to the shrimp idea: shallots instead of garlic in the marinade. I think garlic would fight too much with the Pernod.

W: Nice. Shallots will be good. So it’s

– Shrimp, mango, and fennel marinated in Pernod, lime, and shallots
– Skirt steak, green figs, and red onion marinated in bourbon, taragon, and garlic

A little olive oil in both marinades?

RS: Yes on everything, except I think the steak combo should also have shallots instead of garlic. Ooh–maybe toss chives into the shrimp marinade, too?


W: We got excited about shish kebobs.

RS: I’m hungry.