It sounds a bit masochistic, but we enjoy making an elaborate production out of our Sunday dinners. We occasionally have friends over as guests to share our end-of-the-weekend last hurrah, but most weekends it’s just me and Will at the dinner table (with our dog Katie underneath, playing footsies with us and hoping for scraps which she knows she won’t get). Regardless of whether or not we have other guests, these multi-course dinners are planned in advance: shopping completed, dessert baked, and appropriate wine picked out before we start our actual dinner prep. Usually.
This past Sunday, we got behind. Between attending to stacks of grading and a condo gone amuck with weekday clutter, we discovered that we had done no food shopping for our Sunday dinner by the time it was 5pm. Luckily, we were able to raid our refrigerator and our pantry—where part of our clutter resides. After we took stock of what items were possible candidates for a main course, we ran into a slight timing issue. We had plenty of frozen meats (from chicken parts, pork loin chops, to even a tenderloin roast!), but none would defrost quickly (and naturally) enough. For fast defrosting, we rely on seafood, but we had just enough for half of a shrimp entrée or for half of a scallops entrée.
Since the weather was relatively balmy for end of February in Chicago, we wanted to grill. So we looked for inspiration from our go-to grill guru, Steve Raichlen, whose Barbecue Bible and How to Grill ought to be required readings for all would-be grill hosts. His “Latin Quarter Shrimp Kebabs” sounded good—and luckily we did have enough vegetables for kebabs—but we didn’t have enough shrimp for both of us (and our requisite leftovers). Then Will reminded me that we threw away our bamboo skewers in a hasty fit of de-cluttering. Thus, out of necessity, invention emerged!
Here’s what we ended up doing for our Dinner Challenge: “Deconstructed Seafood Kebabs.”
For the oil:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in halves or quarters
For the herb salt:
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
For the Deconstructed Kebabs:
12 large shrimp (21-25 count), shelled and deveined
6 large sea scallops, side mussels removed, and cut in half (leaving smaller scallops whole)
1 medium or ½ large red onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
1 medium or ½ large green pepper, cut up into 1½-2 inch pieces
1 lemon, with ½ of the lemon cut into 8 pieces and reserving the other half
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, or 1 large tomato cut into 8 pieces
1 large naan bread
1. After starting the grill to pre-heat, warm olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and rosemary sprig, and let cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Then turn off heat and let the garlic and herb infuse the oil while you prepare the rest of the dish.
2. In a grill-safe basket, layer all the “kebab” components in a single layer. Drizzle some of the infused olive oil over the seafood and veggies, and then sprinkle some of the herbed salt over the oil. Toss with a large spoon to distribute the oil and salt evenly.
3. Place basket over the pre-heated grill. Toss a few times over medium-high heat so that the seafood and veggies cook (ideally even getting a little charred in parts). Really, the seafood shouldn’t take too long to cook, and the vegetables are more pleasant if they maintain a crispness along with the char. Cooking should take about 5-10 minutes, depending on your grill. You can drizzle some more oil and sprinkle some more herbed salt as you cook, and feel free to cut open a piece of seafood for doneness.
4. Push the grill basket off to the side and away from the flame (or just take off the heat) and place naan on the grill and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side to warm the naan and to get some char marks. As soon as you take the naan off the grill, brush with some herbed oil and sprinkle some herbed salt. Repeat with the oil and salt over the seafood kebabs.
Serve with a cannellini bean, tomato, and cucumber salad with diced red onions and parsley, and a dressing made from the remaining half lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper. This salad will nicely complement the lemony and Mediterranean herb scents of the kebabs. You can also use pita bread (which was Steve Raichlen’s original recommendation), but we had naan around and loved the resulting soft, chewy, charred, and herbed result.