Green chicken kebabs get their color from a marinade made with cilantro and green hot Thai chilies. (Reshma Seetharam / For The Herald)

Sounds of summer: Sizzle these kebabs on your backyard grill

Summer barbecues and sizzling kebabs are synonymous to me.

Kebabs are a very popular dish in India, so I grew up eating them. Hearing them sizzle on the grill brings me back to my schooldays.

When I make kebabs, I make them the traditional way by threading small pieces of meat onto a skewer, alternating those with colorful chunks of bell pepper, onion and tomato. (I also make vegetarian kebabs with paneer, an Indian cheese.)

The key to making juicy kebabs is to marinate the meat in flavor-rich spices and juices. My wet marinades typically are made with lime juice, yogurt, hot green Thai chilies, ginger garlic paste, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

I make my own ginger garlic paste. I buy ginger and garlic fresh, peel and chop them, lightly roast them in oil, and then grind them into a paste. This paste can be stored in the fridge and used in a variety of dishes.

Meat tastes best when cooked on the grill, but grilled mushrooms, tofu, paneer, corn and vegetables taste equally good!

Here are some of my favorite kebab recipes.

Green chicken kebabs

Chicken kebabs are low in fat and make an excellent appetizer or light lunch. Serve them with cucumber slices and ranch dressing.

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

½ teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon white pepper powder

A handful of fresh cilantro leaves

6-8 green hot Thai chilies, finely chopped

¼ cup yogurt

4 teaspoons lime juice

Salt to taste

For the skewers:

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces

1-2 bell peppers, cut into large chunks

1 onion, cut into large chunks

1-2 tomatoes, cut into large chunks

Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. With a blender, turn the marinating ingredients into a paste. Pour the marinade into the bag and massage it into the chicken with the bag zipped. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Marinate chicken in the fridge overnight for even better flavor.

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Thread the marinated chicken onto skewers, alternating it with bell pepper, onion and tomato. Brush or spray the skewers with cooking oil.

On the grill: Place skewers on a preheated grill for 8-10 minutes, turning frequently, until cooked through and lightly browned. Squeeze some fresh lime juice on the chicken. Serve kebabs with a platter of cucumber slices and raw onion rings and a ranch or plain yogurt dip.

In the oven: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place kebabs on a greased tray. Bake them for 20-22 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the skewers so that the chicken is lightly browned on both sides.

Sweet and spicy grilled shrimp

These sweet and spicy skewers will have your mouth watering for more. They cook best on an open grill.

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon red chili or cayenne powder

1 teaspoon white pepper powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

4 tablespoons lime juice

Salt to taste

For the skewers:

2 pounds fresh or frozen large, uncooked shrimp, de-veined, tail on

1-2 bell peppers, cut into large chunks

1 onion cut into chunks

1-2 tomatoes, cut into large chunks

Place the shrimp into a resealable plastic bag. With a blender, turn the marinating ingredients into a paste. Pour the marinade into the bag and massage it into the shrimp with the bag zipped. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Marinate shrimp in the fridge overnight for even better flavor.

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Thread the marinated shrimp onto skewers, alternating it with bell pepper, onion and tomato. Brush or spray the skewers with cooking oil.

Place the skewers on a open grill on medium-heat. Cook each side for about 4 minutes. When you flip the skewers, glaze them with more of the marinade. After 8 minutes on the grill, the shrimp should be pink. Squeeze some fresh lime juice on them. Serve them on a bed of grilled onions. Makes 6 skewers.

Persian chicken kebabs

Succulent chicken and colorful peppers — first soaked in saffron and then basted on the grill with a saffron syrup — makes for flavorful Persian-style kebabs. This recipe is from my friend and fellow foodie Indresh Datar.

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon of saffron strands, soaked in 1 tablespoon of hot water

1 cup onion, diced

1 teaspoon pepper powder

1 Kashmiri chili soaked in olive oil overnight

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Juice of two limes

Salt to taste

For the skewers:

2 pounds boneless chicken, cut into 2-inch pieces

1-2 bell peppers, cut into chunks

1 red onion, cut into chunks

1-2 tomatoes, cut into chunks

For the basting saffron syrup:

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm water

Salt to taste

Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. With a blender, turn the marinating ingredients into a paste. Pour the marinade into the bag and massage it into the chicken with the bag zipped. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Marinate chicken in the fridge overnight for even better flavor.

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Thread the marinated chicken onto skewers, alternating it with bell pepper, onion and tomato. Brush a generous layer of the basting syrup onto the the skewers.

Place skewers on a preheated grill for 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Cook each side for about 4 minutes. When you flip the skewers, brush them with more of the saffron syrup.

Serve kebabs with saffron rice and a cold beer. Makes 8 skewers.

Seekh kebabs

Seasoned ground meat is wrapped around a skewer and grilled. Variations of this seekh kebab recipe is made all over the world, and is especially popular in Asia.

2 pounds ground meat (lamb, chicken, pork or turkey)

2 cups red onion, finely chopped

3 teaspoons ginger garlic paste

6-8 green hot Thai chilies, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup cilantro, finely chopped

2 teaspoons red chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon black pepper powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon mango (amchur) powder

4 teaspoons lime juice

Salt to taste

Add oil to a saucepan. When it begins to smoke, add 1 cup of the onions and the ginger garlic paste or hot peppers. Stir occasionally until the onions brown. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in all of the ingredients, starting with the ground meat, roasted onions and raw onions. Mix it well and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.

Divide the chilled mixture into 12-15 large meatballs. Holding a skewer in one hand, and the meat all in the other, wrap the meat on it, so that it resembles a sausage. Place the filled meat skewers on greased foil, placed on a baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the skewers for about 20-25 minutes, turning them after 10 minutes so they turn golden brown. The thinner the meat on the skewer, the faster they cook, so watch them! Makes 12-15 kebabs.

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