No matter how you spell it—shisk kabob or sis kebabi—this robust specialty features skewered chunks of meat and onions marinated in oil and spices and then grilled over an open flame. The technique apparently originated in the Caucasus and then spread southward to Mediterranean countries. The traditional meat has always been leg of lamb, a meat that seems to be permitted by most major religions. To make a perfect kabob, remove any tough membrane from the meat, cut meat across the grain—and don’t forget that the meat must be marinated before grilling. Serve with a salad of tossed greens, ripe olives, and feta cheese and for dessert, baklava and Turkish coffee.
Cayenne-Infused Meat Marinade
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1⁄3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh preferred
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cayenne chile
1 teaspoon ground paprika
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds boneless lamb, cut into 1 to1½-inch cubes,
or substitute capybara
1 large bell pepper, stem and seeds removed,
cut in1½-inch squares
1 small onion, cut in 1½-inch squares
12 cherry tomatoes
12 cremini mushrooms, stems removed
Nutty Rice Pilaf
1⁄8 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons blanched almonds
3 tablespoons pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 cup long-grain rice
½ teaspoon ground cayenne
2 ½ cups chicken or beef broth
2 teaspoons Cayenne-Infused Meat Marinade, above
To make the marinade, toast the cumin seeds on a dry skillet until fragrant, taking care that they don’t burn. Remove, cool and crush. Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Reserve 2 teaspoons of the marinade for the rice. Transfer the marinade to a bowl, add the lamb, toss well to coat. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.
To make the pilaf, pour 2 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron in a cup and let sit for 20 minutes. In a skillet, lightly fry the nuts in the oil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Turn heat to low, add the vermicelli to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat and sauté for a couple of minutes or until the kernels are opaque, about 3 minutes.
Heat the broth along with the cayenne to boiling and pour over rice mixture. Bring back up to a boil while stirring. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer covered until the rice is done, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving and add nuts. It also can be baked, covered in a 325 degree F. oven for 40 minutes.
To make the brochettes, blanch the bell pepper and the onions in boiling water for 2 minutes, remove, drain, and run under cold water. Remove the lamb from the marinade and place the marinade in a sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Thread the meat on skewers, alternating with the pepper, onion, tomatoes and mushrooms. Brush with the reserved marinade.
Grill over a medium-hot fire until medium rare, about 15 minutes. Baste occasionally with the marinade. Cut a sample of the meat to check for doneness, and remove when a little under done.