- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My husband and one of his best friends were born a day apart and love to celebrate their birthdays together. His pal, a professor like my spouse, and his wife are always at their home on Cape Cod in July, so everyone gathers there for the festivities.

We always steam lobsters for the main course and order a big cake for dessert, but we vary the appetizers and side dishes from year to year.

To go with our Neptunian splurges, grilled miniature zucchini and yellow squash coated in olive oil and herbs were one of my contributions. Corn on the cob, a salad and crusty artisanal bread rounded out the main course. It was the appetizers, though, prepared by our hostess that almost stole the show.

Aware that both our husbands love steak, she added some turf to our surf menu by preparing delicious beef kebabs as starters. She skewered cubes of boneless sirloin (coated in a spicy rub) with juicy nectarine wedges and lime slices, then quickly cooked them until the meat was rosy pink inside and the fruit slightly charred.

The fork-tender beef (marinated for several hours in spices, garlic and cilantro) was vibrantly flavored and paired beautifully with the sweet nectarines and the citrus accent of the limes. I wasted no time asking for this recipe.

After returning home, I decided to serve the kebabs as a main course rather than as an opener, and was delighted to discover how easy they were to assemble and how quickly they could be grilled.

Now, with Labor Day almost here, I am planning to use this recipe for another celebration. These special skewers, accompanied by basmati rice tossed with cilantro and scallions and a salad of baby spinach, will be the centerpiece of a porch supper for friends during the holiday weekend.

Karen Chalfen’s spicy beef, nectarine and lime kebabs

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro, divided

2 pounds boneless sirloin, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes

Olive oil for brushing the kebabs and for the grill

3 to 4 ripe (but not too soft) nectarines

2 limes for slicing

4 long wooden skewers soaked for 30 minutes in water or 4 long metal skewers

Mix together the chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in a medium mixing bowl large enough to hold the meat comfortably. Add sirloin cubes and toss so that all cubes are coated well with mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to assemble skewers and cook, oil a grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature). Cut each nectarine into 3/4-inch wedges (yielding about 8 wedges per piece of fruit). Cut limes into 1/4-inch thick rounds and cut each round in half.

Assemble skewers alternating with a beef cube, a lime slice and a nectarine wedge. (You may have some nectarine wedges and lime slices left over; save for another use.) Brush skewers lightly with olive oil.

Grill, turning often so that beef and nectarines cook on all sides, about 6 to 8 minutes total. Watch carefully as cooking time can vary depending on type of grill used. When done, beef should be pink inside and nectarines slightly charred.

Arrange skewers on a platter and sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “The Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).


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