Summer is in full swing and the Fourth of July is upon us.
School is out and swimming pools splash with the frolicking delights of children and adults alike. The air of even weekday evenings fills with the unmistakable scent and smoke of fat dripping on burning embers of a grill.
Soon they will be joined with streaking lights and rapid fire pops of roman candles and bottle rockets illuminating the night. A glance in any direction is sure to be bathed in the colors of red, white and blue.
This, my friends, is the American summer in all its glory.
Perhaps no item captures these moments of summer in edible form more than the ice cold, patriotic hued sweet treat on a stick — the Bomb Pop. When the thermometers read 100 degrees and sweat seems to stream at a constant pace, it is the oasis of refreshment that harkens in the distance when those all familiar electronic chords of the ice cream truck call like trumpets to wanting ears.
There is a visceral delight like none other as you peel the paper back to reveal those frosty colors of mouth-watering Americana. A single taste gives a cool tingle to the tongue and immediately transports you to a timeless sense of summers past. It is, quite simply, summer on a stick.
Many of the same virtues that make the Bomb Pop an ideal summer treat hold true for other foods on sticks. Think about it, on a hot summer day you don’t want to be tethered to the hassles of conventions like plate and utensil.
You want to hold your food in hand, eat as much as you want and discard the remnants, free to go about your day. The stick-as-vehicle can take on countless forms.
An examination of classic summer foods would seem to reinforce this notion. Corn on the cob? Yep, convenience and deliciousness on a stick of sorts.
barbecue ribs or chicken legs? Both are basically a meal on a bone, perfect for devouring and discarding. The corn dog still stands as one of humanity’s greatest innovations, like the light bulb, the printing press or “The Wire” before it.
There are numerous other examples, but you get the idea. Summer is a meal best served on a stick.
The food on a stick idea can be employed in various forms. The kabob is a perfect way to mix convenience and fantastic flavor at your Fourth of July barbecue. Thread a mix of meat and vegetables onto a skewer, season it with whatever flavors you desire and throw it on the grill.
The key to a good kabob is balance and uniformity of size — that is to say ingredients that are cut in roughly same size pieces and cook in similar times. A single whole, smallish mushroom can sit alongside cubes of chicken and onions or peppers and all will be perfectly cooked as they take on those lovely grill marks that serve as a signal that the kabob is ready.
Even fruits can be made to know the easy glory of the food on a stick phenomenon. For example, thread the pieces of a beautifully ripe, halved and cored, sugar dusted summer peach onto a skewer and grill it. The fire will caramelize the surface sugars of the peach to further enhance the sweetness while adding the unique smoky kiss of the fire.
You are limited only by your own imagination. Analyze your ingredients, give a thought to the physics involved (steak on a skewer is possible, but not necessarily ergonomically friendly) and take the plunge.
Before you know it, you will be under a shimmering July sky of cascading fireworks with meal in hand and a smile on your face. This, my friends, is the sheer bliss of summer on a stick.Vegan Summer Kabobs
This is an example of a simple vegan kabob for grilling, but you could just as easily do this with chicken, steak, shrimp or other ingredients. The key is to think of size and cooking time on each item. If the mushrooms are larger, cut them in half before putting onto skewers.Makes 8 servings. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 1 tablespoon flat leave parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika Salt Pepper 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch-by-1-inch cubes 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch square pieces 1 to 2 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces 1 pound medium sized button or crimini mushrooms 1 package 6-inch bamboo skewers
In a mixing bowl, combine herbs, vinegar, paprika and salt/pepper. Whisk in olive oil to form a loose emulsion. Take cut tofu, vegetable, and mushroom pieces and thread onto skewers with at least 2 tofu and mushroom pieces on each. It is easiest if you secure each skewer by beginning and ending with bell pepper pieces as they help stabilize the skewers. Put the skewers on the grill and baste as you turn them. Once you get nice grill marks and caramelization, they will be done.
Tyler Fox, personal chef/event caterer who emphasizes “nose-to-tail” cooking philosophy as well as vegan and local/farm to table foods.