shish kebab over an open fire

Shish Kebab on the Fire

Every once in a while, I suggest you make a particular spice blend for a particular recipe. I've covered yellow curry powder, za'atar, and baharat, three very important spice blends for making Assyrian food, as well as Middle Eastern food in general. But I'm pretty sure that the most annoying thing you can do as a food blogger is tell someone to make a complicated ingredient for one recipe, and then never give them any ideas for using up the rest of the jar.

And not to braaaag, but I kind of pride myself on not doing this (feel free to check out the above posts for more ideas). But really, it's mostly just that I end up with a lot of left over jars of spice mix after tinkering with my recipes to post them, and I'm someone who pours water in my conditioner bottle when there are a few drops left, so I'm not about to let spice blends go to waste.

Shish Kebab on the Fire
Shish Kebab on the Fire
Shish Kebab on the Fire

So this post is barely a recipe. It's more of a suggestion, or really two suggestions. First of all, it's finally fall (hooray!), so if you're looking for something fun to do with family or friends, why not cook something tasty over an open fire? I don't eat meat very often, and so when I do, I like to make it special. Cooking outside is a wonderful way to make dinnertime more of a mindful experience, instead of a mindless chore.

Secondly, if you're like me, and don't eat meat every day, why not try to add as much delicious flavor as possible to make it more of an occasion when you do? While not 100% traditional (at least in my family), za'atar perfectly compliments chicken, and baharat brings out the delicious umami flavor of beef. That's pretty much all you need to know, but I've written up a recipe for those of you who prefer to learn how to play a new game by reading the instruction booklet instead of hearing an explanation (there's always someone at every game night, and different learning styles are a beautiful thing).

Shish Kebab on the Fire
Shish Kebab on the Fire

Shish kebab over an open fire (two ways)

Chicken and za'atar

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons za'atar
2 pounds chicken breast, cut into medium chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
optional: peppers and onions + oil to coat + salt

  • Combine the olive oil and za'atar. Season the chicken with the salt, and then coat it in the za'atar oil. Skewer the chicken and let it marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the fire (or for at least 30 minutes). If you're using peppers and onions, skewer them separately from the chicken, coat them in oil, and season them with salt to taste.

  • Once the fire has burned down to hot coals with a few very low flames, place a rack a few inches above the fire and let it heat for a couple minutes (either use a rack that has legs, or prop it up with a square of logs around the fire). Add the chicken and cook, rotating as it sears and cooks through. Cook the onions and peppers until softened and blistered. Watch the chicken closely to prevent it from burning, and keep an eye out for hot spots over the fire.

    • Cooking times vary from fire to fire, but it should take somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes to cook through. When cooking chicken on an open fire, it's important to err on the side of hot coals rather than high flames. It may take longer than 10 to 15 minutes if the coals have really burned down, but it will still be very delicious. Because you dry-brined it, it shouldn't dry out very easily.

beef and baharat

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons baharat
2 pounds sirloin, cut into medium chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
optional: peppers and onions + oil to coat + salt

  • Combine the olive oil and baharat. Season the sirloin with the salt, and then coat it in the spice oil. Skewer the sirloin and let it marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the fire (or for at least 30 minutes). If you're using peppers and onions, skewer them separately from the beef, coat them in oil, and season them with salt to taste.

  • Once the fire has burned down to hot coals with some low flames, place a rack a few inches above the fire and let it heat for a couple minutes (either use a rack that has legs, or prop it up with a square of logs around the fire). Add the beef and cook, flipping it once it has developed a nice sear. Cook the onions and peppers until softened and blistered. Watch the sirloin closely to prevent it from burning, and keep an eye out for hot spots over the fire. Cook it to your preferred doneness.

    • With the chicken (above), it's ok to let the coals burn down a little further, but it's important to see a few low flames for cooking steak if you want the inside to stay medium-rare, and the outside to have a nice sear. It should take about 6 to 8 minutes total (3 to 4 minutes per side), so keep a close eye on it.

Shish Kebab on the Fire
Shish Kebab on the Fire