pomegranate sumac shish kebab

shish kebab

It's a long weekend and everyone with a grill will be grilling. Burgers and hotdogs are all well and good, but if you're looking for something a little punchier, with a lot more color, you're going to want to try this recipe. Chunks of lamb are marinated in pomegranate molasses, and then glazed with more pomegranate molasses as they cook. The tangy caramelized sugars make this lamb completely irresistible. As if that wasn't enough, the veggie skewers are marinated in za'atar and sumac, and they blister, char, and soften to perfection on the grill. This shish kebab is fabulous for entertaining because the whole thing can be prepared ahead, left to marinate in the refrigerator, and once they go on the grill, they're done in a flash.

leg of lamb
red onion, tomato, bell pepper
red onion, tomato, bell pepper shish kebab
leg of lamb shish kebab

There's no magical reason why this recipe calls for tomato, onion, and bell pepper. It's the veggie mix my family always makes, it's always easy to find, and it goes great with grilled meats. The sumac flavor adds just the right zest to the mellow flavor of the charred and blistered veggies. But feel free to experiment with skewering other produce for grilling. Mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, radicchio, asparagus, or even stone fruit like peaches, all work great here. It doesn't matter what color cherry tomatoes, onions, or bell peppers you find—a more colorful variety will give this dish a brighter presentation, but red tomatoes with red bell pepper and red onions look chic in their own monochromatic way.

And speaking of good looks: while it would be even prettier to put the veggies on the same skewers as the lamb pieces, this is one time when you've got to sacrifice some style for substance. The vegetable skewers will be done cooking a couple minutes before the lamb, and it's important that you take them off the grill as soon as they're ready. You know the veggie skewers are done when the tomatoes are blistered, slightly softened, and just starting to shrivel. You don't want to cook them beyond this point or you will make a delicious tomato sauce, which will slough off the skewers and sink right through the grill grates.

shish kebab
shish kebab

pomegranate sumac shish kebab

yield: 4 servings
active time: 35 minutes
total time: 2 hours and 30 minutes *
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  • 2 pounds semi-boneless leg of lamb (if you are buying bone-in, buy 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)

  • About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons salt (to taste)

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (for marinade)

  • 1 small red onion

  • 1 green bell pepper (can substitute another color bell pepper)

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes

  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac

  • 1/2 teaspoon za'atar (optional, add 1/4 teaspoon more sumac instead)

  • About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons salt (to taste) *

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (for grilling)

  1. Trim any large pieces of fat from the leg of lamb, and cut the lamb into chunks, discarding any bone or gristle.

  2. Place the lamb it in a ziplock bag (or another sealable container), add the salt and pomegranate molasses, mix it around by squeezing the bag, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. **

  3. Chop the onion and bell pepper into large chunks. Mix together in a ziplock bag with the cherry tomatoes, sumac, za'atar, salt, and olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

  4. Once they're ready, skewer the veggies and the lamb separately. ***

  5. Pre-heat the grill to medium-hot and brush one side of the lamb with 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses.

  6. Once the grill is hot, add the lamb, molasses-side-down, and brush the other side of the lamb with the other tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Then add the veggie skewers.

  7. Regularly check to make sure nothing is burning, and turn everything once or twice to cook evenly.

  8. Remove the veggies once they are charred and slightly wilted. For medium-rare, the lamb should be internally 135° F, although they're also very tasty when cooked beyond medium rare.

* Use a little less salt if your za'atar is seasoned.
** If you're in a hurry, you can get away with marinating it for 30 minutes, but the flavor intensifies if you leave it a bit longer. If you marinade for a shorter period, glaze the lamb with a little extra molasses during the grilling.
*** If you're making everything ahead of time: Simply mix the veggies with the seasoning, skewer them immediately, and refrigerate for up to a day. Start the lamb off by marinating it in a ziplock bag for an hour, then skewer and refrigerate for up to a day.

shish kebab

sweet, sour, and spicy masgouf

Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Masgouf

If you've been reading these masgouf posts all week (also known as masguf or masgoof), and you've been feeling like neither one is exactly what you'd order from a restaurant menu, then I hope this sweet, sour, and spicy masgouf piques your interest. It's sweetened with just a little brown sugar, spiced with some red pepper flakes, and made extra tangy with tamarind paste in place of some of the lemon. It's got all the cheerfulness of the green and herby masgouf, without being overly virtuous, and it's got some of the earthiness of the smoky and deep masgouf, without being too serious.

Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Masgouf Marinade
Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Masgouf
Orange Tomato

While orange tomatoes are totally optional here (the recipe will work just great with garden variety red ones), I think the pink, orange, and green colors make it look extra festive. With such fun colors and flavors, this dish is perfect for a summer celebration, especially for anyone planning a graduation party this week.

Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Masgouf
Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Masgouf

sweet, sour, and spicy masgouf

Yield: 2 to 3 servings (can easily be multiplied)
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

marinating the fish

1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (either store-bought or homemade)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind paste *
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
10 to 12 ounces of white, lean fish fillets (about 1 big or 2 small fillets) **

  • Add the lemon juice, curry powder, light brown sugar, tamarind paste, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and salt to a large ziplock bag, seal the bag and mix everything around by squeezing the bag a few times.

  • Pat the fish dry with paper towels, and place it in the bag with the marinade. Squeeze the bag to evenly coat the fish in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes(or up to 4 hours ahead if you want to make it ahead).

grilling the fish

1/2 cup large-diced tomatoes (orange tomatoes work really nicely, but any variety will do)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onions (fill a quarter cup halfway)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1/4 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
optional: 1 teaspoon minced parsley (for garnish)

  • When you're ready to cook the fish, preheat the grill to high. If you're broiling, set the oven to broil 5 minutes before you're ready to cook (all broilers work a little differently, so pre-heating times will vary).

  • For the topping: combine the diced tomatoes, red onions, lemon juice, tamarind paste, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, curry powder, olive oil, and salt.

  • Take the fish from the marinade, do not pat it dry, and place it on a grill-safe tray (with a rim if you're using the broiler).

  • Top the fish with the tomato mixture and broil or grill with the lid down until the fish is flaky. Cooking times vary, depending on how big your fish is and how hot your grill is, but you can count on at least 6 minutes.

  • Garnish with minced parsley and serve immediately.

* You can normally find tamarind paste in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian markets, specialty food stores, and even sometimes a very well-stocked supermarket.
** catfish is pictured, but you could use tilapia, cod, carp, branzino, or any other similar fish.

Masgouf Trio