Shish kebab, one of the most popular meat dishes in the Middle East, was probably invented centuries ago by soldiers or mountain tribesmen who impaled bits of meat on their swords to roast over wood fires.
- 1⁄2 cup dry red wine
- 1⁄2 cup corn or vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lb. boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess sinew and fat and cut into 1" cubes
Mix together wine, oil, onions, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add lamb, turning in marinade until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning meat in marinade periodically. Meanwhile, soak eight 8" wooden skewers in a pan of water for at least 30 minutes (to prevent them from burning on the grill).
Preheat grill. Remove skewers from water. Push 5-6 pieces of meat onto each skewer and discard marinade. Grill kebabs over medium-hot heat, turning often, until browned all over, 5-7 minutes for medium rare.
Variation—For chicken shish kebab, substitute 1/2 lemon juice for the wine and 1 medium yellow onion for the large onion, add three crushed peeled garlic cloves and 1 tsp. ground sumac for the marinade in step 1, and substitute 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1" cubes for the lamb. Proceed with recipe, grilling chicken skewers for 6-8 minutes.