I’m always looking for ways to change up the old grilled hamburger in the summer, like tonight for example when I made meatloaf burgers. They made a better version of a meatloaf sandwich, more tender than a regular hamburger and already full of lots of flavors, so that they didn’t need a lot of additions piled on. Last year I put giant meatballs on skewers, and that worked out pretty well, too. They were spicy, like these kebabs, but without quite so much heat. I made the kebabs a few days ago on one of the long holiday weekend days.
Tip for keeping any ground meat shape on a skewer: don’t make too wet or loose a mixture. You want the meat to hold its shape around the skewer so you can turn it on the grill.
We ate them two ways in flatbread wraps. I topped mine with roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, and a sour cream-cucumber sauce. My husband chose only the peppers and my homemade burger sauce (mayo, Sriracha, garlic, cumin, maple syrup, lime juice, salt).
Spicy Grilled Ground Meat Kebabs
Plan ahead so the meat and spices have a chance to marinate up to a day.
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 bay leaf, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh or dried cilantro
- 2 teaspoons garlic paste or grated garlic
- 1-2 teaspoons ginger paste or grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 4 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour
- Mix the ground meat, spices, and aromatics until completely combined. You might even want to run the mixture through a meat grinder, especially if your ground meat has not been ground fine. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Divide into four and shape each portion into a long sausage shape around a bamboo skewer.
- Grill over direct heat for a few minutes on each side. They cook quickly and you don’t want to overcook them. You could cook them over indirect heat with the grill lid closed for about 10 minutes, browning over direct heat or not. I like the taste of the charred kebabs better.
We’re beginning to get a lot of jalapeños in the garden, so I have to come up with ways to use them, and I don’t really want to do the fried cheese-stuffed poppers. Using them in their fresh state is a nice change from roasting them; fresh jalapeños have a bright, slightly bitter taste, and they are not so hot that you suffer with each bite.
This salsa, which I’m also using to marinate chicken breasts before grilling, also uses bell pepper and raw onion, orange and lime juices, and a few spices. It has a clean, bright flavor in which you can taste all the notes of the ingredients. Made in the blender, the pulp of the onion and peppers gives the salsa enough body to work on its own, even with tortilla chips, but you could add chunky veggies to it afterwards for even more texture.
There are no oils or added sugar in this salsa, and all the vegetables are raw. You could achieve a different, milder result by roasting the vegetables first. Instead, I roasted some extra peppers and onions to serve with chicken marinated in the salsa and to echo the raw versions in the sauce.
Orange Jalapeño Salsa and Marinade
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 jalapeños, about 4″ long, each, seeded
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded—I think a red pepper would muddy the color of the salsa; a green one would be good but would add more bitterness
- 1 small yellow onion, about 2.5″ diameter
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic or garlic paste
- 1/8 teaspoon Jamaican allspice
- 1/4 cup cilantro paste—fresh cilantro if you can stand the smell and the annoyance of chopping herbs
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Add all ingredients to a blender jar. Blend on low, then move to highest speed to create a smooth sauce. There will still be plenty of texture from the vegetable pulp and skins that won’t completely emulsify. I don’t have one of those high-dollar new blenders, so maybe you need to adjust the instructions for those so you don’t over-blend the sauce.
I used less than a cup to marinate chicken breasts that had been sliced horizontally to make 4 pieces. The rest was refrigerated for serving later as a dressing on the chicken.
I used flank steak, as I usually do, because I have never seen skirt steak in the two grocery stores I shop at. I think I saw it once when we lived in Texas in the mid-90s, but not since. I look for it all the time, but am running out of hope. I can’t complain about flank steak, though, as long as it is scored on each side and marinated. I’ve written about the scoring before in this post: A Tale of Two Flank Steaks. As you can see in the image, it did not have to be cooked just to bloody rareness to remain juicy—it was grilled for 7 minutes per side, and then rested for 10, which was plenty of time for the small 1 lb steak. We ate every bit.
I made a very nice pico de gallo—really a chopped tomato salad—to eat with mine (or to eat with a spoon), while my tomato-averse husband had a roasted salsa verde with his.
Spices for wet marinade
Marinate for 6 hours
Grill 7 minutes a side
Slice thinly against grain
Pico de Gallo
Wrap it your way
Carne Asada Wraps with Pico de Gallo
1 flank steak, 1-2 pounds, scored on both sides
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Mix all ingredients and pour over scored flank steak in sealable bag.
- Marinate in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. remove at least 1/2 hour before grilling to bring to room temperature.
Prepare grill for direct heat
- Grill steak for about 7-10 minutes on each side with the lid closed, depending on the size of your steak, for medium rare.
- Remove and rest steak on cutting board under a loose cover of foil for about 10 minutes.
- Slice thinly, against the grain.
- Serve in wraps wit lettuce and toppings, like pico de gallo or your favorite salsa, avocado, or a fresh cheese, like queso fresco.
Pico de Gallo
4 small tomatoes (about 3-4″), chopped—you could seed them or not
1/2 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced
about 2 tablespoons minced garlic or garlic paste
a big handful of finely chopped cilantro or 2 tablespoons cilantro paste (I used the paste)
1 generous teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons lime juice
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- Mix all ingredients.
- I let mine sit in the refrigerator for an hour, but you could eat it right away. I like to let the onion and pepper absorb the liquid a little.
It was one of those what-to-do-with-ground-beef days. I almost, in desperation, fell back on grilled burgers, even though it was only 54° outside, then wondered if I could do something different with meatballs—and I mean different from all the meatball recipes on this site (which is 5). I still used the grill, after I put on a flannel shirt, and decided to use a combination of spices that I haven’t used with beef before. The only method I could figure out for grilling meatballs, was to put them on skewers, although I’m sure if they are big enough not to fall through the grate you could turn them individually—that sounds like too much work.
We ate them on flatbread with a sour cream-lemon-chive sauce.
Spicy Skewered Meatballs
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Optional: 2-4 tablespoons milk or other liquid if the mixture is dry
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried cilantro
1 tablespoon parsley paste (a timesaver)
1 tablespoon grated or minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Mix all ingredients together with hands. You’re trying to achieve a mixture that will hold its shape, so you don’t want it to be too soft or moist.
- Divide mixture into 16 portions and roll into balls.
- Carefully slide meatballs onto skewers then place on a large tray. You could refrigerate them at this point until ready to cook.
- Grill over direct heat, turning to brown on all sides, closing the lid after each turn. Even with flat skewers, the meatballs will turn on the skewers, but it’s still pretty easy to turn the whole skewer, keeping your tongs close by. They cook pretty quickly, in about 15 minutes, but you can use a thermometer to test for doneness.
- Remove from skewers and serve in flatbread with a sour cream or yogurt sauce.
This is something you could make with a variety of meats and spices. I found the meatballs to be moist and tender, and a nice change from burgers.