Wary of barbecue parties? As you wistfully look at the platters filled with seekh kebabs and chicken drumsticks, nothing but corn and asparagus lands in your plate. The salt-and-pepper seasoning is just as bland. As you take refuge in the cocktails, your mind wanders off to the spices in your rack that would put your taste buds to work.

recipes_vegetariankebabs

Don’t throw in the towel just yet. Grab the tongs and non-stick spray and fire up your grill, meat be damned, and put a twist on vegetarian kebabs with two interesting marinades. Not only are they appetizing, but I find that kids get their serving of vegetables without complaint and that spicy taste I’ve been lusting for is finally at reach.

Barbecue parties are great way to socialize and entertain in summer. In the East Coast, My friends and I outsource cooking to our husbands the minute spring shows up at our doorsteps; it’s their time to sauté as we wives sit back, relax, and chat. These marinades can be made well in advance and the vegetables can be skewered ahead so you don’t have to break a sweat when it’s party time. If you don’t have a grill, the same kebabs can be baked in the oven at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes. (Take care to turn them over every 5 minutes)

A few basics before you start the grill fest. Have a bottle of lemon juice handy. Always season with a pinch of salt and a dash of lemon juice when you remove from the grill and let the vegetables sit covered in foil for a minute. Not only do the flavors get into the vegetables, you don’t burn your tongues.

Ensure you spray the grill with non-stick spray adequately so vegetables don’t stick to it. If you are using wooden skewers, soak in water completely for about 30 minutes or longer so they don’t catch fire. Metal skewers are a better bet for the forgetful chef.

When even hard-core meat eaters start lining up for your delicious kebabs, smile and be happy to be vegetarian!

Meera Ramanathan is a freelance writer dabbling in short stories, food and travel writing. http://dreamzwild.blogspot.com.

Red Chili Marinade (enough for 5 kebabs)

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons yoghurt (preferably Greek yoghurt or homemade curd)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Mix all of the above to form a smooth paste. Take care not to make it too thin; you will be unable to coat the vegetables.

Hariyali (Green) Marinade (5 kebabs)

1 cup coriander leaves, chopped
cup mint leaves, chopped
2 green chilies
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons yoghurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
Grind all of the above to form a smooth paste, adding salt at the end.

Vegetables

2 medium sized red onions
2 bell peppers (assorted colors)
20 Baby Bella mushrooms (stems removed)
½ pound paneer
Cut onion, and peppers into large squares and paneer into cubes. Coat the vegetables and paneer with your choice of marinade. Take care not to soak the paneer for a long time as it might get soggy. Arrange the vegetables on the skewer to display the colors best. Except the paneer, the skewers can be pre-made and refrigerated overnight. At the very minimum, soak the vegetables for 10 minutes.
The vegetables mentioned in this recipe are just a guide. So get innovative, use baby zucchinis, baby corn, and brussel sprouts—any vegetable that you think can be skewered and will absorb the marinade. Remember to taste the marinade to ensure the right spice level before dipping the vegetables. Enjoy!

Cucumber Yoghurt Dip

It is always a good idea to have some yoghurt based dip when you grill, so the spices and heat from the grilling are balanced by this cool and refreshing dip.
½  teaspoon freshly grated ginger
¼ teaspoon garam masala
pinch of chaat masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 cucumber (if using English cucumbers, use half)
½ cup coriander leaves
½ cup mint leaves
2 cups of yoghurt (preferably Greek style)

To garnish
2 lemon wedges
2 slices of cucumber
2 whole mint and coriander leaves

Line a sieve with cheese cloth and place it on top of a bowl. Add the yoghurt to the sieve and let it drain refrigerated for 3 hours or overnight. This removes the excess water so you don’t end up with raita.
Grate (without mashing) the cucumber and squeeze out the water. Chop the mint and coriander leaves finely and mix with cucumber.

Just before serving, add the cucumber mixture to the drained yoghurt along with the spices, ginger, and salt. Fold the yoghurt into the mixture rather than mixing it. This ensures that the yoghurt does not become runny. Taste to adjust salt and garnish.

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