Let's start this out with a confession: I'm kind of obsessed with kebabs, even though we have something of a love-hate relationship. There is something utterly satisfying about bite-size steak, chicken, and/or fish, married perfectly with accompanying charred vegetables, all doused with some sort of delicious marinade or sauce, sliding gracefully from a well-used metal skewer or slightly singed bamboo stick onto a welcoming plate. The possibilities are endless: shrimp and pineapple alternated with chunks of red onion and bright green bell peppers, steak and mushrooms meeting juicy scarlet slices of red pepper, chicken lined up with plums and (yet again) red onions...my mind reels with the all the many ideas!
Despite my love for all the grilled goodness, however, I have often found myself frustrated by the time-consuming process of threading my kebabs. It is not a quick process, and in the case of metal skewers, can be painful as well! Every time I take it upon myself to prepare kebabs, I'm blinded by the vision of my finished product, a tasty pile of meat and veggies floating atop some sort of grain, conveniently forgetting all the effort I put into getting the darn things ready for the grill.
Every so often, however, an irresistible kebab/skewer/grilled meat on a stick recipe crosses my path, and I will inevitably be drawn towards it like a moth to a flame. That was the case when my eye observed this recipe in one of my summer issues of Everyday with Rachael Ray. My fish kebab experience had been limited to salmon, and that was my own creation, a haphazard thrust of salmon, onion, and pepper onto a few lonely skewers one hot summer day. Don't get me wrong, they were delicious-salmon is practically impossible to ruin-but I was longing to try something a bit more refined than that. Here was my answer.
I was immediately attracted to the ham and pineapple components, particularly as I imagined the taste the slightly blackened ham would impart to the fish, and the ensuing delight of a bite of grilled pineapple. A ginger-soy glaze only reinforced my notion of the dish as a winner-I rely almost exclusively on a mixture of ginger, garlic and soy for a standard marinade, and I'm always pleased with the results.
What REALLY won me over, I must acknowledge, was the side dish, a simple batch of couscous enhanced by sliced scallions and-BE STILL MY HEART- macadamia nuts! Has one ever truly described macadamia nuts adequately? They are little, cream-colored bits of heaven. Surely some sort of divine delicacy mistakenly sent to earth to be consumed by mere mortals. I am fully aware that one nut has a decidedly ungodly amount of fat (see? not meant for us!) but I DO NOT CARE. I could eat nothing but macadamia nuts until the day I die and I'm pretty sure I would pass on feeling I had the most wonderful life!
Needless to say, these skewers were an absolute success. The fish took on a bit of the smoky ham flavor, and eagerly soaked up the soy glaze, which drizzled in a most tempting fashion over the couscous. As I took a bite (making sure to get at least a few macadamia crumbles in my couscous), I sighed with happiness, thinking that all that preparation is ALWAYS worth it, and already envisioning the next time I'd make kebabs.
1 1/2 pounds 3/4 to 1-inch thick mahi mahi fillet, cut into 20 cubes (I used tilapia, and don't regret the substitution at all-it's a cheap, sturdy white fish)
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
4 thin slices (about 6 ounces) black forest ham, cut into strips as wide as the fish cubes
1/2 fresh pineapple-peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 16 chunks (I cheated and purchased the pre-cut pineapple, which is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. Won't be doing that again!)
1 small red onion, cut into bite-size pieces
Vegetable oil, for brushing
1/4 cup tamari sauce (low-sodium, aged soy sauce, and definitely my preference)
1/4 cup honey
Grated peel of 1 lime and juice of 2 limes
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (A good investment if you have any sort of penchant for Asian flavors, as I do! It's not too expensive now, actually, and I think even Whole Foods carries their own brand)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 scallions, sliced on an angle
1. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium. Season the fish cubes with the Old Bay seasoning and five-spice powder. Wrap the ham strips around the fish. Thread the fish alternately with the pineapple and onion onto metal skewers. Brush the skewers with oil, place on the grill, cover and cook, turning occasionally, until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the tamari sauce, honey, lime peel, lime juice, ginger and sesame oil to a boil. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
3. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and butter to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in the nuts and scallions.
4. Serve the skewers on the couscous and drizzle with the ginger-soy glaze.