Welcome Grilling Season With Kebabs

True confession: I grill outside all year long. Memorial Day weekend just makes it official! This year, I won't stand for anything bland to come off my grill — and, if I can help it, yours.

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An herby marinade sparked with a little crushed red pepper can add flavor to lean meats and vegetables. A dry seasoning blend that combines smoke, spice and garlic will feature in nearly all my steak and rib grill sessions. And after grilling, I propose the liberal use of rich, slightly sweet, bronzed butter to add a chef's touch of flavor and luxury.

Let's talk about marinades. I recommend using acidic, deeply-seasoned wet marinades to infuse flavor into simple poultry pieces, lean pork and bland vegetables such as zucchini and eggplant. Marinades high in acid will do a bit of tenderizing, too, although most don't penetrate more than ¼-inch into the foods.

Dry marinades, like grill seasoning rubs, add flavor as well as salt — and sometimes sugar — to the surface of tender meats, such as beef steaks, chicken breasts and fish fillets. Dry rubs should be applied well in advance of grilling for the biggest impact. A simple blend that contains smoked paprika helps underscore the smoke of a charcoal grill and proves a great boon when cooking on gas grills.

It might not be a well-kept secret, but steakhouse chefs almost always boost flavor with butter. I propose you follow suit with a highly-seasoned butter full of caramelized onions, fresh garlic, spices and a splash of sweet-tart pomegranate molasses. You can keep small parcels of the butter in the freezer for easy retrieval on grilling day.

To take advantage of these flavor-boosting creations, I'll be grilling kebabs for our small Memorial Day gathering. Kebabs please everyone. We can make meatless kebabs, lean turkey kebabs and, for a treat, beef sirloin kebabs. Scale the recipes up or down based on the number of people to serve.

For easiest grilling, use metal skewers that are flat so the meat doesn't move when you turn it on the grill. Another option is a two-pronged skewer which holds everything in place. Wooden skewers work too; just pick out a length that fits on the grill and soak the skewers in cool water before adding the ingredients to them. Using a second wooden skewer will help secure the food.

Serve the kebabs over a bed of greens, which will get the flavor from the juices dripping off the hot kebabs. Steamed, small new potatoes sprinkled with the season's first chives and tender dill fronds make a perfect side — ditto for grilled or steamed asparagus.

Gather around the grill with cold rose wine or a variety of non-alcoholic beers and enjoy!

Turkey and Vegetable Kebabs

There's nothing boring about these turkey and veggie kebabs that get a huge boost of flavor from an herby marinade made with dried tarragon, sage and basil. Once you make this marinade, you'll want to keep a bit batch on hand to brush on everything from meat to vegetables to fish all summer long.

For the Turkey and Vegetable Kebabs recipe, click here.

Smoky Beef and Mushroom Kebabs

These sirloin and mushroom kebabs get a double whammy of flavor. First, they are coated in a bold, smoky dry rub made with sweet and smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic, salt and pepper. Then, after it's cooked, the kebabs are slathered in a vibrant chile garlic butter that gets a tangy boost from pomegranate molasses (balsamic works too). You can make big batches of the rub and compound butter to have on hand for all your grilling needs.

For the Smoky Beef and Mushroom Kebabs recipe, click here.