Turkish Yogurt Kebabs with Grilled Summer Vegetables

      Recipes reprinted with permission from PURE BEEF 2012 by Lynne Curry, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.

      Turkish Yogurt Kebabs with Grilled Summer Vegetables

      Grilled meats slicked with yogurt are a specialty of the Turks. They understand how the thick, cultured marinade transports flavors into the beef while tenderizing it a bit. It also keeps the beef moist while grilling to make an aromatic cloak.

      I use these extra-special kebabs as an excuse to create a Turkish-inspired feast, including a bevy of vegetables, rice pilaf, and pita breads, all displayed on my favorite platters. The accompanying vegetable kebabs, an assortment of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes, make easy end-of-summer party fare when these crops are at their best. After grilling, I use a fork to push all of the vegetables into one big platter and serve the beef kebabs on their skewers. The lemon juice squeezed over the grilled meat makes the whole meal sing.

      Makes 6 servings

      • 3/4 cup plain whole yogurt, preferably Greek-style*

      • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

      • 3 garlic cloves, minced

      • 1 tablespoon grated onion

      • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

      • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried

      • 2 teaspoons salt, divided

      • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds top sirloin roast or steaks, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

      • 1 small globe eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

      • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into wedges

      • 2 poblano or bell peppers, seeded and cut into roughly 1 1/2-inch pieces

      • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch rounds or half moons

      • 1 pound cherry tomatoes

      • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

      • 1 lemon, quartered

      Whisk the yogurt, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, garlic, onion, lemon zest, thyme, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium mixing bowl until smooth. Thread the beef onto wooden or metal skewers leaving space between the cubes to make 6 beef kebabs. Lay them on a platter. Reserve 1/3 of the marinade for the eggplant and spread the remaining marinade over the beef kebabs. Turn them to coat completely, cover, and marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.

      Toss the eggplant cubes with the reserved marinade and thread them onto the skewers leaving a little space between them for even cooking. Toss the onion, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes in a large mixing bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and paprika. Thread the vegetables in an alternating pattern onto skewers.

      Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat (425 to 475F), scrape the grate clean, and oil it lightly. Put the beef and eggplant kebabs over the hottest part of the grill and the vegetable kebabs over medium heat. Cook the beef, turning 2 to 3 times, for a total of 7 1/2 to 8 minutes for medium rare. The yogurt marinade will dry up and turn faintly brown. Cook the eggplant, turning 2 to 3 times, until they soften and turn translucent, for about 9 minutes. Slide them to the cooler part of the grill if they begin to char.

      Cook the vegetables until their skins wrinkle and char in spots, turning 2 to 3 times for about 12 minutes. Once you've removed the meat, shift the mixed vegetable skewers to the hotter part of the grill if necessary to brown them well. Serve the vegetables on or off the skewers and squeeze the lemon juice over the beef kebabs before serving.

      *Note: Greek-style yogurt is thicker and makes a marinade that will adhere better to the meat. To thicken standard yogurt, strain it through a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drip in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour up to 12 hours overnight. It will lose volume, so start with a scant 1 cup to end up with 3/4 cup thickened yogurt. Discard the strained liquid.

      More Choice Cuts:
      Top round roast or steak, less expensive than top sirloin, is still tender enough for kebabs.
      Sirloin tip roast or steak, aka round tip roast or steak, is equally enticing and boneless for easy cubing.