Once more over the coals, dear reader. This is another column about barbecue.
General hints: James Beard suggests that to keep hamburgers from drying out, you put a chip of ice in the center. A piece of frozen garlic butter might be even better.
Dried herbs sprinkled on the coals will produce an aromatic smoke -- as will, of course, a handful or two of dampened hickory chips.
Many vegetables can be roasted -- eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, corn, onions, potatoes.
In Tunisia, they have an appetizer composed of grilled vegetables called Mechouia (recipe provided by the Tunisian Embassy):
Grill some tomatoes, some green and red peppers. Peel. Take out the seeds. Peel and grill some onions. Cut them all into small pieces. Cut up a small limoun (salted lemon). Mix all together, adding some capers and the juice of one lemon. Salt according to taste. Sprinkle with olive oil. Add pieces of tuna fish and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
Many countries have some form of shish kebab (in Nigeria, skewered beef cooked in spices is sold on the street) and it is better cooked on a non-metal stick. Metal conducts heat and will cook the interior of the meat more quickly than you might like. Those of natural material -- bamboo, etc. -- should be soaked in water before using.
In Malaysia they have a version called satay , which they cook on sharpened lidi sticks, made from the stem of the coconut leaf. You should be able to find ingredients for the satay recipe below (provided by G. Narayanan Nair of the Embassy of Malaysia from a book called "Let's Learn to Cook") at the Thai Room, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW and 527 13th St. NW, or in Chinatown.
Satay 1/2 pound steak, mutton or chicken, cut in 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces 1/4 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon coriander, ground 1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 8 small onions, pounded 1 clove garlic, pounded 2 tablespoons peanut or coconut oil 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup tamarind juice 2 teaspoons brown sugar 2 teaspoons castor (or powdered) sugar 1 cucumber, diced 2 large onions, diced
Mix the ground spices and pounded garlic and onions into a paste. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the paste for three minutes. Add the tamarind juice, sugars and salt and cook two more minutes.
When the mixture is cool, use it to thoroughly coat the meat. Let sit for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Thread the meat onto sharpened lidi or bamboo sticks, five or six pieces per stick. Grill over charcoal fire, basting with coconut or peanut oil.
Arrange on a platter with the cucumber and onions and serve with the following sauce.
Sauce 1 cup roasted peanuts, pounded 3/4 cup tamarind juice 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons castor (or powdered) sugar 1 teaspoon brown sugar 2 teaspoons chili powder.
Combine ingredients in saucepan. Add enough water to make a thick sauce. Mix well, heat and serve.