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Kick off the grilling season with versatile kebabs

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With the arrival of Memorial Day – the traditional kickoff of America's grilling season – we pessimists should take a moment to consider the inevitable onslaught of the barbecue. While cookouts are often an intimate family affair, a sudden influx of unexpected guests can present a range of personal preferences ranging from the haughtiest of haute cuisine to vegans. What to do?

Let the kebab skewer be your culinary light saber, O Jedi of the grill. Master the skewer you will, and multitudes will you feed.

The Methuselaic longevity of the kebab is a tribute to both its simplicity and its versatility. While chunks of marinated lamb or beef are old-time favorites, the contents of a given skewer can range from the exotic (chicken hearts are a Portuguese favorite) to the elegant (marinated sea scallops, for example) to the unconventional (fruit kebab appetizers, anyone?).

"We should not be skeptical about them," says Sankarnarayan Giridhar, a kebab expert known to friends as Chef Giri. "It's only a matter of time before people get educated about kebabs. There are so many different flavors to play around with."

He should know; Chef Giri presides over a veritable kebab empire in Boston, where he shapes menus for five area restaurants and maintains a website about Indian cooking ( At the Kebab Factory, he offers a dizzying array of kebabs, including many that can't be found in any other Indian restaurants in the US.

"I still offer four or five common dishes so people don't get intimidated," says Mr. Giridhar.


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