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One perfect marinade, lots of kebabs

PAM ANDERSON | 5/3/2010, 11:33 a.m.

USA WEEKEND Food

Our family grills year-round, but we especially look forward to the season's first cookout. This year, we celebrated with kebabs -- ideal for a crowd that enjoys a taste of it all. But kebabs also are great for times when you need to offer guests options (which these days can be often). Regardless of which meats and vegetables you choose, I offer the perfect marinade.I've always been a little skeptical of marinades, but I have to give credit to my daughter Maggy for introducing me to the perfect one. Ketchup and honey contribute sweet. Vinegar makes it tart, and coupling it with the chili sauce gives it a little heat. Soy provides salt and that elusive umami. The consistency's right, too, with just enough cling power without being gloppy. Best of all, it partners well with anything you feel like throwing on the grill!Enough for up to 2 pounds each of meat, poultry or fish and vegetables

6 Tb. ketchup

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup Thai chili (or chili garlic) sauce

2 Tb. soy sauce

2 Tb. olive oil

2 Tb. white wine vinegar

4 tsp. Cajun seasonings, 5 Chinese Spice, chili or curry powder

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.Serves 62 pounds of one of the following boneless cuts, in 1 1/2-inch pieces:

Skinless chicken thighs or breasts

Pork loin or tenderloin or lamb shoulder

Beef tenderloin (filet mignon),

New York strip, rib-eye or sirloin

Steak-style fish such as swordfish, salmon or tuna

Shrimp (21 to 25 count), left whole

Extra-firm tofu, wrapped in a kitchen towel and weighted for 10 minutes2-pound mix of these or other favorite vegetables/fruits, cut into 1-inch chunks:

White mushrooms, cut in half if large

Zucchini and yellow squash

Eggplant

Onions (separate each chunk into pieces 2 layers thick)

Cherry tomatoes

Apples, apricots, mangoes, nectarines, peaches or plums

1 recipe Sweet, Sour, Spicy Marinade

Salt and freshly ground black pepperMix protein and vegetables/fruits of your choice with marinade in a large bowl or gallon-size zipper-lock bag for long enough for flavors to blend, at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.Thread protein and vegetables/fruits onto 12 8-inch (or other length) metal skewers; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat gas grill, igniting all burners on high for 10 minutes (or build a hot charcoal fire).Place skewers on the grill, close lid and grill on high until spotty brown, about 4 minutes. Grabbing as much kebab as possible from the side with tongs, turn them quickly. Grill until spotty brown on other side, and protein and vegetables are cooked through, about 2 minutes for shrimp, about 3 minutes for chicken breasts and fish, about 4 minutes for chicken thighs, pork, beef and lamb. Let rest a few minutes and serve.