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[RECIPE] Summer Skewers

Summer is here, so bring on the barbecues, picnics, pool parties and beach bashes! If you happen to be hosting a great summer soiree, try these three easy, make-ahead dishes.  They are all light, colorful and are sure to impress your guests. In addition, they are all food on a stick, so once they are assembled and/or cooked, you simply arrange them on a platter, serve and let your guests enjoy at their own pace. This will leave time for you to actually enjoy a beer, jump in the pool, play some beach volleyball or do whatever your heart desires.  Remember, its summertime and the living should be easy!

Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers (in a Chipotle-Honey-Mustard Sauce)

Ingredients (Makes 5-6 servings):

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons coarse ground Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon minced chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce (use only the sauce for a mild kick, mince a pepper for more heat)

Juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp (peeled, deveined, tails off)

1-2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (bite-sized)*

Wooden or metal skewers (Note: If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for at least 1 hour before cooking to prevent burning.)

Directions:

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the honey, 2 mustards, chipotle pepper and the juice of half the lime.  Add the shrimp and pineapple, then stir to coat everything with the honey mustard sauce and allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes. Note: If you would like to have some honey mustard sauce for dipping or basting, you can reserve about one quarter of it, or simply double the recipe and reserve half.

Preheat your indoor or outdoor grill to high.  While it’s heating up, thread the shrimp and pineapple onto the skewers, being sure to alternate each.  Place the skewers on the grill and cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes on each side.  The shrimp cook rather quickly, but you want each skewer to have a nice char and visible grill marks.  After you have removed the skewers, squeeze the lime juice from the remaining half over the top and serve immediately.  Feel free to use more lime wedges for garnish.

*Pineapple tip: Most grocery store salad buffets sell fresh pineapple chunks that would be perfect for this.  If you purchase a whole pineapple, be sure to remove the skin and core before chopping.  Any leftover pineapple can be used in the Fresh Fruit skewers below.

Caprese Skewers

Ingredients (Makes 20-25 skewers):

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

10-15 fresh basil leaves

1 container mozzarella balls, drained (Commonly called bocconcini. Usually found in supermarkets preserved in water. The marinated variety also works well in this dish.)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

20-25 medium to large toothpicks

Directions:

Cut or tear the basil leaves into bite-sized pieces, about the same size as the mozzarella balls. To assemble the caprese skewers, thread a cherry tomato onto a toothpick, followed by a piece of basil and a mozzarella ball.  Arrange the skewers in one layer on a platter.  Next, whisk the balsamic vinegar and olive oil together, drizzle the vinaigrette over the skewers and season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. (If using marinated mozzarella, omit the oil and vinegar.)  Cover the platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  These skewers can be made as early as a day in advance.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try golden grape tomatoes for added color or throw the caprese skewers on the grill for 1-2 minutes on each side!

Fresh Fruit Skewers

Ingredients (Makes 20-25 Skewers):

3 Granny Smith apples

2 cups bite-sized pineapple chunks

1 pint fresh strawberries

Lime or lemon juice

20-25 medium to large toothpicks

Directions:

Core, then chop the apples into bite-sized pieces, then place in a bowl and toss them with freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice to prevent from browning.  Next, chop the tops off of the strawberries, being sure to  remove only  the leaves.  Assemble the skewers by threading an apple chunk, followed by a pineapple chunk and a piece of strawberry onto a toothpick.  Arrange the fruit skewers neatly onto a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  These skewers can be made as early as a day in advance.

If it’s not too hot, it’s fun to dip some of the strawberries in chocolate for an extra-sweet treat!

April Wardlaw is a self-taught cook who caters and bakes part time.  You can find more of her recipes on her blog, www.aprilscookin.blogspot.com

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