Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Pinchos Morunos (Moorish Kebabs)

Anthony Bourdain once said, "street food, I believe, is the salvation of the human race."  That is quite the statement.   And it made me wonder, how could street food deliver the human race from harm, loss or ruin?  Street food is defined as "ready-to-eat" food sold by a vendor in a market or along the side of the street.  The term encompasses the wide range of food prepared, served and sold from booths, carts, and/or food trucks.  

Take, for example, pinchos morunos  or Moorish kebabs.  Small cubes of meat, threaded onto skewers and grilled over a charcoal brazier.  Also known as pinchitos, it is commonly sold by street vendors in Andalucia and Extramadura to hungry customers.  This food may provide some insight into Bourdain's statement.  The name itself reveals its origins: these threaded skewers originated with the Moors who occupied southern Spain during the Middle Ages.  The Moors marinated meat, most often lamb, with olive oil and spices (like garlic, cumin, thyme, oregano and turmeric).  Long after the Moors were defeated with the fall of Granada, these meat skewers continued to be served to hungry people at street corners and in markets.  To be sure, the skewers have evolved over time, with lamb being replaced by pork and chicken.  But, its history ties present day Spaniards with the peoples of the region's past.  

A street food like pinchitos can also tie Spaniards with other peoples.  One need only cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Morocco and northern Africa to find vendors serving a very similar kebab, made with lamb at local markets.  A common dish that can be enjoyed together, with friends or strangers.  As people enjoy the skewers, they can start to talk to each other.  They can talk about the food, the area, or a local sporting event.  As they talk, people can realize that -- despite their nationality, religion, etc, -- they actually have a lot in common.  And, that is how street food can start us on the road toward the salvation of the human race.  

There are a variety of pinchito recipes on the Internet, but I decided to use a recipe from one from my cookbooks, Culinaria Spain.  This recipe is also very simple and very cheap to make, which is the key to street food.   It calls for the use of lamb (a nod to tradition) or pork (a nod to current street food). This recipe does not include expensive ingredients, like saffron, which is found in the ingredient list of other recipes.  (I saved the saffron for the rice that accompanied the kebabs.) Finally, and most important, this recipe can be made using the broiler of an oven, which opens it up to those who may not have a charcoal brazier or grill.  

One last note: even if you make this dish at home, you can still fulfill the fundamental potential of street food.   Invite some friends over for a meal, or better yet, invite some acquaintances over for a meal and get to know them better.  Every little step counts.


PINCHOS MORUNOS (MOORISH KEBABS)
Recipe from Culinaria Spain, pg. 432
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1/4 pound of pork or lamb fillet
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons of dry sherry
1 teaspoon of mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the kebabs.  Cut the fillet into 3/4 to 1 1/4 inch chunks.  Make a marinade with the olive oil, sherry, spices and marinate the meat chunks for at least 2 hours.

2.  Broil the kebabs.  Thread the meat chunks onto 4 kebab skewers.  Broil under medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning several times.  Serve immediately with bread, lemon or, in my case, some saffron rice.  

ENJOY!

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