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From shish kebabs to toasted marshmallows, food that's skewered and cooked outdoors is undeniably appealing. The novelty of something tasty on a stick, the drama of fire and smoke, the rapid pace of grilling: All enliven the most familiar and ordinary of ingredients.

The colorful mixed skewers below combine marinated chicken breast and fresh vegetables. They can be assembled while the grill heats or, if it's more convenient, hours ahead. Either way, once they're on the grill, the skewers are done in about the time it takes to set the table and finish the rest of the meal.

Chicken skewers are done and safe to eat when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 170 degrees for breast meat or 180 degrees for thigh or drumstick meat.

As a main course, serve two or three 8- or 10-inch skewers per person. For hors d'oeuvres, divide the ingredients among approximately 16 shorter skewers.

Marinated Chicken Skewers with Seasonal Vegetables

4 boneless chicken breast halves, skinned, boned and trimmed of all fat, tendons and cartilage

1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch squares

1 small red onion, cut in 1-inch squares

8 mushroom caps, wiped clean

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 -inch slices

1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2 -inch slices

8 wooden or metal skewers (8- or 10-inches long)

White Wine Marinade

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced parsley

Dash dried thyme OR

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Salt and paprkia to taste
Slice chicken breast halves into 1-inch cubes or 1- by-2-inch strips; set aside.

Prepare White Wine Marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, wine, mustard, parsley, thyme, salt and paprika. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the mixture in a small lidded container; refrigerate. In a large bowl, combine chicken and remaining marinade; toss to coat chicken well. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 hours. Drain chicken, discarding the liquid in which it was marinated.

Meanwhile, prepare a hot charcoal fire. Thread skewers, alternating chicken and vegetables. Remove reserved marinade from refrigerator.

Grill, lightly brushing chicken with reserved marinade and turning skewers occasionally to ensure even cooking, until done (approximately 6 to 8 minutes per side). Makes 8 skewers.