Grab your tongs and a few hunks of meat. It's summer and time to grill.
People love barbecues. But next time you host a cookout, do your guests and their arteries a favor by skipping dried-out burgers and nitrate-laden dogs. Opt instead for fresh vegetables, high-quality meats and homemade salads, sans the mayo. No-knead bread is great for parties, and instantly ups your culinary clout in the eyes of party-goers.
If available, find house-made sausages form your local butcher. Our favorite is from Ver Brugge in Oakland, where we bought goat, lamb/rosemary, chicken/apple and chorizo. When your sausage is done (10-12 minutes on med. heat), cut into bite-sized pieces and serve with toothpicks. Your guest won't fill up by eating an entire link, and they'll enjoy more of the healthier, non-meat dishes. Plus, you can buy less meat and spring for the good stuff.
I always have fruit on the table as well - whatever is the season's sweetest. Eating a piece of fruit will cleanse your palate after noshing on smokey meat from the grill.
Hosting a BBQ is a circus act where you balance cooking, serving, socializing, cleaning and the general task of keeping guests happy. Keep the flow running smoothly by preparing the night before, and devising an efficient setup between the table, bar and grill. If possible, situate the grill so you're facing guests, at least partly, while cooking. I haven't quit mastered the art of seamless hosting, but I learn a few things from every experience. What did this last BBQ teach me? Take time to eat and keep your dog away from the grill.
Summer BBQ recipes:
- Mixed potato salad with green beans and capers
- Pasta salad with toasted chickpeas, oven-roasted tomatoes and pecorino
- Homemade whole wheat harvest bread
- Lemongrass chicken wings
- 4 types of sausage (chicken apple, goat, lamb rosemary, chorizo)
- grilled corn on the cob
- vegetable skewers with squash, onion and peppers
- fruit salad with sliced kiwi, apricots and nectarines
Mixed potato salad with green beans and capers
A mix of huckleberry, ruby crescent, and German butterball potatoes (a mix of any small potato will do)
Capers, soaked and drained
Blue Lake green beans, blanched and rinsed with cold water
Toasted pine nuts
Extra-Virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Set potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water. Set in the freezer while you prepare other ingredients.
Snap ends off the green beans, and blanch in the same water used for the potatoes. Run under cold water to stop cooking. Slice each green bean in half on a diagonal. Toast the pine nuts.
Take the potatoes from the freezer and cut each one in half. Place in a large bowl. Add the green beans, capers, pine nuts, two swirls of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Gently toss with wooden spoons and taste for salt. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pasta salad with toasted chickpeas, oven-roasted tomatoes and pecorino
1 pound Strozzapreti pasta
9 plum tomatoes
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
3/4 cup fresh green peas
1/2 cup grated pecorino
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Set your oven to 250F. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper on top. Bake for 3 hours.
Drain and rinse the soaking chickpeas and place in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain. Heat up a cast iron skillet, add a swirl of olive oil. Throw in the chickpeas, add salt and pepper, and cook on high for 10 minutes, until golden on all sides.
Set a large pot of water to boil. Add green peas and cook for about 7 minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to stopping cooking. Add pasta to the same pot and cook according to directions. Drain and run under cold water.
In a large bowl, add the pasta, peas, chickpeas, tomatoes, shredded pecorino, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Toss with wooden spoon. Set in fridge until ready to eat.
Photos courtesy of my good friend Daniel Castro. Check out his work at Castro Photos.
Next time on Local Lemons: The secret to grilling corn, vegetable skewers with the magical spice Za'atar and no-knead harvest bread