The season’s trend to prep indoors — but cook, eat and make a mess outdoors — will apply throughout various times of the day from early breakfasts to late soirees. Here’s the game plan and some gadgets to help you cool your heels and enjoy an easy, delicious summer — mainly outdoors.
A flattop-seasoned griddle is a must for cooking brekkie on the barbie, whether it’s attached to your grill, or a topper placed over the grid. Choose stainless steel over aluminum, and aerated styles with surface slits for grilling bacon and sausages, while a smooth surface griddle for pancakes, French toast, and omelets along with vegetables and seafood that would tend to slip through the cracks like a pile of wild mushrooms, strips of peppers, sliced onions, home fries, and shrimp. For sweet-tooths, try grapefruit or peach halves that develop a honeyed smokiness when grilled, then sprinkle with a streusel topping of goat butter, brown sugar, almond flour, cinnamon and cardamom for a breakfast indulgence.
Other grilling gizmos worth notable mention include the Bluetooth thermometer that sets any piece of meat, poultry or fish for desired doneness, then sounds an alert when cooked to perfection; a motorized grill cleaner like a Roomba robot for your barbecue; and tongs with built-in LED light bulbs for after dark cook-outs.
Walk the Plank
Natural aromatic wood planks infuse fish and fowl, meat and vegetables with a woodsy, smoky flavor while keeping them moist and tender. Alder and maple woods pair well with chicken and seafood, cedar razzes up pork, beef, poultry and fish, while multi-tasking cherry wood tames gamy meats such as, venison, bison and wild boar, and nicely complements strong-flavored oily fish like salmon, and vegetables of all manners. Fresh rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, orange rinds, whole limes or Meyer lemons tossed into the glowing embers before grilling will also sass up your vittles.
Another Fine Pickle
Sweet, sour, hot and spicy pickled fruits and vegetables add pops of color and crunch to sandwiches, burgers and other grilled offerings, or munched on solo as a snack or appetizer. No cooking required, just pick a peck of pickled peppers, cucumbers, cauliflower florets, beets, persimmons, okras, green tomatoes or carrots. Simply gather a batch of pickling spices, including fresh dill or dill seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic cloves, allspice berries, mustard seeds, star anise and coarse kosher salt, and blend your favorite garden choices in a mason jar with spring water. Let the pickling begin at room temperature for about a week, then refrigerate. These savory nibbles are both probiotic and portable, easily transported to patios and picnics.
Soup it up!
Indulge in a slew of chilled and refreshing summer soups bursting with vibrant colors and sun-ripened flavors. Showcasing the season’s bountiful beauties, such as avocado chili bisque, spicy mango ginger, Greek Karpouzosoupa, (watermelon mint soup), raw chilled corn chowder, pineapple and chipotle cream, blueberry vichyssoise, and glorious gazpacho hailed from southern Spain. The latter, a classic liquid salad that blends vine-picked tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, garlic, and chunks of bread sopping with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar has evolved into many trendy interpretations.
Gazpacho has gone urban, fruity, fishy, meaty, smoky and sophisticated. Golden gazpacho marries the sweet and tangy flavors of juicy mangoes, yellow heirloom tomatoes, and orange juice (recipe below). Beet gazpacho dials up the ruby roots in a chunky, spicy puree with salsa verde. Strawberry gazpacho juxtaposes the seedy fruit with duck prosciutto and basil. Grilled gazpacho combines the smoky mesquite flavors of roasted red peppers and tomatillos. While white gazpacho, reminiscent of the crude concoction called “ajo blanco,” plucked from the Middle Ages during Spain’s Islamic occupation and served to workers in the vineyards, interestingly incorporates blanched almonds, green grapes and bread chunks into an olive oil and vinegar base.
Recipe: Sweet Golden Gazpacho
• Ingredients: 3 large yellow heirloom tomatoes, chopped; 2 large ripe mangos, peeled, cubed; 2 yellow peppers, seeded and diced; 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice; 1/2 cup dry white wine; 1/2 cup diced sweet (Vidalia) onion; 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped; 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice; sea salt to taste.
• Method: In a food processor, puree tomatoes, mangos, peppers, onion, wine and cilantro. Blend in juices, and season to taste with salt. Chill for three hours. Ladle into martini or Pilsner glasses, and garnish with twists of lime or orange rind.