Delish dinners outside
Summer’s in full swing, and the assurance of balmy nights means one thing for foodies: It’s time for dinner alfresco.
Grilling is a popular warm-weather pastime — even more so in the Triangle. Who could blame us? Starting with the humble hot dog, grilling makes everything taste great. The process can be healthy, since fat drips off as an item cooks. And the food often can be prepared ahead of time — which increases the hang-out factor with friends and family.
So whether you’re kicking back in your leafy backyard in Cary, doing your part to feed the crowd at a Raleigh block party or cooling off on a Durham deck, these lip-smacking recipes for a grilled meal are sure to amaze taste buds all around.
Super Market Shortcuts
The tang of feta cheese and a hint of fresh mint complement these deliciously different grilled patties.
Four 4-ounce uncooked ground beef or ground turkey patties
1/3 cup bottled cucumber ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint
4 lettuce leaves
4 kaiser rolls, split and toasted
4 tomato slices
Measure thickness of patties; sprinkle patties lightly with salt and pepper. For a charcoal grill, place patties on the greased rack of an uncovered grill. Grill directly over medium coals until done (160 degrees), turning once. Allow about 10 minutes for 1/2-inch-thick patties or 14 to 18 minutes for 3/4-inch-thick patties.
For a gas grill, preheat grill. Place patties on a greased grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.
Meanwhile, for cucumber sauce, in a small bowl combine salad dressing, feta cheese and mint.
Place lettuce on bottom halves of rolls. Top with patties, tomato and cucumber sauce. Add roll tops.
Makes 4 burgers.
Beef Steak in Thai Marinade
Thai red curry paste, unsweetened coconut milk and fish sauce are available in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores. The curry paste and fish sauce will keep for months in the refrigerator.
1-1/4 pounds boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1-inch thick
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
4 teaspoons lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 of a stalk lemongrass, trimmed and coarsely chopped, or 1/8 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
Hot cooked rice (optional)
Trim fat from steak. Place steak in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.
For marinade, in a food processor or blender combine coconut milk, lime juice, red curry paste, soy sauce, sugar and lemongrass. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Pour over meat; seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally. Drain steak, reserving marinade.
For a charcoal grill, grill steak on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals until desired doneness, turning and brushing once with reserved marinade halfway through grilling. Allow 14 to 18 minutes for medium-rare doneness (145 degrees) or 18 to 22 minutes for medium doneness (160 degrees).
For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place steak on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.
Discard any remaining marinade. Thinly slice steak across the grain. If desired, serve steak with hot cooked rice.
Makes 4 servings.
Feel no need to don any sort of loincloth, centurion skirt or other outfit that you think might be traditional for hunting your nibbles with a spear. The spear here is, between us, a skewer, and the items on it aren't as hard to pin down as your average saber-toothed tiger or even your average runaway soybean. This doesn't mean you can't talk a good game about how you speared down the eats for your soiree. That's just good party patter.
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces pork loin, cut into 1-inch chunks
12 ounces vegetarian chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
One 16-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained, or fresh pineapple cut into chunks (1-3/4 cups)
36 cherry tomatoes
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes before cooking
Using a whisk or slotted spoon, combine the honey, pineapple juice, oil, ginger, soy sauce, pepper, sriracha and garlic in a medium-size bowl. Mix until everything is well combined. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade in a separate container.
Put the pork in a casserole dish and pour half of the remaining marinade over the pork. Put the vegetarian chicken in another casserole dish and pour the rest of the marinade over it. Marinate the pork and vegetarian chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (but don't leave them in longer than overnight).
Near the end of the marinating process, build a hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
Thread 1 vegetarian chicken chunk, then 1 pineapple chunk, then 1 cherry tomato onto a skewer, repeating until there is about 3 inches left at the bottom of the skewer (so you have room to hold on to it). Place the skewer on a plate. Repeat using 5 more skewers.
Thread 1 pork chunk, then 1 pineapple chunk, then 1 cherry tomato onto a skewer, repeating until there are about 3 inches left at the bottom of the skewer. Place the skewer on a separate plate. Repeat using the remaining 5 skewers.
Place the vegetarian skewers on one half of the grill with a pair of tongs, and use a separate set of tongs to place the pork skewers on the other half, making sure each stay on their own side of the grill. Grill for 10 minutes, turning once. Keep an eye on the vegetarian skewers, as they may cook more quickly on the grill than the pork skewers.
Transfer the vegetarian skewers to one platter and the pork skewers to another. Pour half of the reserved marinade over the vegetarian skewers, and the other half of the reserved marinade over the pork skewers, and serve.
Makes 12 skewers (6 for vegetarians and 6 for meat-eaters).
Grilled Stuffed Radicchio
We just happen to really dig the mild bite of pleasantly bitter consumables like Fernet Branca, the Italian digestivo, or the star of this recipe, a nice bunch of grilled radicchio. Here and there referred to as "Italian chicory," radicchio is a red-leafed veggie that's often used to add a little kick to salads, but it's also dandy in risotto or pasta and, naturally, grilled.
2 cups water or 2 cups vegetable stock or broth
1/3 cup dried lentils of your choice
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces Italian sausage, loose or removed from casings
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor to coarse crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium-size heads radicchio
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Place the water and lentils in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Preheat your outdoor grill to very hot.
While the grill is heating, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage as much as you can with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned. When the sausage is nearly browned, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in another pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes to each pan, and cook until the onions are soft, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the lentils to the pan without the sausage, and heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add half of the breadcrumbs to each pan, stir, then season each pan with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Set aside.
Slice the radicchio in half lengthwise, leaving the roots intact to hold everything together. Drizzle each head liberally with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season each head well with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.
When the grill is hot, hot, hot, place the radicchio, cut side down, on the grill. You'll probably get a few flare-ups from the olive oil, but don't worry as long as they aren't excessive. Be wary, though — we are looking for a well-grilled, not burned, result.
After 1 minute, turn the radicchio 90 degrees, still cut side down, to get those professional-looking grill marks. Cook for 1 minute more, then flip the radicchio over and cook for an additional minute. Transfer the radicchio to a sheet pan and bring inside for stuffing.
When the radicchio and stuffings are just cool enough to be handled, stuff 2 radicchio halves with vegetable stuffing and 2 with sausage stuffing. Stuff everything loosely between the leaves of the radicchio, or create a little well by removing a few of the innermost leaves. Another option is to simply mound the stuffing atop the radicchio.
Place the stuffed radicchio, cut side up, in the oven and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until tender. Test tenderness by inserting a knife or wooden skewer; the radicchio should give resistance to such intrusion.
Remove from the oven and drizzle each radicchio half lightly with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and serve.
Makes 4 servings (2 for vegetarians and 2 for meat-eaters).
Techniques for Grilling Fish
Stir-Grilled Salmon with Cherry Tomatoes and Sugar Snap Peas
Stir-grilling fish and vegetables is simplicity itself. All you need are fish fillet strips and veggies cut into small pieces, a zipper-top plastic bag, a marinade of some kind, a perforated grill wok, wooden stir-grilling paddles or grill spatulas and a grill. You just marinate the fish and veggies in the bag, and then pour the contents of the bag into the grill wok, which is placed over the sink (or in the grass outside) to avoid a mess. Then you cook the mixture on the grill, stirring, until the food is done to your liking.
You'll be amazed at the extra flavor stir-grilling can impart to the most basic of foods. Once you've tried this recipe, get creative and try other tender vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, mushrooms, onions of all kinds and more.
Do not slice the fish or vegetables too thinly, or they may fall through the holes in the grill wok. And be sure to fill the wok no higher than halfway so that you have room to stir and turn the vegetables with the paddles. Serve over rice or inside flour tortillas for an Asian-style wrap.
For the Asian marinade:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon tahini
1 pound salmon fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, stemmed
12 cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick
To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a large zipper-top plastic bag. Add the salmon, snap peas, tomatoes and onion. Seal the bag and toss to coat. Marinate for 30 to 45 minutes in the refrigerator.
Prepare a hot fire in a grill.
Coat a 12- or 15-inch grill wok with nonstick cooking spray on both sides. Over the sink, dump the marinated salmon and vegetables into the oiled grill wok and let any excess marinade drain off. Set the wok on a baking tray to carry out to the grill.
Place the wok directly over the fire and stir-grill, tossing with wooden paddles or grill spatulas every few minutes, until the fish is opaque and just firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes. Close the lid for 3 to 4 minutes to heat everything all the way through, especially if the outdoor temperature is a bit cool. Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Crab Cakes with Chile-lime Sauce
When a delicious crab cake meets the sizzle of the grill, you get a seaside treat with loads of flavor, enhanced by a tangy lime sauce. Splash out for the more expensive, but better tasting, lump crabmeat, often found frozen. Chill the formed crab cakes so they stay firm, and take them out to the grill only after the grill has heated up and you're ready to go.
Grilling delicate crab or other shellfish cakes requires the same technique as grilling fish burgers: using a well-oiled, preheated, perforated grill rack or grill griddle and turning the cakes just once. The more you fiddle with these mixtures — so lightly held together with egg and bread crumbs — the more likely they are to fall apart. You'll spray the cakes with olive oil and then grill them over medium-high heat, so they'll brown without getting scorched.
For the chile-lime sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ancho or chipotle chile powder
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound lump crabmeat, fresh or thawed frozen
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
To make the sauce, stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead).
To make the crab cakes, gently combine the crab, 1 cup of the breadcrumbs, the egg, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chives, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Spread the remaining 1 cup breadcrumbs on a plate. Form the crab mixture into 8 balls and roll each ball in the breadcrumbs. Flatten the balls into patties about 2 inches thick. Arrange the crab cakes on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Heat an oiled, perforated grill rack or a grill griddle.
Take the crab cakes out to the grill. Spray each crab cake with olive oil cooking spray on both sides. Arrange the crab cakes on the grill rack or griddle and grill, gently turning once, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes total.
Arrange 2 crab cakes on each plate and serve with a dollop of sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
Big Book of BBQ
Herb-Marinated Pork Steaks
One (3-1/2- to 4-pound) boneless pork loin roast
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Garnishes: flat-leaf parsley sprigs, lemon halves
Cut roast into 6 to 8 (1-inch-thick) pieces, and place in a large, shallow dish or large, zip-top plastic freezer bag.
Stir together chopped onion, minced garlic and next 8 ingredients. Pour over pork. Cover or seal, and chill at least 2 hours, turning occasionally. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade.
Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees (medium-high heat). Grill pork, covered with grill lid, 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 155 degrees, turning once. Remove from grill, and let stand until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees. Garnish, if desired.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Spicy Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Caribbean seasoning adds a touch of sweet heat to these grilled tenderloins. If you're in search of an easy entree that can go from everyday to gourmet, this is it.
2 pounds pork tenderloins
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 teablespoons Caribbean jerk seasoning
Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees (medium-high heat). Brush tenderloins with olive oil, and rub evenly with seasoning.
Grill, covered with grill lid, 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 155 degrees. Remove from grill, and let stand 10 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.