It’s my favorite time of year; the pools are open and hopping, summer vegetables are stacked high on the shelves, and everyone is firing up the grill. Not to say the other seasons do not have merit but there is something so primal and exhilarating about the contact of meat and flame during the warmth of a summer day. The smell and sounds of the backyard cookout have always brought people together, but stagnation has set in.
Every cookout seems to have the same menu; steaks, hamburgers, a chicken breast for that one guy who’s on a diet, some kind of fish randomly because aunt Linda isn’t eating meat right now. Let’s shake things up this season, do something different, be worldly and introduce flavors from great barbecue cultures from around the world!
Sauces are a great way to introduce a new flavor profile to your existing offerings, and they are really easy to make. Take the classic sauce salsa verde from Italy (fresh capers, shallots, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and lemon), perfect for grilled whole trout, rib-eye steaks, or even grilled chicken. The briny flavor of the capers is perfectly balanced with the bite of the shallots and the fresh parsley.
Take a trip to Catalonia, Spain, with a hearty Romesco sauce (toasted almonds, roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, good crusty bread and a touch of sherry vinegar). What started as a poor fisherman’s sauce for their daily catch is now your ace in the hole at your next cookout. Smoked chicken, hearty fish filets and grilled pork chops all do wonders with a dollop of the bright and substantive sauce.
If you’re looking for another way to beat the heat, venture into Tunisia or Morocco for a taste of their spicy and herbal Chermoula sauce (olive oil, lemon, cilantro, parsley, and garlic). Start with a dusting of cumin, paprika and cayenne (perfect for fish, shrimp, chicken and pork), then let your grill do the rest. Top your offerings with this herbal and vivacious sauce for a whole new take on backyard grilling.
This grilling season don’t just stick with the standard fare; be wild, be adventurous and have fun!
Makes 1 cup
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 tablespoon thyme
Mix olive oil, capers, parsley, shallot and thyme in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand 1 hour.
Makes 1/4 cup rub
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
4 teaspoons cumin
Makes about 2 cups
4-6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup fruity olive oil
Mix the first three ingredients together in a bowl. Set that aside.
Mix the marinade ingredients together, season with salt and set aside.
Season your choice of meat with a little salt, then liberally sprinkle the rub all over the meat. Grill on high heat then move to indirect heat to finish cooking. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
For tacos, cut the meat into thin strips then toss with the marinade. Adjust season with salt and pepper as needed.
Makes about 2 cups
12 toasted almonds
4 cloves garlic, skinned
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 slice stale bread
2 ripe medium size tomatoes, or 1 large tomato
2 large roasted red peppers, well-drained
1/2 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Roast the garlic by placing it into a small pan of oil and cook over low heat till the garlic is brown and soft.
Finely grind the almonds.
Pour a few tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil into a small frying pan and quickly fry bread until both sides are browned. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a plate or paper towel.
Cut tomatoes into quarters and sauté in same pan, adding oil if needed. Sauté for 4-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
Once bread is cooled, tear into pieces and process with the nuts. Add sautéed tomatoes and continue to process. Place roasted garlic into the processor. Place roasted red peppers and pepper flakes into the processor with the other ingredients and process until ingredients are a thick puree.
While processor is running, slowly drizzle in the vinegar and remaining oil. Add salt to taste.
Stewart Lane is Research & Development Chef at Lon Lane Inspired Occasions. He is a native of Kansas City. He holds a degree from Kansas State University in Hotel and Restaurant Management.