Summer Grillin’

It’s the ultimate taste of summer, and an easy way for the executive chef at Café Europa to entertain friends and family

I spend most of my time inside. It’s the nature of the business. As cooks, often our days and nights pass by in small kitchens—frequently without even a window.

Consequently for me, time with friends and family is best spent outdoors. Summertime is my favorite season to entertain because it hits a lot of marks for an easy, good time: it stays light outside late into the evening; most of the dishes I like to cook and eat don’t take much time or effort; there are lots of great cold drink opportunities and I can do it all outside without even heating up my kitchen.

Because I grew up in the Midwest, cooking outdoors on a charcoal grill is almost second nature to me. I have various smokers and even more laborious outdoor appliances, but when it comes to a casual get-together, I like to keep it simple. The communal and emotional aspect of dining is sometimes lost on those of us in the kitchen because we don’t get many chances to actually visit with our guests in the dining room. An outdoor grill on a warm summer’s evening solves that problem. I can tend to the cooking and interact with all my guests, and as long as I have made a few simple things ahead of time, I won’t have to miss out on the party by being tethered to the stove.

There’s an awful lot of prep work involved in professional cooking. We spend hours getting our mise en place together just so we’re ready to cook the meals for all of our guests. The last thing I want to do on a day off is to spend it prepping all day in my kitchen, which doesn’t have near the batterie de cuisine as I have at work.

Again, I like to keep it simple. It’s easy to gather some great seasonal vegetables at the farmers market and make a batch of green goddess dressing for dipping, then pick up a mess of sausages for the main course.

Sausages have their place all year ’round, but they really shine seared on a grill outdoors in nice weather. The boundless variety of sausages available from around the world makes it easy to find something that will appeal to everyone. I like to get an assortment—some fresh sausages, such as bratwurst; a few cured, such as andouille and knackwurst; a mild veal one like weisswurst; and some good, old-fashioned hot dogs.

When I fire up the grill, I make sure to scoop all the live, hot coals to one side to cook the cured and smoked sausages quickly, while the fresh ones are slowly being roasted on the cooler side. Try wrapping up potatoes, onions and peppers seasoned with a little olive oil, salt and pepper in foil and tuck them under the grill grate next to the hot coals. While the grill is heating up, I make a quick slaw with whatever vegetables look good and whip up a refreshing cucumber salad. As soon as the sausages are done, dinner is served. Lemonade, a chilled rosé and a pitcher of La Palomas make for nice libations. Make dessert really easy by serving that childhood favorite, bomb pops.

Side Dish

Chef Nate Feldmiller’s foray into cooking started as a child, when he suggested that his mother make bacon and eggs instead of pancakes one morning. Her suggestion? “She just said ‘You can make your own breakfast tomorrow.’” And so he did. From there, Feldmiller learned the ins and outs of the kitchen from watching his parents’ dinner parties and preparing meals with his uncle, an avid cook.

“Mostly I just learned that I liked being in kitchens and that I wanted to make a career out of being a cook,” Feldmiller says. After graduating from The University of Missouri, Feldmiller followed his wife to New York City, where he honed his skills at establishments like the Cub Room, Bouley Bakery and Saul.

“I got to learn a lot just from being around and in kitchens with really talented people,” he says. Feldmiller and his wife moved back to Kansas City in 2000, and in 2007, Nate officially took over Café Europa. “We’re very happy with the connections we’ve made with our customers,” Feldmiller says.

CK_FeldmillerNate_13_ALEasy Summer Slaw

Serves 8

2    heads Napa cabbage

1    yellow squash

1    zucchini

1    clove garlic

1    red onion

2    tablespoons salt

Pepper to taste

For the dressing

2    tablespoons Dijon mustard

2    tablespoons sugar

2    tablespoons cider vinegar

2    tablespoons water

½    cup grapeseed oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½    cup fresh herbs, roughly chopped. Anything green and subtle, but I like a mixture of chives, tarragon and parsley.

Directions: If you have a food processor with a grating disk, put all the vegetables through it. Alternatively, thinly slice the cabbage, onion and garlic and grate the zucchini and squash on a hand grater. Place everything in a large bowl and toss with the salt and a few cracks of pepper.

In another bowl, combine everything for the dressing except the oil and herbs and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the oil, and don’t fret if it separates. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the salted vegetables and toss everything together with the herbs. Refrigerate until needed.

CK_FeldmillerNate_20_ALHobo Pouch

Serves 8

2    pounds fingerling potatoes, halved

2    large white onions, sliced thin

4    peppers (red, orange, or yellow for color) stems and ribs removed, sliced

1/3  cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Stack two large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Toss all the vegetables in a bowl with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place the vegetables on top of the foil and wrap them up tightly.

When the grill is ready, slip the package next to the coals, not quite on top of them. Move the package around occasionally to evenly cook. It should be done in about an hour.

CK_FeldmillerNate_09_ALMarinated Cucumber Salad

Serves 8

3    large cucumbers cut into coins (Not too thin because you want some crunch.)

3    tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2    tablespoons water

2    tablespoons sesame oil

2    tablespoons sesame seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers in the salt and pepper and let sit for 20 minutes. Whisk remaining ingredients and add to the cucumbers. Check and adjust seasoning and refrigerate. This will be good same day, but will be even better the next day.

CK_FeldmillerNate_29_ALGreen Goddess Dressing

½    cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup crème fraîche

1    clove garlic

4    anchovy filets

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice of up to half a lemon

½    cup packed fresh green herbs. The greener the better; the choice is up to you. If you like basil, go heavy on the basil, just be sure to include at least three different types of herbs. I like chives, basil, tarragon and a little parsley.

Directions: Put all ingredients in a food processor with the metal blade and mix thoroughly. Check the seasoning—it will probably need pepper, but not much salt because of the mayo and anchovies. Add the juice of half a lemon to wake everything up, but taste frequently as too much lemon makes the green flavor fade.


Pitcher of La Palomas

Fill a pitcher one third up with a reposado tequila, then add the juice of four limes and three pinches of salt. Fill the rest of the pitcher with grapefruit soda and ice. Stir.