September, 2011 Newsletter — The Labor Day Issue
Labor Day is considered by many to mark the end of the grilling season. A sad thought, but perhaps too true. I would like to say hogwash! It may indeed be the end of the alfresco dining season, but let’s kick-off the second season of grilling — football games, post-season baseball and the biggest food holiday of them all, Thanksgiving, are all perfect occasions for firing up the grill.
For now, it is a three-day weekend and a great excuse for an outdoor party. Make the most of it with some of the best ingredients of summer.
Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad
This light salad is easy to prepare and makes a delightfully fresh starter. Sweet peaches pair perfectly with the acid profile of tomatoes. Fresh basil adds the herbaceous notes and soft goat cheese brings a mellow counterpoint. A honey balsamic dressing brings it all together.
- 2 tablespoons light honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 large, white peaches, cut up
- 3 large heirloom tomatoes (I used three different varieties), cut up
- 4 large basil leaves, cut to chiffonade
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese, broken up
Whisk together the honey and balsamic to make the dressing.
Combine the peaches, tomatoes and basil in a large serving bowl. Drizzle on the dressing. Top with goat cheese and serve.
An untraditional approach to this culinary classic creates a delicious side dish. Cooking over the fire brings out a meaty flavor profile in the some of the vegetables, while a hot skillet caramelizes the tomatoes. The zucchini and yellow squash should still have a firm texture when served.
See timing notes at the end for pairing this side with Triple S Rubbed Chicken Thighs.
- 1 large, cast-iron skillet
- 2 pints large grape tomatoes
- 2 large red Italian sweet onlions, quartered
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise
- 1 large yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
- Fine sea salt
- 1 small eggplant, sliced 3/4" thick
Add the tomatoes to the skillet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the onions in the indirect zone (not in the skillet) and preheat with the hood closed. This jump-starts the cooking for the tomatoes and onions. They should cook in the indirect zone for 20 to 25 minutes (including pre-heat) before direct-grilling activities begin.
Brush the zucchini and yellow squash with olive oil and season with salt.
Once the grill is hot and ready, transfer the onions to the direct grilling zone. They should already be softened by their time in the indirect grilling zone. Add the zucchini, yellow squash and eggplants. Grill for a few minutes on each cut side, removing each piece when nicely marked. Be careful not to over-cook the squashes or eggplant.
Once cool enough to handle, cut everything down into smaller pieces. Transfer to the skillet to join the tomatoes. Toss with an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with a little salt. Close the hood and continue cooking in the skillet for 10 minutes more with indirect heat.
Serve hot as a side or with pasta or couscous as a main course.
Note: If serving alongside Triple S Rubbed Chicken Thighs, prep the chicken and vegetables at the same time. Place the chicken in the indirect grilling zone at the same time all the vegetables go into the skillet for the 10 mintues of final cooking.
Triple S Rubbed Chicken Thighs
Triple S is a homemade Smoky Seasoned Salt blend, and it is pure magic for chicken and pork. Rub down the thighs with this mixture that includes smoked salt, smoked paprika and tumeric, and grill-roast them to tender perfection with a crispy crust.
- Olive oil
- 8 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
- Triple S Rub (about half a batch)
Brush the chicken thighs with olive oil and season liberally with Triple S Rub.
Place the chicken in the indirect grilling zone and roast with the skin-side up and the hood closed for about 20 minutes (or until almost completely cooked with an internal temperature reading 165ºF). Transfer to the direct grilling zone and cook with the skin-side down for about 1 minute to crisp up the outside.
Sour Cherry and Mascarpone Croissants
I cannot adequately describe just how delicious these are, but I’ll try. Light, flaky and buttery croissants are the canvas for the bite of sour cherry spread that is counterbalanced by the mellow creaminess of mascarpone cheese. Add in butter, cinnamon and nutmeg and you have a tasty dessert for your outdoor party or perhaps the best breakfast treat you’ll ever make. Either way, they are simple, fun and yummy.
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 6 mini butter croissants
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- About 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- About 4 ounces sour cherry spread (I used Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread, which I found at the cheese counter)
Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to make a seasoned sugar. Slice the croissants open — but not all the way through — so they can lay flat like butterflies on the grill. Brush the sliced faces of the croissants with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with seasoned sugar.
Grill the croissants, buttered-side-down for a few minutes until warmed through and nicely marked. Remove from the grill, spread a spoonful of mascarpone cheese on one side of each croissant and a spoonful of sour cherry spread on the other. Close and serve warm (with extra napkins).
Blackberry Rosemary Cream Ale
A simple blackberry and rosemary syrup transforms a classic cream ale into something more complex and enjoyable.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1/2 pint fresh blackberries
- 1 pint cans Boddington’s Pub Ale
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Roll the rosemary sprigs between your hands to release the oils and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer and hold for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, discard the rosemary and chill.
Force the blackberries through a fine mesh colander over a bowl to collect the juice and remove the seeds. Combine the rosemary simple syrup with the blackberry juice.
For each drink, place 1 ounce blackberry rosemary syrup in a pint glass. Pour in 1 pint of Boddington’s, and enjoy.