Saturday, June 27, 2009
Celebrating Summer Solstice By Grilling
One of the reasons I love summer is all the grilling we get to do, so the latest dinner party extravaganza with my partner in crime, YT, was a celebration of all things grilled. We're talking tandoori chicken, lamb kebabs, figs, sliders, squid, shrimp and avocado, to name a few. It was fantastic, if I may so myself, not least because I love charred food that's actually bad for me and it was probably the most stress-free dinner party I ever held. Everything I made was for the first time except Tyler Florence's burgers that I had made before to much success.
The grilled avocado salad was probably the biggest revelation for me. One, I had never grilled, or thought of grilling avocados. Split it half, removed pit, brush with oil and grill face down on the wonderful charcoal grill courtesy of YT. Who knew avocados could be smoky? It helped that the corn was also grilled and hence smoky. It was actually a twist on the humble Caesar salad, except the dressing was spiked with canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The charred avocado gave way to the creamiest interior with all its nutty glory. The grilled avocados, corn and romaine lettuce blended beautifully to create a whole new kind of Caesar salad. Loved it.
Another thing I love is a burger -- bloody patty with a soft bun that can hold its own. How could I pass up the opportunity to devour fresh, off-the-grill sliders? I whipped out a great horseradish and Havarti burger recipe by Tyler Florence. The guy has the best recipes. His stuff always come out delicious. Anyhow, the patties are mixed in with some horseradish (I used the "prepared horseradish" cream in a jar) and chopped chives and voila, topped with melting Havarti, makes one mean slider. The horseradish helps to make the (15% fat ground chuck) patty softer and more moist. Just halve the burger recipe and you get twice as many sliders. You can use dinner rolls as buns. The works include bacon (which you know I find distracting but I don't judge), butter lettuce, tomato and red onions. Some of the guests had it open-faced, just with one bun, if you're carb-conscious or gearing up to eat more. I toasted the buns lightly on the grill before assembling. I baked some potato and sweet potato wedges in place of french fries and while they weren't crunchy, they did their job nicely.
I volunteered to grill some seafood or shellfish so went with squid and shrimp. The grilled squid salad was very refreshing. I seasoned the squid in chili pepper, cumin and cayenne so the squid had much flavor by the time it hit the grill. The grilled red bell peppers, red onions, spinach and chopped mango smothered in lime juice gave the salad a tangy, sweet and smokiness that complemented the hot morsels of squid coming off the grill very well.
I used a Bobby Flay recipe for the shrimp and they were just "eh." I was never a big fan of his, but I've always been curious about his very colorful sauces and marinades squirting out of his many sauce containers. So I emulated his Habanero-Garlic vinaigrette that wasn't half bad, but the grilled shrimp was not as flavorful.
The host of the party threw figs, chicken and lamb on the grill to delicious effect. The figs (recipe from O magazine) were halved, grilled face-down and consumed with the creamiest and decadent burrata cheese. As if that weren't enough, we had the option of topping it with a nutty and delicious romesco sauce from Spain. The slightly caramelized figs were amazing by themselves, and paired with the burrata, straight up out of this world.
The chicken was marinated in a mix of spices and yogurt and offered with basmati rice. The chicken was moist and extremely flavorful. The lamb kebabs were a mix of ground lamb, spices, herbs and pine nuts that took us to an aromatic voyage to the middle east. Again, juicy interior meets charred exterior = heaven!
With home-made mojitos and super-cold ice wine flowing, it was a great way to celebrate what was supposedly summer solstice, midsummer -- or the longest day of the year. The host also served a rocking blueberry crumble a la mode to finish off the meal.
Truly a midsummer night's dream...
PS: I made very good use of the leftover chicken by slicing them at a bias and placing a few slices in lettuce cups and topping them with some mint chutney to continue the Indian theme. They were not as good as that evening but good nevertheless.
If you want an easy way to entertain, grilling is your answer. Sorry if this is obvious...