Two summer items arrived early. One is out-of-town friends and relatives. They can stay longer. The other is hot weather, which is less welcome.
Summer cooking is like riding a bike. It's basically in the timing.
Accommodating the heat by baking on a gas grill, I cooked a dozen apple muffins, nicely crumbed and sweetly flavored. Avoiding a hot kitchen another day, I tried pie crust and brownies. The pastry, straight from a refrigerated roll, was OK over indirect heat. I carefully raised the heat to cook the brownies thoroughly.
I'm nosy and want to avoid burning food, so grilling doesn't save baking energy, but the kitchen stays cool, so I'll do it again.
People love delicious meals from the grill. Respondents in a Weber Grills poll listed their top five favorite foods: hamburgers, steak, chicken, hot dogs and ribs. No wonder brownies didn't make the list. Dessert was the "most challenging" item to grill.
They should try pineapple. Just combine a little lemon juice, a few tablespoons honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon or pepper and baste rings or wedges. Grill them on an oiled grate a few minutes on each side. Greasing the grate really helps release all non-greasy foods.
Foil-packaged potatoes, a la campfire memories, don't disappointed either. In heavy-duty aluminum foil, bundle chopped potato, bell pepper and onion, bacon bits and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder and oil. A bit of sage, rosemary or thyme increases grown-up flavor. Flip the packet a couple times.
Potatoes stay moister for direct grilling when par-boiled or microwaved potatoes until almost done first. Yellow and red potatoes stay intact better than russets.
For even cooking, tent sweet onion with an aluminum pan or foil and flip them over two or three times. Try a coating of honey mustard, balsamic vinegar, barbecue or soy sauce, or sprinkle them with smoky paprika and chili powder before grilling.
Bruschetta is a patio appetizer classic. Lightly sprinkle thinly sliced French bread with garlic powder as it turns a bit crispy on the grill, then guests can top slices with a mixture of 1-1/2 cups (about 1-1/2 pounds) seeded and finely chopped tomato, 1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 5 or 6 fresh basil, chopped. Holly Clegg, who authored 14 "Trim & Terrific" cookbooks, advises that juicy tomatoes give up seeds easily when cut in half horizontally, then squeezed.
Weber's survey also found lemon to be the favorite tenderizing juice when marinating. This recipe for chicken thighs uses it with one of its marinade mixes. The flavors whet the appetite for chicken.
GARLIC AND HERB-MARINATED CHICKEN THIGHS
1 pkg. dry garlic and herb marinade mix (see Note)
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1 cup white wine
8 chicken thighs (about 2-1/4 lb.)
2 lemons, sliced in circles
Fresh thyme or basil for garnish, if desired
In large, nonreactive bowl, 13-by-9-inch glass pan or resealable plastic bag, combine marinade mix, lemon juice and white wine. Add chicken. Marinate, covered and turning occasionally, 2 to 4 hours.
Blot chicken dry. Carefully lift skin from top of thigh and place 1 or 2 lemon slices, depending on size, under it. Smooth skin down. Brush all over with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Grill chicken bone-side down in center of cooking grate. It is not necessary to turn chicken pieces. Cook about 45 minutes, depending on size of thighs, until meat near bone registers 180 degrees or, without a meat thermometer, until it is no longer pink and juices run clear.
Using tongs, remove from grill. Spatula can help preserve skin on top of meat.
Let rest 5 minutes. To serve, garnish with fresh thyme or basil.
Makes 4 to 8 servings.
Note: JustAddJuice garlic and herb marinade mix is product used. Recipe can be adjusted for other marinades.
National Onion Association: www.onions-usa.org
Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association: www.EatWisconsinPotatoes.com
Holly Clegg: www.hollyclegg.com