Tag Archives: BBQ

Mango Chimichurri Salsa (for grilled meats and seafood)

7 Jun

When it comes to camping food, go bold or go home is my motto. This is no time for subtlety.

Our delicious dinner

Our delicious dinner

So, when Pedro (my dad) showed up at the campsite with some steaks last week. I was all in. He simply sprinkled salt and pepper on the steaks and got to grilling. His hint for you today is that starting with defrosted steaks still a bit cold in the center helps to keep the rare in medium rare when things start moving quickly on the charcoal grill. A fair bit of marbling on a steak is desirable, because you want that fat to melt and season the steak as opposed to drying out a leaner cut.

I decide to surprise everyone with a different sort of dressing for the steak: a mango chimichurri salsa, a riff on the parsley-based Argentinean salsa for steeak. Continue reading


Grilled Steak (and the secrets of spice rub penetration)

14 Jul

After several days of hospital cafeteria food (which is quite expensive, mostly awful, and just not home-made), my mom was hankering for some steak. So as soon as my dad got out of said hospital, she bought some U.S.D.A. Choice top loin and we planned a Fourth of July celebration (see Perfect Grilled Fish and Grilled Potato Disks).

The scoring of the meat is subtle, yet critical (a bit like the unsung heroes of the clean-up crew….)

And then I, who had a hankering to do some fun experimenting with my dad now that he was out of danger, proceeded to screw up her day.

Once the paste is on, give it awhile to adhere and penetrate

“There’s this interesting Cook’s Illustrated technique I want to try…” begins the conversation, and next thing you know, Pedro’s on it with me, we are mucking about (dirtying kitchen stuff which she is mostly in charge of cleaning, because he does the cooking – and gets the glory, I might add. The cleaner-uppers are always undersung.) and everything is fun again. For us.

And penetrate some more while you prep other things

Except that —  his crazy-ass diet means he’s not gonna eat it, and since he’s cooking the fish from across the street (see Perfect Grilled Fish), me and Leandro are not going to eat it, so really, none of us had any business getting elaborate with Myrna’s steak craving. A bit of pepper and salt and the woman would’ve been happy. But far be it for Natalia and Pedro to leave well enough alone…

So we did this gussied-up steak and she hated it. Hated it. Almost spun out. I almost spun out.It had been quite a week and we were all close to spinning out, except that it was Fourth of July and we reeled it in and had a wonderful day, once we remembered what we were about.

I really liked it and Leandro ate the leftovers the next day (once the fish was gone) and proclaimed it The Best Steak Ever, and Padushi and Mommy the Best Cooks Ever… so I am sharing it with you.

The important secret here is that the scoring and the paste add flavor and depth,  AND make the rub stay on! Feel free to experiment with your own spice rub combinations, but be warned that the fish sauce is salty, so UNDERSALT with the rest.

And the next time, I promise, promise, promise Myrna to Keep It Simple. KISS, KISS, KISS.

And for those of you out there, a reminder. Don’t hug the cook without hugging the people who clean up after the cook!

Yeah, baby

Grilled Spice-Rubbed Steak


1.5 lbs beef top loin in two steaks

Scored in a crosshatch, about 1/16th inch deep and ½ inch apart


2 tsp tomato paste

2 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp adobo powder

Spice rub:

¼ tsp rosemary

¼ tsp turmeric

10 black peppercorns

1 clove

Mix all ingredients of paste together. Spread evenly over both sides of steaks. Set aside to rest an hour. (In the fridge, if you must. On the counter if you don’t worry so much about such things).

Crush all ingredients of spice rub together in a mortar and pestle. When steak has rested, sprinkle evenly over all sides of steaks. Rub in (this is a rub, after all).

Cook on a hot grill, about five minutes each side, depending on thickness of steak, heat of grill and desired doneness. Allow to rest before serving and accompany with simple sides that don’t compete.

Grilled Potato Disks (Like fries, only better!)

12 Jul

French fries are such a temptation, especially on the way back from the beach in the summer, when your mouth is salty, and the kids are encrusted with sand, and the sun is hot and you are tasting those carefree high school memories and suddenly you are driving past All-American Burger with all those crowds of similarly sand and salt encrusted summer folks lined up for their Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Fries…well, how could you not?

Well Pedro (yes, he of the crazy-ass diet) has come up with a worthy alternative that you can do on the grill at home. These grilled potato disks are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and just seasoned enough to not need much else. They are my mom’s new favorite; sort of French fries with virtue. Because they are so simple, they go with virtually anything on the regular summer grill menu – burgers, steaks, fish, corn. Love it!

Grilled Potato Disks (Like fries, only better!)

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp Adobo powder

3 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred), peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

While the grill is heating up, in a bowl, stir adobo and olive oil together. Brush the potatoes with the oil mixture and lay on grill, reserving  extra oil. Using tongs , take potatoes off grill when they begin to brown, about five minutes (as they will be spread over the whole grill, you will need to judge hotter and colder parts and shift potatoes accordingly). Dip them in the oil mixture, shake excess off gently and lay them back on the grill for another five minutes or so, until nicely browned. Serve sprinkled with salt, with ketchup or with mayo-chipo-ketchup.

Perfect Grilled Fish Filets by Pedro (Lazarus story included)

8 Jul

You might call it Striped Bass CPR. Or The Fish That Resuscitates. Or Grilled Fish Worth Coming Back For…

Fish after 15 minutes in lemon juice – note the edges turning white

Our neighbor , Scott,  goes fishing a few times a year and comes back with heaps of striped bass or blackfish for his freezer. Scott and his wife, Teresa, always run over a plastic ziploc bag with a pound or so for us, which we try to cook up gratefully and immediately. It freezes well, but there is nothing like the freshness and beautiful texture of fish practically still flapping.

Grill pan we use for fish and small cut vegetables

Last week, my dad had a heart attack on the very day Teresa called me about bringing the fish over.

My mom and I were pretty preoccupied, as you might imagine, but not too preoccupied to say no to the fish. We believed that the old man would be coming home to eat it  — despite the heart attack and the strictures of his crazy-ass diet — but we didn’t quite know when.  And even if he decided to stay on the crazy-ass diet upon return from the hospital, well, he would still have to prepare it for us, wouldn’t he? Someone has to; this is one of the oddball, selfish, inexplicable thoughts that strike you when you are drowning in the panic that you are about to lose someone dear: “He can’t die! I don’t know how to work that grill!”

So we stuck the fish in the freezer to keep it fresh for his eventual return. “He’s got to come back. There is striped bass waiting for him in the freezer!” There was a bit of “He has to come back; he hasn’t taken Leandro fishing yet” as well. The strange logic of hope and faith, as if a to-do list were enough to compel a dying man to stay on earth when his spirit’s GPS is set for another dimension. And yet, perhaps it’s not so strange to think so.

Return he did, although there were some very touch-and-go scary moments along the way.

About a week after the cardiac event, there he was, grilling that fish on the deck for Fourth of July, almost, almost, but not quite, as if nothing had ever happened. And the fish came out as if it had never seen the inside of a freezer.

Here is Pedro’s lovely recipe for perfect grilled fish (which he did indeed eat, crazy-ass diet be damned. I mean, after a close brush with death, wouldn’t you just have to say fuck it, this diet ain’t working, pass me the real food?).

It is seasoned just enough to let the freshness sing a song of the sea. And for us to sing a song of gladness. Can the fishing trip with Leandro be far behind?

Perfect Grilled Fish (by Pedro, hurray, hurray!)

1lb filleted striped bass or other firm white fish


Juice of one lemon (about ¼ Cup)

1 tsp olive oil

½ tsp adobo powder

A grill basket

A lemon sliced into thin rounds

Salt filets lightly on all sides. Place in bowl and squeeze lemon over. Turn filets until coated and refrigerate about 15 minutes, or until edges begin to turn opaque and white. Remove filets from bowl, discarding lemon juice and wiping out bowl. Rinse filets, pat dry, and put back in bowl. Cover with olive oil and adobo powder and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Brush the grill basket lightly with oil. Place filets flat on grill basket (reserving oil and adobo juices in the bowl for brushing while grilling). Cook on a medium hot grill for about two minutes. Turn over and brush with reserved oil and cook for another two minutes. Lay lemon slices on each filet and cook for another minute or two, until fish is opaque, but not dry.

Serve garnished with lemon slices.

Chickpea and Tahini Salad

8 Aug

Regular readers know my love for chickpeas. I love my Gingery Marinated Chickpeas (Greta Garbanzo https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/?s=greta+garbanzo&submit=Search,) but decided it was time to freshen up my outlook.

Thus, this Chickpea and Tahini salad…perfect to accompany summer BBQ or Mediterranean buffet, an excellent side dish to just about anything, and best of all, easy! I made this a few hours ahead, and the little bit that remained made for great leftover snack lunch!

Chickpea and Tahini Salad

2 29 oz cans of garbanzos/chick peas/ceci, rinsed and drained

½ red onion, sliced thin

2 ripe tomatoes, seeds and gel removed and chopped

1 Tbs cilantro leaves (can go to two if you like) chopped fine

1 Tbs mint leaves (can add another Tbs if desired) chopped fine

4 Tbs tahini

4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced super-fine

4-6 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs water

Salt to taste

Place chickpeas, onion, tomato, cilantro and mint in a bowl

In a separate bowl, whisk tahini, garlic, lemon juice and water until blended

Toss dressing in salad. Salt to taste.

Spider Dogs – a kid-cool way to grill hot dogs

1 Aug

Hot dogs are quintessential BBQ and camp favorites – easy and convenient, tasty and filling. But we stepped the fun up a notch at our latest beach camping adventure with a recipe culled from a most excellent camping prep book called Camp Out! The Ultimate Kid’s Guide by Lynn Brunelle.

Called Spider Dogs by Brunelle (and Octo-Dogs by us when we are making them at the beach)  they are skewered hot dogs skewered, sliced and cooked so that they become eight-legged spiders (or in our recent case of camping: octopii).

Your kids will really dig them, you will raise your cool quotient and they are still as easy as throwing a few dogs on the grill.


(Note: There is quite the fire storm about the relative healthfulness of hot dogs. Nitrates and nitrites may or may not be bad or good for you…I really don’t know. We use Applegate Organic hot dogs, which apparently have as much nitrite and nitrate as conventional brands, but are made with organic meat and “natural” curing sources. Does it make a difference? Who knows? But Leandro likes them. I find the whole thing confusing, so I can’t offer solutions, but here’s a New York Times article that can at least explain the source of the confusion: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/business/02hotdog.html?_r=2&ref=health)

Grilled Spider-Dogs

Packaged hot dogs

1 skewer for each hotdog

You’ll want a hot grill going for this.

Stick a skewer halfway through each hot dog lengthwise.

Carefully cut the free half into quarters, lengthwise.

Lay the sliced ends of the hot dogs on the grill. The slices will curl back away from each other as they cook. When the sliced end is cooked and curled, carefully remove the dogs from their skewers, skewer through the cooked end and slice uncooked half into quarters lengthwise. Lay the uncooked ends of the dogs on the grill and cook until they are also curled back and you have a spider (or octo-) dog!

You may also like:

A Camping Week Come A Cropper – And What We Cooked

Spaghetti A La Carbonara for camp stoves

Spanish-style Tortilla adapted for camp stoves

Quesadillas adapted for camp stoves

Aglio Olio et Peperoncino (simple garlic and hot pepper pasta dish) for camping

Better Scrambled Eggs for a Camping Trip

Marianne’s Black Bean and Sweet Corn Salad (Summer BBQ/Buffet Dish)

8 Jul

Marianne has been one of my closest friends since we were 13, so when she offered to bring something over for our last BBQ, I was not afraid to ask for exactly what I wanted: her black bean and sweet corn salad! It’s something I make myself fairly often, but I like her version better and now I know why; the balsamic vinegar gives it a touch of sweetness that balances the onion and plays well with the crunchiness of the corn.

This dish works well with virtually all grilled meats, including fish. And in a pinch you can substitute frozen or canned corn, but a Long Island summer calls for real corn off the cob….MMmmmmm!

Marianne’s Black Bean and Sweet Corn Salad

2 1 lb cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and silk removed

½ medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced

3 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Bring abundant water to boil in a large pot. Boil corn to your liking (Marianne says 15 minutes; I usually boil for a maximum of three minutes, but since her recipe is so delish, I defer to her on this one!). When the corn has cooked, cool and then, holding the corn upright at an angle, cut kernels off corn. In a bowl, toss all ingredients together gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make this salad on the day of your event for the crispest veggies, but enjoy the leftovers — if you have any — for several days!

Ensalada de Lentejas (Lentil Salad, Spanish-style)

11 Jun

The hot, hazy and humid summer weather typical of Long Island has started early this year, but that doesn’t mean I am giving up my lentils. I like the taste, the price and the fact that, unlike many of the other legumes, they don’t need pre-soaking.

Nutritionally these tiny almost-beans, almost-peas are giants. According to the Mayo Clinic’s Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., “…lentils are high in protein and fiber and low in fat, which makes them a healthy substitute for meat. They’re also packed with folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium and fiber.” So hip-rah, hip-rah! You should always, always, always have lentils in your pantry.

In winter I make hearty lentil soup, but hot weather calls for something cooler and lighter. I use a recipe — inspired once again by Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain. Have it as a main course with boiled potatoes or rice, or pair it with grilled sausages (from andouille to kielbasa..lentils love a good sausage partner). Lentils also marry well with grilled fish steaks; you can use the lentils as a bed, perhaps accompanied with polenta. This serves four as a side dish; you may want to double it for a BBQ accompaniment or main course.

Lentil Salad

½ lb uncooked pardina lentils (smaller and cuter than your average lentil, but you are free to substitute*)

1 onion, peeled. Cut in half, leaving one half whole and mincing the other half

1 clove

1 bay leaf

1 carrot scraped or peeled (scraping helps maintain a brighter color)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/8 tsp salt (a fat pinch)

Freshly ground pepper

¼ cup good olive oil

1.5 Tbs red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

 2 Tbs drained and minced roasted red pepper from a jar, plus 1 Tbs chopped for garnish

Rinse and pick through lentils and place in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Stick the clove in the onion half (reserve the minced onion), then add to pot with bay leaf, carrot, smashed garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, until just tender (longer if using regular green lentils). Drain and rinse well in cold water. Remove onion (and any clove that has fallen out), bay leaf and garlic. Dice carrot and place in serving bowl with lentils. Add olive oil, vinegar, reserved mined onion, chopped garlic and minced red pepper and mix gently (you don’t want the lentils to fall apart). Let rest for at least a half hour and serve, topped with reserved red pepper as garnish.

*Green lentils are great for salads because they keep their texture. Brown can get mushy and red lentils fall apart when cooked too long, If you choose them as substitutes, start checking the texture after 15 minutes of simmering.

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