It is grilling, barbecuing, and smoking time. Nothing says summer like a grilled burger or some smoked chicken or barbecued brisket.
Grilling is the oldest form of cooking. Once fire was controlled, people learned that cooked meat was far more palatable than raw meat and a lot less chewy! The early settlers brought a more refined method of grilling to the New World, building communal fire pits where people came together to grill the catch of the day — everything from deer to rabbits, wild turkeys, and the seafood that lived right off the coast.
The immigration waves in the early 19th century marked the end of this way of cooking. Grilling in big cities near closely built tenements was not safe. Besides, technology had given cooks indoor stoves, so cooking outside meant that you could not afford this modern convenience. Grilling was relegated to westward expansion and became the cooking mode of necessity only.
So how did we go from communal fire pits to extraordinary backyard barbecues, gas grills and more?
That idea belongs to a man named George Stephan. In the 1950s, he was a metal worker in Chicago and was working for a company called “Weber,” which made buoys. Stephens soon obtained a controlling share of the company and, in 1952, created his first home grill. He took one of those buoys, cut it in half, and added three legs and some wood. The Weber Kettle was born!
This creation, coupled with the exodus from cities to newly built suburbs, created the explosion of private home grilling. The Kettle and the charcoal were inexpensive, so grilling became the iconic symbol of summertime in the suburbs.
For your edification, grilling and barbecuing are too different things. Grilling is the relatively quick cooking of foods over high, direct heat. Barbecuing is the slow cooking of larger cuts of meat over more indirect heat.
Smoking is a fairly new method of slow-cooking meat in a controlled, smoky environment at relatively low heat. The result is delicious. Many companies now make fairly inexpensive home smokers.
Now you can fill your backyard with a smoker, a grill and a barbecue! Take your pick and enjoy the summer!
Drunken (Not Really) Smoked Salmon (Pareve)
My friend, Jim Withall, makes this delicious, moist, and flavorful salmon. There is absolutely no taste of vodka in this and the results are superb!
3 pounds salmon, divided in half, with skin
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup sugar, mix of dark brown and white or all white
1 Tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
OPTIONAL: Pure Maple syrup alone or mixed with a pinch of cayenne pepper
Place the two pieces of salmon into two zipper bags. Divide the vodka between the two bags and squeeze as much air out of the bags as possible. Zip them shut and gently massage the vodka into the fish for several seconds. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for an hour. While the fish is in the refrigerator, mix the sugars, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Remove the fish from the refrigerator and discard the vodka. Rinse the bags and shake dry. Rinse the fish and pat dry. Place the fish back in the bags and place half the rub mixture on the top of each piece. Remove the air from the bags and close. Rub the brine mixture into the fish, place in the bowl and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove the fish, rinse and pat dry. While the fish is brining, preheat the smoker to 175 degrees.
Place the fish in a smoker-safe dish and place in the smoker. If you like, you can baste every 15 minutes with the maple syrup.
Smoke the fish for 45-60 minutes. Increase the temperature to 225-250 and smoke for an addition 45-65 minutes until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145-150 degrees at the thickest part. Remove from the smoker and serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.
Cabernet Sauvignon Burgers with Shallots and Mushrooms (Meat)
This is a fantastic burger that will delight adults.
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon wine
2/3 cup shallots, minced
9 Tbsp. unsalted Pareve margarine, softened
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary or parsley, if you do not care for rosemary
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 to 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup pareve, unflavored, breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 extra-large egg
6 pareve focaccia rolls.
Place the wine and minced shallots in a medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the wine is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove from heat and add one tablespoon margarine and the sugar. Stir till melted. Set aside. Mix the rest of the margarine with the rosemary or parsley and set aside.
Place the meat in a large bowl and add the egg, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of the shallot wine mixture. Form into 6 patties, brush lightly with vegetable oil, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Sauté until they turn golden. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the shallot sauce to the mushrooms and heat through. Set aside.
Heat the grill to medium high heat. Grill burgers, basting them with the remaining wine/shallot mixture. Brush the cut halves of rolls or focaccia bread with the margarine/ rosemary mixture and grill until golden. Serve burgers with the sautéed mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and baby field greens. Serves 6.
Grilled Veggie Skewers with *Romesco Sauce (Pareve)
*Romesco sauce is a delicious pepper/tomato/toasted almond sauce that has multi levels of flavor and is delicious with meat or veggies.
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 slices hearty country white bread like Focaccia
2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup toasted, blanched, chopped almonds (pre-toasted or toast at 375, 4 to 7 minutes)
4 to 5 Roma tomatoes
1 large red pepper, roasted, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. chili powder or 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes for more
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
2 to 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. paprika or smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Preheat the broiler to high. Brush the bread on one side with olive oil and toast until golden. Let cool.
Place the pepper and tomatoes on the rimmed baking sheet. Broil until the skin is charred, about 3 to 5 minutes. The pepper may take longer. Carefully turn the tomatoes to char the other side, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the tomatoes in a bowl to cool. Place the pepper back in the oven until charred and turn to char the other side. Remove the pepper to a small paper bag and close the bag. Let cool.
While the veggies are cooling, place the garlic in a food processor. Pulse to mince. When the pieces stick to the side, scrape down and add the toasted almonds. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the bread and the chili powder of pepper flakes and pulse until the almonds form a thick paste. Scrape down the sides.
Gently rub the charred skin from the tomatoes and remove the stem end core. Do the same with the pepper and remove the white veins and seeds. Add to the processor and process until smooth. Add the Parsley, vinegar, paprika, salt and pepper and pulse to blend.
While the mixer is running, add the olive oil to emulsify the mixture. Add as little or as much as needed to attain the desired consistency. Scrape into a bowl and set aside so flavors can blend. Makes about 2 to 3 cups.
Veggie Skewers (Pareve)
You can make this with any veggies you like.
2 to 3 Japanese eggplant, (thin, long eggplants)
2 to 3 small zucchini
12 cherry or grape tomatoes
12 button mushrooms
6 to 12 small red onions or pearl onions
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut the eggplant into 1nch-long pieces. Do the same with the zucchini. Place in a large bowl with the rest of the veggies. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat evenly.
Place the vegetables on 4 to 6 skewers, alternating vegetables or placing all of one kind on the same skewer for more even cooking. Season with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat until the veggies are softened and golden. Slide off the skewer onto s a serving platter and serve with a bowl of the Romesco sauce. Serves 4 to 6.