It's summer, the weather is warm, and what better time to inaugurate the season than striking out the Weber?
One of the greatest things about summer is inevitably grilling, but it can also be one of the most daunting, especially for calorie-counting types and real gourmands, who want something a little more extravagant from their meals than meat coated in Heinz 57 and A-1.
Another worrisome issue that rears its ugly head during grilling season, fatty foods aside, is the added exposure to carcinogens in grilled meat that has been linked to cancer.
Never fear, Patch is here to provide you with safe, healthy, and yes, high-quality recipes for the grill that will kick off your summer and Memorial Day Weekend right.
Patch local editors from Rye, Yorktown, Chappaqua-Mt.Kisco, Scarsdale and the soon-to-launch Port Chester sites got together with contributor and chef Jeremy Shvetz to taste some artisan-style alternatives to the traditional summer fare.
Here are the recipes that floated to the top.
We've included some of our favorite picks for local markets where you can find the items for your shopping list.
Endives with Herbed Goat Cheese
- Start with several endives, which you can purchase at your local gourmet market or even grocery store (we found them at a A&P Fresh) – just peel off and discard the browned outer leaves if you're stuck with less-than-perfect selection.
- Chop off the base, and peel and arrange the sturdier leaves on a tray.
- Depending on the size of your party, unwrap one or two containers of herbed goat cheese, and toss into a mixing bowl.
- Slowly and gently stir in whipping cream, until you have a paste-like consistency.
- Spoon dollops of the cheese into the endive shells.
- Using tongs, place the endives for 30 seconds only, onto the heated grill, and remove.
Our particular attempt with this dish didn't come out according to play. I left the endives on the grill until the cheese bubbled - a bad faux pas, said Jeremy. The leaves lose all firmness, and the cheese falls out when you try to pick them up.
But Plamena, the Yorktown editor, who helped make the filling, affirms, "This tastes delicious," so it may be well worth the effort.
- Find a hearty sourdough from a local bakery or a grocery store that gets regular deliveries.
- Slice in fat, 1" pieces.
- Place on the grill for 1 minute, so it is only lightly toasted.
- Serve with olive oil, hummus, or the perfect burger.
Mushrooms with Thyme
This was one of the editors' favorite dishes – it's probably no coincidence that it is also one of the higher-calorie efforts, because, as Jeremy said, "don't fool yourself into thinking you're being healthy when you get things like this at a restaurant. They're coated, coated in butter."
- Find a good mix of mushrooms (or just a delectable favorite of your palate). We used cremini, oyster, and chantrelles that came in a packaged mix.
- Melt salted butter in a pan with a few whole cloves of peeled garlic (to taste) on medium heat.
- Toss the mushrooms in with a few springs of fresh thyme leaves (stripped off the stalks).
- Add a few pinches of kosher salt.
"Kosher salt is the best," said Jeremy. "It is flat, so it settles on the largest possible area of space," he said. "Kitchen salt doesnt' have anything on it."
Editors Satta and Plamena named the mushrooms among their favorites of the array.
Aztec Pepper Julienne
This was something we came across in the produce aisle at a Stop n' Shop, and Jeremy went nuts over. The long, horn-shaped red pepper came in a cellophane package, and was costlier than other peppers, but a perfect compliment to the burgers and endive dishes. We cut it julienne-style, to get the best bang for the buck, and promptly used it all up.
Corn in the Husk
The easiest way you could possibly cook corn-on-the-cob, and no messy cleanup of corn-holders or sticky hands, either. We got our corn at Cherry Lawn Farms, at 815 Weaver St. on the New Rochelle border.
- Pick out the tenderest corn ears you can find at a local farm stand.
- Place the ears on the grill once your grill is heated up.
- Turn the ears after 10 or 12 minutes.
- After about 20-30 minutes, your corn will be done.
- Let the corn sit for at least five minutes to cool off.
- Peel back the husks and use them and the stalk as the holder.
This was one of the more fun dishes, and very family-friendly, not to mention photo-perfect. Jeremy explained that the corn steams itself in the husk, and so comes out perfectly on the other side. We thought so, and so did my dog Annie, who sunk her teeth in to a discarded cob before we wrestled it away.
Mulitcolor Peppers and Vidalia Onion
- Get a selection of sweet peppers; red, orange and yellow worked best for us. Try Simply the Best.
- Slice a vidalia onion into fat rings by cutting both ends off and slicing one careful cut down from the outer layer to the center, and peel the rings off. (See the photos for more detail.)
- Core the peppers as you would an apple, slicing down from the top, and cutting around the stem.
- Cut the peppers into flanks, and cut out the white pithy spines, which taste bitter.
- Add some oily salad dressing (we used Ken's Steakhouse Cesar) or olive oil and charcoal salt. The oil helps to keep the vegetables moist, while the spices bring out the natural flavor.
Asparagus on the Grill
- Pick up a bunch of the thinnest asparagus you can find – Jeremy prefers the very skinny kind because it grills without any bitterness or overly crunchy results. We like Fairway in Pelham for picky produce needs.
- Cut the ends off where the asparagus gets fatter, whiter and tougher. To determine where this brittle part begins, test one of them by holding the ends and bending it into an arc. Where the bend is pronounced is where the brittle part begins.
- Marinate the asparagus in the same dressing or oil combo you used for the peppers. It doesn't need to be too fancy, but it helps the vegetable retain heat.
- Using a piece of foil as a buffer, heat the asparagus on the grill until just tender, usually 10 minutes.
The Perfect Burger
Our chef for the night claims he has The Perfect Burger recipe, and Satta definitely agreed, it tasted pretty good to her. But we'll let you be the judge. Meat can be purchased anywhere, but if you want the high-grade stuff, head to Balducci's.
- Start with a pound of high-quality ground beef.
- Mix with 1/8 c. of granulated garlic, not garlic powder, Jeremy notes. It's not the same.
- Add 1/2 t. of black lava salt (it aids in digestion, Jeremy says, and adds robust flavor) and up to 1/2 t. kosher salt, to taste.
- Add 1/3 a diced vidalia onion.
- Mix the meat with gloved hands – if possible – which not only protects your hands from the beefy oils, but also prevents staph infections.
When cooking both the burgers and the chicken, Jeremy says its important to test the meat with your finger, and base your determination of doneness on how much of a spring-back you get. If it's still soft, it's not done. If it's nearly hard, you've overdone it. You want immediate bounceback and your meat is finished.
Tender Tasty Chicken Breast
Many of us editors thought this chicken breast was almost unbelievable in that it was finished - it didn't look charcoaly on top and it seemed almost too light and wet inside when you cut it open. But sure enough, it was fully cooked, and juicy to perfection.
- Slice chicken breasts in half, and remove the white, gnarly 'tender' from the inside that divides the breast (and is almost inedible).
- Marinate the chicken for at least 10 minutes in a vinagrette made of olive oil, red wine vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken on the grill, but stay vigilant. The marinade's role really comes into play in helping lock in the juices of the chicken, and preventing the kind of dried-out high heat affect that can cause carcinogens to come into play.
- In 5-7 minutes on each side, your chicken should be done, but do the finger test.
We wound up eating our mango fresh, since the fruit was only cut into small pieces, but Jeremy says you can cut it in larger slabs and roast it lightly on the grill sprinkled with cardamom for a truly delectable treat.
Pineapple with Cinnamon and Cardamom
We were able to enjoy the pineapple, which you first prepare by cutting off the tines from the outside, and slicing length-wise through the core to make steak-like slabs.
The photos show the meat from two pineapples. Sprinkle the tops of the pineapples with a little of both cinnamon and cardamom. In about 10 minutes the tops will become carmelized, and voila, you have a delicious and light after-dinner treat.
Enjoy your memorial day, and our photos, and contribute your own recipes or farmstand tips, here on Patch!