When the weather heats up, cooking and dining, move outdoors.
Outdoor cooking usually means grilling or cooking some form of meat over fire often with wood or charcoal. There may be something primeval about cooking with fire that stimulates our inner psyche.
In any case, the flavors produced can be more robust and complex than you'd get indoors cooking in a kitchen. If you're willing to take a few extra steps and minutes, you can turn ordinary dinner entrees, such as burgers and sausages, into extraordinary, memorable meals.
We've assembled a few of our favorite outdoor recipes, along with some preparation tips. Bon appetite!
Jim and Marie Oskins are Fort Mill residents living on Lake Wylie. They can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Italian Sausage Burgers
3/4 lb. ground chuck
1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs. chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
Remove casing from sausage and thoroughly mix with the ground chuck. Incorporate onion and garlic into the meat mixture. Make into four patties, and salt and pepper the outside to taste. Serve on rolls or buns. These burgers will be a bit spicy.
Italian Fennel Sausages
If you've ever thought of making your own sausage, you may have been turned off by the thought of having to deal with natural or artificial casings. We've found an easy alternative using plastic wrap.
1 5-6 lb. pork butt, cut into 1-inch
1 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbs. crushed black pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley
3 Tbs. fennel seeds, toasted
In a large bowl, using your hands, mix all the ingredients thoroughly together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Using a meat grinder or food processor, run the seasoned pork chunks through to yield a medium grind. Place in a large bowl and thoroughly integrate the seasonings by hand. The sausage can be prepared as patties or using plastic wrap, shape into 8 inch by 1 1/2- inch links. Tightly wrap the sausage and tie off the ends. Wrap each sausage in aluminum foil. Boil the sausage for 8-10 minutes, or until firm. Cool and unwrap sausages. They're ready for the grill, or can be frozen and saved for later.
1 1/2 lbs. ground round
2 slices chopped bacon
3 Tbs. chopped onion
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese
Mix all ingredients except cheese and buns. Shape into 5-inch rounds. Grill for 4 minutes, flip over and grill to desired doneness. Top with cheese and grill until cheese melts. Serve on buns or rolls.
Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Glaze
4 thick cut, bone in pork chops
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chopped rosemary
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup chopped & pitted
1/4 cup, plus 1/2 tsp.
Place chops in a gallon plastic bag or baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup vinegar over chops and marinate 3 to 4 hours turning occasionally.
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Sauté until onion is tender. Add cherries and rosemary and continue to sauté until cherries begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add the remaining 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar to sauce. Remove chops from marinate and grill them to desired doneness. Plate chops and cover with cherry glaze.
Zinfandel Barbeque Sauce
1 1/4 cup Zinfandel 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer until volume is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Puree in a blender.
Ketchup is easy to make and worth the effort. You can personalize this recipe with coriander, cinnamon, cloves, celery seeds, or other spices. Let your imagination be your guide.
2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
6 Tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Anaheim chile, chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
In a food processor or blender puree tomatoes and Anaheim chile. In a large saucepan cook onion over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Blend together all other ingredients; add to onion and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to develop.
You'll need something to drink with the above dishes, and here are our suggestions:
• Stoudts Pils - $2.25 per bottle. This is a classic German style Pilsner beer brewed by the Stoudts Brewing Company of Allentown, PA. Straw yellow in color and very dry, it has a nose of hops and refreshing character.
• Plank Hefeweizen - $4.50 per bottle. Traditional amber, top-fermented yeasty beer with lots of malted wheat from Germany. Surprisingly light in taste with fruity aromas, this beer will compliment any outdoor meal.
• Broadbent - Vinho Verde - Portugal - about $12 - This versatile, wine from the northern Minho region of Portugal is a hot weather favorite. "Verde" means "green" which refers to the fact that it's made to be consumer while young. It's actually a light straw color and has a slight effervesce. It's made from a variety of native Portuguese grapes with crisp acidity which neutralizes hot and spicy flavors. It's low in alcohol, only 9 percent and has a floral nose with subtle citrus flavors.
• If you're going to be cooking over charcoal we highly recommend using hardwood briquettes. They light easier, burn hotter, leave less ash, and give a much better flavor to the foods that they cook.
• Never use lighter fluid to ignite your charcoal, it'll leave a gasoline aftertaste. Instead, use a metal chimney with a paper starter. You'll notice the difference in flavor.
• Fresh ingredients will make all your meals taste better. If you can, get locally grown produce and meat products at your Farmers Market. They'll be fresher, and less expensive than what you'll get from a supermarket.