There's nothing better than a sunny day spent outdoors cooking on the barbecue. On weekends, I often find myself at the cottage rummaging around the fridge for anything I can throw on the grill. And because there is less pomp and circumstance around meals based on the grill, you get more time to savour with your guests.
Remember, barbecuing is all about having a lot of fun. I recommend having some crisp white Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc on hand for you and your guests to enjoy while you cook. Here are some other ways to make the most of barbecue season.
To get the best results, you need a very clean barbecue. Use a stiff wired brush, canola oil and a rag to really lubricate the grill bars so they are slick and clean.
I keep a squirt bottle with water close by, as I find it comes in handy to put out any excess flames that come up from the grill. Other items to have at an arm's length include kosher salt, a really good pepper grinder that puts out a great medium grind, and olive oil to lubricate your meats and other proteins.
Speaking of meats and proteins, it's important to make sure they're patted dry, as any excess moisture on them can cause them to stick to the grill. Once your grill is at the desired temperature, brush some olive oil on the meat or fish and give a quick bit to the grill bars, too. This produces really clean grilling and intense contact with the barbecue.
I also like to have some sort of river rock in a metal basket by the grill. It's great to put it on the upper rack and then place tin foil packets of your favourite vegetables (with olive oil, salt and pepper) on top of the stones, which are a perfect way to distribute gentle heat. The Stoneleigh vineyard in New Zealand benefits from a similar stone concept. The vineyard sits on an ancient riverbed of stones. The stones warm the vine after the sun sets, creating a unique wine style that is vibrant and crisp -- the distinctive taste of Stoneleigh.
I tend to use a great "go-to" rub that works on most meats and proteins. Starting with a smoked paprika base, I add garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, crushed peppercorns and a little bit of salt. The result is extremely versatile: I use it on chicken, pork and even beef to create a nice outer crust. It's also surprisingly good on a whole fish, bringing a new twist to your catch of the day.
And if you love corn on the cob, add the rub to the corn before it goes on the barbecue. When the corn is ready, top it with queso fresco (or chevre, if you can't find queso fresco), scallions, butter and a drizzle of olive oil. This will delight your guests and will quickly become a frequently requested favourite among your friends.
You might think I'm crazy, but I love the taste of charred lettuces. Go ahead, try it.
Take some nice, solid heads of romaine, peel the outer leaves off and cut the heads in half. Add a fair amount of olive oil on the cut side, season well with salt and pepper and put it down on the hottest part of the grill. Leave it there until you notice the edges beginning to blacken, then flip it over for a couple of seconds more. Put it on a plate cut side up and serve with a roasted tomatillo sauce blended with avocado for a bit of creaminess. Add a bit of feta cheese or a mild ricotta salata, some roasted peppers and caramelized onions and you'll prove to everyone that you really are the king or queen of the grill.
Barbecue season wouldn't be complete without outdoor entertaining. This summer, treat yourself and your guests to the best glass of wine, every time. Enter Stoneleigh Vineyards' The Perfect Bottle contest for your chance to win one of three Jenn-Air Under Counter Wine Cellars: www.stoneleighvineyards.ca
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