For a year now, I've been getting the wrong magazine subscription. Wowed by her Christmas cookie issues, I thought I wanted to receive Martha Stewart Living, but my husband knew better and ordered Gourmet as well, both Christmas gifts. For a while they competed for space in my mailbox and for attention on my coffee table, but it wasn't long before I was completely seduced by the recipes and articles in Gourmet, and read each issue cover to cover before glancing at MSL. It didn't help that MSL seemed to have less and less food articles and focused more and more on fashion. Sorry, but I just don't want to read eight pages of summer jacket requirements--I don't care that much about their versatility or how a good jacket is 'the ultimate team player'. (April-'09) Kudos to Martha for using her own staff to model the blazers and the like, but unfortunately I won't be renewing my subscription.
That being said, did you read the August '09 issue of Gourmet?? Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs, Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita, Corn-on-the-Cob with Mint and Feta, Ice Cream Sandwiches with Blueberry Swirl....The mag is chock-full of recipes, each one begging to be made this instant. Everything about the 'Freewheeling' feast appealed to me (p.62) and became the inspiration behind a recent casual BBQ in honour of my birthday.
Yes, I cooked for my own birthday. Get over it!
Does NO ONE know me by now? Friends and family were incredulous that I wanted to cook a meal for them and 'work' on my birthday. Don't they know by now that I truly DO love to cook?
Perhaps they didn't understand my terms:
"An afternoon of distraction-free cooking, with no children underfoot and no clean-up required by me."
I believe that was what the official contract read.
OK, so there was no such contract, but for the first time ever, I employed a 'Mother's Helper', which is about as close as I'll ever get to a nanny! My neighbor's teenage daughter brought the boys to the park, then bathed them and put them down for naps while I zipped around my kitchen in fifth gear. Then I enlisted her to shuck 24 ears of corn and skewer two dozen kebabs, while I freshened up before our guests arrived.
The recipes from Gourmet are so easy to follow and the meal came together with no hitches. If only the weather was so manageable. It poured rain at the beginning of the evening - just as I was out barbecuing some lamb 'popsicles' - and thoroughly soaked me. The twenty or so guests took shelter in my kitchen and munched Greek meze while I panicked over how I was going to feed (and fit) everyone in our cozy bungalow. Fortunately the rain tapered off enough to allow us to move outdoors for the meal, and everyone had the luxury of a little elbow room after all.
And for dessert...my sister brought a killer Carrot Cake (I do draw the line at making my own cake. Thanks, Miranda!) and our fingers got sticky with baklava from Montreal's own Patisserie Mahrouse. It felt a bit weird planning a party with no sweets, so a few days before I churned a batch of vanilla ice cream and made my own version of Gourmet's Ice Cream Sandwiches. Between thin layers of blondies (like a brownie, but no chocolate) I spread vanilla ice cream and swirled in a chunky blueberry jam. Delish! Of course they were consumed before I could get a photo. It didn't even cross my mind to photograph them--I was too busy eating as many as I could before they melted.
This is a great menu for a big gang when you want to BBQ, but perhaps have had your fill of burgers for the season. Do try these recipes; this is food that gives maximum flavour for minimal effort.
Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs
Recipe courtesy of the lovely Gourmet Magazine
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 pounds sirloin flap steak or flatiron steak, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Equipment: 12 (12-inch) skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes if wooden
Stir together oil, oregano, garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then toss with beef. Marinate, chilled, at least 2 hours.
Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (high heat for gas); Thread about 4 pieces of beef onto each skewer, leaving small spaces between pieces, then transfer to a tray.
Oil grill rack, then grill beef, covered only if using a gas grill, turning, until browned but still pink inside, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita (recipe below) and fresh Tzatziki.
Beef can be marinated up to 8 hours
This is my favorite salad this summer and I've made it so many times! It's great to bring to a potluck or just for eating all by your lonesome for a healthy--and crunchy--lunch. You can't get much easier than four ingredients and a dressing! Don't forget to toast the almonds--they really make the salad. Oh, and I once used golden raisins instead of dried cranberries and they were fabulous, too.
Recipe slightly adapted from the original version given to us from that blogging queen of slaw, Smitten Kitchen
Makes about six cups of slaw
2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
Trim broccoli and cut it into large chunks. From here, you can either feed it through your food processor’s slicing blade, use a mandoline to cut it into thin slices, or simply hand chop it into smaller pieces. I used both the stem and the flowerets, but you can just use the tops.
Toss the sliced broccoli with the almonds, cranberries and red onion in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the broccoli (if you’ve skipped the stems, you might not want it all; I otherwise found this to be the perfect amount) and toss it well.
Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Should keep up to a week in the fridge.
Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita Bread
Also from Gourmet Magazine August 2009
3 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashes
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
2 pocketless pita bread rounds
kosher salt to taste
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook garlic, turning once until pale golden. This took a few minutes. Discard garlic and remove skillet from heat, then stir in oregano.
Preheat grill. Oil grill rack. grill pitas, 3 at a time, turning once, until grill marks appear. Remove from grill and brush both sides with garlic-oregano oil. I had a friend stand by, brandishing a silicone brush, to do this part while I continued grilling. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve warm. May be cut into wedges.
The Beef Chronicles: an introduction
TBC: Rib Steak au Buerre Rouge
TBC:T-Bone Goes Camping