Fire up the Grill

Cookout classics with a twist

Story & Photographs by Rose Shewey

Contrary to popular belief, grilling is not just for meat lovers. Whether you grill a juicy burger or mushroom caps, the universal experience is much the same — hot glowing embers, sparks flitting about like fireflies, the bitter aroma of smoke wafting in your face, and the sheer joy of preparing a meal under the open skies. The symphony of sounds, smells and the visual excitement of grilling speaks right to our hearts as most of us recollect beautiful childhood memories of breezy, carefree summer days spent with friends and family.

To clear up one common misconception for my fellow expats and anybody from north of the Mason-Dixon line: Grilling and barbecuing are not the same in our neck of the woods, despite most of the English-speaking world using these terms interchangeably. Ask any native Southerner with a penchant for pork. Authentic Southern barbecue calls for low heat, a considerable amount of smoke, and plenty of patience, to name just a few ingredients, whereas grilling requires hot and dry heat, which will swiftly and effortlessly cook the food. So, this season, join us in celebrating traditional, mouth-watering, grilling fare with a bit of a Bohemian twist!

 

Strip Steak with Cherry Mint Chutney

Instead of preparing sophisticated and laborious marinades and brines, stick to the basics. Achieve bold and intensely rich flavor with a simple yet potent pre-rub: Brush steaks with olive oil; mix equal parts of ground cumin, paprika and coriander; and rub on the meat. Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly cracked pepper and grill for about 4–5 minutes per side. For an exotic twist, serve it with a cherry mint chutney — use your favorite, basic vinegar-based chutney recipe, replace the fruit with fresh, pitted cherries, and add fresh mint leaves to it.

 

Moroccan Grilled Shrimp with Harissa

Coated in ras el hanout, a unique spice blend abundant with aromas of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and rose, these crustaceans are exceptionally zesty as shrimp effortlessly adapt flavor. With a little char from the grill, a dollop of smoky harissa and fragrant, crushed mint leaves, the Mediterranean doesn’t seem so far away anymore. Make your own harissa using a mixture of dried and fresh chilis combined with caraway and cumin seeds, fresh garlic, lemon juice and rosewater. Blend into a fine paste. Pair with an herby couscous salad and fresh mint tea, or push the boat out with a mojito — the choice is yours.

 

Greek Chicken with Toasted Almond Hummus

Undoubtedly, the thighs are among the most richly flavored parts of the chicken, next to the wings. With a respectable skin-to-meat ratio and a high fat content, chicken thighs carry and amplify any flavor or seasoning you might add. For a Mediterranean twist, combine yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest, fresh minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and marinate for at least 30 minutes (or up to several hours) in the fridge. Cook chicken thighs, bone-in, for about 8–10 minutes on each side until cooked through. Serve with fresh, chopped veggies and toasted almond hummus — simply dry roast sliced almonds in a frying pan until fragrant and puree together with your hummus ingredients.

 

Balkan Burger with Ajvar and Blue Cheese

How to elevate the ubiquitous, humble, all-American sandwich into epicurean realms: Dress it up with artisanal cheese and Old World-style relishes and condiments. The latter, we’re borrowing from Balkan cuisine. Ajvar, also called “Balkan caviar,” is made from sweet peppers and eggplant slow-cooked for several hours. The result is a refined, opulent, richly flavored spread that can be teamed with many dishes but works especially well atop a juicy burger, together with a pungent, sharply flavored cheese.

 

Grilled Peach Crostini with Whipped Goat Cheese, Honey and Thyme

The quintessential North Carolina summer fare, as far as I am concerned, is grilled peaches, hands down. Peaches are seductive in their natural state but become even more enticing grilled. The fruit sugar caramelizes and flavors intensify, the char marks form and smoke imparts woodsy notes into the skin and flesh. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side, serve atop silky smooth whipped goat cheese on grilled slices of bread, and drizzle with honey. To whip goat cheese, combine 2 parts goat cheese with 1 part cream cheese, a generous dash of olive oil, and pulse in a food processor. PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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