THE BACKYARD FLAVOR
Summertime”¦.by now you’ve probably grilled out a time or two, taken a dip in a pool and, in spite of plenty of 90+ temperature days, hopefully spent some quality time outside. This week we dive into all the culinary joys of summer. The bountiful harvest of summer berries, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, onions, greens and not to mention the Southern favorites, watermelon and tomatoes, adorn many a table this time of year. We remember those summery days of our childhood when mama didn’t want to cook in a hot kitchen, so dinner was tomato sandwiches and cantaloupe. What are some of your favorites?
At your outdoor summertime festivities, what are the perfect backyard BBQ accoutrements? Potato salad, coleslaw, corn on the cob, fresh pickles are popular favorites. And to wash it all down is it sweet tea, lemonade or soft drinks”¦ or beer? And for dessert, will it be cobbler or banana pudding? Or maybe ice cream”¦homemade, even! You spend all that time getting your swimsuit body ready only to ruin it with all the yummies that come with this time of year. But that’s okay, because you’re outside and that means activities like baseball, golf, swimming, catching fireflies and just enjoying our warm Carolina sun.
This issue explores the colorful deliciousness of everything summer. And of course once it warms up, we have to light things on fire, more specifically, the grill. From backyard barbecues “¦wait a second”¦.do you grill out or do you barbecue? Is barbecue a noun or a verb? And if it’s a noun, what is it to you? But we digress”¦
We’ve even talked to local chefs around the area to find out how they roll when they gather with friends and family, what they do to make their event special and even asked them where they go for the ultimate barbecue or grilling out experience when they want to leave the cooking to someone else.
So, slide into something cool and comfy, slip on your flops and lean back in your hammock and enjoy. As you’ll see in the following pages, nothing is as quite as sweet as the flavor of summer.
– Kristi Maier
From Germany to the States with only ketchup, mustard and cheese
My family was never much for grilling out, at least not as far as I remember. Of course, a large chunk of my childhood was spent in Germany, and Germans aren’t exactly famous for tossing another bratwurst on the barbie either. So the first time I remember going to a cookout was in the late 1970s, after we had returned to the states. It was at a public park, probably on Fort Dix, and I’ve never forgotten the taste of those burgers, cooked over charcoal on one of those pedestal grills you find in parks. I don’t remember if I used any condiments other than mustard and ketchup, but I think it had cheese on it. Since then that’s the way I’ve always had my burgers at cookouts: mustard, ketchup and cheese, no lettuce or tomatoes or anything else. Maybe I’m always trying to re-capture that initial magical moment.
– Dan Bayer
Eating like piggies
It’s on these warm, summer days that I remember all of my family’s cookouts, usually containing burgers on the grill and a volleyball game out back. We had a big yard.
But my favorite memory is when we had our first mecca of all cookouts: a pig pickin’, complete with lemonade, a jukebox and a 90-pound pig on the grill. It doesn’t get more Southern or country. I was 13 and we threw a big party for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
Of course, we didn’t have a grill big enough for nearly 100 pounds of pork, so we outsourced it. A local restaurant came to our house, with their giant, barrel-style grill in tow on a trailer, and literally spent the night turning, roasting and basting a hog. It was exciting. I could hardly sleep thinking about what was going on in the backyard, behind the barn. We regularly checked in on our pig and our grillers.
Beforehand, all I knew about pigs was what they looked like at the supermarket, and what they smelt like when the wind blew from the upwind pig farm. This was my first glimpse of the middleman.
I imagined it would look like a Hawaiian boar with an apple in its mouth, but it didn’t. I could only make out its large outline, feet and tail. And though you might think a little girl would be grossed out in horror, I wasn’t, probably because there wasn’t a head. Also, I was too busy thinking about that moist, vinegar-soaked, barbecue.
By the next morning it was done, and that afternoon we had a glorious selection of ribs, chopped barbecue, sliced pork, baked beans, slaw and potato salad. We ate our fill and then some. And then we danced.
– Lenise Willis
A Fiery Fascination
I’m currently reading David Carr’s memoir, Night of the Gun, in which the recently departed New York Times columnist talks about his struggle with addiction and the ways in which memory taints past experience. So when I was asked to write some words about memories of backyard cookouts I struggled a bit with it. I once had a large family of grandparents and cousins who would all get together pretty much each Saturday and share a meal. In the 1970s and early 1980s that mostly involved grilling hamburgers or steaks.
As a small boy then I would watch with wonder, from a safe distance of course, as my grandfather or my dad worked the grill, teasing the flames to a hue the color of a blazing sunset before they settled down to a bright orange glow. Often my dad would tamp down the coals, once the flames burned out, by dipping his fingers into a cup of water and sprinkling it over the glowing embers. Of course, I thought this was fascinating and it later became my first job on the grill. I relished in the nearness of the heat and moved cautiously so as not to either burn myself or put to much water on the coals.
The smell of red meat cooking on a grill still takes me back to those childhood memories. I would have often spent the day with my grandparents in the garden of their small house along a curve in Baux Mountain Road up close to the Stokes County line. The smell of fresh turnips (my personal favorite) or radishes or string beans would linger in the kitchen as the men fired up the grill.
Once we had a cookout at the small apartment my family lived in for a year in the late 1970s and one of my family members took the meat off the grill and then walked slap into the screen door, both spilling meat and ripping the screen in the blink of an eye. Another memory I have is of a now deceased uncle giving me shit for not eating his steak when I came home from a break from college after having been dating a vegetarian for six months.
That relationship didn’t last, but she taught me a lot about nutrition. Like a lot of middle-aged people I have distinct memories associated with objects, events, and yes, even family members. I never became much of a grill aficionado myself, but when the subject of a good cookout comes up, these are the memories that wash over me.
– Jeff Sykes
Rehab is for Grillers
As strange as this may sound, I wasn’t the “good kid” when I was growing up. Long story short, this landed me in an outpatient program right around the time I turned 18. I moved to Atlanta, far from my humble stomping grounds of Banner Elk, and moved in with some guys who were to help direct me on a straight path.
I won’t bore you with the program details, but more the fond memories I have from maturing into a responsible adult past my troublesome youth.
Atlanta is hot, and the summers are always scorchers even into the late night hours. A couple times each week, though, we’d all throw together some cash and go pick up choice cuts of meat from the grocery store. For the most part we all ate steaks because there’s just something manly about putting a bloody cut of cow on a hot grill.
Since we were all inexperienced chefs, our marinade consisted entirely of Dale’s Seasoning, which is similar to soy sauce except with stronger pepper flavors and seasoning. We’d douse these steaks in the stuff until they were a soaking black – the sodium alone could’ve probably rivaled that of the Great Salt Lake.
We’d all sit around an outdoor grill that was bolted to the concrete park area in our apartment complex and smoke cigarettes, laughing at whoever happened to get the smallest cut. When we’d finally pull the meat from the grill, which was probably way too hot thus overcooking our steaks to charred perfection, we’d tear into them without utensils or plates, spilling Dale’s all over our shirts.
It didn’t matter to us. We were just a bunch of friends who couldn’t cook. Some of those friends have passed away since then, the by-product of building friendships in a rehab program, but the flavor of Dale’s always brings me back to my summers in Atlanta, the friends who shaped me into the man I am today, and a time when responsibility consisted of simply hanging out with positive people.
– Britt Chester
Low Country Boil
– Lucas Boger –
1 – 3oz package extra spicy boil-in-bag-shrimp-and-crab boil
1 – 12oz pale ale beer
1 – lemon, cut in half
3 lbs of baby red potatoes
2 lbs smoke sausage, cut into pieces around 2″ thick
6 ears of corn, cut in half
2 lbs of unpeeled, medium sized raw shrimp
2 lbs of crawfish
Cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and hot sauce, for serving
How it’s done:
Combine the first three ingredients and 5 quarts of water in a 12 quart covered stockpot. Bring that a boil over medium heat, then add potatoes and sausage; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Add corn, and cook for 5 mins
Then you add your shrimp and crawfish; cover, and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove stockpot from heat. Keep covered, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Dump food onto foil, and let your party choose which sauces they want
This particular recipe my family and I came across on seriouseats.com. You can get creative with it, too! We added small yellow onions, for example. Some people will add crab legs, etc. Lots of variations to make it your very own! A low country boil brings everyone to the table, no silver/plastic-ware required.
– Macrina Julian –
3 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 lb.sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 clove minced garlic (I generally use more if bottled)
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. chopped fresh basil
Combine all dressing ingredients and pour over tomatoes and cheese. Marinate several hours.
The Beach Ribs on the Wrightsville Beach Coast
– Rebecca Harrelson –
“OK my recipe changes every time I make them but this is pretty much it…”
Rack of Baby Back Ribs
3 hours cooking time
Garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
Carolina Treet BBQ sauce
Chipotle Chili pepper
Heavy duty foil
Preheat oven to 400
Wash and dry ribs
Sprinkle lightly with salt pepper garlic powder on both sides
Wrap in foil and place on baking sheet in oven
REDUCE oven heat to 250 bake for 1 hour
Mix the following together…taste as you go along
1 cup Carolina Treet BBQ Sauce
1/2 – 3/4 cup of Dark Molasses (depending on the sweetness you desire)
Tablespoon of hot pepper vinegar or yellow vinegar
dash of Chipotle Chili Pepper (more if you want it hot)
dash of Smoked Paprika
2-4 Tablespoons of ketchup
1-3 teaspoons of yellow mustard
dash of garlic powder
Add more or less of any ingredient as you desire…
After ribs have baked for 1 hour at 250, remove from oven and coat ribs with sauce. Cover lightly and return to oven (250) for another hour. Remove from oven and coat with sauce again, this time leave foil open and bake for another hour. Ribs should be fall off the bone good.”
– Jeff Sykes –
Cola cake is a decadent variation on chocolate cake that uses your favorite cola in the cake and icing for a super sweet desert.
2- cups plain flour
2- cups sugar
1 -cup butter or margarine
3- tablespoons cocoa
1- cup cola
1/2- cup buttermilk
1- teaspoon soda
2- eggs – unbeaten
1- teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Sift together sugar and flour. Set aside.
Bring butter, cocoa and sugar to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Pour into dry ingredients.
Dissolve soda in buttermilk and add along with eggs and vanilla. Stir until smooth.
Add marshmallows. Pour into greased 14×10 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons cola
1 box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nuts
Mix butter, cola and cocoa in saucepan- Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and add sugar, nuts and vanilla.
Spread on warm cake.