Summer BBQ

Summer is great! That is, unless you live in San Francisco. Despite the nice weather this past week, fog, wind and even rain plague my beautiful city while it is sublimely warm in neighboring cities during the months of June, July and August. So when my parents planned their three week Spanish extravaganza, I planned a BBQ in their empty home. Last weekend down came my SF friends to relish in warm weather, the ease of suburban life, and some good home cooking!

Normally with large groups I don’t stress to much about making everything from scratch; however, I went all out this past weekend, making one classic, one easy and two new delicisous dishes. I was shocked that they all turned out well! For any given meal, I’ve come to accept that there will usually be a star, while some of the other dishes flounder – and while everyone had their favorite, I must say, that they were all pretty great in my book.

1) The Classic: Grilled Panzanella

I discovered this receipe a couple years back when a girlfriend of mine made it for her BBQ, and now make it for every BBQ I have. It’s actually another Ina Garten recipe that is SO easy. Grill bell peppers, red onions and some quality bread. Chop while warm and mix with tomatoes, cucumbers and dress. The secret addition, though, is goat cheese! It’s creamy already and get’s a little melty with all the warm veggies, so it adds to the texture and tang of the salad. The dressing is simply oil, white wine vinegar, garlic and dijon which is light, yet spicy from the raw garlic and perfect for summer – this soaks into the bread, which along with the warm veggie juices, makes the ‘croutons’ full of flavor.

2) The Basic: Burgers

What is a BBQ with out the staple hamburger or hot dog??? I opted for burgers this time, and put in some multi pepper blend and dried onions that my parents had in the pantry. My Dad actually always made burgers with nothing in them, and as I got more into cooking, I realized you could actully spice and flavor the meat – what a revelation! I still kept them basic this time, and they came out just fine. Definitely not the star of the show, but an essential offering.

3) 1st New & Delicious: Yogurt & Spice Chicken Kebabs

Yes, hot dogs/sausages would have been easier, but not nearly as fun. These turkish inspired kebabs were packed with flavor and super moist. You combine yogurt, dries chili flakes, paprika, tomato paste, lemon and garlic to create a rich, creamy marinade and  then grill them to perfection. I let mine sit for a few hours and was pleasantly surprised by the results. There wasn’t a ton of heat, but just enough to leave a little spice in your mouth and the yogurt kept the chicken moist, while my gentle BBQ skills didn’t over cook and left them tender.

2) 2nd New & Delicious: Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs

WOW!! My new favorite BBQ staple – it was amazing! 2 parts mayo (I even used light mayo) and 1 part Fage greek yogurt, made me feel not as bad about making a creamy potato salad… But the real star was the herbs, they were intense and packed a punch, but at the same time were really really refreshing and delightful. Basil, parsley and specifically the dill were a winning trio. I didn’t taste the lemon as much, and would probably add more next time and while I added bacon, I didn’t add enough to make a big difference in flavor, and to be honest, the salad really doesn’t need it. I also used a variety of fingerling potatos, which worked well and I especially loved the pop of purple.

Overall, a smashing success! I’m so happy I was able to share my family home with my friends and served up some old and new favorites.

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