Truth be told, grilling and barbecue season is practically year-round in California. Tailgate kebabs, holiday turkeys, Super Bowl pizzas – you name the season and we fire up the propane or light the charcoal.
Yet Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the opening of outdoor cooking season – and especially outdoor eating season – so we have to celebrate with appropriate food.
Here are a few recipes to get things started. You can expect more in the months ahead because, well, that’s what we do – at least until the weather pattern known as El Niño returns.
Grilled skirt steak with chimichurri dry rub
Adapted from “The Barbecue Lover’s Big Book of BBQ Sauces” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison (Harvard Common Press, April 2015, $18.95)
1/2 cup crumbled dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
2 tablespoons dried summer or winter savory
2 tablespoons crumbled dried thyme
1 tablespoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 3 or 4 equal pieces
Stir together all the ingredients except steak in a small bowl.
Sprinkle the rub heavily on the beef and then massage it in well.
Allow the seasoned meat to sit for at least 45 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight wrapped or covered in the refrigerator, prior to cooking. Store any remaining rub in a covered container in a cool, dark pantry for up to a month.
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat.
Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the steaks over direct high heat with grill lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to your desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from the grill and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6
Grilled baby bok choy with fresh ginger-soy sauce
Adapted from “The Gardener and the Grill” by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig (Running Press, $20, 224 pages).
2 small heads bok choy, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill. Rinse the bok choy, drain well and pat dry. To make the ginger-soy sauce, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.
Brush the bok choy with the sauce and place cut side down directly over the fire. Grill for about 10 minutes. Baste the leaves and turn, continuing to grill for about another 10 minutes until the bok choy is fork-tender. Serve with any remaining sauce.
Per serving: 125 calories (80 percent from fat); 11.8 g fat (7.3 g saturated, 3.0 g monounsaturated); 30 mg cholesterol; 3.0 g protein; 3.6 g carbohydrate; 1.8 g fiber; 225 mg sodium.
BBQ pork skewers
This popular Filipino dish is based on the pork that restaurateur Meshelle Armstrong’s aunts, Tita Viloi and Tita Jet, make. Armstrong’s husband, chef Cathal Armstrong, tweaked the recipe a bit further, making it less sweet and using braised pork belly instead of pork butt (shoulder).
You’ll need to soak any bamboo/wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. The recipe calls for banana ketchup, which is sweeter than American ketchup. It’s available at some large Asian markets. Serve with garlic rice.
Make ahead: The marinade can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. The pork needs to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
From Cathal Armstrong, chef-owner of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va.
For the skewers:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
40 cloves garlic
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
About 19 ounces (1 bottle) banana ketchup, such as Jufran Banana Sauce (see headnote)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds pork butt (fat trimmed), cut into strips that are 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick
For the dipping sauce, sawsawsan:
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 medium shallots, minced
1 Thai (bird’s-eye) chili pepper chopped (not seeded)
1 tablespoon sugar
For the skewers: Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once it shimmers, stir in the onion and garlic; cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, banana ketchup and salt; stir to incorporate and form a marinade/sauce. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the solids (or reserve the garlic for another use, if desired). Transfer to a container; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Combine the sauce and pork strips in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ashen, distribute them evenly over the cooking area. If using a gas grill, preheat by setting all burners on high (450 degrees) and closing the lid for 10 minutes; you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals or grate for 3 to 4 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Brush the grill grate.
Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce: Whisk together the vinegar, shallots, chili pepper and sugar in a small bowl.
Thread 2 or 3 slices of marinated pork on each skewer. Reserve some of the marinade for basting, and discard the rest.
Grill, uncovered, for about 5 minutes; begin to baste the meat with some of the marinade as soon as the meat loses its raw look. Cook until browned and lightly charred, then turn the skewers over and grill for about 5 minutes on the second side or until the meat is cooked through, basting as soon as the skewers are turned. The pork should be crunchy and caramelized on the outside. Transfer the skewers to a platter; serve with the dipping sauce.
Serves 8 to 10 (makes 24 to 30 skewers)