It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means lots of you will gather around a grill over the next few days, so we wanted to get together a full menu for your barbecue this weekend. I dithered a bit in choosing what to throw on the grill (as I usually do), but we settled on these choices for something a little different than the typical Memorial Day meatfest. One especially nice thing about these choices is that everything except toasting the bread and grilling the salmon and zucchini can be done in advance, so you can speak to your guests and whatnot.
On with the food!
We started off with a couple types of bruschetta from Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe. This is a great cookbook that’s full of fantastic recipes that are, as you would infer from the title, easy to make. It’s got dozens of bruschetta ideas in the front, and I picked mozzarella with chilis and then fennel and salami, both pretty easy. Start with some good bread, and cut it into 3/4 to 1-inch slices. Just before you want to serve, grill the slices, or if you must, toast them some other way, then when they’re done, rub one side with a peeled clove of garlic. Then, add your toppings. I like to put all my slices on a big plate, then put the toppings over them, rather than building each individual piece. It’s a lot easier, and just put a serving utensil alongside the dish, and everybody will figure things out. Each serving only cost 91 cents too.
For the mozzarella and chili topping, first grab some arugula and toss it in some lemon juice (I like to chop the arugula a little bit so it’s easier to eat), and chop up some red chilis (I like Fresno peppers or red jalapenos). When your bread is ready, sprinkle over the arugula, then put your cheese on top (I usually slice the mozzarella, then break it up with my fingers), and then toss some chili over everything.
For the fennel and salami topping, start by putting some water on to boil, and squeeze some lemon juice into it. Next, slice your fennel bulbs horizontally into half-inch or so slices, and break the slices up into their individual pieces, being sure to discard the hard central bits from the slices towards the bottom. Once your water is boiling, put in the fennel and let it boil for just a few minutes until it’s soft, then drain in a colander. If you’re doing this in advance, I’d recommend running cold water over the fennel to stop it cooking, then if you’re doing the bread on the grill, put it on the grill for a few minutes while the bread is toasting to heat it up and give it some color. Once you’re all set, put the fennel over the bread, then top it with some salami and/or prosciutto. Anything is fine to use here; we had some spicy salami we picked up at a farmer’s market in Carlsbad, California last weekend.
Finish both of them by drizzling over a little olive oil and some salt and pepper, then enjoy. By the way, these go really well with a cold glass of Bulleit Lemonade, our official summer drink.
I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of the Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad that Alex got from Gwyneth Paltrow’s site GOOP, because, frankly, it sounded like hippie food. But I actually really enjoyed it, and it got a big thumbs up from both of our guests. It took a little time to cook the lentils and sweet potatoes, and then to let them cool, so definitely do this one in advance. We didn’t have any maple syrup in the pantry, so we used some honey instead and it worked great. This recipe is so reasonable at 57 cents per serving.
You’ll also want to make your salsa verde for the salmon ahead of time, not just to get it out of the way, but because you want the flavors to have some time to meld together and intensify. This is a great sauce that works well with lots of different grilled meats, and it’s pretty easy. I like to chop my herbs by hand, but you could just as easily throw it all in the food processor, just don’t overdo it and get the herbs too fine. First, take a clove or two of garlic, and put them in your food processor or chopper with 3 anchovy fillets, about a table spoon of capers, and a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar. Add in a little Dijon mustard (start small, you can add more later — I overdid this some in mine, and it was a little overbearing) and whiz it up. Grab a nice handful of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley and about half or a third as much mint. I also but a few basil leaves in, and they weren’t out of place. Then chop these by hand or in your food processor, and mix in your first set of ingredients along with some olive oil. Again, take care with the oil: you want the sauce to be loose, but not overly oily. Tuck it away in the fridge for a few hours, then bring it out and let it warm to room temperature for serving.
The Grilled Zucchini with Mint and Red Chili is pretty straightforward: grill your zucchini, then top it with some chopped mint and red chili and a bit of olive oil. For this, we just sliced the zucchini in half, but next time, I’ll slice it a bit thinner. This zucchini recipe equals 95 cents per serving.
The salmon is pretty simple, too: put some salt and pepper on it, then grill it, and squeeze some lemon juice over it. You don’t want anything fancy, since you’re going to use the salsa verde you made earlier. The salmon and salsa verde was the most expensive dish of the night, but still only cost $2.81 per person.
I was really pleased with how everything turned out. None of the flavors were too heavy, so it was nice for the hot weather, but everything was quite filling. Plus the whole meal cost only $5.24 per guest. Next time you’re facing the prospect of another barbecue full of uninspired meat and side dishes, try this menu for something a little different.