Become a Backyard Superstar

Nothing says July like food fresh from the grill, washed down with a cold cocktail. Here are some tips to boost your backyard food-and-drink game and have a laid-back evening with friends and family (from 6 feet away). So, slather on the sunscreen, turn up the music, and grab your sunglasses.

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Grilled Prawn Cups | Flank Steak | Spiralized Salad | Wild Hibiscus and Mandarin Blossom Drop | Minty Sips | Grilled Peaches


GRILLED PRAWN CUPS

6 servings

This is a crazy, flavorful, and fresh dish you can totally prep ahead. I love the presentation in the round bowl. The wasabi mayo is legit, and the sesame oil and ginger dressing has just the right zing. Serve with pickled fresh ginger, and give the prawns a squeeze of fresh lime just before serving. The steps and assembly seem lengthy, but it is easy and worth it.

PRAWNS (MARINADE)

Ingredients

  • 40 jumbo prawns
  • Juice and zest of ½ a lemon
  • Juice and zest of ½ a lime
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sliced Thai basil
  • 1 tablespoon rough-chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Sprinkling of 4 to 6 dried crushed chili pepper flakes

Method

Remove the tails from the prawns. Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Pour over the raw prawns, and toss. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes. Thread 4 to 5 prawns onto each skewer. (Soak the skewers in water for several hours prior to using.) Grill approximately 3 minutes on each side until the exterior is pink and the flesh is slightly opaque.


DRESSING

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sweet rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon cracked ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • ¼ cup lemon lime juice, freshly squeezed. (Roughly, the juice of ½ a lemon and 1 small lime)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Combine the ingredients — up to the oils — in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and sesame oil. Pour into a small pitcher for serving.


WASABI MAYO

Ingredients

  • ½ cup good mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Method

Whisk together the ingredients in a bowl until light and fluffy. Spoon into a serving bowl.


LETTUCE CUP ASSEMBLY

Ingredients

  • Grilled prawns
  • 2 heads of living gem lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 bunches Thai basil, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 bunches cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
  • 6 ounces bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • Pickled ginger
  • *Purchased Jasmine rice

Method

Place the container of wasabi mayo in the center of a large, low-profile bowl. Arrange the prawns, lettuce, basil, cilantro, sprouts, and lime around the mayo. Set out additional lettuce leaves in a heart-shaped basket. Add the pitcher of dressing and a bowl of pickled ginger. Invite guests to assemble their own grilled prawn lettuce cups, using toppings of choice! *Time-saving TIP: Serve alongside purchased Jasmine rice.

Give Flank Steak an Upgrade

  1. When I learned about this grilling technique, I fell in love. It turns a humble cut of meat like flank steak into something outrageously delicious. It’s all about layering flavor with herbs, garlic, and a bit of heat from jalapeno peppers.
  2. First, create a barbecue station sideboard, with everything you need at your fingertips, and then get grilling.
  3. Start by rubbing the meat with olive oil and dried thyme.
  4. While the meat marinates, chop up: 1 clove garlic; ½ a small, seeded jalapeno pepper; a handful of parsley; fresh thyme; chives; and oregano.
  5. Grab a cutting board with a juice groove.
  6. Drizzle the board with a glug of good olive oil, and sprinkle on the chopped garlic, peppers, and herbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

MAKE AN HERB MOP

Create a fresh herb mop! Using twine, tie sprigs of fresh herbs on the end of a wooden spoon. I used fresh garden thyme, sage, parsley, and oregano. (And this is why I have a kitchen herb garden!)


AMAZING MARINADE

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup olive oil, zest of ½ a lemon, a good squeeze of juice, and ½ teaspoon of salt.


LET’S SIZZLE

Start grilling the flank steak. Use the herb mop to slather the meat with the marinade as you go. Grill 2 lemon and lime halves on the side. Take the meat off the heat. Place it on the board, on top of the herb, garlic, and peppers. Squeeze a bit of the grilled lemon and lime onto the meat. Slice steak, dredging each slice through all that goodness.

Cool Spiralized Salad

Spiralizers are uber-cool kitchen appliances that turn fresh veggies into pastalike pieces. You can sauté the veggie “pasta” in a pan on the stovetop, but I love it raw. TIP: Some local markets carry raw precut veggie “pasta” in the produce department!

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ cup French salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed juice, half lemon and half orange
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 medium zucchinis, unpeeled
  • 2 medium yellow squash, unpeeled
  • Fresh basil, roughly torn
  • Fresh mint, roughly torn
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Method

To make the citrus salt, zest lemon and oranges, and set aside. Add the lemon zest to ½ cup of French salt, and mix. Repeat this step with the orange zest.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread out the lemon and orange salt mixtures in two even rows. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the citrus is dried out. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Cool and store in two airtight containers at room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by whisking together olive oil, juice, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spiralize the zucchini and squash. To assemble the salad, toss lightly with the vinaigrette, basil, mint, and Parmesan. Sprinkle with citrus salt to taste.

Wild Hibiscus and Mandarin Blossom Drop

Photo by Brooke Clark

  • ½ shot good vodka
  • ¼ shot Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom flavored vodka
  • ¼ shot Hangar 1 Fraser River Raspberry flavored vodka
  • 1 teaspoon wild hibiscus syrup
  • ¼ shot freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ shot homemade thyme simple syrup (Make syrup with 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and a few thyme sprigs. Simmer on the stove for a few minutes, cool, strain, and chill. It’s great in iced tea, too.)

TIP: I love serving martini drops in pretty vintage stemware.

Minty Sips

This is a refreshing drink on a hot summer night for kids of all ages.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 10 mint leaves, bruised to release the oil
  • Brewed tea
  • Fresh lime slices (for garnish)
  • Fresh mint springs (for garnish)
  • Sparkling water

Make the mint simple syrup by combining sugar, water, and 10 mint leaves in a pan on the stovetop. Simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool, strain, and store in the fridge.

To make the drinks, brew your favorite tea, and pour over ice. Add simple syrup, lime slices, and sprigs of fresh mint. Top with spark-ling water.

Grill Dessert!

If you’ve never had grilled fruit, are you even living? Cut a peach in half, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with sugar. Then grill it cut-side-down, and it will get fragrant and sweeter! Serve with a dollop of mascarpone, a drizzle of honey, and some orange zest. Pineapples, plums, strawberries, and even bananas can be grilled — put them all on a skewer, and use the same method.

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