No-sweat dishes to fire up fast




This time of year, Triangle neighborhoods are aglow with backyard barbecues as folks fire up seasonal favorites. Sure, you could simply toss hot dogs and hamburgers on an open flame. But you can quickly and easily do even more.


With souped-up flavors and cosmo twists, the following recipes from recent cookbooks take outdoor cooking to a higher tier. From Southern faves on the patio to melty cheese at a campfire, each presents a different angle on cooking al fresco that'll help you be the smokin' host this summer.


We tested these recipes on the highly rated yet affordable Char-Broil 4-Burner Stainless Steel Gas Grill as well as the durable Wilson & Fisher Windsor Grill Gazebo, which allowed us to sizzle rain or shine. We discovered these and other items that helped us reach juicy perfection at Big Lots.



Smokin' Hot in the South: New Grilling Recipes From the Winningest Woman in Barbecue
By Melissa Cookston







Skirt Steak Tacos With Charred Tomatillo–Green Tomato Sauce
I do love tacos. I mean, really, really love tacos. Tacos are one of those items that can be as simple or as complicated as you want and be delicious either way. This marinade really brings a lot of fresh flavor components to the skirt steak.


1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
Leaves from 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed


Charred Tomatillo and Green Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium green tomatoes (about 1 pound total), cored and cut in half
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 fresh jalapeño chile
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup diced red onion
Makes about 5 cups, enough for tacos and dipping with chips!

Peanut oil for the grates
Warmed 6-inch tortillas, for serving


To prepare the beef:
In a mixing bowl combine the onion, cilantro, oil, lime juice, salt, garlic, black pepper and chile powder. Stir well, then pour into a resealable plastic bag and add the skirt steak.


Place in the fridge to marinate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.


To make the sauce:
Lightly oil the tomatillos and tomatoes with olive oil, then place on a hot grill until charred but not blackened. Rotate around to get the grill effect on all sides. Roughly chop the green tomatoes and tomatillos and add to a bowl.


Mince the garlic and add to the bowl along with the salt and pepper. Clean, stem, and dice the jalapeño, removing the seeds if desired, then add to the bowl. Add the cilantro, cumin, honey and oregano, and pour into a blender and pulse a couple of times, then purée for 15 seconds. Stir in the corn and red onion. Set aside until ready to serve.


When ready to cook:
Remove the steaks from the marinade and shake off any excess. Discard the marinade.


Using peanut oil or another high-smoke-point oil, oil the grill grates and prepare the grill to cook at hot temperature with wood chunks (or a smoker box in a gas grill).


Lay the skirt steaks down and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until grill marks form. Turn over and cook for 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes for medium. Remove from the grill and rest for 5 minutes (remember, skirt steaks are thin and cook fast and will come up a few degrees while resting).


Cut into strips against the grain and serve with warmed tortillas and tomatillo and green tomato sauce.


Makes 12 to 15 tacos



Grilled Peach Cobbler
This is the way my mother has made cobbler ever since I can remember. It is super easy and produces a light, cakelike "crust" over the peaches. I like to give it a twist by grilling the peaches and then cooking the cobbler on the grill, too. The subtle flavor goes through the peaches, and the hint of smoke catches in the crust to really make this taste of summertime.


1 tablespoon butter, melted
5 peaches, cut in half and pitted
3 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup milk


Set up a grill for indirect heat to cook at 350 degrees. Lightly butter the cut side of the peaches, then place them, cut-side down, on the hot side of the grill. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the peaches begin to soften and have nice grill marks. Remove the peaches, cool for a minute, then peel and cut into 1-inch cubes.


In a medium Dutch oven over the high-heat side of the grill, mix the water, peaches, salt and 1 cup of the sugar, and cook for 1 hour, until the peaches are soft and the syrup is thickened, stirring occasionally and ensuring the peach mixture doesn't burn.


In a mixing bowl, mix together the remaining 1 cup of sugar, the flour and the milk to make a thin batter. Pour into the center of the peach mixture and allow it to spread. Move the Dutch oven to the low-heat side of the grill, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes more, until the top is golden and the batter is set.


Remove and let cool, then spoon out portions into bowls.


Serves 6 to 8




Fresh Fish

A fearless guide to grilling, shucking, searing, poaching and roasting seafood
By Jennifer Trainer Thompson






Grilled Salmon With Tomato-Basil Relish
Salmon is a full-flavored oily fish loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You could substitute mackerel, bluefish, herring or striped bass in this recipe. Or choose wild Alaskan salmon.


2 pounds Atlantic salmon, preferably
with skin still on one side
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedge


2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare a medium-high fire in a gas or charcoal grill. Brush both sides of the fish with the sesame oil, and then sprinkle the flesh side with the rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze the lemon over the fish and grill until it flakes with a fork, 4 to 6 minutes per side.


While the fish is cooking, assemble the relish: Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, basil, garlic and cumin in a small bowl. Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Serve the fish hot off the grill with the tomato relish on the side.


Serves 4


Grilled Oysters With Habanero Sauce
Don't like shucking? Put oysters on the grill whole. Voila. Easy. This versatile, Caribbean-style sauce also goes well with clam cakes, fried clams and other seafood appetizers.


Habanero sauce:
1 ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 habanero or Scotch Bonnet chile, seeded
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon agave
16 oysters


To make the sauce: Blend the papaya, vinegar, shallot, chile, ginger, garlic, curry, lime juice and agave in a food processor until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to saucepan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a gas or charcoal grill. Place the oysters on the grill, cup-side down and close the lid, cooking them until they start to peek open, anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. (Discard any oysters that don't open.)


Remove the oysters from the grill immediately and pry them open the rest of the way with a fork, taking care not to spill the precious juices. Serve in the shell, with the habanero sauce for dipping or spooning.


Serves 4


Excerpted from Fresh Fish © Jennifer Trainer Thompson. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.




SAVOR: Rustic Recipes Inspired by Forest, Field and Farm
By Ilona Oppenheim






For raclette, a traditional Swiss dish, a wheel of cheese is melted, and the melted part is scraped off and eaten with boiled potatoes, charcuterie and pickles.


There are two types of raclette melting machines: an electric tabletop device that melts individual portions of cheese and another that holds a quarter of a wheel and melts the cheese under a heat lamp.


But I prefer to melt raclette and eat it around an open fire, which is the same way Swiss cowherds have eaten it for centuries.


12 small new potatoes, unpeeled
2 pounds raclette
Assorted dry cured meats, such as
prosciutto, cut into thin slices
Cornichons and pickled onions


If your cheese has been refrigerated, remove it from the refrigerator a couple hours before cooking. If you will be melting the cheese by the fire, build your fire.


About half an hour before you want to heat the raclette, fill a medium pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Keep warm.


Assemble a charcuterie platter, including the dry-cured meats, cornichons and pickled onions.


When the flames have died down, place the cheese wheel close to the fire, either on a stand that holds the cheese or on a clean stone, with the cut side facing the fire. When the cheese begins to melt, place a few potatoes on the plates and use a spatula to spread the cheese over the potatoes.


If using a raclette grill, each person takes a slice of cheese, places it on an individual pan, slides it under the grill and lets it melt until bubbly, which takes about 2 minutes. Place the potatoes on the plate and spread the cheese over the potatoes.


Serves 4


Chocolate Fondue
This recipe uses dark chocolate, which gives the fondue a rich cocoa taste, but if you prefer a sweeter, creamier flavor, use milk chocolate. You can use a fondue pot to melt the chocolate, but a ceramic-coated cast-iron pot will also work.


The chocolate needs to stay heated even while you're eating it, so traditionally the fondue pot is placed on top of a metal stand (sold with the pot) set over an adjustable flame. Instead, try cooking and eating the fondue fireside, using the low flames to keep the chocolate warm and melted. Serve with long fondue forks for dipping.


2 cups half-and-half
1/2 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, about 65% cacao, broken into small chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For dipping:
Pretzel sticks
Banana pieces
Apple pieces
Dried apricots



Build a fire and let it burn down to embers. Use a long stick to spread out the coals to lower their heat. On each side of the fire, arrange a platform of rocks that can support a grate for cooking


Pour the half-and-half into a small heatproof pan. Set the pan on the grate and heat the half-and-half over the coals until it comes to a low boil. Remove the grate and place the fondue pot directly on the rock using the indirect heat of the fire. Add the chocolate and vanilla. Let it melt slowly while stirring.


Arrange the food for dipping on a large platter and serve with long fondue forks to dip the fruit or cookies into the hot melted chocolate.


Pour leftover chocolate into a container. Let it cool down, cover, and store in the refrigerator. You can keep leftovers for up to 2 weeks. Re-melt to eat.

Excerpted from "Savor" by Ilona Oppenheim (Artisan Books). © 2016




The Six O'Clock Scramble Meal Planner
By Aviva Goldfarb





Savory Spice-Rubbed Strip Steak With Cinnamon Apples
A fabulous spice rub can really liven up the flavor of grilled meats. My son, Solomon, my husband, Andrew, and I found this flavor so appealing that we didn't even need to dip the steak in any sauce, though some may prefer to dip theirs in ketchup.


1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or use 1/2 teaspoon chili powder if cayenne is too spicy
1-1/2 pounds lean New York strip or top loin steaks
6 small (4 ounce) red apples, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon


Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. In a small bowl, combine all the spices, and sprinkle and rub the mixture over both sides of the steaks. (Leave one steak plain or very lightly seasoned if you have picky eaters.)


When the grill is hot, cook the steaks for 3–5 minutes per side, depending on how well done you like them. (Meanwhile, slice the apples, if you are serving them.) Slice the steak into thin strips and serve with the cinnamon apples.


Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.


Flavor booster: Both cayenne and chili powder for the spice rub. Serve the steak with lime wedges.


Tip: To get beautiful grill marks on your meat, don't move it at all before flipping it. To get crosshatches, rotate the steak 1/4 turn before flipping it.


Makes 6 servings of 3 ounces plus one small apple each



Grilled Pork and Pineapple Kabobs
These flavors are a magical combination, and the pattern of the pork, red peppers and pineapple on the skewer looks so appetizing that it would be ideal to serve to company.


20 ounces pineapple chunks in 100% juice, drained
1 pound boneless pork center-cut loin or tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
2-3/4 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari (use wheat/gluten-free if needed)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced



Thread pieces of pineapple, pork and bell pepper onto about 8 metal skewers, creating a repeating pattern. Lay the skewers in a large pan or dish with sides, just large enough to hold them in one layer.


In a large measuring cup, combine the remaining ingredients and pour it over the kebobs, turning them to coat. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.


Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees) and oil the grates. (Start the couscous now, if serving it.) Remove the kabobs from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and grill for about 5 minutes per side until the meat is browned and just cooked through.


In a small saucepan, bring the reserved marinade to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.


Transfer to a small pitcher or bowl to serve with the kabobs.


Makes 4 servings of 2 kabobs each

© 2016 American Diabetes Association. Reprinted with permission.






150 Best Recipes for Cooking in Foil
By Marilyn Haugen








Mandarin Orange Chicken and Broccoli
This is one of my all-time favorite choices for takeout Chinese food. This version is simple enough to take camping and grill over hot coals.


6 sheets heavy-duty foil, sprayed with
nonstick cooking spray
1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken (dark or
light meat), sliced
3 cups cooked rice
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
3 cups broccoli florets
2 mandarin orange fruit cups, with juice
1 cup thawed frozen peas
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce


Prepare grill. Divide chicken evenly among prepared foil sheets. Top with rice, red pepper, green pepper, onion, broccoli, oranges and peas, dividing evenly. Drizzle with teriyaki sauce. Fold foil into tent-style packets and seal edges tightly.


Place packets on hot coals and cook for 30 minutes, turning packets over occasionally, until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink.


Makes 6 servings

Courtesy "150 Best Recipes for Cooking in Foil" by Marilyn Haugen © 2016 www.robertrose.ca. Reprinted with publisher permission.



Chef Brack Johnson, who holds an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts, teaches healthy cooking classes in the Triangle.