Summer is here… kabobs, burgers, marshmallows and watermelon are lining up at the grocery checkout, ready to accompany us home. Fire up the grill, put the cushions on the chaise lounge, pour yourself a cool one and relax – the air just got a little calmer, and the cooking just got a little bit easier.
Cooking outdoors is as much a pastime as it is an attitude. No elbows allowed on the nightly dinner table, but sitting outside on a swing with legs dangling and barbeque sauce dripping down our arm chased by a the family pets tongue somehow passes the Emily Post checklist as acceptable backyard etiquette. A “we are fam-i-ly” vibe lets everyone breathe a stress-free breath to welcome the picnic season, ants and all.
A friend of mine called me the other day and said “I’m having a Fourth of July party, and the food needs to sit out all day… what can I make?” “NOTHING!” I shrieked. Then I did a little research… Still nothing.
Food is a living organism, and as anything that is alive, sitting it in the sun all day is not a good idea – unless it’s sun tea or beef jerky (nothing can hurt that!). So with the picnic, beach, and backyard soirée season here, what can we prepare that is sun-safe, and beach ready besides potato chips and store bought cookies? Plenty.
Keep your food out of the sun, and placed in bowls of ice. This will keep the temperature down and the food from spoiling. Prepare foods in small amounts and exchange them for fresh batches throughout the day. Put someone in charge of keeping the ice around the food- kids love this job. Mustard and catsup spoil just as mayonnaise does, so be sure to keep them iced as well.
Now, to the food and drink. My all time delicious and easy favorite is a kabob, roasted veggies, a simple salad, and watermelon lemonade. Get creative with the kabobs and enlist little hands to help thread the vegetables on to the skewer. I most often grill my meat or fish on a separate skewer from my vegetables – except for onions. Sweet Maui onions are magnificent raw or slowly cooked and caramelized. This makes them a perfect accompaniment to the protein on the kabob. When the fish or meat is done, the onion will taste delicious no matter how long it has cooked.
Keep the vibe going all throughout the summer, and don’t forget the sunscreen; for you and the food!
Equal parts lemonade and watermelon juice
1 cup frozen watermelon cubes to 2 cups watermelon lemonade
Splash of chilled vodka (adult version)
Watermelon juice can be easily made in a blender or food processor if you don’t have a juicer. Blend until completely macerated. Strain if desired or add to lemonade with pulp.
Mahi Mahi Kabob
20-oz. or 4-5oz. mahi mahi fillets
4 – 6 bamboo skewers
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of course sea salt and pepper
2 cups papaya – peeled and cubed
6 big handfuls of baby spinach
12 small sugar or cherry tomatoes
1/2 of a small red onion – sliced thin
2 tablespoons cashew halves – optional
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sweet rice wine vinegar
1/4 bunch fresh mint – chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of course sea salt
Spinach Papaya Salad
with Skewered Mahi Mahi
Mahi mahi is a Hawaiian fish that is on the “safe fish” list: it is low in mercury. Its firm texture makes it great for grilling and skewering. This dish is simple, colorful andscrumptiously low-calorie.
Place the dressing ingredients, except the olive oil, in the bottom of your salad bowl. Place all the salad ingredients on top of the dressing ingredients – set aside.
Lightly spray or brush the grill with vegetable oil. Heat grill to medium.
In a bowl large enough to hold the mahi mahi, combine the juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss fish and coat evenly. Place on skewer so fish is next to each other but not crowded. Leave enough room at the end of the skewer to hold.
With the hood down, grill fish on each side for about 4 minutes. Brush the fish with the leftover marinade once on each side during grilling. Toss salad with olive oil and place on serving dish with the skewered mahi mahi on top.