Text by Phoenix Trent, Photos by Roy Gumpel
Flowers are in full bloom, the fields are green with fresh grass, and the crops are soakin’ in the sweet sun. Enjoy the beautiful midsummer nights by partaking in an outdoor barbecue with family and friends. A summer barbecue is one of life's simple pleasures. In addition to showcasing fresh, seasonal food, it allows us to enjoy the great outdoors while enjoying the company of loved ones. What could be better?
Plan a menu that includes summertime favorites, specifically the food you miss while surviving on winter root veggies. Indulge in the bright colored summer produce. Not only are they packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that your body hankered for in the cold months, they also add an extra kick of excitement to the presentation of the night’s eats.
Start off with vibrant and refreshing tomato, cucumber salad. At their ripest in mid-July to October, Hudson Valley garden tomatoes can’t be beat. In beautiful shades of red, yellow, orange and purple, heirloom tomatoes are packed with vitamin A and C. Pick a few up from your local farmers’ market, being sure to pick a tomato that looks just about ready to burst for ripeness. A perfect summer tomato should be tender to the touch but not mushy. You should be able to breath in its delightfully sweet perfume that comes with ripeness.
Pair with fresh cucumbers, red onion, olive oil, basil and a pinch of salt for the ultimate barbeque night starter. Begin by thoroughly cleaning, de-stemming and slicing four or five good-sized heirlooms into quarters. Peel two cucumbers lengthwise, making sure to leave about a quarter of the peel intact. Cucumber peels are packed with essential vitamins and add an extra crunch. Continue by slicing the cucumber into quarter inch thick circular disks. Combine the cucumbers and tomatoes in a mixing bowl with half a sliced red onion, four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, freshly chopped basil, and a pinch of kosher salt. Serve with a basil leaf for garnish. The earthy goodness of such fresh and local ingredients is sure to tantalize your taste buds.
Now it’s time to fire up the grill and throw on your favorite cuts of meat, and fresh local vegetables like zucchini, summer squash and, of course, our perfectly sweet corn. Fleisher’s Butcher in Kingston offers one of the most extensive and by far the freshest selection of local farm-raised beef, chicken, lamb and pork (see VISITvortex.com for more local meat options). Pick up a few organic lamb chops, and maybe a t-bone steak or two and you’ll be on your way to a delightful main course.
Once you’re back in the kitchen, thoroughly rinse your raw meat to remove any natural residue. Combine in mixing bowl with a cup of pureed fresh raspberries or strawberries, two tablespoons of olive oil, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 4 cloves finely minced garlic, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the meat marinate in your fridge for at least an hour. Turn up the heat on the grill to high and sear both sides of the meat, frequently brushing with the marinade. This will create a delicious caramelized crust and really brings out the flavor of both the meat and sauce. After searing for about two minutes on each side, lower the heat and let the meat cook to a desired doneness. Just give the chop or steak ten minutes to rest and it’ll be time to enjoy. Plate with grilled corn on the cob and slices of summer squash and zucchini that have been tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary and grilled to perfection. The juicy cut, combined with garden fresh veggies, will be sure to satisfy everyone’s hunger for proper summer grillin’.
Finish the meal off right with watermelon cubes tossed in lemon juice, a few tablespoons of honey, and fresh chopped mint. Garnish with a dollop of homemade honey-sweetened whipped cream and sprig of mint for the perfectly refreshing summer dessert.
Summer is a time for vibrantly blooming gardens, the freshest produce and meat, and leisurely days by the water. It’s a time for family, and a time for friends. So go ahead and invite those who are dearest to you, because it’s time to have a good old-fashioned American barbecue.