First Cookout of the Season & Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado

Covered_bridge_flagHere, there and more or less everywhere, Memorial Day has been declared the unofficial start of summer. The pressure is on to throw the first cookout of the season. That said; planning a Memorial Day anything could be dicey business in New Hampshire. I don’t think it has ever snowed on Memorial Day but I could be wrong. Let’s hope for sunshine with a smattering of laughter and a whiff of fragrant smoke from barbeque and burgers on the grill.

You can help make it happen. Do your sun dance, make a few phone calls and roll the grill out of the garage. It’s been awhile so here are a few helpful hints for a great cookout.

Three letters: ICE. No one likes warm beer or lemonade, so, on a (hopefully) warm evening, you can never have enough ice. Load up a cooler or oversized tub with lots of ice and your favorite beverages.

About those drinks. If it’s a long afternoon-into-evening kind of party, it’s can’t be all cocktails, wine and beer. Make sure you have plenty of water, lemonade and soft drinks to keep everyone hydrated and safe on the road. Consider serving shandies as the party’s signature drink. A fifty-fifty mix of beer and lemonade or ginger beer, a shandy is a refreshing choice. When it comes to logistics, avoid a logjam by separating the drink area from the food table.

Wonderful food. From the appetizers to dessert and everything in between, focus on great ingredients and delicious recipes. When you go to all that trouble, keep everything fresh and safe. Don’t let dinner sit in the hot sun for hours. Leave everything in the refrigerator until you are more or less ready to cook and serve.

Unless you have a ginormous grill and very patient friends, save that piece of blazing real estate for the main event. Grilled veggies, tossed into a salad or arranged on a platter, will make a delicious addition to the meal. However, get them on and off the grill before your guests arrive.

You can’t be everywhere at once. It’s okay to outsource the grillwork. Just make sure you choose wisely. Beware of the hyper attentive cook. You know the type. He (or she but usually he) will poke, prod and push dinner all over the grill until it is dried out and overcooked. On the other end of the spectrum, avoid your easily distracted friend. Before the chicken is ready to turn, he (or she, it could be either) will wander off for a game of touch football or join an emergency run to the store for more ice.

Keep it casual. One of the many reasons that everyone loves a cookout is the easy, breezy, wear-your-bare-feet attitude. If for some strange reason, you are tempted to take it up a notch – don’t. Remember high heels and grass doesn’t mix. Leave the preppy blazers and designer dresses to Gatsby. This is New Hampshire not the Hamptons.

Keep it comfortable. At some point in the evening, some or all of your guests will be ready to pull up a chair. Make sure you have plenty to go around. It’s okay to ask a friend or two to bring a few spares. In addition, don’t forget it’s only the end of May. It can get downright chilly as soon as the sun goes down. Be prepared to move inside.

Don’t forget the tunes. From the classic to the latest hits, create a playlist of summery tunes on one of the internet radio stations and blast it into the backyard. Of course, the Beach Boys are a must as well as Alice Cooper wailing School’s Out. The rest is up to you.

Have a great weekend with family and friends. Bon appétit!

Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado  Mixed Greens_Grilled_Asparagus_Cucumber_Avocado_02
nderful combination of flavors and textures for your next cookout, smoky grilled asparagus meets crunchy cucumbers and creamy avocado. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Sherry-Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 1/2-2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed
4-8 scallions
Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
About 8 ounces arugula or mixed baby greens
2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped
About 1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

Make the vinaigrette (recipe follows).

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus and scallions in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Arrange the asparagus and scallions on the grill and cook for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook, the asparagus should be tender-crisp. Remove from the grill, drizzle with lemon juice and cool to room temperature. If you like, chop the asparagus and scallions.

Put the greens in a bowl, add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Transfer the greens to a platter or individual plates. Put the cucumber in the bowl, add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Arrange the asparagus, avocado, cucumber and scallions on top of the greens and serve.

Sherry-Citrus Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, citrus juices, mustard, shallot and garlic in a blender, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil to taste and continue processing until well combined.

Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator before serving.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Two Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Three Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Five Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Six Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend the long Memorial Day Weekend? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

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