The consequences of Chicago’s unseasonably mild March has been the uptick in everyone’s (Spring Feverish?) desire to grill outdoors. With the first days of my Spring Break bringing sunny days in the mid-80s, we almost had no choice but to use our Weber. After all, it felt odd to turn on air conditioning in the middle of March, yet the idea of cooking indoors with the heat and humidity seemed a little obscene. So out we went.
Did we mention that our Grill Guru is Steven Raichlen? One of our favorite and quick (last minute) dishes to grill is his “Honey Sesame Shrimp ‘On the Barbie’” (from The Barbecue Bible, pp.349-350). The dish only requires 30 (to 60) minutes of marinating time, the ingredient list includes items that we almost always have around the house, and there are no special tools or tricks needed to produce a uniquely flavorful taste. What more can I ask for?
(If you want the recipe, the Huffington Post provides it in the link here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/honey-sesame-shrimp-on-th_n_1049708.html)
To pull together our first meal-on-the-patio of 2012, we accompanied the Honey Sesame Shrimp with the following sides:
Simple Rice Pilaf:
The Honey Sesame Shrimp recipe yields a goodly amount of glazy sauce (image below) which is nicely complemented by rice. I am normally happy to steam some rice, but I also happened to have some jasmine rice from Friday’s dinner. I love leftover makeovers, so rice pilaf is what I decided on.
Melt some butter (3-4 teaspoons) on medium-high heat in a large pan, lightly sauté 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley or green onion (this step is optional), and then crumble into the pan 2-3 cups cooked rice to mix. After a few minutes of stirring, drizzle about 2 teaspoons of low-sodium soy sauce. Mix thoroughly. If you want your pilaf darker, drizzle some more soy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste, and mix thoroughly.
Grilled Corn on the Cob:
We used to be amongst those who insist on soaking corn in sugared and salted water and then wrapping corn in aluminum foil or corn husks to grill. About a decade ago, we learned—once again via Steven Raichlen—to skip all those steps, and we have not looked back.
Simply slather your corn on the cob with some melted butter, salt, and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until bits of kernels are browned and caramelized. The natural sweetness of the corn is brought out by this process without any additional steps. One of our favorite summer foods!
Since the shrimp marinade includes soy sauce and sesame oil, I replicate some of those flavors in a slightly spicy soy-sesame vinaigrette. You can go without the spiciness if you don’t tolerate red pepper flakes well. However, if you can handle a little bit of spice, that additional flavor profile will pull together—without repeating too monotonously—the soy-sesame flavor of the shrimp.
Take whatever greens you have, halve cherry or grape tomatoes, slice some dill or Persian cucumber, and chop or julienne green onions. For the dressing, use about 2 tablespoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rice wine (or white wine) vinegar, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 small clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon green (or red) onion, hot pepper flakes (crushed, cayenne, Korean chile peppers, etc.), salt and pepper. Whisk or shake in a jar. The dressing is ready now, but do not mix with greens until you are ready to eat your salad, especially if you are using any sort of delicate lettuces like butter, arugula, red/green leaf lettuce, etc. You don't want the greens wilting before you can get to them!
Now all you need to complete the meal is a chilled bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc which, while from New Zealand rather than Australia, really is a must for your warm weather drinking with food. Let your pet lie on the patio with you while you all soak up some sunshine and warmth, and enjoy your Spring!