There’s something about August which leaves you with the distinct feeling that summer is picking up its coat and heading towards the door, only stopping for a couple of long goodbyes. While it’s air kissing its way out, we’re making the most of it and getting our little pizza oven/barbecue on and smoking as much as we can.
My experience as a novice barbecuer is quite amusing – my hopes rise and fall with the flames behind the open grate as I try to work out the mysterious science behind igniting coals and getting them to the right temperature and, moreover, getting them to stay there while I get the entire queue of food on to it and cooked without making anyone unwell – but when I take that first bite into freshly cooked, flame-grilled meat, it makes all the pyrotechnical shenanigans worthwhile. Our attempts at barbecued burgers have been eye-opening in the good sense: the patties have taken minutes to prepare, with only a simple seasoning of salt and pepper required, and after a few minutes, we have beautiful, juicy burgers with a taste on par if not exceeding that I have had at many burger places. I’ve been more confounded by making sure all the accessories are ready and to hand in the right order: buns, condiments, cheese to melt on the burger once you’ve flipped it…
I’m not enough of a barbecue expert to post any grilled recipes here (yet!), but what I love with a meat feast is a fresh salad to complement it. A friend, Kelly, made this delicious salad with beautiful, red, vibrant ingredients, and a super zesty taste. She kindly shared the recipe, and I made it myself the following day because I loved it so much (and to make sure even half-cooks like me can make it). It uses sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes, and takes about 30 minutes to prepare, less if you blanche the peppers in cold water after chargrilling to remove the skin sooner. It’s truly delicious, and because it produces flavourful juices from the mix of tomatoes and dressing, it’s also perfect with fresh bread toasted on the flames to mop up the juices. It is an outdoors summer salad which you can enjoy anytime.
Simple Summer Salad
Serves 2-3 as a side salad
– 2 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange are best)
– a handful of sweet cherry tomatoes
– handful of fresh parsley (add more if you like)
– extra virgin olive oil
– balsamic vinegar
– salt and pepper to season
– 50g feta cheese (optional)
1) Rinse the peppers and chargrill them whole. I do this by holding them over a naked flame from the gas hob – hold it on a skewer to keep your hands safe. Keep turning them so they’re blistered and black all over. It takes about 10-12 mins to grill the whole pepper. Leave to cool for about 10-15 mins, or run under cold water.
2) Peel the skin off the peppers. They should come off easily and with little resistance. Use a knife if required to get all of the blackened skin off.
3) Cut the peppers open and discard the stalk, seeds and membrane. Cut the peeled pepper into thin strips.
4) Place the peppers strips in a bowl. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes and add to the bowl. Pour over a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a more generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar (it’s personal preference). Roughly chop the parsley and add to the bowl.
5) Roughly chop or crumble the feta cheese and add to the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve!
Notes: you can add olives or garlic croutons to the salad as well, it’s your choice. Torn basil leaves would be great, too.