Salads and sauces for a barbecue
Turn your barbecue food into a meal rather than a mere fleisch fest.
Margaret Visser in her 1992 book, The Rituals of Dinner analyses the evolutionary and cultural aspects of the barbecue.
“In the modern ceremony of the barbecue, there remains an echo of the ancient ritual of the impromptu meal at the scene of the hunt. Barbecues are special; they are weekend treats, celebrations of good weather. The fare is ‘party’ and ‘picnic’ as opposed to ‘everyday’. These are therefore occasions when men may jocularly don aprons and set about enjoying the process of cooking. Barbecues begin with male-dominated firemaking. They take place outside the house — though not necessarily very far from it — and the ‘masculine’ live fire is accompanied by the special grids, knives and skewers. The women tend to take care of the salads, the plates, the dessert, and the washing of the dishes afterwards.”
Like all meat cultures, it is the meat that is the big excitement and something the males have historically always taken care of. (I am reminded of Homer Simpson drooling and murmuring “hmm, cheap meat” in an episode of The Simpsons where he throws a neighbourhood barbecue.) The rest of the meal doesn’t have the same cultural prestige as what is happening on the barbecue but it is just as important and it is this unsung area of the favourite Kiwi meal on which I am concentrating today. So before that tsunami of soy sauce-marinated meat engulfs everyone, add some of the following to your barbecue food and turn it into a meal rather than a mere fleisch fest.
So, first some sauces
Make a Sicilian style mint sauce to go with barbecued chicken or seafood. Finely chop a red onion and a clove of garlic, add a little sugar, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and lots of finely chopped mint. Mix well and serve. Good on lamb, chicken or fish.
Remoulade is a great sauce for almost anything barbecued, especially steak, sausages, chicken and vegetable kebabs. Buy a good mayonnaise (preferably one made of real food) or make one yourself. Add plenty of finely diced gherkins, a dollop of dijon mustard, capers, chopped tarragon and parsley, and chopped anchovies. Mix well, taste, season and serve.
Salsas can be harsh, crude and not necessarily just a mix of raw ingredients. To give your salsa a mellow, subtle flavour, finely chop a red onion, place in a saucepan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, sliced chilli, lime or lemon juice and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and boil gently until the water has evaporated, by which time the onion will be cooked. Cool. Next, add
lots of finely diced fresh pineapple, mint leaves and sugar. Taste, and adjust the hot, salty, sour and sweet flavours so they are balanced by adding more salt, sugar, lime juice or chilli if necessary. Serve with sour cream and warm flour tortillas. Good with pork chops or pork meatballs and chicken.
The Italians do do great raw salsas. One of the most popular is simply halved cherry tomatoes or diced large tomatoes (outdoor if you can get them) sprinkled with salt and reserved for 10 minutes so their juices start to flow. Add extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped anchovies, pitted kalamata olives, caper berries and lots of ripped up basil leaves, then stir through hot spaghetti as a barbecue side, or use the tomato salsa as a sauce for chicken or fish.
Mix lots of thinly sliced chargrilled red capsicums with a little sugar, smoked paprika, finely chopped garlic, chilli flakes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped coriander and a drained can of whole kernel sweetcorn, and serve with steak or fish.
Make a big bowl of tzatziki. Mix plain unsweetened yoghurt with a couple of large cloves of garlic crushed with salt, cucumber that has been peeled, seeded, grated, and squeezed dry and freshly ground black pepper. Serve sprinkled with dried mint. Good with lamb or fish.
And some salads
Barbecue lots of extra virgin olive oil-brushed slices of eggplant, place on a platter and sprinkle with chopped tomatoes, green olives, chopped coriander, toasted cumin seeds, finely chopped garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Serve with everything, good with lamb.
Did anyone ever complain about being served sliced fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and basil leaves, well seasoned and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and white wine or moscatel vinegar? I don’t think so.
Thinly slice fresh fennel and oranges peeled with a sharp knife, sprinkle on some kalamata olives and thinly sliced red onion, dress with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and serve with chicken.
Cut red, yellow and orange capsicums into quarters, place the quarters cut side up, side by side, on an oven tray. In each quarter put a small wedge of tomato, an anchovy fillet and some chopped garlic. Drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil and place in a 200C oven for 15 minutes or until browned and collapsing. Cool and serve with steak. These can be made in advance and served at room temperature.
Steam some quinoa and while warm, place in a serving bowl. Add rocket leaves, sliced spring onions, diced lebanese cucumber, a large pinch of chilli flakes, chopped roasted almonds, currants, sliced semi-dried tomatoes and chopped parsley. Dress with lemon juice and a little yoghurt and serve with lamb or chicken.
In a bowl, mix sliced mushrooms (use buttons, browns, portobellos and some rehydrated porcini ), chopped prosciutto, garlic, thyme leaves, a little extra virgin olive oil, chopped chervil and shallot. Mix well, season and place a big spoonful in the middle of squares of baking paper. Bring the edges of the paper together and secure with string. (You could do this with foil but I always feel like a geiger counter if foil comes in contact with my fillings.) Bake in a 200C oven for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and have given up their juices. Serve each package with your favourite barbecued steak and a dollop of creme fraiche.
Boil lots of waxy potatoes, drain, crush slightly and add ripped radicchio leaves, finely chopped red onion, mint leaves, finely diced peel of preserved lemon and lots of chopped parsley. Dress with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and serve with chicken or fish.