Recipe: Grilled Vegetable Fajitas (below)
Also see: Summer Grilling & Picnic Recipes
Some people call them the dog days of summer and vow to spend the season (with or without their dog) no more than ten feet away from an air conditioning unit. Then there are those who handle the heat the natural way-they head for the beach!
Melanie Bamard is one of those beach-goers—even when she isn't anywhere near a large body of water. This cookbook author, grilling expert and lover of all things summery maintains that the beach is really a state of mind. To Barnard, the beach can simply mean sipping a cool glass of iced tea as you munch on a sugar cookie while chatting with your neighbor on the patio. The beach can also be your kids running through the sprinkler, or taking a dip in the wading pool. It can even be a castle built in a backyard sandbox.
But the ultimate beach event is, of course, the picnic. Now, it's certainly the best of all worlds if your picnic can be toted to Cape Cod or Malibu Beach or even the upper shores of Lake Michigan. But if you don't happen to be lucky enough to live in or visit these places, there is no reason why you can't have a beach picnic at your local community park, the nearest country meadow or even in your own backyard.
No matter where you picnic, grilled food is always the highlight. It's convenient in your backyard, but today's portable gas and charcoal grills make it easy to bring your cookout anywhere. Melanie Barnard even knows folks who keep an old station wagon packed and ready all summer long just in case a "beach picnic" opportunity presents itself.
Even if you don't have an extra parking space for your grill-mobile, it's still well worth setting aside a little space for your picnic equipment. Then, at the drop of a beach hat, you will be ready to marshall family and friends for a sunset supper. Barnard keeps a hamper filled with these non-perishable basics:
If your picnic is further away than the backyard, safe food transport is an important consideration. Barnard also keeps a large cooler (she particularly likes the new ones on wheels with a strap like the popular luggage totes) and some cold packs in the freezer to transport food safely and easily. In general, bacteria grows fastest at temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, so the idea is to keep cold foods really cold. Since keeping foods hot is even more of a challenge, it's really easier (and certainly more fun) to grill right at the picnic site.
Though hamburgers and hot dogs are sometimes on the menu (especially if children are part of the party), Barnard loves to liven up the picnic with a few food surprises. One of her favorite mid-summer recipes is Grilled Vegetable Fajitas.
Home-grown vegetables and beach picnics reach peak season at the same time, so it's a great idea to combine these two wonderful events of summer. Grilling is perhaps the most flavorful way to prepare veggies, and is among the easiest as well. A light brushing with Bottled Italian Dressing is all that is needed to enhance the natural goodness of seasonal grilled vegetables. (Another advantage for the picnic is that vegetables do not need the same critical temperature transport as meat, seafood or chicken.) Finally, Grilled Vegetable Fajitas are a satisfying, nutritious meal eliminating the need to bring along the usual chips.
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen—head for the beach!
In a small bowl, combine the Italian dressing, chili powder and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Brush all sides of the pepper, onion, zucchini and tomato with the Italian dressing. Grill the vegetables over medium coals, turning once until softened, about 7 minutes for the bell pepper and onion, 5 to 7 minutes for the zucchini, and 1 to 2 minutes for the tomato. Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm at the edge of the grill for about 2 minutes.
Remove vegetables from grill and place on a cutting board. Cut the peppers, squash and tomato into chunks, and separate the onion into rings.
To serve, spread the tortillas with the guacamole, top with the vegetables, sprinkle with the cheese, roll up and dollop with the yogurt.
Compliments of Wish-Bone Dressing and Lisa Ekus Public Relations Co.
This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.
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This page modified January 2007
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