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We are right in the middle of the biggest epidemic of our time, and in the midst of all the lockdowns and negative news, it's hard to keep inspired. With movement restrictions, it is almost impossible to do shopping, and consequently, most people prefer to order takeouts instead of cooking. In turn, foodies like me have to contend with ordering takeouts and making quick plates. I mean, what's the point of throwing down nice meals if I can't have my friends over to praise my culinary skills?
Anyway, if you're lacking in motivation (which is expected during these tough times) cooking can be a great way to work and relax your mind and disconnect from the world, albeit for a short time. And if you love your grilled treats, you can still have your BBQs even when stuck in your house.
Now, I am no BBQ expert myself - my last attempt at it resulted in some badly charred pork chops that we had to throw away - but who said the grill is the only aspect of a good BBQ? The accompaniments served alongside your meat also matter, and can in fact make or break your roast. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my forte. So, put your reading glasses on and activate your taste buds, as I am about to take you through six scrumptious snacks you can be nibbling on as you wait for your roast to cook.
Best BBQ Appetizers
I understand perfectly well that there are different types of BBQ roasts and a one-for-all recipe wouldn't do. So, I dug around my sizable bag of culinary tricks and came up with 6 amazing recipes, most of which I've personally prepared, and a couple that I had at various events.
Tomato, Cabbage and Corn Salad
What better way to prepare your guests for a meaty dinner than serving a healthy, colorful and scrumptious salad? What more, you don't have to cook anything; just clean, cut and combine some fresh raw corn kernels with some (preferably red) cabbage leaves and top with a tomato variety of your choice. The end result is a delightful blend of flavors that will not only get the taste buds rolling for your main course, but also add to your body's nutrients bank, which would be especially great at this point in time.
If you know your way around the kitchen, you probably have an idea of how to mix the various ingredients. If you don't, here's a recipe you could try:
1. To a large bowl, pour your desired amount of lime juice and about 1 tbsp of oil. Drizzle a good amount of salt and pepper and then whisk them together.
2. Cut and dice the tomatoes, scallions, and cabbage and add them to the above mixture, together with the kernels.
3. Toss until all the ingredients combine and serve at your leisure.
NOTE: Just be careful not to overfeed your guests if you want them to still savor your meat!
A juicy, spicy watermelon salsa is another healthy no-cook meal that can serve as a starter. It combines a bunch of fruits and veggies that inadvertently create an amazing mix of flavors that remain in your mouth for a while - and that's exactly what you want in an appetizer.
1. Combine all the ingredients, except honey and lime juice, in a large bowl and toss.
2. Add about 2 tbsp of both lime juice and honey and still to create a uniform coating.
3. Put in the fridge and let it chill for at least 30 minutes.
As a pointer, watermelon salsa is best served with some tortilla chips, but you can also eat it with cookies or biscuits. Moreover, drain the excess liquid on your watermelon cuts before combining with the other ingredients to avoid a runny meal.
Baked Artichoke Dip
From its beginnings as a creamy dip marketed alongside Hellman's mayonnaise back in the '60s, baked artichoke dip has grown to become one of the most common party munchies in the U.S. Apart from the rich, creamy taste, other factors that contribute to the popularity include its fast prep time and the fact that very few ingredients are required.
1. Let your oven heat up to 360 degrees.
2. Put the mayonnaise and the cheese in a large bowl and stir.
3. Add the spinach, pepper and artichokes and stir to create a consistent mix.
4. Sprinkle some Monterey Jack Cheese and place the mixture in a sizable oven-proof container.
5. Place the container in the preheated oven and bake for at least 15 minutes. Remove it when the cheese coating is fully melted and the entire dip gets bubbly.
6. Serve while hot, preferably with some crackers. Baguette slices may also do if you don't have crackers.
Grilled Potato Chips
In line with the ‘balanced diet rule,’ a bite or two of starchy sweetness is a necessary evil before you indulge in a roast protein fest. It's all good then that grilled potatoes contain significantly less calories and carbs than their deep fried cousins, making them a suitable choice for an appetizer or side dish. Below's a simple and fast recipe for cooking up some tasty potato chips and a complementary garlic aioli.
1. Preheat your grill to 300-350 degrees (medium heat).
2. Wash, peel and slice the potatoes, then rinse them again. Aim to get the thinnest slices you can as they cook much faster.
3. Pat the potatoes dry then place them in a large bowl and add 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt.
4. Place a grill pan on the grill and let it heat.
5. Arrange the oiled and salted potatoes in a single layer on the pan.
6. Let the potatoes cook until each side is sufficiently browned. This takes between 5-8 minutes per side, depending on how hot your grill is.
Now Onto Preparing the Aioli
1. Gather, combine and thoroughly mix together all the ingredients in the following way: 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, a pinch of salt, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and the 2 garlic cloves, well minced.
2. Serve together with the grilled chips.
Notably, you may want to start with the aioli, which is best served cold and can also be refrigerated. That way, you will be able to focus fully on the potato chips, which require undivided attention to prevent burning.
Mexican Street Corn (Elote)
Grilled corn on the cob is great and all, but have you ever had a taste of well-seasoned Mexican street corn? That's veggie heaven if there ever was one.
For the uninitiated, Elote is basically a more ‘posh version’ of grilled on the cob maize. It's usually coated with layers of lime juice, Mexican cheese, chili powder, fresh cilantro and mayonnaise, all which combine to create a colorfully spicy blend of flavors that simultaneously range from salty to sweet to creamy. Fortunately, the recipe is quite simple and easy to follow even if you've never grilled corn before. The only downside is that it takes a bit of time to prepare and you may have to get it ready at least a few hours before you get your BBQ rolling.
1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
2. Grill all the corns on the grill until they're all brown and tender on all sides. I prefer de-husking before putting them on the grill as the heat (and the consequent charring) on the uncovered kernels enhances their flavor and color.
3. In a large bowl, gather and mix the vegetable oil, lime juice, sour cream, half of the cilantro, mayo, and grated garlic (I use a garlic press for this). Sprinkle about 1 tbsp of Kosher salt and stir to mix.
4. Spread the resultant mixture onto a flat tray or plate.
5. In a different plate, spread the cotija cheese and sprinkle some of the chili.
6. Roll the hot corn in the first plate (with the mayo) such that every part of each ear is fully coated. You can use tongs to prevent burns and enhance your grip. Also roll the ears in the plate with the cheese to create a second coating.
7. Garnish the ears with the remaining cilantro, as well as chili powder (if you like it spicy) and serve immediately.
So, what if you don't have all the urbane ingredients - which is probable, considering the current situation - but still want to make a nice starter for your grill party? Simple, just get a cabbage and some mayo and I'll show you how to go about it!
This recipe is the ultimate traditionalist appetizer and is especially luscious when served before (or with) a serving of grilled pork sandwiches or fish tacos. However, it can also be used alongside seafood, chicken, and just about any other type of roast, so don't be hesitant to try it out.
1. Peel the outer layers of the cabbage then wash it thoroughly. If you have time, you can slice it into two parts and hang them upside down to dry or you can simply use a salad spinner.
2. Chop the cabbage coarsely. Go for medium sized choppings as opposed to the tiny ones, or larger, shapeless ones.
3. On a large plastic, or glass bowl, mix the sugar, salt, vinegar, mayo and black pepper and stir. Note the highlighted specifications and avoid using metal bowls (for these ingredients) This because cider vinegar is acidic (albeit slightly less as compared to ordinary vinegar), and as you probably know, metal and acid aren't really the best of friends, and the last thing you want on your delectable coleslaw is some tangy metallic taste.
4. Now, add your cabbage to the bowl and gently but firmly stir to combine.
5. Cover in an airtight container and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, then serve with your favorite sandwich as you wait for your meat to cook.
On this, there are a couple of clarifications that may interest you. One, you don't really have to use the amount of sugar I specified - it can be more or less, depending on your taste. Secondly, you may also find that both the mayo and vinegar significantly affect the taste. In essence, the more mayo you add, the creamier your coleslaw will be, and the more vinegar you use, the tangier it will become, and hence the need to carefully vary the amounts.