Earlier sunrises, unbearable midday heat and crowds of teens at the mall can only mean one thing:
Summer has arrived. This means bringing the grill out of hibernation and getting back to mankind’
s earliest form of cooking with lots of fire and huge chunks of stuff to throw over the flames. I’ll
be the first to admit that a true Southerner wouldn’t recognize a Tatsumoto barbeque, grillin’ or
smokin’ cookout at all. You won’t find prodigious chunks of beef or pork ala the Flintstones nor
will you find slabs of slow cooked ribs either. And this has nothing to do with bovine spongiform
encephalopathy. What you will find is just as delicious cuts of fish, poultry and fruits and
vegetable seasoned and cooked like their hoofed grill companions.
Grilled, Barbequed or Smoked
I’m not as fussy when it comes to summertime cookin’ nomenclature. Grilling usually refers to
direct heat cooking from either charcoal briquettes or wood (I won’t get into the pros and cons of
either) or from a heated element that is maintained by propane or natural gas (nor will I get into
the pros and cons between the two).
Barbeque usually is a combination of indirect heat provided by either wood or briquettes and
smoke provided by one or a mixture of woods to flavor the meat. Since the heat isn’t anywhere
near as intense, barbequed meats can take anywhere from 8 to 14 hours of cooking – something
to keep in mind if you plan on a last minute “barbeque” party or have hungry children to feed. “Is
it done yet?, No”. “Is it done yet? No”. You get the picture. Therefore while grilling is the
“microwave” of summertime cookin’, barbeque is the “crock pot” of cookin’.
Smoking simply refers to processing a food with smoke for flavor and/or preservation. A lot of
barbeque is technically smoked but smoking doesn’t really require any heat as in the case of cold
smoked salmon. Cold smoked fish usually are processed in the 90-100 degree range…which is the
usual ambient summertime temperature in Hawaii. For nomenclature purposes (and ego), I prefer
that my guests refer to any food I prepare as “SMOKIN’”.
Where’s the Beef?
One of my favorites is Portobello mushrooms. Simply toss them with your favorite oil/vinegar
dressing then throw on the grill until they soften. They can be used as a burger substitute for
vegetarians (dress the sandwich exactly as you would a hamburger) and their size makes them a
perfect fit for hamburger or Kaiser rolls. Leftovers can be cubed and added to risottos, couscous or
tabouli salads or sliced and layered over green salads. Their natural meaty texture and the smoky
flavor they acquire over the grill will leave you asking “Who cares where’s the beef?”
Sweet peppers are another grill staple. Whether red, orange or yellow, grilling concentrates the
sweetness and pepper flavor. I usually quickly char them right over the open flame then place
them in a mixing bowl covered with one of those shower cap looking shrink wrap thingies. Once
they cool I peel off the outer skin (don’t rinse under the water or you’ll lose some of the flavor).
The grilled peppers can then be liquefied in a food processor along with olive oil, garlic and herbs
for a quick pasta sauce or chopped and added to a variety of salads. I usually save several strips of
the peeled peppers to make a bagel sandwich along with schmeered ( I believe Emeril coined the
term) fat free cream cheese for a tasty lunch the following day.
Any type of summer squash is also great grill fodder. Again, toss them with your favorite
oil/vinegar dressing and cook until tender. A great and tasty way to process your abundance of
summer zucchini. Since most squashes hold their shapes after cooking, they can be skewered for
vege-kabobs, so you don’t have to turn each slice on the grill. Once cooked, they can be served as
side dishes or chopped and added to a wide variety of salads.
Finally, fresh fruit also can be grilled for a great desert, side dish or added to various dips. Pitted
peach halves make a great side dish to pork or are great served as-is with frozen yogurt to close
out the meal. Grilled pineapple slices can be chopped and added to salsa or served along side frozen
yogurt (or ice cream if you must). Simply brush the fruit with a little vegetable oil before
throwing on the grill to prevent sticking. The intense heat concentrates the fruits’ flavors and
sweetness. Experiment with your favorite fruit!
Isn’t Char Bad?
Whenever smoke is produced or we “char” our food, certain polycyclic carbon compounds are
produced, namely benz(o)pyrenes. These compounds have been implicated in certain cancers. So
unless you only consume boiled food or cook it to the point of charcoal (like my mother’s well-
done steak), you probably ingest some of these compounds without even grilling. So as with
anything in life I say moderation is the key. Plus most of us don’t have weekend barbeques/cook-
outs every day (though I may be tempted to grill everyday if I had one of those Frontgate grills).
Luckily, there are also foods which may inhibit the formation of certain cancers. Like the
isothiocyanates found in cabbage which makes the requisite companion to barbeque.
The Gochiso’s Asian Coleslaw
½ large head cabbage, thin sliced
1 small head purple cabbage, thin sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and long grated
1 bunch green onion, sliced on the diagonal
2 Tsp toasted sesame seeds
¼ Cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp cilantro flavored oil
2 Tsp sesame oil
2 Tsp Tabasco shoyu (or regular shoyu with a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1Tbsp tonkatsu sauce
About 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt & black pepper to taste
Toss first four ingredients in a large bowl. Wisk together next eight ingredients until a smooth
dressing forms. Add enough mayonnaise until you have one cup total of dressing mixture. Pour
over cabbage and toss until evenly coated. Chill & serve.