After spending the last couple of years throwing charcoal into the shell of an old gas grill, I finally got around to buying a decent charcoal grill.
Many men who can't make toast indoors think they are master chefs when cooking outdoors over an open fire.
Not me. I've always been better in a kitchen, but I've made it my mission this summer to get better on the grill and break the lazy, impatient habits that most novice grillers make - too much charcoal, not getting the grill hot enough, putting food on the grill too early, turning the meat too often, basting too much and too early, etc.
Spicy Grilled Shrimp and Caribbean-Style Black Bean and Rice Salad make a great summer meal.
I didn't get the sear I wanted the first time I made pork chops on the new Weber, but everything else was perfect with the simply seasoned Berkshire chops. I want to hone my skills on the grill before experimenting more with the half of a Berkshire pig we bought from Miller Livestock in Kinsman; that prime meat deserves the best I can give it. Maybe by the end of summer I'll have some tasty suggestions for pork cooked outdoors.
But one recipe that always turns out well despite my sloppy grilling technique is a spicy shrimp dish that my wife clipped out of Bon Appetit magazine in 1993. We've made it at least a couple times every summer since, and it's always a winner, whether we cook it just for the family or for guests.
With soy sauce, sesame oil and fresh ginger in the marinade, the dish has some obvious Asian hints, but there are Cajun/Creole elements as well with the spice combination and the dash of hot sauce, although one probably could swap out the Tabasco for Sriracha sauce to amplify the Asian influence even more.
Spicy Grilled Shrimp
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
5 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning mix
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
2 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails intact
Whisk together first eight ingredients in large bowl. Add shrimp and stir to coat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove shrimp from marinade and put on wooden skewers (soak skewers in water for 20 minutes before using). Grill skewers until shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
Caribbean-Style Black Bean and Rice Salad
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped green onions
2 1/2 cups cooked long grain white rice (about one cup raw), cooled
Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard, cumin and garlic in medium bowl until well blended. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine rice, beans, peppers and onions in a large bowl. Toss ingredients with dressing to moisten.
The original recipe calls for a Cajun seasoning mix; we've used a Creole blend several times with equally satisfying results.
The only thing to watch for is that each brand of Cajun or Creole mix has its own distinctive proportions of the different spices. The marinade can verge on being salty; we usually use low-sodium soy sauce to cut the salt some, but those who are sensitive to salt may want to adjust the seasoning to suit their own taste.
We often will boil the marinade to get a second use from it (usually cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts with it to top a Cajun chicken salad), and the second use is when the sodium becomes more prominent.
This is a quick entree and easy to prepare. The marinade takes only a couple minutes to mix up, and the shrimp can absorb its goodness in the time it takes for the coals to turn grey. Once on the grill, the shrimp needs no more than a couple of minutes on each side to be fully cooked. And make sure not to overcook it or that pricy seafood will be reduced to rubbery blobs.
A great accompaniment for the shrimp is a recipe we found a few years later in Bon Appetit.
Caribbean-Style Black Bean and Rice Salad looks like summer with diced red, orange and yellow peppers and chopped green onions adding a vibrant splash of color (the original recipe only calls for red and yellow pepper, but orange adds to its visual appeal). Cumin, garlic and Dijon mustard add a bit of zing to the dressing
The original recipe calls for cooked long-grain white rice. We make it with Minute Rice and it comes out just fine. And we usually double the recipe because it's that good and it tastes even better the next day.
Under the guise of full disclosure, I have to confess the batch of Caribbean-Style Black Bean and Rice Salad in the pictures was made by my wife. My excuse? I was too busy making sure my coals were just right.