Backyard cooking is key to savoring summer
As children we are led to believe that for the rest of our lives “summer” will be synonymous with “vacation.” Despite our highest expectations, each and every time the days get longer and the trees get fuller, life speeds up and we’re whisked from June to September without so much as an afternoon on the playground. But the one thing we always count on—and take the time for—is a good barbecue.
Summer is the best time to host a party: no-bake meals, disposable plates (compostable, of course) and the opportunity to unwind with good friends as the day cools around you. But it even for die-hard entertainers it’s tricky to find the time to put together a big meal, or the energy to stand in a hot kitchen for longer than it takes to pour a glass of lemonade.
That’s where the grill comes in. As long as you have a grill, and access to a great farm stand or veggie garden—and we are lucky to have many here in the Berkshires—you can quickly and easily create a colorful, delicious and impressive summer feast!
This summer we’ve been hooked on the ciabatta from Housatonic’s Berkshire Mountain Bakery. So in an effort to consume as much of this flawless loaf as possible, we’ve been experimenting with an age-old crowd pleaser: Panzanella. This harmonious Tuscan salad is traditionally a pile of stale bread, tomatoes, onions, vinegar and olive oil but we always throw in whatever else might be in season—right now peppers, cucumbers and fresh herbs.
Headed to a potluck? Then this robust salad is all you need. If you’re hosting your own gathering, serve it as a refreshing side with a simple and flavorful grilled chicken, like the ones from North Plain Farm in Great Barrington.
Sticking to the reliable, time-honored formula is always an option, and you’ll have no trouble finding a good recipe. But to make a more backyard-friendly dish grill the tomatoes, peppers and bread, pulling out any extra sweetness while adding that good ole’ deep char flavor.
Keep it local by using apple cider vinegar instead of the traditional red wine variety. Improvise, incorporating the bounty of the market—string beans, grilled eggplant or arugula as you see fit. And if you’re going ahead with the chicken, as we suggest you do, keep it simple with salt and pepper, a little olive oil and the richness of a pastured chicken. We promise you’ll wow your guests without breaking a sweat.