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Grill Season

Dust off your lawn chairs and break out the bug spray.  Just when you were convinced that winter would never end, spring has sprung!  And if your allergies haven’t clued you in, then check the calendar because Memorial Day is almost here.  Memorial Day arrives at the height of Spring and inaugurates “grilling season,” a time of year when people enjoy cooking outside, eating outside and just being outside in general.  That, my friends, means we have much to do and much to prepare for a season of outdoor cooking.

Surely, the appeal of dining alfresco is not just about the menu.  It is the combined experience of being in the backyard with family, friends and great food that conjures only the best of memories.  Those backyard days will be upon us once again, and the chance to create to some new wonderful memories is worth getting excited over.

In some ways, outdoor entertaining is a lot easier than eating indoors.   Quicker clean-up and less prep time (since half of the food is prepared outside during the party) certainly make for a more relaxed kind of entertaining.   Even so, since we spend most of the year dining inside, sometimes we need a little help shifting gears.  Here are some quick tips to help you make the most of your outdoor summer entertaining:

  • Prepare your equipment. Plan ahead and make sure last year’s grilling equipment is in check: propane tank filled (if you have a propane grill), fresh briquettes if using charcoal, good long tongs for safe grilling, steel brushes (or refills) for brushing and cleaning grates.  A small side table (or stacking tray) is helpful to have next to your grill for extra work space.
  • Keep the critters away.  Nothing is more bothersome and unappetizing than trying to enjoy a meal while you yourself are being feasted upon by bugs!  Prepare ahead and get candles made from real citronella oil.  Place them at the perimeter of your patio or outdoor dining area for extra protection and light a half-hour before guests arrive. Try not to place candles too close to food as the scents can be distracting.  It’s probably not a bad idea to set some bee traps as well.
  • Nothing says summer like color.  Choose bold colors – mix up stripes, patterns and bright solids for all of your linens and serving needs.
  • Designate a space (a closet, drawer or storage bin) to store all your outdoor entertaining paraphernalia—fun tablecloths, placemats, caddies, etc.   Entertaining is way easier when you don’t have to go looking for all those items in 15 different places.
  • Develop a theme – whether it’s a Mexican fiesta or a down home Southern BBQ, picking a theme for the menu and even decorations livens up any party.  Make it fun for you and your guests.
  • Simple desserts: Give yourself a break and keep it casual with simple yet delicious desserts.  Grilled slices of pineapple or peach halves are remarkable, especially topped with ice-cream (pareve) or sorbet.  Chocolate fondue is quite simple to prepare and always a crowd-pleaser, surrounded by an array of banana chunks, strawberries, dried fruits, pretzel rods or cubes of pound cake for dipping.  (Don’t forget the skewers — they are easier for dipping than toothpicks!)


Pick easy-to-prepare, flavorful recipes that will allow you to enjoy your time outside as well!  The following recipe is a great place to start…let the grilling begin!

Espresso-Rubbed Rib Steaks with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

When warm grilled rib steaks meet a cool bold salsa, it’s satisfying both for the eyes and for the palate.

Serves 4.

Espresso Spice Mix

  1. 3 tbsp. finely ground espresso
  2. 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  3. 1 tbsp. chili powder
  4. 2 tsp.  paprika
  5. 2 tsp. dry mustard
  6. ½ tbsp. kosher salt
  7. 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  8. 1 tsp. dried oregano
  9. 1 tsp. ground ginger
  10. ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  11. ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  12. 4 rib steaks, approximately 1 inch thick
  13. oil to grease grill
  14. Grilled Pineapple Salsa (recipe below)

Combine all spices in a small bowl (DO AHEAD: spice mixture can be prepared up to a week ahead, stored in a tightly covered container).
Rub one side of each rib steak with a heaping tablespoon of the spice mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat grill on medium-high heat.  Carefully oil the grill grates (tongs and oil-soaked paper towels do a good job of this).  Place the rib steaks on the grill, rub-side down, and cover grill.  Cook for about 6 minutes per side, turning the steaks over once during grilling, for medium-rare doneness. Transfer ribs to dinner plates and allow 5 minutes resting time before serving.  Serve each steak with big spoonful of Grilled Pineapple Salsa (recipe below).

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Grilling the pineapple caramelizes the fruit’s natural sugars and intensifies its flavors.  The salsa can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.

  1. ½ ripe pineapple, peeled and sliced lengthwise into ¼” slices
  2. ½ small red onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
  3. 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  4. ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  5. Juice and zest of ½ large lime (about 1 tbsp.), or more to taste
  6. 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  7. 1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  8. 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  9. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat grill on medium-high heat. Carefully oil the grill grates (tongs and oil-soaked paper towels do a good job of this).  Place pineapple slices on the grill.  Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, turning once during grilling.  Transfer slices to a cutting board and dice into ¼” cubes.   Place diced pineapple in a large mixing bowl, and add all remaining ingredients.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lime juice if necessary.

Cook’s Tip: To save grilling time, grill pineapple at the same time as steaks.  If preparing salsa ahead, prepare all other ingredients, and then add in warm grilled pineapple while steaks are finishing immediately prior to serving.

-Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

By Naomi Ross


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