Summer, Simmer and Sizzle: Cooking Al Fresco

by Gretchen Morfogen


The temperatures are up, kids are home, the pool is open, and the garden is growing. How can we keep the kitchen cool and still prepare deliciously light summer menus? Keeping the heat outside – that’s how. Many cooks feel like the grill can only be used for BBQ, others know the virtues of grilled veggies and fish. Have you ever tried using the grill as a sauté or braising system? Or making a pizza? What about a grill wok for mixed vegetables? Grill baskets, kabobs, seasoned skewers, cedar planks, cold smoke, hot smoke, indirect heat and many more cooking methods are being tested on the outdoor kitchen.

A new-ish trend in outdoor living lately has been the installation and/or modification of patio designs have been brick ovens, fireplaces (cool ones, not the vintage brick behemoths of the old days), portable grill stations with side burners, and full on refrigeration units for beverages and grilling prep. I have cooked in some seriously high end outdoor kitchens for years (living in No. CA) and related affluence with these killer kitchens. But no more…. mainstream is on to the lifestyle bandwagon. I feel with the challenging economy plaguing everyone is causing a creative influx of making the outdoor space a haven for relaxation, gathering, and “vacationing” without going anywhere.

Many of us don’t have private pools (or want them) but a hammock, simple patio furniture and even just a lounge chair a citronella candle and the ever present grill vessel can create a backyard oasis. When it comes to creating something new, tapping into old skills lain dormant, or relishing in the summer tradition that brings out the rituals that make summer our favorite time of year. Adding to your standard repertoires can add a whole new life to your summer dining regimen.

Meals that can be made outside are limitless. Fajitas, pizza- indirect heat, pulled pork, any fish, ratatouille, any veggie (except maybe root vegetables) charred veg. for homemade garden salsa, even fruit and clearly – any meat, even stew meat grilled. Seasoned, seared, and put in a sauté pan with some liquid or in its own juices can create a fork tender morsel and braise without maxing out the BTU’s from cooking in your air conditioned home. Nothing beats a med rare lamb chop, NY strip, filet, tri-tip, tenderloin (pork or beef) thick cut chop, sausage, wurst, dog, or pattie on the grill. The flavor and primal satisfaction of cooking over a fire is what brings the man-cave out of doors.

The stores and farmers markets are counting on your creative prowess to make summer meals sizzle with abundance diversity and freshness. There is nothing you cannot cook outside that won’t reflect love, passion, and sustainability. Sometimes planning is not the best way to shop, however, shop what’s fresh and profuse. Grilled peaches with pork, tomatillo sauce with carne asade tri-tip, or fresh fish or seafood with grilled mangos, reinvented burger ala anything. Freshness has never been easier to harness access or attain.

If you are a recipe follower tap into the resources on the internet for ideas and motivation to get going and plan your meals for cooking outside. Every meal can be cooked outside.

Keep cool, water the garden, and enjoy the temperatures before it’s gone. Summer is here!!

* It is my opinion the eggs are one of the most perfect foods!

The Healthy Planet does not endorse any information contained in articles, advertisements or directory listings and we suggest consulting a health care professional before beginning any therapy or medical treatment.