Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Start the Party with a Bang: Independence Day Menu

posted in Main Dishes, Recipes by Emily Chapelle

Whether your Fourth of July celebration is a family affair, a neighborhood gathering or a party with friends, you’ll want to enjoy great food as well. This mix-and-match menu will help you get everything planned for a great party!

Pick one or two options from each section and you’re all set.

Appetizers


Main Courses


Side Dishes


Very Berry Summer Pie, photo courtesy of Kelly Wright, Sass & Veracity blog

Desserts

Drinks

  • Make sure your friends and family stay hydrated with lots of water!
  • Lemonade – the old-fashioned way
  • Iced Tea

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A Beginner’s Guide to the Barbecue

posted in Main Dishes by Emily Chapelle

Now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to get outside and grill.

What’s that?

You’re new to grilling?

You’re afraid to light a barbecue?

Well, have no fear. It’s not as complicated as it looks. If you’re thinking about buying a barbecue, we’ll break down the pros and cons of charcoal and gas grills. For those just finding their way around a grill, we’ll follow up with some of the first steps to throwing some food on the barbie. And for those who are already all fired up, we’ve got some recipes ready to go, as well as a slew of barbecue tips and tricks. And even if you’re a city slicker like Kathy, and outdoor grilling isn’t an option, try indoor grilling!

Which Barbeque to Use? Charcoal or Gas?

Despite what some fervent grillers say, one isn’t necessarily superior to the other. There are pros and cons to both grilling methods, so it’s really your call! Here’s a rundown of some of the pros and cons:

Charcoal Barbeque

  • There’s a full range of prices: inexpensive grills are easy to find, and upscale models are available too (+)
  • Gets very hot (+-)
  • Needs to be manually lit and preheated for a minimum of 20 minutes (usually much longer) (-)
  • Cleaning is more complicated due to ashes (-)
  • Smoky flavor every time you grill (+-)
  • Tough to keep a constant temperature (-)
  • You get to play with real fire (+)

Gas Barbeque

  • Typically pricier than charcoal, though inexpensive models are available (+-)
  • A more complicated grill means more parts that can break (-)
  • Easy to clean (+)
  • Has the option of smoky flavor or not, with use of wood chips in a smoker box (+)
  • Convenient (+)

For more details about the differences between gas and charcoal grills, check out chow.com’s objective and clear breakdown.

Get Your Grill On! (How to Use your Barbecue)

  • If you’re using a charcoal grill, empty the ashes from your last grilling session.
  • Both types of grills need to be pre-heated before you start cooking. Gas grills turn on easily (make sure the lid is open while you’re lighting the grill!), but if you’re new to lighting one, here’s a video demonstration. To light your charcoal grill, you’ll need a chimney starter. Please don’t light your charcoal with lighter fluid! It seems like a quick fix, but it can make your food taste “chemical.” Let the gas grill heat up for at least 10 minutes, and your charcoal grill for at least 20.
  • After your grill is preheated, use a brass-wire brush to scrape the charred goo and gunk off of the grate. You’ll need to give it a good scrape at the beginning of grilling season. Then, during grilling season, a quick brush before and after grilling should do. After you grill your last meal for the summer or fall, leave the grease on the grate to prevent rusting over the winter. (If you don’t have one of those brushes, you can use some aluminum foil to do the trick!)
  • Once your grill is clean, oil the grate by grabbing an oiled paper towel with some long tongs, and wiping it over the bars. You’ll need to use an oil with a high smoking temperature, like canola oil.
  • Now that your grill is hot and the grate is clean, your food won’t stick to it as much, and you’re likely to get those classic grill lines!

What to grill

Sure, everyone knows steaks and burgers can go on the grill, but did you know that it’s also great for sandwiches and pizza? Here’s a list of recipe ideas to get you started.

Barbecue Tips and Tricks

  • To avoid losing juices during turning, always flip your meat or vegetables using tongs or a spatula, rather than a fork.
  • Try to limit the flips. Ideally, you should flip each item once during the grilling process.
  • Whatever you do, don’t press down on burgers or chicken (or anything) with a spatula while they’re grilling! This squeezes out the juices and once they’re gone … they’re gone! If you’re bored and need something to do with your hands, learn to juggle (but not too close to the grill, please!).
  • For great smoky flavor, soak some wood chips (hickory, oak, or other hardwoods but not treated lumber!) in water for a while, then throw them onto your charcoal and cover the grill, or if you’re using gas, put them into your smoker box following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • To infuse grilled foods with herb essence, toss herbs directly onto the charcoal while you’re grilling. Or, if you’re using a gas grill, soak the herbs in water, and place them on the grate before putting your food on top of them.
  • If you want to baste your meat or vegetables, save this step for last. That way the sugars in ,your marinade or sauce won’t have time to caramelize or burn.
  • If this all sounds too complicated, or if it’s raining or cold outdoors, you can grill indoors with a contact grill or use a grill pan.

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Pasta Sauce – Marinara

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes, Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

This is a very basic (and quick!) tomato sauce that takes very little time to cook and can be made ahead of time and frozen. It can be used with any pasta dish or in lasagna.

You will need the following ingredients to make this Marinara Sauce recipe:

Be sure to get both the onion and garlic chopped before you turn on the stove.

You’ll need about 1 cup of finely chopped onions for this recipe. Two small or one medium onion should do the trick.

Peel and mince 4 cloves of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic, but it does get cooked, so it’s not going to be too strong.

Fresh basil is essential for this recipe. Nowadays, most grocery store carry fresh basil year-round. You can wash it the same way you wash lettuce. Pull the leaves off the stem and throw the stems away.

Put the basil and the canned tomatoes, with their juice, in a blender and puree everything until almost smooth. Set the tomato-basil puree aside.

(As I filled the blender I thought, YIKES, this is way too full! With my hand pressed firmly on the lid of the blender I pressed the puree button. I was very lucky that my kitchen did not end up covered in tomato sauce. Next time I would puree this mixture in two batches!)

Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.

That does sound like a ton of oil, but believe me it works. It gives the sauce a full, rich flavor.

Add the onions and garlic and cook until very tender, about 12 minutes.

The onions should not get browned. This is what they should look like after 12 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and basil that you pureed in the blender and 1 teaspoon of oregano plus 1 teaspoon of sugar. (Don’t skip the sugar. It helps balance the acid in the tomatoes.)

Bring the sauce to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. This will take about 10 minutes.

Give the sauce a taste. You may need to add about ½ -1 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh pepper.

The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. If you are storing it for future use, cool the sauce, then cover and refrigerate it. Gently re-heat sauce over medium heat before using it.

If you are going to be freezing this sauce, use small containers that would be enough for 1-2 serving.

Be sure to spray your plastic containers with cooking spray first so they don’t get stained by the tomato sauce.

(For more basic pasta sauce recipes, be sure to check out my Tomato Sauce Video or my Turkey Sausage Sauce photo-tutorial.)

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Turkey Sausage Sauce

Enjoy!

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