Stepping Out

The pleasures of dining al fresco

Savor some late summer entertaining


Summer's last gasp is a great time for a get-together with family and friends. Enjoy those last of the summer rays with a Labor Day weekend barbecue.
When it comes to entertaining outdoors, easy yet flavorful dishes that spotlight the season’s bountiful harvest keep prep time to a minimum and are sure-fire palate pleasers.
As you prepare to wow your friends with your skills at the grill, consider these tips from 10-time world champion pitmaster Chris Lilly, to make the most of your gathering while staying true to the spirit of outdoor entertaining.
Think Bite-Sized Barbecue: Grill up bite-sized meat like mini-burger sliders, chicken and steak strips, and let guests mix and match. Use different seasonings and marinades, and lay out a variety of dips and condiments. You’ll waste less food and spend less money without purchasing more meat than you need.
Veg Out: Grilling isn’t just about the meat anymore. Summer’s harvest tastes even better when they have their turn on the grill. Gather your favorite veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus and onions. Marinate and then skewer, or skip marinating and just slather with barbecue right before you pull them off the grill. You’ll have a delicious alternative or complement to the meat of the meal.
Focus on Flavor: Marinating is a key part of any successful cookout that requires little time and adds serious kick to your entree, the meat. Also, you can enjoy more time with your guests, savoring a drink and good company.
Sear Sweets: Even dessert can shine on the grill. Purchase in-season fruits for a unique and affordable last course. And seared seasonal fruits make a great topping for ice cream!
According to Lilly, a hands-off strategy is the secret to that perfectly seared steak. No matter what doneness level you’re aiming to achieve, resist the urge to flip steak more than once. This allows the exterior of the meat to crisp while the inside cooks evenly all the way through. Searing over high heat also helps to seal in flavor.
The meat lovers in your crowd are sure to enjoy this recipe favored by Lilly for a flavorful Labor Day barbecue.

Grilled New York Strip with Virginia Bacon Brown Butter Sauce and Balsamic Drizzle
1 1/2 inch thick cut New York strip steak
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 strips of thick cut Virginia bacon, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Allow steaks to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
For butter sauce, take 1 tablespoon each of butter and bacon, and saute in pan to render fat out of bacon, browning and crisping it. Drain fat from pan, leaving bacon.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to saute pan with bacon and brown butter over high heat.
For balsamic drizzle, place vinegar in sauce pan and reduce to 1/4 cup or until it coats spoon.
Preheat grill to high. While grill heats, remove steaks from refrigerator to come to room temperature. Once grill is hot, cook for approximately 6 minutes, then flip. Cook approximately 6 minutes more and then flip again. Cook for about 5 minutes more, flip and cook until steak reaches an internal temp of 126 F for medium rare steak.
Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes. Spoon bacon brown butter sauce over steak and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve hot.

Mixed Vegetable Grill
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups assorted cut-up vegetables, such as asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, red onion and small sweet potato

Mix brown sugar, basil, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in small bowl.
In large bowl, drizzle oil over vegetables; toss to coat well. Add seasoning mixture; toss to coat well.
Place vegetables in grill basket or rack, or thread onto skewers.
Grill over medium heat 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning occasionally. Serves 6.

Kitchen tip: If using sweet potatoes, pierce them with fork and microwave two to three minutes on high or until tender.

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