A grilling long weekend

Cynthia Stone
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What Newfoundlander and Labradorian hasn't been snowed on over the long weekend in May? But that doesn't stop us from craving barbecue.
No doubt, we're hardy enough to withstand the chill on a May evening, but why invite discomfort? Today, it's about quick-off-the-grill meals that fulfil that craving without having to stand on your deck the whole night.

Holiday hamburgers

Can you have too many barbecue burger recipes? I think not. If you haven't cleaned off the grill this weekend, then broil or fry these and they're almost as good. The trick is to make them thin enough to cook through without burning on the outside or drying out the meat. Lean ground beef can be especially tough, but adding the soaked bread solves that problem beautifully.
Sometimes I add a little ground pork to make hamburgers even more tender, but then you need an egg in the mixture because they have a tendency to fall apart. Saltiness is a personal preference, so I always take a pinch of hamburger patty or meatloaf mixture and microwave or fry it so I can taste the seasoning. It's a step well worth the effort when the success of your weekend barbecue hinges on the quality of these burgers.
The combination of cumin and rosemary is wonderful with beef, but the big rosemary needles can be off-putting. I whiz them in a little food processor or chop them up on a cutting board with a sharp knife before adding them to just about any dish.
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, finely minced
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. bottled chili sauce
4 big hamburger buns
Topping suggestions are cheese slices or crumbled blue cheese, cooked bacon slices, fried mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, mustard, relish and ketchup
Combine breadcrumbs, milk and Worcestershire sauce and allow to sit until milk is completely absorbed - 10 or 15 minutes. Fry onions in oil until golden brown and soft. Add garlic, rosemary and cumin and cook another minute or two; set aside to cool. Combine breadcrumb mixture, cooled onions and garlic, beef, salt, pepper and chili sauce and shape into four large patties about 1/2-inch thick - don't work the mixture too much with your hands or it will toughen. Barbecue, broil or fry until cooked through. Serve on warmed split buns topped with your favourite condiments.

Barbecued pork chops - mojito style
If you've tried the rum-based minty drink that packs a surprising wallop, then you can probably imagine the light and refreshing flavours in this dish. Use chicken if you prefer, and if the weather doesn't co-operate broil these in the oven and they will still taste great. Both the marinade and salsa feature mint, underused and underappreciated but absolutely perfect in this dish. They both contain rum, too, but for a different kind of punch. You won't believe it when you taste the final product, but this recipe is low in fat and calories.
4 medium-thick pork chops
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Bacardi or other light rum
2 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. each salt, freshly ground black pepper, ground cumin, dried thyme, and smoked paprika
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. dried mint
Mojito Salsa:
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 fresh hot red or green chili pepper, minced (with seeds for extra heat)
3 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
2 tbsp. each lime juice and brown sugar
1 tbsp. light rum
1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dry chops thoroughly with a paper towel. Combine remaining ingredients (except the salsa) and pour over pork. Cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. Remove from marinade and dry again, allow to come up to room temperature then barbecue over medium heat until cooked through, with maybe a little hint of pink in the middle. For the salsa, combine all the ingredients - a small food processor works great for this - then allow the flavours to come together for a few minutes. Serve on top of chops.

Dessert kabobs
Do you think summer can be conjured by the weight of our combined wishing? Try these hot-weather kabobs and you won't mind waiting quite so much. In baking, I favour unsalted butter so I can control the amount of salt in the recipe, but in this case you wouldn't be using any salt, so it adds a savoury note that is welcome, even in this flavour explosion.
1/4 cup salted butter or margarine
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. orange juice
12 2-inch square cubes fresh pineapple
12 2-inch chunks honeydew or other melon
3 nectarines, pitted and quartered
12 figs
4-6 skewers (soaked 1 hour in water if using wood)
1/2 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
2 oz. melted chocolate
Combine butter, brown sugar and orange juice in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved; allow to cool. Alternate my suggestions for fruit, or whatever you would like to grill, on the soaked skewers. Brush generously with cooled sauce and barbecue or broil just until you have good grill marks. Roll immediately in macadamia nuts then drizzle the melted chocolate on top.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: Bacardi, The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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