Ready for a nouveau California Memorial Day barbecue?
Well, dust off the barbecue grill. Better yet, haul it all off to your local car wash for a thorough--and inexpensive--steam-cleaning to give the barbecue season a fresh start. Throw out the ratty mitts and bent tongs and stock up on mesquite or hickory charcoal, a must for any contemporary California barbecue.
You might also try menu ideas from several of California's most innovative chefs, including an all-grill menu from Jeremiah Tower of the Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Berkeley and Stars in San Francisco, to bring your grilling recipes and techniques up-to-the-minute.
Pick and choose items from Tower's three courses that best suit your needs and skill. You'll get further ideas--and recipes--from Tower's new book, "Jeremiah Tower's New American Classic: (Harper & Row, $25).
Grilled fennel root and sweet bell peppers basted with virgin olive oil and herbs
Grilled baby pork loin ribs with chile marinade
Grilled mussels and oysters with ginger-chile marinade
Trim off leaves and stems and cut the fennel root into quarters or halves, and bell peppers into wide strips. Marinate the vegetables in herbed oil several hours, then use the marinade for basting while grilling.
To make the chile marinade for the pork loin ribs, combine virgin olive oil with minced hot serrano chiles, garlic and pepper to taste. Marinate the ribs in the sauce for several hours and use the marinade for basting.
Tower suggests adding ginger and thyme to the chile oil marinade and using it to baste mussels and oysters or other shellfish, such as lobster, crab, and Little Neck clams.
Grilled brochettes of scallops with orange and ginger butter sauce
Grilled sturgeon with garlic butter
Grilled red snapper with spicy peanut sauce with snow peas and red peppers.
Marinate the brochettes of scallops in a mixture of reduced fish stock, a touch of orange juice and orange zest (grated rind), soft butter and grated ginger root.
To make the peanut sauce for the grilled snapper, process hot chiles, peanuts, cumin and peanut oil in a food processor to form a paste.
Cook the snow peas until crisp-tender in boiling water and drizzle with butter to serve. The red peppers should be roasted on the grill.
Grilled chicken breast paillard with cumin, lime and cilantro butter
Grilled duck leg with curly endive and walnut salad
Grilled veal chop with roasted garlic cloves
Grilled pork chop with fresh pear-cranberry chutney
Ask your butcher to butterfly and pound the chicken breast for the paillard. Brush with a soft butter mixed with a dash of cumin, chopped cilantro and a touch of lime juice before grilling.
Season the duck legs with salt and pepper before grilling. Use a simple vinaigrette made with walnut oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to dress the endive salad.
To roast garlic, simply place on the grill and roast until somewhat soft. Lop off the top and use garlic flesh to spread on the chop or on bread toast.
Any chutney--homemade or otherwise--can be used with pork chops.
To round out the menu, you might want to stick to the California theme with a fragrant wild-herb or mixed green salad of the type you'd find at Spago, Trumps or 385 North restaurants, using all the up-to-the-minute seasonal greens now available in most markets--things like radicchio, arugula, mache or sorrel leaves, mint leaves, basil leaves, chives or any combination desired. You can also use edible flowers to add a high note to an already beautiful California-style salad, as often served by chef Martin Woesle at Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe. A simple lemon juice and oil dressing will enhance natural flavors of the greens.
You'll also want some crusty French sourdough bread warmed on the grill, and if you feel you need a starch course, try grill-roasting small new potatoes that have been brushed with salted olive oil, as suggested by Gary Danko, chef at Beringer Winery in Napa Valley. Danko suggests parboiling the potatoes well ahead of the party, then, when you're ready to use them, rub the skins with coarse salt and olive oil, and grill until the skins become crisp.
Tower suggests berries with ice cream for dessert. And for a California twist, try ice cream or sorbets in flavors such as ginger, vodka, cognac, passion or other exotic fruit and serve them with unusual sauces and preserves, such as sour cherry or myrtle, which can be purchased.