The lovely month of May brings many reasons to celebrate. Tulips and daffodils are blossoming, the first of the hardy vegetables, such as lettuce, radishes, and spinach, are up, and everywhere the buds have suddenly burst into leaves.
And best of all, the air is cool so everything feels and smells so fresh. Soon, though, those vicious black flies will be out, but in the meantime, we should get outside and do all the chores that need doing.
May is also the month to celebrate our mothers, grandmothers and other influential women in our lives, to honor military veterans for their service, as well as to remember our family and friends who are no longer with us.
The wonderfully sunny, warmish weather is also the perfect time to dig out the grill and prepare a variety of foods for when the family gathers around.
There was a time, not so long ago, when only meats and chicken were cooked on a grill. Now, however, almost everything can be cooked that way, including vegetables and fruits. The grilling adds an extra-special flavor.
One of my favorite vegetables to roast in the oven during the winter, can now be cooked on the grill. That’s the healthy and delicious sweet potato.
Tomatoes and corn are great cooked on the grill, and some people have even tried grilling peaches, then topping them with a brown sugar sauce and vanilla ice cream. That’s something I plan to try once peaches come in season. All it takes to grill vegetables is a little olive oil and perhaps a favorite herb.
The sweet potato grilled or roasted fries call for garlic, chili powder and a few other tasty ingredients.
Sweet Potato Fries (4 servings)
2 or 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into strips
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
about one-half teaspoon chili powder
a sprinkling of cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste
dried thyme or some other herb, if desired
1 or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
Place prepared sweet potato strips in a bowl with the oil. Combine the herbs and spices and stir into the bowl. To roast, place potato strips, in one layer, on an oiled baking sheet. Roast for about 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring often. To grill, lay prepared fries on heated grill and cook for 3 or 4 minutes per side. Move to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.
A delicious and slightly different green salad, perfect for bringing to a cookout, uses basil pesto as a primary flavoring. We grew lots and lots of basil last year, then made several bags of pesto which were then frozen for use in many different dishes. If you are not so fortunate, the prepared variety found in the grocery store will do very well.
Tomato and Artichoke Salad (about 6 servings)
3 large plum tomatoes
2 or 3 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup quartered canned artichoke hearts
2 cups fresh baby spinach or torn larger spinach leaves
Cut tomatoes into quarters or eighths. Whisk the pesto and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, artichokes and croutons and toss until all are coated. Place spinach on a large platter, then top with the tomato mixture. Season as desired.
In place of chicken or meat, try grilling shrimp for a different kind of cookout.
Shrimp Kebobs ( 4 to 6 servings)
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
juice of 2 limes
4 or 6 wooden skewers that have been soaked in water
In a fry pan, warm the oil, then add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 or 4 minutes. Let cool. Add lime juice and salt and pepper. Place all in a gallon sized ziplock bag, then add the prepared shrimp. Let marinate for 3 or 4 hours in the refrigerator. Evenly divide the shrimp, then thread on skewers. Place on heated grill. Cook each side for 3 or 4 minutes.
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