Cookout Cravings: Appease summer appetites with grilled fare

(Family Features) The first thought that comes to mind when picturing grilling in the summer sun might be a perfectly cooked steak or a juicy burger, but no backyard barbecue is complete without the all-important sides and beverages that complete the meal.

Whether you're pairing a main protein with separate side dishes or going all-in-one by combining tender chicken with veggies on skewers, the opportunities are endless for a crave-worthy cookout.

Find more summer grilling recipes at Culinary.net.

5 Steps for Sizzling Steak

A sizzling steak is a surefire sound of summer, and the flavors achieved from one that's perfectly grilled are hard to match.

Before you fire up your grill, consider these five basics for cooking a chef-worthy steak:

Prepare Your Cut

Taste preferences (and prices) may differ among sirloins, ribeyes, T-bones and more, but the way you prepare steaks likely won't change much from cut to cut. You'll want to trim the thickness down to 1/2-1 inch for proper cooking, and setting the meat out ahead of time allows it to warm to room temperature before hitting the grill.

Add Some Salt

Feel free to add any spices you prefer, but remember a good steak typically doesn't require fancy seasoning - a pinch of salt works just fine. Add your salt anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours before grilling time to help retain moisture and improve flavor.

Aim for High Heat

A two-zone fire is usually the way to go - one side of the grill should be hot (using direct heat) with the other side not quite as warm (indirect heat). This allows you to create a sear over direct heat before finishing cooking through - without burning - over indirect heat.

Sear and Slide

Cooking your steak over direct heat 1-2 minutes on each side is normally about right for creating a proper sear. At this point, depending on the thickness of your steak, you'll want to check for doneness. If it's not quite to the temperature you're looking to achieve, simply slide it over to the indirect heat for a finishing touch. Keep in mind these general guidelines for doneness: 120-125 F is rare, 130-135 F is medium-rare, 140-145 F is medium, 150-155 F is medium-well and 160-175 F is well done.

Let Rest

Finally, as hungry as you may be at this point, resting steaks is an important last step before diving in. Giving your steaks 5-10 minutes (foil or no foil) allows flavors to redistribute and moisture to be retained in the meat.

Less Prep, More Summer with a Skewered Solution

Make summer grilling easy and delicious by cooking your side dish and main dish together so you can spend more time outdoors and less time meal planning. These Grilled Greek Kebabs pair cubed chicken thighs with little potatoes on skewers, making for a classic cookout combo.

With no washing or peeling required, Creamer potatoes from The Little Potato Company require little prep, which helps make this recipe a breeze, and they cook quickly on the grill. Just marinate your chicken and potatoes with this zesty dressing and prepare for a taste bud-tingling backyard barbecue.

Visit littlepotatoes.com/summertime for more summer grilling recipes.

Grilled Greek Kebabs

Dressing/Marinade:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice only
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • Skewers:
  • 2 cups The Little Potato Company Dynamic Duo bagged Creamer Potatoes, cut in half
  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 wooden skewers dipped in water
  • pita bread (optional)

Salad:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 sliced Lebanese cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives

To make dressing/marinade: In measuring cup, mix olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, Dijon mustard, garlic and sugar. Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour 1/3 cup marinade into large bowl. Refrigerate remaining.

To prepare skewers: Add potatoes and chicken pieces to bowl with marinade. Mix well to coat and marinate 30 minutes, or as long as overnight in refrigerator.

Preheat grill to medium heat.

Skewer potatoes and chicken cubes alternately on wooden skewers. Grill 6-8 minutes on both sides. Grill pita bread, if desired.

Finish dressing by adding mayonnaise.

To make salad: In large serving dish, mix tomatoes, cucumber, onions, feta cheese and olives. Place kebabs on top and drizzle with dressing.

Serve with grilled pita bread, if desired.

Sipping on Sweetness

When it's summertime, many people crave something cold and fruity. Simply combine frozen strawberries with frozen pink lemonade concentrate to create a cool concoction perfect for a sizzling day. This fizzy summertime treat can delight your taste buds and keep you quenched while enjoying the sun's rays.

Find more summer drink recipes at Culinary.net.

Strawberry Spritzer

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen sliced strawberries, sweetened and thawed
  • 2 liters lemon-lime soda, chilled
  • 1 can (12 ounces) frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
  1. In blender, process strawberries until blended thoroughly.
  2. Pour strawberries into large pitcher; stir in soda and pink lemonade.

A Simple Stuffed Side

Whether you need a quick appetizer or something to snack on, these Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes make for an appealing bite.

Find more snack recipes at Culinary.net.

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Recipe courtesy of Culinary.net

  • 24-48 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 green onion stalks, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced dill
  • fresh dill, for garnish
  1. Cut thin slice off top of each tomato. Scoop out pulp. Invert tomatoes on paper towel to drain.
    In medium bowl, combine cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in cucumber, green onion and dill. Spoon mixture into tomatoes. Top with fresh dill.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Steak)

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