Cookout!

Do you want to get into the cookout mood? Just start singing “Rollout” by Ludacris and substitute “Cookout” for Rollout. There, now you’re ready to hang out outside.

We finally have less rain. No more April showers which is good since it is almost June. We have more sunshine, it’s warmer which means cookout season has started! It’s warm enough. Yaaaaaay! The kids can play outside, hang out on the swing, play Easter by hiding and finding things (yes, they really do play that). And if all else fails you can always have ‘sprinting competitions.’ The perfect way to grab a few quiet moments.

Fennel and Zucchini, with Feta, Pinenuts and Lemon
Shaved Fennel and Zucchini Salad

Now, while cookout season is great, there are also health risks surrounding the eating of grilled meats – the whole carcinogenic thing is something to pay attention to. If you want to know more, just google ‘grilling health risks‘ or something like that and you’ll find reports on the findings about cancer. (Don’t run an image search – the Google images on cancer are pretty horrific).

There have been and currently are enough cancer cases among friends and family that it doesn’t hurt to prepare plenty of non-grilling options at a cookout. (Yeah, it’s been a rough time all around). For us, a cookout is a collaborative effort where every one brings something, and then it’s not such a workload on the hosts. My favorite contributions are salads that don’t need refrigeration – careful on the mayonnaise, side dishes that can be prepared ahead of time, and dessert options that are non-melting. Pretty much common sense.

I’ve come to be known as the salad queen in the family, so my standard contribution is some kind of crunchy-ish salad. One of my friends always contributes a basic lettuce salad with vinaigrette. So that’s taken care of, and I can play around with different takes on salad recipes.

This one is my current summer favorite: 101 cookbook’s Shaved Fennel salad. Yes, it’s a non-smitten kitchen recipe! It’s so good, I can’t believe that it didn’t make it into the cookbook. It’s really easy to make, you can assemble parts of it ahead of time, and it’s light and fresh. I used to be a bit iffy about using fennel in my cooking – I’m not a fan of liquorice so I only liked my fennel roasted, and the spice had to be toasted enough that it wouldn’t remind me of some kind of digestive tea. You know that little condiment that you get at the end of a meal in an Indian restaurant? That little bowl of fennel with little candied sugar pearls? Yeah, that taste. Btw, fennel ice cream post-dinner instead of that fennel mix? That sounds like a win-win situation.

But – I’ve found that I totally love fennel in my salad. If it’s sliced really thing, then you aren’t chewing on the fibers in the fennel. Plus the fennel gains a surprising delicacy. If you have mandolin, have fun slicing (it’s just way faster), but you can just as easily get lovely thin slices with a heavy Chef’s knife. Same with the zucchini – it has more moisture, so I don’t know who it’ll hold up on a mandolin, but I suspect just fine. I haven’t tried a box grater, but the fennel should work just fine, but the zucchini – I doubt it.

The recipe suggest letting the fennel-zucchini-lemon juice-olive oil-mixture marinate for 20 mins to an hour. Yes, I left the dill out on purpose – I just don’t like it very much. I let it marinate somewhere around 3-4 hours before assembling the salad, and I think the marinade could easily marinate longer. There was no more fridge space left, so the mixture marinated outside, but since there was no mayonaise it it I figured it would be ok. And it was. The arugula was already in the salad bowl, dried, and sitting in the shade. All I had to do was mix the arugula with the remainder of the mix, add the feta and the pine nuts. And voila, you have the perfect cookout contribution. The salad disappeared so quickly, some people didn’t manage to score seconds. Oh, and one friend ate the remaining dressing with a bit of focaccia – she pronounce it delicious. I really recommend you try this salad on your own – you’ll love it.

Featured post image from Stackmatic.

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2 thoughts on “Cookout!

  1. Mmmm, no wonder you are the salad queen, some of your combinations sound divine! I’m also a huge fan of fennel, especially in salads. I’m definitely going to have to try making some fennel ice cream this summer! Yum!

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