I was raised in a big family with a moderate income, which meant we couldn’t always afford to go on a summer vacation. It didn’t stop us from enjoying the season, though. We just “vacationed” in our back yard or at friend’s pool.
While my family is fortunate enough to be able to get away for a bit every summer, I still find that spending time on my deck feels like an escape. That may be why I can’t get out there quickly enough when the workday is done. I turn up the music, pour a cool drink and plan almost all our meals around the grill so I can make my imaginary trip last a little longer.
Even meals where the main course is being grilled can keep a cook inside working on the rest of the dinner. It takes some creativity to avoid being stuck in the kitchen cooking while everyone else is outside. Over the years I have found ways to cook almost every aspect of the meal on the grill, short of the iced tea. Grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped tomatoes makes a great bruschetta appetizer. Grilled vegetables make a wonderful salad and grilled fruit can be a delightful dessert.
One thing that’s easy to grill, but rarely considered, is homemade pita bread. Much like pizza dough, it’s one of the easier bread doughs to make and the difference between fragrant, hot, homemade pita bread and store-bought makes it well worth the extra effort. The key to making pitas on the grill without burning them to cinders is indirect heat, which simply means you push your coals to either side of a charcoal grill, or just light one burner on a gas grill.
Grilled pita bread can make a delicious foundation for almost any grilled meat or vegetable sandwich, but when combined with the spices of the Middle East, the result is memorable.
That’s why I like to pair it with a Middle Eastern dish called shawarma (pronounced shuh-WAHR-mah). Not only is it fun to say, but it’s fun to eat, which helps get younger diners on board.
Shawarma is seasoned meat, in this case chicken, that’s cooked on a spit or grill, sliced thin and either served on a plate or as a pita sandwich with tomatoes, cucumbers and tahini sauce, made from a ground sesame paste, lemon juice and garlic.
Whether you’re heading to the cabin, camping in the Boundary Waters or simply staying home enjoying the sunshine, grilling can help you take advantage of the season. After all, we in Minnesota know it doesn’t last long.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.