June 23, 2000
Grilling is in! Who says you have to wait until summer to fire up the barbecue? Give the season a nudge by hosting your first cookout with some delicious, easy-to-prepare menu items. Feel free to invite as few or as many people as you'd like. Cooking outdoors cuts down on kitchen mess, giving you more time to enjoy your guests and your dinner.
Why not make your inaugural barbecue a little different by serving lamb chops? They're as easy to grill as a T-bone steak but are lighter and more festive. American lamb-which is milder-tasting and is a better value than foreign lamb-is a perfect fit for today's fresh, light and imaginative menus. What's more, its nutritional profile is comparable to other lean meats.
As you plan your cookout, keep in mind that festive doesn't have to mean fancy or a lot of work. You can save time and complement menu items by adding foods you may already have on hand, such as canned California Bartlett pears. Canned pears are sweet and juicy, available year-round and ideal for perking up your favorite salad or dessert. Best of all, their flavor and versatility enhances just about any main dish without overwhelming it.
A barbecue is a perfect opportunity to enjoy and experiment with a variety of wines. Consider buying a few different varieties of wine for your guests to try. Sampling is in too! Don't worry about "rules" when it comes to selecting or pairing wines with your meal. Just pick what you like-and have fun. After all, isn't that what a cookout with friends is all about?
Wine: The New NON-rules
1. Planning on having just a glass or two? The remaining wine stays perfectly fresh for several days when recorked, making it a delicious complement to leftovers. Return white wines to the refrigerator, and store reds at room temperature. If you've tossed the cork, an inexpensive bottle stopper (available at grocery and cookware stores) or even some plastic wrap secured with a rubber band will do.
2. Anything goes. Sure, Chardonnay and Merlot are familiar and delicious. But today, wine-producing regions all over the world are producing more types of wine than ever before. Just think of these varietals as flavors-Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio and Viognier are just a few examples. If you like trying lots of different foods, you will probably like trying lots of different wines.
3. There's no rule that says you have to save wine for special occasions. A simple weeknight dinner, yesterday's leftovers or even take-out food tastes better with a glass of wine.
4. Sampling is in-and not just with food. When friends come over, instead of buying several bottles of one wine, buy one bottle each of a few different wines so that everyone can try as many "tastes" as they like. In restaurants, wines by the glass let you graze all you want.
5. You don't have to be a technical wizard to use a computer-and the same holds true for enjoying wine. Simply taste and savor the flavors on your own terms . . . no "winespeak" necessary!
6. The "trappings" like special glassware have fallen by the wayside. You don't need red wine glasses and white wine glasses. You don't even need wine glasses! Any glass you put wine in is a wine glass. Even an acrylic tumbler works.
7. You don't have to be concerned about vintage. Every year great wines are produced, so you can be sure to find a delicious, enjoyable wine anytime.
8. Food and wine pairing is PLAY, so forget about any "rules" you may have heard. With so many delicious possibilities, you don't have to worry about what goes with what-just have fun.
9. It's OK to buy reasonably. Today, there are great-tasting wines in every price range. You don't have to spend big to drink well.
10. Don't worry about aging wine. These days, most wines are made to be enjoyed as soon as they are purchased.
Lamb and Pear Salad With Cranberry-Raspberry Dressing
Baby greens team up with grilled lamb and pears to create a salad with all the flavors of spring. Add a crusty baguette and a bottle of wine, and dinner is served!
Rinse lamb and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium hot coals for about 3 to 4 minutes per side; remove from grill and set aside. To prepare dressing, combine juice concentrate, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Cut lamb diagonally across the grain into thin slices, and place on top of salad greens along with nuts, cranberries and pear slices; drizzle with dressing. Serve with crusty baguettes.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: A bottled raspberry vinaigrette may be used in place of the cranberry-raspberry dressing.
Orange Herb Lamb Chops
Fresh herbs, garlic and orange juice concentrate accent this quick dish. It's perfect over couscous, another quick-cooking choice.
Rinse chops and pat dry; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl combine herbs and garlic; press onto both sides of chops. Grill over medium hot coals for about 5 to 7 minutes per side, basting often with orange juice concentrate. Garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs, if desired. Serve over couscous or rice.
Makes 4 servings.
Calypso Lamb Chops With Pears
A Caribbean spiced marinade is the secret to this flavorful entr'e. Round out the meal with sweet corn muffins and your favorite wine.
Rinse chops and pat dry. Combine all marinade ingredients in a resealable plastic bag; add chops and marinate, refrigerated, for 2 to 4 hours. Grill chops over medium hot coals for about 5 to 7 minutes per side. While chops are cooking, transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture is reduced by half. Top cooked chops with sliced pears and drizzle with reduced marinade.
Makes 4 servings.
French Pear and Almond Pie
Pears and almonds fill this classic French-style dessert. It's a great way to end any meal.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place one pie crust on a lightly floured board. Brush with water and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Top with second crust and roll out into a 15-inch circle. Place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray. Meanwhile, drain pears in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Place reserved juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, extract and cinnamon in a small saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Place drained pears in a large bowl and toss with thickened juice mixture. Place pears in center of pie crust and sprinkle with almonds. Bring dough edges up in a circle over pears, leaving a 4-inch space in the center. Press lightly to seal. Sprinkle top with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes; let cool before cutting. Serve with Almond Whipped Cream (recipe follows) or vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Makes 8 servings.
Almond Whipped Cream: Place 1 cup heavy whipping cream into a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Beat for about 10 seconds longer.