With the Fourth of July nearly here, backyard barbecue season is in full swing.
For a lot of people, the best barbecue — like Dorothy's heart's desire in The Wizard of Oz — is right in their own backyard.
If you're looking for a way to change your grilling habits, the Ultimate Book of BBQ from Southern Living (published in April, $24.95) can help.
It covers the meat spectrum — pork (of course), beef, mutton and lamb, chicken and poultry, even fish — and how to make them all taste really, really good. All the basics, from ribs to wings to burgers, with a variety of sauce recipes, are there.
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Sometimes, when the focus is all on the meat, the sides get overlooked. The Ultimate Book of BBQ has enough great side dishes to make any picnic table groan, including the classic baked beans, potato salad, baked macaroni and cheese, and six different kinds of slaw.
Now that fresh, homegrown sweet corn is about to hit the farmers' markets, try something a little different: Mexican-style street corn.
Doused in cheese, cilantro and lime, it's a tangy alternative to plain butter.
This recipe is from The Ultimate Book of BBQ from Southern Living.
Grilled Mexican-style street corn
8 ears fresh corn
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup crema
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (similar to Parmesan)
Preheat grill to medium-high (350-400 degrees) heat. Pull husks back from corn; remove silks and replace husks. Grill corn 12 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Shuck corn.
Combine mayonnaise, crema, cilantro, garlic and smoked paprika. Brush mixture over corn. Roll corn in cheese. Serve with lime wedges.
Grilling works with just about any vegetable, from squash, carrots, asparagus and potatoes to beets and even Brussels sprouts.
Another great summer food just coming into season: tomatoes. To go with all the heat from the grill, try a side of chilled, seasoned vine-ripe tomatoes.
This marinated tomatoes recipe is from Southern Made Fresh by Tasia Malakasis.
3/4 cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 large tomatoes (about 3¼ pounds), each cut into 8 wedges
Whisk together all ingredients, except tomatoes, in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill 2 hours.
So much summery goodness is coming into season, so take advantage of the bounty.
If you're looking for a great, easy dessert option that doesn't need a lot of kitchen time and is just a bit more sophisticated, how about watermelon or peaches?
Here' a watermelon recipe from Southern Made Fresh.
Watermelon with basil sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
8 (1-inch thick) triangular-shaped seedless watermelon wedges
Process sugar and basil in a food processor until blended. Stand watermelon wedges on rind ends on a platter. Sprinkle with basil sugar. Serve immediately.
And if you're going to be grilling out anyway, might as well do dessert on the grill, too. Grilling fruit caramelizes the sugars and enhances the flavors. This recipe uses peaches, which are also in season, but works with nectarines, figs and pineapple, too.
This recipe is from A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen by Matt Moore.
Grilled Georgia peach crumble
Vegetable cooking spray
4 fresh, ripe Georgia peaches, halved lengthwise (11/2 pound)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granola
2 cups vanilla fat-free Greek yogurt
Garnishes: ground cinnamon, fresh mint leaves
Coat cold cooking grate of grill with cooking spray, and place on grill. Light 1 side of grill, heating to 350 to 400 degrees (medium-high); light other side, heating to 250 to 300 degrees (low).
Coat peaches with cooking spray, and place peaches, cut sides down, on cooking grate over 350 to 400 degree heat. Grill, covered with grill lid, 3 minutes. Rotate peaches 45 degrees and grill, covered, 2 more minutes to create grill marks.
Turn peaches cut sides up, and transfer to the other side of the grill over the lower heat. Place a piece of butter in cavity of each peach half; sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Divide granola evenly among peaches; grill, covered, 12 minutes.
Remove peaches from grill. Place 2 peach halves on each serving plate; spoon 1/2 cup Greek yogurt next to peaches on each plate. Garnish and serve immediately.
If your guests are in the "it isn't a real dessert unless it's cake" camp, then here's one you can bake in the morning when it's cool and keep the house from getting hot. It's from A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen.Aunt Jeanne's traditional Southern pound cake
2 tablespoons shortening
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
21/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup half-and-half
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan with shortening and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour, shaking out any excess.
Whisk together 3 cups flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat butter and vanilla at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating about 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with half-and-half, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top of batter with a spatula.
Bake at 325 on middle oven rack for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 2 hours.)
Tip: Add a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon half-and-half, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice in a bowl until creamy. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake and let stand 30 minutes before serving.
For an even better dessert, add fresh strawberries that have been topped, macerated and sugared. Chill the strawberries for an hour or two, then spoon the berries and juice over the cake.