On Your Table: Summer is here, so start grilling

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By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times

Skewered Grilled Shrimp with Black Bean and Corn Salsa in Lettuce Wraps

Say hello to the heart of grilling season – those weeks after Father’s Day and into high summer when grilling seems just right for kicking back on a hot summer evening.  It’s an easy answer to the eternal question of “what’s for dinner?”

But then the choice gets difficult.  Folks either swear by a lovingly tended charcoal fire or the convenience of gas fired flames.  There appears to be no compromise between them.  Charcoal creates deep smoky flavors, plus there’s the fun of playing with fire.  Gas is beloved for speed, control and reliability.  I’m flexible and my husband and I own both types of grills.  Mostly though, we succumb to the convenience of gas versus the effort needed to achieve that awesome, yet time consuming charcoal flavor.

And what to grill?  The main answer to that seems to be meat in the form of steaks, chops or burgers.  Hot dogs even, although technically they are a mix of pork and beef, or even chicken or turkey.  Marinades or sauces play a key role too and can transform a Plain Jane cut into a culinary journey.  There are so many choices it can make your head spin.  Namely almost anything that can be cooked quickly.  With all of these dishes come the many benefits of grilling – cooking in the great outdoors, enjoying a beverage by the fire and savoring the crisp texture and complex charred, carmelized flavors.

So what might you ask did we do for dinner on Fathers Day?  Grill of course but on the lighter side.  Having had my fill of grilled meats from Memorial Day gatherings, my taste buds were yearning for something a little lighter, more refreshing. Which is how we ended up serving grilled shrimp with black bean corn salsa lettuce wraps for our Fathers Day dinner.

To make things simple I marinated medium shrimp and then skewered them.  Marinating lends itself to boundless creativity.  All you need to punch up shrimp on the barbie are a handful of seasonings, an acid and a little bit of the hot stuff.

Then there is the magic of skewering.  After you’ve marinaded or seasoned, poke a stick through and then get to grilling.   To do this with shrimp, thread an 8”-inch skewer through the thickest part of five or six medium to large shrimp. If using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water for 20 minute so they don’t burn on the grill.  Adjust the shrimp so that there is a bit of space in between each one. This allows heat to circulate properly and therefore cook evenly.   Place a perforated tray on the grill, lay the skewers on it, turn frequently and watch carefully because the shrimp will cook up quickly.

Rounding out our full meal, the shrimp were accompanied by black bean lettuce wraps with corn salsa, which was served with a big dollop of cilantro lime rice.

Honestly, it was one of the quickest grilled dinners we have made in quite a while, and even better, nearly everything was prepped in advance.

So if you’re searching for a tasty, quick dinner on the grill, this meal is the ticket.  Enjoy!

Skewered Grilled Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 lb med-large shrimp peeled unless you love that charred flavor on the shells and thawed if frozen.

Marinade – 6 tbs soy sauce, 14 cup lime juice. 14 cup brown sugar, 2 tbs olive oil, 1-2 tbs hot sauce of your choice, 1 tbs minced ginger, 3 cloves garlic minced fine, ½ tsp ground cumin

Preparation:

Whisk marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place shrimp in a glass dish or in a heavy resealable bag and cover with all the marinade.  Cover/seal tightly and refrigerate for one hour.   Remove shrimp from marinade after one hour and thread onto skewers.  Over a medium-hot grill, cook until shrimp is done. This won’t take long, only about 3 or 4 minutes per side.  Use reserved marinade to baste skewered shrimp while it cooks.

 

Black Bean Lettuce Wraps with Grilled Corn Salsa and Cilantro Lime Rice

Ingredients:

¾ cup jasmine rice, cooked per directions

1 15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained

3 tbs tomato-based salsa

¼ cup lime juice, 2 tbs zest of lime

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup corn salsa (recipe follows)

Bibb or iceberg lettuce leaves

Assembly:  Prepare the rice.  Open the can of beans, rinse and drain in colander.  Add beans to a small pot with tomato salsa and heat over low for ~ 8  minutes.  Chop the cilantro and add to the cooked rice with lime juice and zest.  To make a wrap, place a scoop of the cilantro rice on a lettuce leaf, followed by the black beans and corn salsa.  Sprinkle with reserved cilantro leaves.  Serve as a side dish with the shrimp.

 

Grilled Corn Salsa

Ingredients:  One package frozen corn, thawed, 2 tbsp olive oi, ½ cup diced red onion, 1 diced jalapeno,1 cup diced cherry tomatoes, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, juice from ½ of a lime, Salt and pepper, to taste. If fresh corn on the cob is available, grill in the husks after soaking in cold water for 30 minutes.

Instructions: Preheat grill to medium/medium-high heat. In a resealable bag, combine corn and olive oil, salt and pepper. Place corn on a perforated disk and grill till just blackened, tossing frequently.  Remove from grill and place on a platter to cool.  When the corn has cooled, add to a large bowl along with the red onion, jalapeno, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. Squeeze the juice from ½ of a lime over the top of the mixture, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly to incorporate all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Variation – for simplicity, just use cooked fresh, canned or frozen corn and forego the grilling.

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