After spending an entire day weeding, planting and pruning in the yard last Sunday, I knew that I needed to find a way to enjoy it – quickly – before it all came undone. A barbecue was in order.
I called a few friends, went to the store and created my menu as I shopped. Thyme grows in abundance in my front yard, and being as it is the only herb my vegetarian groundhog hasn’t chomped through, I decided to make it central to the cookout. I’d serve lemon-thyme grilled shrimp kabobs.
Garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon rind and lots of thyme went into the marinade. Simplicity. So many times I fight against it, so many times I want to over-complicate. But I resisted the urge to make, say, South African shrimp or spring rolls or whatever thousands of recipes my cookbooks boast for shrimp.
I’d spent a good portion of the morning pulling back tiny wild strawberries from my vegetable garden. My ironic reward? Fresh Ohio strawberries.
A fontina and a cheddar greeted the guests. And if you look carefully, you’ll see that one of my little guests also greeted the cheeses.
The difficult part of grilling out is timing. When do the shrimp go on, in relation to, say, the corn? A standard-sized Weber requires someone to stand guard, constantly rotating the wares to make sure all the options are ready at the same time. This person was me, and I failed. The seafood dishes were ready way before the vegetables. My offerings came out like a progressive dinner.
The dinner involved some experimentation, as well. My ginger- and lime-soaked tilapia would be the base for whether or not the cedar wood planks I bought last summer really enhanced the flavor of my food. The experiment was abandoned when the plank started smoking; apparently soaking the wood one hour is not long enough.
The tilapia was chopped and served alongside onions, cilantro and key limes and small grilled tortillas to create fish tacos. Next time, when the tacos are the main event, I’ll bring in some avocado and a homemade salsa, as well. But for an entree that sat in the shrimp’s shadow, it wasn’t bad.
The shrimp is done, while the corn waits. Again, timing is not my forte.
Not all the vegetables were neglected. The asparagus, miraculously, was cooked perfectly. Olive oil, salt and pepper did the trick.
All in all, the evening was good, the food was good and most importantly, the company was good. The other thing that was good – really good – was the potato salad I’d thrown together earlier in the day. I’d forgotten to bring it out, and so it missed the party. Which is really too bad.