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Volume 37 Issue Five, - May 23-30, 2007 now in our 37th season

Summer BBQ Preparations

by Maryjane Mojer

Like all resorts, Nantucket has a “season.”  This is the time when visitors arrive, all businesses are up and running and, hopefully, fully staffed.  The grocery stores open earlier and stay open later, and those of us who live here say “so long” to our friends and families and look forward to seeing them when things “slow down.” 

When I was growing up here, the season was short.  Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend was considered “the season” and it sure was. Everyone arrived (or so it seemed when I was young…er…) on Memorial Day, and everyone left on Labor Day, about the time that the ferry would switch to the two-and-a-quarter-hour Hyannis run instead of the three-hour run from Woods Hole.

Tradesmen and caretakers scheduled their time according to who was arriving and when.  Restaurant workers came back year-after-year to open and start the season.  How many of us who grew up here have Mothers or Grandmothers who opened houses for the same families every year?  I can still so clearly remember the smell of the houses that had been closed all winter, or, for those of us whose parents worked in restaurants, the thrill of going in when it was still closed and having the run of the place while everyone  cleaned and scrubbed.  When I would go with my mom or grandmother to open a house, I was always put in charge of the kitchen drawers and cabinets. This solved a couple of problems.  First, even at the tender age of seven, I could be kept busy for hours in a kitchen, and secondly, there were less breakable items.  I am very, very good at breaking things.  I loved going through all of the drawers, cleaning and lining them and organizing all of the bits and pieces.  You would never know that this was a joy for me if you could see my own kitchen drawers.  I guess I need a me to come in and organize.

Memorial Day weekend was a celebratory, exciting event as a child.  There was certain to be a parade, with everyone collecting lilacs from friends and neighbors to lay on the graves of the veterans at the cemetery.  We would start the day at the Steamship Authority, stop at all of the memorials, say a prayer and hear a speech.  The high school marching band would play. (Yes, we did indeed have one; they marched in all the parades and performed at the football games.)  All of the various groups would march, with men and women in uniforms representing all of the armed forces, and the color guard would lead the way.  The parade still happens, and while my brownie beanie, my Girl Scout sash, and my majorette boots respectively have long since been retired or misplaced, the thrill of the parade is no less a thrill.

Memorial Day weekend was also, traditionally, the first cookout of the season.  It seems that our refrigerator, both then and now, had certain foods that were also only here for that limited time span.  Potato salad, macaroni salad, and cole slaw along with hot dogs and hamburgers filled the shelves and were always at the ready.  My family was not the spontaneous “let’s head to the beach” kind.  Every cookout was meticulously planned out down to the paper plates.  However, even at the height of the season back then, time moved a bit slower, everyone seemed to be home on weekends and planning in advance was a much simpler task.

Not so much these days.  We all work different jobs and different hours. My kids are no longer kids, and if they all happen to be at home at the same time, the absolute last place that I want to be is at the grocery store.  I’ve learned that sometimes spontaneous is all we have.  Keeping your larder (a little Noah and Lori lingo there) ready for the summer is really pretty simple. There are things that I always have on hand that can be thrown together for a last minute supper, or grabbed quickly to head to the beach.

 Before we get to the food, let’s have a quick chat about food storage.  Coolers are your friend.  Many of us tend to abuse them in the summer, and I am certainly guilty of that.  You get back from the beach, it’s dark, you’re tired…you’ll get to it tomorrow.  You all know who you are.  Do yourself a huge favor and get it done now!  Empty the cooler, spray it out with bleach cleaner, rinse it well and prop it open to dry.  When you have a chance to dash to the beach with your family, your time is so much better spent with them then cleaning a cooler. 

Resealable bags are wonderful.  They can be rinsed and dried and reused.  I keep a couple of the gargantuan resealable bags packed and in a plastic crate that lives in my car.  After the beach, I restock it with paper plates, plastic utensils, paper towels, garbage bags and wet naps along with disposable salt and pepper shakers.  This is also a great spot to keep a bowl for water for your dog, should he or she be joining you. 

I tend to not cook on the beach.  I love my grill at home, and use it as my outdoor kitchen as soon as weather allows.  OK, I use it year round, but my family will eat outside with me as soon as weather allows.  If you are a person who likes to cook at the beach, keep a crate with all the essentials ready to do so.  A small gas grill, or a small charcoal grill can be very portable.  Into that crate, toss your tongs and spatula and a grill brush.  Don’t forget your fire permit, available at the Fire Department!

Now, back to the food.  I always have pasta on hand.  I buy assorted shapes, cause I like to.  I tend to buy on sale, the ten boxes for ten dollars, and stock up for the summer.  I do, however, love the occasional high-end artisan pastas for special dinners, and keep a bag or two around.

Extra Virgin olive oil and a few flavored oils are a must, as well as balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and rice wine vinegar.  Avocado oil is fabulous and a great, healthy addition to any salad.

Salad dressings are, well, an addiction of mine.  Yes, I love to make my own vinaigrettes, and often do.  That said, prepared dressings are great marinades, make wonderful dips, great dressings for potato and pasta salads and so on.

If chicken legs or drumsticks are on sale, I’ll buy 4- or 6-packs.  Take a few of your large resealable bags, drop in the rinsed drumsticks (always rinse your chicken in cool water!) add an oil and vinegar-based dressing, and freeze.  If you can squeeze the air out a bit, and freeze it flat, all the better.  You can stack them in your freezer this way and they thaw more quickly.  As you chicken thaws, it marinates, and it’s ready to throw in the oven.  Try 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Remember to thaw your meats in the refrigerator and not on your counter!

You can do this with any meat.  Blade steaks are inexpensive and marinate beautifully.  Pork tenderloins, shrimp…any thing you want to add flavor to and have ready to go.

Lastly, grilled vegetables.  They are an absolute staple in our house all summer.  We love them hot, cold, leftover in pasta salads, omelets, quesadillas.  When I make them, I make a lot of them.  Toss sliced vegetables with vegetable oil, salt and pepper.  Cook them on a preheated grill until done to your liking.  They’re great plain, or tossed with any salad dressing.  Take the time this summer to take advantage of the time you find.  Those moments that just present themselves.  Get ready!

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