Last summer, when my wife left town on a work trip, I decided to throw a backyard barbecue, complete with a roaring charcoal grill and bone-in rib eyes as thick as butcher blocks and as well-marbled as slabs of Carrara.
But unlike most backyard get-togethers, this wasn’t going to be about plastic plates and cans of beer. I wanted to host a proper dinner. Because while summer suggests casual gatherings, that doesn’t mean you have to check your ambitions at the Memorial Day door.
First, I needed partners. I’d been married for seven years at that point, and any time Simone and I entertained, we always tag-teamed. Enter Amiel Stanek, my then-assistant (and now a full-fledged, big-shot BA editor). As great of a writer and reporter as Amiel is, he’s an even better cook. He’s the type who shows up at your house with his own set of knives, ingredients prepped and portioned out, and an apron in hand.
BA restaurant and drinks editor Andrew Knowlton joined us as our cocktail-hour coach. He set up a bar on the patio, stocking it with all sorts of Euro aperitifs, from Lillet Blanc to Ricard (he assured us that aperitifs were a “thing” among the mixology set). For snacks, he riffed on a Mediterranean theme and made corn flour–dusted fritto misto—rock shrimp, bay scallops, lemon wheels, and flat-leaf parsley. Showstopping.
When dinnertime rolled around, a dozen of us took our seats at a long table set with Laguiole steak knives, linen napkins, real wine glasses for the chilled-but-not-quite-cold bottles of cru Beaujolais, and a scattering of votive candles.
The steak, charred on the exterior and ruby-red within, was thickly sliced, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and set atop platters of arugula. It was worth every cent of its scary price tag.
But the star of the night, at a table packed with big eaters, wasn’t the red meat. What everyone wanted seconds and thirds of was a grain salad, loaded with a medley of grilled cherry tomatoes (one of many reasons you need a grill topper), charred scallions (a go-to for any grilled meal), buttery cubes of avocado, chopped toasted pistachios, and lots of fresh mint (you can never have too much mint). It was like a grilled Cobb salad, but for the modern, slightly healthy-ish set.
Believe me, I’ll never swear off cheeseburgers and Solo cups of Budweiser. But as I learned last summer, a barbecue can take on all sorts of forms—and there’s always room on your backyard table for new dishes, even a healthy-ish one.
Get the recipe: Rapo’s Quinoa Cobb
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from Bon Appétit http://www.bonappetit.com/columns/letter-from-the-editor-columns/article/adam-rapoport-barbecue