In the meantime, thoughts of melon give me a good opportunity to highlight a very tasty and refreshing salad I ate recently...
Some guests to a picnic brought this mozzarella, mint & melon salad, and gosh... It was just the thing.
There's not many nice days left this season, but if you do get out to grill just one more time, consider making one of those end-of-season melons into this tasty salad. I think it'd be just as nice with honeydew or cantaloupe or crenshaw. Or whatever melon you happen to find.
I'm told the original salad-makers found the adorable little mozzarella balls you see above (sometimes called ciliegini, which means "little cherries" in Italian") at Fairway Market in Brooklyn.
If you can't find anything so petite, don't fret. Just cut down a larger ball of fresh mozz into bite-sized niblets for this recipe.
Mozzarella, Mint & Melon Salad (Serves 4)
1 medium-sized melon, cut into 1" pieces Juice from 1 lime 1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2" cubes 2 Tbsp fresh mint, sliced thin 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1. Combine melon, lime, mozzarella cubes, mint and salt. 2. Chill until ready to serve.
The lightness and sweetness of this salad would be especially nice with grilled meats, but do keep it on file for a quickie picnic side.
It's not every day a girl gets to play with 600 pounds of meat and a smoker the size of a Humvee.
I'm going to back up for a second and tell you this: Every year at work — and this is a food company, mind you — we've eaten the same thing.
Burgers, dogs, chips and watermelon.
Not this year. This year, we were going to eat corn on the cob, saucy ribs, salmon grilled on cedar planks and pulled pork barbecue. Real barbecue. On a real smoker.
But for 1,000 people, one needs a lot of meat and a really big smoker, and as you may have noticed... those aren't available at every corner bodega.
Thus, the quest for real barbecue at our picnic wasn't looking good until someone noticed that Harry's Water Taxi Beach just happens to host a really big smoker.
You're going to need a lot of wood...
The game was on. We needed supplies. A lot of supplies. This turned into an Excel Spreadsheet. A thousand hungry people is nothing you want to tinker with. Details needed to be decided. Among other things, my boss (initiator and executor of this wild scheme) demanded:
200 lb Pork Butts 75 lb Pork Shoulder 50 lb Pork Ribs 40 lb Pork Belly 250 Packages of Potato Rolls 10 gallons of Barbecue Mop 2 Mops 1 Quart Kosher Salt 1 First Aid Kit...
And that's just a sampling. Simply planning out and gathering up the supply list was a monster proposition.
21 dry-aged steaks. You've gotta have snacks while you work.
Let yourself go... low and slow, that is the tempo.
The night arrived, the crew assembled, the supplies were delivered, the fire was lit, and... I'll just let you watch the extremely condensed version of our 12+ hour smoking party in this quick video.
And was it good? Was it worth it? Oh, yes. Best. Company picnic. Ever.
But you don't need 500 pounds of meat and a smoker of epic proportions to make good barbecue.
In my estimation, what you really need is a manageable smoker, a nice pork butt, a bunch of wood, a lot of free time and Paul Kirk's awesome barbecue book, full of recipes for barbecue mops, rubs, sauces and more. Kirk is the man.
Meanwhile, if you want yet more barbecue madness, you can see the full photo set at Flickr.
One of the great things about serving tapas is that it's just good, simple food. Score a cheap rioja and a Spanish cheese, slice a sausage, make a nice salad and open a bunch of jars. In Spain, they actually put tasty things in jars.
I have a favorite Spanish salad recipe that's made up of bacalao, oranges, tomatoes and green olives. This might sound strange if you're not accustomed to sweet and savory salads, but this kind of flavor combination is very ordinary in the Mediterranean.
Baguette, quince paste and fig cake in the foreground, tuna, remojón, and assorted olives in the back.
It's colorful, easy to put together and very nice as part of a tapas party spread.
3/4 cup (about a 5"x4" piece) of dried salt cod 12 oz can diced tomatoes, drained 2 oranges 1 small red onion 10 Spanish olives, pitted and halved (optional) 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes) 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Toast the fish over a flame or under a broiler until lightly browned. 2. Soak the the toasted cod in a bowl of cool water while you segment the oranges. Cut each orange segment in half. 3. Cut the red onion in half and cut each half into thin slices. Soak slices in cold water if you want to take out some of the bite. 3. Mix the drained tomatoes, onion slices, olives (if using) and the halved orange segments. 4. Drain the soaking fish and remove any skin or bones. Shred or chop the fish and add to the salad. 5. Blend the Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes) into the vinegar before whisking in the oil. Pour this dressing over the salad and toss to blend.
This salad holds up well (and probably even improves) as it sits at room temperature while you zip around the house picking up stray items in preparation for guests.
Easy-Peasy Tapas for 4-6
1/2 lb block of Manchego cheese, sliced and/or a half-pound of Garrotxa cheese, sliced
1/2 lb chunk of membrillo (quince paste) and/or fig paste
1 jar of oil-preserved tuna and/or Spanish Cod & Orange Salad (see recipe, above)
1/4 lb thin-sliced serrano ham and/or 1/4 lb salchichon slices
1-2 types of salt-cured or Spanish green olives and/or roasted peppers and/or marinated tomatoes
1 baguette, thinly sliced and/or some good lookin' crackers