Outdoor cooking with friends can be a satisfying change from an over-heated kitchen where the cook is often isolated from guests. At a cookout, chores can be shared and cooking becomes a cooperative event.
In the Bay Area, autumn is an ideal time for a barbecue. Here are some tips to make outdoor cooking enjoyable and successful.
• If rice, pasta, and salad dishes are part of your menu, make them ahead of time.
• Pick a location that is away from heavy wind.
• Know your grill, coal, or whatever cooking medium you plan to use.
• Don’t forget to take the necessary utensils, a spray water bottle, and garbage bags.
• Bring plenty of beverages, especially water.
• Grilled food is very hot! Be careful handling and serving it.
• Leave the site as clean as possible.
INDIAN BARBECUED CORN
One of my fondest childhood memories of my village is the farmers sitting around an open fire in the field roasting freshly picked corn. Later, the corn is brought to the town and sold by sidewalk vendors, cooked on a bed of hot coals on their portable carts.
To barbecue corn Indian style follow this method:
ears of corn
lemon and lime cut into halves
salt and cayenne powder
First husk the corn to expose all the kernels and leave a “handle” at the end. (Use a sturdy skewer if the handle is missing.) Hold the corn by its handle over the fire or a bed of glowing coals and turn it as it cooks. Roast until it is reddish brown all over. It’s okay if some of the surface is charred. Rub lemon all over the roasted kernels. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cayenne and serve while hot.
Roasting enhances the taste of eggplants. Even if you do not like eggplant, you will like them roasted. And if you like eggplants, you will love them roasted. Grilled eggplants are found in many cuisines in different forms. In the Middle East, the dish is known as baba ganooj. In Russia, it is called mock caviar. In Gujarat it is known as ola and in other parts of India it is called baigan bharta.
1 pound Japanese or any of the many small eggplants available in summer
1 cup plain yogurt or plain soy yogurt
a few scallions finely chopped
¼ teaspoon each turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, and coriander powders
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Place a wire rack over hot coals and arrange the whole eggplants directly on it. Roast the eggplants turning frequently, until their skin is charred and begins to crack all over. This takes only a few minutes if your coals are hot. Place the eggplants on a platter to cool. Peel off the charred skin. Use a fork and a knife to mash the pulp. (Do not use a blender or a food processor for mashing.) Mix in the yogurt, scallion, spices, and salt. Serve hot or at room temperature with rice or bread.
VEGETABLE AND TOFU KABABS WITH SPICY YOGURT MARINADE
Kababs can be prepared with a variety of vegetables, so feel free to add or omit items from the list below. The marinade and vegetables can be prepared a day before and soaked overnight. Hardy roots such as potatoes should be boiled briefly before they are marinated.
2 small Japanese eggplants or a small globe eggplant, sliced
a few cherry tomatoes
a dozen button or small shitake mushrooms
2 red, green, or yellow bell peppers, cut into large pieces
a few green onions, trimmed and cut into short pieces
2 zucchinis, crookneck or gold bar squashes, cut into ½” slices
¾ to l pound firm tofu cut into 1″ cubes (not too small)
2 cups yogurt or soy yogurt
½ cup water
¼ cup tahini (or ground sesame seeds)
2 teaspoons garam masala or ½ teaspoon each ground cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom
1 teaspoon each minced garlic and minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
First wash and prepare the vegetable and tofu pieces as described. Combine the marinade ingredients and mix well using a whisk. Place the vegetables and tofu in the marinade in a shallow bowl or casserole dish and mix them thoroughly. Allow them to soak for several hours, or cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Take the covered bowl to the barbecue site.
When ready to grill, carefully thread the vegetable and tofu pieces onto skewers in an order that secures the soft pieces with firmer ones. Liberally sprinkle the remaining marinade on the kababs and cook them on the hot grill turning and basting frequently. When the vegetables are blistered all over they are done. Serve the kababs on the skewers or unthread them from the skewers and serve on a bed of rice.
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine lives in San Francisco where she is a manager of a health food store, Other Avenues. Her daughter Serena Sacharoff is an illustrator and art student.