Turn Up the Heat, It’s Summertime!


Here's what I've learned about summer barbecues: Greet your friends with frozen margaritas, and you're guaranteed to create a party mood.

June kicks off the most informal entertaining season of the year, with the exception of the Sundays leading up to the Super Bowl. Summer is a time when Americans love to grill everything from steak to tofu.

Informal at heart, I often serve hot dogs and hamburgers at barbecues. But a daughter who eschews red meat and a husband with high cholesterol have catapulted turkey burgers onto the menu.

That fare is fine for family affairs. But when I entertain friends who are no longer accompanied by children under 12, I serve a more sensuous menu. In a cilantro state of mind, I replicate the piquant flavors of Mexican and Caribbean cuisines.

I love the festive atmosphere of south-of-the-border restaurants, which is why I keep the blender buzzing with Margaritas. Once people take a sip of tequila and triple sec, whipped to an icy froth, they always want more.

But I don't stop there. I go Latin American all the way. I prepare a bowl of chunky guacamole accompanied by warm tostito chips. Although it's more work to heat batches of chips, after the first warm crunch, you'll never pour chips from the bag again.

Standing at the grill, my husband flips the steaks that I've marinated with chili, while our friends mill around him. I serve these steaks with chimichurri sauce. Hailing from Argentina, this zesty topping is a blend of herbs and oil, drizzled over top grilled meat.

My menu also includes a tropical cabbage salad, which I first tried at a roadside shack in Puerto Rico. I adore casual restaurants, because that's where you can find some of the best food in the world.

And because I love the smoky smell of grilling food, summer is my favorite season. There's nothing like a warm breeze to put me in the mood for Latin American cuisine.

Frozen Margaritas


Make on the spot. You may want to have ingredients on hand to whip up more than one round.

3 limes (including slices and juice)
1 cup kosher salt
16 oz. Tequila
8 oz. Triple Sec (orange liqueur)
4 oz. sweet-and-sour mix
3 scoops, or more, of ice cubes

Using a slice of lime, coat the rims of glasses with lime juice.

Place kosher salt on a plate and dip rims into salt to create a frosty look.

Pour tequila, triple sec, sweet-and-sour mix, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice into a blender.

Add ice cubes to the top of the carafe.

Blend on high speed until a thick consistency is achieved, and ice is completely pulverized.

Pour margaritas into glasses and garnish with 1 slice of lime a piece. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.


4 Haas avocados
4 tsps. fresh lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and diced fine
3 Tbsps. red onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsps. ground cumin

Cut the avocados in half and spoon out flesh into a bowl.

Mash with a fork until soft, but still a little lumpy.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a fork.

Eat within two hours.

Serve with your favorite salsa and tostito chips, warmed in a 350° oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp but not burnt.

Serves 6 to 8.

Tropical Coleslaw


Salad Ingredients:

1/2 head of red cabbage, cored and sliced thin
1/2 seedless cucumber, fine seeds removed and diced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
8 scallions, roots, outer leaves and coarse green part removed, then diced fine
8 radishes, cleaned and diced
1/2 cup cannelloni beans, rinsed in a colander and drained
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Dressing Ingredients:

2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
black pepper to taste
kosher salt to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk dressing ingredients together until blended.

Pour over vegetables and toss well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.

Serve in a glass bowl to show off this salad's glorious colors.

Serves 8 to 10.

Barbecued Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce


Marinade Ingredients:

salt to taste (Note: kosher skirt steak is often salty and may not require additional salt)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder

4 skirt steaks, cut in half crosswise

Whisk together marinade ingredients (this tastes best when made 24 hours ahead).

Place steaks in a non-reactive pan and coat on all sides with marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning several times.

Barbecue steaks on a grill, or broil in an oven, turning every 3 minutes. Check the steaks often for doneness, if you want them rare.

Serve steaks with Chimichurri Sauce (recipe below).

Serves 4.

Chimichurri Sauce


2 cups, tightly packed, flat leaf parsley (leaves only)
2 cups cilantro, tightly packed (leaves only)
1 shallot
8 garlic cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
kosher salt to taste
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. crushed red-pepper flakes (or less, if a hot sauce is not desired)

Place parsley, cilantro, shallot and garlic in a food processor, and pulse until finely minced.

Add remaining ingredients and pulse until well-blended.

Move to a bowl and cover.

Keep at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours. Best consumed the same day, but sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for two days.

Serves 8.


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