– By Casey Weaver –
The Grill Is Your Friend
This entire meal can be prepared on the grill, meaning it allows you to enjoy the temperate late summer weather, and the bountiful list of fresh ingredients allows you take in every last flavonoid contained in the ripe skins of these summer fruits and veggies. If you do have a couple late season efforts in you, you too can still enjoy the weather, but if your season is done, there’s nothing stopping you from firing up the grill with an iced down brew in hand.
• Nectarine Roasted-Pepper Chicken
• Grilled Potato Slices with Chives and Sour Cream
• Corn, Tomato, and Summer Squash Panzanella
4 chicken breasts, bone in (can also use leg quarters)
1 nectarine, sliced
Ѕ large red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 whole roasted red peppers (about Ѕ cup if not using whole peppers, red or yellow)
3 T light brown sugar, divided
Ѕ cup less sodium soy sauce
Ѕ t crushed red pepper
Ѕ t black pepper
2 T chives, finely chopped
4 T olive oil, divided
3 Russet potatoes, sliced
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 T chives, chopped
1 medium ciabatta loaf
1 ear of sweet corn
1 yellow squash (or other summer squash)
About 16 cherry tomatoes, on skewers
2 T fresh Tarragon (or another fresh herb, like oregano)
2 T chives, chopped
3 T olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Since the chicken and potatoes will take longer to cook, make sure they go on the grill first. To keep it simple, prep everything before you start the grill. Or, if you are short on time, get the potatoes and chicken ready and on the grill, then go back and prep the other veggies. Part of the trick of this meal, and any meal when cooking on the grill, is to know how long different foods take to cook, to put them on, and to not keep going back and fourth opening and closing the lid.
If you have day old bread, and it is getting to that point where it is still good but not all that much fun to eat, ‘panzanella’ is a perfect use for it.
Choose your weapon wisely: A quick note about grilling
Although I am a huge fan of the flavor afforded anything placed on a charcoal grill, when preparing a pre-race meal, depending on how neurotic you are, (note: as a bike racer, not a question of if, but to what extent) a gas grill may be the way to go. Cooking food over burning charcoal, wood, or anything that produces a significant amount of smoke, increases the amount of free radicals in the food, and inevitably in your body. Although this may be a minor detail, it is something to keep in mind, especially if you are spending money an all those antioxidant supplements.
Making your own glaze is easier than you’d think – and a whole lot tastier.
Prepare the Grill
Turn it on and get it up to temperature – around 400 degrees F is a good place to start.
Make the Glaze
Heat a heavy skillet with two tablespoons of olive oil over a medium flame, saute onions and sliced nectarines. Season them with salt and pepper and sprinkle with one tablespoon light brown sugar. Cook for seven to eight minutes. Add in the chopped garlic and cook for and additional three to four minutes. Remove from heat and place in blender or food processor. Add the soy sauce, two more tablespoons of light brown sugar, roasted peppers, crushed red pepper, and black pepper, and blend until smooth. Stir in two tablespoons of chopped chives. Set sauce aside.
For the Potatoes
Slice the potatoes into about 1/3 inch slices. Take care to be consistent in your slicing so they cook evenly. Toss the sliced potatoes in two tablespoon of olive oil, two cloves of minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Place on the grill at about the same time as the chicken and flip after about ten to fifteen minutes.
You gotta love cooking everything in one place – veggies, spuds, chicken.
For the Chicken
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, place on a hot grill breast side down. Cover and cook for about five minutes. Flip the chicken and smear with glaze. This should be one of two times you flip the chicken. The hardest part of grilling for most people is to just let the heat do its thing. Trust me, it knows what it’s doing. Add more sauce throughout grilling if need be. About five minutes before the chicken is done, flip it once more (so the glazed meaty side is down) to hit the glaze with some direct heat and really give it a chance to caramelize. The chicken breasts, depending on size, should take about thirty-five minutes.
For the Panzanella
If you are using wood skewers for your tomatoes, make sure to soak them in water for about fifteen minutes.
Slice the ciabatta loaf in one-inch slices. Toss the bread with two tablespoons of olive oil; two cloves of garlic, minced; and a quarter teaspoon salt.
If you have enough space, you can toast the slices on the grill, but do not feel defeated if you have to settle and use the oven. If on the grill, cook the slices to desired crunch (I prefer pretty crispy so I usually leave them on until they are just starting to brown). If you are using the oven, place the slices on a baking sheet and cook at four hundred degrees for about ten minutes, flip and cook an additional eight to ten minutes (time will vary slightly depending on how fresh your bread is). Once they reach your desired level of crisp, let them cool a bit, then cut into one and a half inch pieces, and toss with an additional tablespoon of olive oil.
Slice the zucchini and squash lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slide the tomatoes on the skewers. Using a brush, paint on a thin layer of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place the veggies on the grill until they are soft with a slight char. Once cooked, remove them from the grill and cut the zucchini and squash into one and a half to two inch pieces.
Grilling the corn is optional, I like to keep it raw as it acts as a nice contrast to the flavors and textures of the soft and smokey veggies . If keeping it raw, cut from the cob and set aside.
Chop two more tablespoons of each chives and fresh tarragon, or your herb of choice.
In a large salad bowl, mix the ciabatta pieces, grilled veggies, fresh corn, chives and tarragon. Let it stand for a bit to give the flavors a chance to come together, and for the bread to absorb some of the juices.
Voila! Now pass me a fork…
To plate, arrange the potato slices, drizzle with sour cream and sprinkle with chives. I usually add a little water to the sour cream to allow it to drizzle more so than scoop. The chicken and panzanella pretty much take care of themselves. Eat up and race hard.
Something light and crisp, like the Italian lager Nastro Azzurro by Peroni, or like the Lost Coast wit beer, Great White.
Inspite of his resemblance to rocker Jon Bon Jovi, Casey’s culinary skills ensure he’s a long way from livin on a prayer.
About The Author:
Casey grew up in the kitchen inspired by his mom and grandmother, who ran the catering and cooking instruction company, Cooking in the Canyon, in Brentwood, Ca. He has worked as a private chef and currently works with the catering company Gourmet Solutions. He received his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from UCLA, currently races for the NOW-MS elite amateur team, and coaches endurance athletes with Velo-Fit, llc. Contact Casey at Casey.b.Weaver@gmail.com.
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