My eye won’t stop twitching.
And I apologize in advance, but I have no pictures. Here’s why:
Sunday I woke up at 9 am and started prepping the food for the cookout. I meant to get everything started on Saturday but that’s a long involved story. To sum Saturday up: After eating lunch at 1pm, I went to four different grocery stores (Jungle Jim’s, Meijer’s, Kroger’s, and Whole Foods!). By the time I had all the groceries put away, fed and walked the dog it was 10:30 so at that point I was exhausted and just laid down instead (darn husband being out of town when his help was needed!)
So after I got up Sunday I immediately started prepping everything. I think I scarfed down a banana for breakfast due to time issues and ended up skipping lunch (I just snacked on things I was prepping, like the applewood smoked cheddar).
Cabbage – I did the green cabbage in small, individual half wedges (note to self next time if the wedges are that small only grill for 30 minutes). Due to time constraints, by the time I was close to finishing it was already 4 and I still had to shower and drive to my moms, the red cabbage from the CSA was just chopped up and put in one big foil packet.
- 2 cabbages
- 8 slices of center cut bacon (raw) so 4 slices per cabbage, chopped. I just used poultry shears.
- ½ cup diced white onion per cabbage so 1 cup in total
- Garlic Powder
To prepare: combine all ingredients (cabbage through garlic powder) and wrap in a foil packet. Grill 20 minutes, turn packet, and grill another 20 minutes. If you do really small half wedges instead of 1 big packet (wedges are easier for individual portioned servings), only grill 15 minutes on each side.
The cabbage was easy and a favorite.
Barbecued Corn – For 12 ears of corn, use about half a stick of melted butter. I also used a homemade barbecue rub on it, but you can use whatever seasonings you like. Peel back husks from corn and clean off the silks, making sure to not completely remove them. Brush the corn with the butter, and sprinkle with seasonings. Smooth husk back over corn. Grill over medium to medium high heat for about 15 minutes, turning every 4 – 5 minutes until done.
How can you go wrong with corn? It’s the one vegetable that everyone likes and seasoning the outside with the barbecue rub made it super tasty.
Grilled Jalapeno Poppers – I only used 10 peppers because I had huge jalapenos and I didn’t have enough stuffing to fill any more. I got the recipe from Cooking Light. Huge hit, I definitely recommend them. They took about 8 minutes on the grill.
Filipino Grilled Eggplant Salad – I was assured it was good and I saw my relatives eating it but I actually didn’t try any myself because at that point I was stuffed.
Barbecue Stuffed Bread:
- French Bread Dough (this way it gets a nice crust and chew) – you can either make your own (like I did), buy it from the store, or for an even more shortcut method, use one of the ready made breads. Ex: Pillsbury French Loaf, where it’s in the can and you just pop it out. Or use pizza dough if you want something more along the lines of a calzone.
- 2 zucchini, julienned
- 2 squash, julienned
- 1 large red onion, julienned (I used my mandolin for all of this)
- 1 – 1 ¼ cups of barbecue sauce (use your favorite store bought or make your own)
- 1 ½ cups of cheese (I used a mix of reduced fat smoked jalapeno cheese and reduced fat applewood smoked cheddar)
- 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until tender.
- Add the zucchini and squash, cook for an additional 2 – 4 minutes or until done to your liking.
- Add barbecue sauce, heat through.
- Roll out the dough (I made three smaller loaves). You can also do one huge loaf, or multiple smaller ones.
- Fill dough with zucchini/squash mixture, top with cheese. Fold dough over filling. Bake until done. If you’re going to be grilling it later (like I was), underbake by a minute or two.
- Wrap in foil. When it comes time to grill, just throw it over indirect heat (like the top rack of the grill) and grill for about 6 minutes, until everything is warmed through and the cheese has warmed and melted.
I knew that this was going to go fast and it did. Everyone in my family loves bread, so I’m glad I made extra. I’ve also done an “Italian” version of this where I used pasta sauce and mozzarella. This is also a perfect make-ahead recipe. I wonder how well it would freeze?
North Carolina Chicken Thighs – I love vinegar! I just made a simple marinade. For 5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs I used 1 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 2/3 cup spiced coconut vinegar (can also use all apple cider or sub in white vinegar), ½ cup brown sugar, 5 teaspoons of salt (don’t be thrown off by this, it’s not super salty), 1 tablespoon Texas Pete’s hot sauce, 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper, about 4 teaspoons of pepper. Split the chicken into 2 bags and divide the marinade between the two bags. Marinate for 4 – 8 hours. I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for parties because they’re quick cooking (about 4 – 6 minutes per side) and the vinegar marinade make it so juicy and tender.
Asian Inspired Stuffed Whole Grilled Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves:
- I’ve never grilled a whole fish.
- I’ve never used banana leaves.
- I don’t even eat fish.
- Why on earth did I decide to make this?
For some reason I became obsessed by the thought of grilling a whole fish, stuffed, and wrapped in banana leaves. Keep in mind that while I do eat sushi and actually cook and eat 1 fish meal a week (because it’s a healthy protein) I tend to stick to buying fillets of the super mild fishes like tilapia or cod. Not whole fish.
So I’m at Jungle Jim’s I’m trying to ask the fish monger what a good fish would be, and I ended up with Canadian White Bass? Which research shows (i.e. me lurking around fishing forums on the internet) a lot of people tend not to eat that fish because it’s a very “fishy” fish.
Oh well, the fish in is the fridge so I soldier on (although next time I’d just buy pompano or something). And keep in mind I ended up with bass because the fish guy was trying to sell me eel. Eel! While I find unagi delicious (the link takes you to bento.com) I’m already freaked out by the whole fish, I definitely don’t want an eel staring at me, nor do I have any idea how to cook it.
So I threw together a rub using lemongrass, garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil, turmeric, smoked paprika, salt and pepper in my food processor.
I also decide to stuff it with rice, because I was thinking along turkey lines for whatever reason. I cooked some onion in a pan, threw in ginger for about 30 seconds and then added in about 1 ½ cups of rice from the previous day. I seasoned the rice with calamansi and fish sauce and set that aside. Simple stuffing – check.
One deep breath later, and I pulled the fish out of the bag.
It stared at me accusingly, I swear.
Flashback to one of my earlier memories (I think I was 3 or 4) to my mom putting a whole fried fish (don’t forget my Filipino background) on a plate before me for dinner. The fish looked at me, I looked at it, and in the background I hear my mom cautioning me to watch out for the bones. I think I may have been traumatized. I know, I know, I’m not being true to my heritage but I guess I’m just the weirdo that didn’t get the fish loving gene.
As a child I told my mom I didn’t like fish and didn’t want to eat it anymore. She said I had to deal with it until I started cooking my own meals. I started teaching myself how to cook around age nine and didn’t eat fish again until I was 20 when I started to make myself try to like it since it has numerous health benefits.
So this whole fish is lying on my counter and I honestly don’t want to touch it. I know I have to, but I really don’t want to. It’s freaking me out. I don’t know why I’m squeamish about it when I’m not about any other food, but it’s the truth.
I finally manage to grab it and rinse it, inside and out (I had the fishmonger scale it, gut it, and cut the backbone out for me) then patted it dry. After making three diagonal slashes on each side, I rubbed it inside and out with the paste I made, then stuffed it with the rice (squirming on the inside the whole time – does this thing bite? It is just playing dead and it’s about to take me out? Paranoid and unrealistic thoughts yes, but they kept messing with me. I also have a fear of viney jungley type plants. And clowns. Definitely clowns).
Next step – banana leaf. Apparently you have to heat the leaf up to make it pliant (I had no clue). So I turned my gas stove on and ran the leaf over it until it changed color and started looking “waxy”. I wrapped my leaf around the stuffed fish and used twine to hold it all together.
As far as grilling, the fish was huge (2.5 lbs) so it needed to cook about 12 minutes per side.
I have no idea what the fish ended up tasting like. I’ll definitely go with a different kind next time (lol my aunt thought it was a bit “fishy”) but whatever. It was a new experience. Will I repeat it? I don’t know considering how much work vs. how much I’m actually going to eat of it (in this case none).
Although I do appreciate the fact that I get to use my family as guinea pigs for whatever craziness I come up with while not eating it myself.
Dessert was Pineapple Skewers with a Coconut Caramel Sauce from Sunset. Huge, huge hit and bonus: super quick and easy. Check the link for the full recipe; I would definitely do that again. We used the whole pineapple and served with a bit of frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream and you have the perfect summer dessert.
So let’s break down the time. I started prepping at 9am. 30 minutes to shower and dress, 30 minutes to drive to my moms, 30 minutes to drive home. I got home at 9:30pm. That means I basically cooked for 11 hours. 11 hours!!! Sometimes I’m not sure why I do these things to myself (especially when that fish was threatening me).
So that’s why I have no pictures. By the time I was done cooking and hadn’t eaten anything since the banana for breakfast and random scraps while prepping, I was starved, everyone else was hungry so we just dug in. It honestly didn’t even cross my mind to take pictures, the food was attacked.
But you know what? Other than what people grabbed to take for lunch, everything was consumed, no leftovers. And looking around and seeing everyone smiling, laughing, and eating; that’s when you know it’s worth it.
And after that full day of cooking and memories, laughs, and moments I still had, ugh, finance homework. About halfway through working on it my eye (how do I find the beta again?!) started twitching. I passed out at 1:30am (desperately trying to hold onto the warm, fuzzy feeling from dinner) then had to get up at 6:30 for work.
But still, it’s worth it. Maybe I don’t do it very often (I try for every 2 months or so) and I won’t make as many dishes (usually I’m better at scaling back) but I’ll continue to do it. It’s a cliché that food brings people together, but so very true.
Although my eye is still twitching!