After this year’s unusually long, cold winter, I couldn’t be happier that grilling season is upon us once again. As usual, my pals Steve and Sarah were leading the pack, hosting the first barbecue of the year a month or so ago at their beautiful Woodbridge home. Being the type of person who has to plan 3 weeks in advance even to invite people over for burritos, they never cease to amaze me with their ability to nonchalantly throw together a spur-of-the-moment party when the weather is nice and invite 20 or so people on a day or two’s notice.
Part of the key to these last-minute get-togethers (besides having a perpetually clean house, which I will probably NEVER achieve) is having a repertoire of simple, popular dishes up your sleeve so that you don’t have to put much thought into a menu, and shopping/ prepping for the party can almost be done on autopilot. Steve and Sarah’s repertoire usually includes barbecued chicken, grilled asparagus, marinated tofu, and a warm grilled cabbage salad which I wrote about here. Steve is a vegan, so he usually has some veggie dogs or burgers hanging around as well. Guests contribute additional side dishes (like the carrot-peanut salad I brought) and/ or beverages. The whole thing is extremely casual and always a ton of fun.
At their barbecue a few weeks ago, we actually got rained on, but it didn’t stop these grill-masters from getting the job done. The ever-unflappable Sarah just grabbed an umbrella and they got right back out there. We sat on their covered back porch drinking beer and watching the skies turn colors as we patiently waited for dinner to be ready (OK, I say patiently, but I did see several people sticking their fingers in the potato salad to grab a chunk to tide them over!)
This particular barbecue was on the small side compared to their usual parties, but it gave everyone a chance to actually sit down and eat together at the table, which was nice. Here’s a pic of Steve’s plate, which included everything but the bird:
Marvin and I grilled a couple weeks later, just for the two of us. Again, simplicity is key in order for us to enjoy it. I have to remind myself not to try to make too many different things, or we both just end up more stressed out by trying to time everything so it’s all ready at once! This time we did Italian sausages and a simple grilled salmon, with grilled peppers and onions to go with the sausage, and a couple of salads; a plain green salad with vinaigrette, and a tomato salad made with grape tomatoes and a creamy, garlicky dressing. Accompanied by some freshly made bread and washed down with a cold Strohs, it hit the spot. I hope we get lots of opportunites to fire up the grill this summer, and am particularly looking forward to pizza on the grill, which is one of my all-time favorite foods. If I can remind myself that entertaining doesn’t have to be fancy or involve complex preparations, perhaps I can become more spontaneous about hosting my own last-minute get-togethers.