With only a few more weeks of summer left we have been taking full advantage of spending any spare time we have outdoors. Over the weekend we headed up towards the mountains and went huckleberry picking, went for a hike, took the canoes out and then came back home for a bbq with friends and family. Basically, once the weather is warm enough, we cook the majority of our dinners on the deck.
When planning your bbq gathering, I always like to pick recipes that are quick and easy, yet satisfyingly delicious! Vegetables can be tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and a handful of mixed chopped herbs. Seafood is another great choice that grills up very quickly, try tossing some shrimp in olive oil, salt and pepper. Once grilled for a few minutes, remove from the heat and toss in fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, scallions and hazelnuts! Another group favorite, and one you can even have your guests help with, is making an assortment of skewers filled with steak, chicken, and all of the vegetables. And if you know you will not have a lot of time, or simply just want to be able to hang out and enjoy your company, buy a few pre-made flatbreads at the store, brush olive oil over top and grill until browned in spots. Remove from the heat, dollop with greek yogurt, sprinkle with Zatar and basil leaves. Easy, and the kids will love it.
And don’t forget about the cocktails! With berries in season I am adding them to just about everything from smoothies, salads, desserts and drinks! For this Roasted-Berry Vodka Smash you simply take your favorite berries (or stone fruit), in this case I used strawberries and cherries, and place on a skewer. Grill for a few minutes until soft and starting to blacken. The fruit and their juices are then muddled with simple syrup, vodka and topped with lime juice and sparkling water. Garnishing with more berries.
For this cocktail I partnered with my friends at Hangar 1 Vodka using their Straight Vodka, which is distilled from grains and grapes. Perfectly balanced, fresh and slightly floral. Hangar 1 Vodka only sources ingredients when the season is just right, which is how they produce the freshest tasting vodka.
Roasted-Berry Vodka Smash
2 teaspoons simple syrup
5 strawberries, plus more for garnish
5 cherries, plus more for garnish
2 ounces Hangar One Vodka
1 lime, plus extra wedge for garnish
*Note to make simple syrup: 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar - In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Preheat grill to medium and grease the grill greats. Alternatively, you can do this in the house using a grill pan. Place strawberries and cherries onto a wooden or metal skewer. When the grill is hot, place the skewers down on the hot grates, grill for 3-4 minutes, and flip, grill for another 3 minutes. You want them to be soft, and just starting to blacken.
Using a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon mash lime half, simple syrup, 5 roasted strawberries, 5 roasted cherries in a 16-oz. mixing glass 4–5 times just to release juices and oils. Place 1/4 cup of the muddled berries and juices into glass. Add 1 ounce vodka. Fill halfway with crushed ice, stir, then mound more crushed ice on top. Top with 1/2 lime juiced and a splash of sparkling water. Garnish with berries and lime wedge.