Moving Towards Moderation: Surviving Summer Cookouts |

Moving Towards Moderation: Surviving Summer Cookouts

With the start of the summer season, outdoor cooking has commenced. Fresh chilled salads, smoked and grilled meats, fruity desserts and delicious barbeque sauces — this is simple eating at it’s finest, so it should all be good, well balanced and healthy, a dieter’s dream, right?

Wrong. Look a little harder and you will see the traps: Coleslaw — yes, with healthy cabbage but lots of fatty mayo and often sugar. Mayo-based potato salad, southern corn pudding, chicken with the skin on and coated in sugary BBQ sauce, buttery garlic bread.

But all is not lost, if you look harder and make good choices, there are lots of summer cook-out options that can be satisfying and healthful. Remember it AIN’T the vegetables that are bad for you, it’s the dressing and the garnishes. Joe had to reinvent his choices for his favorite summer meals and eating opportunities — BBQ, outdoor dinners, picnics and beach bashes. The results were delicious with robust flavor, brilliant color and fulfilling one appetite.

Start with a healthy and balanced Base dressing:

Base Dressing/Vinaigrette

14 ounces Chicken stock
1/2 ounce Arrow root
7 ounces Oil
7 ounces Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper, white
2 tablespoons Herbs fresh
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard- OPTIONAL

1) Bring 3/4 of the stock to a simmer, with the garlic, thyme and bay leaf.
Combine the remaining stock with the arrowroot and add to the simmering stock, whisking constantly Return to a simmer. Once thickened, remove, strain and cool slightly.
2) With an immersion blender, add all remaining ingredients to the thickened stock to create the base dressing.

Once you have this base formula the options for new creations are nearly endless. Sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fresh grated ginger, a splash of soy sauce, scallions and cilantro tossed with Napa cabbage and fine julienned vegetables for a low-fat Asian slaw, or use the base with fresh diced tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil, oregano and roasted garlic with vegetable and whole wheat penne for Italian flavors. The options and global combinations are endless. Think bold big flavors, orange or lemon zest and juice, hot peppers, cilantro, cumin, curry, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, chilies, garlic, shallots and scallions. These combinations with fresh vegetables — roasted, grilled or blanched and tossed with grains, whole wheat pastas, heirloom potatoes with different fruit garnishes make interesting attractive varieties, that just happen to be well balanced.

A few more salads with our base dressing:
Green bean, red onion and grape tomatoes
Roasted beets with fresh oregano and orange zest
Fresh corn, black beans, peppers, tomato and cilantro, with lime juice, chili powder and scallions.
Heirloom tomato, malted red onions and basil
Grilled vegetables with fresh herbs
Yukon gold potato, dill and mustard
Broccoli rabe with toasted garlic chips

One of Joe’s favorite salads is chunks of watermelon with finely shaved red onions, marinated in good balsamic vinegar and fresh mint of basil. Low, low, low in calories, fat and everything else, but high in satisfaction and flavor.

Meats, poultry and fish need similar attention when planning your outside affair. Joe makes his own rub with traces of good kosher salt or sea salt. He rubs the chicken under the skin, roasts it in the oven low and slow, then takes the skin off and finishes it on the grill with BBQ sauce. Be careful of commercial BBQ sauces which can be filled with high fructose corn syrup. Making your own from scratch is best, but if time doesn’t allow, look for sauces that contain agave syrup, molasses, brown or cane sugar in the ingredients, then thin with cider vinegar, which adds a nice kick while reducing the calories. Dry rubbing meats and chicken, then smoking adds flavor and texture to your products. Marinades and sauces can be used to create almost any global profile, such as garlic, basil oregano and thyme or rosemary, lemon cracked black pepper or curry with citrus, guava, lime and cilantro, sesame, ginger lime and soy, just to name a few.

For the summer, what’s better than pickles. From Kirby’s to carrots, asparagus, beets, onions or your own fresh jardinière, Pickles are characteristically low in fat and calories. If you watch the amount of sodium and sugar used in your brine, there are a variety of other herbs and spiced to promote exceptional flavor.

Satisfaction is the key to a successful meal and these techniques won’t disappoint anyone. Joe’s journey has moved his culinary skills into a dimension he never thought possible, understanding and respecting the raw flavors of the food itself, using additional ingredients to enhance their core attributes, not mask. So lets get grilling and chilling the right way this summer.

Joe's Progress, Week 14:


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