Grilled vegetable slices add color and flavor to cookouts, but the small pieces are prone to dropping through grill grates. To give them a safety net, put slices of summer squash and other produce on a stainless-steel cooling rack placed directly on the grill. The tight metal grid will keep vegetables from falling through the cracks.
Instead of making a marinade with rosemary for grilling, place the herb right on the coals. The smoke enhances food in the same way burning wood chips does. Once the coals are uniformly gray and ashy, loosely cover them with fresh rosemary branches (be careful not to burn your hands). Almost any meat or vegetable will benefit from this savory smoking.
Grilling chicken whole keeps it tender and moist; if you butterfly it, the parts will cook evenly. Use kitchen or poultry shears to cut down either side of backbone, and remove it. Spread chicken flat, skin-side up; tuck wings behind shoulders. Make a small slit in skin with knife at tip of breast near thigh, insert end of drumstick, and repeat. If desired, rub with lemon and herbs. Grill chicken over medium heat, turning occasionally, until juices run clear when breast is poked with a fork, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the bird.
Here's a great way to chill beverages in time for an impromptu backyard barbecue. Place wine or other bottles in a bucket, add a layer of ice followed by a layer of salt (coarse or table), and repeat until you almost reach the top. Fill the bucket with cold water to just below the ice line. The water in the ice bucket will be colder than normal, chilling the libations in less than 10 minutes.
Strewing citrus slices over a grill keeps fish from sticking to the rack and infuses it with flavor at the same time. Slice oranges, lemons, and limes about 1/4 inch thick, then spread the fruit generously over a hot grill. Place the whole fish, skin on, on top of the citrus. Cooking times will vary according to the thickness of the fish.
Turn away picnic-table pests with inexpensive sewing supplies: embroidery hoops and muslin. Buy hoops that are slightly larger than the rims of your pitchers and serving bowls. With pinking shears, cut cloth squares two to three inches wider than each hoop. Position a piece of fabric in each hoop to create handy covers.
Pretty paper goods are no match for an unruly summer breeze at an outdoor party. River rocks (available by the bag at garden centers) help keep plates and napkins where they belong, even after they've left the serving table. Pile them in a bucket on the buffet table for guests to grab along with their utensils; you'll avoid having to chase flyaways.
Sprinkle a custom seasoning onto vegetables and meats before cooking, or pass it at the table.
Combine 1/4 cup coarse salt with 2 to 4 tablespoons mixed ground spices, chopped fresh herbs, or zest (be sure to refrigerate fresh herb and zest blends; discard unused portion after one week). Try mix-ins such as caraway seeds and pepper, thyme and lemon zest, toasted black-and-white sesame seeds, and chile powder and oregano.
Set the table for a whole season of festive cookouts by giving it a new summer coat. The wooden slats of a classic picnic table provide a ready-made outline for stripes. Red and white are very versatile -- with blue napkins and flag "bouquets," the table's ready for patriotic gatherings; adorned with bright red, orange, or yellow tableware, it would have "casual barbecue" painted all over it.
Got an assortment of paper napkins left over from parties past? To make a hodgepodge look festive -- and coordinated -- add a white doily band. Fold two napkins together. Cut a strip from a round or square paper doily; for a band that's lacy on both edges, accordion-fold a small doily in the middle. Wrap it around napkin; tape at back. Tuck in a plastic fork.
Beef up your condiment offerings for burgers and sandwiches with these four easy blends.
Start each with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then add peppers (1/4 cup, finely chopped), Kalamata-olive puree (3 tablespoons), sun-dried tomatoes in oil (1/4 cup, drained and finely chopped), or pesto (3 tablespoons). Don't leave mixes outside for more than two hours; refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.