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Officially, Memorial Day was never supposed to be about breaking out the grill for the first barbecue of the year, of course. But tell that to the food blogs. They've been preparing for the unofficial start of summer for weeks now, and they offer a wide range of anticipation-building suggestions, from the traditional to the cutting edge.
For a classic, All-American Memorial Day celebration, look no further than Martha Stewart's Memorial Day page, which offers recipes for favorites like grilled burgers, barbecue spare ribs, mustard potato salad. She'll also tell you how to set the table, naturally. And she has some impressive desserts. You might consider looking elsewhere for yet more sweets: YumSugar's recipe for mint chocolate-chip ice cream sandwiches is awfully tempting.
If you're looking for a twist on the traditional, there are some other options, depending on what theme you want:
• HIGH-TECH If you want to take a more high-tech approach to Memorial Day, these two gadgets are for you: The Vacu Vin Instant Marinator, which uses vacuum technology to marinate meat in 10 minutes (!), exponentially faster than the usual 24-hour marinating process. And for the grilling itself, there's a grill that does the work for you--all you have to do is program in which type of meat you're making and how you want it done.
• VEGAN Though most people think of meat as the centerpiece of a backyard party, the new cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry shows that barbecue can be meatless. Our own vegetarian-in-residence recommends the open-faced BBQ tempeh sandwich with a side of carrot cayenne coleslaw.
• URBAN As idyllic as a backyard barbecue is, not everyone has a backyard. This doesn't mean apartment-dwellers have to miss out on Memorial Day grilling fun--they just have to jump over a few more hurdles than their suburban counterparts. This blog has a good rundown of grills that are made for use in apartments, while this one gives advice for what to do if your indoor grilling gets out of hand. But if you want to avoid potential fire hazards altogether, this website offers a list of barbecue recipes that all require an oven rather than a grill.
• HEALTHY No, a successful cookout does not need to involve the Bacon Explosion. The Internet is full of options for lighter grilling options, including grilled asparagus (perfect for this season), salmon, and a simple spinach salad.
• EUROPEAN At this year's Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking contest, two European teams took home top honors. How did Norway's 100 Degrees Celsius manage to beat homegrown teams at a cooking style that's as American as apple pie? By staying away from pork, the signature meat of Memphis-style barbecue. The Washington Post describes the Norweigians' award-winning food:
The winning dishes were beef tenderloin (a change-up from last year's brisket), with a glaze made of black pepper, caramel, cider vinegar and soy sauce; and rack of lamb grilled the same way as last year, "but the apricot sauce was replaced by a pear and apple compote with a bit of fresh jalapeño and a dash of chipotle en adobo," Whitson said. "The combination worked perfectly."
So, take a tip from the Norweigians and try grilling beef tenderloin or rack of lamb. And, let's face it, while beer is the traditional beverage of choice at cook-outs, Bud Lite doesn't go well with a sophisticated European palate. This this article offers suggestions for (relatively) inexpensive wines to pair with grilled meat.
Did you give any of these suggestions a try? Let us know what worked and what didn't.