A Middle-Eastern Grillout

Next time you want to entertain guest for a summer cookout, instead of the same old burgers and hot dogs, why not try something with a little more flair? This month, I'm offering you a special menu of Middle Eastern inspired dishes that appeal to a broad audience and still add a twist to the event.

There will be a few ingredients that you will need to get that you might not regularly stock. Among them are bulgur and fresh mint. Most large grocery stores will stock both of them year round. And please choose the freshest vegetables you can find for the mixed grilled vegetables and you'll be looking at a feast fit for your finest summer gathering! This menu serves eight comfortably, but you can halve or double the recipes easily. To round out the menu, consider making hummus and serving it all with soft pita bread and a nice crisp wine. Summer is a wonderful thing!

Bulgur Pilaf with Garlic Shrimp

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped green onions
  • 2 cups uncooked bulgur
  • 8 cups torn spinach
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Combine the water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep the water warm over low heat.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the green onions; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the bulgur; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the warm salted water, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of the warm salted water is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Remove from the heat. Add the spinach, mint and lemon juice; stir until the spinach wilts. Keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and shrimp; sauté for 2 minutes or until the shrimp are done. Arrange shrimp evenly over the top of the bulgur mixture and serve.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Lemon-Cumin-Mint Grilled Chicken

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh mint leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Stir together the lemon juice, lemon oil, 1 tablespoon of the mint, half the garlic, the paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper with a fork, in a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Prepare the grill. Place the chicken on the grill and cook, turning once, for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and just cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a platter, garnish with the lemon wedges, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon mint and garlic, and serve.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Mixed Grilled Vegetables

  • 3 pounds assorted fresh vegetables*
  • 1 cup Italian dressing

In a large plastic bag, toss the vegetables with the Italian dressing. Close the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator, turning once, up to 1 hour. Remove the vegetables, reserving the marinade. Grill or broil the vegetables, turning and basting occasionally with the reserved marinade, until the vegetables are tender.

*Assorted Fresh Vegetables - use any combination of the following, thickly sliced: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, large mushrooms, red, green or yellow bell peppers and red onion.
  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes

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