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Fire Up the Grill! Set the Table and the Mood for Summer Outdoor Entertaining

(ARA) - The grill is on, the stars are out and entertaining is about to move outdoors. This summer, make your outdoor space an extension of your living room by creating an inviting setting to entertain family and friends.
 Fire Up the Grill! Set the Table and the Mood for Summer Outdoor Entertaining

David Sherman, an interior design instructor with The Art Institute of California -- San Francisco, suggests that for a successful party, guests should be comfortable, “inside and outdoors.” Sherman says by using various types of lighting, you can create moods, as well as keep your guests moving freely -- and safely -- around the party. When Sherman entertains, he likes to suspend paper and metal accordion lanterns from trees or porch eaves, use old lanterns from flea markets or antique stores to hold candles, and light large citronella torches that can be stuck in the ground for light and also repel bugs

He also recommends putting a votive tree in the ground, in a pot, or in the hole of an umbrella table to create an outdoor chandelier of lights. Glass or mosaic hurricane lamps add a soft glow, says Sherman, and also protect candles from the wind.

In cold weather states like Minnesota, “Outdoor lighting is all about fire,” says Dan Noyes, Interior Design Department chair at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. “With the advent of the many tiki torch designs out there, one can readily and inexpensively create the outdoor room with a perimeter of fire. The upside is not only a definition of space but a controlled bug-less zone if one uses citronella in the torches. Fire pits are another great way to add ambient light while creating a focal point to gather around." he says.

Now that the lighting is set, what about the food? First, start with a very clean grill says William Niemer, chef director, also from The Art Institutes International Minnesota. “Make sure you remove all of the cooked on meat and carbon. The importance of this is two-fold; a clean grill will help to make sure none of your food sticks to the grill and you can make those great grill marks. Second, you don’t want any off flavors from the carbon build-up on the grill rack,” says Chef Niemer.

When you cook a large piece of meat, says the chef, use an indirect cooking method in which you place the coals on either side of the grill. Place the meat in the center of the grill, not directly over the coals. This will provide even cooking and no burning meat.

For city entertaining, whether it’s on a rooftop, or in a small backyard garden, Chef Mark Hellermann of The Art Institute of New York City likes to make grilled focaccia. “I like to make the dough a day ahead and have it in the fridge overnight because it’s easier to handle when it’s cold,” says Chef Hellermann. He makes up a few irregular pieces to rise slowly for a few hours in the afternoon. When his friends arrive, Hellermann has a slow fire going on the grill -- often with some bits of grapevine to add some smoke. “I toss on the focaccia, cover the grill, and flip it with tongs when it gets dark, golden brown. Finally, I turn out the pieces onto a small cutting board, and serve everybody, usually with a delicious southern Italian white or a Gavi di Gavi,” he says.

Entertaining experts recommend setting up food and drink stations in two distinct areas. That way, guests will move around more and not congregate next to one or the other in a big group. Tin washtubs, available at most home centers, make great containers for beer and soft drinks. Offer a selection of white or red wine, or consider serving a white or red sangria to make use of delicious summer fruits. If you decide to serve mix drinks, keep it simple by selecting one or two “specialty” drinks, like martinis or margaritas.

Remember when you entertain guests, don’t try out fancy new recipes that keep you in the kitchen -- or at the grill -- for hours. Keep it easy and casual, and serve your friends and family what you like to eat, because chances are, they’ll enjoy it as well.

Recipes from Chef Bill Niemer, The Art Institutes International Minnesota

Griller Salmon on a Bed of Roasted Peppers with Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

10 Portions
3 2/3 pound salmon filet
Salt and pepper as needed
Vegetable oil as needed

1. Cut the salmon into 10 equal portions steaks, 5 to 6 ounces. Season them with salt and pepper. Brush with the oil. Allow any excess to drain away before placing on grill.
2. Place the salmon presentation side down on the grill. Grill undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Turn the salmon a quarter turn during grilling to achieve grill marks. Turn the salmon over and complete cooking, about 3 to 4 minutes more.
3. Serve the salmon with the balsamic vinegar and pepper sauce.

Roasted Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce
8 fluid ounces balsamic vinegar
8 fluid ounces fish stock
2 ounces chopped tomatoes
1 ounce chopped herbs such as thyme or tarragon
1 tablespoon arrowroot mixed with a small amount of water
2 ounces mushrooms
3 ounces roasted green pepper julienne
3 ounces roasted red pepper julienne
3 ounces roasted yellow pepper julienne

Combine the vinegar, stock, tomatoes and herbs. Bring the mixture to a simmer and thicken it lightly with arrowroot mixture. Add the mushrooms to the sauce. Add the peppers and simmer the sauce to 2 to 3 minutes more. Adjust with salt and pepper.

Courtesy of ARA Content

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, contact Barbara Vilanova at (412) 242-0796.

The Art Institutes (, with 30 education institutions located throughout North America, provide an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. The Art Institutes have provided career-oriented education programs for 40 years, with more than 140,000 graduates.


Grilled Lamb Chops with Carmelized Garlic Sauce
20 double rib lamb chops, 3 ounces each
Salt and pepper as needed
Olive oil, garlic

1. Season the chops with salt and pepper and brush with the oil.
2. Place the lamb presentation side down first on the grill. Grill for 3 minutes then give each chop a 90-degree turn to make the presentation marks.
3. Turn the lamb chops over and complete cooking until desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes more.
4. Serve the chops with the caramelized garlic sauce.

Carmelized Garlic Sauce
4 ounces whole garlic gloves peeled
2 ounces butter or oil
1 pint beef broth
1 ounce basil cut into long, thin strips
8 ounces chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper as needed
2 ounces whole butter diced

1. Blanch the garlic cloves in salted water, shock and peel them.
2. Sauté the blanched garlic cloves in the butter until they are lightly browned.
3. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce until it thickens.
4. Add the broth and any juice from the sautéed garlic. Reduce the mixture a little bit more.
5. Add the basil and tomato. Adjust the seasoning. At service time add the diced butter.

by Mark Hellermann CCE, CHE

Sponge Method
8 ounces water
1/2 ounce fresh yeast (1/4 ounce dry yeast)
8 ounces bread flour
Mix the above and allow to ferment for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.

Add to this sponge:
6 ounces (3/4 cup) water
1 pound bread flour (more or less, keep the dough rather moist)

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes and then allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
Knead in 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) salt and 1/2 tablespoon coarsely chopped rosemary

Retard the dough in the refrigerator overnight. Four hours before you want to grill the focaccia form it into 6 or 8 small rounds, flatten and stretch the dough with oiled hands. Oil the dough well with extra virgin olive oil. Allow the dough to rise for 3 to 4 hours, covered, on a well-oiled sheet pan. When the fire is low but moderately intense, place the pieces of dough on the well oiled grill; cover and then turn when dark brown.

Barbecued Salmon Fillet with Cucumber Salad*
From Chef Joseph Shilling, Dean of Education, The Art Institute of New York City
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

4 7-ounce salmon fillets
1 cup barbecue sauce (recipe below)*
1 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/2 moons
1 small red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

* For Barbecue Sauce:
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Blend ingredients together. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Cool. Use as needed.
Coat the salmon in the barbecue sauce. Allow to marinate for 2 hours. Toss the cucumber, red onion, dill, sugar, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated.
On a medium hot grill, cook the salmon on one side for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn salmon and finish for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. If desired, baste with additional sauce.
Chefs note: Great with a cold, crisp Chardonnay.

* Recipe appears in Philadelphia Flavor 2, Small Potatoes Press, 2004






Courtesy of ARA Content,  e-mail: 

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