First Barbecue of the Season

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Spring has more than sprung, and I am delighted to embrace the warm weather along with the food trends that it brings.

Grilling, fresh salads and spring produce are all welcome arrivals after the long, cold winter.

We had our first barbecue last week, and it was wonderful. The chicken was well flavored and juicy, the peas and carrots were tasty and colorful, the salad was crisp and refreshing, and the local strawberries delivered a healthy, sweet finish to the meal.

The chicken was great the next day tossed on a salad for lunch, but if you are serving a hungry crew, don’t count on leftovers.

Here’s what we did:

Bourbon Marinated Chicken

Serves 4

Grilled chicken
Grilled chicken dinner (Photo by Keri White)

This is super easy to scale up because the marinade ingredients are added in equal parts. I used whole boneless breasts, which I split in half so my chicken was rather thick and required longer, slower cooking after the initial sear. If you use thinner pieces, adjust the cooking time accordingly.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup honey or brown sugar
  • ¼ cup bourbon (any whiskey or rye can be substituted)
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a Ziploc bag or Tupperware. Place the chicken in the marinade and turn to coat it. For optimal flavor permeation, poke a few holes in each piece of chicken with a fork.

Place the chicken in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight; remove it from the refrigerator an hour before cooking.

Heat a grill, oil the grates and place the chicken over the hottest part. Sear it for about 1 minute, then rotate the chicken 90 degrees to make hashed grill marks. Sear for another 30-60 seconds, and repeat the step with the flipside.

If using a gas grill, reduce the heat and move the chicken to the least hot area. Cover and cook for another 18-22 minutes or until done, flipping halfway through. If using a charcoal grill, move the chicken to the perimeter, where the heat is least concentrated.

Remove the chicken from the grill, tent with foil for about 5 minutes and serve.

Spiced Spring Peas

Serves 4

If you are lucky enough to find fresh peas this time of year, this is a nice way to showcase them. The spices deliver a mild Indian flavor palate — savory and aromatic without being spicy, and not so strong that it overpowers the rest of the meal. It works quite well with this dish, but if you prefer to let the peas stand on their own, simply boil them in a bit of water with a pinch of sugar for 3 minutes.

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon mild oil, such as vegetable or canola
  • ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

In a medium-sized skillet with a cover, heat the oil with the spices. When the cumin pops, add the peas, lower the heat and cover.

Cook for 5 minutes (longer if frozen), stirring occasionally, until the peas are cooked through. If the peas look like they are going to burn during cooking, add a tablespoon of water or broth to the skillet.

Baby Greens Spring Salad

Serves 4

I’m a sucker for baby spring greens and found a treasure trove at this week’s market. The peppery spice of arugula married beautifully with the mildly sweet pea greens to deliver an ideal side salad for this meal. Dressing it simply with lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil allowed the greens to shine.

When serving pea greens, it’s best to cut them up and, if the stems are thick and tough, discard them. If the stems are chewable, cut them into small pieces and toss them in the bowl.

  • 6 cups mixed baby greens; half arugula and half pea greens recommended
  • Generous pinch salt
  • Generous sprinkle fresh cracked pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Rinse, spin and dry the greens. Place them in a salad bowl.
  • Sprinkle the dressing ingredients over the greens and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

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