I am very fortunate to have great clients that allow me freedom to plan their menu. On a recent Saturday, I was asked to cook a birthday dinner for one of my favorite clients. The menu was chosen to be Asian motif, however I snuck an appetizer in that didn’t really fit the theme. With 20 guests on the invite and a warm summer night, I looked to grill most of the menu. I had been experimenting with watermelon for a few weeks, so the appetizer I went with was grilled watermelon and cherry tomato skewers with fresh mozzarella and basil oil. I made the basil oil by blending basil, olive oil, garlic and a few sprigs of mint, along with a pinch of salt, then straining it to get all of the solids out. This would provide a wonderful topping to the fruit & cheese. I prepped the watermelon into nice sized squares and skewered them along with some cherry tomatoes. These were hit with some olive oil and placed on a very hot & smokey grill. The skewers were grilled for about 3 -5 minutes, until the tomatoes were splitting. Once removed, they were arranged with some fresh mozzarella and topped with the homemade basil oil. Served with a few pieces of bread to sop up the oil and juices, the appetizer went over well and was finished quickly.
With the guests happily munching and drinking away, it was time to get the bulk of the meal onto the grill. I had about 12+ pounds of NY Strip Steaks marinating overnight in my Asian Miso marinade (see Shark wedding post for marinade). These went to the grill first. Smoke and smells enveloped the patio and I had a few visitors wander over to the grill to see what was cooking. Cooked to medium rare, the steaks were pulled from the grill and left to rest.
On to the veggies! I had a handful of beautiful baby boc choy heads lightly seasoned with sesame oil and salt. These hit the grill with some shitake mushrooms that had also been lightly marinaded. After getting a sear, the veggies were placed in a warm oven to finish cooking while I attended to the rest of the grilling items. I was definitely pressing hard at this point. Only half way through the grilling items and I was breaking a serious sweat!
The scary part was next… Tofu. I had done all I could think of to prep this ingredient for the grill. Marinaded over night, then dried for 2hrs on paper towels to firm up the outside, and finally brushed with oil and onto the grill. With fingers crossed, I began to grill and flip the tofu. I was fortunate that everything stayed together and the veggie protein had wonderful grill marks. Topped with some charred scallions, this dish was ready. The last thing on the grill was shrimp. I had marinaded these in a chili, garlic, ginger mixture. These were skewered and placed on the grill as the guests were making their way down to the dockside dinning table. Seared fast and placed back into the marinade which was bubbling away on the stove, the shrimp were ready along with the guests.
The sun was setting, and alpenglow was lighting up the beautiful mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. Dinner was ready. All the dishes had been finished and beautifully arranged by my assistant Jess. The guests were hungry and the serving dishes came back empty in a matter of minutes. As it got dark, the birthday cake came down and more wine was poured. A great meal enjoyed by great people in an absolutely stunning setting.