Those Summer Nights

Grill food and picnic fare: recipes for grilled chicken and spaghetti salad.

Okey, so maybe I mean more summer afternoons or evenings, but there is no Olivia Newton John song to reference that way. But no matter, we are talking grill foods and picnics, here.

In North Carolina, we have hit our stride with the warm weather, it seems, and we ate outside for dinner last night and have already attended a couple picnics. In celebration of the season and the wonderful tradition of cooking and eating in the open air, I wanted to share our family-wide favorite for this year’s grilled food. I also included the recipe for a side; something to make, take, and share at a party or grillin’ potluck.

And while I am aware that food char (on grilled foods, or even toast) is considered a carcinogen, I am not opposed to eating it in moderation, especially in the context of an otherwise healthy lifestyle. If you have other carcinogenic habits (like smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle), you may want to reconsider.

Together, these make a great summer dinner, with or without a green salad. In our house, I make the Summer Spaghetti Salad in the morning and then whip up the chicken 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before we want to be on a blanket in the back yard, with burnished oil on our fingers and grins on our faces.

SPICED AND GRILLED CHICKEN

  1. On a large plate (not too flat a plate), combine 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika (aka. not smoked or spicy), 1 tablespoon ground cumin, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  2. Set 1 pound chicken drumsticks and thighs on top and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Rub oil and spices into the chicken until chicken is well coated on both sides and your hands are a complete disaster. (Then wash.) (At this point, I would imagine you could set the chicken aside, refrigerated, until your friends have arrived, etc., but you might want to sprinkle with oil again as you begin to grill.)
  3. Heat a grill to high heat (which you will need to adjust according to your grill. An indoor grill works great, too). Cook chicken for 10-20 minutes per side, just until done and juices run clear. Serve hot.

SUMMER SPAGHETTI SALAD

To make this a meal without the chicken, add uncured (nitrate-free) pepperoni and Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, cubed. Also, pay close attention to the ingredients on the back of your salad dressing and salad seasoning. You should be able to recognize what things are, and should avoid MSG and artificial flavoring and coloring, as well as high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. It would be best to use a whole grain pasta (which is what we do), although I also like Barilla Plus and other similar products, which taste less earth-y and are available at any old supermarket. It’s a great transition product.

  1. Make 12 oz spaghetti according to package directions, in salted water. Drain and set aside. If you want chilled salad, let drain with a couple ice cubes tossed in.
  2. Meanwhile, in a serving bowl, add as you chop 1 stalk celery, 1/2 red onion, 1 colorful bell pepper, 1 can olives, drained and sliced, and 1 tomato. Top with 8 ounces Italian dressing or other vinaigrette of choice (Newman’s Balsamic is good) and 1/8 cup salt-free salad seasoning (similar to a Mrs. Dash or even and Italian herb blend).
  3. Toss pasta with the sauced veggies and salt to taste. Place in the fridge to let marinate until dinnertime.
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