I have one tip for your Independence Day feast: Don’t turn on your oven or stove. Who needs the heat?
Preparing a proper summer cookout menu while adhering to this rule can be tough. It rules out potato salad (I refuse to boil the potatoes), baked beans (see that word “baked”? no!), ribs (yes, I know they can be done entirely on the grill, but I prefer to braise mine in the oven before a quick searing and saucing on the grill), and pie (it practically makes me a traitor, but I refuse to bake in summer).
So, in my effort to stay cool as a cucumber on Fourth of July, I’ve come up with this simple, hassle-free grilling menu.
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Craving ribs or pulled pork but can’t stand the thought of manning a grill all day? Here is a great substitute. Pork tenderloins cook fast on the grill, and the bacon gives them a smoky, salty hit. Serves 6.
2 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed, patted dry
1 pound center-cut bacon (thin sliced)
4 sprigs rosemary: leaves removed from one sprig and chopped fine; the other sprigs cut in half but otherwise left intact
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper each tenderloin (salt modestly, as the bacon is salty) then rub each with the garlic and chopped rosemary. Lay out the bacon on a cutting board so that the slices slightly overlap. Tuck under the tapered end of the pork tenderloin and lay it on top of the bacon. Wrap the bacon around the tenderloin (the ends of the bacon will overlap) and transfer the whole thing to a platter (bacon seam-side down). Repeat with the other tenderloin. Place in the refrigerator for about half an hour to chill and firm up.
Meanwhile, place 8 to 10 pieces of butcher’s twine about an inch apart on a cutting board. Place one chilled tenderloin on top of the twine and tie the bacon in place. Insert sprigs of rosemary and thyme under the twine. Repeat with the other tenderloin. Set aside until ready to grill. (The tenderloins can be prepared several hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.)
Grill the tenderloins on indirect heat (see this helpful video if you’re unfamiliar with the indirect-cooking method) until they have reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees (about 15 to 20 minutes). At that point, move the tenderloins to the hottest part of the grill (on the grate directly over the coals) to crisp up the bacon (this will take only a few minutes). Continuously rotate the tenderloins so that they don’t burn. Remove the tenderloins when they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Let rest for 15 minutes before removing the twine and slicing into rounds. Serve with your favorite barbeque sauce, pickles, and small rolls.
Chicken and Fruit Kabobs
My kids love anything served on a stick. Serves 4.
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Peaches, nectarines, mangos, and pineapple, cubed (make sure to get slightly firm fruit)
Salt and pepper
20 wooden kabob sticks, soaked in water for half an hour before threading and grilling
Toss cubes of chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Thread the kabobs with the cubes of raw chicken and fruit. Make any combinations you desire. Make sure you have some space between the fruit and the chicken; you don’t want to crowd the kabobs. Grill the kabobs on a hot grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until chicken cubes are cooked through.
Serve with a dipping sauce of Greek-style yogurt mixed with honey, finely diced cucumber, and a little salt and pepper.
Guacamole with Chips
Everyone loves guac! I usually aim for one avocado per person. This version serves 6.
6 ripe avocados, removed from their skins and roughly chopped (I like big chunks in mine, but puree if you prefer)
Half a large red onion (or one very small), diced and rinsed under cold water (this will remove any harshness from the taste)
Handful cilantro, roughly chopped
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (optional)
1 or 2 jalapeños, seeds and veins removed, diced (optional)
Juice from 2 limes
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients. Taste to make sure the guacamole has enough lime and salt. Add more if needed. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Raw Corn Salad with Zucchini and Mint
There’s no need to boil that fresh corn. Cut it off the cob for a crispy, super-sweet salad. Serves 4–6.
8 ears of white or yellow sweet corn, husks and silk removed, rinsed and cut off the cob
2 medium zucchini, chopped into small cubes (similar in size to the corn kernels)
2 tablespoons of mint, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt (a small amount of salt is needed, but not too much)
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Combine all ingredients. Set aside for an hour for flavors to meld.
Fresh fruit (wouldn’t Mrs. Obama be proud!)
— Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.