If you have not sparked your grill by the Fourth of July, now is your drop-dead deadline! Grab a few seasonal ingredients: a pound of local shrimp, some garden veggies and a nice steak or two. Invite a few pals and you are on your way to a surf-and-turf dinner party.

To help you get started, we have assembled a few recipes that are easy to make and offer a variety of flavors. We mean it when we say keep it simple; these recipes require minimal prep and should abundantly feed a small group of 6 to 10 people.

Sirloin Crostini with Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese

1 lb. grass-fed, New York Strip steak

2 loaves French baguette, sliced thin and toasted

2 lbs. sweet onions, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons butter

8 oz. good blue cheese

Grill steak to medium rare and let rest; you can do this a day ahead of time. Slice thinly, against the grain of the meat. Sweat the onions with the butter and sea salt in a heavy-bottom pan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and cook until they are golden brown, soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. When friends arrive, enlist help in spreading onions on each crostini, top with a thin slice of grilled steak, a sprinkle of sea salt, a grind of black pepper and a bit of crumbled blue cheese. Presentation: Prepare this in two batches so the bread does not get soggy. Start to assemble the next batch when the first tray is about half empty.

Lemony Greens with Grilled Eggplant and Mint

Big bunch of local salad greens, your choice

Juice of 1 organic lemon

2 medium-size eggplant

3 cloves garlic, minced

Handful fresh mint, chopped

½ cup good olive oil

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, mint, salt and pepper. Slice eggplant lengthwise into thin pieces and place in bowl. Coat the eggplant with the marinade. Grill until eggplant starts to get soft. Grill marks are great, but don’t over cook in your desire to make it pretty. Toss salad greens with lemon juice and place on individual serving plates. Top with a few slices of grilled eggplant, drizzle the whole plate with a bit of your best olive oil and a pinch of salt. Garnish with fresh mint and a bit of chopped summer tomato, if desired.

Shrimp Grilled Cheese Triangles

1 lb. cream cheese

1 lb. sharp cheddar, shredded

2 green onions, chopped

½ lb. local shrimp, peeled, steamed and chopped

Dash of Tabasco sauce

16 slices of your favorite bread

1 stick of butter for grilling sandwiches

Combine first five ingredients and use this mixture as a sandwich fill. Using two pieces of bread for each, make 8 sandwiches. Use one tablespoon of butter per sandwich to grill in the pan. Secret trick: put the sandwich in the microwave for 30 seconds to pre-melt the inside of the sandwich. You can now spend less time with it in the pan getting a golden crust while still having it hot on the inside. Presentation: Cut into gooey triangles and offer plenty of napkins. You might want to do this in one big batch in the middle of the party, let everyone get gooey at once, then put away the pan.

Lemony Hummus 

8 oz. dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked until tender, drained

Juice of 2 lemons

Whisper of Cayenne

Sea salt

Combine all ingredients in the food processor until smooth. Yes, this is a tahini-less hummus. Presentation: Serve with an eye-dropper bottle of sesame oil, pita bread triangles and a modest assortment of veggies for dipping. This is great refreshed towards the end of the evening. Try not to serve all your dip at once; instead, use a few of those cute small bowls that rarely make it out of the cupboard.

Watermelon-Mint Water

1 medium-size, local watermelon, cubed and seeded

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 tablespoon chopped mint

In a blender, puree the watermelon cubes, strain and discard pulp. In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup using 1 cup of the watermelon juice you just made, plus agave and mint. Bring the mixture to a simmer for a minute to dissolve the agave and infuse the liquid with the mint. Set aside to cool. Strain. Combine the simple syrup, the remaining watermelon juice and 2 gallons of filtered water and chill. Serve in transparent beverage dispenser. If you have mint leaves in your yard that are still on long stems, it is fun to float these in the water right before service. Remember to clean them! This is a lightly flavored water. It should be sublime.

Recipe courtesy of Outer Banks Epicurean

(We try to use all organic/natural/real ingredients)


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