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What food can you bring to a BBQ?

First, find out what is being served and con­trib­ute some­thing that shows some class, and improves the menu. You can of course bring some­thing simple, like:

- Wine    - lollies    - cake    - soft drinks    - chocolate    - a packet of meat
- Chips   - salad      - dip     - spice rub      - sausage roll

BUT, Here are 5 cre­at­ive offer­ings that require little skill, little time and may even gen­er­ate some buzz.

1.  Fruit Dish

Chilled fruit is a refresh­ing com­ple­ment to grilled food.  Fruit salads are easy to put togeth­er, visu­ally appeal­ing and make every­one feel health­i­er.  Try this vari­ation of a water­mel­on salad  recipe for some­thing bright and unique.  The spice and cit­rus fla­vors will sur­prise you and blend per­fectly with the tex­ture and nat­ur­al sweet­ness of water­mel­on.

Jalapeño Water­mel­on Salad

  • 3 Tbs. lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • ¼ large seed­less water­mel­on, cut into ½‑inch cubes
  • 2 cups fresh blue­ber­ries
  • 2 seeded jalapenos, sliced into rings
  • 12 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
  • 2 Tbs. black ses­ame seeds
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Whisk lime juice and oil togeth­er, set aside.  Place jalapenos along the bot­tom of a large bak­ing dish, or some­thing shal­low and broad.  The water­mel­on is going to soak so you want to spread it as thin as pos­sible to max­im­ize the num­ber of cubes that absorb the juice and oil.  Spread the water­mel­on evenly in the dish, on top of the jalapenos.  Drizzle the juice and oil over the water­mel­on and put in the refri­ger­at­or.  I recom­mend let­ting it soak for at least ½ an hour.  An hour is ideal but the fla­vors will still set in after 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, trans­fer to a large bowl and stir in the remain­ing ingredi­ents.  White ses­ame seeds work just as well, but the black ones make the dish look more inter­est­ing.

2.  Veget­able Side

Potato salad and coleslaw are usu­ally some­where in the buf­fet lineup at cookouts, and side dishes are always a must.  They can be bor­ing, how­ever, and the may­on­naise that often holds these dishes togeth­er can be foul on hot, sum­mer after­noons.  Here is a crisp and clean, may­on­naise free ver­sion of coleslaw that is deli­cious on its own or on a grilled sand­wich:

Ses­ame Lime Coleslaw

1 medi­um sized green cab­bage (or ⅔ to ½ of a very large one) – remove the thick core and cut into bite sized strips.  A use­ful, visu­al guide to carving a cab­bage can be found  here.

  • 2 cups car­rots, shred­ded (you can usu­ally find these bagged in the pro­duce sec­tion)
  • 1 cup chopped cil­antro
  • ½ cup ses­ame seeds, toasted
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup ses­ame oil
  • 1 Tbs rice wine vin­eg­ar
  • 2 Tbs grated ginger
  • Salt to taste

Pre­heat oven to 350.  Com­bine cab­bage, car­rots, cil­antro, jalapenos and ginger in an enorm­ous mix­ing bowl.  Whisk lime juice and oil togeth­er and stir into cab­bage mix­ture.  Spread ses­ame seeds out in a bak­ing dish, on foil or some non-stick sur­face.  Place in oven for about 5 minutes or until the aroma becomes intrusive–remove them before they turn dark brown.  Sprinkle salt over cab­bage mix­ture, add toasted seeds and stir.  Take a bite and drizzle more oil or lime juice if needed.

3.  Dessert

Desserts are prob­ably the most under­rep­res­en­ted type of dish at out­door parties.  They are often just too high-main­ten­ance or don’t do well sun­bathing on a pic­nic table.  There is one, how­ever, for the grill, that you can pre­load and will leave you won­der­ing why it wasn’t a staple in the back­yard BBQs of your past.

S’more sand­wiches

  • Alu­min­um foil
  • Gra­ham crack­ers
  • Large marsh­mal­lows
  • Chocol­ate (some­thing flat and easy to break into pieces)

The list speaks for itself but, for a step-by-step guide to the per­fect s’more, read on.

For each serving, pull out about a foot of alu­min­um foil, tear and set aside.  Take 1 gra­ham crack­er and gently break it in half on the line that is con­veni­ently provided for you.  Place first half of crack­er in the middle of the foil sheet.  Break off the desired amount of chocol­ate and add to the crack­er.  A piece wider than the crack­er will over­whelm the foil with gooey chocol­ate and bur­den the eat­ing pro­cess.  Take 2 large marsh­mal­lows and tear them in half.  Arrange them on the chocol­ate ren­der­ing a flat sur­face to place the oth­er crack­er half on top of.  Add more chocol­ate to the top, if desired, before put­ting the crack­er top on.  Care­fully fold the edges of the foil over the top of the sand­wich.  Fold the oth­er edges over, cov­er­ing the sand­wich com­pletely.   Leave some extra foil on at least one side of the sand­wich and crumple it– this will serve as a handle and tight­en the foil enough to keep the sand­wich togeth­er.  Foil cools down so fast that by the time open your grill, the handle will have lost enough heat to be touched, bare-handed.

To cook, place the foil block on the hot grill and turn after a couple of minutes.  If you push your fin­ger down on the foil and it com­presses eas­ily, your marsh­mal­lows have melted and the sand­wich is ready.  Don’t push too hard or the crack­er will break.  Unwrap the foil and enjoy a per­fectly melted s’more.  It will prob­ably be messy but, if done prop­erly, shouldn’t be too hard to con­sume.

4.  A Pitch­er of Booze

If your BBQ is alco­hol free, first ask your­self why you are going.  Oth­er­wise, drinks are always a wel­come addi­tion and it’s fun to have some­thing fest­ive that every­one will try, and want more of. Moji­tos and San­gria are always great, and usu­ally well received.

For some­thing a little more on the trop­ic­al side, try a rum punch.  This punch is a Carib­bean style drink and stays mostly true to the for­mula from this com­mon idiom:  “1 part sour, 2 parts sweet; 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak.”  Scale this recipe up to fit the size of your gath­er­ing.  It’s a for­giv­ing recipe, so exact pro­por­tions are not cru­cial.

Straw­berry Rum Punch (serves 10)

1 cup = 8 ounces

  • 1 quart fresh Straw­ber­ries
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup pine­apple juice
  • 1 cup simple syr­up
    • boil equal parts sug­ar and water until dis­solved
  • 2 cups light rum
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 2 cups ginger ale
  • 1 cup orange juice

Muddle straw­ber­ries in a large pitch­er or punch bowl.  Add the liquids and stir.  Serve chilled or pour each serving over ice.  Gar­nish with lime wedges, pine­apples slices, orange wheels or straw­ber­ries.

5.  Shish Kabobs

Food on a stick is, hands down (not lit­er­ally), the easi­est thing to eat at a BBQ.  Shish kabobs are easy to assemble and shop­ping for skew­er ingredi­ents is as simple as it gets – you may already have what you need in your kit­chen. Here are some food items, ideal for stick stok­ing:


  • Chick­en
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Shrimp
  • Scal­lops
  • Bacon wrapped around any­thing


  • Pine­apple
  • Hon­ey­dew mel­on
  • Can­ta­loupe



  • Plum toma­toes
  • Squash
  • Zuc­chini
  • Onion wedges
  • Bell pep­pers
  • Firm mush­rooms
  • ”New” pota­toes
  • Egg­plant
  • Tofu

You can put vir­tu­ally any­thing on the shish but there is some tech­nique involved con­struct­ing the per­fect skew­er.

Pre­par­ing skew­ers

Soak bam­boo skew­ers in water for 30 minutes before adding the ingredi­ents.  This helps pre­vent them from catch­ing fire on the grill.  If using met­al skew­ers, coat them in veget­able oil.

Pre­par­ing ingredi­ents

Sea­son ingredi­ents before skew­er­ing.  This can be an involved pro­cess, pre­par­ing a mar­in­ade and soak­ing meat for hours, or simply adding a rub that will be seared into the out­side.  Cut items into sim­il­arly sized pieces to ensure they cook evenly.  For meat, cubes with sides between 1 and 1 ½ inches are ideal.

Assem­bling ingredi­ents

Group items with sim­il­ar cook­ing times togeth­er.  Shrimp will cook much faster than pota­toes and if on the same skew­er, you’ll either have dried up and burnt shrimp with per­fect pota­toes, or raw pota­toes with per­fect shrimp.  Pep­pers and onions are ver­sat­ile since they are great raw and still tasty when cooked for a long time.

Thread­ing skew­ers

Thread the ingredi­ents for each shish kabob onto 2 skew­ers.  This makes them easi­er to flip on the grill, pre­vents morsels from spin­ning and helps keep meat from diving into the fire.  For optim­al fla­vor and aes­thet­ic value, altern­ate the order of items by shape and col­or.  Charred chick­en looks mighty fine fol­lowed by a blackened green pep­per, a chunk of pine­apple, then an onion wedge, and so on.

Pack­ing for trans­port

Line a con­tain­er that is easy to load and unload with wax paper and fill with skew­ers.  They are ready for the car and eager to be grilled.

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