Independence with dependents (39909)

While I do love a long weekend, July 4 seems to start the clock on the days remaining until Labor Day weekend. Right now is the meat–the porterhouse, the filet mignon–of the summer when you have to make it count.

Plans this weekend? I hope so. But if not, just get some really great ingredients, invite a couple of your essential, dependable friends and family over, and celebrate our independence. Here are some great recipes for your menu, whether indoors or out.

I recently made some Mexican-style Grilled Corn that was off the chain. There’s a similar recipe below from chef Bobby Flay. The only difference is I slathered the grilled corn with sour cream before I crumbled on the cheese.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ears corn, silks removed, but husks left on, soaked in cold water for at least 10 minutes

2 fresh limes, quartered

1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, cotija or mild feta

Combine the butter and garlic in a food processor or with a mixer until smooth. (To mix by hand, let the butter get very soft, then beat in the garlic, finely minced, with a large, wooden spoon.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The garlic butter can be made in advance, covered, and kept refrigerated up to 2 days, or frozen for a week. Bring to cool room temperature before serving.)

Heat your grill to high. Place the corn on the grill, close the grill hood, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until steamed through and hot, but still crisp (test by carefully piercing with a knife). Unwrap the husks from the corn and immediately spread or brush with garlic butter. Squeeze the limes on top and sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

I did say now is the meat of the summer, so I must hit you with my favorite grilled meats: skirt, flank or hanger. I like the first two because they are a thin piece of meat, which means you can marinate it quickly and easily. Think herbs, spices, some acid and a little heat, and you will have a mean piece of meat. Try a quick marinade of 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, 1 clove of garlic, a little parsley, a quarter of an onion and splashes of Worcestershire sauce and red wine vinegar. Season it up with salt and pepper. You can use it as a marinade and/or as a finishing sauce when the meat comes off the grill.

There is something synonymous with outdoor grilling and meat on a stick: the kabob. It’s like an adult lollipop meal, combining the main course with the side dish. I came across this recipe on, and it intrigues me: Grilled Lamb and Fig Skewers with Mint-Pepper Glaze and Grilled Eggplant. It lures me in with its decadent, exotic flavors. I am captivated!

2/3 cup apricot jam

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds

3 pounds boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes

12 fresh figs, halved vertically

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh, coarse-ground black pepper

30 (12-inch) metal skewers (or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 15 minutes before threading with ingredients)

2 eggplants, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a small saucepan over moderate heat, stir together jam, vinegar, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes. Stir in mint and set aside.

Preheat burners on high with the hood closed 10 minutes, then turn down to moderately high.

In an electric spice mill or clean coffee grinder, combine cumin and coriander seeds (or buy the ground varieties). Pulse several times to coarsely grind. In a large bowl, toss together lamb, figs, and olive oil. Add the garlic, ground cumin and coriander, salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Thread the lamb cubes and figs onto skewers.

Arrange eggplant slices on platter. Rub each slice on both sides with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange skewers and eggplant on grill. Cook eggplant, turning once, until slices are golden and moist, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Cook lamb to slightly less than desired doneness (cubes will continue to cook after being removed from grill), turning once and brushing with glaze during last 30 seconds of grilling on each side, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a serving platter, top with skewers and serve.

There is nothing more necessary for dessert during this meaty part of the summer than fresh, sweet berries! The sweetest blackberries were 4 pints for $5 at my local store the other day. I was in heaven. Buy them by the pint, add them to a trifle; serve them with cold, fresh whipped cream; or just pop them in your mouth as is. They are healthy and delicious and will only be that way for a small window in time.

Enjoy your independence, get eating and thanks for reading!

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Questions at dinnertime? Chat with me at AskSCHOP, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m.

Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! SCHOP! is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? E-mail