Who needs a boring ol' dog n' burger this July 4 when you can have big Mediterranean flavors instead? These lamb burgers are jazzed up with cilantro, scallions, and an unexpected hit of fresh ginger (which gives them a slightly more Southeast Asian pedigree, but no matter--our country is a big tossed salad of culinary influences, is it not?), ready to be dolloped with cool herbed yogurt. For vegetarians, there’s a smoky spread of grilled eggplant and tahini, scooped into grilled pita and topped with crunchy carrot-mint salad. Not a tahini fan? Leave it out and add a little more garlic, lemon juice and olive oil instead, and you'll have melitzanosalata, a Greek-style eggplant dip, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped fresh oregano.
Put out pitchers of cool, minty limeade, white peach lemonade, or white sangria made with peaches, raspberries, and a bubbly Spanish cava. And in addition to the typical cool-off beers, why not quench the adults' thirst with some local hard ciders, like Sonoma's two Gravenstein-based ciders, Graviva! from Tilted Shed Ciderworks, and Apple Sauced from Devoto Gardens? After all, hard cider was the drink of choice for Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, who all drank it by the tankardful.
For dessert, think simple, sweet and no-fuss. Load up an ice-filled cooler with a rainbow of fruity popsicles. Plates of bite-sized Rice Krispie treats and wedges of chilled watermelon work, too. Or go the full Girl Scout route and let guests make their own s’mores with chocolate squares, graham crackers, and marshmallows around the grill.
But before you fire up the grill, heed these tips:
The number-one mistake made by outdoor grillers?
Underestimating the time it takes to bring a charcoal-fired grill up to grilling temperature. We've all been there, scraping the hummus bowl dry, eating too many chips and baby carrots while the grill slowly fumes, taking its own sweet time to get up to burger-charring heat. If you're using charcoal, assume that it will take forty-five minutes to an hour to get a bed of coals hot enough to cook. When ready, flames should subside and the coals should be glowing red with a light coating of white ash. A gas grill will be faster; assume about 10 to 15 minutes to get up to temperature.