Rock out with your cookout

by Eric Payne

Labor Day weekend is what most of us considered to be the end of summer.   Although the heat usually lasts through most of September, everyone knows the days will soon get shorter, the sun will be less bright and the mornings cooler.  If you feel a twinge of anxiety with the thought of autumn bringing the end of outdoor summer entertaining, then its time for a WOW cookout.

Forget hamburgers and hot dogs.  We are going to celebrate the end of summer with the same invigorating energy it gave us by serving crab salad on toasted baguette rounds, swordfish skewers marinated in a jalapeno lime marinade with a sweet peach coulis on a bed of jasmine rice and a refreshing Tricky Ricky to drink.

I was introduced to the Tricky Ricky by my friend Ross Stone who created this lively concoction.  This cocktail takes advantage of the fruits of the season and quenches the pallet.  It is the perfect drink for a hot Labor Day cookout.

Tricky Ricky
2 cups of chilled peach vodka
4 cups of sweat tea
2 cups of orange juice
2 peaches pealed, sliced, and frozen (frozen peach slices chill and flavor the drink!)
 (Serves six well)

Combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher, stir well, and store in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve to your guests.

The next part of you party to think about is the appetizer.  You just need one simple thing to serve to hold everyone over till dinner.  I suggest a simple toasted French baguette round with crab salad. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Slice French baguette on a diagonal about half an inch think
Brush the slices lightly with extra virgin olive oil on the side facing up
Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes.  You will want the top to be lightly browned when finished baking.

Crab Salad
1 pound of precooked real lump crab meat (Do not use imitation crab in this recipe. It will not work.)
_ cup of mayonnaise
_ cup of red onion minced
_ cup of celery minced
1 _ tablespoons of fresh dill minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Spread the crab salad on the cooled French rounds and serve on a fun platter. You can make the salad a day a head of time, and it will taste even better. I would wait till just before the party to assemble the little appetizers so the bread does not get soggy.

Swordfish is a real WOW item to serve at a cook out.  It has a nice, mild flavor so it should not taste fishy.  Also, swordfish has a firm and dense texture which makes it great for grilling. It is a meaty fish.

The idea for this Swordfish skewers came from my friend Joyce Maloney.  She is the talented chef of Mad Donnas in East Nashville and served this dish as a special.  This dish sold very well and everyone loved it.

Jalapeno Lime Marinade
Zest of 1 lime
2 _ tablespoons of fresh lime juice (about two limes)
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno minced
1 _ tablespoons of fresh cilantro
2/3 cup of olive oil
1 _ teaspoons of kosher salt
_ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper

Drop every thing in a blender and blend till the marinade is smooth.

If you are using wooden skewers please soak twenty minutes before you load them up.

Swordfish Skewers
3 pounds of swordfish cut into 1 inch dice (Easily found at Whole Foods)   
2 red peppers diced into large chunks
2 medium zucchini sliced into half moons (half inch thick)
2 medium yellow squash sliced into half moons (half inch thick)
1 Vidalia onion chopped into large chunks

Assemble the skewers by alternation the fish and the vegetables.  Once your skewers are assembled place them in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over them.  Let the skewers rest in the refrigerator for about one hour.  Do not marinate the skewers too far ahead of time.  It will alter the delicate texture of the fish.  I would not marinate over night.

While the fish is marinating you will want to go ahead and prepare the coulis.  It is full of flavor and easy to make.

Peach Coulis
2 peaches pealed and diced
_ cup of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of cilantro
Pinch of kosher salt

Puree in a blender till smooth, and rest in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve.  By doing this first will also give all of the flavors some time to marry.

Just before you start to grill the kabobs you will want to go head and prepare the rice.  The rice and the kabobs will take about the same amount of time to cook, but it is important to have the rice finished a few moments before the kabobs. I like to remove the kabobs directly from the grill place them onto the bed of rice so the juices from the meat and vegetables flavor the rice.

Jasmine Rice
1 cup jasmine rice
1 tablespoon of butter
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 cups of water

Combine rice, butter, salt and water in a sauce pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Then turn the rice to simmer, cover the pan, and simmer for twenty minutes.  When finished fluff the rice with a fork and spread it over your serving platter.

Grill the skewers for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side till the fish is cooked through.  When finish rest the skewers on a platter of jasmine rice and drizzle the peach coulis over the kabobs. You are ready to serve a beautiful dinner that everyone will love.

Send your culinary questions to Eric at




Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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