Fired Up

It's the time of year when we stop cooking in a hot kitchen and start cooking in a hot backyard.

There are all sorts of reasons to cook outdoors. Food tastes better there. Who knows--a breeze might spring up. And anyway, you can cook as hot as you want in your backyard without putting your air conditioning out of whack.

All backyard barbecue has its charm, but we have some suggestions.

Sea scallops make an excellent foil for mint, chives and citrus fruits, and it's not a time-consuming recipe. In fact, be very careful not to overcook (or even over-marinate). The very tender meat will turn tough quickly.

Argentina provides a rowdier herb marinade, chimichurri, a garlicky combination that goes as well with red meat as chicken and, in fact, is as good a sauce as a marinade. Never use the same batch for both things, though. That's a good way to get food poisoning.

Brisket is a richly flavored meat that will make great barbecue--if you treat it right. To keep it tender, grill it at low heat and slice across the grain.

And if you want to make a grilled pork chop your friend, treat it to a mild poblano chile cream sauce. By roasting the peppers outside, you're cooking even the sauce on the grill.

Grilled Brisket With Doctored-Up Marinade

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus 18 to 24 hours marinating time Intern Gordon McKnight adapted this recipe from "Great American Grilling" (Sunset Books, 1997). There are three keys to its success, he says: the marinade, grilling the meat over indirect heat and slicing it on the bias.

1 center-cut beef brisket (about 4 pounds, 2 inches thick), trimmed of fat

1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons liquid smoke

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

* Cut meat horizontally into 2 (1-inch thick) pieces.

* Saute onion in oil until translucent, 2 minutes. Combine onion, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, soy sauce, sherry wine vinegar and cayenne pepper in small bowl. Place in heavy, resealable plastic bag with meat. Set bag in small pan. Marinate in refrigerator 18 to 24 hours, turning meat occasionally.

* Remove meat from bag and drain marinade into sauce pan. Add butter, ketchup, vinegar and mustard. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then puree to make sauce.

* Heat outdoor grill to medium-high, keeping flame on only 1 side. Temperature should be about 275 to 300 degrees. Turn meat and baste with sauce every 10 minutes. Remove when internal temperature of meat reaches 135 degrees, about 45 minutes.

* Let meat rest 20 minutes, then slice on the bias, holding knife at 45-degree angle to brisket. Serve brisket slices with remaining sauce. 8 servings. Each serving: 709 calories; 885 mg sodium; 160 mg cholesterol; 63 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

Grilled Pork Chops With Poblano Cream Sauce

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Work Time: 1 hour plus 3 to 24 hours marinating time

You can adjust this sauce to your heat level, Test Kitchen Director Donna Deane says. Add another poblano or cayenne pepper to the sauce for more heat; add more whipping cream to make the sauce milder.

PORK CHOPS

4 loin pork chops, about 3/4-inch-thick

1/2 teaspoon crumbled Mexican oregano

Salt

1/3 cup garlic oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

* Season pork chops with oregano, and salt to taste. Arrange chops in glass baking dish in single layer, pour garlic oil over and add sliced garlic. Cover and marinate several hours or overnight.

* Grill chops on hot outdoor grill or heavy cast-iron grill pan set on stove until brown on outside yet light pink in center, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with warm Poblano Cream Sauce and garnish with cilantro and reserved pepper strips (from Cream Sauce).

POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

4 poblano chiles

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup whipping cream

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Roast poblano chiles on rack over gas burner or on pan beneath broiler until charred on all sides. Put roasted peppers in paper bag and fold end over to seal. Let stand to allow peppers to sweat, about 15 minutes. Peel peppers, then cut each in half and remove ribs and seeds. Cut 2 pepper halves lengthwise into strips and set aside for garnish. Chop remaining peppers coarsely and set aside.

* Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and saute until onion just begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in broth and whipping cream. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until sauce begins to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

* Stir in chopped chiles and simmer 1 minute. Pour into blender and puree. Return Sauce to skillet, add salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

4 servings. Each serving: 640 calories; 307 mg sodium; 172 mg cholesterol; 58 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 0.32 gram fiber.

Citrus and Mint Marinated Sea Scallops

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus 1 hour marinating time

Marinating scallops in citrus juices infuses them with flavor, Times Test Kitchen recipe tester Mayi Brady says.

1 pound large sea scallops

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

3 tablespoons minced chives

3 tablespoons minced mint leaves

2 tablespoons oil

Salt, pepper

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 6 pieces

* Rinse scallops and place in large bowl.

* Combine orange juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, chives, mint, oil and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Pour over scallops and toss gently. Cover and marinate 1 hour, but no longer, in the refrigerator.

* Lift scallops from marinade with slotted spoon; reserve marinade. Grill scallops over medium coals just until done and firm to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcook or they will be tough and rubbery. Keep scallops warm.

* Pour marinade into small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Boil until slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in butter, bit by bit, until sauce is thick and emulsified. Strain sauce and serve with scallops.

4 servings. Each serving: 246 calories; 328 mg sodium; 59 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0.11 gram fiber.

Mixed Herb Chimichurri Chicken

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 1 to 2 days marinating time

Argentines baste their meat for parrilladas with traditional chimichurri, a mix of olive oil, lots of garlic and parsley. Mayi Brady has added a mix of herbs to step up the flavor of this grilled chicken.

2 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chickens, cut into pieces

1 1/2 cups olive oil

1/4 cup minced garlic

1/3 cup minced herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives and tarragon

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

* Rinse chicken and pat dry. Place equal number of chicken pieces in 2 resealable plastic bags.

* Combine olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in small bowl. Divide marinade between bags. Close bags and turn to coat chicken all over. Marinate 24 to 48 hours in refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.

* Grill chicken over medium coals until done, about 10 minutes per side for white meat and 12 to 15 minutes per side for dark meat. Baste with chimichurri occasionally while grilling.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 750 calories; 460 mg sodium; 174 mg cholesterol; 62 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 44 grams protein; 0.59 gram fiber.

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In The cover photo of beef brisket, salad bowl from IKEA Stores and retro glass from Sonnie's, South Pasadena. Above, plate from Pottery Barn stores.

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