Stranger Dangerâ€“Sure, but what's he got on the grill?
My BBF (best Baltimore friend), Alexia -- she’s gregarious, brilliant, adventurous and beautiful, hardly the perfect wingman (wingperson?) for an extrovertedly challenged person like myself, but somehow it works – will spend Memorial Day weekend with some guy named Michael and another guy, the Michael guy’s friend, whose name will remain unknown to her until time of departure.
“So where’d you meet this Michael,” I ask. They hadn’t met yet, not “officially,” she informs me. She had been contacted only days before by a mutual friend about whether she’d be interested in crewing on his boat for the holiday weekend. His online request for an additional set of hands to haul, rig, mess with cleats and battens, all those things crews do to help captains successfully navigate the seven seas, received only one reply -- Alexia's.
They are actually scheduled to meet up with 15 other boats, participants in a Black sailing club, to sail from Fells Point in Baltimore to Chestertown on the Eastern Shore. But basically, the gathering is an opportunity for these sailing enthusiasts to spend a couple days socializing and reconnecting (in Alexia’s case, form initial contacts), with other like minded souls, to be capped off with a picnic, the highlight of which being an “everything but the kitchen sink” grillpalooza on Memorial Day.
I’m not so much for the picnicking aspects of picnics – ants, DEET underutilization, DEET overutilization, keeping watch over perishables, keeping an eye out for small children not related to me, but seemingly invisible to their parents, athletic outdoorsy types chiding me for being more than a little content to nurse Mike’s Hard Lemonades and play Scrabble rather than excitedly chasing down softballs under a baking sun. Who needs it?
But at hearing the word grill, my mind quickly goes from “Oh, my God, my new BBF of only six months is going to end up the subject of an 48 Hours episode,” to “Yeah, they’re gonna want to do a ground chuck, 80/20, prime ground sirloin mix, then once the grills are fired up, going good, plop those babies down, four minutes on side one, two on the flip, grill marks charred, but not branded; then finish off with toppings to include, but limited to: grilled onions, mushrooms, red and green bells, oh and, banana peppers (if someone’s really on the job); then the buns, brushed liberally with a coating of olive oil and clarified butter, toasted crisp, not burnt. Yum... Now, that’s a party in the mouth worth RSVPing.”
“So,” I ask casually, no longer as preoccupied with Alexia’s imminent kidnapping and/or 48 Hours segment, “what’s going on the grill?”
“I have no idea,” she answers, “Michael’s a vegetarian.”
Just that fast, my grill fantasy goes from me smelling the aromas, hearing the sizzle, taking that first bit, to the laundry list of things I need to get done before the start of the new work week.
Frankly, I haven’t had a good burger since Oprah had her brouhaha with the cattlemen and signed off beef forever. (I’m not 100 percent certain this was actually a “true swearing off.) Not to mention Mad Cow. Between Oprah and Mad Cow, burger fantasies are all I have left. To be sure, my moo imaginings are freeing, allowing me to go there without actually having to remember the 8 USDA Grades of Beef: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner, or having to be mindful of store and lot numbers for when the next beef recall is issued.
Alexia, an avowed meat eater, is giggly at the thought of exploring the idea of learning more about vegetarianism. I say she’s giggly about the prospect of learning more about a certain aforementioned vegetarian. And well she should be I assure her, reminding her not to forget to send a “this is where I’m going…and who I’m going with… if you don’t hear from me,” email to several people before sailing off for the holiday.
I, on the other hand, will spend Memorial Day sweeping up the boatload of blackberries from my neighborhood’s overgrowth now listing over onto and dotting my back deck like tiny black grenades. This done, I will drag out and fire up old Hanna hibachi and burn me some burgers. But in keeping with my allegiance to Oprah’s vow never to eat beef again, and my own efforts not to be an odds on favorite to be felled by Mad Cow, instead of beef burgers, I will mix up a batch of my mother’s salmon burgers, a recipe she’s been crowing about (and deservedly so) forever.
· 1 1/2 pounds salmon
· 4 good size scallops
· 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
· 1/2 cup bread crumbs
· ½ tablespoon of chili powder
· ¼ cup of green peppers
· ¼ cup of red peppers
· 2 green scallions, sliced thinly
· Salt and black pepper to taste
· 2 tablespoons oil
- Cut the salmon into large chunks.
- Place a half of the salmon into food processor along with scallops; include mayo, chopped red and green peppers, scallions until smoothly blended.
- Add the set aside chopped finely chopped salmon and bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix until incorporated. Form into four patties. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
- Place oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat to medium-high, cooking burgers two to three minutes on side. Serve on toasted buns with condiments of your choice.