IN 1979 the singer-songwriter and patron saint of island escapism, Jimmy Buffett, released a song called “Boat Drinks.” While it captures the deep-winter yearning to “go where there ain’t any snow,” the lyrics go into zero detail about just what goes into a boat drink.
We reached out to Mr. Buffett for insight. When he failed to respond, we turned to the next best source: Rob Crabtree, co-owner (though he prefers the title co-captain) of Boat Drinks, a St. Augustine, Fla., bar that opened in December 2019. (After closing during the pandemic, the bar reopened in September 2020.)
“Boat drinks are a state of mind,” Mr. Crabtree said. “Whatever you’re enjoying around the water, the pool, a boat, that’s a boat drink.”
Boat drinks are generally easy to make and easy to drink. Relatively low in alcohol, they’re “sessionable” in bartender parlance, Mr. Crabtree noted. More often than not, they’re made with rum or lightened with a bubbly mixer. Bonus points if the drink can be transported in a cooler.
“It’s something you can enjoy out in the sun,” Mr. Crabtree emphasized. “It’s not just downing Martinis or Old Fashioneds; they don’t go well with the sun and water.”
Get More From Your Grill: Recipes for Busting a Barbecue Rut
This summer, chefs are grilling audaciously, putting a delicious char on avocados, romaine, gnudi, even ice cream. Take their hot tips and get adventurous with what you toss on the grate, with recipes to please vegans and omnivores alike.
I HATE GOING to barbecues,” a vegetarian friend once confided as she poked at flavorless charred zucchini and bell peppers, an obvious afterthought by our host that evening. That’s why the grilled avocado made such an impression on me during a recent meal at Daniel Boulud’s Le Pavillon, recently opened in New York City. The soft green fruit possessed a perfect crisscross of brown grill marks. Adorned with einkorn and tart goji berries, the dish got a touch of spice from harissa and an additional hit of smoky flavor from charred kale. This clever combination would make a satisfying dish for most any diner, regardless of dietary habits.
Although some components of the dish demand the superior culinary savvy of Mr. Boulud, the multi-Michelin-starred chef confessed that the preparation of the centerpiece—that grilled avocado—is quite simple. “You need a ripe but firm avocado, split into four wedges,” he said. “Leave the skin on, marinate with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Quickly grill the avocado on each cut side, then remove the skin.” Voilà.
An enthusiastic omnivore, I happen to love going to barbecues and grilling season in general. But I do get tired of the same meat, fish and usual-suspect vegetables. The grilled avocado inspired me to think about what other surprising ingredients I could add to my cookout repertoire. That’s just when a Twitter thread from Canadian writer Steffani Cameron jumped out at me. “Apparently I unwittingly have sparked an uprising against the boring fluffy deli potato salad,” Ms. Cameron wrote after her own version briefly blew up a few weeks ago. First published in her 2015 e-cookbook, “Late Summer Nights,” the recipe features potatoes, radicchio, leeks, scallions, yellow onions and endive, all grilled to a char and then dressed with mayonnaise, lemon juice and mixed herbs. “The warm grilled potatoes are a sponge to soak up the lemon and mayo, making them the perfect backdrop to a revolving door of accompanying aromas and herbs,” Ms. Cameron explained when I reached out to her. “The char and the smoke just bring so much depth and character, from the caramel notes in the onions to the char on the leek.”
The grilled-salad possibilities don’t end there, according to chef Brandon Silva of Degust in Houston. “There are really no rules and boundaries anymore,” he said. “So yes, a grilled salad is a great idea.” He has developed a grilled cucumber and radicchio salad, wherein charred cucumber adds a coolness and a snappy counterpoint to wilted radicchio. (See recipe, at right.) “Radicchio can be bitter, so balancing out those flavors with grilling adds a little sweetness,” he said. A dressing of citrus yogurt, trout roe and mint provides a brisk complement. The recipe can adapt to include other sturdy salad greens, such as romaine and kale, and other cucurbits such as squash, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.
Chef Ashleigh Fleming of Blue Jay Bistro in Littleton, N.C., grills watermelon when faced with a surplus. “I’d made gazpacho with them, compressed them, used them in different approaches for salads,” she said. “That’s when I started to think that grilling them would be a good idea. Because of their sugar content, it works out well. It really amps up the sweetness.” After steeping chunks in a ginger simple syrup, she tosses them on the grill. She serves them in a simple fruit salad, on a skewer with pickled shrimp, or puréed and frozen into a popsicle (as in the recipe at right), a crafty combination of hot and cold methods producing a flavor both roasty and refreshing.
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THINK OF THIS DISH as a souvenir of a sunny holiday. “I invented it after I came back from Greece,” said chef Meherwan Irani. His final Slow Food Fast recipe features grilled cherry tomatoes, halloumi cheese and bread spiced with chaat masala. “People were over and I needed something quick,” Mr. Irani recalled. “I was trying to get rid of extra tomatoes. And I’m scrappy.”
The sliced cheese grills until it’s caramelized on the outside and softened within. It provides a salty counterpoint to the tomatoes, dressed with tart pomegranate molasses, olive oil and fresh cilantro and parsley. “It just works,” said the chef. “I like the flavor of charred tomatoes and how juicy they get.”
The grilled bread comes in handy for mopping up all those juices, and its dusting of spice adds yet more layers of flavor. “Chaat masala is a seasoning with a little green mango for tartness, a little black salt for funkiness and three or four other spices,” Mr. Irani said. For a simple recipe that’s super fast to pull together, there’s a lot going on.
To explore and search through all our recipes, check out the new WSJ Recipes page.
—Kitty Greenwald is a chef, food writer and the co-author of ‘Slow Fires’ (Clarkson Potter)