Putting the Patio to Use

So a few weeks ago we had a stone patio installed in the embarrassment that was our backyard.  You see, our backyard was a  tangle of knee-high weeds that were out of control.  We never spent ANY time of the backyard because it was just a reminder to weed.  To address this we hired an awesome contractor to take out the ugly and cracked concrete and the sad overgrown with weeds lawn and install stone pavers.  With the patio installed and our trees cut back, we went from having an overgrown backyard that was a not so secret shame to a functional dining area.  It was ready four days before my birthday open house.  And then last week, J’s parents got us a gas grill. What was already a great al fresco dining area became an AWESOME cooking area.  The grill has been AMAZING.  It heats in a flash and cooks perfectly.  The only down side is that I need to remember not to turn the gas on high because it is HOT.  Like 700 degrees hot.  I put out our round table to create some more prep space for slicing meat and preparing salads.

With J’s parents staying with us, I decided to break out the ol’ grill (that they bought us) and do a meal of grilled foods. My menu would be a grilled vegetable salad with avocado, and a fajita bar with skirt steak, chicken and grilled vegetables.

Vegetable salad
1 pound of zuchinni cut into 2 inch cubes
1 large red onion cut into 2 inch pieces
2 red bell peppers cut into 2 inch pieces
2 perfectly ripe avocados – cut into 2 inch chunks

Marinade – 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Hold about 1 or 2 teaspoons of the marinade back to coat the avocado.  Toss the vegetables in the marinade except for the avocado.  Put them on skewers and let sit at least an hour.  Grill the veggies on the grill until browned and a little charred.  Put the veggies into a bowl with the avocado and add the rest of the marinade until the avocados are fully coated with dressing.

For the fajita meat

3 large chicken breasts
1 pound of skirt steak
1 red onion sliced into big rings (cut like this) with a wooden skewer through the middle of them
3 bell peppers (anything but green) – halved and cored.

1 cup of lime juice
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup of olive oil

GRILLING TIP – to effectively grill make sure you have one side that is turned up to high and one side turned down to low.  Essentially a warm side and a hot side.  When you grill thinner things like skirt steak you only need to grill it on the hot side.  When you grill thicker things like chicken, you need to grill on the hot side for about five minutes a side and then move it over to the warm side to cook all the way through.

Hold back 1/4 cup of the marinade for the vegetables. Toss the meat in the marinade and let sit at least 24 hours.  Brush the set aside marinade on the vegetables and grill until softened and a bit charred.  (I don’t have a ton of space on my grill so I do the veggies first).  Slice the peppers into strips and wrap the veggies in foil.  If you have a upper deck on your grill put the veggies there.  Sear the chicken on the hot side of the grill about five minutes a side and the move to the warm side and let cook until it does give when you poke it with your tongs, about 10 to 15 minutes.  For the skirt steak, cook the first side for 3 minutes and the second side for 2 minutes.  Let the meat rest under foil for at least 10 minutes.  ENJOY with tortillas, chopped spring onions, salsa, and sour cream.

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