There's another name for summer and that's BBQ season! Walking through the neighborhood, weekends are now filled with the sounds of happy people and the smell of charcoal grills and barbecued food. It's part of our culture and has changed with the times from a metal plate over an open fire to modern BBQ grills using various fuels - gas, charcoal, briquettes, etc. These days there is an ever-growing awareness of the need to be environmentally conscious in whatever we do, including what we eat and how we prepare it. So today we are talking about sustainable BBQ! Sustainability in this case includes both the food that we are consuming and how we are preparing it.
To many people, a BBQ usually involves seafood and various types of meat; so what is sustainable meat? Sustainable meat is raised using traditional farming methods where the animals are allowed to roam and graze naturally and are not injected with growth hormones and or antibiotics. This results in better tasting, more nutritious meat with less environmental impact; and the animals have a much better life than they would in a factory farm. Some of the local sustainable farms serving great meat options to the Bay Area region are Marin Sun (they have a butcher shop at Rockridge Market Hall which I frequent), Belcampo Meats, Tara Firma Farms and Stemple Creek Ranch, just to name a few.
And what does sustainable seafood mean? This means finding species that aren’t being overfished or caught in nets that accidentally kill other fish; and catching what is in season. For incredibly accurate detail on what to look for at market, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List. They catalogue which fish are "best choice" and which fish "should be avoided"--they even have a phone app giving you the information at your fingertips--making shopping for fish so much easier! Some of my favorite local fish mongers are Hapuku Fish Shop inside Market Hall and of course Royal Hawaiian Seafood in San Bruno (who goes the extra mile, offering traceable fish options). A further step that makes it all better still, is if it is local so seafood or meats are at their freshest, minimizing food miles. In all cases (fish or meat), always ask your fish monger or butcher which items are sustainable and never assume everything is. This will increase awareness and may even get your local shops to start carrying more sustainable products.
You can also BBQ a wide variety of fruit and vegetables - most people being familiar with grilling vegetables - but many fruits are also delicious when barbecued. One that is trending at the moment is grilled watermelon with a glaze and plated on a salad.
Of course the same can be done with other melons which are in season such as honeydew or cantaloupe. Other popular fruits that are in season and grill well are stone fruits such as peaches, plums and apricots. Strawberries can be grilled too - just put them on a kebab with stone fruits and melons. Yum!
Grilled salads have become popular and one of my favorite summer vegetables to do this with is escarole lettuce. Just wash, slice them in half and pop them on the grill. Other seasonal veggies that grill well include asparagus and summer squash like zucchini and, while not a vegetable, halloumi cheese grills well and is a great addition to your salad.
Sustainable BBQ Equipment & Materials
One of the factors that is often overlooked is the choice of cooking method and it's environmental impact. BBQs have come a long way from a simple metal plate or grill grate over an open fire. The most common BBQ choices are either gas, wood burning, briquettes or electric. Gas, wood burning and briquette powered bbqs all produce carbon dioxide but gas produces about half that of the other options, and both wood and briquettes generally produce other toxic substances or pollutants. So if you're going to use wood or briquettes to fuel your fire, try using coconut charcoal or plain woods (often available in hickory, mesquite, apple and cherry) as they are a safer option releasing less toxicity into the atmosphere than their coal and chemical based charcoal counterparts. And whatever you do--don't use chemical accelerators! They have harmful carcinogens that affect elders, young ones and pregnant moms very harshly. A safer alternative is natural kindling like straw based lumps, wood chips or sticks. Just add a bit of crumpled news paper in a chimney starter and that will help get things going--with lots of access to oxygen.
How sustainable your electric bbq is depends on where you source your electricity - if it's from a sustainable source then you're producing zero pollution but, surprisingly, if your power is from power plants they still tend to produce power more efficiently than burning fuel directly to do the same job. The ultimate in sustainability is a solar bbq which uses reflected sunlight to cook your food directly. They are now a commercial reality - the only drawback being that you'll have to live somewhere with sufficient sunlight to do the job. Sorry Alaska!
While this is just a short look at a few major options for your bbq, there are many variations on each type. A good starting point for looking at eco friendly bbq options is Ecoble. Choose what fits best for your immediate environment, budget and family; and happy grilling!
This Issue's Recipe
Whichever seafood or meat you choose, the key to great taste is to seal in the flavors; which is where spice rubs, glazes, sauces and "smokin' hawt" marinade comes in. Spice rubs offer flavor via a topical application--where you rub the spices into the meat and let it sit overnight. E'hem, Keena's Kitchen offers a couple of awesome spice rubs that can make your BBQ experience amazing! Sauces and glazes add extra flavor for dipping or ladling directly onto the meat after most of the cooking is done. We have a few of those too! *wink* Marinades season while also locking in the moisture - just saturate the meat in a sealed container or marinating bag (for no less than 30 minutes; and no more than over night) before grilling. Here is a simple recipe that can be used with beef, chicken, duck, lamb or pork:
Simple BBQ Marinade
1/4 cup Sustainable Bourbon
1/4 cup Organic Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Organic Liquid Aminos
1 Tblsp. Finely Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Tblsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tblsp. Keena's Kitchen Cognac Garlic Mustard
2 Tblsp. Fresh Minced Garlic
3 Tblsp. Raw Organic Olive Oil
2 Tblsp. High Quality Red Wine Vinegar (Pinot Noir if available)
2 Tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Just whisk everything together, pour into your marinating vessel, sleep on it and grill away the next day!
Enjoy the Summer and all that BBQ!