Stepping Out

Delightful summertime cuisine

Host a late summertime bash

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As the season begins to wind down, cool off with family and friends at a get-together around the deck and pool. Before the back-to-school rush, get everyone together for some easy-going dining and conversation that centers around the grill.

When it comes to entertaining outdoors, easy yet flavorful dishes that spotlight the season’s bounty are tasty, nutritious and can keep prep time to a minimum. Plus, they’re sure to please guests’ palates — including those pickier members of your family.

From casual to elegant in a snap

When preparing for your gathering, think about the overall flavors of your meal and look for recipes that incorporate similar ingredients.

If you’re going for a Southwestern theme, look for dishes that call for fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro. For a Mediterranean or Italian meal, try recipes with onions, garlic and parsley. No matter the occasion, opt for simple, flavorful and quality ingredients to add some extra panache to your favorite dishes.

For an elegant yet casual dinner party, think fish instead of meat for a change of pace. Or do both for your own version of surf and turf. So fire up the grill and add some zest to your guest’s palates with these tips to take your cuisine to the next level.

The five-minute marinade

If you want flavorful meat, but don’t have time to wait for a marinade to do its magic, try this technique. In a resealable plastic bag, combine your protein and marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Massage the meat for five minutes, turning the bag over often so the meat absorbs most of the marinade. Remove the meat and discard any remaining marinade.

Pep up produce

Hearty slabs of meat may be the heroes of the grill, but fruit and veggies have a rightful place on those smoky grates. Produce takes on an entirely different flavor when grilled.

Grill a whole fish

Grilling a whole fish may seem intimidating, but it can be done in a few simple steps. Start by patting the fish dry. Score the sides and brush liberally with oil. Then add seasonings or a rub, and stuff the cavity with citrus slices before grilling.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Corn Salad

1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 4-inch pieces

1/3 cup Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 large garlic clove, crushed

In a large bowl, combine chipotle pepper sauce, cumin and garlic; add skirt steaks. Toss to mix well; cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat grill to high. Grill skirt steak about 5 minutes, or until of desired doneness, turning once. To serve, plate steak with corn salad.

Corn Salad

4 ears corn on the cob, shucked

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 small red onion, diced

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

To prepare corn salad: Preheat grill to medium. Grill corn about 5 to 10 minutes, turning frequently, until tender-crisp. When cool enough to handle, cut corn from cob. In medium bowl, combine corn, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, basil, lime juice, olive oil, chipotle pepper sauce to taste, and salt; toss to mix well.

Cabbage Steaks With Bacon & Blue Cheese

6 slices bacon

1 package McCormick Grill Mates Smoky Applewood Marinade

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 head green cabbage, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices (about 6 steaks)

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

Cook bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Crumble bacon; set aside.

Mix marinade mix, oil, vinegar, maple syrup and reserved bacon drippings in small bowl until well blended. Place cabbage steaks in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat well.

Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor. Remove cabbage steaks from marinade. Reserve any leftover marinade.

Grill cabbage steaks over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes per side or until tender-crisp, brushing with leftover marinade. Serve cabbage steaks topped with blue cheese, crumbled bacon and green onions.