HOT TIMES AHEAD Backyard BBQ saves cook time

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

THIS MEMORIAL Day barbecue has been designed to get you out of the kitchen and into the sun as fast as possible. All recipes can be at least partially prepared up to 24 hours in advance. This means less work for busy cooks.

Our feast, for six to eight hungry people, includes barbecue staples such as grilled chicken and potato salad. The chicken can be marinated in spicy-sweet maple barbecue sauce for up to 24 hours. Skewered potato salad and dressing can also be prepared the day before.

The two salads, herbed mozzarella with peppers and summer tortellini salad and dressing, can be made ahead of time. Don't add the dressing to the tortellini till the last minute, however.

The cheese pie, sliced thin, makes a perfect appetizer and a nice alternative to cheese and crackers. This can be made up to two days in advance.

Finally, end the feast with a warm-weather fondue. The rich chocolate sauce is warmed over the dying embers and served with fresh fruit and pound cake. Give your guests long skewers or long forks for dipping.

Here are some additional grilling suggestions:

* Always start with a clean grill. Place grill rack over hot coals, heat for about five minutes and brush with a stiff wire brush to loosen any charred bits.

* Brush the grill rack with vegetable or other oil before using. This keeps the food from sticking and tearing and also reduces clean-up. The grill can also be coated with a vegetable spray such as PAM. Be sure the grill rack is cold and never spray near an open fire.

Maple Barbecued Chicken

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne

1 3-pound chicken cut-up

In small saucepan, combine all ingredients but chicken. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened about ten minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Rinse chicken with cold water and pat dry. Arrange pieces in a glass baking dish and pour sauce over chicken, turn pieces to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate two to three hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours refrigerated.

Prepare a hot fire. Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side down on an oiled grill set about six-inches from coals, reserve marinade. Grill until skin is browned on bottom, ten to 15 minutes. Turn pieces over and grill for another ten to 15 minutes, checking occasionally for flare-ups. Brush with barbecue sauce and continue to grill, turning and basting frequently with sauce until chicken is cooked through with no trace of pink near bone, about 15 minutes longer. Total cooking time for chicken is 35 to 45 minutes.

Serves four; double recipe to serve eight.

-- "365 Great Barbecue and Grilling Recipes" by Lonnie Gandara; Harper and Row Publishers -- 1990.

Grilled Potato Salad

2 pounds small red or white new potatoes, cut in half if larger than two inches in diameter

2 peppers, red or green, cut into 2-inch chunks

Finely chopped parsley, optional

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 scallions, minced

Prepare a medium hot fire. In a medium bowl, toss potatoes and pepper with two tablespoons olive oil and the parsley. Thread on skewers and place on an oiled grill four to six inches above from coals. Cook, turning and moving occasionally until potatoes are lightly browned and and just tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove potatoes from skewers and set aside. In small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, except scallions, gradually whisking in remaining olive oil until well blended. Pour dressing over potatoes, add scallions and toss.

Dressing and skewers can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance

-- Adapted from "365 Great Barbecue and Grilling Recipes"

Herbed Mozzarella with Peppers

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 large bell peppers (red, green or yellow) cut into 1/4 -inch strips

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh, cut into 1/2 -inch dice

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons drained capers

In large nonreactive skillet or flameproof casserole, cook garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat until fragrant and softened but not browned, about three minutes. Add bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until softened but still brightly colored, three to four minutes.

Add vinegar, cover and cook for three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients. Toss to mix well. Serve at room temperature. Make up to one day ahead.

-- Adapted from "365 Great Barbecue and Grilling Recipes"

Summer Tortellini Salad

3/4 pound tortellini, available in the dairy case, cooked according to package directions

1/2 pound cooked fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds

1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved if large

Creamy vinaigrette, recipe follows, or salad dressing of choice such as a good quality oil and vinegar or Italian dressing.

Gently toss all ingredients together and serve at room temperature or chilled. Can be made up to one day ahead of time; however do not mix salad with dressing until right before serving.

Creamy Vinaigrette

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 large garlic cloves , crushed

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a jar with a lid mix all ingredients together and shake until blended. After use, store any remaning vinaigrette in refrigerator for up to five days.

Cheese Pie

Crust:

1 1/2 cups finely crushed cracker crumbs (such as soda or oyster crackers)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound Vidalia or yellow onions, peeled and sliced one-quarter inch thick

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 16-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese

3 eggs, beaten until frothy

Topping:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 cup fresh bread crumbs, (about 2 slices finely chopped)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the crust; place the crushed crackers and sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour over the melted butter and toss the mixture to moisten the crumbs. Scatter the mixture in the bottom of a nine-inch springform pan and pack down until a solid layer of crust has been formed. Bake for about six minutes, or until set and just beginning to color. Cool.

To make the filling and topping: place the peanut oil in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions, cover and cook gently 20 to 30 minutes. Stir often so none of the onions burn and remove from the heat when they are tender and golden.

Meanwhile, lower the oven to 325 degrees. Cream four tablespoons of butter and then beat in the ricotta cheese. Gradually stir in the thoroughly beaten eggs and set aside.

In another bowl, cream one tablespoon of butter and mix in the bread crumbs and parsley. The crumbs should be slightly moist.

Spread the cooked onions over the crust in the springform pan. Pour the ricotta-egg mixture over this. Scatter the bread crumbs over the surface and smooth out.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until top has set. Cool and use a knife to loosen the edge of the pie from the pan before removing the ring and cutting. Slip the ring back in place for easy transportation.

--Adapted from "Picnics" by Marilyn Myers

Hot Pot Fondue

This communal dessert is perfect after a hearty barbecue.

1 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Tia Maria or Cointreau

3 cups assorted fruit, orange sections, strawberries, banana chunks, fresh or dried apricot halves, apple or peach wedges

1 cup cubed poundcake or 8 to 12 lady fingers

Use the end of an existing fire, so that heat is very low. Using a heavy saucepan or enameled bowl, combine chocolate and cream. Set on grill and cook, stirring frequently until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, five to ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur, if desired.

Use long-handled forks or long thin bamboo skewers to dip fruit and cake into chocolate. If fondue cools and thickens, return to fire for a few minutes to rewarm.

-- "365 Great Barbecue and Grilling Recipes"

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