BBQ outside the box: Giving a new twist to the Fourth of July cookout

  • Elyse Dostie-Slavich, cooking instructor at the Baker's Pin in Northampton, June 26, 2018.. Gazette Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Elyse Dostie-Slavich is a cooking instructor at the Baker's Pin in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Woodchips, cedar planks, and barbeque skewers that are used for grilling. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Woodchips, cedar planks, and barbeque skewers that are used for grilling. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Dostie-Slavich says using wood chips to smoke meat adds flavor to your food. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Woodchips, cedar planks, and barbeque skewers that are used for grilling. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Woodchips, cedar planks, and barbeque skewers that are used for grilling. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Chicken kebabs made by Elyse Dostie-Slavich. Contributed photo

  • Saffron Chicken Kebabs made by Baker’s Pin cooking instructor Elyse Dostie-Slavich. Contributed photo

  • A cooking class at The Baker's Pin in Northampton led by Elyse Dostie-Slavich. Contributed photo—

Published: 6/29/2018 5:47:14 PM

Ban bland barbecue and celebrate America’s diversity this Independence Day by grilling with traditionally ethnic ingredients like soy sauce, daikon greens and Sesame oil, to spice up meats and reinvent side dishes.

“The hot dog and hamburger thing, we’ve all have had it,” said Elyse Dostie-Slavich, a cooking instructor at The Baker’s Pin in Northampton. Dostie-Slavich designed and occasionally teaches a class at the cooking school titled “not your American barbecue,” which integrates Asian style cooking into more familiar summertime offerings like burgers, hot dogs and coleslaw.

When it comes to barbecue, in her experience, people expect lightly seasoned meats, and cook them to a temperature that’s safe to eat without adding much flavor. However, with a little bit of outside-the-box thinking, a few substitutions, and additional prep work, Dostie-Slavich, who worked in the local restaurant industry for about six years before becoming an instructor, says backyard grilling can produce tantalizing cuisine that’s flavorful, unique and memorable.

“If I were to just whip up something, I might do cilantro onion burgers, or my saffron chicken marinade,” she continued. “Now, instead of having plain burgers, you have something else.”

First and foremost, Dostie-Slavich says, barbecued meats should always be seasoned well.

One easy way to do that is to mix in another ingredient like cilantro, or smoke meats with wood chips to infuse a smoky and salty flavor. For charcoal grills, wood chips can be mixed in directly with the charcoal. For gas grills, she suggested purchasing a smoker box to hold the wood chips. Smoker boxes cost about $20 at The Baker’s Pin, and smoking chips, available in a variety of flavors, can be found for about $15.

“Never put something onto the grill that’s not seasoned. Add garlic. Add anything with flavor,” she said.

To that end, she recommends complementing staple pantry items like olive oil and salt with other ingredients like soy sauce and sesame oil, which has a strong flavor.

Dostie-Slavich suggests starting with a tried-and-true recipe that has a defined flavor, then tweaking a few ingredients to see how it tastes, such as using sesame oil instead of olive oil in a marinade recipe, which might drastically change a dish’s overall flavor from subtle to bold, she says.

As another example, Dostie-Slavich says she recently began using tamarind, a pod-like type of fruit that has an edible pulp, often used in Asian cooking to make sweet and sour sauces, as a substitute for brown sugar and molasses in her homemade barbecue sauce.

“Adding tamarind adds a whole sweet and sour flavor,” she said. “If you just eat it raw, it’s like a sour candy, without adding anything to it. You can buy it in a brick at a Chinese grocery store, and you can add it to create something different.”

Instead of using olive oil as a base for marinating chicken, she suggests a yogurt base, a Middle Eastern style of cooking, adding various spices like saffron for flavor.

“The yogurt is acidic. It starts cooking the chicken a little bit on the outside as it’s marinating, which seals it. When you’re grilling, it’s almost guaranteed to come out juicier, and not dry out,” Dostie-Slavich said.

Another easy way to diversify flavor is to pair foods in a unique way — use yellow rice instead of potatoes as a side or make an apple, radish and red cabbage coleslaw instead of traditional coleslaw made with vinaigrette or mayonnaise.

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to buy different things,” Dostie-Slavich said. “Don’t go for the romaine lettuce. Get some daikon greens, or things like that, such as green papaya. That can really freshen things up, and make them more interesting.”

Best case scenario, “You’ll develop a more interesting array of appetizers and entrees, and people will eat your food and say, ‘this is so interesting.’ ” And the worst case scenario?

“You’ll always learn something from it.”

How to connect

For more information on cooking classes at The Baker’s Pin, visit Dostie-Slavich noted that classes fill up quickly and early. The Baker’s Pin, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, is located at 34 Bridge St. just outside of downtown Northampton.

Apple, Radish, and Red Cabbage Slaw with Sesame Lime Dressing

4 cups diced red cabbage

1 teaspoon salt

2 green apples

1 pound bag radishes

Black and white sesame seeds for garnish


¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 thinly sliced scallions

2 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup canola oil

For the dressing:

Combine all ingredients, except for oils, in a non-reactive medium mixing bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Combine both oils in a liquid measuring cup with a spout and slowly pour into mixing bowl, whisking constantly to emulsify dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad:

In a medium mixing bowl toss cabbage with salt and set aside.

With a sharp knife, or preferably a mandolin, slice apple into ¼ inch slices. Cut each slice in half and then turn to cut apple into 1 inch to 1 ½ inch long matchsticks, then toss apple pieces with some lime juice in a non-reactive medium mixing bowl. Try to slice radishes to be about the same shape and size as the apple pieces. Stop slicing radishes when you have roughly equal amounts apple and radish pieces.

Toss apple and radish with about a ¼ cup of dressing. Cover and refrigerate.

Squeeze cabbage and place in a sieve or handheld strainer and place over bowl. Squeeze a few more times to get out excess liquid and to soften cabbage texture. Place cabbage in a wide shallow bowl and drizzle some dressing on top. Pile apple and radish mixture on top of cabbage and garnish with sesame seeds.

Chill until ready to serve. You can toss salad right before serving but keeping it separated will preserve the color of each ingredient.

Saffron Chicken Kabob (Joojeh Kabob)

2 to 4 pounds chicken tenderloins or breasts


1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (‘regular’ yogurt, do not use Greek-style)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup lime juice

1 pinch saffron threads, steeped in 2 to 3 tablespoons hot water

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. (If you do not have a food processor or blender, mince the onions as fine as possible, mash the saffron in its water with the butt of a spoon, and vigorously stir the ingredients by hand). 

Pour the marinade over the chicken in a container, stirring the chicken around to make sure all the pieces are in contact with the marinade. Using your hands is the easiest method to do this, but it may turn your fingernails yellow. Seal the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours but preferably a full 24 hour day.

To skewer the chicken, fold each end of tenderloin over, like a business letter, then put the skewer through to hold it in place. Place 3 to 5 tenderloins on each skewer, being sure to press the tenderloins together. This will both help the chicken pieces retain their juices and keep the folded shapes pressed together.

Bring a grill to high heat and cook chicken through, about five minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skewers and serve over rice, on a salad, or in a sandwich. Suggested grilled vegetable skewers include tomato, red onion slices, and corn on the cob.

Smoke Chicken Wings with Tamarind BBQ Sauce

2 pounds chicken wings, separated into drummettes and wingettes

½ to 1 cup tamarind BBQ sauce (see recipe below)


Ground black pepper

Cherry or apple wood chips

Set up grill for indirect heat, with hot coals piled to one side, or only turn on one side of a gas grill, adjusted for an air temperature of 325 to 350 degrees with the lid on,

Throw on top of the coals, or put into a metal smoker, two fistfuls of dry wood chips and place chicken wings on the opposite side of the grate from the coals. Put the lid on with the air vent over the chicken wings. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, flip the wings, put the lid back on, and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes.

Remove the lid and inspect the wings to see that they are either fully cooked or almost so. Using a brush, apply BBQ sauce to the tops of the wings, then flip wings over to the charcoal side of the grill, sauce side down. Apply BBQ sauce to the other side of the wings, then flip and do so again, repeating until each side has had sauce applied 3 times.

Keep cooking over the hot side of the grill until some char is evident on the sauce, remove, and serve. Blue cheese sauce for dipping is ideal.

Tamarind BBQ Sauce

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, put through garlic press

2 tablespoons powdered ancho

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoons allspice

8 ounces unsalted tomato sauce

½ cup tamarind concentrate

½ cup rice vinegar

½ cup honey

½ cup dijon mustard

½ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup steak sauce (Pickapeppa used in original recipe, other brands fine)

¼ cup dark molasses (be sure to avoid blackstrap molasses, it will be too bitter)

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Group the ingredients as follows: Canola oil in a saucepan, minced onion in one bowl, garlic in a second bowl, dry ingredients combined in a third bowl, wet ingredients combined in a fourth bowl.

Bring the saucepan to a medium-low heat. Add in the onion and saute until onions are translucent and tender. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the dry ingredients, and stir in and cook until those become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the wet ingredients and stir well to combine everything together. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Let cool, and bottle. Tamarind BBQ sauce should keep for months in the refrigerator.


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