Grill Time: New Twists On July 4th Favorites

Download Audio

The Fourth of July is almost upon us, and for many people that means two things: fireworks and grilling. Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst may not have pointers on the pyrotechnics, but she sure knows her way around a grill. Kathy's special ingredient for burgers? Bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. She also shares recipes for a goat cheese crostada, vegetable kebabs, potato salad (with bacon or without) and corn relish:

Tomato-Zucchini-Goat Cheese Crostata

(View/print a PDF of all of the BBQ recipes)

Kathy’s Note: A crostata is a free-form rustic pie and in this savory version the buttery dough is filled with ripe tomatoes, fresh garden herbs and goat cheese. You can also add sautéed zucchini slices or virtually any other farm fresh vegetable. Make the dough a day ahead of time or refrigerate for at least 2 hours to firm it up before rolling it out. This is way easier than making a pie and every bit as good—perfect for picnics, beachside meals or BBQ's.

Serves 4 to 6

Kathy's finished crostata. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Kathy's finished crostata. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

The Pastry
2 cups flour
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 1/2 sticks butter, chilled and cut into cubes
About 1/3 cup cold water

The Crostata
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced into long strips, about 1/2-inch thick
1 small yellow summer squash, sliced into long strips, about 1/2-inch thick
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pesto, any type of pesto
4 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced, about 10 ounces
3 ounces goat cheese crumbled
Fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

In the container of a food processor, mix the flour and salt and thyme. Add the butter and pulse the dough about 15 times or until the butter is the consistency of coarse cornmeal. With the motor running add only enough cold water until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Remove and form into a ball and wrap in foil. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Sauté the onion and zucchini and summer squash slices and sprinkle with the garlic and salt and pepper. Cook 4 minutes on each side. Let cool.

Working on a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle about 15 inches across. Place on a baking sheet.

Rub the bottom of the pastry with the pesto. Arrange the squash slices in a circle with the thinnest part of the squash facing in, closest to the center. Leave a 1 to 2 inch border around the outside of the pastry with no filling. Top with the tomatoes slices, goat cheese, and basil. Drape the pastry into the center. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake on the middle shelf for around 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Vegetable Kebabs

Kathy’s Note: The idea here is to mix textures, flavors and colors on a metal skewer or wooden skewer. If using wood (bamboo) make sure to soak the stick in cold water for at least 20 minutes so they do not burn on the hot grill. You can use any type of fresh summer vegetables on this kebab. Serve with a pesto, green sauce, aioli or lemon wedges.

Serves 4

15 cherry tomatoes
15 basil leaves
3 small to medium zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices
1 lemon cut into thin slices
15 pearl baby onions, peeled or 1 red onion cut into small wedges
1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
1 yellow or green pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
8 crimini mushrooms, cut in half

The Marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt

Instructions: Divide all the ingredients up among 4 to 6 skewers, alternating colors and textures. Place a tomato next to a basil leaf next to a mushroom half next to a pepper, etc.

Make the marinade by mixing all the ingredients. Brush a small bit on the kebabs.

Preheat your grill until hot, about 400 degrees. Grill the kebabs about 10 minutes, about 5 to 6 minutes per side, brushing with the marinade as needed. Serve hot or warm.

Best Bacon Burgers

Kathy's bacon burgers are ready for the grill.  (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Kathy's bacon burgers are ready for the grill. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Kathy’s Note: Jarrod Spangler, the owner behind the new artisanal butcher shop called MEat in Kittery, Maine, grinds ground round and chuck, and fat from short ribs with his own house-smoked bacon to make a truly extraordinary burger. This is my version of his mixture. Try to find good smoked bacon, chop it up in a food processor and then and mix it into your favorite burger blend by hand. You can top the burgers with thin slices of avocado, tomato and fresh spinach leaves.

Serves 3 to 6


1 pound ground round, chuck, or sirloin, or a mixture of all three
3 ounces smoked bacon, one or two thick slice(s)


Place the bacon in a food processor and process until it is finely ground.

Place the beef in a bowl and using your hands or a spoon mix the ground bacon into the mixture lightly. Form the mixture into 6 burgers and chill.

Preheat the grill and cook the burgers about 4 to 5 minutes per side, without touching or pressing down of the mixture for medium. Flip once and serve hot on toasted English muffins.

Burger Tips:
• When forming burgers don’t press them down too densely. You want a well-mounded burger that will get well done on the outside and stay juicy and moist and medium-rare on the inside.
• Let your grill get good and hot, around 400 degrees.
• Clean off the grill once it’s hot with a barbecue brush or an old towel. Make sure it’s clean so the burgers don’t stick.
• Place burger over high heat. Let cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, depending on how well done you like and DO NOT touch the burger. Don’t prod it or press it down or do anything. After 4 or 5 minutes, carefully flip the burger over. Again, leave it all alone. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes and serve.
• A small 3.8 ounce burger (about 1/6 of a pound of meat) cooks medium-rare for minutes 4 to 5 per side over high heat.

Other than all-American ketchup and mustard here are some ideas for great ways to top your holiday burgers:
• Mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought) mixed with chopped fresh basil
• Hoisin sauce and grated fresh ginger
• Greek yogurt mixed with chopped fresh cilantro
• Pickled cucumbers and pickled red onions
• Kimchee
• Guacamole
• BBQ sauce
• Chutney
• Soy, grated ginger and scallion
• Chopped fresh chiles
• Sprouts and fresh herbs

German-Style Potato Salad

Kathy’s Note: What I like most about this recipe —other than the great, vibrant flavors—is that this version of potato salad uses no mayonnaise and will hold up to summer picnics, BBQ’s and more.

A "German-style Potato Salad" without mayonnaise. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
A "German-style Potato Salad" without mayonnaise. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Serves 4 to 6

4 ounces bacon, or 3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered, about 8 medium-sized potatoes
5 scallions, white and green part, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced chives
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped celery or celery leaves, optional

Bring large pot water to boil. Cook potatoes until tender but not falling apart, about 15 to 20 minutes. Test with a small sharp knife to make sure they are tender. Drain into a colander. While the potatoes are hot use a sharp knife to cut them into smaller 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile cook the bacon making sure to reserve the bacon fat. Chop the bacon into small pieces and reserve.

Place the drained potatoes in a serving bowl. Gently toss, while warm with the bacon fat (or olive oil) scallions, chives, vinegar, olive oil. Add the cooked chopped bacon (or you can add chopped celery) and taste for seasoning. Serve room temperature.

Grilled Corn Relish

Kathy’s Note: Serve this as a topping for burgers, sausages or as a salsa-like dip with chips and vegetables.

Makes about 2 cups

"Grilled Corn Relish" made by Kathy. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
"Grilled Corn Relish" made by Kathy. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

4 ears fresh corn
1 red pepper
1 jalapeño pepper
3 scallions
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat grill to 400 degrees. Husk the corn and brush lightly with olive oil.

Place the corn, red pepper, and jalapeño directly on the heat. Grill corn and jalapeño 4 minutes on each side, until charred. Remove and let cool slightly.

Grill pepper for 5 minutes on each side, until charred. Remove and let cool slightly.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob and place in a bowl. Core the jalapeño and remove seeds or keep for a spicier relish and chop. Core the pepper and chop and add to corn. Add the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.


This segment aired on July 2, 2014.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live