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Grill & Chill

by James O. Fraioli

By James O. Fraioli
Feature Photography by Erika Shlick

Much like boating in the Northwest, cruising along the Paraná Delta—a stunning water maze containing over one thousand tiny islands located just outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina⁠—is an experience like none other. With rivers for roads, it’s the perfect escape from the madness of the big city.

While navigating one of the many coffee-colored tributaries, I discover the main waterfront of Tigre and the buzz of the small town entices me to stop. Securing the lines to a wobbly wooden dock, I set foot for the Promenade, home to historic rowing clubs started by immigrants from England, Italy, and Spain that are still unique and vast. The neighboring restaurants, which vary in vibes from classy to laid back, draws me in further. Energy pulsates through every cobble-stoned crevice and the rich, smoky aromas of succulent meats roasting on open grills seduce me. It’s here where I realize what it means to be fully satiated

What memory lingers most—aside from the juicy steaks, perfectly charred vegetables, and wonderfully decanted Argentine wine—is the true indulgence of a delicious meal. Dining with Argentinians is all about relaxation and eating family-style. The meals are loud, yet tranquil. Argentine hospitality means wherever you are, you are welcome; you are always invited to a seat at the table. Back home in the Northwest, I emulate—as best I can—the same dining experience, starting with this beach barbecue-inspired menu. With guests gathered around the smoking meats while light conversation mingles with a playlist that includes downtempo tango, I realize summer in the Northwest is the perfect backdrop for an Argentina-themed dinner with family and friends, and with the relaxed, yet refined, recipes found here, you too can enjoy whatever beach beckons you next.

Wine Spritzer with Strawberry & Citrus

For your next summer gathering, serve this smooth and refreshing wine spritzer. A dry, crisp wine like a Torrontés is perfect and elegant because it’s light on the nose and contains enough tropical-fruit aromas to entice. Make sure to prepare the wine and fruit ahead of time so the wine has time to chill while absorbing the lush fruit flavors.  

Serves 4

6 orange slices

4 lime slices

4 strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 bottle Torrontés (or other dry, crisp) white wine

8 ounces sparkling water

Fresh basil or mint, as needed, for garnish

Add the sliced orange, lime, and strawberries to a large pitcher. Pour in the entire bottle of wine and stir to combine. Place the pitcher in the refrigerator or cooler until chilled. When ready to serve, prepare wine glasses with some ice. Add the sparkling water to the pitcher at the last moment and give it a light stir. Pour in the prepared wine glasses and garnish with fresh basil or mint.

Provoleta with Cherry Tomatoes & Fresh Herbs

Here’s a showstopping appetizer to enjoy all summer long. A thick slice of provoleta (or other similar cheese like provolone) is cooked over hot coals until browned and bubbling. It’s then topped with fresh tomato and herbs and served with a toasted baguette. I like to think of it a bit like fondu or queso fundido but not as molten and melty. Use a five-inch, round cast-iron pan because most large cheese rounds fit snuggly into this size and melt perfectly. One cast-iron portion is generally enough for two to four people, depending on how much everyone likes cheese. This dish is best served hot so have everything prepped and ready to go, then cook the cheese just before sitting down to eat.

Serves 2-4

2 tablespoons olive oil, more for oiling the pan 

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon shallot, peeled and minced

½ cup cherry tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, divided

1 (1/8-inch-thick) round of provolone (or provoleta) cheese

1 toasted baguette, sliced into rounds

Prepare a five-inch, cast-iron skillet by rubbing a small amount of olive oil to season it; set aside. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil and heat. When hot, add the garlic and shallots and sauté, stirring often, until translucent. Add the tomatoes and salt and let simmer. Once the tomatoes start to break down, add the oregano and half of the basil. Remove from the heat but keep warm. Next, place the cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the round of cheese. Cook until the cheese begins to melt and crisp on the edges. Remove from the heat and quickly transfer beneath the flame to broil. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fully melted and golden. Remove from the heat and top with the warm tomato salsa and remaining basil. Serve immediately with a toasted baguette.

Grilled Artichoke with Lemon Tarragon Aioli

Artichokes may look intimidating, but once you see how easy they are to prepare below, you’ll master how to cook this spikey vegetable. These magnificent artichokes are accompanied by a creamy aioli that gets a flavor upgrade with fresh lemon and tarragon. It’s the perfect condiment.

Serves 4

2 to 3 artichokes

Lemon wedges, as needed, for rubbing

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sea salt

Lemon Tarragon Aioli, as needed, recipe follows

Place a large steamer stockpot with water over medium-high heat. While the water is heating, trim the base and top three-quarter inches of the artichokes using scissors to snip any sharp points off the leaves. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise through the stem with a kitchen knife, leaving the choke inside for now as it is easier to remove once it is steamed. Have your lemon wedge ready to rub on the cut pieces right away to avoid any oxidation. When the water comes to a boil, place the artichoke halves in the steamer and steam for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the artichoke stem is tender. Remove the halves from the steamer and let cool slightly before removing the purple choke. Store the artichokes in the refrigerator or cooler until ready to use, or prepare your barbecue or grill to medium heat. Coat the artichokes in olive oil, season with salt, and place cut side down on the grill for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn them over and grill the backside of the chokes for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. While the backside is grilling, brush additional olive oil on the cut side and season with salt. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with Lemon Tarragon Aioli.

Lemon Tarragon Aioli

Serves 4

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1½ cups mayonnaise

3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

Place the lemon juice in a small bowl and add the minced garlic. Allow to soak for one hour. After soaking, press the lemon juice through a fine-mesh strainer/sieve and discard the garlic. Add the mayonnaise to a large bowl or wide-mouth jar and slowly add the lemon-garlic juice while blending with an immersion blender. Continue until fully combined. Store in the refrigerator and add the fresh tarragon just before serving.

Ribeye with Rosemary Chimichurri

Nothing says summer like steaks on the barbecue. For this recipe, I prefer USDA prime beef. I also like grass-finished meats. Grass-finished means the animal ate only grass or foraged for their entire lifespan, resulting in a beefier texture and flavor. Think of it like wild game, raised on what is most natural to the animal.

Serves 4

1 (32-ounce) two–inch thick bone-in ribeye

Olive oil, as needed

Kosher salt, as needed 

Rosemary chimichurri, divided, recipe follows

Coat the ribeye with olive oil and kosher salt, rubbing the salt into the meat. Use half of the rosemary chimichurri and coat and rub into the meat. Transfer the meat to a container with lid and let marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or cooler. When ready to cook, remove the meat and bring to room temperature, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare an outdoor barbecue or gas grill to high heat (450°F to 500°F). When hot, add the meat. Grill each side of the rib eye for 9 to 10 minutes, then allow it to reach an internal temperature of 130°F for medium rare. Remove the steak and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes so the juices can reabsorb, resulting in a juicer bite. To serve, thinly slice the meat perpendicular to the bone, arrange on a carving board, and serve with the Rosemary Chimichurri.

Rosemary Chimichurri

1 shallot

4 garlic cloves, peeled

3 bunches fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems removed

¼ cup fresh rosemary, stems removed

¼ cup fresh oregano, stems removed

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 lemon, zested 

1 cup olive oil, divided 

Place the shallot, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and oregano in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Remove from food processor and place in a large bowl and mix in the salt and lemon zest. Divide the herb mixture into two bowls. If you are not serving the meal right away, keep one bowl without oil and add the olive oil right before serving. For the second bowl, add the olive oil to create a paste-like texture and use this to marinate the meat.

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