Food, family, and good times around the grill

The busier life gets, the more I value the refuge of Sunday dinner. It’s just my husband, my daughters, and I around the table, touching base before the week takes us in different directions and our evening routine becomes speed eating or calling for take-out pizza.

Sunday is my day for relaxed cooking, for putting on my decades-old apron and enjoying a glass of Chardonnay while I make dinner. On Sundays I’m drawn to nostalgic entrées, like pot roast with potatoes, but since traditional fare like this runs the risk of being bland, I always add a little twist. The only other given is an irresistible aroma to lure my girls to the kitchen for conversation long before the meal is ready.

 My daughters have their favorites. In summer they like a gigantic Caesar salad, with garlicky homemade croutons and spicy prawns. Other times we’ll grill marinated tri-tip alongside mixed peppers, squash, and asparagus. One of the simple joys of September I cherish most is that feeling of holding on to summer that comes from grilling and eating out in the backyard.

If I had to pick the perfect Sunday dinner in September for my family, this one from associate Food editor Amy Traverso would do easily. It starts with beautifully simple crudités and an avocado-mint dipping sauce my daughters love. The classic roast chicken moves onto the grill, with a spice rub to give it extra kick. For a clever, casual side dish, Amy packed sweet potatoes and onions into foil packets bursting with flavor. And if you really want to show off (and get your family to stick around longer), finish the meal with Amy’s old-fashioned apple crisp ― “baked” right on the grill.


Full meal on the grill

Here’s how to cook a whole dinner on the grill (including dessert). Setting up your grill for indirect heat is the first step.

On a charcoal barbecue: Ignite about 60 briquets on the firegrate of your barbecue. Let burn until coals are dotted with ash, about 25 minutes, then push coals to one side and lay a drip pan on the other side. Set grill in place.

On a gas barbecue: Turn heat to high and close lid for at least 10 minutes. Adjust heat to medium and turn off burners as needed to create a hot and a “cool” zone for indirect cooking. Set drip pan in cool zone; set grill in place.

Time plan

• Up to 2 hours before serving, make avocado dip and vegetables.
• About 1½ hours before serving, prepare and roast chicken.
• While chicken is roasting, prepare sweet potatoes.
• About 30 minutes before chicken is done, add potatoes to grill.
• While potatoes are cooking, assemble crisp.
• When chicken comes off grill, add 20 to 30 briquets to your fire (if using a charcoal grill); give them 5 minutes to catch, uncovered.
Place apple crisp on the grill and bake as directed.