Go Beyond the Grill: 15 Ways to Gourmet Up Your End of Summer

Quick! Squeeze in some more summer sweetness — something delicious, outdoors, and wonderful. Make the most of these warm sunny days while they last. Invite some friends over. Cook something. Whip up a batch of cocktails. But it doesn't have to be the standard barbecue with burgers and beer. Oh, no. You are anything but average.

So luxuriate in the luscious, late-summer tomatoes, corn, peaches, and herbs with a few of our sumptuous tips. Remember, sometimes it is the little things that add up to a lavish, enchanted summer evening. Go out with a bang, not a whimper.

1. Sprinkle Fleur de Sel on Your Stone Fruit Desserts

Dean & DeLuca

Peaches are so plump, ripe, and bursting with juicy sweetness at the end of summer, so why not lap up this opportunity with a summery dessert? But not a typical pie or cobbler. Make our classic Lemon Pound Cake recipe and let the cake cool for a couple hours. Then oil the grill grates and place slices of cooled pound cake on the grill. Do the same with halved peaches flesh side down, and then once you've plated this dessert, drizzle some salted caramel all over. Make our Salted Caramel Sauce recipe, but improve upon it by topping it off with a nice flaky sea salt like a fleur de sel variety. Try this Dean & DeLuca Fleur de Sel.


2. Infuse Gold Into Your Food


Until you can whip up a glittering salad dressing with this white balsamic vinegar featuring 23-carat gold petals, a Leonardi product available in November, you'll have to look for other ways to get more gold into your culinary art. Dessert is the easiest way to find a use for edible gold dust, which alights the frosting in our Champagne Cupcakes recipe. With vanilla custard inside these effervescent beauties and softly whipped cream on top, you'll feel the golden warmth of the sun inside and out as summer wanes. Try this Lustre Dust in Egyptian Gold.


3. Dress Up Your Corn on the Cob


There's nothing like fresh, late-summer corn on the cob. Nothing, unless you dress it up with some spicy, peppery, creamy tang. If you try our Mexican Grilled Corn on the Cob recipe, you'll be painting those golden nugs with spicy mayo, lime juice, cayenne, and cotija cheese. To go all-out, use Lillie's Q Ivory Sauce, a spicy mayonnaise-based, Alabama-style barbecue sauce with apple cider vinegar and pepper.


4. Drizzle a High-End Olive Oil Over Vanilla Ice Cream


There are a number of surprisingly wonderful toppings for ice cream, and olive oil is one of those unexpected additions. But you've got to use a really good quality, organic, extra-virgin finishing olive oil, like Biolea Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is a lighter Greek olive oil with a hint of sweetness and a touch of pepper. And even better, don't buy ice cream. Make our Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe.


5. Up Your BLT Game

Dean & DeLuca

Make a BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato) sandwich so beyond the typical by using summer's fresh, local tomatoes — organic and heirloom if you can — the highest-quality bacon, butter/Bibb lettuce instead of iceberg, and slathering on the best, craziest mayonnaise you can get. Start with our Classic BLT Sandwich recipe, but we suggest making your own aioli, or trying this Empire Black Garlic Mayonnaise. By fermenting whole bulbs of garlic at high temperature, the makers discovered a glossy, black clove full of sweet and syrupy flavor with hints of balsamic vinegar. It's some rich, creamy, garlicky goodness.


6. Brush Grilled Figs with a Honey-Orange Blossom Water Mixture


Grilled figs, orange blossom honey, and toasted pistachios make this Middle Eastern–inspired ice cream sundae a cool way to end a kebab meal on a hot summer night. Get our Grilled Fig and Orange Blossom Sundaes recipe, and try this Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water, which uses water-distilled orange blossom extracts for adding a sweet perfume and delicate flavor to this summer dessert.


7. Make Tea Sandwiches with the Finest Salmon

Dean & DeLuca

Yes, you can use smoked salmon with cream cheese and herbs on great bagels, but make use of the beets and fresh herbs available now and make our Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches recipe, using the finest quality smoked salmon. Daniel Boulud Kitchens produces this rich, flavorful, and delicate fruitwood-smoked Atlantic salmon.


8. Add Truffle Oil Any Way You Can

Dean & DeLuca

The epitome of umami, truffle oil equals luxury. Use an earthy, robust white or black truffle oil in your mashed potatoes, pasta with shaved cheese, deviled eggs, or in our Roasted Cod with White Beans, Tomato, and Truffle Oil recipe, which comes from Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin. You can start your truffle journey with this Selezione Tartufi white truffle oil from Italy.


9. Infuse Your Drinks with Shrubs


In mixed drinks, shrubs are not those plants in your front yard, but rather fruit preserved in vinegar, typically added to water or alcohol. Made with fresh ginger root and apple cider vinegar, this Ginger Fruit Shrub makes a snappy ginger "beer" when mixed with sparkling soda water. It can also be added to iced tea, or try it with dark rum for a piquant Dark & Stormy cocktail. Keep your cocktail top-shelf by using only Gosling’s Black Seal rum and do a summertime version using our Slushy Dark 'n' Stormy recipe.


10. Make a Marinade or BBQ Sauce with Muscovado Sugar


Don't use standard brown sugar in your cookies, marinades, and barbecue sauces. Most commercial brown sugars are just refined white sugars with molasses added back into it. Muscovado sugar is a minimally refined cane sugar that's made by pressing the sugarcane to release the juice and then cooking it slightly before allowing it to dry so that it retains much of the flavor of the cane. It can have a very high molasses content so it has a fine, moist texture and a strong, lingering flavor that goes well with other rich flavors. It's great in cookies, chocolate, and in savory dishes like barbecue sauces and marinades. Use this sugar for extra molasses-depth in our Balsamic Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Pepper Relish recipe. Try this dark Muscovado sugar from Mauritius, which has earned good reviews.


11. Serve Honey Comb with Your Cheese Platter

Dean & DeLuca

We know jam and honey go well with cheese and crackers. But honeycomb is a dramatic flourish that doesn't just look cool. It has a pleasing chewy texture. These new acacia honeycombs are beautiful and one of the most sought-after honey varieties in the world. Coming from Hungary, acacia honey is well-loved for its nearly water-white gold color, mild taste, the incredible clarity, and the slow rate of crystallization. Try this Savannah Bee Acacia Honey Comb.


12. Add Flowers and Melons to Your Big-Batch Summer Drinks


Be sure to use the fresh melons while we have them in any way you can. Watermelon, when blended up, is so refreshing with its hydrating, light sweetness and pretty pale-pink color. Increase the wow factor when you make our Watermelon Lemonade recipe by adding this Hibiscus and Watermelon Superflower Herbal Tea by Republic of Tea. Whether or not you spike it with vodka, well, that's up to you.


13. Go Wild with Snacks


Candied ginger is nice and all, but what about candied bacon?! That's some finger food your late-summer guests will be talking about for awhile. To make our Bacon Candy recipe even better, get a special maple syrup, like this 100-percent natural, vanilla-infused maple syrup,  which has a whole vanilla bean in the bottle.


14. Fancy Ketchup


Many of us turn our noses at the notion of sugar-filled ketchup, especially when squirted over a quality hot dog or sausage. But if you gotta have your tangy tomato condiment, try this Roasted Onion Ketchup, which has premium tomatoes, sweet roasted onions, vinegar, sugar, spices, and not one drop of high-fructose corn syrup. It will elevate the class of your late-summer barbecue. We'd rather see it as a dip for our French Fries recipe.


15. High-End Iced Tea


Plain black iced tea? Nah. Even fresh lemon isn't enough to make it special. If you were smart enough to plant some mint a couple months ago, you should have more than enough by late summer to make use of it by mixing it in our Mint and Lime Iced Tea recipe. But use a high-quality, loose-leaf green tea, such as this 4-ounce tin of Japanese Green Tea, which has a vegetal and mellow aroma appreciated by tea aficionados around the world. This spring tea is hand-harvested in late April.


Amy Sowder is a New York City-based food and fitness writer who's also on Chowhound's editorial staff. She loves gooey things, especially cheesy toasties and puns. Ice cream is a strong motivation for her running habit. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.

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