Thursday, April 14, 2016


Spring is here!  And with Spring, comes nice weather.  With nice weather, comes spending more time outside.  And with spending more time outside, comes that unmistakable scent in the air that you can smell coming from backyards and balconies of apartment buildings.  The scent of barbecue season!

Ingredients for Chef Nairby's Cheesy Vegetable Medley

That smell, of course, comes from the meats being fired on the grill.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks, chicken, pork, ribs and so on.  But one mainstay of the typical barbecue that is often overlooked when we think of that time of the year are the salads.

When I was growing up, every barbecue had three 'default' salads: coleslaw, macaroni salad and potato salad.  Almost always bought from a grocery store.  But sometimes you would have someone who would also make a great big batch of something homemade.  Usually a tuna and macaroni salad.

Cheese Sauce!

While I liked and grabbed a portion of the grocery store default salads, I would always favor the homemade batch.  Homemade salads for the barbecue have always had their own unique flavor to them, and because there was always a lot more available compared to the store-bought salads, I would always eat more of the homemade stuff.  But as good as the homemade salad tasted, it never seemed to measure up in flavor when compared to the salads from the grocery store.  And the reason is simple.

For lack of a better term, people half-assed their homemade salad.  In the case of the barbecues I always went to, the homemade salad was always tuna macaroni.  And it was always the same.  A bunch of eggshell macaroni mixed with tuna, mayonnaise and onions.

Love the colors!

I can't help but think that the reason people did the minimum with their homemade salads was because they figured that they were more of a garnish for the protein than anything else.  Like the parsley on a plate that is only added to give a dish some color.

Cheese sauce added.  One more step to go before oven-ing!
Top with more cheese!  Who doesn't love cheese!

Out of the oven!!!

I say screw that!  If you are going to make a homemade salad to bring to a barbecue, why not give the protein some competition?  When you think about it, the flavor of the protein at a barbecue depends on what it is marinated with, and because of that, a lot of the proteins taste the same every time and every year.  If you really want to make a memory, try having everybody at the barbecue wondering who made the salad, wanting the recipe and excited for the next Spring and Summer get together because maybe your memorable homemade salad will be there!  And making a great and memorable salad for a barbecue is not hard to do.  You just need to think outside the eggshell macaroni, tuna, onions and mayonnaise box.

Chef Nairby's Cheesy Vegetable Medley!


This vegetable medley is packed with flavor, creamy cheese and awesomeness!


-4 Avocados, separated (3 for the cheese sauce, 1 chopped for the medley.  (Soft, but not too soft.  We’re going to mash the ones for the cheese sauce up nicely!)
-1 TBSP butter
-300g Goat cheese, separated (3/4 for cheese sauce, the rest for topping and baking)
-1 cup milk
-2 TBSP plain yogurt
-4 Zucchini, chopped into bite sized pieces
-2 cups sliced mushrooms
-1 pint (about 2 cups) grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
-450g grated cheddar, separated (half for the cheese sauce, half for topping and baking)
-1 19oz (540ml) can of dark red kidney beans, drained
-1-2 TBSP fresh chopped dill
-Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Using an electric hand mixer or food processor, mash up the avocado until fluffy like mashed potatoes.

3. On low to medium heat, melt butter in a medium-to-large sized pot or sauce pan.  Add milk when melted.  Stir until combined.

4. Raise heat to medium.  Add ¾ of the goat cheese.  Stir gently until combined and creamy.

5. Add half of the grated cheddar cheese.  Continue stirring until combined.

6. Add the mashed avocado, yogurt and chopped dill.  Continue stirring until combined.

7. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, chopped avocado, kidney beans, salt and pepper until nicely mixed.  Add the cheese sauce and stir gently until all nicely combined.  Empty into a deep baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

8. Top with other half of grated cheddar and remaining ¼ of goat cheese, broken up into chunks and scattered.

9. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, empty into a large pot or bowl, mix and serve.  Can be served warm or cold!

Chef Nairby

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