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Sunday with a twist: 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.

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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 entrees, 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.

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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 crudites 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.

Veggie Sticks with Avocado-Lime Dip

PREP AND COOK TIME: 30 minutes

MAKES: About 1 cup of dip; 6 servings

NOTES: You can also serve this dip with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or cherry tomatoes.
1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed
 1 firm-ripe avocado (10 oz.), pitted and peeled
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
 2 tablespoons lime juice
 1 tablespoon loose-packed fresh mint leaves, rinsed (optional)
 1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick sticks


1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 quart water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until tender to bite, 3 to 6 minutes. Drain and immerse immediately in ice water until cool, about 2 minutes; drain again.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine avocado, yogurt, lime juice, mint (if using), garlic, and salt; whirl until very smooth.

3. Spoon dip into a bowl and serve with green beans and jicama sticks.

Per serving: 92 cal., 54% (50 cal.) from fat; 2.7 g protein; 5.5 g fat (0.9 g sat.); 10 g carbo (3 g fiber); 184 mg sodium; 0.4 mg chol.

Spice-Rubbed Smoke-Roasted Chicken

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 1 3/4 hours

MAKES: 6 servings

NOTES: Adding wood chips to the fire gives the chicken extra flavor.
 1 cup (about 3 oz.) hickory, mesquite, or applewood chips (optional)
 12 cloves garlic, peeled
 1 tablespoon chili powder
1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
 1 tablespoons salt
 1 tablespoon fresh-ground pepper
 1 chicken (4 to 5 lb.)


1. In a medium bowl, cover wood chips (if using) in water. Let soak at least 30 minutes; drain just before using.

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2. In a food processor, combine garlic, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until mixture forms a paste.

3. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Press down on the breastbone of the chicken to flatten the bird slightly, rub the paste evenly over all the skin.

4. Prepare your grill for indirect heat (see "Full Meal on the Grill," on page 106). The temperature inside your grill should be between 350[degrees] and 400[degrees] (insert a long-stemmed thermometer through lid vent to measure temperature). If using a gas grill, place all the chips in the metal smoking box or in a foil pan directly on the heat in a corner. If using a charcoal grill, scatter half of the wood chips over the coals.

5. Place the chicken over the drip pan, breast side down. Cover barbecue with lid. If using a charcoal grill, adjust vents so that they're open halfway. Cook 40 minutes, then turn the chicken over (if using charcoal, scatter another 20 briquets over coals, along with the remaining wood chips). Cover barbecue again.

6. Continue cooking chicken until a thermometer inserted through the thickest part of breast to bone reaches 170[degrees], about 40 minutes longer. Transfer to a board or platter and let rest 10 minutes under a tent of foil. Carve to serve.

Per serving: 417 cal., 60% (252 cal.) from fat; 38 g protein; 28 g fat (6.8 g sat.), 1.8 g carbo (0.9 g fiber); 996 mg sodium, 118 mg chol.

Grilled Spicy Sweet-Potato Packs

PREP AND COOK TIME: 40 minutes

MAKES: 6 servings

NOTES: Be sure to use heavy-duty aluminum foil for your packs, as regular foil may tear on the grill. If you plan to cook the potatoes with the chicken, you may need to place a packet or two directly over the heat in order to fit everything. That's fine, as long as you rotate the packs every 10 minutes or so to prevent burning.
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled, halved
 lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
 3/4 pound red onions (about 1 large), peeled, halved, and cut into
 1/3-inch-thick wedges
 1/3 cup olive oil
 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
 2 tablespoons ketchup
 2 teaspoons chili powder
 2 teaspoons salt
 1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges


1. In a large bowl, toss sweet potato slices and onion wedges with the olive oil, thyme, ketchup, chili powder, salt, and pepper.

2. Set out six 12- by 14-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil (see notes) on the counter, shiny side down. Distribute the potato mixture evenly among the sheets, spooning into the center of each sheet. Fold the top edge of each foil sheet down over the potato mixture. Crimp all the edges together to create a tight seal.

3. Prepare your grill for indirect heat (see "Full Meal on the Grill," page 106). The temperature inside your grill should be between 350[degrees] and 400[degrees] (insert a long-stemmed thermometer through lid vent to measure temperature). Place packages on the grill, overlapping slightly if needed, and cover barbecue. Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced, 25 to 30 minutes. If cooking with the chicken, add to grill during the last 30 minutes of cooking (see notes).

4. Remove packages from grill. Let cool 10 minutes, then serve each packet with a wedge of lime to squirt over the vegetables.

Per serving: 224 cal., 48% (108 cal.) from fat; 2.5 g protein; 12 g fat (1.6 g sat.); 28 g carbo (3.8 g fiber); 861 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Grill-Baked Apple Crisp

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 1 1/4 hours

MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

NOTES: Use a disposable aluminum pan or a foil-wrapped metal 9- by 13-inch baking pan to bake this crisp on the grill. The recipe makes a generous amount of dessert, but we like having leftovers for breakfast. Wrap in plastic and keep overnight at room temperature.
1/2 cup (4 oz.) butter
 10 apples (about 5 lb. total), preferably a mixture of Granny Smith
 and Golden Delicious
 2 cups all-purpose flour
 1 cup sugar
 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
 2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
 2 large eggs Vanilla ice cream (optional)


1. Melt butter over low heat; set aside.

2. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Place apples in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan (see notes); spread level.

3. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Drop in eggs and mix with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly (the mixture will resemble streusel). Spread topping evenly over apples. Drizzle with melted butter.

4. Prepare your grill for indirect heat (see "Full Meal on the Grill," page 106). The temperature inside your grill should be between 350[degrees] and 400[degrees] (insert a long-stemmed thermometer through lid vent to measure temperature). Place the apple crisp on the grill (not directly over the coals or burners). Cover barbecue.

5. Cook until the topping is browned and the apples are bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Per serving: 376 cal., 26% (99 cal.) from fat; 4.2 g protein; 11 g fat (6.2 g sat.); 68 g carbo (4.3 g fiber); 379 mg sodium; 67 mg chol.

Smokin' apple crisp. If you really love the flavor of smoke, you can actually smoke this apple crisp: Cover 1/3 cup applewood chips with water and soak for about 30 minutes, then drain. Just before you place the apple crisp on the grate, scatter the chips over the coals (if using a charcoal grill), or place the chips in the metal smoking box of your gas grill (or in a foil pan directly on the heat in a corner).

RECIPES BY AMY TRAVERSO

PHOTOGRAPHS BY THOMAS J. STORY

RELATED ARTICLE: 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 1 1/2 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.
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Title Annotation:FAMILY
Author:Tamony, Katie
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:1791
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