One of the last times I checked in with Linda Harrell, the chef/partner at Cibo e Beve Italian Kitchen & Bar in Atlanta, we were exploring recipes for that wonderfully comforting Italian-American family tradition known as Sunday Sauce or Sunday Gravy.
Growing up in Baltimore, Harrell took her first job, at age 13, at an Italian restaurant in the city’s Little Italy. And during her tenure at Cibo e Beve she’s regularly taught classes on Italian cooking.
As it turns out, though, Harrell is big fan of grilling, and as a Big Green Egg convert, she’s offering a tailgating class this month that features grilled beef, chicken and veggie skewers seasoned with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors.
Besides being easy to prepare ahead of time and quick to grill, the skewers can be paired with a stack of pita bread and store-bought hummus, tabbouleh and olives to make a total tailgate meal with a twist.
“I try to do a class the last Saturday of every month, and I just thought with tailgating season coming up this would good time to do that,” Harrell says. “I love grilling at home in the summer, and it’s really funny, I’ve discovered my dogs are big fans of grilled meat now.”
Most of Harrell’s tailgate recipes offer an interesting alternative to the usual barbecue ribs and pulled pork with slaw and baked beans. But she does enjoy making smoked wings, which she likes to serve with a Carolina-style barbecue sauce from a recipe passed down through the family of Taylor Jones, the sous chef at Cibo e Beve.
One of Harrell’s favorite grilling seasonings is an aromatic Italian salt mixture compounded with garlic cloves and fresh herbs such as rosemary and sage.
“It’s really awesome on grilled meats,” Harrell says. “But you can use it on any protein, really. I’m doing a version of spiedini, where I take skirt steak, pound it and roll it out, and then cut it so it’s almost like pinwheels. You put each pinwheel on a skewer with the aromatic salt and grill it, and it’s so delicious.
“It’s sort of an Italian version of a kabob. But I like it to be more straightforward than some of the versions that are made with bread crumbs and other seasonings. I really want the flavor of the meat to come through, and you could absolutely do it with chicken or lamb, too.”
Harrell is a longtime devotee of nearby Pita Grille. “It’s an Israeli spot with great shawarma,” she says, and that shows up in her “shawarma” marinated veggie skewers.
“It’s pretty obvious what the idea behind that one is,” Harrell says. “It gives the vegetarians something, and it’s nice to show that you don’t have to be a meat-eater to enjoy tailgating.”
Meat or veggies, when it come to tailgating Harrell does have one big admission.
“I’m not really a big football fan,” she says. “But I am a big soccer fan, and I have season tickets for Atlanta United, so I’m really loooking forward to seeing them in the new stadium.”
These quick and easy recipes from Linda Harrell, executive chef/partner at Cibo e Beve Italian Kitchen & Bar in Atlanta, offer a different take on traditional tailgating with grilled meat and veggie skewers seasoned with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. For a complete tailgate party, serve the skewers with pita bread and sides such as hummus, tabouli and olives.
This Italian-style aromatic salt is great way to season any kind of grilled meat. Harrell uses it to add flavor to her rolled and skewered skirt steak spiedini. But it could easy serve as an enhancer for chicken or veggies, too.
Skirt Steak Spiedini
This grilling-friendly version of the Italian-American favorite uses skirt steak that’s pounded thin, rolled in pinwheels, and simply flavored with aromatic salt, extra garlic and olive oil. You can easily substitute pounded chicken breasts or thighs.
Spicy Veggie “Shawarma”
This aromatic marinated vegetable version of traditional meat shawarma is spiced-up with Harissa chile paste, and can be served as a side or wrapped in pita with tahini and other toppings. The marinade is great for skewered and grilled lamb or chicken shawarma, too.
Taylor Jones’ Carolina BBQ Sauce
This tangy Carolina-style barbecue sauce from a recipe passed down through the family of Cibo e Beve sous chef Taylor Jones is perfect with smoked wings or pork.
Cibo e Beve Tailgate Cooking Class. $60. 1-3 p.m. Aug. 26, featuring garlic steak spiedini, spicy Harissa marinated chicken spiedini, veggie “shawarma” skewers, smoked and grilled wings, plus white, Carolina and Kansas City BBQ sauce. Tickets by phone at 404-250-8988 or online at culinarylocal.com/event/tailgate-cooking-class.