I am loath to admit this, but when something went on the grill or smoker with a specific intent (say, a link of sausage), I’d eat leftovers of that thing as that thing (a link of sausage). So, let’s say I had a barbecue for 12 people and, because there was so much other food, I had six links left over. I would be eating sausage links, as is, for a week.
Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that a thing could be something else. Soon, I became the Steve Jobs of barbecue reinvention, taking one basic product and tricking it out.
A single link’s worth of smoked sausage is now added to black beans, sauteed onion, garlic, tomatoes and hot peppers for a Southwestern chili, or sliced with tasso and chicken into jambalaya. Grilled zucchini is combined with grilled corn kernels scraped from the cob for a new version of succotash. Grilled cantaloupe, originally served with ice cream for dessert, is blended into a cold soup.
As a result, at grill time I purposefully put on more ingredients than I intend to use. That way, I can play around for days after. I almost never have a preconceived idea of what I am going to do with that extra smoked cauliflower or pork chop.
That’s the point.
The freewheeling approach allows me to return to a world liberated from precise measuring. It lets me do what a lot of home cooks like to do: experiment.
Any time you use a grill is a good time to throw on something that you might not immediately eat, but this month is particularly timely because all that great summer produce is on the wane. Smoking extends its life and creates versatility for future dishes.
One of my favorite stratagems is using smoked pork for tacos. Eschew the barbecue sauce and hamburger bun, and think salsa and tortilla instead. Use whatever you have around that seems as if it would go well with pork. I have made it with a Hatch chili salsa, but for something more exotic I like a grilled orange salsa. Citrus and pork make a great combination. With shredded red cabbage, the taco makes for an easy weekday meal.