Chef Johanna Ware’s bastion of “inauthentic” Asian cuisine, Wares (formerly NE Fremont's Smallwares), heats up our soirée with prickly Sichuan peppercorn–laced pork and sweet pineapple skewers drizzled in a verdant, fiery serrano chile sauce. Keep reading for Wares' twist on grilled summer squash, and a few hot-weather drink surprises, including a fizzy gin cooler bursting with the heady, lemony tang of kaffir lime and sweet-and-sour vinegared blackberries.
Sichuan Sausage & Pineapple Skewers
- 2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
- 3 lbs ground pork
- 12 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp minced ginger
- 6 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp chile flake
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ cup sliced scallions
- 2 whole pineapples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
- 22 10-inch skewers, soaked in water
- Neutral oil, such as canola, for brushing
- Mortar and pestle (or spice grinder)
- Thai basil sauce*
PREP Grind peppercorns to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Combine all ingredients except pineapple in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Form the mixture into 1-inch-wide meatballs. Assemble skewers, alternating meatballs and pineapple, using three pieces of each per skewer. Flatten meatballs slightly with your hand to secure the meat. Brush the skewers with oil.
GRILL Light a charcoal or gas grill and set over medium-high heat. Grill the skewers for about 6 minutes per side, or until the sausage is cooked all the way through, carefully turning them by securing the entire skewer across its length with tongs. Serve with Thai basil sauce.
*Thai Basil Sauce
- 2 bunches scallions, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 serrano chiles, sliced thin
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup neutral oil, such as canola
- 1½ oranges, zested and juiced
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves or regular basil, loosely packed (about 20 leaves)
Combine scallions, chiles, and garlic in a heatproof bowl and toss with salt. Heat oil over medium for 5 minutes. Pour oil into the bowl, making sure ingredients are submerged, and let cool. Pour mixture into a blender, add basil leaves, orange juice, and zest, and purée until smooth. Thai Basil Sauce will keep for two days in the refrigerator.
Grilled Summer Squash Salad
- 8 medium summer squash (like yellow crookneck or zucchini), sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
- 2 tbsp salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp shiso leaves, roughly chopped (or 1 tbsp mint and 1 tbsp cilantro)
- ½ cup toasted almonds, chopped
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- 2 big handfuls arugula or mixed salad greens
- Chile sesame dressing*
Lay squash over paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, light a charcoal or gas grill and set to high heat. In a colander, rinse salt off the squash, dry thoroughly, and toss with olive oil. Grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and let cool. Toss with the remaining ingredients and dress, to taste, with chile sesame dressing.
*Chile Sesame Dressing
(Makes about ½ cup of dressing)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin (or 1 tbsp sugar)
- 1 tsp chile flake, ground
Whisk ingredients together. Dressing will keep for a week in the refrigerator.
Kaffir Lime Gin and Blackberry Shrub Punch
- 16 oz kaffir lime gin*
- 8 oz blackberry shrub**
- 5 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 2½ oz simple syrup
- 10 oz sparkling wine
- Large punch bowl
- 10 lb bag of ice
Mix first four ingredients and pour into a punch bowl. Add enough ice to chill punch mix. Add sparkling wine to the punch bowl right before serving or let guests ladle punch mix into their own glasses and top it off with wine to taste.
*Kaffir Lime Gin
Pour 1 bottle Union gin into a clean glass jar, add 8 kaffir lime leaves (or peels from two limes, sliced—no pith), cover, and let steep overnight. Strain out leaves in the morning. Stored in a sealed jar or the original bottle, kaffir gin will last “forever,” says Ware.
Mix 1 lb blackberries and 1 lb white sugar in a bowl, cover, and let berries macerate overnight at room temperature. The next day, push the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. Add 8 oz rice wine vinegar to the berry juice and mix well. Shrub will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a month.
Thai basil and shiso leaf are available at Fubonn Supermarket. Sichuan (also called Szechuan) peppercorns are available at Fubonn or Penzey’s Spices.
Nothing is more refreshing (or economical) than a cooler full of Asian beers. We asked local aficionados for their favorites.
“I am partial to Beerlao—the national beer of Laos, brewed by a state-run brewery (LBC)—which is generally considered one of the best Southeast Asian beers. It’s a rice beer and as such has a light and crisp taste, which is really great for hot days and spicy food.” —Andy Ricker, Pok Pok
“I am among the legions that feel that Asahi Super Dry can’t be beat. A totally refreshing and delicious lager that comes in some truly epic-sized cans (which I also like!) and also comes in mini cans, which is kind of neat for entertaining.” —Gabe Rosen, Biwa