Califonia Bountiful

Beyond the basics

July/Aug. 2011 California Country magazine

Here's what it takes to serve a crowd-pleasing barbecue.

Bonnie Loftus

There's no denying that hamburgers and hot dogs are longtime barbecue favorites, "but these days, we are lucky," said San Luis Obsipo County caterer Bonnie Loftus. "Because of the Internet and cooking shows, we have access to a lot of great recipes."

Her advice: Gather up plenty of fresh, local ingredients and think outside the box, especially when it comes to side dishes.

Bonnie often makes a quinoa salad, in which the tiny, bead-shaped grains—originating in South America—are enhanced with California ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, corn and green onions. She remembers first sampling this salad at a Western event.

"I was surprised how many men were hesitant, asking, 'What is this?'—only to see them rushing back for seconds after mustering the courage to try something new."

Comforting dishes like Bonnie's fiesta corn bake offer a warm, creamy substitute to the traditional potato salad and her Szechwan noodle salad is a favorite among guests who like a little spice. Candied California walnuts and fresh raspberries accent green salads, while other produce items, such as artichokes, are grilled.

Then there's the meat. Traditional rubs for steaks stay simple, but flank steak, which can be drier, gets soaked in a marinade and accented with salsa. And for dessert: strawberry shortcake with California-grown berries and fresh whipped cream.


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