Ideas for grilling, gardening, cocktails and summer reads

Master the Kafta Kebab

Meat on a stick is loved the world over. To add variety to your summer barbecues, consider kafta—skewered kebabs of ground meat and spices. For advice, we spoke to Tarek Albast, owner of the Lebanese restaurant Mr. Hummus Grill.

Select lamb and beef with 20 percent fat. Using your hands, combine ground meat with finely chopped onion and garlic. Run red bell peppers through a food processor and strain the liquid. Mix meat with red peppers, plus ample paprika, cayenne, red chile flakes, freshly chopped parsley, salt and black pepper. Make into a large ball. Form portions of kafta around flat metal skewers—not too thin and not too thick. No skewer? Kafta can be shaped into “fingers” and placed on the grill. Keep a bowl of warm water nearby to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands. Grill kebabs at 250 to 300 degrees. Albast recommends flipping four to five times until cooked for a juicy kebab. Serve with grilled onion—“a must,” he says. Looking for More Ideas? Check out the rest of our Columbus DIY Summer Guide.

Spritz Up Your Spritz

The Aperol spritz is a classic, but this upside-down era demands a new take on the effervescent cocktail—one with an edge. We challenged Jesse Hubbard, bar manager at The Westin’s Great Southern Whiskey Bar, to invent a new aperitif to make at home. Hubbard’s low-proof spritz balances smoke from Scotch with fruity, lemony notes.

The Permanent Way

1 ounce Scotch whisky (e.g. Johnnie Walker Black) 1/2 ounce Demerara-pear syrup Pinch of cardamom 1 lemongrass stalk (Using the bottom 2 inches, peel the outer layer and dice the inner layer.) 2 1/2 ounces Prosecco (e.g. Ruffino)

To make syrup, bring 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups chopped pears and 3/4 cup Demerara sugar to a simmer for 20 minutes, then allow to cool. Double strain into a resealable bottle. Combine Scotch, pear syrup, diced lemongrass and cardamom into a shaker. Gently muddle the lemongrass. Add ice and shake. Double strain over ice into a wine glass. Top with Prosecco.

Expand Your Mind

Summertime reading is usually relegated to beaches and rainy days, but this season offers ample time to dive into riveting local books. In March, Columbus poet and co-founder of the Black Nerd Problems website William Evans released “We Inherit What the Fires Left,” a beautiful but devastating collection on race, legacy and fatherhood. Looking back with apprehension on his education, he writes: “You haven’t been right since your high school teacher told you to stop showing off in class. Now, you get nauseous when your daughter aces her spelling test.”

Recent transplant Saeed Jones, also a poet, has earned widespread acclaim for his 2019 memoir, “How We Fight for Our Lives.” On the first page, he describes his childhood discovery of a James Baldwin novel: “Holding ‘Another Country’ in my hands, I felt that the book was actually holding me.” Given Jones’ powerful and moving examination of being young, queer and black, it’s easy to imagine many others embracing his book the way he gravitated to Baldwin’s.

In “The Planter of Modern Life,” released in April, Stephen Heyman shines a light on largely forgotten novelist Louis Bromfield. Born in Mansfield, Bromfield was a Pulitzer winner, but Heyman argues that his greatest contributions were as a pioneer of organic, sustainable agriculture at Malabar Farm, now an Ohio park. Amid today’s concerns about the environment and the food system, Heyman notes that Bromfield’s story suddenly feels important.

Grow a Greener Garden

Whether you’re quarantining or simply spending more time at home, hours developing a garden—or enhancing it—will serve as peaceful summer entertainment this year.

For beginners: First, consult the planting calendar in “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” for guidance about which plants thrive in Central Ohio’s summer and fall seasons. Oakland Nursery and Newark-based Wilson’s are offering curbside pickup for seedlings, soil, pots and more. Cucumbers and peppers grow well during hot weather, if seedlings are planted in early June, as do other vining vegetables such as pumpkins, squash and eggplant. For a dash of color, use sun-loving and heat-tolerant geraniums, begonias or lantana, which attract butterflies. Build drama by planting tall flowers first, fill in with shorter plants, and add a trailing vine of ground cover to flow over the edge of a pot or garden border.

For intermediate gardeners: Add some plants you’ve never considered. Grow hops, for example, and then learn how to brew your own beer. Build (and plant) a grape arbor and prepare for a wine-making venture in the future. If you want more privacy, trim your garden space with a tall border of potted tropical plants such as bamboo, banana plants or other large ferns. Enhance the garden with a firepit. Is there an electrical outlet close? If so, highlight your space by stringing Edison-style bulbs available from Crate & Barrel, Lowe's and others. Your garden will become the perfect space for entertaining your family at night—the constellation overhead is free of charge.

For master gardeners: Prepare to share. Start planning to add stone or brick pathways, fountains, ponds, pergolas or quaint gardening sheds. Perhaps sometime this season a few family members and friends can come over for a socially distant gathering, and with luck, your garden can be a hub for summertime entertainment next year.