Rarely do the summer grilling standbys — "steaks, burgers and dogs" — yield memorable meals.

Rarely do the summer grilling standbys — "steaks, burgers and dogs" — yield memorable meals.

Often more forgettable are side dishes of baked beans and coleslaw scooped from cans and plastic tubs, says cooking instructor Saudia Sharkey. The Ashland resident and longtime local restaurant cook is primed to prepare the "perfect barbecue meal" with all the fixings for an upcoming class at Ashland Food Co-op.

"It's not just grilling," she says. "I want to do things that people would not think of doing."

A spice rub that can be adapted to meat, poultry or other proteins is a highlight of Sharkey's June 5 class. Like marinating, using a rub preflavors any item to be grilled, she says.

"Even tempeh on the grill is great."

Sharkey, 62, says her all-purpose barbecue sauce enhances everything from fish to vegetables. She'll conclude the feast with grilled fruit, a flourish that backyard cooks can use to "wow their guests."

"I have so many good things I can put on a grill," says Sharkey.

And so many good things go into Sharkey's signature barbecue sauce, developed about a decade ago, when she managed the Co-op's kitchen, as an alternative to commercially prepared sauces with corn syrup and other refined sugars.

"If you use maple syrup and molasses, it's so much nicer," she says. "It's still sweet."

The recipe requires quite a few ingredients, including lemons, limes and herbs. The most exotic among them, tamarind paste, imparts sweet and tangy in one "secret" seasoning, says Sharkey. But the formula yields a lot of barbecue sauce, enough to last most of the summer if stored in the refrigerator or frozen, she adds.

Bottled barbecue sauce is just one convenience item amid the typical backyard spread, where precooked beans and preshredded coleslaw often stand in for from-scratch versions of the classic sides. A little planning is all that's needed to produce hearty, homemade baked beans — started with dry navy beans — and coleslaw with a lighter yogurt-based dressing, says Sharkey. These complement her class' main courses, as well as a bonus recipe for pulled turkey that's also delicious with chicken.

Whole birds can be cooked with great results on a cool grill, either charcoal or gas, says Sharkey, who uses both at home. For the class, she will demonstrate grilling on a portable, tabletop model.

Although she loves grilling with charcoal, says Sharkey, it's "much more hassle and less manageable." But a charcoal grill easily doubles as a smoker with some soaked hardwood chips scattered on the fire, she says.

"A whole leg of lamb slowly roasted " on the cool side of the grill," she says, is another unconventional summertime supper.

"It just adds to the marvelous evening out."

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.