getting back to vegetables

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A fine patio dinner of fresh grilled shrimp and vegetables. I dumped a generous handful of chopped fresh marjoram into the warm salad of grilled zucchini and tomatoes with vinegar, which worked beautifully. Also, that was some really lovely radicchio.

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black and blue

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A simple dinner, just grilled steak and salad, but both parts were experiments. Jon tried a new method for the steaks, first cooking them with indirect heat until they reached 115°, then setting them over a very hot flame for a final sear, and I made an attempt at a blue cheese dressing that would go with both meat and greens.

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We had moderate success – the steak was a tad overdone, although far from inedible. It had a nice crust on it. The technique’s definitely worth revisiting, but with a little less actual flame during the final sear.

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My dressing came out pretty great, in spite of not having buttermilk on hand – I mashed a nice soft and stinky gorgonzola with a splash of milk, some mayonnaise, a clove of garlic and some white wine vinegar. The only problem was that I went totally overboard with the quantity, so after eating nearly a whole head’s worth of fresh green lettuce (and the steak) we were rather gorgonzola’d out. I’ll do this again, but make maybe half as much. Or save some for leftovers.

harissa tacos

grilled harissa shrimp

When I made that big batch of harissa a couple of weeks ago, I gave some of it away but kept a small jar for myself, even though I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. We had already planned to make grilled shrimp tacos that week (back when we were still having an unseasonable spell of beautiful weather and could reasonably eat outside), and Jon had the brilliant idea of bathing them in harissa instead of our usual lemon-garlic butter after taking them off the grill. The primary flavors in the harissa are chile pepper, cumin and caraway, so it works perfectly in a Mexican food context.

shrimp and cactus tacos

We built the tacos on flour tortillas with the grilled spicy shrimp, guacamole, sour cream, and lots of nopalitos (pickled cactus strips). It was delicious and I probably ate too much sour cream.

Rock the Casbah

the table is set

Another extremely wonderful supper club event! This time our theme was “Rock the Casbah!” which guaranteed that all of us had The Clash stuck in heads the entire previous week. And we got to eat a lot of amazing Moroccan food.

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a quick note

dinner

Things are a little frantic around here as we’re bringing home our new adopted dog this evening. Yes, the cats will be horrified. They’ll get over it (we hope). In the meantime, here’s a nice plate of summer: grilled grass-fed angus ribeye, grilled corn, and a warm potato salad with lots of parsley. What’s everyone eating in this hot weather I hear everyone’s getting except us?

smoky chicken

smoked chicken

It looks like we’re finally getting a dose of summer here this week – just in time for school to start, naturally. I’ve been meaning to post about this grill-smoked chicken we made a few weeks back, maybe I should get it up here before autumn decides to settle in. I’m not likely to make it again any time soon, not because it wasn’t fantastic, but because the chickens we’ve been cooking (from Well Fed Farms) have been enormous and this bird fed us for a really long time, and I’ve had it up to here with the taste of smoked chicken. Hopefully you don’t have that problem, though, so you should totally try this.

spatchcocked and seasonedhorseradish mayo

We got this recipe from the recent barbecue issue of Saveur: a spatchcocked, spice-rubbed chicken cooked very slowly in smoke, then shredded and served on hamburger buns with a mayonnaise-horseradish sauce. It was very rich, so I added rather a lot of chopped green onion to brighten the flavor, then served it all with sliced sauteed zucchini from my garden. The greenery definitely helped – salad would have been good, too, or bread and butter pickles like the recipe suggests. Anything to balance the smoke and mayo. Also, the homemade buns we used were a bit too substantial – this would probably be a good time to use fluffy, squishy storebought buns.

zucchini stars

Maybe by next summer I’ll be able to handle smoked chicken again. I sure hope so.

smoked chicken

pork chops

dinner

The last package of pork chops from our freezer pig, brined in sugar and salt and grilled over charcoal. Broccoli rabe from Dunbar Gardens, sauteed in lots of olive oil with sliced garlic and red chile. Soft polenta with butter and parmesan. A quiet evening and a half bottle of Shooting Star Lemberger left over from the night before. The beginning of summer.

tandoori attempt

dinner

Many years ago there was an Indian restaurant in town that really knew its way around a tandoor oven. It closed, of course, leaving us deprived of tandoori chicken and naan. I’ve started experimenting with naan recipes, but I’ve only just gotten around to trying out tandoori chicken at home. Turns out it’s a little tricky.

grilling

Various recipes (I consulted a lot) give very mixed messages. Some tell you to use a very hot oven, others to use a regular temperature oven. Others say to grill over the hottest coals you can manage, others to grill on indirect heat. My own thinking at this point is that a tandoor is rather like a pizza oven – extremely high heat, but without direct exposure to the heat source. The chicken is supposed to cook quickly but not burn. We tried grilling our chicken directly over coals and had trouble getting the meat to cook through without completely charring the outside – I think next time we’ll try a longer, slower technique.

grilling

The main thing that all the recipes had in common was the yogurt-and garam masala-based marinade (made with yogurt drained of some of its whey), rubbed into de-skinned and heavily slashed chicken pieces. I used a marinade from Sanjeev Kapoor’s new book How to Cook Indian, and while it was tasty it seemed far too mild, hardly flavoring the meat at all. In future attempts I will probably get it marinating further ahead of time and add quite a bit more salt.

tandoori chicken

Despite all the difficulties, it made a great dinner, and some really fantastic chicken sandwiches for several days afterwards. More experimentation is certainly called for – anyone else had good luck doing tandoori at home?

kalbi

kalbi

Despite the neverending rain, the lure of the grill has been strong. When we ordered our cow last week, we tried to pick up some steaks to grill for dinner – but the farm is out of steak until the next slaughter. We grabbed the last two packages of thin-cut beef ribs instead, and decided to try making kalbi – Korean-style marinated and grilled beef.

We’ve had lots of versions of kalbi, but hadn’t tried it ourselves yet – the important thing is having the meat thin enough that it fully absorbs the marinade and cooks very quickly. The recipes in our Korean cookbooks used malt syrup for the marinade, which we are temporarily out of, so we pulled a recipe out of our go-to meat cookbook . It worked splendidly, making a sweet, pungent sauce that enhanced the savoriness of the beef.

erupting kim chee

This was also a great opportunity to eat kim chee, something we’ve gotten wildly fond of in the past year. I’ve been meaning to try making my own, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, we tried a jar of Island Spring kim chee from Vashon Island (a much more local product than I was expecting to find). Following the warning on the label, I opened it in the sink – a very good thing, as the active fermentation in the jar meant that the contents nearly leaped out at me when the lid came off. I set the whole thing in a soup bowl and watched as the top layer of cabbage seethed and bubbled. The taste turned out to be quite mild and pleasantly sour – I would definitely buy this again. But I’m also gonna make my own, for sure.

grilling scallions

Grilled scallions were suggested as an accompaniment in the marinade recipe. I love love love grilled scallions, especially with Mexican food – there used to be a local taco wagon that served them – but I hardly ever remember to make them. They are really good – sweet, with a little char. We also cooked up a huge pile of collard greens from the farmer’s market, which made a nice foil for the strong salty flavors of the meat and onions.

Oh, and as usual, the weather was too crappy to eat outside, but thankfully not quite wet enough to stop us from grilling. I am really looking forward to some better weather. Really.

Kalbi (Korean grilled beef)

Adapated from The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 lbs thin cut ribs or steak
  • 1 bunch green onions

Combine the soy, sugar, ketchup, garlic, vinegar, oil and red pepper in a zip lock bag. Put in the meat and marinate for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight in the fridge. Flip the bag occasionally to make sure everything’s getting coated.

Get the meat out of the fridge about an hour before cooking, to let it warm up. Remove the meat from the bag, leaving as much marinade behind as possible, and grill over medium-hot coals until brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Do not overcook!

Dump the whole scallions into the remaining marinade in the bag, then lay them on the grill and cook until soft. Serve with the ribs, along with rice and kim chee.

grilling scallions

year's first grill

grilling in the rain

The weather has been abysmal here for the last couple of weeks, not that this is unusual for Western Washington in springtime. There have been a few sunbreaks, where it actually gets brilliant and warm and you can feel the grass growing under your feet…but then it clouds over, plummets back down to 48° and starts raining again. Despite this, we decided we just couldn’t wait any longer to get started on grilling season (it’s spring, dammit!) so last week Jon went out in raincoat, hat and gloves and cleaned the rust off the grill.

grilling in the rain

I had gotten a pack of lamb chops out of the freezer several days before, and started tabouli that morning, so we were committed to this particular dinner. We could have pan-seared the chops, but it wouldn’t have been the same – lamb is really at its best when grilled. I also picked up a bunch of not-very-local asparagus and I sorely wanted them grilled instead of roasted. We had hoped the rain would ease off, but nope! Fortunately our grill is under the deck, so although it’s drippy under there it’s not torrential. And both the chops and the asparagus cooked quickly. It was not a lovely evening for sitting in the garden, but the food all had that wonderful smoky edge to it. We brought it all inside, opened some wine, closed our eyes and pretended it was summer.

rain on the grill