Cuban pork

dinner

Ever since we picked up our half-pig from the butcher, I’ve been wanting to make Cuban grilled pork. This urge was heightened by the pork sandwiches we bought at Paseo to take to a Zootunes concert – savory, rich, and so thoroughly sopping with dressing we went through a vast pile of napkins and still needed to pour water over each other’s hands afterwards. Given that we don’t live around the corner from Paseo, it seemed that we needed to be able to recreate the phenomenon ourselves.

on the grill

We had one pork roast in our freezer labeled “shoulder”, apparently the closest we were likely to get to the recommended Boston Butt. We thawed it out and put it in a bag with a marinade (recipe below) composed of juice, garlic, herbs, zest and oil. The next day Jon tore himself away from his garage-painting project early enough to start the grill and get the pork going. He piled hot coals on either side of a metal roasting pan, put the grates in, then positioned the pork over the pan and closed the lid. We left it more or less alone for two hours, checking occasionally that the temperature was staying between 300-325°. At one point it dropped a bit and Jon added a few more live coals. When the pork seemed sufficiently blackened and fragrant, we took it out and tented it with foil to rest.

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fish tacos & purple salsa

fish tacos

I’ve always been a big fan of fish tacos, and tend to order them any time I see them as long as they’re not deep-fried (not that I have anything against fried fish, but I prefer it outside of a taco). We recently had some fantastic halibut tacos out at Skagit’s Own Fish Market, grilled with a spicy rub and liberally dressed with tomato salsa and fresh cucumber. Then there was the taco, also halibut I think, at Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, which was topped with cabbage and tartar sauce and came with some really excellent beans and rice. At this point I really wanted to make some of my own, to keep the streak going. We picked up some nice looking ling cod and a pack of fresh tortillas and thought about topping options.

tomatillopurple tomatillo

This year I’ve been growing tomatillos for the first time. We got a couple of plants from the high school greenhouse of a variety I’d never seen before, just labeled “purple tomatillos.” With the hot weather we’ve finally been having, the plants have started bearing like crazy, and the fruits are, indeed, purple. I only had a few mature tomatillos, but decided to try whipping them up into a green (or purple) salsa to go with our fish tacos.

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mixed grill

a full grill

We’ve just barely recovered from a mightily long weekend. In between events for my 20th high school reunion, I got my first photography show hung and had a great opening day reception. I’m exhausted and am not quite sure about everything I ate over those three or four days. What I do know, however, is that my father really knows how to get full use out of his grill. I think this one meal accounted for most of the vegetables I ate over the entire weekend.

grilling

tamarind pork

threading the skewers 

Despite what the weather keeps telling us, it really is summer now, and therefore grilling season. Even if it’s raining, darn it. At least the sun came out for a few minutes while Jon was grilling these Vietnamese tamarind pork skewers – just long enough for us to eat our dinner outside, before getting cold and going back in. Yay, June.

pickled zucchini

pickled vegetables

We had gotten a pork roast out the freezer a few days ahead, but hadn’t quite decided what direction to go with it. Jon pulled out all of our meat cookbooks and finally settled on a Bruce Aidells marinade with tamarind, fish sauce and shallot. He also made the included recipe for pickled shredded zucchini, and since we had a bag of radishes and some carrots on hand, he pickled those as well. All I had to do when I got home from work was cook up some rice noodles.

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planking

on the plank

Recently, and perhaps foolishly, I accepted a challenge from a fellow blogger. Nothing to do with blogging, or even food – instead, the challenge is to hold a plank position for four straight minutes. Our deadline is September, and currently we’ve each managed a bit over two minutes. In a word? Ouch. If you’ve ever done plank exercises, I suspect you’ll feel my pain.

King salmon

A much more pleasant type of planking is the sort you do with fish. We tried this again recently, with some gorgeous king salmon from Skagit’s Own Fish Market. Planking is a traditional technique in the Northwest, but it’s hard to find fish cookbooks that even mention it, let along give detailed instructions. So we’ve been somewhat making it up as we go along.

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another great combo

chimichurri

I’m not feeling very verbose today, but I want to get this post up while I’m thinking about it. What am I thinking about? Pot beans with chimichurri. I’m not sure why I stumbled across this combination, but it was wonderful and we’ve eaten all the leftovers and now I’m going to have to make it again very soon.

vaquero beans

I used speckled Vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo, soaked in salt water, then rinsed and cooked with onions and garlic fried in bacon fat. The beans had a soft texture and nice flavor, and kept their pretty spots much better than I expected. They were good by themselves, but with a drizzle of chimichurri on top – woof! It was incredible. I ate a whole bowl of just beans and sauce for lunch yesterday, with a piece of good sourdough bread.

The chimichurri I made this time was a bit different than the one I described back in February. I used a recipe from Francis Mallmann’s amazing book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, which goes like this:

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 head garlic, broken apart and peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Continue reading

last week's grilling

building the fire

Before our current spate of wet, blustery weather descended upon us, we had some really nice days. We made the most of them by grilling.

shrimp skewers

mint julep

couscous

One day we did shrimp. Jon did them his favorite way, grilled with a bit of sugar and tossed with warm lemon-garlic butter over the coals. We had some leftover asparagus from the previous day’s cooking class, so I warmed it up and stirred it into instant couscous, which made a perfect bed for the shrimp in its buttery sauce. Mint juleps accompanied this dinner. It felt like summer.

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Saturday night grill

grilled corn

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, and I had been at work all day, so I was very happy to come home to a glass of rosé and dinner on the grill. Jon had picked up some gorgeous sweet corn from Dunbar Gardens, and there was a ribeye from an upriver Angus farm, as well as some eggplant left over from the last farmer’s market, which I decided to make into another batch of caponata.

grilling corn

Jon rubbed the corn with oil and a dry spice mix before grilling (see his recipe below). I love corn done this way, with just a little char and plenty of salt and hot pepper. He had run out of New Mexico chile powder, so he substituted a little extra cayenne and some dried chile flakes. The corn had quite a kick.

pitting olives

For the caponata, I tried something a little different. First, I used Castelvetrano olives, an unpitted green olive with a meaty texture and wonderful nutty flavor. We happened to have a few left, and I didn’t want to waste them, so I got out the Oxo cherry/olive pitter from my IFBC goodie bag. Astonishingly, it worked like a charm! A very handy little gadget.

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grilled eggplant caponata

caponata

We eat so much grilled eggplant  during the summer (thanks to the nice folks at Hedlin Family Farms) it’s a little embarrassing. Sometimes we dust it with spices first, but usually we just dress it with olive oil, salt and pepper, grill it till it poofs up and turns golden, then eat it in huge heaps with lamb kebabs or whatever else is on the grill that day. In an attempt to do something different with our weekly poundage of eggplant (plus some of the tomatoes which are beginning to take over the deck), I came up with this caponata. And we’ve made it twice in one week, so I guess it worked pretty well.

eggplant

My approach here is to get all the ingredients except the eggplant mixed together in a big bowl, so all I have to do is take a cutting board down by the grill and dice up the eggplants as they come off the heat. Then I dump them into the dressing and mix everything up together. The flavors sit and blend while we grill the next part of the meal.

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gearing up for the Fourth

dinner

‘Tis the weekend for barbecued ribs and potato salad. And it actually looks like the weather is going to be beautiful for the Fourth of July, can you believe it? Of course, the mosquitoes have been hellish this week. We’ll have to smoke them out with the grill.

warm potato salad

Or just plan on hunkering inside and eating lots of potato salad. We’ll see how it goes.

What’s on your Fourth of July menu?