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

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snow days

7th Streetblue sky and holly

What do you do when life dumps 18″ of snow on top of you and everything comes screeching to a halt? You shovel until you can’t move, turn up the house heat, and make cocktails. At least that’s what we did. It worked very well.

snow day

Indian Feast 2008

ganesha

Back when I was a freshman in college, I took a class on the history of India. Partway through the term, our professor hosted a dinner party at her house, featuring traditional Indian foods. I volunteered to be part of the cooking team, and learned how to make chai, pop mustard seeds and fry potatoes. The rest of the class arrived later, ate a vast quantity of everything, drank chai and all fell asleep on the professor’s living room floor. I think some of us had to be carried back to our dorms.

Inspired by that experience, for a number of years now we’ve hosted an event at our house, formally dubbed the Quasi-Annual Skagit County Indian Feast & Hike (QASCIFH?) As you might expect from the name, it involves a hike followed by a lot of home cooked Indian food. We’ve found that a brisk walk in chilly weather helps work up a good appetite and keeps us awake longer. We don’t usually go far – maybe 2 to 4 miles – but it’s a fun outing, with the prospect of good food at the end.

chutney and naan

We usually hold this event early in the year, when weather is uncertain, but usually it works out pretty well – we’d never had to cancel on account of weather. Enter spring 2008. The day of the party it snowed. And hailed. And rained. And snowed some more. We all stood inside staring out at the ice pellets as they poured down and skittered across the sidewalk, and decided that drinking wine and eating pappadums was the better part of valor. So no hike this year, save for a small excursion around the block during a sunbreak. Continue reading

Risotto and a rainstorm

a delicata squash

We have an abundance of squash lying around our house right now. At least one is being saved for our annual Halloween soup (more on that later), but the others are up for grabs –  especially my favorites, the delicatas.

Cook’s Illustrated ran a recipe a couple of years back that we finally tried last winter, and it’s become a favorite – a butternut squash risotto with sage and onions. Delicatas aren’t quite like butternut, but they’re sweet and easy to peel, and work very well in this recipe. Here’s how it worked out on this particular occasion:

First, my wonderful spouse peeled and cut up the squash into 1/2 inch dice for me, reserving the stringy innards and seeds. I heated some olive oil in one of my favorite pans (a lime green Le Creuset saucier) and added the squash in a single layer, left it alone for a few minutes so it browned nicely, then stirred it up and let it cook until just tender. I scooped it into a bowl and set it aside. I then added the squash innards to the pan (it needed a bit more oil) and sauteed them briefly before transferring them to a saucepan and adding a couple cups of chicken broth and a cup of water. The squash-infused broth began simmering away as I started the rice. Continue reading