Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grillin' and Chillin'

I like to work efficiently, whether in the kitchen, around the house or under a car. If you're there, ya might as well get a few things done. As long as the hood's popped, let's check the oil and also, the coolant, air filter, brake fluid and bugs in the radiator. Heck, while the garage door's open, let's find that gas can and tile cutter buried under stackable milk crates.

If the grill is on, let's do more than cook the burgers...what else can we burn...? How about some veggies, chicken thighs or some flat bread? All of these things are easily sourced at the market and will hold nicely for days in the fridge, to "feed another day!" This means that we need to P-L-A-N a little bit when shopping. Look at foods and wonder "what can I do with this..." then drop it in your cart.

Summer grilling can be somewhat messy and does require a time commitment.
Gotta heat up the grill...burn off the old grease...brush it down...get it to temperature. Turning on a gas valve in the kitchen stove is SO much easier! Yeah, but, we don't get those wonderful, tasty grill marks and seared, crispy skin. Not to mention, you'd miss the romance of the 'process' to which I am a slave. What about the whole 'dad fighting back licking flames, taming the smoldering beast, subduing the smoky serpent' thing? Ya gotta have a story to tell at the table about how you lost sections of arm hair and got black grease under your fingernails while preparing a meal for the family.

"No son, it wasn't a blown head gasket on the Ford, it was a pile of skirt steaks on the Weber with a little too much fat that gave me these scars..."

A properly involved grill cook has to earn his marks, his badges of courage!
Like my grandfather who was a WWII Navy veteran. We'd ask him where he got his tattoos, the green-blue faded designs of banners, anchors, ropes and stars. "The Indians gave 'em to me when they had me tied to the stake up by Reno," he would say, "Good thing your grandmother hit it big on the slots, 'cuz she came riding down on her horse and knocked 'em all on the head with her bag of silver dollars. She rescued me but not before the Indians gave me these marks..." We believed the part about the Indians but, grandma must've been 300 lbs in her knee-high hose. No way could she mount a horse...

Stories...Life is so much more interesting when there is a story involved. Like the time I forgot about the gas grill I turned on HIGH to pre-heat, only to have a child ask if that dark smoke coming out of the back porch would alert the fire department.

With our Dog Days of summer at hand, it's critical to work within the constraints of excessive heat. I chewed my son Liam's butt for turning the oven on to make a quesadilla last week when it was 103 degrees in Portland. "Here son, have a popsicle..." I offered to his amazement. We seldom have popsicles for dinner but, we had to work within the parameters of our heat wave.
So, we grilled several items out on the back porch to be eaten cold at later meals. I love grilled veggies that are drizzled with a balsamic vinegar and served cold. Chop up some fresh herbage from the garden and add a splash of some super deluxe extra virgin olive oil to make your summer grilled veggies sing! LaHHHH-DEEEE!

Spinach salad is a favorite of mine, especially with a creamy dressing. Add a protein like grilled and chilled chicken, salmon, tuna or steak and you have a healthy, satisfying AND delicious entree'. And as far as a dressing goes, make a vinaigrette using a bit of tahini paste in your standard Italian vinaigrette. We used this at the winery and the lads were practically drinking it out of the bottle! Tahini can be found at middle easten markets or specialty markets catering to the "Loca-vores," (those of us that try to eat foods from our area when available).

Hey, let's get that grill fired up...far and away from the house!
"Yo, yo! Keep on grillin' as you be chillin' this summa."

Grilled Vegetable Pasta with Garden Herbs
(serves 8)

2 Zucchini, halved length-wise
2 Crook necked Squash, cut same as Zucch
2 Heirloom Tomatoes, halved and stemmed
8 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2T EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1T Salt, kosher
1lb Pasta, your favorite kind

Prepare squash and tomatoes as directed. Place on a pre-heated grill and score on both sides. Grill has to be hot enough to leave good, clean, dark marks on the veggies but not to blacken the entire sides. Once grilled, place on a cookie sheet and cool.
As the veggies are cooling, put a gallon pot of water on the boil and make your way to the herbs outside (this implies that you are growing a variety of herbs at home!). Cut enough fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary to make 4T of chopped herbage.
Once water is boiling, drop pasta and cook to your desired doneness, giving it a stir to keep from sticking.
Place a larger saute pan, 12" or so, on a medium burner and pre-heat. Cut squash and tomatoes to fork sized pieces and reserve. Add squash to pan and saute' for two minutes, then add garlic and cook till smallest bits of garlic get a touch of color. Immediately add tomatoes and chopped herbs.
Cook till hot, season with salt to taste and spoon over cooked pasta.
Top with some grated Romano-Pecorino and you are good to go!

Is this easy, or what?! And with the herbs, garlic and cheese, you have all the spots on the palate getting the 'happys.'

Give this a go, and let me know.
And remember...

"Food, Faith, Family and Friends...
the Best Things in Life aren't Things!"

Take care and God bless,
Chef BQ.

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