Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playing with Fire

In the boiling hot weather that has permeated the East Coast this summer, Americans favorite method of summer cooking has been everywhere. America loves to grill. Loves it. Can't get enough. From the NY Times 101 Ways to Grill last week to the increasing numbers of Food Network stars being shoved out of the comfortable havens of their studio kitchen sets and into really fake looking backyards, everyone has been excited to cook their food on a rack over flames.

Everyone, that is, except me. I have no backyard, no balcony, and therefore, no grill. For me summer doesn't mean "Oh fun, I'll just go outside to cook!" It means trying not to pass out from the heat in my not-air-conditioned kitchen. My grill pan delivers up Turkey Burgers and Steak just fine, but there is none of the atmosphere of standing out side on a summer evening, delivering up piles of burgers and veggies fresh off the open flame. On July 4th, however, I got a bit of a taste of the good life. Using the holiday weekend to shoot of to PA to visit the family, my mother gave me free range of her tiny little Weber grill. In my mom's world, everything is tiny and built for one, and this little glorified camp stove is no exception. Still, it was a grill, and I was going to cook dinner for 3 on it, even if it meant doing everything in shifts.

First up, I was going to grill corn. As corn season has begun I have started seeing the ears everywhere, and though corn grilling is a fairly simple procedure, I had never executed it.

Grilled Corn
Done exactly as Gourmet tells me to

- 3 ears of corn
- At least 1 gallon of cold water in a pot or clean bucket
- Butter and salt for serving

Peel back the corn husks and remove the silk. Pull the husks back up around the corn. Soak corn in water for 10 minutes.

While corn soaks, prepare grill. When fire is hot drain the corn and grill, in the husks on a lightly oiled grill rack, uncovered, turning, 10 minutes. Carefully pull back husks and grill corn, turning, until slightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes more.

I love how easy grilling recipes can be, and the corn turned out great, soft enough to eat but still crunchy, with that slightly smoky flavor you don't get from boiling or steaming. Once it was done I pulled off the husks completely and covered the plate in foil. It was time for round two.

The day before at a picnic at my Aunt and Uncle's house, my very generous Uncle Joe allowed me to raid his vegetable garden. My Uncle Joe has been gardening for as long as I can remember, and quite frankly the garden is an organic localvore's dream. He uses no chemicals, creates his own little plants from seeds, and cares for the garden meticulously every year. From garlic to cherry tomatoes he brings in a great crop every year. My mother looks forward to being in charge of watering every year when they go on vacation so she can raid the freshly grown produce.

Uncle Joe gifted me with a gorgeous zucchini and two beautiful spring onions. The beauty of knowing a grower is you can eat things right after they are clipped from the plant, and I was going to eat that zucchini right away. I did it simply, two simply to lay out a detailed recipe for you. I simply sliced the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices, brushed with olive oil on both sides and sprinkled with salt and pepper. then I just tossed them on the grill, about 3-4 minutes per side, until they looked nice and charred. 

I decided I needed a sauce for the zucchini to be dipped in, so I thought I'd mix some mayo with garlic, to make a kind of aioli. To roast the garlic a bit I chopped up 1 large clove of garlic, brushed it with a bit of olive oil, wrapped in in a tin foil packet and threw it on the grill for 5 or 6 minutes next to the zucchini. Almost as an afterthought I cut a lemon in half and grilled it next to the veggie. Then I mixed the juice (about 1 tablespoon) with about a quarter cup of mayonnaise and the garlic. The zucchini was great, softened and juicy, and the aioli complemented it well giving it a tangy cool topping.

I also made mussels in beer, but that dish I feel is too incomplete to talk about yet, and I was trying to recreate a restaurant dish I had heard about but never tasted. If you've ever made mussels in beer and have tips, leave it in the comments. I'm back in NY now, hiding in the bedroom, the only room in the place with air conditioning. This doesn't mean I've entirely stopped cooking. Last week I made a fresh mint ice cream, and churned it in the bedroom so the bowl wouldn't defrost. Two months before the weather begins to cool, let's see how creative I can get!


Claudia said...

You can grill at the late and public parks around here. We used to carry a small portable grill for small meals. It is fun, isn't it? I lived in a small non-air-conditioned apartment in NYC for many years. Sometimes, it was just better to avail myself of the fine prepared food!

Squeaky Gourmet said...

wait--those backyards on Food network are fake!?!?!?

I force my family to eat salads in this heat--I am not cooking outside or IN!

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