The Joys of Summer: dinner on the grill

june 2009 033

When it’s too damn hot to heat up the kitchen, the pleasures of summer dinners are just getting started. My garden is producing huge beautiful heads of broccoli right now, and the blossoms have died off the potatoes, indicating that I can start digging new potatoes. You can go to the Los Ranchos or Corrales farmers markets and find the Fishhuggers, Kenny and Brenna, who will sell you a splendid King Salmon “breakfast” steak from a fish personally caught by Kenny. They do beautifully on the grill. Add one large sweet potato and you’re all set. The small amount of prep work can be done in the morning, before the heat starts, and then the entire meal is finished on the grill.  If you read my earlier post (“The First Garlic,” three posts ago)and made garlic confit, you have a head start on the prep work. 

King salmon is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, and personally I would rather eat delicious food than take pills, so for me the choice to eat Kenny’s wild-caught sustainable Alaskan fish whenever I can afford it is an easy one.

This meal is especially nice if you need to feed vegans and vegetarians as well as fish-eaters, because the vegetables are so satisfying by themselves.

Clich here for the recipe!

For a generous meal for two with leftovers, you will need:
6 smallish or 3 large red wax potatoes
1 large sweet potato
1 large head of broccoli
1 pound, more or less, of king salmon “breakfast” steaks, thawed (don’t thaw in the microwave!)
1/2 cup garlic confit, oil and confitted cloves together, or 1/2 cup olive oil and 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika, Pimenton Vera

First, make the dressing. In a small bowl, crush the cloves in the garlic confit with the back of a spoon. If not using confit, mix the chopped garlic into the olive oil. Add the salt and Pimenton and mix well.

Next, prep the vegetables for grilling. Scrub the potatoes well (don’t peel them) and clean the broccoli. Cut the potatoes into chunks about 1/2-3/4 inch across, which will be irregular in shape. Cut the broccoli into generously-sized florets. Bring one quart of water with 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil, dump in the potato chunks, and boil over medium heat until a knife tip can enter the chunks easily but there is no mushiness and they hold their shape. Fish them out of the water with a strainer, bring the water to a boil again, and put in the broccoli florets. While the broccoli is blanching, cool the potato chunks under cold water, drain, and put in a bowl. When the broccoli has blanched for 4 minutes, drain it, cool well under cold running water, and put it in its own bowl. Don’t neglect the cooling-under-water step or the veggies will get overcooked and mushy. Now peel the sweet potato, cut it in half crosswise, and cut each half into slices lengthwise that are 1/4 inch thick or a little less. Put them in their own bowl.

Now divide the dressing into fourths. Put the salmon steak out on a plate and rub both sides with 1/4 of the dressing. Dress each vegetable with 1/4 of the dressing, rubbing gently with your hands to make sure that each piece is well coated. You may need to add some extra olive oil to the broccoli and white potatoes. Cover tightly and refrigerate until nearly ready for dinner (don’t prep more than 6-8 hours before cooking.)

Grills vary immensely. You need a grill with a griddle, and you need to know your grill well and know its temperature range. Heat both the grill portion and the griddle to medium about 12 minutes before you want to start cooking. When the grill is good and hot, grill the sweet potatoes and salmon. Set them down on the hot surface, enjoy the sizzle, and don’t touch them until it’s time to turn them. Meanwhile, on the griddle section, put the potato chunks and the broccoli on to cook, and refrain from messing with them while they form a crust. Lift the edges of all four things to check the underside; you want a good crisp surface with a few dark marks, but no burning. When they are ready on the grill side, turn them and keep grilling until they are done to your liking. You need to know how you like your salmon done; I’ve come to prefer mine at medium-rare to medium, not raw in the middle but not cooked through either. If one or two things are done before the others, push them to a cool part of the grill to stay warm until time to eat. The broccoli will usually be done first, since you don’t want it to lose its freshness, but don’t be afraid to crisp it a bit in spots, because it’s delicious that way.

When done, serve and enjoy with wine of your choice. We vare red wine enthusiasts and like a medium-bodied spicy Syrah with this. A little extra good olive oil for drizzling at the table is nice, and good sea salt for sprinkling to taste is a necessity. If you want to feed some extra vegetarians or vegans, add more vegetables, being mindful of how much grill space you have.

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