The Joys of Summer: more grilled vegetables

july 2009 013
Here in New Mexico the hot weather has continued for a few weeks with no relief, and we’re doing more and more grilling to avoid heating up the kitchen. This has led to more and more experimenting with grilled vegetables, and so far we’ve loved them all. I also love having plates full of color, not just brown meat. If you want to reduce your meat consumption, eating more vegetables is a delicious way to approach that goal. To improve kitchen efficiency, I plan how to season each vegetable so that I can make the seasoning pastes in a sequence yet not have all the seasoning the same; this is explained in the recipe section. If you want more details on how to grill, I recommend the superb grilling cookbook by Francis Mallmann, Seven Fires. Grilling is an art, and can’t be taught in a blogpost. But it’s an art well worth aquiring.

The quality of your ingredients is paramount. I do not recommend any use of battery-raised commercial chicken, which is a disaster from the gastronomic as well as the environmental and humane standpoint. Commercially raised “free-range” chicken is only slightly better. Get some real chicken. I strongly recommend Pollo Real pasture-raised chicken; see the Delahantes’ website to see how they raise their birds. They sell at the Santa Fe farmers’ market, and it’s possible to arrange a pick-up in Albuquerque if you contact them ahead of time. Back when I had a farm and raised my own chickens, they tasted like Pollo Real chicken, by which I mean that they tasted like chicken, while American commercial chicken tastes strikingly like nothing at all. Battery farming of chickens pollutes the envoronment and spreads disease, as well as being a horrible life for the birds, so I avoid it. We need to support humane and sustainable farming, and the best way to support it is to seek out your local sustainable farmers like the Delehantes.

If you have a grill with a griddle section, you’re all set. Otherwise, a heavy cast-iron skillet could be used where a griddle is specified.
Clich here for the recipes!

Read through the sequence, because it goes a lot faster if you have the plan fixed in your head.
For four servings, or two servings with lots of leftovers:

4 chicken leg quarters
1/2 a small red cabbage, core removed and sliced thinly
1 pound green beans, washed and stems pulled off
4 ears sweet corn, husked and silk pulled off, and any worm damage cut away
About 2 tablespoons Spanish smoked paprika, Pimenton Vera (not the hot kind)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup garlic confit containing 7-8 crushed cloves plus oil,
OR 6 cloves of garlic finely minced and mixed into 1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
I tablespoon honey

First, put the garlic confit or olive oil mixed with minced garlic into a small bowl at your work area.

Prep the chicken: rub lightly with a small amount, about 2 tablespoons, of the garlic confit or garlic oil. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper(be fairly lavish with this: 20-25 turns of the pepper mill), and 1 tablespoon of the paprika. Rub this well into the skin and then cover the chicken. Set aside while prepping the vegetables.
Next, mix one teaspoon of salt into the agrlic mixture in the seasooning bowl. Use two tablespoons of this mixture to season the red cabbage. Put the cabbage in an ample mixing bowl and rub the seasoning mixture in well with your hands. Now drizzle the red wine vinegar and honey over the cabbage and rub that in too, then set the cabbage aside.

Start heating the grill to medium. Make sure to heat the griddle section as well as the grill section.

Now add the remaining tablespoon of paprika to the remaining garlic mixture in the small bowl. Use half this mixture to season the beans, again rubbing well so that they are thoroughly coated.

At this point, start grilling the chicken, since it’s going to take about 35 minutes or a little more to cook.

Now use the remaining seasoning mix to rub the corn, adding a little more olive oil if needed. Wrap each ear in aluminum foil (you can wash the foil after cooking and reuse or recycle it).
Put the corn on the grill about 10 minutes after the chicken. Turn the foil-wrapped ears frequently so that they cook evenly. They will take about 20 minutes.

Turn the chicken at the estimated halfway point. Keep a sharp eye on ther grill, and adjust the heat as needed.

Put the beans and cabbage on the griddle in two separate piles. They should be spread out as thinly as possible but not mixed with each other. Turn regularly with a wide heat-proof spatula, but don’t turn constantly, which would prevent the formation of the lovely brown crusty bits. It can be helpful to put a few spoonfuls of water on the beans early on to make some steam, but don’t do this toward the end of the cooking, since it will dissolve the crust that you went to some trouble to achieve. After ten minutes, start tasting both. They are done when they are no longer crunchy and have a good flavor.

In theory, all four dishes will finish at the same time in a burst of glory, about 35 minutes after you start. In practice, it’s never that neat, so keep warmed serving dishes next to your grill to hold the things that are done first and keep them warm until everything is ready. Serve with the pepper grinder and the sea salt available, and enjoy. Tepache or beer are good accompaniments. Vegetarians and vegans can make a great meal off the vegetables with a good baguette and a little bowl of best olive oil for dipping. Naturally the kindly grill-wallah will keep the chicken away from the vegetables on the grill if vegetarians are part of the dinner party.

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