Posts Tagged ‘grilling’

Pleasures of the Grill: Oyster (and other) Mushrooms

A family member was admiring a picture of my oyster mushrooms, up to 8″ across, and asked if they were too big to eat. Not if you like to grill. I love a plateful of giant oyster mushrooms, as long as they were still fresh and moist and not dried out when picked. The big ones have leathery bases and need to have the stem (technically a stipe) trimmed off to the extent that a little semi-circle is taken out of the base.

Now the toughest part is gone. Clean the rest and rub it on both sides with basic steak marinade. Make sure that the marinade gets up in the gills, since this helps keep them moist while cooking. Sprinkle the gill side with a good smoked salt.

Heat the grill to about 300 degrees and sear nicely on the upper side. Turn and cook on the gill side until done, turning them 90 degrees midway if you want nice crosshatched sear marks. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Put the caps on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, gill side down. Sprinkle lavishly with grated Parmesan, making sure to sprinkle the areas of bare parchment paper to make the lacy garnish. Broil, turning the pan as necessary, until the cheese is just beginning to brown. Eat.

The argument could be made that there’s no point in fussing with crosshatched grill marks since they’re on the bottom and don’t show. This is a fair point, but in good spring weather it’s a pleasure to fuss a bit at the grill.

This is a good meal to share with vegetarians if you don’t use any fish sauce in the marinade. In my opinion the final cheese crusting adds a lot to the flavor and so it isn’t ideal for vegans, but try it if you feel so inclined. If you don’t have oyster mushrooms try portobellos, which come alive with some seasoning. If you find really big meaty fresh shiitakes, they are ideal for grilling whole. If you’re lucky enough to find some porcinis  in the woods or market in the fall, they are superb sliced thickly and grilled.

How to love Your Carrots


I’m doing a blog series for our local newspaper this month, but some readers had trouble accessing those posts, so I decided to put them on my own blog as well. Here’s the third one:
Eating seasonally is a pleasure for most of the year, and fall is a wonderful time to eat carrots. We all know how healthy carrots are, so I’ll skip over that part and concentrate on how delicious they are. When I cook carrots I make a lot, because they are wonderful for at-your-desk lunching the next day. Usually I retrieve my lunch from the refrigerator at my mid-morning brief break and eat it at room temperature at lunchtime, as long as no egg yolks, mayonnaise, or other extreme perishables are involved. If I plan to eat them at room temperature for lunch I use olive oil instead of butter, since animal fats congeal unattractively when they aren’t hot, but if you prefer to use butter, no problem. Just heat your carrots a little the next day, then carry them back to your desk and eat happily, with the slightly smug glow that comes of doing the right and healthy thing and getting your work done at the same time.

First, catch your carrots. Real carrots come in bunches with the tops on, and if the tops look withered, don’t bother with those carrots. Get some fresh ones instead. Your nearest growers’ market is a great place to shop for them. Here in Albuquerque you can find several colors, including yellow, the standard orange, red, and a glowing royal-purple. I love the purple ones, but any of these techniques can be used for any carrot.

I use the word “technique” with forethought, because it is basic technique that makes it quick and easy to cook and eat lots of vegetables. If you have to read a recipe in the kitchen as you work, you will eventually get fed up, but technique lives in your brain and makes it a snap to blanch, saute’, stir-fry, bake, boil, or grill any veggie that you care to eat. No precise measurements are needed. So here are a couple of basic techniques for carrots:

Blanch, then saute’: trim and scrub four large carrots or six smaller ones of any color. Peel if needed (usually I scrub well with a brush instead.) Slice into slices about a quarter inch thick. Fill a large saucepan with about 2 quarts of water, add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to a boil, toss in the carrots, boil 5 minutes, and drain thoroughly. If you want to, you can hold the drained carrots at room temperature for 2-3 ours, making it easy to do some work ahead of time if needed. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, or use olive oil if you prefer. Put in the carrots, 2-3 teaspoons of honey, salt to taste, and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Saute’ over medium heat until the carrots are done to your liking, and serve. The blanching makes sure that the carrots cook evenly, and the saute’ing brings out their flavor. You can vary this infinitely: add herbs in the saute’ stage; thyme or savory are especially good with carrots. Chop a clove of garlic or half a small onion and cook in the butter or oil until just cooked through before adding the carrots. Use a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar instead of honey. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a very fresh flavor. Add half a teaspoon of grated orange rind with the honey. Add a tablespoon or two of dark rum and cook it off thoroughly before serving. Or, if you have access to some good artisanal root beer (I brew my own. Just don’t use the grocery-store glop) you can add a quarter cup of it when you add the carrots to the butter, and cook over high heat until the root beer is reduced to a syrup that just coats the carrots. A quarter-cup of dark ale produces a malty, ever-so-faintly bitter glaze that’s great with game. You can also cut the carrots into chunks about 2 inches long and then cut those into quarters at the initial prep, for a different texture. When using orange carrots, sometimes I cook a couple of purple potates separaely, slice them, and add them in for the saute’ stage.

Grilling: Usually people don’t think of grilling carrots, which is a shame, because the caramelization around the edges is delicious. Just cut them thinly. I like slices about 1/8” thick. Use a griddle or grill-wok so they don’t fall through the grill, and watch them closely so that they don’t burn. I describe a Southeast Asian seasoning here, but again the technique is key, and once you get the hang of it, you can season them any way you like. Trim and scrub 3-4 large carrots of any color, and slice them thinly. Toss with two chopped cloves of garlic, a 1” chunk of ginger grated, a tablespoon of Asian fish sauce (you can use soy sauce instead if you insist,) a tablespoon of agave nectar or coconut sugar, and 2 tablespoons of canola oil or similar. Heat the grill to medium-high and spread the carrot slices out on the griddle section or put them in the grill-wok. If griddling them, turn them in bunches with a spatula about halfway through. If using the wok, you will need to turn several times during cooking. Taste to see when the texture seems just right to you, salt a little if they need it (the fish sauce is fairly salty) and serve with some chopped cilantro on top.

The Joys of Summer: more grilled vegetables

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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! Continue reading

The First Tomatoes

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A grill offers wonderful vegetable cooking options. It’s a pity that most people only cook meat on their grills, because grilled vegetables make wonderful and satisfying summer meals. If you are a grilling enthusiast, or would like to become one, I highly recommend the elegant cookbook by Francis Mallmann Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. My husband, the family grill-wallah, was intrigued by the directions for Burnt Tomatoes, and set out to make a great tomato sandwich. All the hot work stays outside, and your kitchen is spared. Of course you can buy tomatoes at the Farmers Market if you don’t grow them yourself, but if you plant a few around your house, you’re likely to realize why they were grown as an ornamental even back when they were thought to be poisonous.
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The Joys of Summer: dinner on the grill

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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! Continue reading

The Greens of Spring: a meal on a pita

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Halloumi cheese from Cyprus grills beautifully, and make a wonderful meatless “barbecue” to combine with your garden produce. It’s a great way to reduce your meat intake, if you want to do that, or just have a lovely and healthy meal.
First, catch your salad. You need a goodly quantity of the freshest salad greens, and it tastes best if some sharp flavors like young mustard, arugula, and herbs are included. My choice for this meal is a smallish bunch each of young mustard and arugula, with a few baby lettuce leaves (preferably red, for contrast,) about a quarter cup of a finely chopped combination of parsley and cilantro, a few fronds of fennel chopped, and about a teaspoon of thyme leaves. If I were using store-bought greens, I’d use half young letture and half watercress, plus the herbs, for a sharp but not aggressive taste. Commercial mustard greens are too mature and strong to use in salads. A handful of chopped chives or shallot greens is a great addition. Remember, herbs are loaded with antioxidants, and they taste great. For two people, you need about a quart of mixed salad greens, tightly packed.

Now locate your Halloumi. La Montanita Co-op and Whole Foods both have it in our area. Then you can proceed with the cooking part:

Dressing:
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
5 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup lemon juice
6 teaspoons chopped cilantro
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup capers (rinsed and soaked if salt-cured)

Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in your mortar and pestle (see my recipe page under Herbs for more about this) Pound until nicely amalgamated. Set aside. If you use the food processor instead, be careful to leave it with a vigorous texture. Avoid processing to mush.

2 ¼ pounds Cypriot Halloumi cheese, cut into 16 cubes
A few tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat a gas barbecue to medium heat, or let a coal barbecue heat until all coals are mostly white. Coat the cheese lightly with the olive oil. Grill the cheese cubes until they have caramelized on at least two sides. If you don’t feel like grilling, cook them on the stove in a heavy, hot skillet.

Meanwhile, lightly toast two or four whole wheat pitas, depending on appetite.

While the cheese finishes browning lightly, put the hot pitas on plates, two to a plate if you’re really hungry. Toss the greens and herbs with some of the sauce, pile them on the pitas, and distribute the hot cheese cubes on top. Drizzle with more of the sauce and eat. Even an avid carnivore is unlikely to feel shortchanged.

You will probably have a good bit of leftover sauce, and can use it to dress a little pasta for a quick one-person meal. Crumble on a little feta or Kefalotyri if you like.

A delicious variation is to hard-boil two or three eggs per person and slice them. Spread the slices over the dressed greens, and dribble on the sauce. It makes a nice post-Easter lunch, when you’re sick of looking at those eggs.

ADDENDUM: A friend who follows my blog gently pointed out that the sauce in the picture couldn’t be the one in the recipe. Major oops: I posted the wrong picture. But the pictured dressing is delicious on grilled halloumi too, so I decided to leave the picture and add the recipe for Tahini Dressing. Crush a clove of garlic in a mortar and pestle with half a teaspoon of salt. Add the juice of half a lemon and two tablespoons of tahini. Stir untilwell amalgamated, and add enough olive oil to give the consistency of thick cream. I usually use about 3 tablespoons, or a little more. Use a little plain olive oil to dress your greens, arrange them on a pita, and scatter the Halloumi cubes on top. Drizzle over the dressed greens and grilled Halloumi.