Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Summer of food

September 9, 2013
The fresh produce available in northern California is incredible, especially in the summer. There were farmers' markets all over the city several days each week. (This claims to be a full list.) Our favorite was the Heart of the City market at Civic Center: It's huge, cheap, and has great quality produce.

This was a typical weekend haul: peaches, nectarines, tomatoes (Early Girl, pink cherry, yellow cherry), arugula, lettuce, yellow onions, red onions, lemons, limes, green peppers, chili peppers, corn, garlic, and zucchini. The peaches and tomatoes were particularly great. On other weeks we got cilantro, avocados, apples, oranges, and lots more.

We also bought a grill this summer, a Weber Q100 propane grill. (We compared a dozen models online, picked that one, and bought it from Cole Valley Hardware, which had it in stock.) We decided on propane rather than charcoal for two reasons: First, I had a basic Weber charcoal grill in Cambridge and cleaning up the soot each time was a mess. Second, our porch is really a fire escape, and despite several neighbors having grills, and the landlord never complaining, the flying ash and embers that come out of a charcoal grill would probably be a bad way to maintain that questionably-legal status quo.

We had talked about getting a grill for a while, but the final prod was listening to an On Point episode interviewing grill chef Barton Seaver. He talked about his new book Where There's Smoke, and his description of all the amazing food he grills left me inspired and very hungry. We bought the book and have made some great recipes from it so far.

One of the tricks that Seaver recommends, both on wood-burning grills (which he prefers) and on gas grills (to make them more wood-like), is to burn wood chips to infuse the food with woody smoke flavor. We bought a bag of maple wood chips, which the book describes as, "offering the most classic smoke in terms of the balance between bitter and sweet... for flavorful seafood, ... pork and beef." That seemed like a good all-around starter wood.

At first, the grill sat on the metal grates that make up the floor of the porch / fire escape. It needed a better home, so we built a shelf into the porch's metal bars. (We later added a little solar lamp, for grilling at night.)
This was one of many grilled dinners recently: salmon steaks, zucchini, eggplant, and lemon (with wood chips in foil in the corner). The lemon becomes sweeter from caramelization, and can be eaten after squeezing on the fish. For dessert, we grilled peaches. With the wood chips, a low heat, and the cover closed, it cooks similarly enough to a charcoal grill.

Off the grill, this pasta with seared zucchini recipe is one of our favorite new meals, using all the great produce I mentioned above. (We've been substituting whole wheat pasta for farro, and parmesan for ricotta.) The cherry tomatoes are key here, and when they're good, this dish is incredible:

We spent a recent Sunday cooking and canning peach butter:

While we were canning, we also made tomato sauce, chili pepper-infused olive oil, and preserved lemons. I first read about preserved lemons, aka lemon confit, in Eric Ripert's cookbook A Return to Cooking, but I never actually made it. Then Seaver recommended it in Where There's Smoke"Of all my experiences I had in Morocco, none made as lasting an impression as my discovery of preserved lemons... The difference between fresh lemons and a good preserved lemon is akin to that of a pork chop and proscuitto." So I decided to finally try it. It's supposed to preserve for 4-6 months before using, so it's still got a while to go.

The weather here is never too cold to grill, so we're looking forward to a new palate of grilled meat and vegetables every season.

- Ben

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated before publishing. Comments with links (unless directly relevant to the post) will not be approved. No spam, please.