Archived entries for grilling

Quicker than Takeout: Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

I have this little conversation with myself on a weekly, or at least biweekly basis. It goes more or less like this:

Me: Self, you really should cook something. There’s been too much delivery food. And what about Pithy and Cleaver?
Self: I know, I know. [Insert excuses here.] And I don’t have the time or energy to make something interesting enough for Pithy and Cleaver.
Me: Isn’t that missing the point? Don’t we all need recipes for real food that we can throw together when we’ve run out of steam?

This is barely a recipe. But it’s good, satisfying food for nights when you can barely summon the strength to reach into the pantry. And it’s vegetarian. If you have homemade sauce in the freezer, this is a wonderful use for it. Or stir together Marcella Hazan’s classic quick recipe. But if all you can manage is pulling out a jar of your favorite brand, I won’t judge you. I was checking out Eataly, the new Italian food emporium that just opened in NYC, and picked up a good looking jar of Ponti Arrabbiata sauce. Not too many ingredients and totally passable, tastewise. Even better was the stracciatella “di Burrata” we picked up–luscious mozzarella curds mixed with rich, sweet cream, perfect for piling on a baguette or um, eating with a spoon.

I wanted to make an easy unfried spin on eggplant parmesan featuring this ridiculous gooey cheese, so I sliced up some farmers’ market eggplant and doused it in olive oil before throwing the slices on the grill. It’s important to cook them well, until they get a little charred outside and creamy inside. If you take the eggplant off too soon, you’ll get dry sponges instead of silky melting mouthfuls. When the eggplant’s good and cooked, pile it on a plate with some warmed up tomato sauce and a healthy dollop of the cheese. If you can’t get stracciatella or burrata (which is stracciatella wrapped in a mozzarella skin), you could make this with good fresh mozzarella or a pile of creamy ricotta. Dab each bite of eggplant with sauce and cheese and devour.

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Calico Jack’s Anti-Scurvy Kit: Coconut Citrus Chicken

**UPDATE: We have just been informed that the Sexcamaids won the Judges’ Choice award at the 2010 Coney Island Mermaid Parade. And this here little bribe got a special shout-out on the boards! Go team!**

Before we progress any further, it has come to my attention that I should probably explain a little more about our judges’ bribe. On the surface, it sounds pretty simple–we basically packed them the most righteous picnic a sun-soaked judge could ever hope to receive. But were we content to merely shower them with delicious foodstuffs? No. Heavens, no. You’re talking to a graphic designer; it’s not a project until I’ve wrapped it up in customized, hand designed packaging and involved at least three artists.

Plus, I am tremendously spoilt in having some wonderful talents in my network, so when I got this ridiculous bee in my bonnet, I was able to put out the feelers and make this crazy thing match the picture in my head. Which is how we ended up with the pirate feast, a picnic presented in a treasure chest (courtesy of Bench), with the foodstuffs packaged in bespoke, branded tins, all named after famous pirates. The effect we were going for was “hey, I went shopping at the pirate supermarket!” We had branded hard tack! Swill! Ship’s biscuits! And my personal favorite, Calico Jack’s Anti-Scurvy Kit.

The anti-scurvy kit was my favorite for two reasons, the first being the absolutely boss design work that Lady G did for it. Check it:


The second reason is that it was the biggest challenge for me–you would not believe what I went through trying to figure out what would actually go IN the anti-scurvy kit. It had to be a savory, it had to be able to stand up to an undisclosed number of hours in a cooler (on an extremely hot day), and it had to have some sort of citrus element. It was a more difficult decision than I’d anticipated, but one that I’m extremely happy with–the coconut milk imbued the chicken with a creamy tenderness, while the mixed citrus zest kept things interesting; the lime-basil dipping glaze woke up all the flavors and really brought everything together. It kept beautifully in the cooler.


But best of all? It was super easy, incredibly delicious, and tasted AMAZING when grilled over open coals. Highly recommended for a picnic in a park or on the high seas.

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Taco Night

Cinco de Mayo falls on a Wednesday this year, and this is just the recipe for that particular weeknight gathering.

In order to throw a dinner together on a weeknight (even if it’s just for four, or six) you have two options: prep ahead, or make something simple at the last minute. I’m a big fan of dishes you can make the night before, but the braises of fall and winter just don’t feel right for a springtime celebration. This fresh, unusual taco recipe is quick to throw together after work, and would be even speedier if you prepped the marinade and salsa in the morning or the night before your party. With the help of a food processor, the warm ginger-chile marinade is a snap, and the zingy, delicious avocado-tomatillo salsa takes only a moment.

When I was growing up, tacos meant ground beef seasoned with a packet of seasoning and stuffed into a crispy shell with grated cheddar, lettuce, and chopped tomatoes. They were good–fun and messy to eat–but far from authentic.

These lamb tacos from Deborah Schneider’s fantastic new book, Amor Y Tacos, are far better. (I received a review copy from the publisher, but I’d totally buy another to give as a gift–perhaps for Mother’s Day?) The lamb is rich and savory, warming but not too spicy, and the salsa verde is an eye-opener: piquant, and bright, amazing on a chip or stuffed inside the tacos with a spoonful of savory black beans cooked with a bit of beer. (We devoured the rest on quesadillas we filled with leftovers the night after the party–I love a dinner that does double duty.) The salsa will definitely be reappearing on my table soon, perhaps with fish or shrimp or Schneider’s intriguing orange-and-milk roasted carnitas.

We haven’t started grilling yet, so I prepared these tacos inside on the stovetop and in the broiler, but I do believe that the beginning of May is the perfect time to start firing up the grill. If you do, will you invite me over? I wouldn’t mind eating these again.

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Orange-Scented Arctic Char: Balcony Grilling Continues

When I resolved to eat lighter in the days leading up to our wedding, I worried a little about the blog. “Who is going to want to read about salad for a month?” I asked my future mother-in law as we discussed my slim-down plan. I wasn’t sure anyone would have any interest in a meal made of zucchini, let alone two.

But the truth is, many of our dinners lately have been delightful surprises. We’ve been enjoying our little balcony, grilling piles of eggplant, tangles of garlic scapes, and leg-of-lamb steaks, trying out a few new recipes and focusing on the simply prepared (and the naturally healthy) bounty of the season. To be honest, it’s been one of the least labor-intensive summers of cooking I’ve had. Nothing wrong with that!

After a long walk the other day, I found myself at Chelsea Market, home of The Lobster Place. Manhattan fishmarkets are mostly disappointing (or maybe I was spoiled growing up in the Northwest) but this one is a gem. I picked up a fresh fillet of Arctic char to throw on the grill. Luckily, since my walk home was about a half an hour, they packed it on ice.

I often prepare my favorite salmon recipe substituting char, but I wasn’t in the mood for a thick soy glaze or pungent wasabi that night. While Matt got started charring some fava beans on the grill, I marinated the fish in a mild blend of freshly squeezed orange juice and zest, a bit of sake I always keep in the fridge, and a dab of yellow miso from the asian market down the block.

After devouring the grilled fava beans—you pop them out of the pods, kind of like edamame—we grilled some leeks brushed with a little teriyaki sauce to serve alongside the fish. I’ve always felt that we should treat leeks as standalone vegetables more often. They were sweet, with crispy edges and soft green-oniony flavor. They were so tasty we ate almost all of them before the fish came off the grill. (And before I could snap a picture.)

But the fish was tender and delicious on its own, fragrant and floral from the orange zest and juice, the marinade boosting the sweet taste of the char. The miso paste added a delicate richness behind the scenes—essential, but barely detectable. It was a terrific summery meal, one I wouldn’t hesitate to bring out at a dinner party, if your grill is big enough to double or triple the recipe.

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Yam, Poblano, and Corn Salad: A Perfect Barbecue Side

We had a perfect barbecue the other night. It came together the way summer parties should—casually—with invites issued when inspiration struck that morning at breakfast. Sure enough, plenty of our friends had no plans, and we had a bunch of sausages in the fridge that needed grilling, and the afternoon sun was golden and the breeze was soft. We haven’t gotten enough use of our balcony this summer, so we were determined to park ourselves out there for at least a few hours.

We grilled up bratwurst and hot Italian sausage,  garlic scapes, and long skewers of mushrooms. We ate a loaf of bread with the delicious ricotta spread from Andrew Carmellini’s cookbook Urban Italian. (By the way, does anyone want to try his new restaurant with me? I really, really want to go.)

The unexpected star of the meal was this refreshing side dish, a salad of sweet potatoes and smoky poblano peppers inspired by a recipe I saw in Bon Appetit. The combination of poblano and yam the magazine called for sounded delicious, but after I read those two ingredients, I pretty much ignored the rest of the recipe. I’m glad I wrote down the ingredients as I improvised, because this one is definitely a keeper, great for any barbecues or potlucks you have planned. The flavors mingle as time goes on, so feel free to make it a day ahead.

Once I’d latched on to poblano and yam, I decided to throw in a bunch of sweet corn and brighten it up with a lime juice based dressing, smoky with pimenton and a bit of chile powder. Instead of grilling the yams—which I’m not sure I could have managed without a huge mess—I simply cooked them in the microwave. Even though the yams ended up more mashed than chunked, giving the dish a bit of a strange appearance, everyone couldn’t stop eating it. The zing of lime and sweetness of the vegetables was so fresh and tangy, a great foil for the richness of grilled sausages.

We laughed and talked and passed the platters of food around until the sun went down, and stayed outside with a guitar and a giant bowl full of blueberries long past midnight. Sorry for the noise, neighbors.

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