see, not a vegetarian

Dinner! (And also part of lunch the next day.)

Last weekend’s grilling attempt was a success in spite of itself. Somewhat counterintuitively, I went with a smaller fire on the day I was making meat. Everything got cooked eventually, but I was adding twigs and whatnot because it was a pretty tiny pile of charcoal.

Part of my birthday present to myself was grill bling, which included a set of skewers. I picked up these, which are nice and long and, perphaps most importantly, flat, so you can easily flip the food without it twirling around with the skewer. The down side is that they are metal, which means they get hot, which means you can’t pick them up with naked paws. Considering they’re resting over open flame and I’m pyrophobic and would be using something anyway, that’s an exchange that’s fine with me. They’re solid without being heavy and easy to clean and store, so thumbs up there.

I mentioned the long, right? That’s my 9×13″ Pyrex they’re overhanging, which means you can get a fair bit on each. I marinated two chicken breasts and an onion and there’s most of a pepper plus a potato for a (not really needed) stopper.

The marinade is the same one I used on the grilled tofu the other week, which is in turn based on Deborah Madison’s Sesame-Ginger Marinade from her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Adapted for, um, meat.

2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

I let the chicken and onion marinate overnight in the fridge, but it could work in less time on the counter.

My too-small fire… wait, can I start the Inadvertent Slow Food Movement? We can skip the wacky antiglobalization politics and junk science and just have people whose ovens aren’t calibrated/can’t get over 425F or haven’t mastered the charcoal-to-food ratio yet and like to cook anyway.

Too-small fire or not, I did eventually get it all cooked. Except the potatoes, which were still raw-ish.

As can be seen above, the kebabs were served with jasmine rice and lettuce and made an excellent dinner. And three more lunches.

Since I’m showing off my grill bling, my funky yellow gloves for chimney overturning/twig breaking/skewer lifting:

Why, yes, I did get them at K-Mart.

Also on the poultry front this week was my initial attempt to grind my own chicken. I bought thighs, which were what was on sale, but in hindsight that was a mixed blessing because I had to de-skin and de-bone. The de-skinning was easier, although I might have been a little lazy with the de-fatting because they were going to be ground. (I am normally a fetishist with the de-ickying. What I cannot de-icky, I do not eat, which is why I don’t eat as much meat as I should.)

The grinding was initially a hellacious failure, entirely because I neglected to attach the little blade to the spiral mover, but once I got that corrected, it was all good and ridiculously easy. I foresee more meat-grinding in my future.

Since nobody likes to see how the sausage gets, made, you can provide your own mental picture of a pile of ground chicken thighs (and an onion) and I’ll just get on to the end result, which was meat sauce.

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stuff what I’ve done

They're not dirty -- they're frozen.

They're not dirty -- they're frozen.

1) My summertime crack is frozen blueberries.They’re good fresh, but on hot summer nights, they are the perfect dessert/snack when they’re frozen. I have six pints of blueberries in the freezer, not counting the containers that get put in solely for snacking purposes. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with six pints of blueberries, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with six pounds of cranberries, either, and I’ve managed to use it all without making cranberry-chocolate chip cookies once.

Frozen fruit makes the best milkshakes. Bananas first and foremost, but mangoes and berries work well, too. It’s ridiculously simple and so much more fun (and also cheaper and healthier) to do it at home rather than pay for one of the 1300-calorie monsters at the smoothie shop. I didn’t add any yogurt to this one, but it’s a great thickener (especially if you drain the yogurt first) and an excellent source of additional calcium.

Top view so you don’t see my Mets stein that has been through the dishwasher a few too many times.

2) I goofed off with barley and black-eyed peas the other day. Celery, a little bit from my thyme plant, nothing too exciting. I had it first in a green pepper with some cheese and pluot (there’s a glass of milk just out of the frame) and it was… fine and not very exciting.

A few days later, I decided to make zucchini fritters. I grated the lovely zucchini, got out some relevant spices… and somewhere between going to get the eggs out of the fridge and pouring them, I forgot I was making fritters and thought I was making a frittata and poured a cup of egg. Which is far too much for fritters, but I didn’t want a frittata, so I scrambled around for items I could throw into the batter (beyond much more flour) to thicken it up and at least get pancakes, and came up with the barley-bean mix. The first few pancakes were like Korean pancakes, which were fine but not what I wanted. With a little more flour and barley and some baking powder and resting time, I got something that was somewhere between a pancake and a patty. With the barley and the celery and thyme, they were maybe a little like stuffing, but they were quite tasty. Especially with mustard. They freeze well — I’ve defrosted some for lunch already — and aren’t bad at room temperature, so maybe I’ll try them again, except this time intentionally.

3) I grilled again over the weekend, this time with my spiffy yellow gloves (which don’t actually make me feel any safer overturning the chimney into the grill, but it was again accomplished without incident). Eventually, I will grill meat on this thing, but for the time being, the grill is merely an excuse for me to char veggies. This time, I marinated some tofu that had first been pressed. It looks a little sketchy, but there’s no elegant way to press tofu and you really do need to get the extra water out. Also on the grill were the usual suspects zucchini and eggplant along with potato (thank you, parental peanut gallery) and cauliflower. I usually make my potatoes either in the broiler or in the microwave and then in the toaster, so this was both familiar and not — I needed to make the slices a little thinner so that the outsides don’t get too done while the insides are still raw-ish. Same with the cauliflower, but it wasn’t bad as it was.

Yes, I really do like things that charred.

The highlights of the grill, however, were the white peach and the pita. I’ve been reading about grilled pizza all summer and I have lovely recipes for various middle eastern flatbreads, so I decided to do a test run and see what grilling bread was like. I threw together some whole wheat pizza dough while waiting for the grill to heat up and then realized I had nothing I wanted to put on it, so I split it into four after it was risen and just made pita. Well, more like naan than pita, since it was pillowy and soft. However you class it, though. it was amazing. I want to grill bread all of the time. (Those aren’t toothmarks, btw, but tongs marks.) I foresee trying za’atar bread and maybe lamejun soon.

In conclusion: fire is still scary, but grilled bread is worth the scare.

chow

chow

novelties

It’s been a couple of summers since I was introduced to the wonders of the pluot, which as near as I can tell is just a better looking plum. That quarter apricot is completely lost on me, although I do appreciate the pretty skins — dinosaur pluots especially.

But this year brought apriums, which I sadly stumbled upon too late to enjoy at bargain rates. Black velvet apricots are awesome. They are the size of regular apricots and fuzzy like apricots — the lower left one is dry, so you can see the fuzz; the other two have been recently washed — but are plum-like inside and very sweet. For a couple of weeks, they were for sale cheaper than regular apricots and I dithered purchasing because the other store had everything else I wanted, so I only got a pound of aprium enjoyment before they were moved inside with a higher price tag. Ah, well. Maybe they will return to the low-rent district again soon.

Another new thing this summer has been my re-acquaintance with my grill. Like pretty much every other cooking item I use, it’s not new and required some refurbishing. I got some bling for it to make it food-worthy and then some other items to compensate for my pyrophobia (really not a phobia to have when you live alone).

But it’s in working order now and the first item up was… veggies. Eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, fennel, onion, and a couple of nectarines that were going to be mealy and miserable raw. Smoked paprika for the veggies and the nectarines were au naturel.

The nectarines were awesome.  I’ve read that grilling fruit over charcoal is supposed to impart a weird taste, but I didn’t notice anything. They were sweet and tasty and a vast improvement over what they would have been otherwise.

The third new thing is horchata, which is not new, but at least new to me. One of the local ‘supermarkets’ (it’s not really a supermarket, it’s a somewhat sketchy market with delusions of grandeur and a house brand) caters to latino clientele despite a local latin population under 2%. The produce is wilted and dented and there’s a layer of grime building up since the Reagan years, but it’s the place to go for an entire aisle of dried beans and rice varieties as well as almost every product Goya makes. (And the only market that carries my preferred brand and make of hot dog, but that’s a different matter.)

I have recipes for horchata, but I’ve never gotten around to making it. I live off Crystal Light iced tea and lemonade in the summers and that plus seltzer is usually more than sufficient for non-milk liquid when it’s too hot for tea. But I was poking around on the shelf with the bags of ground grains and next to the bulgar was this. The ingredients list — morro (calabash tree seed), cocoa, coriander, spices — had plenty there besides rice that was not in my recipes, so I figured why not.

A quick Google search tells me that horchata de morro is the Salvadoran variation on the drink, although the bag says it was produced in Nicaragua.

A picture of the contents in a jar, since I’d already transferred the contents of the bag.

To my North American palate, it tastes a little like a more exotic combination of chai and Ovaltine, but chai Ovaltine sounds vile, so don’t take me literally. It’s nice.

I made up a batch with water — it says use water or milk — and it looks massively unappealing, especially separated like this, but so does the picture in Wikipedia, so I’m not doing anything wrong. I’ll try another one with milk next.