Friday, September 24, 2010

A barbecue is not just for meat or proteins

Yes, we're carnivores, as you might have guessed from the title and the theme of the blog. But we also have lots of veggies. Especially if I have been to a Farmer's Market, and if we have unplanned visitors and I don't have time to defrost and properly prep meat.

Here are a bunch of ideas, slightly inspired by Bittman, on what to put on the barbecue for your last sessions of the summer. Or, if you are like us, as long as you get good produce, be in in the middle of winter!

From top to bottom: Corn with zucchini, purple potatoes with onion, olives, rosemary sprigs as skewers with zucchini, red onion and tomato. All seasoned with more rosemary, pepper, salt, and olive oil. Hubby wasn't quite that hot on the olives, but I loved loved loved them.

Moving on to dessert:

The nectarines were wonderful. I put on a mixture of sugar and mint, and it all caramelized beautifully. The nectarines get so much better with the heating and caramelizing, it's hard to believe it's the same fruit. And I think the heat brings out the flavors even more. The bright flavor of the mint nicely contrasted the fruit - we all wanted more, but sadly I had used the last of our nectarines.

The grapefruit got some sugar, pepper and rosemary - it tasted good, but the grapefruit wasn't sweet enough to start with for my taste. Still, they came out nice and were gone in a heartbeat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cumin scented steak with roast veggies

On my last China trip, I again had these wonderful cumin scented lamb ribs they serve in Hunan and Sichuan restaurants (in Shanghai at least). Plus I brought back (or smuggled in) a bag of best grade Sichuan peppercorns - which I learned to distinguish in one of my food classes in China - you only want the hull, the more of the seeds are in there the cheaper the product, because they are gritty and don't add taste.

Yesterday was when I finally put it together. Our first CSA share of this year's quarter cow had beautiful steaks in it, and I had read a few months back that steaks get crispier when you salt them about an hour before you are about to make them. The salt will pull the water out of a thin layer on the outside of the meat (don't do it too long, or you'll get dry steaks..). Just before you're about to put them on the BBQ dry them off, then season them. It results in a very nice dry outside, and, when timed right, in a beautiful juicy pink interior. I had tried that before with great results, but was a bit timid on the seasonings. Not this time, though.

For the seasoning I crushed cumin and Sichuan peppercorns, about 1/2 tsp each, and I added some fresh ground black pepper for good measure. This was for 1 smallish NY strip steak - but I guess you can adjust it for your taste. I love both cumin and Sichuan pepper, so ours was pretty strongly flavored.

We also made some veggies, on a griddle plate on the BBQ, great way to use the heat of the BBQ while it's warming up for the steak.

The veggies were some zucchini, a passilla pepper and an onion, dusted with some more of the cumin - Sichuan mixture, along with some salt, and some olive oil for frying.

Veggies and steak both came out great:

Sorry for the bad quality of the steak photo, but we were hungry and we didn't want to waste time on making it the perfect shot. For those of you who haven't tasted them yet: The Sichuan peppers have a very nice citrus taste, and they numb your taste buds. Not terribly, at least unless you throw lots of them in your food, just a little bit for a slightly strange and tingling sensation. We had a big, jammy Zinfandel (red of course) with it, and it seemed to taste even jammier with the peppers, perhaps because the numbed tongue took the acid out.

A little salad on the side, boring hearts of romaine jazzed up with sunflower sprouts and tomato, dressed with a miso sesame dressing that I got from Japan, from a friend who lives there and shares our love of food and drinks (Thanks Jeff!)

A perfect end for a perfect weekend. Ok, perfect except for the poison oak I got while trying to wrestle the blackberry bushes out of what we call yard.

Oven dried tomatoes - enough to last me through the winter

Each time we drive to or from Tahoe during the daytime, we stop at this one farm stand in Davis, not for the produce necessarily, nothing is organic, but for this Middle Eastern and Asian drink that comes with many different names and grosses out 95% of Americans. It's just yoghurt mixed with salt and water. I've had it as Ayran (Turkish), Salt Lassi (Indian) and Doogh (Iran). And I could drink it every day, except that the sodium content would probably kill me over time.

Anyways, I digress. So the reason we go there is not the produce, but this time they had something that was too good to pass - a whole box of Roma tomatoes for $4.99. I didn't weigh it, but it was at least 20 pounds, if not more. Not organic, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. And winter is coming closer, and there is nothing better than a nice tomato sauce in the middle of the winter with beautiful oven dried tomatoes. Or better yet, the Albondigas I described here a few months ago.

I started with halving the tomatoes, and sprinkling them with salt (on all of them), and herbs and garlic in different mixtures on different sheets.

Off in the oven they went, with convection, at about 200 F. I'm not usually too concerned about the temperature, if you do it a bit hotter they get nice and caramelized, low temperature they are just dried.

Not only is Tahoe nice and dry, I also have this monster oven in the kitchen there, had I had more sheets I could have roasted even more in one go. What you're looking at here is perhaps 1/3 of the tomatoes in the box, btw.

I let them in there for different amounts of time, for different purposes. These guys here

were in for about 2 hours, and you can see that they are still relatively juicy. However, the juice is getting concentrated, so they are much tastier than they were when I put them in the oven. I cooled them, remembered my rant from last time, slipped the skin off, put them in old yoghurt containers and froze them.

You can also go for well dried. Which is what I did here, by first drying them as the ones above, and then leaving them in the oven overnight, with the fan on:

Most of the liquid is gone, and they are perfect one bite snacks. I put some of them in oil and stashed them in the fridge as antipasti or cut up in omelette or in salad. Some of them we took hiking, and some of them went in the freezer as well. I guess you can dry them longer if you like the hard leathery ones you can buy, but I was happy with these nice juicy morsels.

I envy all of you that have tomatoes in their back yard btw!