Tag Archives: grill

A Platter of Veg

25 Sep

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I have to say, I am really missing our Wintergreen Farms CSA basket from Oregon.  The beautiful greens of the Oregon summer and fall are nowhere to be seen at this point in the Florida growing season, and the heat is still as persistent as ever.  However, that being said, a few weeks ago, a small local market opened up in our housing community that has filled up our crisper with almost as many goodies as our Oregon CSA baskets did.  For $20, we can get 9 baskets of fruits or veggies, each about the size of holding 3 beefsteak tomatoes.  Good deal?  I think so. 

We made a point to go to the little market last Saturday, as friends were coming into town to stay the night.  All week I had been flipping through my recipes, trying to get inspiration from many a cookbook, all with no avail leaving an empty, white plate sans what to cook for dinner.  I hate that feeling.

Back when I lived in Irvine, CA, the UCI Farmers Market was a Saturday must.  Every week, I’d stock up on the season’s freshest, and would jump into my car with loads of cooking ideas – some of which I had to write down before even driving away.  I would come home to my little 710 square foot apartment (a fourth of which was the perfectly one-person-proportioned U-shaped kitchen) that overlooked the Portola Foothills, and cook the Saturday away.  Most dishes were vegetarian, most were written down, and if I deemed the dish good enough, I’d bring it to my parents’ house to share.  I learned how to cook this way, and found it invigorating.  Thinking about it, even now, I get that same comfortable excitement, motivation, and inspiration.

Rob called it my “Saturday Routine.”  He knew not to mess with it.  When we moved to Oregon, we created our own Saturday Routine together by visiting markets up and down the Coast, stopping at a fabulous winery for a glass of Pinot, and cooking our bountiful veg from our weekly basket.  Occasionally we’d have friends over for a low-key night, or hold down a local dive watching Oregon play that week’s losing team.  While it was never officially mentioned, I could totally see Rob saying, “Oregon’s Saturday Routine totally kicks California’s Saturday Routine’s BUTT!” 

So this past Saturday, filled with the overflowing emptiness and panic ensuing from what to make my guests for dinner, we went to the little market in our neighborhood.  I got excited.  So much so, that I started talking in circles about ideas and recipes; Rob knows from experience when this happens, to just let me have at it.

“Rob, what do you think if I grill some eggplant – should we do eggplant, or would zucchini be better?”

“Babe, I thin-“

“Wait, why don’t I do both!”

“Ok, then.”

“Look!  The Honey Crisp apples are out!”

“Aren’t those the ones that – “

“I LOVE THOSE!  Remember how they were all over the Pacific Northwest?”

“Yeah, I – “

“Ooooooo tangeloes!!!”

The poor lady helping us out had the patience of a Saint, and I’m sure she was happy to see us go – mostly for the reason that she wouldn’t have to hear my voice anymore, but also that I walked away with 3 baby eggplant, 4 zucchini, 3 apples, a basket of pluots, a basket of tangelos, 2 bunches of green onions, 4 heirloom peppers, 3 beefsteak tomatoes, and a basket of cherry tomatoes.  YUM. 

So dinner with our friends consisted of a rustic, marinated, grilled vegetable platter.  With the zucchini, baby eggplant, carrots, green onions, apples, mushrooms, and heirloom peppers, we mixed in some turkey sausage for the omnivores, and paired it with a lovely kale and dill pesto.  Really, it was the marinade that made this dish amazing – it is tangy, sweet, and perfectly complimentary to the smoke of the grill, leaving the veg addictive.  The leftovers were amazing, too.  I simply heated up the veg with some feta cheese, but I can completely imagine the second round as a lovely grilled vegetable soup, or a fantastic Panini.   Yum again. 

The night, and the dinner, was a hit, and it felt so good to be inspired again.  Feel free to use any vegetable you would like in this dish – really anything that can hold its integrity on a hot grill will work fine.  Fruit works, too, and please enjoy with good company.  Hopefully a giant platter of veg will inspire you as much as it did for me.  

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Grilled Veg Marinade
(makes just over a pint) 

  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of one tangelo (or an orange)
  • 3 whole sprigs of thyme
  • 1 large garlic clove, slightly smashed
  • about 10 peppercorns
  • a 4-fingered pinch of kosher salt

Pour all ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar.  Seal tightly, and shake well to mix.  Put in the fridge for a few hours to marry the flavors. 

About 30 minutes before grilling the veg, pour over the marinade, and mix well so all the juices sink in and impart the flavor.    

NOTE: cut your veg into pretty thick pieces, and large enough that they won’t fall through the grill grate.  Go straight from the marinade to the grill, medium heat, and grill each side.  Mix with, or without a protein of your choice, and serve on a big platter.  And extra sprinkling of fresh basil on top adds a nice touch. 

Enjoy! 

Feeling Blue

29 Jul

Not really – things are great!  We’ve had beautiful sunny days on the Oregon Coast, Empire Café’s booth at the Farmer’s Market is selling out, and aside from Sig’s new obsession of sneakily stealing and chewing on wine corks, life is good.  But I do still have blueberries.  Lots of them.

During our spontaneous Costco visit the other day (spontaneous because Costco is two hours away, and we hadn’t planned on going), we picked up some beautiful flank steak.  Our Coos Bay butcher, while having some great, local, and sometimes hard to find cuts of meat, he is often lacking on the flank steak.  It’s a wonderful cut of meat – thin, flavorful while still on the lean side, and responds beautifully to marinades.  I don’t see much of it in restaurants, and I’m wondering if my naïveté is missing something in the steak world; like my affection for flank steak is similar to saying fake nacho cheese is good for you (isn’t it?).

Anywho, growing up, my mom used to make flank steak all the time.  She’d grill them on the rare side, a little more rare than my dad would prefer, and slice them construction paper-thin.  She usually served them with one of our favorite sides – sautéed mushrooms in butter and wine.  Those were usually gone within the first serving.  In my way younger days, I coined the term, “Red Juicy Meat,” in our house and would ask for said food almost every dinner.  And the leftovers were perfect for sandwiches – PB&Js were great (still are), but nothing beat a 3rd grader’s steak sandwich.

So our steak dinner the other night came together kind of haphazardly.  I’ll give you the Jill and Rob conversation (and yes, our kitchen conversations are like this.  Me, more so than him, which often leaves him with raised eyebrows and hands out waiting patiently for me to explain a complete thought.  Such a good man):

We have the steaks – ok, will marinate and grill.  But what else?  We have mushrooms – ok, but let’s try something different.  Inspiration?  Canal House’s Summer volume – yes, pg. 28.  Now, what else… let’s see… Blueberries.  Blueberries, blueberries, blueberries.  Grapes?  Ok, grapes.  “Jill, what…. do you want me to do?”

What?  You didn’t get all that?

So, our summer steak dinner came together beautifully and blue.  Rob had the inspiration to make Blueberry Mojitos (if you want the recipe let me know – I’ll have to ask him how they are made!), and they were the perfect start to our Flank Steak with Roasted Blueberries and Grapes.  And the mixture of the juices from the wine, garlic and herb sautéed mushrooms (I adapted and changed the Canal House Sautéed Mushrooms a bit) was a tangy fresh paring to the hearty meat.  The Roasted Blueberries and Grapes weren’t too sweet, masking the integrity of the steak, but rather gave a syrupy contrast to the salty marinade.  It was divine.

In true tradition, the mushrooms were gone within the dinner, but the leftover steak made for a great appetizer the next day – mini steak crostinis.  It was no lunchtime steak sandwich, but still great.

As I write, I’m finishing the last of the fresh blueberries, popping them in my mouth like bar mix at a pub.  But don’t worry; there are 5 more gallons in the freezer.

Flank Steak with Roasted Blueberries and Grapes (serves 4-6) 

  • 2, 1 lb. flank steak
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 2 c pomegranate juice
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • cracked pepper
  • 1 small bunch of grapes
  • 2 c fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • s&p
  • chopped parsley (for garnish) 
  • crispy shallots (optional, for garnish)  – simply heat up about 2 c canola oil in a small pot, and drop in thinly sliced shallots in about three batches.  Take out of oil when golden and crispy, and place on paper towel to drain.  Sprinkle with a bit of fine sea salt while they are still warm.  

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, and preheat grill.

To make the marinade, combine the soy sauce, thyme, pom juice, garlic, and cracked pepper in a large lasagna pan.  Add the meat, turning a couple times to make sure it is covered.  Marinade for at least 1 hour (2 hours is the max outside of the fridge), up to 8 in the fridge.

Meanwhile, in a small cast iron pan, melt the butter (I just put the pan with the butter in the oven while it’s heating).  Once melted, but not browned, add the grapes and the blueberries, and a bit of s&p.  Mix together, making sure the fruit is coated with the butter.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the fruit is syrupy – blueberries have released their juices, but still have some integrity, and the grapes are swollen and look as if they are going to pop.  Take out of the oven, and immediately hit the fruit with the balsamic vinegar, mixing to combine.

Take the meat out of the marinade, and pat dry.  Drizzle steaks with olive oil, salt, and a generous amount of pepper.  Grill to your liking (I think medium rare is the best for flank steak).

After grilling, let meat rest for about 15 minutes tented with foil.  When ready to serve, place on a platter, slice thin strips against the grain of the meat, and pour the lovely roasted fruit on top.  Sprinkle some parsley and crispy shallots on top, and you’ve got a winner winner steak dinner.  

Enjoy! 

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