Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer's Worth of Grilling

It's all a matter of perspective. I just got back from a terrific camping trip along the Imnaha River in the Wallowa mountains (more on that later), glad to have missed the searing temperatures here in Portland. Though contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood found those same readings virtually balmy compared to what he experienced in Washington, D.C., recently. So with the rest of July and August still to come, Jim has done us the favor of providing recipes for the rest of our outdoor cooking needs. Thanks, Jim!

Since the mercury topped 100 for a couple of the days we were in Washington, DC, coming home to the upper 90s with fairly low humidity was actually pleasant. But I still didn’t want to cook anything inside. For last week’s heat wave I cooked everything on the Weber, which one night included salmon, grilled eggplant and corn on the cob.

Grilled Sockeye with Balsamico

The short Bristol Bay sockeye season is here. My favorite species, sockeye is second only to Chinook in fat content, and the smaller fish yield perfectly sized fillets. I cook them skin side down using indirect heat (I build my fire on one side of the Weber and put the filet on the other). The rich fish is perfect with the sweet, acidic tang of true balsamic vinear, so drizzle the salmon with Profumi Estensi balsamico at the table. (The Bristol Bay fishery is threatened by mining; see details here.)

Grilled Eggplant with Romesco

While the salmon cooks on the indirect heat side, I grilled slices of eggplant over the coals. I never salt eggplant, and I’ve never understood the claims that the vegetable is bitter. The process, to me, is a waste of time. Slice the eggplant about a half inch thick, then brush lightly with olive oil. Grill over a hot fire until nicely browned on both sides. We ate with our fingers, rolled around a dollop of romesco.

For the romesco, roast 3-4 red bell peppers (I had some already roasted and peeled in the freezer, but you can blacken them on the grill before you cook anything else).

An aside: My very first published food article more than 30 years ago was about roasting red peppers, and at the time I used the propane torch I also used for waxing my cross country skiis. Since then I’ve roasted hundreds of peppers using that torch, the burners on my old Wedgewood gas stove, and a hot fire in the Weber, but I think the easiest way is to put the peppers in a hot oven for about 45 minutes. They don’t really need to be completely blackened for the skins to come off, and the step of “sweating” the cooked peppers in a plastic bag can be skipped, too. I often do this step a few days in advance, storing the roasted peppers, skins still on, in a bowl in the refrigerator.

Peel the peppers, and discard the seed core and as many of seeds as you care to pick out. Put them into the food processor with 2-3 roughly chopped cloves of garlic, about a cup of almonds (I use blanched and slivered almonds, but whole almonds or even walnuts or filberts are okay), a half cup or more of extra virgin olive oil, a quarter cup or so of Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar (sherry vinegar is traditional, but the Katz vinegars have more flavor than industrial vinegars), a little salt, and about a half teaspoon of pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika). A half cup or so of breadcrumbs is optional, but makes the sauce a little thicker. Process into a chunky paste, adding more olive oil if necessary.

Grilled Corn

You can leave some of the outer husk attached, remove the rest and the silk, then wrap the ears with the husks before grilling. Even easier, husk corn and put right over the coals. Some kernels get a nice char, and the corn is sweet and smoky.

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