Hey Everyone, and a Very Happy Summer to You!
Yes, I know it’s been a while. In fact, it’s been about three months that I’ve spent away from blogosphere, both reading and writing, and thank all of you who have told me that I have been missed – especially Ping, Zoe and Juls! I’ve missed you all as well (gods, do I have tons of blog reading to catch up on now – yay!!!), and trust me when I say that I have had a good reason – in fact, two good reasons! – to be gone. I make no excuses, only that law school can suddenly drop buckets of workload on one’s head. Or stacks of books, to be precise. But, the essays for this half-term are turned in now, and the grade for the first one I got back is good, and I am also back from Barcelona (there will be pictures of food in upcoming blog posts along with restaurant reviews – the great, the good and the awful), and most significantly to my daily nom, I have repaired my kettle grill.
Oh, you didn’t know my grill was broken - or that I had one at all? I am not surprised. You see, it was purchased broken – by design, not by defect – and after the spectacular inaugural failure of its first use, it sat on my balcony for a year, fading in the sunlight and snow, forgotten and unloved. I rued the €20 or so that we had spent on it and wondered why the hell would anyone sell a grill so structurally bad as to be unusable. To make it a bit clearer – inside the rounded bottom of it, it had a screw-in bowl thing which the coals were meant to be placed into – that did not have any vent holes in its bottom or sides. None. There were vent holes in the sides of the actual grill body around it, but according to the instructions, the bowl thing was to be screwed into the rounded bottom of the grill and the coals were to be placed into it. I tried it, barely got any heat at all, and gave up on the grill as clearly too badly designed to use.
Then, upon having finished the aforementioned law essays, I felt uplifted and my brain uncramped – and also, it had gotten warm and sunny, and all the neighbors were grilling and … I had a genius idea. What if I took out the stupid bowl thing and just put the coals into the rounded bottom bit of the grill which does have holes in it. Would it work?
And – amazingly! – with the removal of the offending and useless thing, the grill was fixed!
To be quite honest, I still wonder why the thing was provided with the grill and why anyone bothered to make it and waste money on materials and such in order to render the grill inoperable. On the other hand, the beyond-useless part is now resting in peace (or in the garbage to be precise), and we are grilling. Well, not today – today it’s raining and thundering out, but we did grill yesterday and also a bit over a week ago before we went to Barcelona, and you know what? That moment when the sizzling meat scents up the entire building and you are vindicated to all the neighbors who tormented you with their grill-scents for weeks – it’s glorious.
The food is, obviously, too. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like char-grilled food, be it meat, shellfish, vegetables or cheese. Or even that thing I normally refuse to mention as food – tofu. I do believe even tofu would be improved by grilling – but as I don’t eat it, you may have to ask a vegan about that. Me, I go for meat. I really ought to get one of those fish-grilling holders in order to do fish on the grill as well. And seafood – but, it occurs to me that prawns would be great on skewers… but I digress (and drool).
Grilling really is one of the most rewarding ways of cooking – it has the ability to turn ordinary food into extraordinary just by the method of cooking, without any seasoning. With seasoning added, it’s simply divine. What follows is less of a recipe, and more of a description of how travel-fatigued and lazy, we managed to make and eat the above corn and pork-and-Padron pepper skewers.
Normally I am a stickler for making my own marinade, and letting the meat soak properly. However, the skewers in the picture were a result of cheating – we were freshly returned from a week in Spain – exhausted, our fridge was mostly empty, and we wanted to grill but had no meat that was marinated, nor desire or strength to bother. So, we bought a pork loin pre-seasoned in a vac-pack in the supermarket. Typical supermarket marinade is pretty insipid but what it does do, is tenderize the meat and brine it. So, while it does not really flavor the meat much, it does provide the shortcut of hours of marinating time, and when using small bites of meat, added seasoning soaks in/sticks on beautifully in just a few minutes.
I cut the loin up into skewerable pieces, added a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a good thick sprinkling of garlic granules, chopped up a large fat sprig of fresh rosemary into it, drizzled on white wine vinegar and olive oil, and gave the meat a couple of turns in the bowl to coat it thoroughly and distribute seasonings. If the meat hadn’t been pre-marinated, I’d have added some salt, covered the bowl with cling film and stuck it in the fridge for 2-3 hours, but as shop marinade is mostly salt, I skipped that. I left the bowl of meat to sit on the countertop while I prepped the corn for grilling.
If you have never prepped corn on the cob for grilling, there is a truly lazy way to do it. I know, I’m the queen of lazy – particularly on vacation! Here’s how you do it – you peel back the husks while leaving them attached, thickly smear the corn in lightly salted spreadable butter (the sort which has a bit of vegetable oil added so it stays soft – Lurpak may be available in the States, and I know this variety is available in the UK), and sprinkle on some of the granulated garlic and crushed cayenne flakes generously (or less so if you don’t like eating fire). Then you fold the husks back over the corn and seal the tips with a bit of kitchen foil before sticking them into a potful of cold water husk-end down to soak. Then you go light the grill. Or, if you are lazy and/or happen to be me, you shout for the guys to go light the grill. Trust me, guys are very easily motivated by the idea of impending grilled meat.
While the coals are heating up, skewer up the meat with whatever you like in-between (or nothing if you are that sort of carnivore). My favorites are normally either bell pepper pieces, mushrooms, or baby tomatoes. But, while I was in Spain, I have discovered a new addiction (it’s ok arugula, I still love you!) – I am now officially in love with the delicately scented and oh-so-full-of-flavor pimientos de Padrón. I had snagged a box of imported dark-green beauties immediately when I saw it at the supermarket upon my return. In Spain, these are sauteed in a bit of olive oil with flaked sea salt (and they are amazing prepared so), but since they are eaten with seeds, all you have to do with them for skewering, is wash, dry and halve them, and then toss in a bit of olive oil – which is all I did. You could probably buy any sort of a bell pepper and chop it and it’ll work just as well – but it would be sweeter and with less concentrated pepper flavor (not to be confused with heat – these aren’t very hot, if at all).
Turn the corn once while you skewer the meat – or ask the guys to – and put into a baking dish into a 75C oven to keep warm. Grill the skewers turning a few times until the meat is cooked through (it’s pork, it’s not nice undercooked), and serve with the corn. And your choice of fruity white wine, or a cocktail or whatever really.
Then, put up your feet and enjoy the summer. Here in Sweden, we have to hurry up to do it – as beautiful and sunny and warm as it is, it simply does not tend to last. In the spirit of that, I’ve got a fridge- and freezer-full of meat and I’m not afraid to use it. And once this travel fatigue goes away, I’ll be back with actual recipes, not just “what I’ve managed to slap together for putting on newly-invented *cough*repaired*cough* fire“.