Entries Tagged as 'Grilling'

As Usual: Less is More

July 28th, 2014 · 10 Comments · Grilling, Seafood

You know what’s so funny? Sometimes I can spend an entire day thinking about or preparing or shopping for dinner (especially if we are having a bunch of people over) and not be nearly as happy with what ends up on the table as I am when the kitchen is all tumbleweeds, and I spend about thirty seconds scrambling for a plan.

We have been on the move this summer — traveling to Alaska, as you know, Seattle, Chicago, Virginia, and Quogue. And it’s been awesome. The girls have sailed on wooden boats in Seattle lakes, and cheered on the Cubs at Wrigley. (I’m extremely lucky to have college roommates who chose really cool places to live.) They have eaten halibut, salmon, oysters, fried chicken, coconut cream pie, triple berry cobblers, and have done a summer’s worth of s’moring already. There has been a week or two of camp squeezed in, too, but for the most part, we haven’t bothered to put the luggage away — last weekend, actually, we didn’t even bother to unpack. Other than the fact that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to work (hence the gaps in posting, forgive me!) it’s been nice to have so little structure, to wake up in a new place and not have to be dressed and out the door by 8:00, shoes on, lunches packed!

The thing about this no structure month, though? Generally, I find myself returning home to a fridge that resembles a bachelor’s. (I know, cry me a river.) Last week, we walked in the door from Chicago close to dinnertime and found the wilting remains of a Savoy cabbage from the week-old CSA bag, two shriveled avocados in the fruit bowl — one barely usable — and my sourdough starter that some of you more careful readers might remember I made in a fit of DIY Excitement two weeks ago upon my return from Alaska. I wasn’t about to (finally) make those (long-promised) sourdough pancakes (soon!), but the sight of the starter reminded me of our Alaskan Seafood Stash in the freezer. Before we left Homer, we had all the halibut Phoebe caught vacuum-packed, frozen, and shipped to us — along with some salmon and something called Alaskan Sweet Shrimp that we couldn’t resist. And there it all was, in our freezer begging to be put to use. (more…)

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Not Your Mother’s Tuna Sandwich

June 17th, 2014 · 13 Comments · Grilling, Quick, Seafood

One summer vacation during my elementary school years, I went on an overnight boating trip across the Long Island Sound with my friend, Andrea and her family. Three decades later, what I remember most about the trip was not the exhilaration of being on the open water for the first time — man vs. sea and all that. What I remember was eating pasta with jarred tomato sauce (my first time ever; SEE: Italian Mother) while bobbing below deck, then feeling seasick until setting foot on land the next day. Andrea’s parents dropped me off at home, where I made a beeline for the fridge — you know that special kind of ravenous you get when you come home from the beach? That was me, and I hunted around for something to wolf down even though it was close to dinnertime, the gold summer sun sinking on the horizon, filtering light through the elm tree in our backyard. My mom told me there was some leftover tuna, so I grabbed the foil-topped bowl, mom handed me a fork, and I ate it in about two minutes while sitting at the kitchen table with her.

To this day, that right there is the gold standard that every tuna experience has to live up to.

My mom’s tuna salad was pretty straightforward as tuna salads go. I’m sure that particular one was like every other batch she whipped up for a brown-bag or quick weekend lunch — Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Water mixed with Hellmann’s. (And no, this post is NOT sponsored by EITHER.) There might have been salt, but there was definitely not black pepper — she isn’t a big fan of black pepper — and the ratio of mayo to tuna was probably on the high side. But what made it special, somehow, was the temperature. The tuna was cold — like really cold — and somehow two ingredients melded together to impart a third, mysterious flavor (childhood fridge? Mom umami?) that is impossible to achieve when I try to recreate it thirty years later in my own kitchen. I love tuna salad sandwiches, Andy and Phoebe love tuna salad sandwiches, we make tuna salad sandwiches all the time. But as good as they are — they always fall short. Always. (I keep making them, though, because I have to assume that I’m adding the same mystery mom ingredient to Phoebe’s lunch.)

That’s a long way of saying: the way I see it — if I’m going to make a tuna sandwich, the only way to avoid disappointment is to go in a complete and totally opposite direction. This past weekend, our friends Anne and Todd came over post-piano recital to celebrate our children’s most excellent interpretations of Mozart and Schumann. We all picked up some good tuna from the fish guy at our farmer’s market (and some hot dogs for the kids who wouldn’t go near the good tuna) and even though I had visions of going wild to celebrate summer, Andy convinced me otherwise (“this is not a performance!”), so we settled on an easy grilled tuna sandwich with salsa fresca and spicy mayo. Just because it was simple, though, and just because technically it was just a plain old “tuna sandwich,” does not mean it wasn’t the best thing I think I’ve eaten all year. Andy sliced the tuna horizontally so it was easier to eat on an open-face baguette, and we topped it with a cilantro-heavy salsa. It wasn’t my mother’s tuna, no. But why even try?

Grilled Tuna Sandwiches with Salsa Fresca
(Makes 4 Sandwiches)
The Oyster Bar in Grand Central makes a version of this sandwich which I highly recommend eating at the snaky counter with a  Coke on a summer day. We served ours with really fresh greens from the market that had been tossed with a rice-wine-vinegar based vinaigrette, and topped with peppery, edible nasturtiums from Anne’s garden. Andy made a farro salad and mixed in chives, feta, dried cherries, and a basic mustard vinaigrette. Todd made this crazy good smashed beet salad with yogurt. All in all, a perfect summer dinner.

1 1/2 pounds tuna, sliced in half horizontally (see: Seafood Watch for Buying Guidelines)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
juice from half a lime
1 long, skinny baguette
salsa fresca
spicy mayo

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, dark sesame oil, and pepper. Place tuna on a large dinner plate and pour marinade on top. Marinate about 15 minutes. Five minutes before you grill, squeeze lime juice over fish, flipping to fully coat. Grill over medium-hot coals for 1-2 minutes a side. (It’s cooks fast when it’s this thin, and we like it on the rare side.)

While fish marinates, make your spicy mayo and salsa fresca.

Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then into four sandwich-size pieces as shown. Spread mayo on each half, then top each half with tuna and salsa fresca. Serve open-face unless you like your sandwiches on the bready-ier end. (We do not.)

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Cedar Plank Salmon

June 9th, 2014 · 9 Comments · Grilling, Seafood


You should see our basement. No, actually, you shouldn’t. It’s not the face we’re interested in presenting to the world. It’s not even a face we’re comfortable presenting to ourselves. In fact, I think of it as the darkest corner of our psyche come to life. You never know what you will find down there. Yesterday evening, for example, our smoke detector started beeping — the dreaded low battery alert — so I went downstairs to find a replacement battery. In the course of about three minutes of searching, I found: a sad cache of 9 volt batteries (all corroded), some butcher’s twine, a roll of neon green duct tape I’d been looking for a few months ago, a stack of bills and bank statements from 2011, about 7 single socks, an ice cream maker, a child’s purple rain boot, an empty can of La Croix seltzer, a wad of yellowing paper towels that we had jammed into a corner when our washing machine flooded about a year ago and, next to the old leather club chair we used to have in our living room and now serves as our thing-to-pile-other-things-on, three rectangular cedar planks, the kind you use to grill salmon.

Back in the day, pre-kids, Jenny and I used to make cedar-plank salmon on our roofdeck all the time, but somewhere along the line, it fell — like square-toed shoes and Everybody Loves Raymond — by the wayside. We moved on. We evolved. Why, though? What’s not to like about cedar plank salmon? (A) It’s easy, and (B) It’s a really flavorful, tender, smoky twist on a dinner staple we have grown a little sick of over the years. So, after ripping our smoke detector out of the wall, I dusted off one of those planks — literally dusted it off — and fired up the grill. It was as good as we remembered, so good that we resolved not to wait another decade before doing it again. It almost made us feel okay about the cry-for-help that is our basement. There’s good stuff down there, if you know where to look. – Andy

This piece of salmon was 1.5 pounds and I rubbed it, about 15 minutes before cooking, with a mixture of brown mustard, a handful of chopped dill, 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger, and lots of kosher salt and pepper. We served with grilled asparagus and scallions, and roasted potatoes. Note Part 1: Before you cook with a cedar plank, you need to soak the plank in water — like, totally submerged — for about 30 minutes, which helps get the steam going and keeps the wood from burning to a crisp.

Once your fish is on the plank (skin-side down) and placed over medium-high heat, cover (with lid vents open) and cook for 12-15 minutes. It’s ready when salmon is cooked through, and slightly brown and bubbly at the edges. Note Part 2: The consistency of cedar plank salmon is not the same as grilled salmon. It’s closer to steamed — softer, more tender, less flaky. So don’t necessarily go by firmness; go by color.

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Relentless

April 19th, 2014 · 25 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Posts by Andy, Quick, Seafood

Jenny begged me to write this post. She begged me to write it because we have spent most of the last week on spring break and she has spent much of that time feeling guilty about not having posted. She keeps circling the laptop, turning to me and saying, “Should I post? Just something quick? Is it bad that we haven’t done anything all week?” (This is what it’s like being a food blogger. And, I want to clarify: She is not being lazy. She is writing another book, working on a site redesign, we just handed in a Bon App column, and she is mapping out a whole bunch of new posts, which she’ll be rolling out in the next couple of weeks, for real. The point is: She likes you guys. She really likes you guys!*) So: I’m going to keep this short because my feelings of guilt re posting are not quite as debilitating, and because this vacation ends tomorrow, and because a bike ride with the kids — followed by an Easter egg salad sandwich with sweet relish — awaits.

Last Saturday evening, we fired up the Weber for the first time this year — always a cause for celebration in our house. We’d been kind of going off lately, food-wise, and wanted to keep things healthy. We decided on fish (Phoebe requested salmon, as per usual), a grilled vegetable (the asparagus at the farmer’s market was lookin’ good), and the kind of grainy, superfood salad that the kids would not touch if you paid them in unicorn sightings (we did quinoa with feta, tomatoes, and scallions). Jenny is standing over my shoulder right now, as I type this, and she approves, so consider this POSTED. – Andy

* Dear very nice commenters who write in to say you miss it when Jenny doesn’t post as much: I love you, but you’re KILLING ME! (more…)

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Abby’s Famous Swiss Chard (with a Side of Steak)

March 24th, 2014 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Guest-post from 10-year-old Abby:

I am so sick of kale. Good thing I taught my family to like chard with this world famous dish. Well not world famous, but famous in my house.

I love chard. The second I saw the rainbow-colored stems at farm camp growing in a garden with beautiful fluffy green leaves I knew that they would taste good. One morning I bought then at the farmers market. Later though, when we brought it home, I had no idea how to cook it. My dad started cooking the chard in a pan and putting red pepper on it. I took a taste, but it was a bit spicy, so I added some soy sauce to make it salty and to balance the spicy-ness. Then I tried it again, and it tasted really good, but it needed some sweetness. Finally I thought of the perfect solution: Rice Wine vinegar! (Mom’s note: seasoned rice wine vinegar!) I drizzled it on and sampled the chard. It was delicious! I put the whole thing into a bowl and honestly could not stop eating it. By the time it was dinnertime there was only half the amount I had cooked left in the bowl. Since that dinner, I make the recipe very often and every time it tastes even better.

And my mother (now typing) would like to add that it’s very delicious with a quick broiled (or grilled) marinated skirt steak. Here are both recipes:

Quick Broiled Skirt Steak with Abby’s Chard
Her mother would also like to let you know that this entire dinner can be made in 2o minutes, 15 if you have a 10-year-old sous chef taking over the chard. (more…)

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That Chicken

February 10th, 2014 · 35 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Grilling


My sister called me the other morning. We were both in our cars — bluetoothing and dropping off our various charges — and figuring out a possible cousin sleepover when she said, with some urgency, “Oh! Did you get my message?”

“No, what message.”

“I left you a voice-mail with a lot of questions, but I really want to tell you about the chicken.”

“What chicken?”

“My friend Trish had a bunch of moms over for lunch recently, and she served the most delicious chicken.”

Now this was unusual. I get a lot of post-game calls about recipes, but not many of them are about poultry.

“Tell me about it,” I told her, negotiating a huge snow bank so I could park the car in front of my coffee shop.

“Well, it was served on a large platter, kind of like one that you would have, and it was room-temperature, but she served it with tiny potatoes and green beans on top of lettuce, a ton of fresh vegetables, and a vinaigrette on the side.”

Deconstructed lunch! I thought to myself.

“Someone said, ‘Oh it’s a deconstructed lunch!’ She also had some salmon, but the chicken was the star. It was so healthy and flavorful, not bland like most chicken in salad is, and it was all ready to go when we got there because she made it ahead of time.”

Maybe it was just that the night before I had a ginormous bowl of Pappardelle with Pork Ragu, and the night before that, a hearty Moroccan beef stew…or maybe it was just that we were steeling ourselves for another snowstorm that would come with more buttery, stewy richness, but when she was describing this to me I was longing for a sign of spring, even if it was in dinner-form. And man, did something light surrounded by fresh vegetables sound like the ideal antidote to this relentless winter.

“How’d she make it?”

“She marinated some breasts overnight in mayo, a little olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and a little agave. Some fresh herbs I think. Then she grilled it.”

“On a real charcoal grill outside or in a grill pan on the stove?”

“Outside.”

Wow! Who was this Trish woman? We’re not winter grillers, especially these days, when our Weber looks like this:

But I still had to make it. The next day was a school-day, which is another way of saying a snow day, and it was clear that no work was going to get done no matter how many Sam & Cat episodes I bribed the girls with. But that chicken would get done so help me! Before I was even out of my pajamas, there were four pounded breasts steeping in a some version of Trish’s marinade. And later that night I broke out my cast iron stovetop grill. No charcoal, no charcoal chimney, no char anywhere to be found. And I obviously served it hot instead of chilled or at room temperature like Trish did. And I went with the winter vegetables I had in my fridge. But the whole process managed to thaw a few dreams of spring nonetheless.

And the chicken! I understand why it merited a next-day call from my sister. (The true mark of a successful dish in my book.) Tender, flavorful, and the leftovers were even better the next day.

Trish’s Marinated Chicken
2 tablespoons mayo
1/4 cup olive oil
squeeze of agave (or honey)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
squeeze of lemon
fresh rosemary, thyme or torn basil leaves
Four medium size chicken breasts, pounded thin

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients and, along with chicken, add to a ziploc. Marinade eight hours or overnight, flipping in the fridge at some point if you can. When you are ready to cook, heat a stovetop grill to medium-high, and brush with a tiny bit of olive oil. Grill chicken pieces about four minutes a side (let excess marinade drip off before you place on grill) or until chicken is firm but not rock hard. Serve with Kale-Brussel hash below.

Kale-Brussels Hash

Add a small piece of smoky bacon to a skillet set over medium heat. Once fat has rendered, add a little olive oil and cook a few tablespoons of onions or shallots (chopped) until soft. Add salt and pepper, maybe a few red pepper flakes if you are so inclined, then a few healthy handfuls of shredded kale and shaved brussels sprouts. Cook until just barely wilted (and still bright green) and add to a serving bowl. Drizzle with a little cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar) to taste. You can chop the bacon into small pieces if you feel like it, or just eat the chunk yourself before the kids fight over it.

 I have one of those cast iron reversible grill pans that stretches across two burners. The flip side is a griddle, but I never use it.

Related: I Want to Marry Marinating.

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What Passes for Fun on a Saturday Night

September 16th, 2013 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Posts by Andy, Quick, Seafood, Uncategorized

“Make Dinner Not War,” huh? The pacifist ethos may look good on a bumper sticker, and it may reign supreme at our family dinner table, but when it comes to, say, girls’ soccer or beach-kadima-fer-chrisskes or routinely kicking her husband’s arse in a “friendly” game of Clue? Jenny is not to be trifled with. It’s why I hesitate to tell her my top score in Ruzzle, because I know it’s only a matter of time before she borrows my phone — and then hands it back fifteen minutes later, having destroyed my record. It’s why I stopped playing tennis with her, lo these many years ago. We’d be hitting the ball around like normal husbands and wives and the moment would come when she’d walk up to the net and ask, casually tucking a ball into the pocket of her shorts, “Wanna play a few games?” Like an idiot, I’d say yes. And suddenly, she couldn’t miss. Every shot: in. Every impossible angle: not impossible, apparently! I’d hit the ball as hard as I could, and it would come back harder. I’m worried, as I write this, that Jenny is going to come off as too Tiger Mom-ish, that she only cares about winning, which is not really true. So I’ll put it this way: Jenny would rather win than lose. And she usually does, too.

The key word here is usually.

Last Saturday, we picked up some fresh striped bass from our fish guy at the farmer’s market. I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and as I was going outside to fire up the grill, Jenny said she’d be in charge of making a blender sauce for the fish. A blender sauce with roasted red peppers and walnuts and something else I can’t quite remember, because the truth is, I stopped listening as soon I heard roasted red peppers and walnuts. I must have made an expression that gave me away.

“What?” she said. “You don’t think that sounds good?”

“No, no,” I said. “It sounds really good. It’s just that this fish is so  fresh, I don’t know if we need it. I was thinking of something a little lighter and cleaner-tasting.”

“Like what?”

“Like, with those tomatoes we got today or something. A tomato coulis. Is that the right word? Tomato coulis?”

“I have no idea,” she said. “How about I make mine and you make yours, and we’ll have a taste -off.”

Christ.

Dinner as competitive sport: This is what passes for fun in the DALS house on a Saturday night. We retreated to our respective corners — Jenny with the blender, me with the mini-Cuisinart — and worked in silence, as serious as monks. We roped the kids in at some point, too — appointing them as the official arbiters, a role they naturally cherish — and put a dollop of both sauces on every plate. After a few bites and some mindful chewing, everybody weighed in. The results, I do not regret to say, were clear: The tomato sauce. In a walk. Even Jenny conceded it was better, and you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that doesn’t happen much around here. Victory at last!

The truth is, Jenny’s sauce was better than mine, more sophisticated, more interesting. Add some feta and it’d be an amazing dip, served with pita chips and some gherkins. It would also have been fantastic with grilled chicken. But with fish this fresh, just off the grill, on a beautiful late summer night? Nuh-uh. Not in my house. – Andy

Jenny’s Sauce

In a blender, whirl together:

2 roasted red peppers (halve, brush with olive oil, and broil for 20 minutes; then remove pith and peel off skin. I used the ones from our CSA, which aren’t too big — medium-size, I’d say)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon balsamic (wished we had red wine vinegar)
Small handful walnuts
Salt & pepper
Squeeze of Sriracha

Andy’s Sauce

In a food processor, whirl together until emulsified:

Couple of handfuls fresh grape tomatoes (I used red and yellow)
Few generous glugs of olive oil
Juice from 1/2  lime OR 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Two basil leaves
One scallion
Squeeze of Sriracha
Salt & pepper, to taste

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I’ll Deal with That After Vacation

August 26th, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef

Do you guys have that list? The I’ll-Deal-With-it-After-Vacation List? Earlier in August while scrambling to get everything organized before we dropped off the face of the earth for a while (real earth, not blog earth) I found myself keeping a mental list of all the things I’d just figure out once I got home. Taken on their own, in the rosy glow of pre-vacation denial, all those tasks seemed so infintisemally minor — a magazine deadline, a bunch of volunteer obligations, afterschool activity scheduling, a 300-page manuscript to read through. (More on that soon.) And yet, like clockwork, the night before re-entry to reality, each one of those items on my list team up — I picture them rubbing their palms together and laughing an evil laugh —  to form one really not-min0r-at-all get-organized list. This usually  happens somewhere around three o’clock in the morning.  That was last night for me, so I’m going to make this post short.

But even as summer vacation winds down, summer itself is still in full throttle. Which is another way of saying, the cooking is still as simple to deal with as ever. So for this week, at least, come dinnertime, I’m pretending we’re still on holiday. This grilled steak with salsa verde was our last meal in South Carolina and was good enough to deserve a reprise. As soon as I get through my list.

Grilled Steak with Salsa Verde
We served this with the most basic sides: Vinaigrette-tossed chopped kale and Chopped tomatoes and avocados with red onion, avocado, a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, s&p, and cilantro. On the screened porch overlooking an egret-speckled lagoon. I can’t promise you it will taste as good if you’re not on vacation.

Salsa Verde

1 scallion, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh parsley or cilantro or mint or a combination of all three
10-12 large capers
generous amount of salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Steak

1 1/2 punds boneless ribeye steaks, heavily salted & peppered

Process all salsa verde ingredients except oil in a mini food processor or blender. Then, slowly add olive oil as you whirl and  the sauce emulsifies. Remove to a small dish.

Grill steaks over medium-hot coals 3 to 4 minutes a side. Remove from grill and and let sit five minutes before slicing on the bias. Serve with salsa verde spooned on top.

Oh sweetie! No scraps tonight, Iris. (It’s steak for crying out loud.) But if you hang out with us for a bit, you might get a piece of kale.

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Vacation Dinner Highlight Reel

August 21st, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Travel

I can’t promise you this will be a very usable guide to exciting eating. As you know, on vacation, you can toast a pop tart for dinner and it will make you as happy as a four-course meal at Cafe Boulud. (In fact, maybe we’ll try that tonight.) But, as you can imagine, we are getting seriously into our South Carolina vacation dining, doing our best to adhere to the 50 Rules, outlined so dutifully last week so we don’t lose total control. Herewith our top six dinner moments this side of the Mason-Dixon line…

1. Shrimp Cocktail. I once read that if you’re not going to eat shrimp right off the boat in Southeastern US, you might as well always buy it in the freezer aisle — there’s pretty much no such thing as fresh, flavorful shrimp outside of this region. I think that’s why whenever we are down here, we eat shrimp like we’re never going to eat shrimp again. The run-up so far: Shrimp cocktail before dinner as often as possible (chilled with cocktail sauce, natch), grilled shrimp in salads at lunch; shrimp salad rolls for dinner.

2. Oyster Sliders at The Ordinary. We’ve gone out to dinner a few nice places, but so far the winner has been The Ordinary — perhaps a tip-off was the fact that Bon Appetit nominated it for one of the country’s 50 best new restaurants this year. Or perhaps it was the oyster sliders with the crazy coconut action that Abby ordered and which put the rest of our meal to shame. And that’s saying something because the rest of the meal — lobster rolls, pickled shrimp, John Dory schnitzel — was pretty damn tasty.

3. Beet & Carrot Slaw Our CSA pick-up was the day before driving from New York to South Carolina, so what were we going to do, give our neighbor that week’s share? I don’t think so. Not when, among other things, heirloom tomatoes and cylindra beets were in the box. We packed all our produce in a cooler and tended to the bundle like it was a third child. The love and care paid off because on our first night cooking we made some flounder and, not wanting to turn on the oven (Rule 45!), I shredded those beets on a box grater with some carrots, tossed in rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint. (Full disclosure: There was no mint, but there should’ve been.)

4. Phoebe’s Crostini You’re looking at grilled tuna (that Andy had spackled in mayo before throwing on the Weber) a very JV succotash made with butter beans, corn, red peppers, onion, sauteed in a little bacon fat (apologies to real southerners) and Phoebe’s crostini. At camp, Phoebe learned that if you toss chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh peaches, corn kernels, a drizzle of balsamic and some Parm, and put the whole thing on baguette toasts, then very delicious things ensue. “It’s like summer in a bowl,” she announced when she put together the topping. I’ll take it!

4. Roast Carrots with Garam-Masala Yogurt Sauce. OK, so fine, I confess: we turned on the oven once. Or twice. But the cause was a noble one — carrots, cut on the bias, tossed with a little chopped onion, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 425°F for about 30 minutes (keep an eye on them). While they roasted, I whisked together about 3/4 cup plain yogurt with a teaspoon garam masala, lime juice, olive oil, chopped cilantro and mint. I’m not going to go so far to say it was the best thing on the plate — that’s an impossible honor when a grilled burger with special sauce is in the mix — but it was a clear leader in the side dish department this summer.

6. Beach Picnic The homemade pizza with fresh tomatoes was pretty good. So was the asparagus that Andy quickly sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper during the 30 minute stretch that the girls were totally, absolutely, relentlessly begging for a beach picnic. You promised! It’s so easy! I’ll help pack everything! Come on it’s vacation! Be fun! What parents know but kids don’t yet is that beach picnics are one of those things that always sound really fun, but are actually kind of a nightmare. Especially if you don’t have any of the right gear (see baking pan cum nonbreakable tray above) and especially if you try to take photos showing how ideal the night is (full moon, clear sky, silky calm ocean, etc), then get sand in your fancy camera making things a thousand times more stressful. So why is this even on my highlight reel? Because after dinner was over, we all jumped in the ocean. And there’s very little that beats a post-dinner sunset swim.

For more real-time dinner highlights, follow us on instagram: andyward15 and dinneralovestory.

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Summer Short Ribs? Yup.

July 17th, 2013 · 14 Comments · Grilling, Pork and Beef

If we were playing word association (since we just got back from vacay, there has been a lot of this game going on in our house) and we started with say, short ribs…Where would you go from there?

“Winter?” “Braise?” “Dutch Oven?” “Anna?”

I’ll tell you where I wouldn’t have gone:

“Grilling.”

Call me naive, but it never would’ve occurred to me to associate short ribs with backyard barbecuing — until a week or two ago, when our friends Todd and Anne had our family over for some dinner. Now, as you well know by now, dinner at their house in the summer is not your run-of-the-mill burgers-and-dogs-and-corn-on-the-cob kind of event. (Not that I would EVER turn down ANY of those things EVER!) But every time I walk in to Todd and Anne’s homey kitchen overlooking the Hudson River — whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall — Todd is busy concocting something curious. This time, he was mad-geniusing a cocktail: Lord only knows what the thing was — something that involved beer, cider vinegar, fresh lemons, bourbon, maybe even a small animal, can’t be sure, but whatever it was, it totally got the job done. Next to him was a platter of short ribs that Anne had dropped into a marinade a few hours earlier, getting ready to be tossed onto the grill. “It’s basically Tony’s Steak,” Todd told me, simultaneously working on a pot of quinoa and drizzling rice wine vinegar into some wilted spinach. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. This is so my kind of eatin’.

And I haven’t even gotten to the part in the story where the sun sinks into the horizon, casting a golden glow over the Hudson, the treetops, and the dinner table. So yeah, today, if you asked me to play word association with “short ribs” I’d have no choice but to say one thing: Summer.

Grilled Short Ribs with Scallions
Todd & Anne served this with an herby quinoa dish and wilted spinach that had been tossed with a drizzle of rice wine vinegar, a drop or two of sesame oil, salt, pepper, sesame seeds. Oh and also a nice cold glass of Ramey Chardonnay.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Juice from one lime
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs
1 bunch scallions, trimmed (as shown above) and tossed in a little olive oil with salt

Add all the marinade ingredients to a large ziploc bag. Add ribs, seal it, and marinate in the refrigerator for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Heat grill to high and add ribs and scallions as shown above. Cook ribs about 3 to 4 minutes a side, about 10-12 minutes total, browning all sides. Flesh should feel tender, but not smushy. Scallions are ready when they are slightly charred and wilted.

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A Father’s Day Gift (for the Whole Family)

June 5th, 2013 · 21 Comments · Dinner, Entertaining, Grilling

You could get him a robe. Or another something-or-other that could be categorized as a “gadget.” Or a bottle of gin for his gin & tonics. You could get him a charcoal chimney or grilling tongs monogrammed with his nickname. You could get him any number of things that would make him happy…OR…you could give him something that will directly, immediately, deliciously benefit you and the kids all summer long and for many summers to come. You could give him The Grilling Book, edited by Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit and longtime Friend of DALS.  I dare you — and I dare you to dare him — to look at these photos and not want to fire up the grill immediately. The book will be your family’s summer bible — and for anyone who can’t seem to break through the hot-dog-and-burger firewall, you’ll find over 400 pages of gorgeously-photographed inspiration; primers for every stage of the grilling process; salads, slaws, cocktails and sauces that pull it all together; and recipes from all over the world, for all kinds of family dinners. Not convinced? How about a little teaser…to start wouldja look at that Cedar Plank Salmon above?

Skirt Steak with “ridiculously addictive” bright green Chimichurri Sauce.

Lamb Burgers with Moroccan Spices and Orange Salsa made from beets, cumin, jalapeno, and cilantro.

Chicken Yakatori, made with ground chicken, scallions, miso, and soy basting sauce. I am so tracking down all the ingredients for it as soon as this post goes live.

Grilled Haloumi with Watermelon, Tomatoes Basil & Mint. We’ve discussed Grilled Haloumi before, but I don’t know if it’s ever looked this good. It’s a sheep-goat milk blend, that’s firm enough to retain its shape over hot coals, but soft enough to ooze a little inside.

Check it out. Or check out Adam grill four fish recipes from the book on the Today Show. Happy Father’s Day!

All food photographs above by Peden + Munk.

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Memorial Day Menus

May 23rd, 2013 · 11 Comments · Grilling

I have been waiting soooo long to post this photo. It came from reader Abby with a note that read, in part:

Just wanted to say thank you. I’m sure you hear this a lot, but wow do I love your blog and your book even more.  I have four children five and under (just turned 5, just turned 3 and 16-month-old twins.) I have always been totally committed to sitting down as a family to eat dinner without articulating it as a philosophy or, really just articulating it at all.  It was just something we did and boy is it hard. Your book makes me feel so proud of myself and, as I’m sure you can tell from my family set-up, I need some of that good feeling every once in a while!  So thank you for that.The dark n’ stormy’s have inspired me too. Attached is my beachtime innovation – drink to go in an empty jam jar. Life changing. With four kids it doesn’t take much.

I can’t recall the exact month she sent me the photo, but it had to have been cold because I remember taking in not just Abby’s genius beachtime innovation, but the tall pines and the blue sky and the water and her swimsuit and sunglasses….and man oh man summer seemed so far away. Like it happened to people on other planets.

And yet! Here we are about to kick off the first big weekend of summer grilling season. In addition to those Dark & Stormies, here are some suggestions for what to make:

Chicken: Option 1
BBQ Chicken

Grilled Vegetables with Haloumi
Cornbread
Apple Coleslaw with Yogurt

Chicken: Option 2
Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken or Shrimp
Campfire Potatoes (tossed with chutney instead of creme fraiche)
Shredded Kale Salad

Steak
Tony’s Steak

Macaroni & Cheese
Asian Slaw with Peanuts

Lamb
Grilled Lamb Chops or Grilled Leg of Lamb
Fava Bean Crostini
Wild Rice Salad with Feta and Cranberries

Fish
Grilled Whole Black Sea Bass
Sorrel with Mint, Peas, & Parm
Oven-baked Fries (from my book) with Spicy Mayo

Happy Long Weekend!

 

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Choose Your Own Adventure: Yogurt Marinades

May 13th, 2013 · 27 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Grilling, Seafood

I know it seems hard to believe, but there are a handful of people out there in the world (OK, the immediate family) who have never heard of Andy’s seminal “grilled chicken for people who hate grilled chicken.” This, in spite of us linking to it so many times on DALS that I actually hear my early readers (Yo Amanda in SF!) thinking what I used to think at my childhood dinner table: “Oh jeez, not the chicken again.”

The secret of course, is the yogurt marinade. Which yogurt marinade? Well, that’s up to you. As long as you have the basic template ingredients (yogurt, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper) you can go in almost any direction that feels good to you. (Remember, this is marinating, which, I believe is Lithuanian for “You can’t screw it up.”) Start with this template:

2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper

Once you have all that in the blender, you can choose your own adventure:

Option 1 Lemon-Pepper: “The Classic”
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Juice from two lemons
1 really nice squeeze of honey
Even more black pepper (about 10-15 grinds)

Option 2 Tandoori: “The Crowdpleaser” (from Bon Appetit)
1 cup cilantro leaves (no need to chop since it’s going in the blender)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon garam masala (McCormick now sells this — it’s an Indian spice blend that’s kind of sweet)
1 2-inch piece ginger
juice of one lime

Option 3 Middle Eastern: “The Middle Easterner” (I’m pre-coffee; can’t do better than that at the moment)
1/2 cup fresh oregano, stems removed
1 clove garlic
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin

Option 4 Mustard and Herb: “The Pantry Special”
½ cup Dijon mustard
leaves from a couple sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Option 5 Chutney: “The Cheater”
1/2 cup your favorite chutney (these are my favorite)
1/2 cup cilantro

Whichever direction you’ve chosen:

Give the ingredients a good whirl in the blender, then pour into a large freezer bag along with your meat — 2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs or breasts  (pounded flat between two pieces of wax paper), drumsticks, or…here’s some breaking news: SHRIMP! I’ve discovered that a good flavorful yogurt marinade is a great way to kick up the sometimes bland frozen shrimp we pick up in the Northeast. (The photo above was made with the tandoori marinade — the dipping sauce is chutney mixed with lime and…more yogurt!)

Marinate your chicken or shrimp (thawed if frozen) in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill grates with oil. Scrape excess marinade off chicken or shrimp. If you are making shrimp, thread them onto skewers. Grill chicken turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. The shrimp will take a little less time, about 2-3 minutes a side.

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The New Ketchup

October 15th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Grilling, Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized

Universal law of childhood eating, #217: Kids like to dip stuff in stuff. At least, our kids do. They dip roasted potatoes in ketchup. They dip baby carrots in ginger dressing. They dip sausages in yellow mustard, cookies in milk, and breaded chicken in ketchup. They dip salmon in Soyaki, grape tomatoes in ketchup (not sh*tting you!), burritos in salsa, apples in Nutella, bacon strips in maple syrup, Hershey’s kisses in peanut butter, ketchup in ketchup in ketchup in ketchup. I’m not sure what evolutionary quirk is playing out here re: the dipping impulse, but as long as the food goes down, it is all good in the hood, right? A couple of weeks ago, I added another one to the rotation. It was Sunday night and we had grilled a couple of tuna steaks and I was standing in the kitchen, trying to think of something to help seal the deal with the kids. Tuna is not always easy. What goes well with it? Spicy mayo! So I made one, using Hellmann’s and Sriracha. (About 1 teaspoon Sriracha to every 3 tablespoons mayo.) It had a beautiful, peachy color. It had some serious umami action, without being too spicy. It went over huge. Not only that, I’ve since discovered it’s a pretty versatile tool. It’s not just for dipping, in other words. You can use this on turkey sandwiches, in canned tuna salad, in potato salad, in slaws, and, maybe best of all, with – yeah, you heard me Henry John Heinz – Tater Tots. – Andy

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Eating Chicken, Solving Problems

July 12th, 2012 · 24 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Grilling, Kitchenlightenment

After a rambling conversation this morning on the way to camp that began with how digital media is taking over print, and how — according to Abby — maybe this means that trees are being saved, but how — according to Phoebe — discarded electronics account for a massive percentage of the waste in landfills, and then, naturally, to Wall-E, there was a pause. I knew the wheels were turning.

Then, from Abby, heavy with the weight of realization: “There’s so much in this world that needs to be fixed.”

You don’t have to be an 8-year-old to be overwhelmed by all that needs fixing or to be weighed down by the guilt of not doing enough to help with the fixing. And I think that’s why I was so happy with the interview I did on Wired’s Superbug with Maryn McKenna. Not the part where I’m talking, which is the same old stuff you hear me mouth off about all the time, but the introduction where McKenna unloads this theory:

I have a small private belief — for which, despite being a science writer, I can produce no data — that much of the complex difficulty of the American food system would vanish if people knew how to cook…If people trusted they could feed themselves, without much effort or advance planning, they wouldn’t be so vulnerable to the lure of fast and processed food. And if sales of those diminished, the market for the cheap products of industrial agriculture would diminish too. This I believe.

To this theory I will add my own small private beliefs: If you know how to cook, or even if you just decide to sit down to dinner regularly, you might just wind up fixing these things, too:

The Budget Problem Cooking for yourself is a lot cheaper than ordering in or going out. Especially once you get into the rhythm of doing it regularly and building from leftovers, instead of starting from scratch every single night.

The Working Late Problem If you know you have to get home to cook (or even if you know you just have to be home to eat), you will work more efficiently to get out of the office at a decent hour. I also believe that you will be twice as efficient if, before you left the house in the morning, you had the good sense to get the momentum going on dinner by marinating a pork loin in rice wine vinegar, ginger, and soy sauce. (See: How to Plan Family Dinner which includes a weekly meal plan to help with this.)

The Obesity Problem It’s not breaking news that a third of children in this country are clinically obese and that this number is expected to rise. To cook your own food is to know what’s going into your own food, and to have control over your food instead of the other way around. Not to mention dinner provides an organic opportunity to actually talk about what’s on your plate, which ingredients were combined to make what’s on your plate, and where those ingredients came from. This will hopefully lead to healthy eating outside our sheltered little world when the girls are charged with making their own choices.

The Connection Problem I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can spend all day with my kids and yet not have one meaningful interaction with them until I sit down at the dinner table. (On the other hand, I can spend half a day ignoring them as I experiment with an Asian barbecue sauce, only to watch them scarf down the sweet-and-sour chicken at the table in two minutes before asking Can we go back to playing lacrosse now?)

The Parental Guilt Problem I used to call family dinner “My Magic Guilt Eraser” because being able to make a meal for them every night went a long way towards making me feel better about being away from them all day. But more recently I’ve also discovered that dinner also has the power to erase the guilt that naturally builds due to any of the following reasons: Forgot Crazy Hat Day; Missed the baseball game when (of course) your kid scored winning run; Kept promising kids to see PiratesBand of Misfits in the theater yet never quite got around to it; Can’t quite get your 8-year-old to love Holes as much as you do, so stopped reading it halfway through, and now can’t bring oneself to either continue book or start on new one, resulting in no bedtime reading for waaaay too long a stretch of time.

Seriously, can you name any other scenario where an Asian-Style Barbecue Chicken is working that hard for you…solving all these problems for your family and (bonus!) the world? I’m telling you, it’s not an accident that the subtitle of my book is what it is: It all begins at the family table. This I believe.

Asian-Style Barbecue Chicken
Adapted from about five different recipes. I just threw a bunch of sh*t in there and, lo and behold, it worked.

6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/8 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, halved
1/2 medium onion, in large chunks
2 tablespoons rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 dried chile pepper
hot pepper paste or a squeeze of Sriracha (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
4-5 lime wedges

In a small saucepan, whisk all ingredients, except for chicken and lime, over low heat and heat until everything has dissolved, about 10 minutes. Remove from stovetop and let cool. (You can keep the onions and garlic in there.) Once it’s cool, pour into a small bowl. (Any extra keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator.)

Prepare grill. Drizzle chicken pieces with a little oil (canola is fine) salt, and pepper. When the grill is hot, grill the chicken (no sauce yet) for a total of 8 to 10 minutes, turning all the while. Brush the chicken with the barbecue sauce and cook another 3 minutes, basting with the sauce the entire time, and turning pieces frequently so they don’t burn. Serve with lime wedges.

We served this with basic sushi rice and a shredded kale salad that had been tossed with tarragon vinegar, olive oil, avocado, and scallions.

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The Mix

June 20th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Travel

Along with gum wrappers and a zillion pennies, there is a pile of about twenty CDs in the armrest compartment of our family car.  Each one has been labeled by Andy with a black Sharpie using maddeningly unrevealing titles, like “November 2011″ or “Maine” or “Chatham” or “July 08″ so I never know exactly what I’m going to get when I slip one in the CD player. But they’re always curated with listeners big and small in mind, which is why we can go from the Drive-by Truckers’ Zip City (we have been strategically coughing over the s-bomb in the first stanza for almost two years now) right after a Miley Cyrus cover by Lauren Alaina, last year’s American Idol runner-up.  Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Lauren Alaina (I’m still mad she didn’t beat Scotty McCreery) and the kids have no problem with the Truckers (they know their dad would disown them if they did), but when I was road-tripping yesterday to my reading in Boston, trying to figure out what I was going to talk about, it occurred to me that our mixes are a lot like our dinners. As I mentioned to the nice people of Brookline (thank you again Sara, Amy, Ingrid, Essie, Katharine, Sharon, Kelly, Carrie!), we made the most rockin’ dinner last weekend. I brought home a Hudson Valley duck breast from the farmer’s market which Andy grilled to perfection (see above photo). By chance, I had dried cherries macerating in red wine (I know, who writes a sentence like that with a straight face?) which I boiled down with peaches to serve on top of the duck; then we broke out the mandoline for our stand-by apple-fennel slaw. It was the first time we had ever served duck at our dinner table — though definitely not the first time the girls had eaten it; Devika, their first babysitter made a mean duck curry which they’d inhale — but when presented this simply, it wasn’t a hard sell. (Plus we had dinner rolls: The Great Equalizer.) Anyway, if that was our Drive-by Truckers dinner, the next night was our LMFAO dinner: Baked beans on toast, from the can. And just like with the “kids’” Adele song, I went back for seconds.

Grilled Duck Breast with Cherry-Peach Relish

Salt and pepper both sides of a 1 1/2 pound duck breast.

Make your fire. Put coals on one side of the grill and let them burn down to medium heat. Then cook the duck, skin side up for first 10 minutes, not directly over the coals, so you render some of the fat and it drips right off. (There is so much fat on the skin that you have to be careful it doesn’t start a fire and burn the duck to a crisp.) Then grill it skin-side down (again, not over the coals — over indirect heat, right next to the fire. You have to really stand over it and watch it. You do not want big flames) then keep flipping it, skin-side down, skin-side up, until it has a nice burnished (not burned) color on skin side. A total of 15 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes.

I soaked a half cup of dried pitted cherries (such as Montmorency cherries which they sell at Trader Joe’s for about half the price at Whole Foods) in just enough red wine to cover for a few days, but I don’t think you need to do it for more than 8 to 10 hours. Then I simmered the cherries in their wine with 2 peaches (peeled and chopped up), a little more than 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4 cup water over low heat until liquid was thick and mostly gone. In total, it took about 12-15 minutes.

Fennel-Apple Slaw, please see page 243, Dinner: A Love Story.  The bread is Trader Joe’s par-baked dinner rolls, which Andy baked on a covered grill for about 8 minutes.

Summer Road Trip Mix
If I were to make a mix culled from Andy’s mixes, this is what it would look like. A little something for everybody.

It Ain’t Me Babe, Johnny Cash
Zip City, Drive-by Truckers (remember: he uses the word s#@t in first stanza)
Passenger Side, Jeff Tweedy
Someone Like You, Adele (cannot believe how fun this is to sing)
Edge of Glory, Lady Gaga
Wonderful World, Sam Cooke
You and I, Lady Gaga
Frankie’s Gun, Felice Brothers
Parted Ways, Heartless Bastards
Outta My System, My Morning Jacket
Boy Named Sue, Johnny Cash
The Waiting, Tom Petty
I Think I Lost it, Lucinda Williams
Long May You Run, Neil Young

Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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The Dadoo Special

June 15th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized

I remember this vividly. When I was six years old, I was in the basement of our house on Aldenham Lane, playing with my dad. Our basement was the kind of basement I feel bad that my kids don’t have today – a concrete floor, an old wooden workbench, high metal shelves sagging with caulk and stains and Maxwell House cans filled with screws, a queen-sized foam mattress, a pool table (with ivory inlays and broken slate), and a paint-splattered station where my older brother would lose entire afternoons building these intricate models of Spitfires and Messerschmitts. The kind of basement, in other words, where you could dismember GI Joe dolls in relative peace.

Anyway, we were sitting on the floor, building something with my Erector Set.

“Dad?” I said.

“Yes?”

“Is Santa Claus real?”

He paused.

(A parent now, I know what he was thinking.)

He looked at me.

“Nope,” he said.

Cue sound of bowling ball crashing through giant pane of glass. The bracing, ammoniac sting of honesty like that! Wow. Damn! I still, to this day, give him grief for this. (Me: I can’t believe you just came out and said it. Dad: Well, what was I gonna do, lie?) This could be the adult in me talking, but I feel like I remember the room going all wobbly, like the staircase shot in Vertigo. Clearly, my dad did not believe in secrets.

Except when it came to his cooking. And by cooking, I mean the one meal he was responsible for making all by himself, from start to finish. His lone specialty was known around the house as The Dadoo Special, a name which, it’s true, does have a certain grandeur to it, but which – no offense, Dad — also sounds a lot like something a dude with zero chops in the kitchen would name the one dish he figured out how to make on his own. I loved the Dadoo Special. Partly because I loved my dad, but also because it did, in fact, feel special. It tasted really good, and appeared only in the warm summer months, when school was out and the Weber was up and running and the grown-ups enjoyed their grown-up drinks outside, in the woodchipped area out back, behind the azeleas, where my dad had set up – this was the seventies, after all, the era of lawn sports, mandals, and non-ironic mustaches – a freakin’ horseshoe pit. Looking back, the Dadoo Special was nothing more than a souped-up burger – a little sweet, a little spicy – that, amazingly, required no ketchup at all. I would tell you exactly how my dad made it…if he had ever let me watch him make it. The Dadoo Special, you see, was always prepared in private, behind closed doors, on a need-to-know basis only. And I, apparently, did not need to know.

“What’s in it?” I would ask.

“That’s a secret.”

“Seriously, dad.”

“Get out of the kitchen,” he’d say, and to stay and risk not having Dadoo Specials for dinner always seemed a risk not worth taking.

I still don’t know exactly what was in the things, and – since my dad probably hasn’t made one in thirty years – I doubt he does, either. But I do remember the taste, and the slight crunch of the onion, and feel fairly confident that I can recreate it – heck, maybe even improve upon it — here. We’ll be making these on Father’s Day, in honor of my dad, and in the spirit of openness. No more secrets, not in this house. – Andy

P.S. Re the photo above: Yeah, that’s a puka shell necklace I’m wearing. And yeah, that’s zinc oxide on my nose. And yeah, I’m wearing plaid JAMS. The thing on my dad’s upper lip? That would be a mustache. Viva los 70s!

The Dadoo Special

Okay, so the Dadoo is basically meatloaf on a bun. Pretty sure my dad used Heinz barbecue sauce, but the homemade stuff is better. (See our recipe for that on page 238 of Jenny’s book.) In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ pounds ground beef, 1/3 cup barbecue sauce, ½ cup of finely chopped Vidalia onion, a couple dashes of Worcestershire, and lots of salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine gently, as you want to preserve some of that loose texture of the meat. Grill over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side.

Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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Forward March! Andy, My Drill Sergeant of Leisure

May 29th, 2012 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Travel

We are officially T-1 week for Publication Date of Dinner: A Love Story, and T-3 weeks til school’s out, so I thought I’d share a section from the book that is one of my favorites. It’s about the transformation my husband undergoes when we are on vacation.

When I was growing up, we never took typical family vacations. We never booked a house on the Cape for a week or went to Fort Myers in February; we never sat at the kitchen table with a map of the country circling national parks we wanted to visit like I imagined most families doing. Part of the reason for this was that my mother, once she found her calling as an attorney, turned into a workaholic— today, at seventy-five, as partner in her own law firm, she still works harder than all of her children combined—and, like all workaholics, she derives pleasure from work, thereby rendering the need to get pleasure elsewhere useless. (I’ve always gotten the feeling that she finds vacation from reading ninety-five-page contracts a whole lot more stressful than reading those ninety-five-page contracts.)

Another reason we never went on typical vacations was that my sister, Lynn, was a nationally ranked tennis player who competed in tournaments all over the country. Naturally, we’d all tag along with her on all of these trips no matter where they were—Charlestown, West Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Indianapolis. They were always during July and August, and the organizers seemed to find some sick pleasure in selecting venues where the average temperature was a hundred degrees in the shade and never ever near a water park with one of those long, twisty mountain slides. But the truth was, I didn’t mind. I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. All I needed was a hotel pool to be happy.

But now that I am not a kid—now that I am a grown-up and I have kids of my own—vacation is a different story altogether. I need the pool, yes, but I also need a whole lot more. Most of the time I need a kitchen. I need a grill. I need to go to a place with lots to do. In fact, from the moment we arrive at wherever we happen to be vacationing, Andy and I are crafting ways to make sure we are squeezing the maximum amount of pleasure out of every moment of our waking hours. We take our vacations seriously. Before we have finished our morning coffee we have a plan for the day, one that usually includes exercise for the grown-ups (we usually tag-team our runs while the kids watch their morning TV), a large chunk of time in or near a pool or beach, some sort of afternoon adventure that involves exploring the local terrain (like a road trip or a hike or a bike ride), and of course, shopping for dinner that we will make in our own kitchen while drinking gin and tonics.

One morning when we were on vacation in South Carolina (where Andy’s parents have a house near the beach), the girls were finishing up watching an episode of The Backyardigans, and Andy looked at the clock.

“It’s ten o’clock in the morning and we still don’t have a plan,” he said.

“It’s only ten in the morning,” I said, taking a sip of my iced coffee that Andy had prepared the night before so it would be ready for us when we woke up.

“Yes, but we have a lot to do today.”

“We do?” I asked. The way he said it made it sound as if we were on deadline for something serious. “Like what?” (more…)

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