Friday, June 13, 2008

If you can't stand the heat

Summer in my family means something special: my husband cooks. The rest of the year, his culinary efforts are confined to pasta and the occasional quesadilla, though he does make incredible cappucino and espresso, thanks to this (yes, a gift from me. Highly recommended if you're in the market for a high quality, mid-range-price home coffee bar. You'll never go to Starbucks again, so eventually, it will pay for itself.)

But when summer hits, my non-cooking husband morphs, as many American men, do, I think, into the grillmaster. When we left L.A., we left our old grill behind. It had seen one too many cookouts, and we planned to get a new one after the move. Sadly, last summer, it didn't happen, and we were all a little bereft about the lack of outdoor cooking. This year, we both knew it was time. After his usual obsessive 'net research, my husband ended up purchasing this new grill and we both love it.

It's one thing to have the equipment, but what to cook? For this, we turn most often to the Cook's Illustrated "Best Recipe" Grilling book which has been a no-fail guide to outdoor cooking of everything from scallops to steak, peaches to pizza. I'm not a huge fan of the magazine--mostly because a lot of what they want to eat, I don't--but this book is hands down the best we've found for barbecuing. An added plus is that the exhaustively researched, highly precise writing of the recipes is in sync with my husband's world view: there's one really great way to do just about everything. He's not into trial and error, or culinary improvisation, so the CI approach suits him.

For the last two nights, we've made the same thing: grilled scallops served as part of a composed salad with an orange-chile-cilantro dressing. Our CSA salad greens--delicious--formed the base. The first time, we followed the recipe exactly: greens, sliced red onion, chopped hard-boiled eggs (for those, you want to do what the Joy of Cooking says) , crumbled bacon. Last night, we added grilled corn, cut off the cob, and diced avocado. Delicious. Since one of our guests last night was a vegetarian, we also made the miso-glazed eggplant from the book, and I improvised a salad of quinoa, chopped tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, roasted peppers and sheep's milk feta, all dressed with Deborah Madison's Lime Cumin Vinaigrette. It was a perfect (and really filling) light supper for a warm night.

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