Thursday, July 24, 2008

dinner on the grill (pan)

You'd think standing outdoors around a fire would be the last thing you'd want to do in 80 or 90-degree weather, but somehow cooking outside just feels right in the summer. Especially on a breezy back porch with an iced tea in hand.

Unfortunately, my only outdoor space is the fire escape, so grilling sort of lost its appeal until recently. My mom gave Dan and me a fantastic non-stick All-Clad grill pan last Christmas and while I've used it to cook the occasional piece of meat or fish, I'm finding myself pulling it out of the cabinet more and more these days. Must be grilling season.

Summer dinner on the grill (pan)
Prosciutto and melon with basil
Grilled zucchini salad with feta
Tomato and avocado salad
Salt-crusted shrimp

This is a simple menu based on a few meals I made recently, after Dan and I made trip to the farmer's market and came back with all sorts of beautiful produce. You could easily make only one of the side dishes, and if you do, the grilled zucchini salad is one of the best—and simplest—dishes I've made in awhile. One of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn is Franny's, a cute little spot mostly known for its pizza. Calling it just a pizza place is a huge disservice to the seasonal salads and decadent pastas and incredible gelato they turn out. If you haven't been yet—really, go now. But what really strikes me about Franny's is the utter simplicity of everything. Most dishes have no more than five ingredients, and yet they taste like nothing you've ever eaten before. Of course that's because the chefs work with local farms and only use organic products, but I also think there's something sort of magic going on in that kitchen. This dish reminded me of something I'd order at Franny's, which is what I'm always striving for when I cook, especially when making vegetables. It's deceptively simple, but tastes like way more than the sum of its parts.

Grilled zucchini salad with feta
Now that zucchini's in season, try to get as many different varieties as you can find. It not only looks pretty, but when the squash is grilled, you really can taste the difference between the different varieties.
(Serves 2 to 4 people)
2 lbs. assorted zucchini
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup crumbled feta
1 handful mint leaves
salt and pepper

Heat your grill (or grill pan) on medium-high heat. Cut the zucchini into thick slices. In a large bowl, toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. When your grill is hot, place the slices on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until you get nice grill marks. As the zucchini is cooking, make a dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Place the cooked zucchini on a large platter and continue grilling the rest of the squash in batches. When all of the squash is done, drizzle the dressing on top. Top with the feta cheese and mint and season with salt and pepper.

Salt-crusted shrimp
Don't be afraid of the amount of salt in this recipe. I was a little unsure at first, but rolling the uncooked, unshelled shrimp in salt keeps the meat sweet, moist and just slightly salty when cooked and peeled.
(Serves about 4 people)

2 lbs. unshelled shrimp
1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 Tbsp. sea salt
2 lemons

Use kitchen shears (or, if you have steady hands, a sharp knife) to cut down the back of the shrimp to pull out the intestinal tract. Leave the shell intact. Wash the shrimp and toss them in a large bowl with the oil. Heat your grill pan. When hot, cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the shells turn bright pink and the shrimp is no longer translucent. Serve with lemon wedges and peel before eating.

Tomato and avocado salad

Best with peak-of-summer tomatoes. (Otherwise, use halved grape tomatoes.) Serve this with a baguette, and you've got a pretty nice lunch.
(serves 2 to 4)

4 tomatoes, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 avocado, diced
a handful of torn basil leaves
a handful of pitted olives
splash of white or red wine vinegar
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup shaved parmesan

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, avocado, basil, and olives. Add the vinegar and olive oil, and toss to coat. Add the basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Serve, then top with parmesan.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Nothing clever to say to this one. Just that the zuccini and feta dish was amazing. And I don't even like zuccini that much. There really is something to be said for heirloom vegetables.


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