Tuesday, September 27, 2011

summer why you gotta be like that?

And by “like that”, I mean, “over.”

I am someone who is cold from about September through April. I also thrive in natural light and wither in the dark. I lurve plants, and also, like them, require sunlight to thrive.

Fortunately, there are still a few summer plants left. I cannot even deal with the cuteness of these eggplants (juxtaposed with the knife I used to cut slits in them.)


So tiny and dear!

To me, the essence of summer cooking is GETTIN MY GRILL ON! When I lit up this last time (… hmm) it felt tragically final. (This was actually quite awhile ago. You get behind on the blogging…)

But it’s really a shame that 2011 will offer few, if any, additional opportunities to play with the grill. Becauuuuuuuuse I have, courtesy of my mother who spent an involved time at Home Depot discussing the matter, a fancy new grilling doohickey.


The way this doodad works (my picture is not the greatest but such is life) is that it’s basically a stick with a loop at the end that, by virtue of getting plugged in, gets very very hot. Red hot! So you nestle the loop in a pile of charcoal, plug in the contraption, watch it get hot, and VOILA! The coals ignite! No lighter fluid, no babysitting the grill, no muss no fuss! 10 minutes and your coals are gorgey.

As someone who has probably given myself a variety of exciting diseases from ingesting lighter fluid in the air and, in all likelihood, in the food I grill (…), I appreciate this.

It’s also more eco-friendly, probably! Except maybe the electrical use!

Anyway, the process takes about 10 minutes (you’re not meant to leave it plugged in longer than that or it can cause explosions…). While the grilley loopdeedoop (if someone has a different nomination for a name, I’m open) did its thing, I assembled some attractive vegetables: the aforementioned eggplant, some unfortunately mediocre corn, and peppers that had been kabobed.


My favorite way to cook small eggplants, which these photos show, albeit blurrily, is just to grill them whole. Stick a slit in them, throw them on the grill. Seriously. SO easy, and SO good. The eggplant’s outside flesh chars, and the inside is transformed into molten silky tender loveliness.


(what is that awesome wisp of gold shimmering through that second photo?! Isn’t it artistic in its messed-up-ed-ness?!) (While we’re on a tangent, I saw a hummingbird hovering over the flowers by my front door as I pulled in the driveway after work, and it filled me with elation) (Also, I just finished reading Bossypants last night. It’s as good as everyone said it is)

And now the waiting game of grilling. Though the coaxing-the-charcoals process had been dramatically abridged, the kabobs and corn required a bit of babysitting… flipping, rearranging, making sure centers didn’t burn while edges stayed raw, etc.

It gave me time to appreciate that coals, like my electric stove, always photograph purple.


On this tasty platesy, along with the grilled eggplants, there was sausage. Which is oddly difficult to ditinguish from the veg, eh?

This sausage was purchased at the farmer’s market, from the meat dudes with a fun variety (and saaaaaaamples!).

This was Thai Chicken Sausage, which involved lemongrass, fresh herbs, and fish sauce. It was thoroughly delicious. Pretty respectable grill marks, eh?! Also, as you can see they sort of burst out of their casings, which was sort of revolting and awesome at the same time.


As, of course, were the eggplants. I eat the outside, char and all (cancer risks be damned), and the inside is so soft you could seriously spread it on bread like butter. I like it just eaten straight up or with a drizzle of olive oil, mmmmm.


Corn and peppers, lovely and colorful. Though the corn wasn’t the best, it sure tasted better grilled than it would’ve in any other method. And grilled peppers and sausage? Smashing.


On a wine pairing note (the first and only time you’ll hear that phrase used here on Lele Lurves Plants), my mom had just opened a Chauteau Ste. Michele Riesling. It’s from Washington, my home state, apparently one of the few places in the world that produces yummy, not sorority-party-tasting, Riesling.

Anyway, that tasty tasty Riesling with the sausage? HEAVEN!


There were meant to be leftovers but the veggies were just SO GOOD. And then Steve showed up so the leftover meat quickly disappeared too.

Speaking of my hungry boyfriend, another night I had him over for dinner, and it was just important to consume a tomato-basil feast, because fresh tomatoes are only worth eating in the summer. They’re just… not otherwise. So sad. It’s why you have to get while the getting’s good!

Steve is a capable and useful person in the kitchen, so I delegated the tomato salad making to him, instructing him to use “lots and lots of basil”. Then I looked and I decided it smelled so wonderful with the balsamic and things, and the tomato was just so bloody red (<<ooh!) that there needed to be more. Plus he’d cut up roughly four cups of basil, so there was enough to go around. So I arranged to have him make another bowlsie. Side by side tomato salads!


Oh summmmmmmmer. Why you gotta leave me?

It was SO DELICIOUS. Obviously!

Along with tragically unphotogenic but delicious dishes—two of my favorite things to make! Corn and basil cakes and homemade lentil burgers. You’ve seen them before if you’re a regular reader (*dough* cause obviously there are lots of those). They taste good. Just believe me.


As for another dish only available when summer is kind enough to get all of its ingredients bountifully ripe, that would be SUCCOTASH!


The farmer’s market had fresh lima beans, mmm! (I feel so sorry for people who hate lima beans!) Also had some corn that WAS good, and, because we eat with our eyes first and I love color contrast, I used red pepper.


Drizzled a pan with canola oil, sauted that pepper and some sweet onion on medium-low heat til tender, added the limas and some water, covered it, and let them steam to a chewy-but-tender phase (for fresh beans this took perhaps half an hour?), adding the de-cobbed corn for the last few minutes to steam that up. Plus salt and pepper. When your ingredients are fresh and beautiful, all you need!


My dear mother was kind enough to get organic boneless skinless chicken breasts at Costco, which I’m sure cost her a small fortune but are soooooooooo convenient.

I used a recipe from the Five in Ten Cookbook, a family favorite. All the recipes have five or fewer ingredients and are made in ten or fewer minutes (ish)

For this recipe, I halfed the breasts, whacked them out, and marinated them in… essentially a margarita! Tequila, lime juice, honey, and salt.

Then broiled. The honey gets the outside all caramelized, mmm.


And a new and exciting side dish! I got out the kale and was sort of on autopilot, turning on the stove under the steamer pot and getting out the olive oil and lemon and then I was like, “Ileana! This is delicious beautiful farmer’s market kale! It deserves you to treat it with excitement and imagination!”

So I made my first ever massaged kale salad!

I peeled the leaves off the stems into bite-sized pieces. Then I massaged them with 1/4 of an avocado, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a teaspoon or so of honey, and a lotta salt. And let the salad hang out and get the leaves to relax a bit :D

SO TASTY! OH EM GEE! I will for sure be doing this again. I don’t know why I’ve been so reluctant, as every food blogger ever raves about massaged kale salad, and I’ve actually eaten a really delicious rendition made by my cousin Lara… I just never ventured to do it myself. So glad I mixed it up a little!


And at least this dish is hearty… it, with the help of avocados that are transported in a carbon intensive manner way further than they should be (but are just so delicious), will be able to be recreated throughout the fall, even winter.


But you, my sweet fresh summer? You are on your way out…

I’ll miss you.

Come back soon.