Monday, August 30, 2010

Grillin' and Chillin'

I left my Weber gas grill behind in New York, but I packed the little "Smokey Joe" kettle grill for the move South. My buyers, apartment dwellers, were happy if not a little apprehensive to inherit the Weber. I spent time really giving it a good cleaning, dug out the instruction book, and gave them a quick overview to show them that they need not be afraid of the propane tank.

My confidence in propane grew over time. Slowly.

I'm not a big fan of sticking a lit match into a peephole to ignite a gas grill or an oven. If any gas has been released and for some reason it doesn't ignite, I shut the operation down and use a grillpan inside. Or have cereal for dinner. The jitters remain after having been blown across a kitchen after using a match to light the stove while babysitting back in the early 80's. The propane tanks had been filled that day, and there  must have been a buildup of gas. I did not have a gas stove in my formative years. But, I had watched many episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

Kaboooom. I "saw" the air encircle the room, and as I was sailing backwards, pictures were coming off the walls.

After I collected myself and felt around for my eyebrows, I went out to the yard and casually said, "C'mon kids, let's go to McDonalds!" I made them sandwiches and salads for the rest of my stay. Plenty of Cheez-Doodles and ice cream, too. They had no problem with that. "You're cool!" (Yeah, I almost blew up your house and now I'm overcompensating.) The parents came home from 3 weeks in Hawaii, and I sheepishly showed them the bowed out sides of their stove. Thankfully their kids were outside when it happened, everyone was ok, eyebrows eventually grow back, and they were set to renovate the kitchen anyway...

At my new place, the buyers took their grill with them, and I was happy to get a brand new one for myself.

It came with a little "venturi cleaning brush" which I've never heard of, but will not ignore. It seems spiders can spin webs or insects can build nests in the venturi tubes. Is nothing sacred?? The grill may still light, but the nest will block the flow of gas, and can cause a flashback.

I've got some time before that will happen. For grilling quick dinners and desserts, I prefer using gas...but when friends are over, I also love the ritual of lighting coals and using them from firey orange down to the white ashes. Why do carcinogens TASTE so good?

I got to the farmer's market too late on Saturday, and didn't get anything fun like peaches, figs, big red onions or peppers. I christened the grill tonight anyway, with a super simple dinner. Grilled fennel salad and chicken breasts with mustard marinade.
Brush a chicken breast with a mixture of dijon mustard, a little olive oil, a squirt of blue agave (it's not blue, and it's lighter than honey), some salt and pepper. Halve or quarter a fennel bulb, after cutting off the fronds and peeling off the tougher outer layer. Drizzle fennel with olive oil and grill for 10 mins or longer, depending upon how carmelized you want it. I grilled everything on a sheet of heavy duty foil for this maiden voyage, because I wanted the heat...not any kind of factory burnoff.

Cut up 2 ribs of celery on the bias, and slice the grilled fennel thinly. Make a vinaigrette using the juice of one lemon, some grated lemon rind, and finely chopped fennel frond. Season with salt and pepper and whisk all together while drizzling in good olive oil. Some shallot would have been nice, to add some flavor and color. I didn't have any shallots, and I was too lazy to make any kind of a starch...but all in all this was just enough for a Monday dinner on the fly.

Cooler days and nights are just around the corner, and I look forward to really getting the grill going with some of my new friends. Cedar plank salmon, grilled peaches, kabobs, pound cake, mmmmmmmm.


  1. Sooooo wish I had seen this post a few weeks ago. I let 3 big fennel bulbs go bad from my CSA because I didn't know what to do with them and online recipes seemed too hard for the time I had. Okay, I admit it, I was scared of the fennel bulb. :) Very cool you got a new grill. Hugh and I will have a great deck in Cleveland and we'll definitely need to get a grill soon for some fall grilling. Can't wait! Jill

  2. Jill--Do not fear the fennel! It has such a fresh and slightly licorice-y flavor, and it's nice and crunchy! It's great grilled, roasted or raw. Here'a a good raw salad: Take off the outer leaves, then slice fennel thinly. Slice a granny smith apple thinly. Toss together with some lemon rind and a few shavings of parmasean cheese. Garnish with some chopped fennel fronds. The lemon vinaigrette recipe is in the blog post. Enjoy!!