Saturday, July 12, 2008

The thrill of the grill

In the summer, food magazines always run articles about grilling: the best ways to grill, what's trendy to put on the grill this year, and what's trendy to grill on this year, plus marinades, rubs, sauces, and sides! All this talk of grilling assumes that everyone owns a grill — though I guess perhaps this is true, since I read somewhere that 80% of Americans have a barbecue at some point during the summer. Well, what about those of us with no patio, balcony, garden, or outdoor area in general? There are those of us who live in apartments in urban areas who do not have access to a space in which to grill — or who do not have a grill to begin with.

I also heard somewhere that the favorite scent of West coast residents is grilling meat. (What about other regions of the country? Frankly, I don't remember.) I have to say that it's definitely one of my favorite scents — next to crayons, pool water, and freshly-cut grass. And when I can smell the scent of someone grilling their dinner as it comes through the open windows, I definitely get jealous that I don't have the capability to go outdoors and grill up my meal, too.

So what's an apartment-dwelling girl to do? Well, while it doesn't create the same great scent, a grill pan does the job in a pinch. I "grilled" up garlic-rubbed shrimp and skinny asparagus, and they both turned out really well. Instead of having the characteristic charred flavor, it was more as though they had been roasted, but the shrimp definitely had grill marks, which was nice for presentation. This method does not solve my problem of what to do when it's so hot in the kitchen that cooking is not appealing, but it works for when I really want to enjoy some semblance of barbecued food.

Do you barbecue? What are your favorite things to put on the grill?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ode to the farmers' market

I love summer, and I especially love summer at the Santa Cruz farmers' market. I love the vendors, I love all the gorgeous produce available, I love all the people milling about, and I love how happy everyone is: buying and selling and celebrating all the delicious, locally-produced, abundant amounts of food.

I had a day off today, and what else to do on a Wednesday afternoon but drive down to Santa Cruz for the market? I could have easily dropped a hundred dollars on fruits and vegetables because it all looked so good: corn, blueberries, snap peas, black- and raspberries, peaches, sprouts, wild mushrooms, strawberries, rhubarb, cucumbers, basil, melons, figs, zucchini, and tomatoes of every color. But, considering I'm a little short on cash these days (too much shopping lately!) and that there is no way I could eat everything I wanted to buy, I limited myself to a select few items. I picked out two ears of corn for corn chowder, two bunches of basil to turn into pesto (and freeze), and a few other bits and bobs. My major purchase was a half flat of Swanton's strawberries, most of which I will freeze and later turn into ice cream, pie, and possibly jam (if I ever get around to getting me some jam-making equipment).

After going to the downtown Santa Cruz market for many years, I finally got around to treating myself to some fresh, raw oysters. I started with one, and once I had downed it, I decided I was going to have to do the three-for-$5 deal. They were slippery, oceany, and wonderful. I passed on the lemon, tabasco, and other flavorings — I only wanted the unadulterated oyster flavor. The flavor lingered after I had walked away, and I wondered when I would have another Wednesday off to have more.

With my work schedule, I'd have to hope for an opening shift in order to drive down to Santa Cruz after work and get to the market before it closed. Perhaps I'll be able to convince my new team (we start teaching together at the end of August) to let me open one Wednesday a month. Being at the Santa Cruz market makes me so happy — it's better than therapy. Seriously.