Summer’s almost here, and the backyard fires are burning. Now’s a good time for my annual manifesto about cooking vegetables over the flames:
Don’t put any oil on the vegetables before you grill them.
Despite what every single thing ever written about grilling vegetables says, do not “lightly brush,” “gently toss,” or in any other euphemistic way put any extra virgin olive oil on any vegetable before you cook it over a hot fire.
Vegetables don’t need lubrication; they don’t stick to the grill without oil. When you do add oil, it drips off, ignites, and the resulting flames send little particles of burnt oil back up to your food. Oiling vegetables doesn’t do them any good. It’s a mistake. Don’t do it.
So, grill your vegetables naked, unadorned but with a little water leftover from washing. Cook until done, which usually means with a little charring from that intense charcoal heat. Unleash your inner Francis Mallmann and bring the vegetables to the crispy edge of being burnt and pull them off the grill: now is the time to add extra virgin olive oil.
Go light the fire, but first: About Gas Grills
“The first thing, if you have a gas grill, is get rid of it,” says New Orleans chef and Real Good Food customer Donald Link (Cochon, Peche, Butcher, and more). While gas grills let you cook outside and generate direct radiant heat, they’re a poor substitute for the real thing. If you want to cook with fire, get a Weber kettle (lots of used ones out there), a charcoal chimney, and some lump fuel (charcoal made from chunks of wood, not compressed briquets). Food cooked with fire tastes better.
GRILLED ASPARAGUS OR ZUCCHINI WITH YUZU
Spring in Oregon means the sun may come out one of these days, but a light drizzle doesn’t keep us from firing up the grill. While cooking meat over fire gets all the attention, grilled vegetables are the real star of backyard cooking.
The lemon crop failed last year, so we didn’t get any Katz Meyer Lemon oil, but the Yuzu-infused olive oil from Spain works the same citrusy magic. The tart yuzu, with a flavor reminiscent of grapefruit and mandarin oranges, also adds a fragrant tang to O-Med’s vinegar. Grill vegetables before you do any meat, they’re best at room temperature.
Slice smallish zucchini in half lengthwise. Grill them over the hot coals until nicely browned on both sides, then arrange on a platter and, while still hot, toss with the Yuzu vinegar. Let them sit for a few minutes to absorb the vinegar, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with flor de sal and a handful of chopped mint.
Local asparagus is here, but the season is short, so be like James Beard and eat as much as you can. While you can peel the tough bottoms of the asparagus, it’s much faster to break them off (those tough ends can be boiled and pureéd for soup). Rinse the stalks to get rid of any dirt; they grow close to the ground.
Put the asparagus directly over the burning charcoal, using tongs to turn the stalks until they’re nicely browned. It’s hot work, and a glove helps. As they get done, move to a cool section of the grill or remove altogether. Arrange the asparagus on a platter, drizzle with Yuzu olive oil, and sprinkle with flor de sal. Eat with your fingers.
SHOP THIS RECIPE
In addition to our weekly deliveries of produce and bread, every other Friday brings us pork! That’s when our friends at Wallow & Root and Piccone’s Corner hang out in the RGF parking lot handing out boxes of tasty pig!
Bursting with chops, sausage, steaks, and other chef cuts, the Butcher Box is available in full and half shares, with pickup between 12-6 next Friday, May 22.
We’ve got a ton of new products up on the website this week, including some that pair perfectly with spring grilling sessions in the backyard. Juanita’s make our favorite local tortilla chips; their salty crunch makes them the perfect accompaniment to the soft, yielding grilled veg.
And nothing beats a cold long-neck, so refreshing when tending a hot grill. That’s why we brought in our favorite Bavarian Lager, which is made at the oldest operating brewery in the world.
We’re also expanding our cheese selection! We’ve got an Italian Pantaleo to grate over pasta (or snack on), a French Comte with a funky finish that pairs nicely with Lambrusco, and a fresh, spreadable Oregon cheese from Briar Rose in Dundee. Portland is blessed with some great cheese people, and we’re very excited to be adding more to this section! Start shopping here.