Tag Archives: grill

Camping? Cooking? Yes!!!

Vacation options are lurking over here at the Casa Reynolds, and one of our favorite things to do is camp. We are definitely NOT talking about hiking in, hiking out camping. Car camping is more our style, although I really think (perhaps, hope is a better word), I can eventually convince my better half to try extreme camping at some point. We shall see.

The Boys in the Forest

Dirk and Shadow were born to be wild. In the forest.

Next weekend we are heading north for our first camping trip of the season, to our beloved area of Big Sur. We are going to take Shadow, the trusty wing puppy for his first camping adventure. I have no doubt he will love it. He loves road trips. As soon as we start packing anything, he knows we are going somewhere, longer than a few hours and insists on getting in the back of the car. Unless we relent, he is a pill.  This is regardless whether he comes with, or he goes to his own camp. As long as he is in the car, he knows an adventure awaits.

At this point, we can pack, clean and cook. Hell, we could probably go back to bed for a couple hours, and he would be just fine and dandy in the back of the Volvo. We even leave the back hatch open. He won’t budge. Good boy.

On to our camping needs. Pretty easy too.

Wine and herbs are lovely

You can't pack enough of this.

We are happy to load our gear, and head out. Sounds simple. Pretty much is, but of course it requires food for thought. Or rather, thought for food.

Camping sustanence needs to be easy. You are limited with space, time and cooking equipment. And as much as I love to cook, when enjoying the great outdoors, there are more important things to focus on; like staring at the beautiful ocean, mountainside, camp fire and bottle(s) of wine. Seriously. Priorities, people.

However, since so much energy and thought goes into a trip, you should have some rocking food to go along. You are worth it.

I’ve camped enough to find through trial and error what works wonderfully and what truly is a pain in the butt. Packing enough food items that are ready to serve or need minimal prep, will help you tremendously. A few kitchen tricks can prove to be the difference between a fantastic vacation, or a lesson learned that a camp full of hungry, cold campers is not a happy campground. Indeed. And, it will allow you and your cooking buddies to concentrate on one, incredible dish that will be remembered and discussed around future campfires for a long time.

That said, with proper planning and smart cooking, one can enjoy dishes such as Whole Grilled Fish, Twice Baked Cheese Potatoes, Crispy Baked Chicken, Chile Dry Rubbed Tri Tip and more.

How about Drunkin’ Cheese Dip? Grilled Breakfast Quesadillas? Yogurt with Spring Berries and Homemade Granola?

Oh, and don’t forget the dessert! Brownies, S’More bars and Fruit Cobbler anyone?

Dinner al fresco

Eating by candlelight? I could get used to this.

This week, I will be posting some of my favorite camping food recipes. Hopefully, they will ensure you work less in your outdoor kitchen and eat better than your neighbors, (who are struggling to light their campfire in the dark right now. Maybe you should bring them a few S’more Bars for strength. Oh, and some fire sticks).

You may find yourselves eating so well in fact, that frequent camping and culinary adventures could become a regular part of your schedules, allowing you and your family to come together under the big, open skies and land we are so blessed to have privy to. And that is truly the definition of a real vacation.

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If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

The heat wave continues its assault here in Santa Barbara. Despite a recent ocean breeze offering some relief, it’s still too hot to cook inside.

My kitchen has cooled off a bit, but I can’t imagine spending the next hour or more in its inferno. I have some steaks which I’ll throw on the grill tonight. I’ll toss together a salad and open some wine. Done. Grilled steaks are fine, but after years of working in bistros I know how a sauce partnered with a steak can transform the meal. A plain steak just seems, well.

Plain.

A great sauce requires a few basics. A pan. Some pan seared protein. Liquid to de-glaze the brown bits from the bottom of said pan. Additional ingredients such as stock, vegetables and herbs are needed. Butter makes it better. Cream? Bring it. But since I won’t be sautéing anything tonight, the pan is out of the equation. Now, I could in theory devise a sauce separate from the steak, but it’s just too much damn work. And let’s remember the heat factor people. Sauce is out.

Luckily I have plan B, insuring tonight’s meal won’t disappoint. A lean, grass fed sirloin has been getting cozy with a marinade of red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, olive oil, garlic and ginger for a good part of the day. Over some hot coals I’ll sear the steak, grill some ciabatta on the side and top it all off with a generous spoon of Red Onion Marmalade.

This delicious condiment is a mainstay in my fridge and easy to prepare. All you need are a few ingredients and a bit of time. The jam cooks on the stove top, and while it takes a good hour to make it requires little supervision. You can make this any time of day while you do other things. This jam holds beautifully in the fridge for several months, the sugar and acids serving as natural preservatives.

The marmalade will serve you well with its multiple ‘personalities’. A perfect match to beef and pork, it’s also a wonderful addition to a grilled panini, as a topping to slather on flat bread or mixed into your favorite meat loaf or meatball recipe. It can turn an ordinary burger into an extraordinary meal. Ketchup? Doesn’t stand a chance. I’ve even used it as a topping for pizza. It works.

Tomorrow I will post the recipe; I encourage you to make it soon. Having a jar (or two) at the ready may not be life changing, but right now? I’m not in the kitchen. I’m enjoying a glass of wine outside, the grill is ready to fire up. The salad is chilling, and so am I.

Life changing? Perhaps.

Need a Lift? Drop Some Acid.

No, I am not tripping, nor am I advocating you do anything similar. I’m talking about using acid as a food enhancer.

I once worked with a very talented chef, who although I suspect was probably high half the time, taught me a few things about acid and flavors.

Chef explained that when food tasted ‘flat’, it could usually use salt or more often than not, a bit of acid. At first I was perplexed by this statement, but I learned what my chef was trying to teach me.

The kitchen crew would be busy preparing dishes for service, cooks heavy with tasks and  items to prep and complete. Chef would routinely come on line to sample the food, sipping sauces, dressings, tasting our recent projects.

Chef would then yay or nay our progress, asking questions about recipes used. Ultimately I would hear the following sentences often enough, I began to understand the process of ingredients, chemistry and their dance together.

“More salt.”

“Needs acid.”

When properly used, acid enhances the natural flavors in the food you are preparing. It won’t alter the dish so much, but it gives it punch. It has this wonderful ability to give foods another layer of flavor. This I learned, could turn a mediocre meal into a party in the mouth.

Let me give you a few examples that will make good foods taste even better. Chances are you already have a few, if not all these goodies in your pantry or fridge right now. The following list is a sample of what I call my “Arsenal of Flavors.”

This is only a sampling of acids I recommend, but this will get you started. They are extremely versatile and demonstrate the beauty of key flavors. Hopefully, they will transform your meals, get you cooking more  and enjoying great food!

  • Citrus juice and their zest (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spanish Sherry Vinegar
  • Champagne Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Red and White Wines
  • Some liquors and cordials such as Sake, Tequila, Port and Brandy
  • Pernod or Dry Vermouth
  • Mustards
  • Capers
  • Beer!
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Here is a recipe I am using tonight which incorporates acid in a marinade, a great example which will impart maximum flavor versus just throwing the damn bird on the grill. No love or respect. Without further adieu, I give you:

Love and Respect Marinade for Grilled Chicken

This marinade would also work well for shrimp, scallops, various cuts of fish and pork. Tonight I’m using 1 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. This marinate makes about 1 cup, enough for up to 2 or 3 pounds of meat.

Key ingredients for the win.

Key ingredients for the win.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup. Stir completely and pour over meat, chicken or seafood. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour, turning halfway if you remember.

Giving the chicken some love.

Giving the chicken some love.

Remove meat from marinade and season with salt. Discard marinade. Grill chicken thighs over indirect heat until cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

I am grilling the chicken tonight because it is still hotter than the be-jesus over here. I suppose you could broil the chicken, or saute, but I think a marinade and summer should require an outdoor cooking vessel.

Speaking of which, time to stop blogging, and get cooking.


It’s Like Africa Hot

My brain is not working at full capacity. Summer finally came to Santa Barbara in late August, and currently the temperatures are hovering around 90 degrees. My guess is our 1950’s beach shack is even hotter. I am hoping during the next hour as the sun travels further west, it will leave our humble home in a shady um, shade and I’ll be able to cool down and think about dinner.

I told you my brain wasn’t fully functioning.

I think about food. A lot. I think about food when I’m eating. Not only about what I’m eating at the moment, but what I’ll be preparing and enjoying later. When I’m on my morning run, I’m planning lunch. I plan entire meals in my head when I should be engrossed in work. I can’t help it, the random thoughts invade my head, and although I try to focus, food trumps all. Over the years I have learned to embrace it (and thank the Angels my darling husband can also get lost in anything food related). I was even able to make a living with my obsession, so I guess it’s not a serious problem.

Right?

What currently fills my mind is how to make dinner without an additional rise in the mercury of our thermometer. Because I have raw chicken or beef for dinner choices, tonight I must create fire. A crisp garden salad will round things out. Thank goodness I can escape the heat of my kitchen and fire up our outdoor grill. A fabulous invention and one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

Fire + meat = yum

Fire + meat = yum

Several years ago, my dear father in-law who lives in Holland suggested buying us a barbecue for our house warming gift when we moved to Santa Barbara. We didn’t have a barbecue and the thought of owning a fine gas or propane grill to cook large amounts of food for our friends and family was a great adventure I eagerly awaited. We began our research immediately, visiting many hardware stores, the small independent shops and the ginormous home club venues. I looked online as well.

The one thing we kept coming across were the enormous grills, which wasn’t a bad thing. However, the quality or lack thereof did not impress. Flimsy hardware, rust just waiting to invade every surface, and those weird ‘volcanic briquettes’? What’s up with those things? You can’t even throw some mesquite or hard wood chips in there? Odd. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the cost of these things! My father in-law is a very generous man, but I didn’t think any of these grills deserved consideration.

Grill with goodies

Grill with goodies

I remember as a child we had an old Weber Grill in the back yard. It always fired right up, offering the chef the choice of hard wood, mesquite or coals, and you could cook with direct or indirect heat. You could prepare a shwack of food or just a couple of burgers. Clean up was a breeze, it never rusted, and it was a fraction of the price of most grills. It didn’t rely on gas, propane or phony rocks, just some crumbled up newspaper, briquettes of your choice and a match. Sold!

After several years of abuse, this grill has never let me down. It cooks evenly, it’s dependable, rust-free and a joy to use. The best thing about it right now? It’s outside. In the shade. Next to a picnic table where I will enjoy a glass of wine (or two) and let the grill do the work.

Cool.