I’m really enjoying the concepts and recipes in my new cookbook, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallman. In particular, I’m a bit obsessed with cooking vegetables on a chapa – (from the book) a flat piece of cast iron or a cast-iron skillet set over a fire. I’m using my big Le Creuset cast-iron skillet, set on my Weber gas grill. I preheat the grill until it’s very hot (600+ degrees F), then lay the pan on the grate and preheat it until it’s hot too. Most of the recipes in Seven Fires are cooked on a chapa, which quickly sears and caramelizes food – perfect for vegetables. I mean prrrrrfect. I’ve created two insanely simple and delicious dishes so far – one Friday night for my friend Michelle (alongside salmon), the other tonight for just John and me. Tomorrow? Yep, but more on that in a second.
Let me back up a bit and explain the two dishes I’ve already made. The first was Burnt Fennel and Zucchini with Parmesan, Lemon, and Basil. The technique is to thinly slice the vegetables, separately toss them with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then cook them separately (fennel first, pictured above, then the zucchini) on the hot (unoiled) chapa until tender and blackened in spots. The warm vegetables are tossed together and finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs, and crumble of Parmesan cheese. I plated the vegetables over a slice of grilled whole-grain bread, and served alongside salmon fillets that I also cooked on the chapa (Arthur, if you’re still looking for a way to achieve crisp salmon skin, this may be the answer, since the pan is so much hotter than you can achieve indoors).
Tonight, armed with my new technique/experience, I rustled around in the cooler and unearthed wild mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, English peas, and spinach. I grilled each vegetable one at a time, scraping into a serving bowl as I went along, finishing with a handful of quickly-toasted nuts, minced fresh herbs from my pots on the deck (basil, mint, oregano), a crumble of Parm, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Frankly, that was dinner – whole-meal-worthy and truly yummy.
I was needing a just-vegetables dinner after Saturday’s not-moderate feast, uff. Stacey, Debbie and Stu The Wine Genius Williams, and Michelle (here for the weekend) joined us for a pool-n-grill Saturday, sunny and hot and perfect for a barbecue. I slow-braised two spice-rubbed pork shoulders pretty much all afternoon in the oven, then finished them on the grill, crisping up the exterior and slathering them in barbecue sauce. We ate the pork pulled apart on rolls, with a side of blue-cheese coleslaw, fresh farmer’s market snap peas, and apple pie a la mode for dessert. The wine – thanks to Stu, so delicious. Blast!
So tomorrow, more chapa vegetables, this time to toss with pasta. I’m thinking more swiss chard, garlic, and sweet onion, as well as the one little slice of pancetta I have left from last week’s Springtime Fava Bean Salad with Poached Egg (like I said, I’m seriously digging this book). Stay tuned…