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#LaborDay weekend: grilling, canning & the dinner blues

It’s the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the holiday that signals the start of the school year, the summer’s slow demise into fall and, more optimistically, the near arrival of goodies like apple cider and pumpkin-spice everything. It’s also a work holiday that means — perhaps most importantly — I get a break from teaching my 6 a.m. Monday class and can apply those energies toward other hobbies. Namely, toward canning.

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Can’t wait to put my new canning goodies to use.

Yes, after dipping my toe in the water of food preservation over several long weeknights,  mostly by myself, I’ve decided that canning with company is a much better idea. And I’m thankful to have a couple friends who are into the idea as well. We bought a whole bushel (ahem, 50 pounds!) of cheap-as-dirt peak-season tomatoes and some more peaches, beans, okra, you name it.

That being said, canning and pickling has also left me pretty tuckered out this past couple weeks when it comes to, well, cooking anything else. Dinner-making has not been a joyous occasion. My poor husband came home Wednesday to a low-blood sugar version of his wife, who hadn’t had time to fill the fridge with anything edible (to-be-canned veggies don’t count) and couldn’t put together two thoughts about dinner. OK, maybe there were two thoughts: Order. Out.

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If it’s not ordering out, it’s super easy salads with pickled stuff, like this one. Yes, that is pepperoni.

We all have these moments right? And I’m sick of having guilt about it, really. Yes, I know that there are so many glorious vegetables at the farmers market and we have a freezer full of beef and… yeah, sometimes I just don’t want to cook. Sometimes nothing we have sounds good and (after dinner out at the Hanoi House preview of Maketto on Monday) all I’m craving is chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s dim sum cart. Could you just wheel that over to my house? Cold pork salad and kimchi please. OK, OK, I’ll take the caramelized chicken wings as well. Thanks.

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But, since that wasn’t an option, Thai food happened. And some Breaking Bad. It was a very good, much-needed night of veg. But then the next night came. And I still didn’t feel like cooking. (Is this a post-canning phase, or what?) But, lo and behold, I remembered the other fabulous thing about summer. Not only is there a bevy of beautiful fruits and vegetables available, but also they can be GRILLED. Oh hallelujah! A little fire makes it all better.

So, as we come upon a gorgeous weather weekend and the last fling of summer, what better time to take advantage of that grill? Barton Seaver’s doing it, grilling up every vegetable you can think of. (Although, we plan to grill — and possibly smoke — some big hunks of meat as well.) So, after a week of lazy cooking, which I have now sufficiently justified to you, here are some recommendations for your grill:

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Grilled peaches and yellow squash gave the kombucha-marinated steak a run for its money. OK the steak was really good.

  • If you have a bunch of meat in the freezer, think about a new way to marinade it before it hits the fire. This week, I tried a lemon-rosemary kombucha marinade (yes, I used one of my more vinegary batches of kombucha). Oh my was it good. It turned grass-fed sirloin into some tender goodness.

And here’s a list of other things to try throwing on the grill:

  • The obvious: zucchini, summer squash, corn (in husks, eat immediately or in a cold corn salad)
  • Green beans, baby tomatoes, sweet onions or baby corn in a foil packet or grill basket.
  • The less obvious: peaches (do this now), pineapple, bananas for dessert, okra, tomatoes (firm, less ripened ones) or avocado for a smokey guacamole,
  • Cole slaw — grill big wedges of red and green cabbage, slice into coleslaw and serve in a vinegary manner. Smokey goodness.
  • Eggplant — the grill wicks away unwanted moisture better than a vat of salt; use in a cold salad with pine nuts, parsley, etc. or eat hot off the grill.
  • Bread. Try it. The Post’s grillin’ expert says it’s worth the trouble, and it’s turned more than a few past-due baguettes into something good.

So what are you grilling this weekend? And do you have a smoker we can borrow? 🙂

Cheers,
W

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