Archive for May, 2012

Grilling Photos

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

As it turns out, it is much easier to have someone else take photos of you cooking… doing and documenting is too much for one person to handle on his own.

Here’s most of the spread before any of it went on the grill: garlic, asparagus, crimini mushrooms, mango, bananas, coffee-spice rubbed strip steak, and summer squash.

I use hardwood lump charcoal.  It burns much hotter than briquets and it doesn’t have any of the chemicals in it that hold briquets together.  I start the charcoal in a chimney; lighter fluid doesn’t exist in my world.

The potatoes (parboiled, quartered, and coated in butter and spices) go on first, over the coals.  I need to be careful not to bring too much butter along with them else it drip and flare.  By the time I’ve finished putting the potatoes on the grill, it’s time to go back to the first potatoes put on and turn them.  They need intense attention until they’ve been flipped three times, at which point they have a beautifully caramelized exterior.  I remove them from the grill and return them to the butter and spices that remain in the pan.  They soak it up, drawing the flavor all the way in: leading to potatoes that have flavor all the way through and are ready to eat without adding any more butter or spices to them.

The strip steaks: grass fed, rubbed with kosher salt; ground chile pepper; and freshly ground coffee.  Seared over direct heat and then transferred to the indirect side of the grill to coast through to a medium rare outcome.

The garlic: whole cloves, roasted over a combination of direct and indirect heat until soft to the touch.  Let to cool, then peeled.  The whole roasted cloves have a sweetly mellow flavor that compliments everything else on the plate.

The mushrooms: crimini mushrooms, seasoned with kosher salt, ginger, new mexico chile, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.  Cooked slowly over indirect heat.  Flipped so that both sides cook.  This method works well for mushrooms of all types.  I started grilling mushrooms like this about 11 years ago, when I mostly used button mushrooms.  I rarely use button anymore (crimini are now my go-to); but I also have done this with wild mushrooms such as sheep head or pom-pom.

The asparagus: seasoned with kosher salt, ginger, and new mexico chile powder.  They were on and off the grill before they could be photographed cooking.  They go over the coals, are flipped once, and removed when they have a nice char to them.  I take them to the grill in the same pan I remove them to.  I use tongs to put them perpendicular to the grill slats, and typically am able to grill them without losing any to the flames.

The squash: seasoned with olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and paprika.  Grilled over direct heat after the coals have already seen their hottest flames behind them.  Depending on the heat, perhaps 3-5 minutes on each side; turning them 90 degrees after 1.5-2.5 minutes to give them a nice hatch pattern on each side.

The mangoes and the bananas did most of their cooking while we were eating.  I put the mangoes over the coals and the bananas on the other side of the grill; put the lid on and ignored them for a while.  Admittedly, that’s not the best way to handle them (the mangoes never quite cooked all the way through and the bananas got mushy), but by the time they went on the grill, it was about 7:30 and we were all hungry.

Thanks to Jim Sharrard for the photography services.  See more of Jim’s pictures at

Brewing Beer at Copper Kettle

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Copper Kettle Brewery in Greenfield offers those of us who don’t have the equipment or experience to home brew a chance to brew our own beer with professional assistance—and someone to clean up after us (which is definitely a plus!).

The kettles are all lined up along one wall.  They are steam-jacketed, which means that they heat evenly and quickly.

They have a pretty decent selection of recipes available, each with its own card and
description of what the end result should taste like.  I chose Scottish Amber, which is
just a little bit hoppy and a little bit caramelly, which makes it a great choice for a
party: it has widespread appeal.

Based on the recipe card, you gather the ingredients that you need.  The hops are measured into differently colored bowls, and the instructions tell you when to add which bowl—so it’s really easy.  I thought it was great to be able to smell and taste the hops while I was brewing, because later when I tasted the beer, I recognized the flavor.  They use dehydrated hop pellets, as opposed to fresh hops, because they are easier to get; cost less; and are less perishable.

You tend to your workstation on occasion; and sip a beer from Hough’s while you do, if you wish.  The attendant is able to explain why you are doing what you are doing and when you are doing it.  When the brewing process is finished, they drain the contents of the kettle to the basement, cool it to the proper temperature, add the yeast, and tend to it for a couple of weeks for you.  They’ll pressurize it in advance of your bottling appointment; your only responsibility is to design a label for your bottle (if you wish to).  This one commemorates our 9th Mardi Gras party (the event for which I brewed and bottled the beer).

Copper Kettle is at 567 Greenfield Avenue, 15207.  Their phone number is (412) 906-9400.

A Great Start to Grilling Season—Chicken Rhubarb

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I know grilling season really could have started weeks ago, but in my house, the kickoff was last night—and it was fantastic!   Most of the time, I’m one to sit at the dinner table and analyze tweaks that could have made the meal better.  I try not to, because what I see as valuable analysis to help future meals comes across to Aurora as complaining, and she says it interferes with her ability to enjoy the meal at hand.

But that’s another topic altogether…. This meal had almost nothing to quibble about—except for the fact that I was so wrapped up in making and eating it, I neglected to take any pictures.

Much of the meal was standard fare on my grill—grass-fed steak, potatoes, red peppers, garlic, mushrooms, mangoes, bananas… par for the course.  But since Angstrom hasn’t been much of a carnivore and one of the few animal proteins he’ll eat some of is chicken, I got some chicken tenderloins and threw them on the grill; and because I had it in the fridge and I needed to cook it while it was still reasonably fresh, I cut some rhubarb into 3-inch lengths and grilled it, too.

The tartness of the rhubarb (seasoned with butter and ginger) went perfectly with the chicken (seasoned with salt and cinnamon).  It was such a nice combination, I brought some for my lunch today—instead of leftover steak!  Now, that’s saying something.

If you want to grill rhubarb, too– a couple of notes from the session: I started it off over indirect heat, but it seemed to respond better to direct heat.  This was fairly late in the grilling process, so the coals were already past their peak heat and on the descending side of the slope.  One flip and pull them from the flame as they soften—you don’t want it to overcook.  It would also match well with pork.

The Freshest of Fruits

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Just yesterday I was cursing my backyard bunny for chewing up my strawberries as they even approached a pinkish hue.  This morning as I walked to the car I decided to take another peek.  Hooray!  One whole, fresh, ripe berry, plus a few others untasted on their way to ripeness.

I considered leaving it there for Angstrom to discover this evening.  But then a little (somewhat selfish) voice inside me asked, “what if the rabbit ate it in the meantime?  Then it would go to waste!”  So I picked it and ate it right there.  So sweet, still warm from the sun: it was fantastic!  And, the others that were almost ripe this morning should be ready for the A man to discover tonight.


Thursday, May 10th, 2012

I don’t know how many years I’ve used baking powder without noticing the notice to “shake well before opening.” I guess that makes sense, though, that perhaps the leavener and the acid and the anti-caking agent might settle into different strata while the jar sits on your cupboard between uses. Shaking it up would get them all evenly mixed again. Amazing how often you can use something without really looking at it.