July 15, 2011

Of Grills and 'Guts

It's official.  We have a moving date.  Our last days of work are fast approaching and we've called our property management company to give them our 30 days notice.  I'd say things are getting real, except that's about as much planning that's been done.  Everything else is up in the air.  We still need to find an apartment in SF, figure out if we're taking both cars or just one, get registered for classes and you know, pack up our entire apartment and move it 500 miles away.  No biggie.

But for now, for next few weeks anyway, D and I are going to squeeze every bit of Southern California summer out of this place.  Beaches and pools will be frequented and as many meals as possible will be cooked on our BBQ.

Ah, our fickle, sputtering, flame throwing grill.  Our hand-me-down BBQ.  Though how such a crazed appliance belonged to D's grandma before us, I will never understand.  The only logical explanation I can give for its erratic behavior is that our BBQ is alive and it's a vegetarian.  You can grill all the veggies, sear all the tofu and toast all the bread you so desire on it, but the second a piece of meat is carefully laid across it's grate you better have an extinguisher handy.  It doesn't kid around.

With no meat allowed on the grill and still wanting to cook dinner outdoors, we compromise and make salads like this panzanella.    Asparagus and bread just barely charred (a controlled char over cooperative flames) to impart a nice smoky flavor to the salad.  The bright juicy cherry tomatoes and vinegary dressing tame and complement while the olives are salty briny nuggets tucked through out.  I like the kick of red onions, but if they're not your thing, try rinsing them in a bit of cold water after cutting them, or letting them soak in the dressing to mellow out their flavor.  It really is a perfect dish for an al fresco meal.

I will tell you however, even with a well behaved BBQ, I managed to set the neighbors smoke alarm off.  Oops!

Grilled Asparagus Panzanella
Adapted from Grill It, Bobby Flay

I cut out a lot of the olive oil from the original because I like my dressings more on the vinegary side, and I don't like my panzanella to be too soggy.  Croutons are a personal weakness of mine and it takes much control for me to stop snacking on them when they're around.  On the other hand, soggy bread really grosses me out.  So adjust the amount of dressing to your bread texture preference.  This is a simple quick salad to throw together and I like that best of all.

4 servings

6 slices country style bread 
1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
Salt and black pepper 
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed 
8 red cherry tomatoes, halved
8 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced 
1/2 cup Niçoise olives, pitted 
2 tablespoons capers  

Heat the grill to high. Grill the bread slices until slightly charred on both sides. Cut into 1-inch cubes.  

Toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender crisp. Cut into 1-inch segments. 

Add the vinegar, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and the rest of the olive oil in a large bowl. Whisk together until combined. Add the tomatoes, onion, olives, capers, grilled bread, and the asparagus. Toss well and set aside for 30 minutes before serving.

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