Saturday, June 14, 2008

Up In Smoke

A cook's ambition grows ever more grandiose, marked by the purchase of new cooking equipment. In my case, it was a Kingsford Barrel Charcoal Cooker.

Beware, beware of hubris. Hubris is defined here as "over wienie pride." Do not ignore portentous omens.

My tentative, vastly hubristic menu plan was the following:
Assorted grilled Spanish and Argentine style chorizos (Spicy sausages)
Home baked cornmeal buns and rolls. Our friend, Bruce, would also bring teleras from the Panadería La Espiga. (If he could find the unmarked bakery in the maze of side streets. He couldn't. Ni modo.)
Assorted condiments, sliced fresh tomatoes, sliced red onions, chipotle mayonnaise, etc.

Salads: Mediterranean Bean Salad, which I made a day before.
American Style Macaroni Salad.(One of the best macaroni salads ever.)
Sliced Cucumbers and Onions in Sweetened Vinegar.

Grilled assorted vegs: (I couldn't get eggplant, but we had tomatoes, knob onions, baby zucchini, a couple of nopal pads (prickly pear cactus pads/leaves) and, not to forget, huge Portobello Mushrooms.

Dessert would be grilled pineapple with ginger rum marinade.

Drinks: beer, Tequila, various miscellaneous local brews, such as Tepache or Ginger Beer. We passed on the ginger beer and the nasty batch of tepache in favor of Grolsch and Agua Fresca de Jamaica.

Four friends were invited for the launching of the Kingsford. Two had last minute delays and couldn't come. (We then decided against grilling the assorted sausages.)
The day had had several such small disasters. First the early morning blackout; then as we started cooking the grilled vegetables, a chubasco swept in, "an evil trick of nature", announcing with great drama the beginning of the rainy season.

As we retreated from the downpour, swarms of flies took shelter in our entryway, sampling the tapas on we'd been noshing. (Oh; I forgot to mention the hitherto unadvertised Tortilla Española that our friend Ron had brought; and the bits of the three cheeses and Spanish chorizo we had to accompany the Gringo Viejo Tequila that Bruce brought, and the impromptu Pimentón tasting we held.)

Once inside, Susan wrung herself out, and we continued.
The grilled vegetables were kept warm in a low heat oven. Bruce braved the fading squall to toast the Cornmeal Hamburger Buns out on the barrel cooker. I proceeded to cook the hamburgers in an iron skillet, with modest success.

Then we sat down and ate.
The vegetables, first brushed only with olive oil, then grilled, were excellent. They had received a light brushing of a parsley-basil pesto lemon sauce after cooking. The Portobellos were especially flavorsome.
The hamburgers were disappointing, but saved by melting Cheddar or Smoked Provolone on them, and slathering the buns with Quick Aiolí or Chipotle Mayo.

As the rain slowed then stopped, I went out to make dessert: spears of fresh pineapple, briefly marinated in rum and "Sichuan" Ginger Syrup, then grilled. That was a great finish to the meal.

(Although we sent our guests off with zip-locs loaded with salads and vegetables, we still ended up eating leftovers for the week. That was a pleasure, not a problem.)

Tortilla Española to begin and Grilled Pineapple with Ginger Rum Glaze* to finish.

*Here, the leftover pineapple served over warmed Gingerbread.


Steve Cotton said...

Did the heights of Olympus ever see such a cooking machine? Could ambrosia have ever been tastier?

I wish I could have exercised my professional eating skills at such an event.

Don Cuevas said...

Did the heights of Olympus ever see such a cooking machine? Could ambrosia have ever been tastier?

Yes. Yes.

I'm about to give this blog posting a significant revision, as well as the related, "Cooking By Candlelight.)
Stay tuned.

Cuando vengas a vivir, te invitamos a comer.


pearlthegurl said...

Sliced cucumbers and onions in sweetened vinegar? I love cucumbers but it's the burp factor...does this stop it? And if so, could you post the recipe?

Don Cuevas said...

Pearl, I accept burps, and their antisocial nether brethren as part of nature.

I don't notice burps generated from the cucumbers we use.

If you look in The Joy of Cooking, I think you'll find recipes for cucumber salad in vinegar or under some similar name.

I don't use a recipe. I wash and scrub a medio kilo or more of very fresh, unwaxed cucumbers, then peel them. My Mom uses "burpless" English cucumbers.

Using a very sharp knife and a cutting board or or 6 mm slicing blade in a Cuisinart food processor, I slice the cukes very thinly. Then I slice one to three sweet or not white onions.
All is put into a capacious bowl of non-reactive material, such as stainless steel,
Then, I sprinkle on one or two tablespoons of wite granulate sugar and two teaspoons fine table salt, and mix it all together.
Let the whole sit 15 to 30 minutes; place in a non-reactive colander (plastic, por ejemplo) and drain well.

Return all to the big bowl, and pour on white vinegar to barely cover. Taste for salt and add freshly ground black pepper. Dill weed is a good option, especially if available as fresh fronds.

If it tastes too sour, add some water.

I pack it in tall glass jars and refrigerate. It keeps very well.

Some cooks like the creamed version, in which after refrigerating them for some hours, you drain off the excess vinegar and add sour cream to taste. It's good, but I like the cream less version.
The simplicity is what apeals to me.

If any of you want to talk burps, we can discuss Pickled Eggs with Baby Onions.

Steve Cotton said...

I make the same salad, but I use dried (not fresh) mint. And I also mix it into sliced fresh tomatoes for a variation.

Don Cuevas said...

Mint could be good, especially if dressing the cucumbers with garlic and yogurt. That's approacing a tzatziki, a greek salad often used on gyros. In that case, you'd also want to seed the cukes beofre chopping or coarsely grating, then extracting excess liquid.

Thanks for that idea; I'll bookmark it for another meal.