Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We get by

Lately, I've had this consuming urge to move out of our condo. Caused partly by our car being towed from our own parking lot without warning (oh, us against the world!!). But even more so because, well, doesn't a gal just want to sprawl out in her own backyard with a vodka lemonade when the weather ticks up into the 80s?

If I could, I would pick a little house somewhere - a place where the walls belong to us alone, with no neighbors roaming above, with enough cupboards in the kitchen (and perhaps a double oven). In aforementioned backyard, my garden would overflow with fresh tomatoes and herbs, and the zucchini would stay in check. And in this yard, I would have my sweet, sweet grilling setup. A charcoal and gas grill for sure, and, eventually, a big green egg. Oh, a girl can dream. 

Grilling runs in my family - the only food my dad cooks is over a flame, and my mom trudges through snow to cook outdoors year round. In my last apartment, I had my parents' old charcoal Weber grill. It was a housewarming gift to me from my parents, worn with the countless roasts and chops that both of them cooked over the years on its now-mangled grates.  The lid was a bit rusty, and the wooden handle was dangling by a loose screw, but I loved that thing. I want to have that grill forever. 

When I took ownership of the grill, I kept it in the backyard of the crumbling fourplex I lived in, on a lawn that was rarely mowed. The long grass quarantined my guests to stand in a row on the sidewalk while I leaned over the grill, the grass tickling over the tops of my ankles. Sometimes we would haul out camping chairs and sit around the grill, talking in the warm summer night until the sky darkened and the mosquitos forced us indoors.

I fancy myself quite the griller by now; we've done pizzas and stuffed peppers, smokey barbecue chicken thighs, cedar-planked salmon and whole turkey breasts. Last summer, I worked at a handful of the grilling seminars at one of the cooking schools in town and picked up a few tricks that way. But I fear that my potential is being stalled by our current rental patio, where no Weber shall go. That's right; grills aren't really allowed here. 

We make do, discretely, with a ramshackle portable gas grill that sits low to the ground, requiring you to crouch down when tending to the food and making sure nothing has somehow started on fire over the mediocre flame. But like I said, we make do! Last weekend, we made more meals on the grill than off - turkey burgers, chicken brats, my favorite quinoa-stuffed red peppers that I'll tell you about later, and this simple cod grilled on a foil tray, topped with a fresh pineapple salsa.

Cod is such a delicate fish that I wouldn't typically consider it a great candidate for the grill, but on Sunday when the sun came back out after the rain, I felt like cooking outside. So I made a little foil tray and set the cod inside (seasoned with salt, pepper and a fish seasoning we picked up), and dotted a few pinches of butter around it. I cooked the cod over a medium flame for about 10 minutes, then - to serve - topped it with this sweet and hot pineapple salsa, flecked with cilantro and heated with serrano pepper. The salsa was perfect on the fish, and great on chips, too - I plan to make it for barbecues all summer long.

Now I just have to figure out a way to make my mom's famous barbecue ribs on our little guy, and then we'll really be in business.

Pineapple Salsa
Adapted from Whole Foods

About the pineapple salsa - pick a nice, ripe pineapple to make sure the salsa is nice and fruity-sweet, and use caution with the serrano pepper. The recipe tells you to remove the seeds, but I got a little cocky and decided to leave about half of them in. Be warned! Serrano peppers are not for the wimpy spirit.

2 cups diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 red onion, small dice
1 serrano pepper, seeds removed!
1 lime, zested and juiced (or more)
Good pinch of salt

Stir everything together. Voila! Add more cilantro, lime or salt, to taste. I think it tastes better after it sits for a bit, an hour or so, to let the flavors meld.

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