Dramatic Improvisations in Soft Drinks and Grilling

So, I’m flying recently on a small commuter jet out of Newark. It’s a beautiful day and I’m not anticipating any issues. I’m a pretty good flier and while I do clutch the arm rests during turbulence, I really never panic. We frequent fliers tend to take for granted the safety instructions – I do note that the no-smoking sign is on but I never follow along on the safety pamphlet located in the seat pocket in front of me. The sing-song rhythm of the safety instructions and other inflight announcements give me a sense of security when flying. So, when the flight attendant veered off script, I perked up and paid attention….

Here’s what she said:

“Ladies and Gentlemen…” [dramatic pause with sigh] “I have some really bad news….”

We’re in the air at this point so I’m now starting to breathe heavily as my pulse rate shoots up. When you’re flying, ‘bad news‘ might be along the lines of “we’ve lost cabin pressure and in just a few seconds your heads will literally explode” or if it’s the 1970’s “we’ve been hi-jacked and are headed to Cuba”….

The flight attendant after her dramatic pause announced: “We have no juice on board…”

Another pause as I wonder if ‘no juice’ means we’re out of fuel and will be plunging 25,000 feet to the ground. Farewell life!

She finished with: “We do have Coca-Cola products; Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Coffee brewed on board. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Really? Really? No juice! – tragedy. Now, that was a dramatic presentation!

I, myself, may have been accused from time to time of being a little dramatic. And, today I’m feeling dramatically and tragically sad about the rapidly approaching end of summer. With this inevitable end comes the return back to the City. No more weekends on Nantucket. No more trips to Ohio. A fading tan and thus fading beauty. No more summer Fridays. No more road trips. No more trips upstate and antiquing.  No more beachiness. I don’t hike, but think I may miss hiking as September nears. I am spiraling in despair…And, then I realize most sadly with a gasp a sigh and a tear, no more use of friends’ and family’s outdoor grills.

So, just as we passengers on that Delta Connection Flight to Cincinnati had to make do and drink Coca-Cola products or coffee in lieu of juice, I will bravely improvise and return to my indoor grilling solutions.

First things first, you need a grill pan. I have this one. It’s my only piece of Calphalon and while I’m not really into Calphalon products, I must admit, this pan works perfectly and is large enough to grill 3-4 pieces of meat/fish/chicken but small enough to stack on a 12 inch frying pan in my limited kitchen cabinet space.

Here’s an easy affordable indoor grilling recipe:

Grilled Cod Filets

Basic marinade so as not to overpower the fish…

In a small bowl, combine the juice of one lemon with a tbsp of dijon mustard using a whisk. When totally combined slowly drizzle in 1/3 cup of olive oil and continue whisking until all bubbles are gone and mixture is wholly emulsified.

Add a tsp of crushed thyme to the mixture. Fresh Thyme is good too – just know that the ratio of usage is 2 to 1 fresh herbs to dried. Add salt and pepper and pour the mixture over 2-3 filets of cod. If you’re so inclined, you can chiffonade some basil leaves and put on the fish. Cod (not black cod) is a very affordable fish.

Cover and put in the fridge for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Heat a grill pan over medium/high heat and even though the pan is non-stick, spray sparingly with cooking spray.

Add fish and grill 4-6 minutes per side depending on thickness.

A few hints for perfect preparation without neighbor aggravation:

1. Open your windows to create a cross draft. If you only have windows on one side (like in my apartment) open your door. The fish will smoke up and this will keep you from setting off the smoke detector in your apartment/house.

2. Use cod or tilapia or sea bass or any white flaky fish when indoor grilling. These are not stinky fishes. DO NOT grill salmon indoors as the scent will stay in your home for days afterwards.

3. If you’re in an apartment, you might want to close the doors to any adjoining rooms while indoor grilling – while cod is not a fishy-fish, the ‘grill scent’ will permeate towels or bedding.

For one Delta Flight Attendant, no juice in the service cart evoked the inner thespian. For me the inevitable end of summer has be spiraling to despair. It’s all about how you recover and react to these tragedies. I will buck up and bravely face life without an outdoor grill.  You can be dramatic about it but sometimes you just have to improvise.

A Moveable Feast…And, A Feast that Moved

Ernest Hemingway’s ability to say so much in so few words strikes a spot in my soul. His style isn’t for everyone, but I’ve always loved his words. His last book was A Moveable Feast. Published in 1964, three years after Hemingway’s suicide, the book is a compilation of autobiographical stories that his widow and fourth wife, Mary Hemingway, culled from the author’s personal notes. The book chronicals Hemingway’s time spent in Paris beginning in the ’20’s with  the likes of Gertrude Stein, F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, James Joyce and others. About the city of lights, he told his friend and later his biographer, AE Hotchner: ‘If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I think everyone knows of such a place – a place that stays with them forever. This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be hosted by my friend, Sam, whose moveable feast is Nantucket. The tiny island off the elbow of Cape Cod isn’t everyone’s moveable feast…but, while up there, we did have a feast that moved. Sam’s sister who also has a home on the island arrived early Saturday morning after a 27 hour trek from Utah. With three friends coming to stay, she planned to host a barbecue at her home that night and invited us for dinner. Once settled in, Sam’s sister discovered her grill didn’t work…And at 4pm Saturday it was determined to move the dinner to Sam’s where we were happy to chef and host.

With only two hours and limited supplies, we created a truly impressive feast.

Flank Steak, marinated for two hours in a simple mix of garlic, soy sauce and olive oil. Grilled about 7 minutes per side on med/high heat and served sliced.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts – seven medium sized. Whisk together a combination of 1 tbsp whole grain and 1 tbsp dijon mustard with the juice of 1 1/5 lemons and the juice of 1 lime. Once completely combined, slowly whisk in 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Whisk until the mixture is emulsified and all bubbles disappear. Stir in about a tablespoon of dried thyme – crushed in your hands to release the flavor. Add my new favorite ingredient: Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt. Pour over the chicken. Chiffonade a few basil leaves and add to the tops of the chicken. Marinade covered in the fridge for two hours.

Grill chicken for 5-7 minutes per side over med/high heat.

Corn on the cob -We soaked seven corns in their husks in water for about :30 minutes and then grilled over medium heat for :15 minutes. Let cool. Shuck and serve.

Roasted potatoes. To speed things up, I cubed a medium bag of yellow potatoes. In a bowl, I combined 1/4 to 1/3 cup Olive Oil, 1 large Diced Shallot, about a tsp of dried rosemary (crushed in my palms) and…1 tbsp of Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt. This mixture was then tossed with the cubed potatoes and put on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Into the oven at 450 for :45 minutes. Warning! Yellow potatoes have a higher moisture content than regular russet potatoes and will emit a good deal of steam in the oven. The steam will burst out and curl your eyelashes when you open the door – I know because it happened to me. Take caution.

Easy salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and a olive oil/balsamic/dijon vinaigrette.

It was a last minute move and a quickly prepared meal. The nature reserve that backs Sam’s property provided the perfect back drop on a cool and breezy but rainless Nantucket night. It’s nights like these that help us understand why, for many, Nantucket is a moveable feast. The guests had a great time and we came away looking like kitchen rock stars…Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Big Meats in The Cincy

Ohio exists somewhere in the middle – like between New York and Los Angeles. I know that because I am currently visiting Ohio where some of my people live.

I have learned a great deal during this visit…

1. A Ben-Gal is neither a tiger nor a football team. It’s a 26-year-old school teacher who allegedly had sex with an underage student

2. My niece and nephew need to be fed exactly when they are hungry. This can happen at any time without warning. Last night post-dinner and dessert I was ordered to make chocolate chip pancakes. Later, at 9:30pm, grilled cheese. I, of course, obliged.

3. The local seafood restaurant serves the ‘Catch of the Day’ that has arrived on a plane and was probably the catch of yesterday or the day before.

4. The theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati is stuck in my head – it began playing the moment I landed (oddly in Kentucky where the Cincinnati airport is?!) and will most likely not cease playing until I touch down in New York

5. I don’t know if there actually is a station called WKRP here – because my sister-in-law’s minivan only has Satellite radio – that how she rolls. In a minivan with satellite radio…I can open the rear side doors remotely!

6. My People like to make big meats.

7. I might actually like ‘The Other White Meat’

The other night for dinner, my brother prepared a 5lb Pork Loin. We decided upon Pork Loin because that’s what was on sale at the local Kroger. I was skeptical…It was delicious

Here’s what he did

1. Generously, season a large, at least 5lbs…the bigger the better…Pork Loin with Old Bay Seasoning, Bacon Salt, Garlic Salt (always Garlic Salt), Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

2. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours

3. About :30mins before grilling, remove the loin from the refrigerator and allow it to temporate. For those who don’t know…Temporate is a word brilliantly coined by a friend’s mother meaning bring to room temperature

4. Prepare charcoal grill for INDIRECT HEAT at approximately 375 degrees. Use medium chunks of applewood and hickory over the coals to create smoke…chunks need to be soaked for at least :30 minutes prior to putting on coals.) Put the meat in a rack over a pan and place 1/2 onion chopped, 2 smashed cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 cups of white wine in the base of the pan.

NOTE: The wine, onion, garlic and pork drippings will simmer under the meat during the smoking process – discard after cooking.

5. Place the Spice Rubbed Pork Loin in smoker pan on the grill, cover the grill and leave it alone for about 1 1/4 hours. It will smoke a good deal. Check occasionally – but you want the internal temperature to be 135 degrees before removing from the grill

NOTE: The USDA dropped the safe cooking temperature for Pork to 145 degrees in May of 2011. And, the Pork Loin will continue to cook even after its removed from the heat source.

6. Once the Pork has reached 135 degrees, remove it from the grill and let it rest, wrapped in aluminum foil for :25 minutes

7. Slice and serve

I have said many times that I don’t like pork. But, changing my mind is my thing….And, this pork was delicious!

The giant meat option is generally the opposite of my approach…But, there’s a lot more space in Ohio than in my apartment. And there are more people here to enjoy it. Thanks to my brother for opening my eyes to the marvels of the other white meat.

Now if I could just get that song out my head……”I’m at WKRP in Cincinnati….Cincinnati WKRP….”