Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Of garden and grill

Before I begin rambling about grills, please allow me to apologize for my absence this past week. I leave soon to go on vacation in Australia, and my to-do list of late includes items such as "test film in Nikon," "hiking boots" and "international driver's license." It does not, quite obviously, include items such as "update blog." Something always has to give.

But I haven't been too busy to cook and eat, that's for sure. So I do have a dish to share with you today, in between canning as many garden tomatoes as possible before I leave and attempting to determine how many pairs of shoes to take. It's a dish that has everything to do with the summer luxuries of garden and grill.

You see, Husband and I have been sort of grill-spoiled by the marvelous people in our lives. Husband's groomsmen got together and bought us a nice gas grill as a wedding gift. It wasn't even on our registry. But Husband's groomsmen, knowing Husband, looked beyond the registry and picked the perfect gift for their friend. It graces our back porch and gets a good deal of use in the summer months. Even so, I am still just slightly afraid of propane; therefore, in the back of my head I still wanted to get a charcoal grill. Sometime. Not a huge priority, but someday.

Then, as luck would have it, Sister and Brother-in-Law got a new gas grill and planned on disposing of their Weber. I heard mention of this plan and suggested that, you know, we would be happy to unload it for you. So a few weeks ago when they were away on vacation and I was caring for their ridiculous-but-adorable cats (hi, Zippy and Tyrone!) I loaded up the Weber in the back of my car and transported it to its new home on our brick patio. I was a little concerned that Sister's neighbors might think I was a thief, as I lifted the grill parts, one by one, over her back yard fence and absconded with them in my vehicle. I quickly decided I didn't care; I will risk my reputation for a charcoal-grilled meal.

Husband and I fired up our "new" Weber for the first time a few nights ago. And though this might seem a travesty to all you meat-loving grillers out there, the first thing I cooked on it was tofu. And green beans from the garden. I know, I know. Embarrassing. But delicious. (When I was done grilling soybean curd, Husband did blacken a few brats, salvaging the manhood and dignity of the Weber.) It is worth mentioning, however, that even Husband ate some of the tofu and green beans.

Cooking this way is one of the most satisfying acts of summer: walk a few steps over there, pick some green beans, wash them off with a garden hose, mix them in a bowl with a little olive oil and pepper, then walk back over and place them on the grill. It's a meal from your own soil and toil, one that simply cannot be replicated at any other time of the year. It's so fresh and perfect that even people who don't like green beans and tofu will reach for a serving
(proof: Husband). And it's quick and easy to make, once the charcoal is glowing.

Which leaves ample time to confirm flights and research places to horseback ride in the Blue Mountains.



The tofu needs time to press and marinate, so begin preparing it a few hours before you plan on grilling.

14 oz. extra-firm tofu
1 T. fresh oregano, chopped
1 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. plus 2 t., olive oil, divided
1 t. coriander
A few pinches of freshly-cracked black pepper
10 oz. green beans, stem end removed
1/4 c. fresh peas, from the garden if you have them
1/4 c. roasted corn kernels, cut off the cob
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 t. lemon zest

Line a baking sheet with a clean tea towel. Cut the tofu into long pieces. Arrange tofu in a single layer on the paper towel, then cover with another clean towel. Place another baking sheet on top, then weigh down with something heavy, such as a cast iron skillet or some large cans of tomatoes. Press the tofu for at least 15-30 minutes.

Place the tofu in a medium bowl then add the oregano, thyme, soy sauce, 1 T. of the olive oil, coriander and a pinch of black pepper. Using a spoon, carefully stir the ingredients to coat the tofu with the other ingredients. Be gentle here; the goal is to keep the tofu pieces intact. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.

When you are ready to grill, toss the green beans with 1 T. of the olive oil and a pinch of black pepper. Rub the grill grate with some vegetable oil. Place the tofu and beans on the grill. Cook the beans for 3-5 minutes without turning, then remove to a large mixing bowl (you want them to get a little color, but they should still be bright and crunchy).

Cook the tofu for 10-15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Remove the tofu and add it to the bowl with the green beans. Add the peas, roasted corn kernels, lemon juice and zest and the remaining 2 t. olive oil. Toss to combine, and serve warm.

Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish.


Unknown said...

I see you have no comments, so I feel compelled to leave one. Perhaps if instead of tofu, you would have substituted a side of beef or pork, the christning of the grill would have attracted more attention(like me attending)

Laura said...

I have never had grilled green beans--which is a mistake I feel certain I must rectify.

Ironically I desperately want a gas grill. I grew up in a charcoal only family, which is all well and good, but I am way too lazy for it and my husband does not grill.

Dianne said...

Dad, thank you for leaving a comment. I just knew you would have a bad tofu attitude. It is sad that you did not attend; tofu-grilling is quite a scene and we would have even given you a cold beer. Alas.

Laura, grilling green beans is nice -- just a teeny bit of color and flavor, with lots of bright crunch remaining. And I know what you're saying: gas grilling is certainly less time-consuming!

Chris said...

Hmmm Tofu. Looks fantastic!