Sunday, June 7, 2009

first barbecue of the season

It began with the search for the perfect grill.  Or rather, with the realization The Perfect Grill was out of reach for now.  The red ribbon went to the Weber 22 1/2-Inch One-Touch Gold Charcoal Grill.  With the accompanying chimney starter, it was a perfect match, and hopefully the beginning of a long grilling season.

For its inauguration, a menu for 4:

 - Goan Avocado Salad (aka guacamole)

 - Grilled pork burgers with arugula, romesco, and manchego

 - Coleslaw

 - Edamame salad (a crisp, lemony treat from our guests)

 - Strawberry shortcake

Goan Avocado Salad

A smoky gift from Tabla Bread Bar.  Serious Turtle says there are more guacomoles in our future, but I think this version is perfect (except that I am missing the requisite stone bowl to complete the experience).  The low heat of the cumin makes this dish – don’t even think of skimping. 

Adapted from Bread Bar at Tabla

4 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1⁄2" pieces

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 plum tomato, cored and chopped

3 tbsp. finely sliced cilantro leaves

3 tbsp. fresh lime juice

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1–2 tsp. ground cumin

1⁄2 tsp. sugar

1⁄8 tsp. cayenne

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put avocados, onions, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, oil, cumin, sugar, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste into a medium bowl and stir well (but resist the urge to mash). Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of salad and refrigerate for 2–3 hours to let flavors develop.

Grilled Pork Burgers with fixins

Ground pork, spiked with fresh chorizo, and a slug of diced bacon—these burgers from Ms. Goin have long been at the top of my list. 

I assembled the pork mixture the night before, and fried a sample burger in a cast iron pan. While delicious, each component was clearly identifiable.  After a day of resting, the flavors had both intensified and melded into a rich, coherent patty.  

The final product is a memorable tower of arugula, romseco, manchego, and burger, balanced on a seasame brioche that I ventured into Cambridge to Iggy’s Bakery store to buy (any excuse for a "spontaneous" trip to Sofra for the Walnut Syrian Spiced Coffee Cake).   The pork patties are everything a burger should be, and then a little bit more. Complex without over-reaching, satisfyingly indulgent while drip-free, nancefied but manly.  

A few words on the coleslaw.   I don’t consider myself a coleslaw person, unless its KFC’s diced version, and then who isn’t.  This version was unexpectedly tasty, with ribbons of red and green cabbage and red onions, and shards of carrots.   It was even better today for lunch – the vinegar honey mixture almost pickled the onions overnight. 

Check in without your guests on their comfort with spice—the Romesco, though delicious, is a closer kin to Harissa than any version I have had before.  We’ll see how the leftovers fair with roasted gold yukons later tonight.

Grilled Pork Burgers

Adapted from Suzanne Goin

Required: Make the patties at least 6 hours before grilling.  Make the romseco the day before to save time. 

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oile

1/2 cup diced shallots

2 small chiles de árbol, thinly sliced diagonally

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

2 pounds ground pork

¼ pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed

3 oz. finely chopped applewood smoked bacon 

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Kosher sauce

Black pepper

Kosher salt

6 slices Manchego cheese (I put on the burgers once off the grill, worried that melted Manchego would be too oily)

Aioli  (disaster optional – I didn’t use, after 2 failed attempts at her recipe.  Use your own version, this one had too much oil (sour grapes, sour grapes), and ended in a soupy mess in the sink)

Romesco sauce (not optional)

2 oz. arugula

6 brioche buns or floury hamburger buns

16 arugula leaves

1. Pour cumin into a small pan, and place over medium heat. Cook, swirling, until seeds begin to toast, then pound coarsely in a mortar.

2. Cover bottom of a medium sauté pan with a thick slick of oil. Place over medium-low heat, and add shallots. When oil begins to sizzle, add the garlic, thyme, cumin, and chile.   Cook until shallots translucent.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a bowl, combine pork, chorizo and bacon. Add shallot mixture and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, lift and fold ingredients together until blended. Do not overmix.

4. Grill burgers until slightly pink.  Personally, I would argue for overcooking to ensure the bacon fat renders. 

5. Toast insides of buns. Spread with aioli and romesco. Lay a burger on each bun; top with arugula leaves and a triangle of manchego.


Adapted from Suzanne Goin

Grainy, deep red, spicy. As Goin warns, the oil separates from the romesco – I poured out the excess leaving more tapenade than sauce.  Double the lemon for a cooling effect.  Makes enough for burgers and then some.  

5 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, blanched and skinned

2 tablespoons raw almonds

1-1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 slice countr bread, about 1 inch thick

1/3 cup San Marzano canned tomatoes

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ lemon for juicing

Splash of sherry vinegar

Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soak the chilies in warm water to soften, about 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry. Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet, and bake until fragrant and browned, 8-10 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, place a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat 1 minute. Add bread and fry until browned on both sides. Cut into 1-inch cubes, and reserve. Return pan to high heat, and add 2 tablespoons olive oil and chiles. Sauté 1 minute and add tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring until juices have evaporated. Remove from heat.

3. In a food processor, combine the nuts, chopped garlic, and bread cubes. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add chile-tomato mixture and pulse to combine. With machine running, slowly pour in 1 cup olive oil to make a smooth puree; the mixture may separate into solids and oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the parsley and season to taste with lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Rob’s Famous Coleslaw

Adapted from Suzanne Goin

Although not recommended (though also not explicitly discouraged), I would make it a day ahead. 

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 pound red cabbage (cored)

1 pound green cabbage (cored)

½ red onion

1 large carrot 

½ mayonnaise (preferably Helmand’s)

Cayenne pepper to taste

4 tbl. minced chives (doubled from Goin’s recommendation)

¼ cup chopped flat leaf parley

Kosher salt and ground pepper

1. Reduce red wine vinegar by half in saucepan.  Take off heat, and add honey, stirring until dissolved.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice cabbages and red onion.  Grate carrot and combine.

3.  Pour red wine/ honey mixture over vegetables.  Let stand for 15 minutes. 

4. Using your hands (and forearms – this is a Slaw Mountain), toss in mayo, cayenne, and herbs. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Strawberry Shortcake: Check

Everything else from this menu should be considered an afterthought to the shortcake.  It’s immensely satisfying to know that you are done searching for The Best Version of any given dish.  There are few dishes I can say that for, where any attempt at improvement seems criminal: Marcey’s Pumpkin Pie, Horseradish Cranberry relish, Miso Salmon, Beet Caviar.  An elite cadre.   

And now shortbread. Orange scented, crumbly biscuits, topped with macerated strawberries and crème-fraiche whipped cream.   While you should be willing to wait on these puppies for days, and it seems belittling to add “easy” to any description of their perfection, they are shockingly simple to make.  Just be sure not to handle them too much.  I dumped the crumbled mixture out of the food processor onto a cutting board, and pat them into a circle before cutting into six wedges.  Much has been made of the hard-boiled eggs in this recipe—embrace the genius. 

Adapted from Russ Parsons, from the LA Times

2 cups flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder (make sure it’s a new batch to get any rise)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (not-optional)

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

2 hard-boiled egg yolks

3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing

Demera sugar for sprinkling

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a food processor bowl, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the butter and the egg yolks and pulse together just until the mixture has the texture of lightly moistened cornmeal. 

3. Pour 3/4 cup heavy cream over mixture and then pulse 4 to 6 times to moisten the dough. 

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Pat into a rough circle 6 to 7 inches in diameter and 3/4 to 1 inch in thickness.

5. Cut the circle into 6 wedges. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar

6. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even deliciousness. 

Strawberries, cream, and assembly

3 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered (these were Verrill Farm’s first of the season) 

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice (from the orange you use for zest)

1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks (I mixed in a full spoon of crème fraiche at the end, adding a little sour to the sweetness of the strawberries)

1. While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and orange juice together in a bowl. Let stand.

2. Split the shortcakes in half horizontally and set the tops aside. Spoon a bit of the juice from the macerated berries on to the bottom to moisten.  Add whipped cream, and top with berries.  Replace the shortcake tops. 

3.  Alienate your dinner guests by fighting over the last cake. 


  1. 1. I am so glad you went with the strawberry shortcake. And that it delivered. I am, however, not glad that I do not have some of that shortcake chez nous right now.
    2. Serious Turtle needs to Seriously Check himself re: the Goan Guacamole.
    3. So are you saying this coleslaw is or is not better than KFC's?
    4. Your grill? Hott.

  2. I sweat your grill, and the pork burgers up on it. I want to go to there.