separate two eggs: smashed patriarchy grilled pizza

IMG_8371Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

“Amanda cooks most of the food.  She says there’s no reason for her to grill.  Her husband is really good at it.  And she thinks for him it’s about more than just the food.”

Sound familiar?  A short podcast on masculinity and grilling, narrated by a cheery young woman, presents this description and a background on the caveman ethos that seems to undergird so much of the American rhetoric on man-with-fire-meat.  The piece goes on to comment that Amanda’s husband now lets his daughter grill.

Of course it’s about more than just the food.

I’d venture to say grilling is one of the last widely visible and critically unexamined bastions of mid-century masculist culture.  American girls are still raised with our dads or stepdads or uncles or self-identified-male-gendered individuals or manbuddies of our mom (or whatever configuration of masculinity operating in a family unit) at the Weber, joking, commanding, drinking a beer.  Manning the grill.

And the rest of us take pleasure in paying tribute to the priesthood by visiting and peering into the grates, smelling that meat sizzle, complementing the chef.  We are rewarded with the best of summer: hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks, all piled up on a platter and presented like an offering to Xiuhtecuhtli.  He’s the life of the party, the hero, the chef.

It’s so often among the happiest moments we remember.  It’s a peaceful time.  Sunny, family, “family,” bountiful, happy.  Fraying relationships are mended for the moment, and we believe it will be ok.  It’s almost magic. Why mess with that juju?

And we’re thus indoctrinated into the system.  Girls never learn how to grill because there’s no reason to grill.  I wonder about Amanda’s daughter, whose father “lets her” grill.  What’s going on there?  Is it an occasional thing?  A novelty?  Are things changing?

Are things changing.

It’s not that we feel oppressed or left out.  It’s a way to get the dad-figure involved in the party, and it helps him feel useful and central, reinscribing the patriarchal order in its most comfortable and pleasing form because here the order seems almost natural and harmonious, his place assured and his place needed and beloved. And for a change, everyone’s participating in meal preparation.

(I write this.  My heart aches.  The unbearable lightness of political consciousness, of feminist conscience. There’s no choice, really.)

IMG_8292 IMG_8293I have a reason to grill.  As previously and begrudgingly narrated, I’m negotiating singlehood and the unpleasant loss of an excellent griller myself. But as I assume the labor for two for the household tasks, I’m taking the opportunity that many women, even feminists, don’t have when they’re in heterosexual partnerships, even enlightened ones.

I’m learning how to grill.

And I kind of suck right now.  It’s not just another heat source to master, it’s a whole ‘nuther rhythm.  The grill doesn’t require an attentive sous chef, but it pretty much bites not to have one.  (See “Amanda cooks most of the food” and patriarchy, above.)  My excellent griller, and grillers across America, make grilling divine by a hidden system of support that includes hours of unacknowledged labor.  That labor is performed joyously in many cases (and it certainly was in mine) but I’m pondering it with some critical distance as I take on both roles.

IMG_1858 DSCF4114IMG_6193Just like in any performance, for any performer, the team behind the scenes makes the show.  For every piece of chicken or burger gloriously presented, there’s the planning and the shopping and the chopping and the marinating and the coordinating and the side dishes.  The side dishes.  Those take hours alone.

I figured that since I knew how to do all that, the actual grilling part would be a snap.  And you know what?  It hasn’t been that hard and certainly not that time consuming, save all the little things that no one gives me a hand with. Because any idiot can grill.  Think about it.

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I still have no reliable control over the heat, and I’ve burned a few meals because I’d forgotten to add something and had to run inside or whip up a sauce or chop up some herbs.  I try not to think about the danger of burning down the city because of my inexperience. My excellent griller would religiously rely on a thermometer and a cookbook, but I want to learn grilling from an intuitive angle, just like my cooking.

And then there’s the exquisite loveliness of freedom.  I had to argue for the inclusion of grilled vegetables since they take up space.  Pizza wasn’t even a possibility: he insisted I call it “grilled flatbread” and I was only allowed to make it for the privilege of the grill a couple times.  And there’d be no patience or need for delicacies like grilled peaches or plums or bananas or lemons or cheese or parsley or boquerones or onigiri or meatballs or omelets.

The world of grilling is open to you…and it’s fabulous.

So I bring you my Smashed Patriarchy Grilled Pizza, with an informal recipe.  Try it, ladies.  Pizza isn’t meat.  He’ll let you. Or just Occupy the Grill!  But don’t blame me for the divorce.  :)

(Oh, on the way, you might want to support the Kickstarter for the ladies who brought you the men grilling piece on the Feminist Fork. They’re fundraising for a new quarterly journal called Render: Feminist Food & Culture.)

Smashed Patriarchy Grilled Pizza

Serves 2-3, or one lonely feminist for three meals.

You’ll need two sides (hot and cool) for your grill and a lot of oil.  Don’t try this on a tiny hibachi, as you’ll be too close to the coals and the dough will burn rather than char.  A gas grill is easier than a charcoal grill, and make sure you pre-oil the grate with some paper towels dipped in a small bowl of veg oil, held by long tongs.

The easiest method is to use a pre-made store-brought dough.  Mix 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste with dried oregano, basil, garlic powder and a little olive oil.  Pour a few tablespoons of  olive oil in the plastic bag and massage it in the bag to get it pretty oily, then stretch out the dough on a cookie sheet so it resembles a pizza crust. With a fork, spread out tomato paste, concentrating on moving it to edges not middle of dough.  Layer on fresh mozzarella slices and sprinkle sparingly with toppings.

Heat the grill up to about 500 degrees, oiling the surface as you begin the grilling process and not later (FIRE!). Move your pizza outside on the cookie sheet; hopefully there will be enough oil on the bottom to aid transferring it over to the HOT side of the grill with a metal spatula.  Let cook there for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to char and blister and get stiff enough to move, then carefully move it over to the COOL side of the grill.  Close the grill lid to melt the cheese and cook the top of the dough.  Moisture is your enemy.  Dab away any liquid from the tomatoes or toppings with a towel.  Sprinkle on herbs just before removing from grill and serving.

Pro tip: clean the grill while it’s still hot with a wire grill brush.

 

 

 

 

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spring vegetable supper menu

I think I’ve turned a corner on my academic work.  It’s taken me nine months of struggle to finish up loose ends left dangling from my dissertation exile, publish a couple of articles, invent a few new classes for the job I started immediately after finishing the Ph.D., start new work for conferences and grant proposals, make travel plans, plus a host of other teaching and administrative stuff that’s par for the course.  But I’ve done it.

I don’t want to say I’m out of the woods, but I feel that for the first time in a few years, my schedule is manageable and not subject to change at the drop of a hat, and I’m very, very much looking forward to having a little breathing room to do my research and well, you know, live.

Witness:  I dusted a lamp yesterday and felt infused with pleasure.  Because I actually had 2 minutes to dust a lamp and nothing but the immediacy of lamp-dusting on my mind.  The zen of dusting lamps.  Lame, huh?

Spring and summer are going to be quite busy here at Raccoon Tree Acres, but I only have a few deadlines.  The work I did this winter on proposals, conferences, and teaching my research subject makes them easier to meet, too.  I’ll be going to Maryland to visit the archive of a cantankerous modernist, London to read the papers of a sexologist, Prague to talk about dirty James Joyce, and Zurich to expound upon the literary fruits we know and love.  (Do I dare to eat a peach?  Why yes, I do.)  And we’ll have time to visit family and friends, too, in between.  We haven’t seen most of our family in years, so these are much-anticipated events.

I’m planning to blog the delights of food in all these places, of course.  But for now, I’m quite pleased at my lamp-dusting-local self and the drunken glee of Eugene on the sunny days in spring.  Our farmer’s market is glorious right now.  Our organic farms make the most of the plants they grow and sell the thinnings of their rows.  For the spring vegetable supper below, I bought new potatoes, big fat bunches of the sprouting tips of crucifers (kale, brussells sprouts, broccoli), tiny carrots and French radishes, turnips the size of a quarter, and the biggest bag of deep red rhubarb ever.

I’ll fess up to erring on the side of too much butter, cheese, and cream for the gratin and butter-braised vegetables.  No one complained, though.  The gratin was assembled by blanching the brussells sprout greens and boiling the potatoes, then layering both in a Pyrex dish with nutmeg, pepper, and a handful of chopped sprouting onions, leeks, and garlic that I had culled from my allium bed that afternoon.  Cream in which thyme and savory had been soaking was poured over the top, then a fontina-like Italian cheese whose name I can’t recall was grated over the whole shebang.

For the chimichurri marinade for a gorgeous piece of chinook salmon, I used the tender fronds of my caraway plant, fennel fronds, thyme, savory, lovage, celery, onion, lemon, and olive oil.  We grilled the fish on alder planks, so it was a lovely combination of fresh green and live smoke.

And the rhubarb?  Well, that was a no brainer.  I used some of my homemade granola to fancy up a crumble topping, and tossed the fat pieces with a bit of vanilla sugar and Clear gel food starch to control the juice.

I’m still full.

Spring Vegetable Supper

Fresh from the Market

To Start

Mt. Chanterelle Fern’s Edge Dairy goat cheese
Dolores’ Pickled Prunes

Rabbit Food

Green salad with nasturtium blossoms, French breakfast radishes, and young carrots with homemade lemon chive vinaigrette

Grill

Spring herb chimichurri salmon, grilled on alder planks

From the Kitchen
New potato, Brussells sprouting greens, and culled spring onion gratin
Butter-braised baby turnips and carrots with arugula flowers

From the Vine
Sweet Cheeks Rosy Cheeks
Pfeiffer Pinot Gris
Clos du Bois Pinot Noir

Sweets of Spring
Rhubarb homemade granola crumble
Noris Dairy whipped cream

it’s not easy being greens: ethiopian bruschetta

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Some people love greens, and I’ll pat them on the back.  I’m not averse to them, but my regular readers have already heard my groanings.  The push to eat superfoods — especially dark, bitter rabbit salad — has made greens a culinary star, and they appear in far more dishes than they should.  Our local health food store, for example, has a prepared salads bar, about 99.9999% filled with kale.  And it’s served raw.  RAW.  Patrons circle around it hungrily, twitching their noses and waggling their ears.

Worse yet, greens grow really, really well here in the Willamette Valley.  A friend once pointed out some overwintered chard in his slightly neglected garden.  “Those chard are twenty years old,” he said, “and they keep coming up.”  That’s what I’m talking about, my friends.  WEED strength greens.

And worst of all, greens grow in the salad days of the growing season, coming up thick and lush and the color of deep forest on days when you’re dying for something to cut this morning’s bacon fat and drippings from last night’s roast.  They’ve got their PR, their market niche, and their timing down.  Greens have a Ph.D. in advertising.

So, they are a force to consider.  And they’re even tasty, in moderation.  So every year I set out to do something new with greens.

Even I can’t resist the fat, juicy little bundles of raab-style baby greens in the farmers’ markets now.  Our local farmers make use of the thinnings from their rows, selling off the shoots to greens-hungry rabbits local foodies. To celebrate their arrival, I started thinking about the recipes one makes with older greens, and recipes one makes with spinach.  The best ones are long-cooked and softened with fat, usually smoky ham hock or butter.  I thought I could give a nod to the health rabbits and still maintain deliciousness by lightening up one of the long-cooked recipes.

DSCF4379One of my favorite ways to eat greens is Ethiopian gomen: a range of dishes made of collard greens that feature niter kibbeh, a clarified butter often made with garlic, fenugreek, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and cumin.  The greens are mixed sometimes with cottage cheese, providing a nice contrast of soft mild dairy.  Turns out you can make a quick version, too.  The dish doesn’t resemble the original product, but it is fresher, lighter, and a yummy dish in its own right.  Perfect, I thought, for a spring potluck.

I whipped up my experiment — Ethiopian Greens Bruschetta — as a two-bite appetizer for a recent barbecue with a group of local foodies hosted by Amy and Matt from Our Home Works.  The feedback was positive!

Upon reflection, I think you could probably make this recipe with a wide range of spices to reflect any spring menu. The amount of clarified butter and salt are also variable, based on your tastes.  (I probably use more than you would.) You’ll find the recipe for the niter kibbeh linked in the recipe below.  It makes more than you will use for the greens, but the clarified butter keeps well in the refrigerator because the milk solids are removed, and is delicious with potatoes and other recipes calling for plain butter.

For the experiment, I purchased the three bundles above: mini brussels sprouts greens, Japanese shungiku, and turnip greens.  They cooked down significantly, and I used more of the stems than I would have if they were older greens.  I also used a couple of tablespoons-full of whole milk ricotta, because I thought it would add a cottage-cheese-like nuance to reflect the original dish the Ethiopians call gomen kitfo, but I wonder if it just muddied the color and flavor in my quick-cooked version.  So the cheese is optional in the final recipe below.

This dish can also be served a side without the bread — try the greens with a poached egg on top for a brunch, or alongside some barbecued chicken thighs or ribs.

And be sure to eat tons of these greens; they’re good for you.

Ethiopian Greens Bruschetta

Serves 8 as an appetizer

  • 3 bunches baby greens (collards are traditional, but not necessary), or 1 bunch of mature greens
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup niter kibbeh (spiced, clarified butter) (click link for recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk ricotta or small-curd cottage cheese (optional)
  • 1 /2 baguette, sliced thinly

Wash greens well in several changes of water.  Remove most of the stems, except for the top 2-3 inches.  Chop leaves and the top stems finely.

Blanch greens by bringing well-salted water to boil in a medium-sized pot, then submerged the greens in the boiling water for about one minute.  Immediately remove the limp greens, and place them in a bowl filled with cold water and ice.  This will stop the cooking and set the color.  Drain greens well and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Saute the chopped onion in the niter kibbeh until it is just beginning to turn brown. Add the greens and cook briefly, then remove from heat.  How long to cook is a matter of taste.  If you like your greens crunchy, heat only briefly, but if you like them as I do, more tender, cook for a few more minutes.

Remove greens from heat when they are cooked to your liking.  If you are using the ricotta/cottage cheese, mix it in now.  At this point, the greens can be refrigerated or served.  If you refrigerate them, warm them up for 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Just before serving, toast or grill slices of baguette, then mound 2-3 tablespoons greens atop each slice.

mad grilling skillz: a love story

What do you want for dinner, he says.

And I says:

, I says, but I’d be happy with

or

.

Well, says he, then I can do:

And I says, that’s ok, sweetie, I says, whatever is easiest. I just don’t want:

!

But he was already, like,

and

so I’m all, ok then, would you mind

?  And he says ok.  And then

ensued, and we lived happily ever after.  The End.

molten grilled tomatoes

Howdy, pardners.  I’m just going to keep the tomato recipes a-comin’.  And a few more on pickles, which I am pondering.  The beef jerky, which has been waiting for a month, will have to continue to wait.  It’s shelf-stable.

I’m so in love with the late summer Willamette Valley, but it’s been a tough, mostly indoor summer for me, so it’s more like unrequited love.  But surfacing this weekend reminded me how gorgeous the produce is, and how you really can thrive on meaty, acidic, juicy, deep red tomatoes for weeks.  I’ve been eating sliced Willamette tomato salads for dinner, comprised of um, tomatoes.  And salt.  Today, I branched out a bit because Retrogrouch is back and made a cherry tomato and herb salad with a very tiny bit of sherry vinaigrette.

But I digress.

These molten tomatoes are a family recipe, a summer BBQ recipe invented by my dad and modified by me.  It’s messy, sticky sweet, and oozy, so it’s not really fancy cocktail food, but who wants fancy cocktail food in the dog days of summer? His recipe is terrific, even with the parmesan in the green can (which I confess we use when we’re camping and don’t feel like grating cheese), but it’s even better with parmesano reggiano. It’s even good with sub-par tomatoes. You can omit the butter and red pepper flakes, but they do add an important dimension of flavor.

It’s critical to use good-quality foil so the boats don’t fall apart. Lots of liquid will be inside the packet. What’s particularly nice is that these tomatoes go well with any kind of meat, and their juiciness helps dry cuts like chicken breasts.

Molten Grilled Tomatoes

Serves: 2-4 (one or two tomatoes per person)

  • 4 medium-sized, perfectly ripe, round, meaty tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (fresh is best)
  • 1 T. butter, cubed into four pieces
  • 1-2 T. honey
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Make foil packet: Using a wide bowl, mold the foil to the bowl, leaving plenty up top to seal the packet. The bowl will provide shape and structure, as well as assist in moving the tomatoes to the grill.

Slice tops off tomatoes and score tomatoes, cutting a checkerboard pattern about halfway down (don’t cut through bottom). Place tomatoes in foil packet. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste, then add a blob (maybe 1/2 t.?) honey on top of each tomato. Mound grated parmesan cheese on top of each tomato about 1 inch high, then place pat of butter on each mound. Seal foil packet and grill over medium fire, enough to carmelize the bottom but not enough to burn, for about 30 minutes. Serve with bread.

Variations:

The picture to the left is a variation using yellow plum tomatoes from my garden last year that were a bit too mealy to eat out-of-hand. You can easily use roma tomatoes, halved (allow for a few more per person). I added thinly sliced red peppers and basil before grilling. Probably better to add the basil after grilling, since it turned brown.

korean bbq wraps

If you’ve never had Korean barbecue, you should feel cheated. I desperately miss the grill we used to frequent in Oakland, California, a big restaurant with high powered fans over each table and waitresses who would hurry to the tables with pans full of real, honest-to-goodness wood charcoal, weaving through the aisles and dodging customers in what surely must violate all kinds of codes. Folks would grill pieces of marinated, succulent, thin-sliced sirloin, then wrap it in lettuce leaves with a dab of miso, a jalapeno or garlic slice for the brave, and sesame-scallion salad. In Korean, it’s called bulgogi. In America, it’s called dee-licious.All is not lost, though. If you have relocated from the Bay Area, you’re tired of the slow cooker, or you just plain want some barbecue meat in the middle of winter, I have the perfect recipe for you.

korean bbq wraps

Korean BBQ Lettuce Wraps

Serves: 2 with no abandon, or 4 more reserved people, with rice and a side dish or soup.

A.
2 lbs. thinly sliced sirloin, rib steak, or flank steak (an Asian supermarket will stock this, or slice your own)
3-4 scallions, chopped
1 T. chopped garlic
5 T. soy sauce (I use imported Kikkoman, also worth a trip the Asian market to buy)
2 T. sesame oil
1/8 cup sugar

2 T. sake or Chinese cooking wine

Combine all ingredients in A. to marinate meat for 2-12 hours. To cook steak, either grill on high heat (sugars will carmelize and it will cook very quickly), or place in one layer in a roasting pan with marinade and broil on high for 5-10 minutes (again, keep an eye on it, as it will burn easily). When meat is browned and tasty-looking, remove to cutting board, chop into bite-sized pieces, and place on serving platter.

Serve with rice, a side dish such as a vegetable stirfry or a soup, a variety of kimchi if you have access to such things, and the following:

B.
a head of romaine lettuce, washed and drained well and leaves separated
3-4 green onions, sliced LENGTHWISE several times with tip of knife to create thin ribbons, then cut at 2-3 inch lengths
2 t. sesame oil
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. sesame seeds (I use the black sesame seeds with salt available in Japanese markets, but white ones are fine)

For the wraps, chop the bottom ribs off the biggest leaves of romaine, and set aside tops of leaves in pretty pile to serve. Chop the ribs finely. Place in a bowl, then add scallion ribbons and the inner leaves of the romaine, chopped. Mix sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds in small bowl for dressing. Toss salad with dressing at the last minute. DO NOT ADD DRESSING UNTIL IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO SERVING, since it will make the lettuce limp rather quickly.

To assemble wraps, place a few pieces of meat and some of the dressed salad on a lettuce leaf. For a more authentic version, add a dab of miso or Korean bean paste, which is darker and more rustic than the standard Japanese white miso but tastes similar, a slice of raw garlic, and/or a slice of jalapeno. Koreans don’t generally add kimchi to their wraps, but I’ve seen some Americans doing that and they seemed happy, so go for it if that appeals to you.