Call me a post-structuralist, but since arriving in graduate school and submerging myself in contented and sometimes even enthusiastic nerdiness, I’ve become intrigued with the idea of slippage. How can words with clear definitions become other words? On a lesser but related note, I’ve always been fascinated with what must be the gradual process of how nouns become verbs and vice versa. The focus of this discussion, of course, is Barbecue. It being Labor Day weekend, the natural assumption to this Oregonian is that barbecues will take place. However, barbecue is, rightfully and literally, neither the name of an event, nor is the accurate word for the type of cooking that I assume will take place at the gathering I have just been to. Before we get to the food, let’s have a brief history lesson, shall we?
Thanks to the ever faithful Food Network, and of course the estimable wisdom of Wikipedia (yes, I’m a bad graduate student!), I know that there are primarily two methods of outdoor cooking in the US. Barbecue generally refers to a slow, often all day process of indirect heat and smoke, often achieved within a large, enclosed apparatus that looks nothing like the “BBQ” you can buy at Home Depot or Target. Grilling, on the other hand, is the process that involves placing meat on a rack over charcoal or propane heat and cooking it quickly, directly over the flames. Why, then, do we not say that we’re going to a grill? Perhaps because the tradition of barbecue as a slow process is uniquely American. Perhaps this is a square versus rectangle argument. Perhaps I should start telling people that I’m going to a grill, and add this new noun to the dubious regional dialect I find myself immersed in.
So, for the Grill that I attended last night, I decided to go simple and, knowing there would be ample meat for the tasting (and glorious glutting), I made a panzanella salad. Stepping this traditional bread and tomatoes salad up a few notches with the addition of local mesclun greens, basil, cannellini beans, and parmesan cheese makes it almost fit to be a meal in itself. But I still ate one of the hand made lamb and goat cheese burgers.
Toss together in a large salad bowl:
4-6 cups bagged mixed greens (I used a mesclun mix from the local Farmers’ Market)
1 pint cherry tomatoes or 3-4 tomatoes cut in bite-size pieces (I used Sungolds from the Farmers’ Market)
¼ cup julienned basil (from my backyard basil plant)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette (my recipe follows)
2 cups freshly baked sourdough croutons (my recipe follows)
Squeeze of spicy brown mustard
A few tablespoons balsamic vinegar (To make it extra special, I use a locally made Raspberry Balsamic)
Whisk in enough extra virgin olive oil to equal 1/3 cup of dressing
Cut about ½ of a sourdough baguette into bite size chunks, scatter onto a cookie sheet and spray liberally with an olive oil cooking spray. Bake in a 400° oven for 10-15 minutes or until all pieces are golden brown and crisp to the touch.
In addition to the lamb burgers, which were cooked only to medium and therefore excruciatingly delicious (N. likes his meat very well done, and pink interiors make him nervous, which means the pink and juicy center is reserved for special occasions for me), we ate a delicious spicy cream cheese dip on tortilla chips, a pesto and cherry tomato pasta salad, locally made (I think) vegan peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, and a cocktail I invented with the help of my backyard bounty; essentially a blackberry mojito without the mint. I was encouraged to name my creation, and told in no uncertain terms to remember it so I could make it again, and so my rough estimates follow below.
6-8 very ripe blackberries
1 TB sugar
1 TB lime juice
1-2 oz. white rum (or to taste)
Club soda or other sparkling mixer
Muddle together the blackberries, sugar, and lime juice at the bottom of a pint glass. Add rum, ice, and top up with club soda. Garnish with a lime slice and a few whole blackberries, skewered and balanced on the edge of the glass.