Month: August 2014

Grilled vegetables and couscous for a crowd

Chip at the grill 2This week, ChickDudeFood went to visit friends on Cape Cod–friends who have 5 kids.  We weren’t the only houseguests–there was another parent there with his 3–and they’re vegetarians.  Well, in exchange for a beautiful place to stay on Herring Pond in Eastham, with our choice of kayaks and paddleboards and sailboats, what could we say?  “We’ll cook dinner tomorrow.”  Or, to be more accurate, I said that, and, to his great credit, Chip didn’t flinch.

Not everybody goes to the supermarket on the prettiest day of the summer, but there we were in the early afternoon, checking out the produce section.  Our original plan was to make a white miso marinade for the veggies–a really delicious and reliable recipe–but there was no miso of any kind in the resort market.  So here’s what we left with:

  • A bag of lemons–about 12 lemons
  • A bottle of good olive oil–about 4 cups
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh oregano
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Grated romano cheese
  • Israeli large-grain couscous–enough to make a dozen portions
  • Vegetable stock–about 8 cups
  • 3 multigrain baguettes

And vegetables. Lots of them:

  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
  • Yellow bell peppers
  • Red bell peppers
  • Poblano peppers
  • Portobello mushrooms

When we got back to the house, the music went on, and I started slicing while Chip got the marinade started.  (Note to selves:  from now on, when the ChickDudeFood show goes on the road, take good knives–and/or maybe the mandoline, if there’s going to be a crowd.  This was a bit of a slicing nightmare–it took a couple of hours to get everything ready.)

I cut the veggies lengthwise, except for the asparagus, mushrooms, and poblano peppers, which were left whole for easier handling on the grill.

There wasn’t a recipe for the marinade–and it ran out about ¾ of the way through the grilling.  Chip used the same ingredients and made it again…and it was different, of course, but just as good the second time.  Here’s a rough approximation of what he came up with:


  • Lemon juice
  • Oil
  • Cayenne pepper (which was already on the shelves)
  • Brown sugar (ditto)
  • Garlic (ditto)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper (we’re thankful that vacation houses are now often stocked with salt and pepper grinders.  It’s better when it’s fresh.)

Generally, a marinade will be 3 parts acid to 1 part oil, where a vinaigrette goes the other way–3 parts oil to 1 part acid.  This one was more on the vinaigrette side of things–but that’s ok, vinaigrettes make fine marinades, especially for vegetables.

Start with some oil, then squeeze a bunch of lemons to make lemon juice.  Add the lemon juice to taste, along with a couple of cloves of chopped or smashed garlic, pepper, thyme, oregano, cayenne (which adds a nice bit of heat) and a little bit of brown sugar (which takes the edge off the acidity.)  Keep tasting until you have something you (and your co-cook, if you have one) want to have more of.

We were short on time, and wanted a “make your own” presentation, so we didn’t really marinate the vegetables–instead, we took each vegetable and shook it up with the marinade and put it on the grill immediately.  As food came off the grill, it went onto its own platter and everything cooled to room temperature.

I made the couscous in advance (cooking it in the vegetable broth to add flavor) and kept it warm in the oven, along with the baguettes.

Presentation was simple:  everything on the table, followed by a free-or-all while everyone chose their favorite vegetables.  The poblanos turned out to be hotter than expected, and the cheese selection added variety.  Some people skipped the couscous and made veggie sandwiches with cheese.  Everybody had seconds.  It was gratifying to see so many vegetables welcomed by so many kids (8!) and nobody complained that there wasn’t any animal protein.

We also put out a green salad with summer tomatoes and cucumbers, with bottled dressing from the cupboard, but that was overkill. The grilled vegetables with couscous and cheese and baguettes–more than enough to go around–served eight kids, five adults, one au pair (who was very relieved she got the night off cooking)–and everyone was full and happy.  Chip and Michelle and I then went out to listen to NRBQ band members in their new incarnation, but that’s a post (with snarky remarks about how some drunken white people dance, or fail to dance) for another day.

Grilled veggies 1

How do you write a title for a relapse?


I was a witness as a friend tore into a relapse last night.  I suspected this was happening–it’s happened before–but he told me only a few weeks ago that all was well.  This was obviously, and publicly, a lie.  There couldn’t be a better defined example of powerlessness than standing by while someone you care about suffers, knowing there’s absolutely nothing you can say or do that will get through to that person in that moment, or maybe ever.  I was sad and angry and scared and helpless all at once–maybe the same cluster of feelings were going on in him, who knows?

I walked away and went home, having decided to not be part of the drama this time.  Other choices, perhaps more courageous or more selfless ones, might have been to let his family know he was in bad shape, or to have driven him to a safe place.  But I was afraid of his aggressiveness and of the part of me that’s just like him,  and so I just had to get out of there.

And then came a night of remorseful dreams and a dark start to today…which I was able to deflect by writing and counting my blessings–my usual way out of morning gloom.  He and I came into a rehab program together one day apart, 14 or so months ago.  Almost immediately, he was able to see into me and was key in getting me to get honest with myself, and I’ll always love him and be grateful to him for that.  I wish it had been mutual.  I’ve reached out to him in words and actions but he’s on his own path and it’s painfully clear that right now, nothing and nobody is getting through.

After our last clash, three months ago now, which was also driven by a relapse, I decided to let him go as a friend and as a fellow traveler in recovery. But that turned out to be not so easy last night, when I could look into his eyes–this man I’ve shared so much with–and could see his face and could put my arms around him in a familiar once-meant-something hug.

I’m not proud that I recoiled.  I wish I had a sense of what is or what would have been the right thing to do.  I don’t have any answers today.

How the Garden Grows

IMG_0769.JPG So It’s been about two and a half months since we started our gardening experiment and we just harvested our first tomato! (Tasty!)

The planting tub system we purchased is working really well. Some of the plants are well over 6 feet tall and all of them have tomatoes. We did lose one plant, a green zebra. It was sharing a tub with a hillbilly, a cherokee, and boxcar willie so maybe it was suicide. (Those are real tomato plant names.)

We have had a few scares/challenges in the form of fungus, blossom rot, and heavy winds. So with natural remedies and packing tape we have cured and secured our precious plants to the fruit-bearing stage of their lives.

Now that there is likely to be an abundance of tomatoes and hot peppers in the next few weeks, we are thinking of all the ways to use them. Some experiments with pickling, confit, and sauces are on the agenda so far. Let us know if you have any ideas on what else to try.

Playlist, week of August 3

I’ve been in a trance dance, techno disco kind of mood, which always brings on a binge of Chromeo.  Chip, the indie rock guy in the house, rolls his eyes at me…but then, sometimes, when I’m really lucky, breaks out his dance moves.  This is NOT Chip dancing.  I mean, this guy is good, but Chip makes me laugh.


Baked halibut with rainbow carrots and mizuna, artichoke ravioli

Farmers market closeupThe farmer’s market comes to Arlington every Wednesday. I rarely have a chance to get to it because I don’t get home in time–but last week was an exception. This is a non-recipe recipe, because I made it up as I went along, inspired by the beauty of the carrots and the desire for something quick.  Really quick.

1 lb. fresh halibut
A handful of baby rainbow carrots, each about the size of my pinky
A bunch of mizuna
1 lb. fresh artichoke ravioli

For the vegetables:
Chop the carrots into tiny rounds. Coarsely chop the mizuna. Saute them together in some high-quality olive oil for about 5 minutes until everything is tender.

For the fish:
Preheat oven to 350. Put the fish skin side down on some foil on a baking dish. Add a little butter and your best salt, along with some pepper or grains of paradise, and bake until just cooked through—about 10 minutes per inch.

For the pasta:
Heat water to boiling and add the pasta. They’re done in just a few minutes.

Once everything was plated up, I topped the pasta with some fresh goat cheese. As you can see, I might have taken more trouble with the presentation, but I was HUNGRY. Time from market to table? Less than an hour.