Dinner on the Grill

I’m one of the lucky ones: I cook and my husband does the dishes. I have to admit that I’m spoiled — not having to wash pots and pans makes cooking so much more enjoyable. My husband feels fortunate to be the recipient of my cooking, so he usually doesn’t complain. It’s just that night after night of heavy dishes can be tiring (I use many pots and pans, prep bowls, etc. in my cooking).

With summer in full swing, I’ve made many whole meals on the grill. Of course, we’ll still use real flatware and plates, but those are easy enought to put in the dishwasher with a quick rinse.

I start by soaking a cedar plank in water in a Pyrex dish (to prevent it from burning on the grill) for at least one hour. My 11-year-old daughter helps me by preparing the potato packets. She lines up large squares of aluminum foil and places a pile of diced red potatoes in the middle. I let her choose her own spice concoction to add, along with a few pats of butter, and salt and pepper. I roll up the packets and tighten the edges and put them on the grill first, so they can get browned and crisp (this usually takes 30 minutes or so).

After I drain the cedar plank, I place a fillet of salmon on top. For a flavor boost, I make a spice rub with lemon zest, fresh thyme, sugar, salt and pepper, and I let my 5-year-old son rub that into the fish with his fingers. That goes on the grill next, over indirect heat if possible to avoid excessive charring. Make sure the sides of the fish get crispy and browned — that’s truly the best part.

Finally, we cut the ends off a big bunch of asparagus and douse them with some good olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of Herbs de Provence. I place those horizontally on the grill, remembering to move them around a bit with some long tongs so that they all get evenly charred on all sides. A splash of fresh-squeezed lemon juice when these come off the grill will brighten up the flavors even more.

My kids love a simple salad. We throw some baby arugula in a big bowl and my 10-year-old son makes a dressing with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, a dash of Dijon mustard, some minced shallots, and salt and pepper. We all take turns tasting his creation by dipping a small piece of arugula into the dressing and then popping it into our mouth — I don’t know why this always tastes so good, but we love this tradition. A handful of pine nuts tossed in at the end and it is the perfect complement to our rustic grill dinner.

Sometimes we’ll make grilled bread to go with our dinner. I slice Italian country bread and let the kids lightly brush both sides with olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt (I honestly think my silicon brush is the favorite utensil in our kitchen). We grill the slices a minute of two so that there are charred grill marks on both sides and they are crusty (but the inside is still soft in the middle).

Far be it from me to tell you exactly how to make a dinner on the grill – the fact is, this dinner can be made in endless combinations. The gist is that this is an almost effortless dinner and clean-up is a breeze. Sometimes on these evenings, if there’s enough time and daylight, our family can even partake in a twilight stroll or bike ride around our neighborhood. That’s much more fun than doing dishes.

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