Disclaimer. This week’s entry may be full of typoos, omissions, non sequiturs and other errors as it was completed in haste and with mostly happy distractions during a five day, multi-state odyssey to celebrate one kid’s graduation from college (very proud!) and to move the other kid into their first apartment (very excited!). So please don’t hesitate to ask any questions or make any corrections in the comments. Yes, I intentionally misspelled “typoo” as a Dad Joke:)
June 02, 2021. Dear Kids– It’s time to fire up the grill again, but let’s do it with a new found respect for who can grill and what he, she or they can put on the grill. A respect to keep in mind as we celebrate Pride Month this month. Grilling should no longer be a man’s and meat world and all our food will be better for it. So, with that in mind, I share with you this grilled vegetable pasta recipe that’s a relatively new entry to our dinner rotation and a GM favorite- so it’s not only a great grilling recipe, it’s grandmother endorsed!
Growing up, grilling out had to be one of the more sexist events known to person kind- it was the dad’s domaine, in spite of the fact that most dads never lifted a finger to help out with the toil and trouble of every day family meal cooking, but as soon as a live fire came into the picture it was an entirely different story. Mom’s were politely or otherwise shooed away and ignored, in spite of their infinitely superior cooking experience and knowledge as whatever meat that made it on the grill was often “seasoned” with a hint or more of lighter fluid and charred to its very core; left practically mooing or ending up somewhere in between- it was anyone’s guess once dad, at least my dad, was at the fire. Perhaps it was the fear of the live fire required of the charcoal grill back then, long before the gas grill ruled most backyard grilling, but that’s a relatively small challenge to overcome, especially now with the push button fire starter of the gas grill. Now, don’t get me wrong I still have happy memories of my dad grilling, minor bouts of food poisoning aside, since the grilling always brought family and friends together. Why, I even still crave a black and burnt hot dog from time to time, but I also think how much better it all would have been if mom would have been at the grill on her own or, even better, with my dad at her side so she could have taught him how to cook.
In addition to the exclusion of women back then, it was no surprise that vegetables were also not welcomed at the grill and barely tolerated by many men, including my dad, otherwise. The irony of this sad fact is that many of the complaints my dad and other men had about vegetables- “bland”, “boring”, “don’t taste like meat”, to name a few- can be overcome by the complex and cravable flavors that fire brings to the party. So, whenever you want to up the flavor game in your veggies, just get them on the grill and taste what happens. Also, when you are grilling veggies, make sure you don’t limit yourself to this dish or these vegetables because any dish with veggies, even salads, and most veggies, even lettuces, will benefit from the magic of the grill.
Grilling should never be about preconceived notions of gender or meat. Grilling should be judgment free and about making and sharing better food for and with the people you like or even love, regardless of the type of gender at the grill or the type of food on the grill. So, as you head to the grill, keep in mind the immortal words of Gus Guster (The late Auguste Gusteau’s American cousin), “Anyone can grill!”
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 1/3-1/2 cup canola oil
- 4-8 garlic cloves, half thinly sliced and half grated or minced
- 1 pound asparagus, bottoms cut and trimmed
- 3 bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1” pieces
- 2 medium zucchinis, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
- 2 medium yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
- 1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges, root end kept intact
- 1 sweet onion, cut into 8 wedges, root end kept intact
- kosher salt, fresh cracked black and red pepper flakes pepper to taste
- 1 pound linguine
- grated parmesan cheese, to taste
- lemon zest and/or juice to finish
- fresh herbs, like thinly sliced basil or mince flat parsley, to finish
- extra virgin olive oil to finish
COOK AND PLAY
Play “Fire On Fire” by Sam Smith and enjoy their tune while you get your veggie fire started. Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!
- Garlic Oil and Pasta Prep. Add oil to a small saucepan, add sliced garlic, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like and set over low to medium low heat until the garlic turns crispy and golden brown, 15 minutes or so. The garlic should never sizzle or get beyond a light golden color, so adjust you heat and take off heat accordingly. As soon as the garlic oil is done and off the heat, add the grated garlic. Depending on your love of garlic, strain out crispy garlic and serve it on the side or leave it be and toss it with the pasta in Step 4. Set up a big pot of water, with a few tablespoons of salt if you like, over medium heat, which you will raise to high heat once you’re ready to drop your pasta.
- Veg Prep. Prep your veggies for the grill- skewer the pepper, zucchini and squash pieces and toss those, along with the asparagus, on a sheet pan with oil and then salt and peppers to taste.
- Grill Time. Set your gas grill to medium high heat or if you have the time, get a charcoal grill fired up so your coals are giving off medium high heat and grill your vegetables, turning and adjusting the heat from time to time as necessary until you vegetables are cooked, but still have a little bite to them and have some nice grill marks to show for your efforts. Different vegetables will cook at different rates, so keep and eye on them and take them off as soon as they are cooked. You can use the sheet pan the veggies were seasoned on for this since there’s no risk of cross contamination with uncooked and cooked veggies (not the case with meat!). All things being equal, the vegetables in this recipe finish in the following order (quickest to slowest)- asparagus, squash/zucchini, peppers, onions.
- Toss It Up. If you’re in a hurry, just toss the pasta with garlic oil to taste or, if you have time and want a more cohesive dish, sauce the pasta as follows. A minute or two before the pasta would be done according to package directions (you will finish cooking the pasta in the sauce), carefully scoop out about a cup pasta water from your pot and into a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside. Drain pasta into a colander and return to pot over low heat. Pour half the garlic oil into the pasta and toss. Taste and add more oil to your liking, adjusting consistency of the sauce with a bit of pasta water. Once you have sauced the pasta and let it cool for just a bit, stir in parmesan and then finish with lemon juice, herbs and EVOO to taste. Serve on platter or into individual bowls or plates and top with a variety of grilled vegetables, serving extra garlic or extra virgin olive oil on the side if you have it.
So Many Veggies. You can use any vegetable suitable for grilling in addition to or instead of what’s used in this recipe- like, mushrooms, eggplant or corn, for example- so mix and match as you like. I like to use skewers to grill my vegetables when I can, but if you find that too violent or don’t have any skewers, cut your veggies into bigger pieces so they don’t fall through the grill and cut them up into bite size pieces to toss with the pasta.
Gas vs. Charcoal Grill. I should lecture you about the pros and cons of the gas vs. the charcoal grill debate, but, as I’ve said earlier, this is a busy week and I just don’t have time for that right now. Stay tuned.
Pasta Tips. Salty Water. A lot of those celebrity chef’s get salty about salting your pasta water. It’s definitely worth trying to see if you like it, but don’t let them intimidate you if you don’t find it worth it. Start with a few tablespoons of salt for about 8 quarts of water and see if you taste a difference- if you don’t, you can try adding more salt next time or forget about it and go salt free. Getting Saucy. While some in the family like to add their own sauce to their pasta at the table, and that’s perfectly fine if you do too, but I like to dump my almost cooked pasta in with the sauce and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Add a bit of pasta water to adjust consistency and, perhaps some oil or butter if the sauce has little fat, and toss from time to time until the pasta is cooked al dente or to your liking. I find this technique allows for some of the sauce and the pasta to become one, for better flavor, consistency and mouth feel, but if it’s not for you, feel free to mix your cooked pasta and sauce off the heat. Taste! Sure, most pasta boxes tell you how long to cook your pasta, but you should use this more as a guideline, like a Pirate of the Caribbean, than as the law. Even when I first started cooking as a teen I always ignored the package directions. In fact, my favorite part of making pasta was checking to see if it was done by plucking out a strand of pasta and throwing at a wall (or your Aunt) to see if it would stick and, therefore be done, according to some chef I once saw on TV. As much fun as that would still be, I think it’s best to simply taste a piece of pasta a minute or so before the cooking time indicated on the package, and periodically after that until it is done to your liking.
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