Sunday, July 18, 2010

Garden Grill Night

Friday night during the summer is Garden Grill Night at the Urban Cottage. I love to grill and I love to grill the entire meal from appetizer to dessert. Dessert on the grill has its limits but I like to push those limits. Berry Buckles and Fruit Crisps always yield the most oohs and aahs from my friends but they're unpredictable and don't always work.

The garden is having a tough year. We've had several weeks of temps in the high 80s and 90s and almost no rain so everything came on early and died quickly. The little rain we've had came in flash floods that immediately ran into the streets, along with my mulch. It's sad to say that the garden seems almost done so I need to work on adding something that flowers later.
Last night the humid air in the garden was highly perfumed with these lilies. I forget the name of them so I call them Cheeto Lilies because the color reminds me of cheetos. But they smell great!
The pink coreopsis still seems to be doing well.
And these purple phlox that looked great last night are on the ground after a quick thunderstorm last evening.
So let me share two crowd favorites. Grilled French potato salad--a variation of potato salad I learned to make in France--and grilled peaches with mascarpone cheese. The peaches get washed and halved and the pit is removed which is sometimes easy, sometimes a chore. They can't be too ripe. Buy a few extra peaches just in case you mess a few up. I usually serve two halves to each guest.

For the potato salad, I pre-boiled five russet potatoes until they're cooked but still firm, just barely cooked. I let them cool overnight in the fridge and then cut them into wedges, maybe eight pieces per potato. I drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper just before they go on the grill.
To prep for the potato salad, I've sliced two scallions--red onion works great too--two tomatoes and maybe two tablespoons of capers. I highly recommend the capers that come packed in salt. They're pricey but they're SO much better.

I always start by grilling the potatoes. They just really need to get warmed up and get a few grills marks on them. Once they come off they'll get chopped up and mixed into the tomatoes, onions and capers and dressed with a vinaigrette. (The original version uses boiled young red potatoes, cut while they're hot and then a little dry vermouth is sprinkled over the warm potatoes so it absorbs into them. Yum!) I've made the vinaigrette for years so I don't use a recipe--and I promise I'll figure it out--but this is my guess:

salt, maybe about 1/4 teaspoon
pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon
1 clove garlic crushed (1 tsp?) or (1/4 teaspoon) garlic powder if you're feeling lazy
dijon, 2 teaspoons
two tablespoons of vinegar (I usually use red or white wine vinegar or part vinegar part lemon juice in the summertime)

Whisk all above ingredients and slowly whisk in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of good olive oil. Drizzle the oil in a little a time and it will emulsify with the mustard to a nice consistency. Pour the dressing over the potato salad a little at a time until you feel it's nicely dressed. I think this amount of dressing would be good for this amount of potato salad.

The vinaigrette doesn't store well so I always make just enough to use immediately.

After grilling the main course of your choice (chicken, burgers, fish, tofu or other veggies) use a wire brush (wear an oven mitt) to clean the grate before grilling the peaches.
I start the peaches with the skin side down. When the skin starts to blacken (think roasted peppers) flip them over onto the cut side. I try to move them only once on the cut side so they get some nice distinct grill marks.
When they're looking nicely grilled, I turn them back to the skin side and leave them until they feel tender. Maybe five minutes on each side will do it. Once I think they're done, I put them on a plate and cover them with foil so they stay warm. This also seems to loosen the skin so it slides right off before serving.

So let's eat.
Grilled French Potato Salad

This is the final potato salad. Tonight were having it with a grilled chicken sandwich (vegetarians, avert your eyes) with Harissa mayonnaise. For meatless options, a marinated and grilled tofu, a grilled portobello mushroom or eggplant with Harissa mayonnaise are also yummy! I LOVE Harissa mayonnaise--I'll post a recipe later--because it's great on so many different things and it's so unusual. No one ever knows what it is but they love it right away. Along with a beer, it's a nice, casual summer meal.

But save some room for dessert!
Grilled peaches with mascarpone cheese

To finish the dessert, remove the skin from the grilled peaches and place two on each plate. I usually add a little bit of the peach nectar that ends renders onto the's heavenly! Mix about one teaspoon of vanilla into the mascarpone cheese and put a dollop on each plate. Drizzle a little honey over the mascarpone and you're ready to eat. I've added a tiny bit of chopped mint to the top just because I love a tiny occasional bite of something savory on a sweet dish. It's not at all necessary.

If you can't find mascarpone cheese, vanilla ice cream is wonderful, or a frozen vanilla soy/rice "ice cream" for the vegans. (One note about mascarpone: don't bother reading the nutritional information. It's really bad for you and you'll probably go to hell for eating it. Just enjoy it a few times a year.)

This is a simple dessert that never fails to yield raves and requests for future Grill Night menus.

I hope you try and enjoy these Garden Grill Night favorites.


  1. yummy! I had the pleasure of coming to Stockbridge Mass last year.. went out to see James Taylor at the BSO.. WHAT BEAUTIFUL COUNTRYSIDE YOU HAVE THERE.... SMILES!

  2. everything tastes better on a grill!

    i especially love the ritual you have going with friends.

    have a nice week steve.


  3. Enjoyed this post but when reading back through previous posts I could only think how totally obsessed you seem to be by things like matching handles, whether this or that will be right. So many American blogs have this obsession with making a "show house" rather than a home.
    Here in England things are more relaxed, I live in an English country home and it doesn't matter whether things match.
    The emphasis is on keeping a home for my family which is welcoming, where dogs muddy footprints don't matter, so long as we're happy we don't mind if we have chrome taps and bronze kitchen cabinet handles.
    My advice to you is Get a Life!

  4. Anonymous,
    That's Martha Stewart's fault! See what she's done to us?

  5. This was a very enjoyable post. Henceforth, "Cheeto Lilies" will be a part of my vocabulary!

    Harissa is a favorite of mine when I do Moroccan cooking. I will try mixing some in mayo and see what happens. Thank you!

    Have you tried grilling pineapple? Yum.

  6. Yes, let's eat! Everything sounds so delicious -you got my stomach growling! I'm sending this post to my husband - the grill master!

  7. Get a life! I think you have a wonderful life and wonderful blog. Thanks for the grilling advise. Try grilling figs, the best!!!!

  8. Steve, All I can say is yum. When I looked at the photo at first I thought the mascarpone was a poached egg...which actually with a nice piece of toast wouldn't be all that bad for breakfast either!


  9. Great photos yet again Steve.