grilling

grilled shrimp with melon, cucumbers and mozzarella

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello!

I hope you won’t mind that I’ve been keeping my blog posts short and sweet lately. We’ve been having an absolutely perfect summer and I find myself constantly itching to be outside rather than planted in front of my computer. The dreary, grey weather we have for 9 months of the year leads Seattleites to lose their minds in the summertime. The normally reserved (and somewhat grumpy) population is all smiles and small talk and walking-around-town-with-extra-spring-in-their-step when the sun is shining. It’s basically impossible for us to stay inside one second longer than absolutely necessary. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

This glorious summer weather is also why I’ve been posting simple, low-prep recipes. I don’t know about you, but I want to cook everything on the grill when it’s warm out. I’m loath to heat up my little kitchen when it’s already hot. And there’s something about cooking outdoors that seems so right for long days and balmy nights. 

Feeling the cool breeze on your skin and the heat from the grill, watching the flames dance under the grate and the smoke waft through the air--it all has an elemental quality to it that reminds me people have been cooking this way for thousands of years. The simplicity of preparing a meal over a fire has a certain grace that allows me to slow down and be present in a way cooking in my appliance-filled kitchen does not. 

Image: Olaiya Land

So my plan for the summer is simply to post the best of what I’ve been cooking for myself here on the blog. I made this Grilled Shrimp with Melon, Cucumbers and Mozzarella a few weeks back and loved how it turned out. I’m a big fan of contrasting sensations and flavors, so what made this dish for me was the spice of the chile against the crisp cucumbers and creamy mozzarella and the smoky grilled shrimp paired with the sweet-tart melon. It's got all the flavors I want in a light, summer salad.

I hope you’re enjoying the long days as much as we are in Seattle and that you get the chance to cook out-of-doors at least once this year!

XO,

Olaiya
 

Image: Olaiya Land

Grilled Shrimp with Melon, Cucumbers and Mozarella

  • ¼ to ⅓ medium ripe honeydew or other melon, seeded and skin removed
  • 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Piri Piri, Aleppo or other ground dried chile, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • ¼ serrano chile, very thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds or ribbons
  • 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella or about 12 bocconcini-sized balls (about 4 oz. total), torn into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ lb. medium to large sustainable shrimp (I used size 16-20 wild gulf prawns), shelled
  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn if large
  • Special equipment: metal or wooden skewers

*Notes: If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in hot water while you prep the salad. (This keeps them from burning on the grill.)

- If you don’t have a grill or don’t feel like grilling the shrimp, you can also poach them according to the directions in this recipe

- I think this salad is delicious with or without the mozzarella. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Thinly shave or slice the melon about ⅛-inch thick. Arrange the melon on a serving platter or divide between individual plates. Halve one of the limes and squeeze a little lime juice over the melon. Melons vary greatly in terms of sweetness and acidity, so taste your melon and season accordingly. You want a nice balance of sweet and sour. Set aside. 

Zest the other lime with a microplane and set the zest aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of the zest, the olive oil, a pinch of chile, a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the serrano (if using). Whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 

Place the shrimp in a small bowl and toss with a little of the chile-lime vinaigrette. Place the cucumber and torn mozzarella in the medium bowl with the rest of the vinaigrette and toss to cover. Set aside to marinate for 10 minutes. While the shrimp, cucumber and cheese are marinating, preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. 

When the grill is quite hot, skewer the shrimp and grill on each side for 45 seconds to 2 minutes, pressing down on them with a set of grill tongs to make sure they get some nice char. The time will vary depending on the size of your shrimp. You want them to be just a tiny bit translucent inside when you take them off the grill. They’ll continue to cook off the heat and be perfectly done instead of overcooked and rubbery. If you’re unsure of their doneness, pull one of your skewers and cut into a shrimp with a paring knife to check.

When the shrimp are done, carefully remove them from your skewers and add to the bowl with the cukes and mozzarella. Toss to coat, taste and adjust seasoning again, if necessary. 

To serve, very lightly salt the melon. Spoon some of the mozzarella and cucumbers over the melon then top with shrimp. Sprinkle a little of the reserved lime zest over the shrimp then scatter the mint leaves over the top. Serve immediately.

Image: Olaiya Land

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley

Hello!

I’m writing to you today from one of my favorite Paris coffee shops. I’m a little loopy from jet lag and an unsuccessful attempt to drug myself to sleep with cold medicine last night. And coffee. Lots of coffee! (In retrospect, I can see this maybe wasn't my best plan ever.)

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Anyhoo. I’m just popping in with a quick recipe for you today. I don’t know what it’s like where you live but it’s hot as satan’s attic here in Paris. I was a little sad to be leaving summer behind when I boarded my flight in Seattle last Sunday. But my fears were unfounded--summer has accompanied me across the Atlantic and is still in full swing. 

So. I have another easy-peasy summertime recipe for you this week: Grilled Zucchini with Ricotta, Honey and Toasted Barley. 

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

You might recognize this from my post on the pop-up dinner I hosted with my friend Kyle a few weeks ago. This was my favorite dish of the night. It’s fitting that I’m sending it to you from Paris since it’s my adaptation of an amazing dish I had here at Au Passage last May. The beauty of this dish--like everything served at Au Passage--lies in its simplicity and first-rate, seasonal ingredients. And it hits all the right summer notes with its smoky grilled squash, creamy ricotta, chile-spiked honey and nutty toasted barley. (Whatever you do, promise me you won’t skip the barley! It makes the dish.)

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Alright. I’m off to wander the streets of Paris in an over-medicated, over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived daze. It should be an interesting day!

I’ll be back soon with some of my favorite things to do and see here in Paris. XO!

Olaiya

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Grilled Zucchini with Ricotta, Honey and Toasted Barley

  • ½ cup hulled barley (not pearl barley)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 6-8 small pattypan squash, halved (yellow summer squash works, too)
  • 3 cups best-quality ricotta
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons aleppo pepper
  • Juice from ½ a small lemon
  • ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves

*Note: The toasted barley and aleppo honey can be made several hours in advance. 

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Place the barley in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water to remove the excess starch. Place in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Drain the barley and place it on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss it with olive oil to coat lightly and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast, stirring often, until the barley is golden and crunchy, 25-30 minutes. To determine if the barley is done, take a grain out and taste it; you want it to be crunchy like a partially-popped grain of popcorn. It will seem like the barley is never going to cook through, then in the last few minutes of roasting, it turns crunchy and delicious. So watch it carefully. Set aside to cool. 

While the barley is roasting, make the aleppo honey: Place the honey and aleppo in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the honey has loosened, 1-2 minutes.

Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Place the halved squash in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil to coat and salt generously. Cook the squash, turning as needed until it has nice char marks, and has softened a bit. The exact time will vary depending on the size of your squash, but 5 minutes is a good starting point. The pattypan squash will take a little longer than the zucchini. You want the squash to remain firm, so be sure not to overcook it. Set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble, cut the zucchini on the bias into 2-3 inch pieces. spread the ricotta onto a serving platter and salt lightly. Arrange the squash over the ricotta. Salt lightly and squeeze a little lemon juice over the squash. Drizzle with some of the honey and sprinkle with the barley. Tear the mint leaves if large and scatter them over the top before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings. 

grilled hanger steaks with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish

grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com
grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com

If you’ve been following along here for a while, you know I’m someone who loves to make unrealistically grandiose plans. I’ve got list upon list brimming with big ideas for improving the house, the yard, this blog, my photography skills, my wardrobe and my general person (among other projects).

I’m itching to completely tear up the yard of our new house and transform it into the just-unkempt-enough cottage garden I’ve been dreaming of for over a decade. I want to rip out the kitchen floor, teach myself to lay tile and put down handmade hex tile from Morocco. I want to browse Pinterest from top to bottom until I finally find THE haircut for my unruly curls. I want to get up at dawn every morning to catch the day’s first rays with my film camera. I want to string lights from the trees in our backyard and host large, raucous dinner parties every weekend.

grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com
grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com
grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com

A past version of me would be spending the evening mapping out my plan of attack for all these summer projects rather than writing this blog post. There would be lots of lists and diagrams. Maybe even a full-on crazy wall like the ones you see in the movies with maps and mysterious photos and lots of zig-zagging red string.

But I’ve got a different plan this year. My plan is something called Operation Summer Simplicity. It involves letting the yard and garden do their thing for a season to see what’s what. It involves living with the perfectly fine kitchen floor I have until I decide what I really want. It involves occasionally getting up early to shoot with my film camera. Operation Summer Simplicity is all about leaving enough space in my days that I can actually enjoy the one truly phenomenal season we get here in Seattle. 

grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com
grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com

While I’m pretty sure there won’t be a weekly dinner club happening in my back yard, having friends over for an al fresco meal is one of the highlights of summer for me. To that end, I’ve decided I need an uncomplicated approach to hosting dinners here at the house. That’s where my trusty Weber grill comes into play. Fire it up, throw on a beautiful cut of meat and some seasonal vegetables, uncork a bottle of wine and you’re doing summer right. 

So know this, friends: if the weather is warm and you come to my house for dinner, you will very likely be eating something from the grill. Something like this Hanger Steak with Asparagus, Spring Onions and Preserved Lemon Relish, for example.

grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com

I had a chance to test this recipe out a couple weeks ago when our friends Alex, Kelsey, Carlos and Susanna came over for dinner on an unseasonably warm evening and I have to say it was perhaps the easiest, breeziest dinner party I’ve ever thrown. Of course that's partly because we had invited some of our chillest friends. But I'm going to give the Weber credit for the rest. Score victory number one for Operation Summer Simplicity. 


Grilled Hanger Steaks with Asparagus, Spring Onions and Preserved Lemon Relish

  • 2 hanger steaks, about one lb. each, patted dry with paper towels
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 ½ lbs asparagus (buy the fatests stalks you can find so they don't fall through the grill grate)
  • 6-8 thin spring onions
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 recipe Preserved Lemon Relish (see below)
  • Special equipment: a corded instant-read thermometer

*Notes: Ideally you want to salt the steaks at least 4 hours before you intend to grill them. If you forget or don’t have enough time, it’s not the end of the world, but salting the steaks in advance helps to season and tenderize them, so it’s worth the extra step. The steaks can be salted up to 24 hours in advance. 

- A corded instant-read thermometer may seem fussy, but unless you’re a professional, it’s really the only way to cook your steak perfectly every time. Bonus: you won’t have to open the oven door or grill lid a gazillion times and let all the heat escape while you’re cooking.

- Here's a great list of tips for grilling. Here's another.

grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com


At least 4 hours before you intend to grill the steaks, sprinkle them very generously with about 2 teaspoons of salt each. Lay the steaks on a plate and place them, uncovered, in the refrigerator. If you think of it, turn them over once or twice while they're hanging out in the fridge. This allows the surface to dry out more, which leads to better browning on the grill. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator about an hour before you intend to grill them and let them sit at room temperature.

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and place them on a rimmed sheet pan. Trim any wilted ends from the onion greens. If they're long cut the green tops off the onions along with a bit of the pale green or white part to hold them together. Cut the hairs from the root-end of the onions, but leave enough of the root to hold the onions together. Cut the bulb end in half lengthwise if it's thick. Place the onion tops and bulbs on the sheet pan with the asparagus, keeping them separate. Pour enough olive oil on the asparagus and onions to coat them well and use your hands to rub the oil onto the vegetables, especially the tips of the asparagus. Generously sprinkle with salt.

Use your hands or a silicone pastry brush to generously coat the steaks with oil. Insert the thermometer into the center of one of the steaks. Take care not to angle it up or down or you'll get a false reading.

grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com

If you are using a gas grill: Light your grill. Turn all the burners to high and preheat the grill with the lid down until it is very hot, 10-15 minutes. 

Place your onions on the grill and cook without turning until they have nice char marks on one side and are starting to soften, 3-5 minutes depending on how hot your grill is. Turn the onions over then place your steaks and asparagus on the grill. Cook the asparagus, turning as needed until they are lightly charred and cooked through. The cook time for your asparagus will vary depending on their thickness. Check them often and take care not to let them get soggy, the goal is bright green, crisp-tender stalks. Remove the asparagus to the sheet pan when they’re done. Continue to cook the onions, turning as needed until they are soft and cooked through then place them on the sheet pan with the asparagus.

Cook your steaks until they are nicely browned and char marks appear on one side, about 2-4 minutes. Turn the steaks and cook until char marks appear on the other side, about 2-4 minutes more. Turn all the burners to medium-low, close the lid on the grill and continue to cook until the steaks reach 115° for rare, 120-125° for medium-rare or 130°-135° for medium. (The steaks will continue to rise in temperature as they rest.) Remove the steaks from the grill and rest for 5 minutes. Slice steaks and serve with grilled vegetables and Preserved Lemon Relish.

If you are using a charcoal grill: Build a 2-level fire in your grill like this (scroll down to number 5). Once your coals are hot and covered in ash, set the grill rack in place, cover the grill and let the rack heat for about 5 minutes.

When the grill rack is hot, grill your veggies as above. When they are almost done, move them to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking, then place your steaks on the hotter side of the grill. Remove the vegetables to the sheet pan when done. Cook the steaks, uncovered, until they are nicely browned and char marks appear on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the steaks and cook until char marks appear on the other side, about 2-3 minutes more. Move the steaks to the cooler half of the grill and continue to cook to desired doneness (see temperatures above). Remove the steaks from the grill and rest for 5 minutes. Slice steaks and serve with grilled vegetables and Preserved Lemon Relish.

Makes 4 servings.


Preserved Lemon Relish

  • 2 preserved lemons
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chile flakes, or to taste
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
grilled hanger steak with asparagus, spring onions and preserved lemon relish via millys-kitchen.com

Run the lemons under cold water to remove excess brine then quarter them. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and discard. Finely chop the preserved lemon skin and place in a small bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients except the salt and stir well to combine. Taste and add salt if necessary. (Some preserved lemons are salty enough you won't need to add salt.)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.