You’d think by now that when I get email from someone with a title of “Here’s an idea…” that I would have enough sense to mark it as junk, send it to the trash without looking, and run screaming from the room. But I don’t. And occasionally it turns out all right, or at least not horribly wrong.
So here’s the deal. At the end of July Larry Gaian over at The BBQ Grail sent out a note to me and three or four of my favorite internet BBQ friends suggesting we use the same four or five ingredients to cook a meal. The only real rule is that the “protein” must be cooked outdoors. Once finished, we will link to the other posts so our readers can compare the results. This post is the result of Larry’s brainstorm. Whether or not it turns out all right or horribly wrong remains to be seen; regardless of the result it was fun to do.
You might be asking yourself “how bad could this be?” After all, it’s just a few people with outdoor cooking blogs riffing on a theme, right? Did I mention that there were four primary ingredients (protein, starch, veggie, and fruit) rather than just one? Still, how bad could it be? I’ll let you decide for yourself, as the four primary ingredients this month were fish, couscous, eggplant, and figs.
Now sit there for a second and absorb this. How many out there expect to go to a blog about BBQ and grilling and see a meal consisting of fish, couscous, eggplant, and figs? Seriously now, how many of you out there actually eat eggplant? Or have ever seen a fresh fig in the flesh (pun intended)? Some of you may be wondering what the heck couscous is, and I know for a fact some of my readers moved on as soon as they saw the word fish. On the upside, I can make fun of Pigdog all I want in the rest of this post and he probably won’t even see it…
Unlike many of my meals, this one was going to take some advance planning. Fortunately I was able to convince SWMBO that this was an opportunity for her to go shopping so that I wouldn’t spend all my time looking for fresh figs. At least they turned out to be in season. While she was shopping, I was planning out the meal and actually thinking through this in advance. I decided to go with a Mediterranean theme and cook as much of the meal as practical on Bubba Ho-Keg. The menu was to be grilled mahi-mahi with sun-dried tomato couscous, fresh pita bread, baba ganoush, hummus, and grilled figs with a honey-ricotta cheese topping.
So the night before the cook I made up some fresh artisan bread dough and baked some fresh pita loaves during the day.
And yes, this was the first time I made pita bread on Bubba Ho-Keg. Or ever, for that matter. I figured what the heck, I’m already in unfamiliar territory, might as well stretch myself to the limit. After the infamous Dim Sum MOINK Disaster, how bad could it really be? And with the exception of the first loaf, the pita turned out really well. We won’t talk about that first loaf; I ate it, but I certainly wasn’t about to take pictures of it.
Once the pita loaves were finished, it was time to deal with the eggplant. Smoked baba ganoush was on the menu; in fact, this was what prompted the Mediterranean theme as none of us are real fond of grilled eggplant, and even less fond of eggplant fixed in some other mushy manner. The eggplant went on the grill whole for about 30 minutes at 400°F, and when it was done got turned into something tasty using the recipe that follows the picture below.
Baba Ganoush, No Excuses BBQ Style
- 1 Eggplant
- 1/4 cup Tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed Lemon juice (1 large lemon)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat grill to 400°F. Put eggplant on the grill over indirect heat for about 30 minutes or until soft. If you wish, move the eggplant directly over the coals for the last 3-5 minutes to char the skin and make it easier to remove. Take eggplant directly from the grill and immerse in a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water and peel.
Place peeled eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and sesame seeds into a blender and puree. Add salt and pepper to taste (not a lot), then add about a tablespoon of the olive oil and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and top with a light sprinkle of paprika, the rest of the olive oil, and garnish with fresh basil or parsley. Serve with pita bread or Mideastern flatbread.
Here’s a look at the finished product. This recipe makes about 2-3 cups of finished product and easily serves 4 people. Or at least it did tonight with all the other food we had.
Once this was done, I went back to work for the afternoon until closer to dinner as the rest of the meal wouldn’t take very long to cook. Once work was over, the couscous went on to cook. I had found a recipe online and (as usual) proceeded to not pay too close of attention to it. This was cooked in the house, but as I mentioned to my wife at dinner could have been made on the grill it I had felt like it since no real cooking went on other than boiling some chicken stock. Here’s the recipe as I cooked it.
Sun-dried Tomato and Raisin Couscous
- 1 cup couscous
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/8 cup raisins, chopped
- Fresh basil or parsley, chopped for garnish
Bring chicken broth to a rolling boil in a small covered sauce pan. Stir in couscous, sun-dried tomatoes, and raisins, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Sprinkle on fresh basil or parsley, garnish, and serve.
For those not familiar with couscous, it is a pasta that tastes pretty much like whatever you put in it. This particular recipe is a bit on the sweet side and will likely be made again in the future. And yes, it was the first time I’d made it. So far I’m three for three on this meal.
Since we were having baba ganoush I figured I’d go ahead and make some fresh hummus to go with it. After all, we can’t have a bunch of pita bread sitting around leftover. A can of garbanzo beans was drained and tossed in the blender with 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup lemon juice, an 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of minced garlic and EVOO. A little salt and pepper was added and the whole thing was blended until smooth. Into a bowl it went where it was drizzled with a bit more EVOO, sprinkled with paprika and a handful of pine nuts, garnished with a sprig of fresh basil, and stuck in the refrigerator until dinner.
Now it was time to go into completely unfamiliar territory. I’ve never seen a fresh fig (at least not that I remember) in any kitchen I’ve cooked in. But I’ve grilled fruit before, so how hard could this be. The figs were sliced in half lengthwise and placed in a grill basket. The tops were sprinkled with brown sugar, and the figs were put on Bubba Ho-Keg at 350°F directly over the coals.
They were joined on the grill by the mahi-mahi which had been drizzled with lemon juice and dusted with granulated garlic, red chili powder, and cayenne pepper. About 10 minutes later both the fish and the figs were ready to come off.
Each of the figs were topped with a mixture of ricotta cheese, honey, a splash of vanilla, and a tiny fresh mint leaf. The final spread actually looked pretty good.
The meal was surprisingly good given all the “firsts”. About the only familiar territory was the mahi-mahi; those of you that have been here before (I think the number is up around 4 or 5 now) have seen mahi-mahi on the menu frequently. I’ve made couscous before (and it is admittedly pretty hard to screw it up) but not this particular mixture, and the rest of the meal was uncharted waters. My wife and I ate it all; the only complaint was that the fish wasn’t the best choice to go with the rest of the dishes. A nice kebab of lamb or chicken would have been much better complement to the meal than the fish. The kids were split on the couscous and hummus; each one liked the one the other didn’t. Neither of them liked the figs, which left more for me and the wife. They were actually pretty good, but I have to admit they are a pain to deal with as they have such a short shelf life. If you are going to make these, don’t buy the figs until the day you are ready to cook them as they spoil quickly once they come off the tree.
Now that you’ve seen what I managed to make out of this unholy combination of theme ingredients, go check out the other blogs and see what they came up with. These other cooks know their way around a grill and likely have superior camera skills so don’t judge me too harshly. And as long as you’re on their sites, stay and poke around for awhile; I’m sure they won’t mind.
This month the other two participants were Larry from The BBQ Grail and Rob (don’t call him Bob, only his dentist does that) from Into The Flames. Below are links to their respective posts and a little about each of them.
The BBQ Grail: Maple Planked Trout
The BBQ Grail website was created in 2007, initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet, including a listing on Alltop.com as one of the top BBQ blogs.
Into the Flames: Grilled Sea Bream with Fig, Orange and Saffron Butter
Into The Flames was launched in the summer of 2010 as a way to share Rob’s passion for cooking, eating, and exploring food.
Oh, and if you’re still here reading this, thanks for sticking it out to the end of one of the longer posts ever made here. I appreciate all of you out there that take time out of your day to see what sort of nonsense we’re up to around here; I know you could just as easily spend your time elsewhere. Now do yourself a favor. Step away from the computer, go outdoors, and cook something.