Grillin’ and Chillin’

“Does it have a grill?”

“It has an enclosed backyard, DirectTV, and a view of the vineyards.”

“Does it have a grill?”

“It doesn’t say on the description. But it’s isolated and only a mile or so from town.”

“Can you check with the owner to see if it has a grill?”

“It has a washer and dryer, too.”

“If it doesn’t have a grill I don’t think I want to stay there.”

Such went the conversations leading up to our vacation, until I called the owner and confirmed that the house we would rent absolutely did, without question, have access to a grill. In fact, it was the neighboring home that had the grill, but she assured us we could use it during our stay. The first thing we did after dumping our luggage was go to the other house and drag over the grill, table, and chairs. If we should ever live in a home with outdoor access, I’m quite sure the first thing David will do is buy a grill, and then figure out how to convince me to make everything on it, including lasagna and waffles.

Thus we come to the Food Post. Dinner is always a big deal on our vacations–generally something we address by 10 AM–but when there’s a grill involved, it becomes that much more important. So far, we’ve had steaks, burgers (both great), grilled shrimp (twice), smoked chicken (a colossal failure), and pork chops (a little dry but tasty), accompanied by an assortment of grilled fruits and vegetables. Last night, after a long afternoon of wine-tasting, we agreed we’d relax and have takeout tandoori chicken and leftover rice for dinner, but David couldn’t resist grilling some bread for bruschetta. It’s like a sickness with him. If there are coals to be banked, wood chips to be soaked, or a grate to be scrubbed, he can’t resist.

David likes to take his time cooking. Which is to say, multitasking strikes him as something that rushed type-As do. “That can be served room temp” is his favorite phrase. So if I don’t try to “rush” things a little–say, by suggesting that I prep all the vegetables and start the rice while the grill heats–I can expect to eat no earlier than 9 PM. Usually by the time we eat I’m so hungry that I forget I’m supposed to be a blogger and dive in before I can set a table. Hence photographs like these:

Steak, asparagus and corn. And Flip Flops rose, which is pretty tasty.

But we seem to be hitting a rhythm. If we set out some apps and I demand that we start by 7, we can usually eat right after Eliza’s bedtime at 8. (I prefer to eat earlier, so she can eat with us, but pinning her down can get in the way of a leisurely vacation meal.) And the other night, we achieved meal nirvana through true teamwork: I figured out what we’d have, and without actually telling him to hurry up, prepped the veggies and shrimp, started the rice, and just kept delivering more items to him to grill. He got to grill one thing at a time, and I felt like a nicer Gordon Ramsay, working at the pass while my chef did the heavy lifting. And the result was that I had the time and foresight to set up a decent photograph (which, really, is the most important thing, right?).

Shrimp over rice and grilled vegetables.

That’s grilled shrimp served over grilled nectarines, zucchini, roasted red peppers and flavored rice. The rice, by the way, is a result of a terrific shortcut we bought at the San Joaquin County Fair, a product called H&H Brand 30-Second Salsa. For $22, we got a tub of goodness that’s basically the high-end equivalent of a McCormick spice packet. The general idea is to toss a scoop of the stuff with a can of diced tomatoes, and presto! Fresh salsa! but, of course, you can use it for whenever you’re feeling lazy. I didn’t have any crushed red pepper flakes on hand, so after the rice was done cooking, I threw in a half a scoop of H&H and we got some deliciously spicy Spanish-style rice. I’m hoping the shelf life will last as long as it’ll take us to get through the 1-pound can. San Francisco friends, expect us to bring sour cream dip and salsa to all future parties.

Still in store for grilling: aged marinated beef; scallops; maybe smoked halibut and grilled pizza. We have one more week, and we mean to run this propane tank empty.

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