Grilling isn't less work, but it seems like more fun

September 06, 1998|By Rob Kasper

THE THING TO remember about cooking on Labor Day is that you don't want to work very hard. The idea is to enjoy a day free of heavy toil, to avoid adding tasks to the workload you are comfortable carrying.

That level of comfort varies from cook to cook. Meals that some folks regard as requiring no effort at all, others regard as an undertaking worthy of a lifetime achievement award.

As for me, I go to the grill on Labor Day. That is where I feel at ease. Hanging around the grill seems more like playing with fire than producing supper.

For the entree, I like to cook a hunk of something, a pork shoulder or a rack of ribs. For dessert, I prefer items buried in ice cubes - a big watermelon or a container of homemade ice cream.

I have never paid much attention to the "tweeners," the foods that appear between the entree and dessert. Usually a garden salad or some potato salad would show up. But this year I plan to do something in the "tweener" line with green pepper and eggplant.

My garden has given me plenty of both. During the summer I have picked a peck of peppers, and several dozen eggplants.

The other day I was flipping through cookbooks looking for recipes that called for either crop, when I came across one that called for ample amounts of both. You roast the peppers and eggplant, along with some whole onions and cloves of garlic. The theory is that you skin everything by shaking the roasted vegetables in a paper sack. The reality is that shaking seems to loosen the skins, but you have to use a knife to finish the job. Then you cut up the skinned vegetables and top them with a sauce made from the pureed roasted garlic and olive oil.

The recipe called for doing the cooking in an oven. But I plan to use my covered kettle grill. I have used it before to cook peppers, eggplant and onions. I'll roast the garlic in the grill as well, putting the cloves on a piece of aluminum foil to keep them from falling through the grates.

It is not necessarily easier to cook this dish on a barbecue grill than in the oven.

But cooking it on the grill makes the experience feel like leisure, not labor. And that is what a holiday is all about.

Roasted Vegetables

Serves 6

1 pound bell peppers

1 pound eggplant

1 pound onions, in their skins

1 head garlic, in its skin

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt

Start charcoal fire, and when coals are ashy, put peppers, eggplant, onions and garlic on grill. (To prevent garlic from slipping through grate, put it on baking sheet.)

Cover grill and cook vegetables about 1 hour, rotating side facing fire. Remove from grill and place vegetables in large paper bag for about 10 minutes. Shake bag to remove charred outer skins. Use sharp knife to finish the job.

Remove the peppers, cut off any remaining charred skin, remove seeds and cut flesh into strips. Remove the skin of the eggplant and cut its flesh lengthwise into strips. Peel and chop onion.

Arrange the roasted vegetables in a serving dish. Separate the cooked garlic from the papery skins and place in a food processor. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil to make a paste, adding a pinch of salt. Drizzle the garlic puree on the vegetables and serve with salt to taste.

Adapted from "Some Like It Hot" by Robin Robertson (Plume, 1998)

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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