I have big news! I finally bought a new grill. Yup, just a run of the mill, under $200 number. No bells, no whistles, no LED lights or motorized spit.
Because, really, I don’t need anything fancy. Just heavy grates and consistent heat.
It took me some time, after years in the vegetarian wilderness, to get into grilling. Like most people, I grew up with a family that grilled burgers, steaks, and baked potatoes wrapped in foil. We camped, and meals were cooked over campfires, all by my Mom. That trope in which all Dads grill wasn’t happening in our backyard.
But when I got out on my own, I had no interest in burgers and steaks. We bought grills over the years, and I found charcoal exhausting. Why mess with lighting it, waiting for the right moment, just to grill some tofu and vegetables?
It was a personal chef job that kind of forced me to start grilling. They wanted me to grill, so I did some reading, and I grilled their burgers and steaks and every other meat on a gas grill. I started to get the groove of grilling. It is so easy.
But what really changed everything was when I got into smoker chips. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about heat. Having smoke made the gas grill the best of both worlds, with the convenience of instant lighting, and the flavor of a smoky wood fire. For the last several years, that has been my thing. Smoke adds umami, and smoking your veggies gives them a real depth of flavor. Like these smoked oyster mushrooms. Or this smoked tomato pasta sauce.
I make pizzas, and even a crusty bread on the grill. And that old grill, well, it just kind of petered out. It never really worked right, and when the lines got frayed and looked dangerously leaky, we just wheeled it to the alley. We got a Char Broil and Put it together on the patio. And I got really busy and didn’t have a ton of time.
So the new grill was just sitting there, all shiny and ready to go. I was tired, I was hungry, and I hadn’t soaked the wood chips. But there it was, ready to deliver instant fire, so I cranked it up. I had a bunch of curly red kale, some nice local yellow and red tomatoes, and a zucchini. The Dumpling and Strand Durum Wheat Pasta that I picked up at the Mill City Market sealed the deal. It cooks in two minutes.
I was excited to try the new pasta, made with a softer wheat that uses fewer resources to grow. Somehow, the magicians and D & S managed to make a pasta from soft wheat, which has less gluten, and they didn’t need to use eggs to hold it together. Wow.
So, I chopped a few vegetables while the grill got hot. I simply tore the kale in bite sized pieces andnd mixed in lemon zest and chopped garlic. And to the fire it went.
Just a few minutes, turning the greens, then closing the lid for a minute, then turning again, and they were crisp in spots, chewy in others. I salted them off the heat.
While the kale cooked, I seared some zucchini slabs. I cut them this way to keep them from falling through. Then I cut them up later.
And within minutes, I had a lovely dinner. Because I didn’t bother with the smoker, I threw some smoked almonds on top, and I cooked the excellent pasta and tossed everything in a generous amount of good olive oil.
The crispy grilled kale is a winner, you can use that in all kinds of dishes, or you can keep it on the heat until you have kale chips.
The new grill will get lots of use this summer!
Grilled Kale and Smoked Almond Pasta
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice for finishing pasta
- 1 clove garlic sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medi zucchini cut in planks
- 4 small yellow tomatoes chopped
- 2 small red tomatoes chopped
- 9 ounces fresh fettucine whole wheat
- 1 handful smoked almonds coarsely chopped
- espelette pepper or red chili flakes
- fresh violets
- Pre-heat the grill. Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta, and salt it generously.Tear the kale into bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl, then add lemon zest and garlic. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Coat the zucchini planks with oil and tuck them in the side of the bowl.
- Put the grill mat or wok on the grill and add the kale, use tongs to turn. Place the zucchini on the grill and let sear. Close the grill for a minute, then open and turn the kale. Do this a few times until the kale is crispy but not burned.Check the zucchini, when it is browned, turn the pieces and let it sear again.
- When the kale is crisped in spots, transfer back to the bowl. When the zucchini is tender and browned, transfer to the bowl. Turn off the grill. Put the zucchini on the cutting board and slice in bite-sized pieces. Salt the kale and toss.
- Cook the pasta and drain. In the pasta pot, combine the tomatoes and a good shot of olive oil, salt and the lemon juice. Add the drained pasta and toss to mix. Serve topped with chopped almonds, Espelette pepper or chilis, and fresh violets, with the crispy kale all around.