There are many things I love about the Vermont summer and I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit that one of them is that there are less dishes to wash.
It’s just easier to eat food raw in the summer (a wedge of cheese, handful of just-picked cherry tomatoes and hunk of bread satisfy on a hot day). And if you do make something a little more complex, the intense flavors of the fresh, local ingredients means you’ll likely be able to toss something together quickly with less fuss and bother ― and dishware.
And then, of course, there’s the grill.
Use the grill to cook supper and you have eliminated the frying pan, the broiler pan, the Dutch oven. Just turn the burner on high after you’re done and it’ll all burn off.
I’m a firm believer in grilling as much as I can in the summer. (Well, let me rephrase that — as much as my husband can. It’s the one cooking implement that is his domain and, similar to many people’s approach to the office copier, I try not to master its operation so that it remains his domain.)
Beyond the obvious proteins, from beef steak to steaks of firm marinated tofu, I’ll give anything a try at least once. I’ve learned that green beans blister up beautifully in a square-bottomed grill pan that I swear by (same cleaning rules as above apply). Even dessert can be grilled: try halved stone fruit (peaches or plums) brushed with maple syrup and melted butter and caramelized on the grill, then paired with grill-toasted slices of pound cake and vanilla ice cream for an elegant, impressive dessert.
Which brings me to grilled bread. It is the most simple and utterly delicious thing and more people need to do it.
Cut thick (about ¾-inch) slices from any large rustic, country-style loaf (if it’s a little stale, all the better). We are lucky to have a number of wonderful artisan bread bakers in Vermont. I get a loaf of Gerard’s weekly from our CSA and also regularly buy bread from Red Hen and Bread and Butter Farm.
Drizzle or brush the slices lightly on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle one side lightly with coarse salt. Grill for a few minutes on each side over medium heat. Watch carefully, but if it gets a little charred that’s OK.
Serve slices warm from the grill (room temperature works too) smeared with fresh goat cheese or a bloomy-rinded cheese and a slice of pear, topped with pesto and a slice of ripe tomato, or spread with olive tapenade confettied with a little feta.
A whole loaf of grilled bread with an array of toppings will make a feast of a lunch or a wonderful appetizer platter for a gathering. And all you have to do is dust off the bread knife.