Iraqi American Cooking in a Tiny Kitchen in North Hollywood: a memoir

oakland.jpg

Do you remember Slip n' Slides? Or the roll of garbage bags you used after you ripped your Slip n' Slide on a jagged rock? How about blowing bubbles? Running through the sprinklers? Paddle boats? The smell of charcoal on the barbecue? Burnt hot dogs, long before you knew what was in a hot dog and never wanted to eat one again? In other words: Summer.

It occurred to me this morning that as I get older I, perhaps, try too hard to recreate the summers of my youth. Packing a picnic at the beach. Riding a bike, and being carefree. Barbecuing everything. Ice cream. Alas, I'm a grown-up now, in my mid twenties. Who has time for rolling down grassy hills and getting green on your nice work clothes?  I mean, for the desired effect, you need friends to share these moments, right? Sure, I'll give it a go alone, but it's not the same! 

Yesterday I wanted that nostalgic summer so badly! I went for a carefree bike ride, until my asthma kicked me off the bike. Instead of iced tea, I started making cold-brewed coffee -- 

clearly adults drink coffee

 -- but it takes about 12 hours before you can drink it, so I didn't even get to enjoy a nice, refreshing iced-coffee on this particularly beautiful summer's day. (Actually, I'm drinking it now, the next afternoon, while writing this, and it's everything I wanted it to be... yesterday).  

How does this relate to a food blog you ask? Well, it's in these very moments that food settles you, calms you, gives you peace. So, to have summer, I clearly had to eat summer. I took out my dusty George Foreman grill and started grilling everything in sight in my tiny kitchen. This is what this post is about.

This post is not only about summer nostalgia, it is about grilling in your tiny apartment, when you don't have a barbecue. It's about grilling the vegetables you got locally from your CSA and the plump tomato your roommate gave you from her father's garden. It's about grilling a sliced ripe peach for dessert, just the peach, and adding a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. This post is about the perfection in simplicity. And since I had no one to share my grilling adventures with -- as lately, without work, I am home alone quite often -- I am sharing it with you. Won't you be my friend in the sunshine?

 

grillem.jpg

Grilled Tofu, with Potatoes, Onions, 

Bell Peppers, and Plump Tomato

serving size: one. sigh.

You will need a George Foreman Grill, 2 cutting boards, 

4 paper towel pieces, and a balcony or yard.

 Ingredients:

  •  3 oz slice of tofu (extra firm, water-packed)
  • 1/4 lb of fingerling potatoes (about 4 of them)
  • 1/2 a yellow onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 large, plump tomato
  • a couple tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a couple tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sea salt to your preference
  • ground black pepper to your preference
  • balsamic reduction to top
    sliced avocados (optional)

THE VEGGIE PREP:

 1. Make the marinade. In a medium sized bowl, mix in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside. 2. Slice the potatoes, onions, bell pepper however you like. Add to marinade. I don't make a lot of marinade because I'm broke and don't want to waste all my ingredients, so instead of soaking them, I just make sure to brush the marinade on the veggies, covering them completely. Let them sit in the marinade 3. Slice the tomato in half, preferably not from the top down, but from the center across. I don't know why, but I just like it that way. Brush with marinade, and let them sit in the bowl, with the rest of the veggies. 

THE TOFU PREP:

 4. Cut a 3 oz slice of tofu from the block you purchased; that's about 1/5th of the block, or about 1/2 an inch thick. If you want a thicker slice, by all means, go for it. 5. Now, listen carefully. The tofu is wet as it has been soaking in water. You need to drain it of some of that water. No worries, there is an economic way to do this, if you can afford to spare 4 pieces of regular sized paper towel. On a cutting board, place one piece of paper towel. Place the slice of tofu on top. Wrap it up in the paper towel as best you can. Now, take another paper towel, and wrap it up from the other side. Take another cutting board, and place on top. Put some pressure on the cutting board, and squish the water out! Not too much pressure, or your tofu will look a bit misshapen. Good, good. Unwrap your tofu. Are the pieces of paper towel soaked? All of it? If there is any dry piece, re-wrap it so that it is touching the tofu. 6. Take a couple more pieces of paper towel and repeat the process, making sure to use every part of the paper towel so as not to be wasteful. Unwrap. That should be sufficient. Sure, there's still water in the tofu, but that's not a bad thing. Do not put the tofu in the marinade, or it won't grill the same. You will do that when it's done grilling. 

THE GRILLING: 

7. Turn on the Foreman Grill. Place that little plate in it's appropriate spot, just in case. Wait about a minute. Start with the tofu. No need to oil the grill. Leave it on for about 6 to 8 minutes. Place it on your plate. Pour the marinade on top. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. 8. Now place the potato, onion, and bell pepper slices evenly on the grill. About 10 to 12 minutes. Place on top of your tofu. 9. Now, grill the tomato halves, only for about 3 to 4 minutes. Place on top of everything. Drizzle some balsamic glaze, et voila! 10. Eat outside in the sunshine with a cold beer or iced tea.

 

grillem2.jpg

Grilled Peaches for Dessert

serves one. again.

ingredients:

 1 peach, 1 scoop of vanilla bean ice cream
 

directions:

slice em' and grill em', top em' with ice cream

and introducing... My Tiny Kitchen

and introducing... My Tiny Kitchen