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Cooking over open flames

By Staff | Feb 22, 2013

Burger made from grassfed beef paired with corn pudding.


From Grit magazine

When you live on a farm, all four seasons bring their unique delights, but summer is the one that invites us to spend as much time outside as humanly possible. Hot, sunny days, coupled with warm, moonlit nights, and the sound of frogs singing, crickets chirping and coyotes howling, call us outdoors to enjoy the cacophony while it lasts.

Think outside the box (as in oven) this season by preparing meals over a good old-fashioned flame – whether that’s a campfire, charcoal grill or smoker to escape the confines of the kitchen and get in touch with your inner cowboy.

Gather friends and family ’round and enjoy the seasonal amphi-theater in your backyard with some simple and delicious chow, eaten under the stars.

Plank-Grilled Salmon with Memphis rub cooked over an open fire.


When it comes to grilling, most folks are either solid gas-grillers or charcoal-grillers. We in Grit-land are of the opinion that charcoal is the way to go for several reasons.

First, you get to play with fire, and second, it imparts a delicious smoky flavor to the food.

Only with charcoal do you have a dry, white-hot temperature that sears and caramelizes the meat quickly, producing a unique (and delicious), crusty exterior.

Charcoal grills also have the benefit of being portable: Drag it and a bag of briquets anywhere you wish to go – the park, the beach, or the back 40.

These Ranch Beans are of the kind created to keep cowboys hale and hearty on the trail.

Avoid the gasoline flavor and forgo the lighter fluid; use a charcoal chimney to light your coals. Just fill the top with charcoal, the bottom with crumpled newspaper, and put a match to it. After 15 minutes, dump the coals into the barbecue and let them burn until they’re coated with white ash.

Spread out the coals to cover the bottom of the barbecue, and you’re ready to grill.

If your coals are too hot and burning the food, spray them with a little water to cool them down, or just reduce the damper openings; if they’re not hot enough, gently fan the briquettes.

Grilled salmon

with Memphis rub

Fire-Tinged Rolls will make your trail-made meal complete.

Yields 4 servings

2 pounds wild-caught Alaskan salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces

Memphis rub (recipe follows)

2 clean cedar planks, soaked in water for one hour

  • Rinse and dry salmon fillets. Sprinkle on rub, coating flesh side of fish. Let stand for 20 minutes.
  • Light coals, and, when they are gray, push to outer edge of grill surface. Place soaked planks on grill.
  • Add salmon, skin-side down, and cover grill. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, or until salmon turns light pink (but is not dried out). Do not turn over.
  • Transfer to serving platter; remove skin before serving.

NOTE: We love eating this with an impromptu sauce made from mayonnaise, sour cream and an assortment of fresh herbs. Experiment with whatever you have growing in your garden.

Memphis rub

(Based on Steven Raichlen’s recipe in The Barbecue! Bible)

1/4 cup paprika (sweet or smoked)

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

  • In jar, combine all ingredients; stir to mix, then put on lid and shake.
  • Rub can be stored in airtight container for up to 6 months.

Natural beef burgers

Yields 4 burgers.

1 pound of the best ground beef on hand

1 egg

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried minced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup shredded cheese, optional

  • In large bowl, place beef. In separate bowl, whisk together egg, Worcestershire, dried onion garlic, salt and pepper. Add to ground beef, along with oats and cheese. (Add cheese to meat before cooking so it will be evenly distributed, and you won’t overcook the burgers waiting for the cheese to melt.)
  • With your hands, mix together thoroughly. Form 4 patties about -inch thick.
  • Grill burgers over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on how done you like them. Serve on toasted buns with lettuce, onion, tomatoes, mayonnaise whatever you like.

Grilled lemon potatoes

Yields 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds Fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes, halved

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 lemons, zest of both, juice of 1

1 teaspoon sugar

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

  • Parboil potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes; drain, then transfer to large bowl.
  • In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest and juice, sugar, salt and pepper; pour over potatoes. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Using two sheets aluminum foil, create cooking tray for potatoes. Lay one sheet on top of the other and fold sides up.
  • Put empty tray on grill and pour in coated potatoes. Cover grill.
  • Grill over medium-hot coals for 30 to 40 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Ranch beans

1 pound side pork or bacon, coarsely chopped

2 pounds pinto beans, soaked overnight and rinsed

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

In cast-iron Dutch oven, saute pork. Add beans, onion, garlic, paprika, mustard, brown sugar and salt.

  • Cover with water by about 3 inches, and bring to vigorous boil over fire.
  • Dig a hole wider and deeper than your Dutch oven. Line the hole with stones so the oven will fit, but with some room on the sides and above it.
  • Build a hot fire in the hole and keep it roaring for an hour. Rake out most of the embers.
  • Place your covered and filled Dutch oven in the hole. Lay ashes on top of the lid, then fill the hole and top with embers. Let beans cook for 5 to 8 hours, checking every hour or so for water level (add more if drying out) and tenderness. When beans are soft, remove from fire and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Dutch oven biscuits

Yields 3 dozen biscuits

4 tablespoons plus 11/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups buttermilk

5 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

  • In medium bowl, combine yeast and warm water; let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in honey, oil and buttermilk.
  • In large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add wet ingredients and stir together to form ball. Turn out onto floured surface and knead lightly for 2 minutes.
  • Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness and cut into 2-inch round biscuits.
  • Place 2- or 3-inch-deep cast-iron skillet with lid, or Dutch oven with lid, in the fire separately until skillet or oven is hot and lid is very hot but not red. Grease bottom of skillet or oven with lard, butter or cooking spray, and sprinkle with a little flour. Place biscuits inside and brush tops with lard, butter or oil. Cover.
  • Rake out a thin bed of coals and set skillet or oven on coals. Cover lid with a thick layer of coals.
  • Bake, covered, in fire for 10 to 15 minutes, checking for doneness after 7 minutes.

NOTE: Refrigerate unused dough. Biscuits can alternatively be baked, uncovered, in a conventional oven at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Citrus coleslaw

1 head Savoy cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, shredded

1 3/4 cups plain yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Zest from 1 lemon

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

  • In large bowl, combine cabbage and carrot.
  • In small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice and zest, celery seed, vinegar, cilantro and salt.
  • Pour sauce over cabbage mixture and toss well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Corn pudding

6 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, minced

1 to 2 jalapeos, seeded and minced, to taste

3 eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup honey

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

3 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (about 7 to 8 large ears)

  • Heat oven to 350?F.
  • In skillet over medium heat, melt butter and saut onion and jalapeos for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • In large bowl, mix together eggs, flour, honey, milk, cilantro, salt and nutmeg. Blend in corn and onion/jalapeo mixture.
  • Pour into 9-inch casserole dish and bake for 1 hour, or until lightly browned. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Excerpted from Grit magazine. Copyright 2011 by Ogden Publications Inc.

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