It’s a fairly unassailable assertion that you’ve heard a bazillion times (possibly from a Brazilian?) – food cooked outside tastes better. I know. Duh, right? And there are many who would go further and argue that food cooked over charcoal is far superior to food cooked on a gas grill. I count myself among them. Then there is another smaller circle in the Fuel Preferences of Outdoor Cooking Enthusiasts Venn Diagram that would tell you that cooking over wood is even better than that. I’m here to tell you that for your seafood mixed grill, what you want is some real hardwood charcoal and some big chunks of hickory.
Ah, but I’m getting a ahead of myself.
I should have started this by talking about my favorite new Farmbox discovery: Ramps.
I was only vaguely familiar with ramps before they showed up in the Farmbox, and I’d certainly never cooked with them. Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what they were. So, here’s what I found out: Ramps, which are also known as “wild leeks”, are a springtime vegetable in the onion family. They look a lot like scallions, but with a thin and beautiful purple mid-section and dark dark green, oval-shaped leaves that look like extra large bay leaves. Everything on the ramp is edible. They have a sweet round flavor that tastes like Mr. Garlic and Ms. Onion’s red headed love child. They grow in the mountains that stretch from South Carolina to Canada along the East Coast. This is East Coast veg. Dig it.
Ramps ramps ramps. What to do with ramps? I wasn’t really sure. It seemed like these guys would go great with pasta. I consulted The Google. I wasn’t alone. Pasta was the clear choice. Pesto in fact. And lord knows how I love me some pesto.
But it was a lovely day outside and I wanted to grill. It had to be seafood. Different kinds. And lots of it. Seemed like a match made in my own version of heaven.
Clean the ramps and chop them in half through the red middle part. Saut in a little olive oil until soft – maybe 5 minutes. When soft, transfer ramps to a food processor and add the green leaves, a big handful of grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs if you’ve got them (we used tarragon from our garden, but you could use basil as well) and a few tablespoons of almonds or pine nuts. Now, start the food processor and slowly add about a cup of EVOO. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I know you know how to cook spaghetti, so I’ll leave that out and just say – salty salty water and don’t overcook it! Toss your cooked spaghetti with the pesto and you’re halfway there.
Now for the seafood grill. You can use whatever seafood you want, as long as it’s yummy and fresh. I went with some of my favorites:
Get your charcoal fire in your Weber or similar grill to where it needs to be for good cooking. Now add a few large chunks of hickory wood. The smoke from the hickory is what is going to set your mixed grill apart.
Season your seafood with good sea salt and a little freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle a touch of EVOO on everything.
Note that for this particular seafood mix, I’ve listed the foods in sequential order in terms of when they need to go on the grill. Mostly this is “something goes on and something comes off” grilling. The shrimp and salmon could go on at the same time – both need about 4 or 5 minutes, with one turn thrown in there midway through. I like the shrimp to be a little charred on the legs and tail – makes me feel like I’m in Mexico, which is always a good thing. I like my salmon pretty rare. Adjust cooking times to your preferences. As things come off, just wrap them gently in foil to keep warm. The calamari needs about 3 minutes – don’t overcook. The scallops probably need 2-3 minutes – 1 per side, depending on size, heat of your fire and how rare you like your scallops. I like mine pretty rare.
And that’s kinda it. Serve it up on a big platter with seafood placed lovingly atop your delicious ramp pesto spaghetti. Serve with a nicely chilled glass of your favorite white wine. You are going to LOVE this dish. It’s so super easy and tastes like vacation. I’m ready to do it again.