Sunday, May 30, 2010

- A little bit of smoke: Learning to love the heat

It's really great when your kids grow up ... especially when they get you cool toys for Christmas. We've been having fun playing with two in particular: the web cam that Meg and Paul gave us, which lets us watch Max the Weimeraner puppy grow before our eyes even though he's hundreds of miles away in St. Louis. And then there's the mini-panini press that Meliss and Jake gave us, with griddles that can be popped in the dishwasher and a surface area that's just right for two.

I must admit we did have some struggles at first. Piling too many ingredients onto bread sliced a shade too thick resulted in no little consternation as our creations ended up slip sliding away when we tried to close the press. But necessity is the mother of invention, so invent we did. Today's lunch was the logical culmination of a series of experiments. It's time to share.

First, you must find wonderful bread. We're fortunate to have found a bakery called Phoenix Rising, where they bake organic breads in a wood-fired brick oven. And there was some leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge that, along with red pepper, bi-colored squash, avocado, red onion, and fresh mozzarella, seemed just the thing for lunch. Now you can see the problem already ... how to balance all this stuff onto a slice of bread?

Easy. Mush it all together. First grate the veggies, then the cheese. Chunk up some chicken and avocado. Peek out in the garden to see what the deer have left. Rosemary today, other days cilantro, basil or chives. Throw in some toasted pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Then wonder ... what else?

Thin slices of bread, brushed with olive oil and heaped with the filling go onto a hot press, which doesn't get pressed at all, but gently tucked on top of the sandwiches. Then we wait and Don is tasting the leftover filling, saying, "What's in here?" And I smile, because there's something new ... just a little bit of smoke, and a little bit of heat.

The sandwiches come off the press and they taste just right, though odds are we won't have exactly this mixture again. Next time there will be different veggies in the fridge, some other leftover meat to use up. But the smoke ... I won't leave out the smoke: finely diced heat from the tail end of a chipotle, it's better than bacon.

Gotta love Texas.

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