Sunday, February 26, 2012

Grilling with Pine needles

One of my favorite blogs is Hunger and Thirst . Each month, she does the Wild Things round-up, using a wild foraged ingredient and posting as many recipes for that ingredient as she can get. When I can find the ingredient, it's a lot of fun. This month's theme was "smoking". I have been wanting to try smoking on the grill with pine needles for awhile. Why pine needles? My neighbor in back has three huge pine trees and one giant birch, and they drop leaves or seeds or needles or branches all over my back yard, all year round.

To try to cope with this, I've tried to find ways in which the trees are useful to me. The birch tree gives me boletes in the Fall. Good.
With the pine I am learning to make pine needle tea. Thankfully, I like it. I've tried to make oil, but I'm not sure that's working properly; and now I'm using the fallen needles to add flavor on the grill.

First, I lit some wood charcoal, using my can. I love these. It only cost a few dollars, works great, and no more lighter fluid chemicals, it starts up with the junk mail ads I get everyday.

Next, started adding pine needle branches.

The problem here is that I am an EXTREMELY impatient griller, so rather than waiting for coals; I put the needles on while it was still closer to a fire. I do this every dang time I grill.

Ok, here the fire has died down a bit and the needles are not immediately bursting into flames, but smoking more. It would have been better to wait a little more, but that's not how I roll, and so the main dish tasted more smokey than pine-y.

I closed the lid on the grill to hold the smoke in; my grill has one of those chimney thingies. The carrots, I steamed a bit indoors first, so that they would be tender. I added a dill/ butter sauce to them after taking them off the grill. They were the tastiest part of the meal. The mushrooms, I marinated in a traditional sauce of red wine, and balsamic vinegar. The salmon is good as it is, with just a little lemon squeezed over it. Of course, before I put the food on the grill, I wiped the grate with a napkin saturated with olive oil. I know, basic......... but it took me years and lots of stuck to the grill food to learn that. 

The final meal.

I also popped a gluten free berry cobbler in after the main course was cooked, in a small cast iron pan. I don't always measure, so it was about 2 cups berries with 1 cup sugar, topped with @ 1/2 cup ground almonds, 1/4 cup brown rice flour, 2-ish tbsp. potato starch, splash of vanilla, sprinkle of more sugar on top. All measurements are approximate. Now that the coals were really coals, the food picked up more of the pine flavor. It was goooood. 

Have any of you tried grilling with pine needles? I'm curious to find out other people's techniques.

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