Summer Cooking: From Garden to Grill
We’ve partnered with gardening guru Steve Asbell from The Rainforest Garden to cook up a delicious dinner that goes straight from garden to grill.
If I can grill a creative and delicious dinner on the fly, then anyone can do it. I love to cook, but as a rookie work-from-home dad, cooking alongside an impatient toddler can be pretty stressful. Grilling is even more difficult for me than cooking in the kitchen, since I only have about a one-hour window from the time my wife gets home to my son’s bathtime. Trust me … that sleep schedule is not something I want to mess with. Besides the time issue, I’m not necessarily all that experienced on the grill.
But then I remembered that I had already bought everything I needed for the perfect grill out at Tuesday Morning just the other day: mango habanero barbecue sauce, sea salt, a 4-pepper grinder and even grape seed oil. Other than pork chops and a few veggies, it was all I needed to create a great dinner.
Prepping the Grill
The minute my wife got home I started the charcoal, cleaned and oiled the grates and set up my workspace. I placed my seasonings, tools and a bowl of barbecue sauce on a blue accent table (featured in a previous post) and tried to steer clear of the smoke while the charcoal began heating in a chimney tower.
Setting the Menu
Fish was originally on the menu so that I could utilize my new fish grilling basket … until I decided to try grilling asparagus instead. The small spears would have been too narrow and difficult to handle on the grates alone, but the basket made it simple — I just put them in and let them sit on the cooler zone of the grill while I basted and turned the pork chops.
Fire Up the Grill
I admittedly used a little too much oil on the pork chops since I was trying to photograph an action shot and forgot to stop pouring between shots, and I may have overcooked them to floppy oblivion. Still, my wife agrees that the flavor was excellent. She wolfed them down before I even got a chance to try them myself!
My first attempt at grilling pork chops couldn’t have been easier. I normally like to marinate my meat before cooking, but luckily one of the things thrown in my cart was a basting brush. I haven’t used one in a long time, but painting the chops with sweet, spicy goodness as they cooked was a total blast. I know; I need to get out more.
On a whim and feeling a little cocky, I picked some okra from the garden, tossed it in grape seed oil, seasoned it with a few cracks of sea salt and pepper, and threw it on the grill. They were tasty, to be sure, but next time I’ll probably cut them in half first to let them get crispier.
Dinner is Served
When the pork chops were done, the moment of truth had arrived. Dinner was a success! While the okra and asparagus weren’t perfect, the grape seed oil, salt and pepper really brought out the flavor. The pork chops were tender, and the spicy mango habanero sauce didn’t overwhelm the flavor at all. We gobbled our dinners down and were ready for more. I did have another trick up my sleeve, though.
The Final Touch
Almost as an afterthought, I tossed some sweet potatoes directly on the coals and placed a foil-wrapped peach and a clove of garlic away from the coals in the cool zone. I went outside to turn them over every now and then, and in 45 minutes they were ready. I cut the sweet potatoes in half, slicing right through the ashy charred skins to reveal a lava flow of glowing orange. I topped our sweet potatoes with slivers of the roasted peach, gave it a shake of cinnamon and a crack of sea salt, and served with cloves of garlic as a condiment. We scooped the buttery, creamy flesh out of the garlic skins and mixed it in, and even I was a little surprised at just how well the flavors worked together.
It wasn’t long before I found my wife picking apart the third pork chop, and I got to feed my toddler leftovers of the sweet potatoes the next day. He was very satisfied with the flavor, though he did demand I add cheese.
Want to try it yourself? Here’s the simple recipe, proving you can cook a whole meal on one grill (even when it’s small like mine!):
Barbecue Pork Chops with Grilled Asparagus
- 3-4 pork chops, bone-in
- 8 oz. barbecue sauce
- ½ lb. asparagus spears, small
- 4 tbsp. grape seed oil (or olive oil), divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Charcoal chimney
- Long-handled grill cleaning brush
- Grilling tongs and/or spatula
- Grill basket for asparagus (a fish basket works well)
Prepare asparagus by rinsing thoroughly, patting dry and snapping off the firm bases. Then toss them in a large bowl with 2 tbsp. oil, salt and pepper.
Start the grill. If using a charcoal grill; remove the top grate, light wadded up newspaper in a charcoal chimney, place chimney on lower grill grate and wait for the coals to turn gray and stop smoking. While you’re waiting for your grill to heat, season the pork with salt and pepper and baste with oil to prevent sticking.
Dump the hot coals on the right side of the grill to create a hot zone for the meat. Replace the grate and clean with a long-handled grill brush. Once clean, use tongs to place the pork chops on the hot side of the grill. Baste the exposed side of the pork chops once with barbecue sauce and (if using) place the asparagus in the grill basket.
When the pork chops are easily removed from the grate with a spatula (or after 2-3 minutes), flip them over and baste again. Place the asparagus on the cool side of the grill. Continue basting the pork chops for 5 minutes and flip. Flip the asparagus while the pork chops finish cooking. The pork chops will be firm, browned and reach an interior temperature of 145 degrees when done, and the meat should not be pink inside.
Till the Next Grilling Adventure
Since grilling isn’t something I get to do very often, I was thrilled to see something at Tuesday Morning that I had been seeking for a long time: Fiestaware pans. I got a Fiesta enameled cast iron grill pan so that I can grill indoors when I need to accommodate my busy schedule. I even managed to find Fiesta fry pans in just about every size, which was awesome since I absolutely love the Fiesta saucepan I already own. The small pan will be great for soufflés and lunches for my son, while the larger pan is wide enough to handle as many turtle-shaped pancakes and sautéed veggies as our family can eat. And yes, there will be pork chops. Glorious mango habanero pork chops and okra, all on the same spacious pan.
What surprised me most about the dinner was just how easily it all came together. There was hardly any prepwork, no difficult recipes to follow and I didn’t have to do anything in the kitchen. The fish basket allowed me to cook veggies efficiently on a tiny grill, the basting brush made marinating unnecessary and saved me time, and the barbecue sauce, salt and pepper grinders and grape seed oil were all I needed in the flavor department. I never thought that I could cook a whole meal on my tiny grill in less than an hour, but the right tools and flavors were a huge help. Maybe I am a grillmaster after all.
Want more ideas for creating a feast from the season’s freshest ingredients? Visit our Cooking for Every Season pinboard for recipes and cooking tips to bring the garden to your table.
Featured products: Mango habanero BBQ sauce $4.99 (compare at $6.99); grape seed oil $5.99 (compare at $7.99); four peppercorn grinder $3.99 (compare at $4.99); sea salt grinder $3.99 (compare at $5.99); forged grill brush $12.99 (compare at $29.99); copper fish basket $11.99 (compare at $23.99); Char-Broil acacia basting brush $7.99 (compare at $15.99); 12″ Fiesta fry pan $34.99 (compare at $79.99); 8″ Fiesta fry pan $19.99 (compare at $39.99); Fiesta grill pan $49.99 (compare at $99); mango pot holder $5.99 (compare at $9.99); blue ice pot holder $5.99 (compare at $9.99).