Thanks to both sets of parents and yours truly, Zach’s birthday present this year was a grill. After years and years of apartment dwelling that came with the customary ban on balcony grills, we’ve been itching to get our grill on for a long time. Now that’s not to say that we’ve spent the warm weather months totally deprived. We made many attempts over the years to be “grillers” but it’s always proved inconvenient and often, downright dangerous.
There was the time in college when we offered to cook his entire family dinner. We settled on something simple – foil packets stuffed with a mixture of chicken, vegetables, and marinade. I prepped the packets and Zach assumed the grilling role thanks to his wealth of experience flipping burgers at the student dining hall. With the packets on the grill, we plopped down to chat with his mom.
Five minutes in and the smoke started. Not regular grill smoke, but thick, black smoke spewing out of the lid. With Zach’s back to the door, I played it cool thinking, “Oh, it’ll burn off…” Then came the flames, angry and violently shooting skyward. My widened eyes and the flashes of light sent Zach running outside with water to extinguish the flames, save his family’s home, and utterly ruin my perfect little packets.
It’s a good thing his family likes Chinese food.
Prior to buying our current home we lived in an apartment community that came equipped with community gas grills in each courtyard. This seemed like a great idea until we realized we lived on the fourth floor with no elevator. Grilling required our best balancing feats as we climbed the stairs with food, platters and plates, tools, lighter, and a beer or glass of wine to pass the cooking time. A forgotten tool often sent Zach sprinting up four flights of stairs with me yelling, “Hurry! We have to turn the pork right now!!”
Then there were the grill pan nights. Along with many other claims, don’t believe the food television hype on grill pans. They are useless unless you cook in an open air kitchen or just so happen to have a commercial exhaust hood, a.k.a. none of us. The smoke sets off the fire alarm every time which, in our house is always accompanied by a frantic barking dog and Zach and I yelling at each other as we wave dish towels at the ceiling. Grill pan meet garbage can.
But this summer we wipe away all those bad grilling memories with a patio and a brand new Weber. Now if we could only get the DJ on my neighbor’s patio to take requests…
Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten
This week’s recipe is for those so committed to grilling that they even grill their desserts. Adapted from Ina Garten, I reduced the fat by using low-fat Greek yogurt and added poppy seeds since I love their nutty flavor. I suggest toasting a few slices on the grill to take it to the next level. For those of you who are grill-less, the cake is still wonderful at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 tsps grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2) with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet. With a spatula, fold in the vegetable oil until fully combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake 50-55 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Warm over low heat until sugar dissolves.
4. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a toothpick, gently poke small holes in the top of the cake and pour the lemon/sugar mixture over the top. Allow syrup to soak into the cake completely, then gently remove cake from the pan and cool completely.
5. At this point, the cake is wonderful as is. But I suggest cutting thick slices and grilling over med-low heat to toast gently. Serve warm cake with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.