Outdoor Cooking

The hummingbirds have begun their migratory flights south, in search of more recent flowering plants. That’s not to say that we still don’t have any – my yard is still awash in the storm ravaged remnants of butterfly bushes and all sorts of flowering trees, but they are diminished a bit as fall approaches. I honestly feel that one of those most amazing of creatures, those tiny birds that can fly so far and so fast that it is impossible not to believe in a divine creator while watching them, said “Goodbye” to me this morning.

I was sitting in a deep wicker chair with a cup of mint tea, somewhat of an obsession of mine, which is lucky since we have a deep bed of mint that threatens the strawberry patch every year with hostile takeover. My Mom firmly believes that if you count the number of deep fogs every morning in August, those so dense that you can’t see Laura’s Mountain, then that will equate to the number of heavy snowfalls we will get in the winter. If she is right, then we are screwed this season. In superstition, I have put new snow tires on Laura’s Caddy and oiled the tire chains for my old Ford. As I was contemplating the possibility of a beautiful winter, a gorgeous hummingbird, with wings whirring audibly, appeared out of nowhere and started feeding on the butterfly bush closest to me. I was afraid to even breathe. I’ve never in my life been that close to a hummingbird. It fed, pivoted and I was riveted by its ability to perform aerial maneuvers that have never, not once, been duplicated by any human invention. As I sat in my chair, afraid to move, this little marvel of creation noticed me. It flew so close to my face that even I, as deaf as I am, could hear its wings. It was honestly as if it acknowledged my presence, said hello, and then vanished as quickly as it arrived, no doubt headed south for more succulent flowers. I lifted my tea and bid it a great journey…

I was not outside this morning to marvel at nature. Embarrassingly, I was admiring the remnants of the coals of my cooking fire from last night. I finally committed to stacking rocks and countersinking a fire pit near my garden beds and cooked entirely over the fire. Momma Sue bought me an awesome Lodge Dutch Oven for Christmas and I seriously put it to use. Laura absolutely destroyed her meatball sub and I was not far behind – but I had to laugh, she hid the leftovers from me in the back of the fridge. When I asked her why they were in such a weird place, she told me it was to make sure I didn’t eat them! Pregnant women are serious about their food.
Here’s how I did it:

½ pound of ground pork (or beef, but I like the texture of pork, and pork is a bit leaner)
One hot chili pepper, finely minced
Half of one Vidalia onion, finely chopped
Three pieces of stale bread, finely chopped, soaked in milk and then squeezed almost dry
Sage and Chives, finely chopped, to taste
Salt and Pepper
One large egg
One jar of canned tomatoes, pureed or finely chopped, don’t worry, it will cook down
One head of garlic, smashed
A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
One tbs. of red pepper flakes
One tbs. of paprika
One tbs. of finely chopped fresh rosemary

What to do:

If you are using a fire pit, then start a fire at least one hour before cooking. Combine the first seven ingredients in a large bowl with your hands, and mix well. These meatballs are extremely delicate, which makes them delicious, but hard to work with. I form them into two-inch balls and put them in the fridge to jell while the fire is burning down to coals. When the fire is right, put about three tablespoons of olive oil into a Dutch Oven placed on the coals. Add the chilled meatballs after the oil is smoking and brown on all sides. Remove them and place them to the side. Strain as much water as you can out of the tomatoes – if they are home-canned, it will be a lot. You want this to be thick. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and reduce until the consistency is similar to your favorite pizza sauce. It should stick to a spoon, not resemble soup. Add the meatballs back in and cook for another ten minutes. Take two baguettes, split in half, and dig out most of the bread on one side, creating a bowl for your ingredients. Butter, toast over the fire and pile high with the meatballs in marinara. Top with Swiss Cheese and, if you have it, yellow tomato and molasses salsa. Yummm.

2 comments on “Outdoor Cooking

  1. Ron, you are aware, aren’t you, that you will need to bring food to all your GA hours to feed me?!?!

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