The first tease of the season came last weekend when the temperatures were warm enough for all of us to put our faces to the sun and soak up the warmth and wonderfulness of being outside and comfortable, loose in our muscles and not hunched over against a biting breeze.

This immediately brought thoughts of grilling to our family, and rather than dig out the grill, which is WAY back in the shed, we chose the fire pit.

Our wood pile is rife with all sorts of odd-sized pieces of burled and knotted wood that will not fit into the wood stove. These wood-stove rejects were perfect for our inaugural fire. The pit is situated on the edge of the garden and is comprised of an old, galvanized tub once used for lobster bakes that no longer holds water. The tub is recessed into the ground somewhat and surrounded by rocks that found their way to the surface in the garden. An old oven rack sitting atop the tub is our grilling surface.

Just as when cooking with charcoal, give yourself enough time to not only get the fire going, but to develop a bed of coals on which to cook. Cooking over a true open flame will char your dinner to bits.

Dinner was all grill – chuck eye steaks, baby potatoes both purple and red, and the snap pea, carrot and radish medley detailed below.

Chuck eye steaks are becoming one of my favorite cuts. They are fatty enough to have a robust flavor and firm enough to have a certain amount of tooth that I find pleasing. They do have threads of sinew that run through them, but they’re easy enough to cut around. My older daughter remarked that they are a lot of work, but then she’s now a budding teenager, so I’ll take the comment with a grain of salt, so to speak.

I marinated the steaks in olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika for about 30 minutes and meanwhile mixed both the veggies and the pre-boiled potatoes with a coating of salt, pepper and a little oil in separate bowls.

The finishing touch came at the end, when everything was off the grill and back in the kitchen, by tossing the potatoes with a leftover parsley and lemon gremolata that I’d made for a previous recipe. Everything was delicious with the lemon aioli.

Now, I know these recipes have radishes in them. Don’t discount them out of hand even if you claim to not like radishes, because I don’t like radishes either, yet I find them delicious in these recipes. The bitter, pungent pepper flavor is mellowed and softened by cooking and then, once dunked in the aioli? All set.

A simple salad with fresh radishes tossed with lemon, garlic, olives and olive oil also will transform these underappreciated red globes – in this instance into a brightly colored AND flavorful side dish.

GRILLED SNAP PEAS, CARROTS AND RADISHES WITH LEMON AIOLI

For this recipe, you will need either a grill pan or a cast-iron skillet that can be placed directly over the grill.

1/2 pound snap peas, ends removed

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks the size of the peas or thinner

1 bunch radishes, ends and tips removed and cut into quarters

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Make a direct-heat fire or heat the grill to medium-high heat. In a large bowl, combine all of the vegetables and coat with oil, salt and pepper. When the fire is ready, place the grill pan or skillet onto the grill and allow to heat, about 3 to 4 minutes. Place the veggies on the grill pan or skillet. Keep a constant eye on the proceedings, moving the veggies around frequently. Remove those that are seared on the outside to the bowl. The peas will be done first, the carrots next and the radishes last.

Serve immediately with lemon aioli.

Servings: Four to six

LEMON AIOLI

1 small clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon zest, zest from about one lemon

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Dash Worcestershire

1/8 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. Ever so slowly, while the motor is running, add the oil. After about a minute of dribbling the oil in, you can add it more quickly.

Makes: A little over 1/2 cup.

ROASTED RADISHES

Another use for radishes, other than their pretty red color, is roasting them. Radishes are one of those vegetables that I’ve always wanted to like, but never really have.

But roasted, now that’s a different story. Roasting radishes, just as with any other root vegetable, brings out all of the sugars and softens the flavors. And they are lovely this way.

2 bunches radishes, destemmed and cleaned

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then carefully add the radishes. Sprinkle with salt and cover. “Stir” every minute or two by holding the handle of the pan and the lid with a potholder, and shake the pan like your grandmother used to do for popcorn. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the radishes are browned on the outside and very tender on the inside.

Servings: Four

 

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea.” Contact her at: [email protected]