Show of hands, who grills year-round, even in the freezing cold with snow on the ground?
[SoupAddict’s hand shoots straight up in the air and bounces in her chair like an impatient second grader.]
Uh huh. That’s right. SoupAddict’s a crazy griller. And you know why? Because there’s nothing like grub grilled over a smoky, open fire. Even appetizers reach a whole new level of flavor when prepared on the grill.
Believe it, it’s true.
Since the holidays, SoupAddict has been craving eggs like there’s no tomorrow. Sometimes in the morning, she’ll stop at the local bagel joint and ask for a plain egg burrito. The lovely peeps there look at her like she’s crazy. (And they would be right, but for other reasons.) Onions? No, thank you. Peppers? Nope. Salsa? Nah. Just scrambled eggs in a wrap, thanks.
The egg craving is totally the responsibility of Steven Raichlen, well-known TV show host, cookbook author and barbecue historian. Shortly before Christmas, his PBS show, Primal Grill, featured a recipe for Israeli Smoked Egg Pate, where hard boiled eggs are first smoked on the grill before meeting their fate in the food processor. This is the kind of recipe that haunts SoupAddict’s dreams. Not just eggs, but smoked eggs. Long story short, the pate was huge hit at Christmas.
So, when the egg craving kicked in again last weekend, SoupAddict fired up her grill, despite the 22°F temps outside. And while she was at it, decided to try another of Steve’s dip recipes, Grilled Bell Pepper and Feta Cheese.
The secret to the perfect hard boiled egg is to not over cook it. 11-12 minutes in the boiling water is the goal, followed immediately with a cool water bath to halt the cooking. You never want to see a gray-green tint around the yolk — that’s a sure sign of an over-cooked egg.
Perfect. (Trust SoupAddict on this one — you’ll see the perfect yellow yolks a little bit later.)
The pate needs few ingredients because you don’t want to muddle the flavor of the smoked egg. Some mayo, a little lemon juice, a shallot or prepared horseradish, and some parsley for sprinkling.
The red pepper dip is equally simple because the smoke-roasted peppers will shine through.
Hickory chips, with a scattering of applewood chips thrown in. In typical SoupAddict fashion, I forgot to sufficiently soak the chips ahead of time, so, as we’ll see, they’re going to spontaneously combust in a big fiery ball of fire, singeing both pepper and human alike.
Just kidding. But that sure would be a spectacle worth blogging about, wouldn’t it?
Firing up the chimney starter, SoupAddict’s BGFF (best grilling friend forever). We’re buds, it’s true. SoupAddict would not be using a charcoal grill at all if the chimney starter hadn’t come along. Lighter fluid and lighter-fluid-flavored burgers? No way. Waiting 30 minutes for the coals to heat up? Pffft!
Now, it wasn’t a big ball o’ fiery death, but the merely-damp wood chips did catch fire sooner than they should. The idea behind wet chips is to keep them smoldering and smoking as long as possible before inevitably catching fire and burning to embers.
You cannot tell from this picture, but the grill is set up for what’s known as indirect grilling: all the hot coals are concentrated one side of the grill while the other side remains bare and cool. This happens to be the perfect set up for both of the day’s dips, because the eggs will require no heat, while the red pepper needs to sit right above the flames.
By grilling with the lid on, the smoke from the wood chips circulates throughout the grill and flavors the eggs. Look at the ochre coloring — perfect!
Here’s the pepper about halfway through. The black charring means that all manner of smoke-roasted goodness is happening inside the pepper walls.
While the peppers and eggs do their thing on the grill, prepare the pitas. Brush both sides with olive oil. If you’d like — and SoupAddict heartily recommends it — sprinkle Zatar over both sides. (Zatar, or Za’atar, is a lovely, lovely Middle Eastern spice blend consisting of sumac, thyme leaves, white sesame seeds and salt. I get mine from penzeys.com.) It goes particularly well with the Israeli egg pate.
Toss these babies on the grill over the flames and heat for a minute or two on each side. When cool, cut into triangles for dipping.
Hello, my perfect yolked pretties. Come to Mama.
A food processor makes quick work of the pate. Which is a good thing, because you don’t want to wait for this. Trust SoupAddict on this one. She’s entirely trustworthy in matters of eggs.
Let’s see how we did: Mmmmmm mmm. Eggcellent. [All together now: <pungroan> ]
On to the pepper dip. But first, SoupAddict must indulge in a mini-rant. Please hang in there while she works through this troublesome issue.
Somewhere, somehow, word spread that if you allow a hot roasted pepper to cool in a paper bag, its skin will be easier to remove.
That’s complete poppycock.
The skin of a properly roasted pepper will peel right off, no matter how you cool it, and any recipe that says to use the paper bag makes SoupAddict bristle [looking right at you, recipe writers at Bon Appetit]. So, SoupAddict felt vindicated when Steven Raichlen debunked this paper bag myth in this very recipe in his book.
And I might add that you are now witness to the very first time SoupAddict has ever used the word “poppycock” in her blog. And perhaps in writing, ever.
But it shan’t be the last.
“Why, that’s simply poppycock.”
Oh yeah. That’s gonna get some mileage. Yessirree.
Okay, so, you’ve removed the top of the pepper using deep cuts around the top edge (see previous photo for angle of knife). Most of the seeds are attached to the top, so if you cleanly remove the top from the side ribs, you’ll have fewer seeds to deal with.
Not that it’s a big deal to deal with pepper seeds. It’s just the way I do it.
Use a sharp paring knife to cut the pepper in half and scrape out the ribs and remaining seeds.
Then flip the pepper over and remove the skin. Which will be very easy to do if you’ve roasted the pepper correctly (see rant above). As you can see, the skin came off in my fingers in one sheet. SoupAddict may lack certain admirable qualities, but she can roast a mean pepper.
Blend all ingredients to a smooth, loose paste.
And let’s see how we did: Mmmm mmmmmmMM. Boy, that’s good. Smoky, roasted red peppers with the creamy saltiness of feta. Wow.
If ever you needed an excuse to throw a party in dreary, downer January, these dips will sweeten the deal.
Israeli Smoked Egg Pate
4 large eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably Hellmanns)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, skewered on a bamboo stick
A few drops of fresh lemon juice (optional)
Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup hardwood chips, such as hickory, cherry or apple, for smoking, soaked for one hour
Place the eggs in a saucepan with cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the eggs exactly 11 minutes. Drain into a strainer and rinse the eggs under cold water until cool enough to handle, then peel. The recipe can be prepared several days ahead to this stage (store eggs in the fridge).
Set up your smoker for smoking and preheat to 275 degrees. Place the eggs in the smoker and smoke until covered with a light brown film of smoke, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Indirect grilling method:
Set up your grill for indirect grilling (hot charcoals on one half of the grill, nothing on the other) and preheat to medium-low. Toss the wood chips on the coals. Smoke as described above, placing the eggs over empty area. Cooking time will be 15-20 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a plate and let cool.
Quarter the eggs and place in a food processor. Coarsely chop the mixture, running the machine in short bursts. Work in the mayonnaise, shallots and salt and pepper to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Transfer the pate to a bowl. Sprinkle with parsley.
Grilled Bell Pepper and Feta Cheese Dip
Adapted (with changes only in the preparation of the roasted peppers) from Planet Barbecue!
2 large or 4 small red bell peppers
4 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled (about 1 cup)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare grill (gas or charcoal) for direct grilling (i.e., over the flames), preheating to high.
When the grill is ready, arrange the peppers directly over the hot coals or burners. Grill peppers until charred black on all sides (3 to 4 minutes per side). Don’t forget to grill the pepper bottoms.
Transfer the grilled peppers to a cutting board and let them cool. Remove the pepper tops and discard. Slice the peppers in half and use a paring knife to scrape out the seeds. Flip the pepper slices over and remove the skins. Don’t worry if some of the skin is still stuck to the pepper, despite your efforts. It will simply add flavor to the dip. Slice the peppers into 1″ pieces.
Place the peppers, feta cheese and hot pepper flakes a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Puree to a smooth paste. With the machine still running begin drizzling in the olive oil to obtain a dip consistency. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, black pepper and additional hot pepper flakes as needed.