We had some friends over Friday night for an impromptu pool tourney. In a rush to whip up some food for everyone we decided on firing up the grill. I had picked up a small bone-in, French-cut, pork loin roast the day before from Rain Shadow Meats on Capitol Hill. That and the pound of Italian Sausage from Heritage Meats I got in the last box was enough to get things going.

One of my friends commented about the pork loin roast – which I cut into thick double chops, two bones thick in each – that he wouldn’t know where to begin with a cut like that. I replied that when in doubt, grill. Then to my surprise he said that he’d already put away his grill for the season and being the fastidious fellow that he is – cleaned it and put the cover on. This to him signifying the end of ‘grilling season.’

I was aghast. Grilling season around our house stops, well – when the charcoal is gone. And he had a gas stove! It’s just one of those things that brings out the flavor in many foods and I couldn’t live without. When we lived in Alaska we grilled through snow and rain, with a parka and gloves on. But, I wondered how many other people also associate warm weather with grill cooking? I can understand the nostalgia, I mean that’s when grilling is at its best. Beer in hand, a few watchful eyes muttering and pointing as you diligently flip burgers, sausages and pork chops over red hot coals. The smells of summer wouldn’t be the same without it.

But seriously, why stop there? Let’s keep the grill going all year long. I couldn’t  justify pan-frying my escarole if there was a hot grill nearby. Or bok choy marinated in sesame oil, fish sauce and shoyu? Sure it’s good in the wok, but on the grill – it’s amazing. So don’t put it away, that’s all I have to say. Take off the cover and fire it up! Whether rain or shine, snow or sleet, the grill is an easy and delicious cooking method that shouldn’t take a winter vacation.

Here is an example of grill to meal cooking. Some grilled lamb cooked rare and sliced thin, placed tenderly in a simple soup of white beans, thinly sliced fennel,  grilled and chopped Treviso radicchio and finished with Parmigiano. Of course the lamb is optional, and could be substituted with something else, but it adds a wonderful flavor to the soup.

2 T olive oil

1 large head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 T shallots, minced

Red pepper flakes

1 pound Treviso,  quartered and grilled

Salt

4 cups stock

1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 (8 oz) can of stewed tomatoes

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fresh ground black pepper

2 cups sourdough bread, chunks (optional)

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Sauté fennel for 3-4 minutes, until soft.  Add shallots and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper. Add stock and bring to boil. Add beans and tomatoes, and reduce to simmer. Simmer until beans are hot and cooked through. While beans are cooking grill lamb until rare to medium-rare, pressing the tip of your finger into the grilled meat it should spring back slowly. Remove to the cool side of the grill and let rest. Brush, Treviso quarters lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Sear quickly over hot grill until lightly browned and slightly wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove and roughly chop Treviso. Add bread chunks to soup, if desired, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until bread is soft. Ladle soup into bowls and shave Parmigiano over the top. Thinly slice lamb into strips and place in bowls with a handful of Treviso to serve.

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