Lawn Games and Grilling

So, summer is going by pretty quick.

While I could say that it’s been all work and school and obligations and no fun, that would be a bummer to everyone and it wouldn’t be true. Those are two bad things that I can avoid easily.

EMPOWERMENT!

One thing that I always look forward to in the summer is playing lawn games. Now, I’m all about the Food Not Lawns movement, but you just can’t play bocce ball in a pumpkin patch. I’m assuming.  I haven’t tried.

What I have tried, recently, is making lawn darts. This was doubly necessary because lawn darts aren’t really a thing that’s made anymore and I probably wouldn’t pay money for them if they were. Plus, I was bored and wanted to make something. Tripply necessary. Tripoli necessary.

I can’t really explain what’s so great about lawn darts. You throw spike and they stick in the ground and that feels awesome! Once, as a kid, i practiced throwing a screw driver into the dirt for two hours. I’m either super easily entertained or a psychopath.

Or it’s completely normal and that’s why lawn darts are popular. But… illegal?

Anyway, make some!

Now, store bought lawn darts are plastic and that’s fine. I didn’t have a bunch of plastic fletching around, so I went for cloth. The design is copied from a toy I remember my aunt making for me as a kid that was essentially a small bean-bag with a long tail of cloth attached to it. You’d throw it and the cloth would trail behind it like a comet. Ten kids with twenty of those things makes for awesome times.

One cool thing about using cloth is that you can have as many teams as you want, since there are MILLIONS of types of cloth out there. I just heard about this! Spread the word!

In addition to the cloth, I got six barn spikes from the local hardware store. They’re just big nails with a really cool name.

After working at it for a bit, I found that I needed a washer to keep the head of the nail from ripping through the cloth when the dart was being swung around. After all, that could kill someone. Some foam from a cut up mouse pad worked great.

Then it was just a matter of piercing two long strips of cloth with the nail and putting a small duct tape stopper right where the cloth met the nail. They’re fun now, but I bet they’ll get even better when the fall comes and these mosquitoes move out of my yard.

But, food! What about that!?

Well, I recently had grilled pizza and home made pop tarts. IN THE SAME NIGHT! Let’s do that together again sometime!

Our great buddy Lylee brought over a heart shaped cookie cutter and an overflowing excitement to help us make these things.
The Deets:
Make some pie crust. Specifically, Ken Haedrich’s “basic flaky crust” from his GIANT book called PIE. It’s a great recipe. I used to be scared of doing this. Totally unfounded. I will say that getting a pastry cutter helps out a lot, but it’s not completely necessary if you only want to try it out. First, gather these things:

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Stick of Cold Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Shortening
  • 3/4 Cup ice water

HOLD UP!

A quick note on the fats; put the shortening in the freezer and the butter in the fridge and leave them there until you are ready to use them. Mix the salt, sugar, and flour together. Then get your cold shortening and butter out and put them in with the dry stuff. The reason you want these cold is so that they don’t start to melt and work into your flour. If they melt, you’ll be left with a super tough cracker. Keeping them separated ensures the layering that makes for a wonderfully flaky crust. So, work quickly!

Cut up the butter and shorting in the bowl by running two butter knives in a scissor motion through the larger blocks of fat. Once it’s broken down enough, you break it down further with either the pastry cutter or your fingers. The advantage of using the cutter is that it keeps your hot little hands from melting all the butter. Like I said, though, just work quick and there shouldn’t be a problem.

Once you get it to a crumbly consistency, you start adding the water. Again, cold is good. I’ve actually thought that this whole process will be a whole lot easier in the winter when our house becomes the inside of a fridge. Except, instead of being filled with food, it’s filled with blanket people with red noses.

Anyway! Add the water 1/4 Cup at a time. This will make sure that you don’t overdo it. Too much water will mean a tough crust, so take it easy. Once it sticks together like playdough, you’re good. Wrap it up in plastic and put it in the fridge for a few hours.

Now, if you want to make the pop tarts, it’s pretty easy. roll out the pie crust into a sheet about 1/16 of an inch thick and start cutting rectangles. Spread a thin layer of nutella on one rectangle and top it with a thin layer of jam. You can either go the functional route of putting a complete rectangle of crust on top of this one, or you can get fancy and cut out a heart shaped space for a strawberry half. Sprinkle the top with sugar and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes (until golden brown.) Serve! Celebrate! Also, shout out to the original recipe.

Wait! You can’t eat just dessert. That would be bad for your body. Make some pizza!
Now, we’ve made a few pizzas before, but grilling them is a whole new thing. I plan on having a legit pizza oven one day, but this is pretty darn close for now.

Ah! It’s crust time again! You see? I lure you in with pop tarts and pizza, then I help you conquer your culinary fears! It’s just like Maury! Except, I’m not just chasing you around the stage with balloons and pickles.

When I need something bready, I tend to turn to Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. He’s got a great book for people wanting to make good bread without spending too much time or money in the process. Well, I need to clarify that the breads to rise for 12-18 hours on average. But that’s the beauty of the thing, you can stat it the day before and let it rise during the night. Then, you just jump back in at lunch time the next day and you’ve got bread.

The pizza dough is simpler in that it’s a faster rise. You’ll want to start this whole process about three hours before your pizza is going to be eaten. It’ll make two 13″ by 18″ pies.

Get this stuff together

  • 3 and 3/4 Cups of flour
  • 2 and 1/2 Tsp. yeast
  • 3/4 Tsp. salt
  • 3/4 Tsp Sugar
  • 1 and 1/3 Cup room temperature water

Mix all that together for about 30 seconds, kneading it in on itself gently. Cover and let this dough ball rise for about two hours. After that’s done, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a ball, divide the ball in half and cover both halves with a moist towel for about 30 minutes.

Here’s where things get a little different. Instead of stretching it onto a pan, I decided to try tossing it by hand. It was a ton of fun, but I don’t think I accomplished much. Drop ceilings are not things that are in pizzerias, I guess.

After getting it spread out a bit (and getting the grill hot) I par-baked the crust on the grill just to make the transfer easier. One thing that I noticed through all this was that the center of the pizza was getting cooked way faster than the edges. I think this partially because the crust was thinner in the middle and partially because the grill was also hottest in the middle. The first one I’ll be able to correct by forming the crusts differently in the future. The second is tougher, but I’m thinking about trying out a large stone on the grill to help spread the heat out.

The next bits are simple. Just put on the toppings. Olive oil, white sauce, red sauce, gravy, chocolate, fish paste… the base layer can be whatever. Toppings can also be whatever you want.

We ended up going with tomato sauce, sausage, cheese, peppers, tempeh, and avocado. We had some leftovers that needed to be ate up.

 Summer is a good time.

I’m hoping that everyone I haven’t gotten to see yet is having a great time and that we’ll get to enjoy all of these things together very soon.

Bon été!

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