Eat your hearts out, East-Coasters and Midwesterners and Canadians! It’s almost 70 degrees out here in the Leafy Bower, deep in the heart of the Valley of the We-Do-Mean Sun! Ha haaaaaa!!!!!!!
So instead of actually Working 🙁 (heaven forfend!), I decided to spread the compost that’s been rotting away inside last summer’s Amazon purchase. A month or so ago, I put some on the potted rose plant, but plenty remained for the climbing roses on the west side and the endlessly struggling Perfumed Delight that fries all summer long on the northwest corner of the house. And YES, I was too damn lazy to dig it into the ground. Don’t worry. It’ll work its way in sooner or later.
Kinda pretty, isn’t it, fresh out of the compost barrel? Nice and dark and rich-looking.
The Mexican lime tree, one of the critters that shades this bower, is in the middle of its midwinter leaf-drop. Amazingly, it has spawned a new crop of juicy little limes — this after last summer’s frenzy. I raked the leaves and some of the limes up and refilled the emptied composter, which worked well enough put promised some pretty acetic stuff.
During the raking activity, I reflected on the success of M’hijito’s and my scheme to bake the ribeye roast inside the propane grill. It worked, you know. The roast came out gorgeously cooked — a little more done than I prefer, but still succulent and delicious. Being low on food and not inclined to run to the grocery store, I considered the fact that I’d like a loaf of bread…but of course, I can’t bake bread without an oven.
M’hijito and I realized that the way to keep the meat from cooking too fast was to raise it higher above the heat source — the propane burners — enough so that with the lid closed the food would be roasted primarily from heat circulating inside the cooker, rather than from the flames below it.
Well. The last time I tried to bake bread in that thing, it converted the bottom of two free-form loaves into layers of charcoal. The dough spread and flattened the loaves into thick pancakes. The result was, in a word, inedible. Out they went.
The ribeye roasting experiment revealed what the problem was: The heat inside a closed propane grill is actually rather slow. Even though you think it’s very hot, it’s not. I mean, it is and it isn’t. It’s kind of hard to describe: I think the issue is it’s quite hot near the griddles, but quickly as you move upward, the interior cools. Relatively speaking.
Thus an oven thermometer placed in a propane grill is only vaguely accurate. It’s better than the thermometer that comes with the grill itself (which is a silly joke), but it’s not really telling you what the temp is where the food sits. Especially if the food isn’t flat.
So. What if…you placed a device (such as a pan…or…lo! a vegetable grill) on the barbecue rack, and then on top of that you placed a roasting rack, such as the one we used to hold the meat fairly high above the grill’s heat source? So that would be the surface on which you would set your bread?
And what if instead of trying to bake a free-form loaf like some ancient Babylonian would have made inside a brick or adobe oven, what if you just put the dough into a regular Yankee-style baking pan?
So into a pair of Pyrex bread pans went two blobs of risen dough. Even though it’s pretty nice outdoors, it’s still a little cool inside the house — about 67 degrees…probably cooler than yeast likes. How to give the friendly microbes a sub-tropical environment, in the absence of an oven? Hmmm…
Ah! Of course! The superbly politically incorrect incandescent light!
Mwa ha ha! So..within an hour or two, I expect, the two chunks of dough should be risen enough to endure their experiment inside the grill. Hope it works, because I am bloody hungry. And the plan is to serve up some of that leftover gorgeous beef roast in a sandwich made of the proposed bread.
Meanwhile, as these goings-on were going on, the yard activities proceeded. After all the lime-tree leaves were packed into the tiny composter, it occurred to me that citrus leaves and citrus fruit would make a pretty acidy compost. There had to be something else to add…
Well…no. Not so much. There was, I realized, the shredded junkmail. Not much, but surely enough to provide, at least, a little variety.
And how grows the grocery-store garden?
With superb mediocrity. The lettuce stump that I planted did in fact grow a few leaves. But then…yes…then it bolted to seed!
Say what? In the freaking middle of the winter!
I bought two packages of that hydroponic lettuce, the heads that come with their roots attached. One package, containing a head of butter lettuce, was mostly consumed by M’hijito and me with Christmas dinner. So the remains of that took the place of the romaine experiment (which went into the compost bin). I’ve found these things grow quite nicely if you leave a few leaves around the stem.
The other package contained not one but four small heads of exotic leaf lettuce: two green and two ruby. Tomorrow those will go into a salad that will be my contribution to New Year’s dinner at my dear friends’ house. And you may be sure the root ends of all four heads will go right into a pot. So with any luck, in a few weeks we’ll see not one, not two, but five heads of lettuce thriving in the backyard.