Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

The Oak Park Farmers Market’s 45th season is underway from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October. Vendor stalls are moved from the usual Pilgrim Church parking lot site on Lake Street to nearby streets to allow room for safe social distancing and preorders offered via an online app as part of a pilot program.

I know outdoor grilling is most associated with summer, but there’s no reason to pack it up when the leaves start to turn. In fact, I think I prefer grilling in the autumn evenings when there’s a chill in the air and it feels wonderful to cozy up to the fire as I’m cooking. Over the past few weeks I’ve been grilling some tasty meals I’d like to share with you.

First of all, if you know me you know I am a fan of the underutilized cuts of meat. In order to do the farmers’ efforts at raising healthy, grass fed, local animals justice, I want to make an effort to learn how to appreciate meals from the whole animal. Secondly, you know I have a deep and abiding love of tacos. This meal, grilled beef tongue tacos, satisfies both desires. In the past, I have written about how to make beef tongue tacos in the instant pot, but this week I was getting ready to grill on the deck and I thought, “I wonder if I can grill beef tongue?” My thinking was, I have mesquite and applewood that would impart a delicious flavor I felt would go well with hot sauce and salsa. I looked around the internet and was surprised that there were not a lot of recipes that called for grilling the beef tongue. That is, until I discovered Hank Shaw who I suspect is going to be my new favorite chef. You may have already heard of him, but if not, do check out his website “hunter, angler, gardener, cook” for plenty of farmer’s market ready recipes. I have only scratched the surface of the recipes there but it appears to be a treasure trove for the adventurous cook.

Here is Hank’s original grilled tongue taco recipe. I won’t rehash the whole recipe here, but I do have a few comments about it. For your reference, I was using a charcoal grill but a gas grill with a packet of soaked mesquite, applewood or hickory would work well too. First of all, don’t cut the simmering of the meat part short. I ran out of time and did not let the meat soften enough and my end result was not as tender as it could have been. This time, I used a slow cooker, which can work wonderfully, but if you are short on time like I was an instant pot will give you a better, more tender result. Also, I used corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Instead of a pre made broth I just added salt, celery, carrots, onion, sage, and other herbs to the slow cooker. I saved the resulting broth and made a delicious soup the next day. I also used my own homemade blueberry hot sauce both in the pot and while the meat was on the grill. I used both applewood and mesquite and the resulting flavor was all of the smoky goodness you could want. Although my results would have been better if I could have shredded the meat with meat claws, grilling definitely added a dimension of flavor that was well worth the effort. I topped off my tacos with salsa (I had Frontera tomatillo salsa on hand but Tomato Mountain Chipotle salsa or Tomato Mountain Tomatillo Salsa which would be perfect for this), and chopped scallions (Prairie Wind). To wash it all down I made a simple Pineapple & Patron mixed drink with frozen ginger.

Another thing I love about fall grilling is that you can make grilled apples (and peaches, too, if you have one last batch of late-season peaches like I did). This dessert is super simple. Just cut the fruit in half and remove the pits and seeds (or leave the seeds if you are lazy like me. It is easy to scoop them out when the apple is soft). Marinate the fruit in either lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder or citric acid powder to prevent browning. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon (key to success), and optionally, ginger powder, brown sugar, or a bit of vanilla extract. Then just place on the grill for about 5 min (or until grill marks appear on the fruit depending on how hot your grill is). Flip the fruit once and cook until you have reached the desired softness, but don’t let it get too soft and fall into the grill! These are pretty served with a dollop of whipped cream or drizzled with honey. I think using applewood on the grill adds a perfect smoky overtone to the sweet fruit.

Speaking of apples, you may be wondering which varieties of apples would work best for this and other recipes. Stay tuned for my next blog post, when I’ll sample some special varieties from our vendors and give you some insight into this favorite fall fruit!

Blueberry Hot Sauce

  • About 10 jalapenos or your favorite hot pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar 
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic (Prairie Wind Farm)
  • 1-2 slices of fresh ginger (Nichols or Prairie Wind Farm)
  • a dash of black pepper
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • a dash of cumin
  • 4-5 blueberries

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend thoroughly. Pour hot sauce into jars. If the resulting sauce is too thick, add a bit more apple cider vinegar. This hot sauce will separate and need to be shaken well before pouring. It may have better texture if it is strained through a fine sieve to remove pieces of seed and pulp, but I haven’t tried that.

Pineapple & Patron mixed drink

  • 1 part patron silver tequila
  • 3 parts chilled pineapple juice
  • 3 drops of vanilla extract
  • a couple of slices of frozen ginger

I simply stirred it all together, but this would probably be good as a blender drink. I would freeze some pineapple juice in an ice cube tray and mix equal parts frozen and liquid pineapple juice in the blender along with the other ingredients. 

*Guest blogger Laura Lencioni is the chair of the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission.

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