(View from Pinnacle Mountain last Saturday)
Alas, today seems to be a poor day for weather across the country. Here in Arkansas we have pouring rain and up in Indiana I am told that the ice storms have taken down a tree in my backyard. Days like these make me appreciate those when the weather is beautiful and conducive to outdoor activities. We had a couple of those days this past weekend in Little Rock, which encouraged me to spend some quality time outside.
We have previously talked about the “Ikea effect” and how investing in the creation of something can increase the personal value that one holds for that object (and specifically how this might apply to cooking your own meals). I was thinking about this idea over the weekend and how with certain activities both the process and the end product (i.e., the journey and the destination) can be enjoyable and rewarding. Two quick examples:
Example 1 – movement
Pinnacle mountain is a peak of about 1,000 ft (300 m) just outside of Little Rock in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. There are two main trails up the mountain, each of which require crossing a few boulder fields. The East trail is a bit more strenuous than the West trail, offering a 700 ft change in elevation over 3/4 of a mile, but both trails get you to the top and no specialized equipment is required.
I use the East trail as a benchmark or test of my metabolic conditioning – that is to say that I like to hike it to see how in or out of shape I feel based on how quickly I can climb it and how much wind I’m sucking when I get to the top. Let’s just say that on Saturday I was sucking a lot of wind. Nonetheless, the climb was great. Being outdoors, getting some good exercise, and even stopping to take in the views and take a few pictures (i.e., to catch my breath), was exhilarating. The journey was rewarding.
Then you get to the top and take in the view for miles and miles around. This picture (taken with my phone) doesn’t do the view justice. The destination, the view of the Arkansas River Valley, is also a reward itself.
Example 2 – food
After making the climb, it was time for chow. I love to grill and BBQ, so with the nice weather, there was no doubt that I was busting out the grill. I had found large Steelhead filets on sale (a trout that is similar to Salmon and lives in fresh and salt water) and I decided that the one that I had purchased was going on the grill. Here is the process, which was really easy and incredibly rewarding.
1) I like using wood planks to grill fish. They provide a nice platform for fish that might have a tendency to fall apart on the grill and they impart a delicious smoky flavor to the fish. In this case, I bought a couple of planks made from Red Oak. Note: like wood skewers for kabobs, you want to soak the wood in water for at least an hour so it doesn’t burn right up when you put it over the coals (or gas, if you must).
2) Meanwhile, take the fish out of the fridge to let it start to come to room temperature. Apply a few herbs or spices to one or both sides of the filet. In this case, I used cracked black pepper and smoked paprika because I had those on hand. Get creative and use what you like – thyme, rosemary, chipolte, citrus zest, whatever you like – go nuts. You should also get the coals going or warn up the gas grill at this point.
3) Ok, ready for the next step? Put fish on plank, put plank on grill. Check. If you’ve soaked your board well, it shouldn’t burn up or bother your fish on top, so don’t be a looky loo and sneak a peek every 10 min or so. Let the smoke do its business. I check for doneness every so often (20 min?) by sticking a fork into the thickest part of the filet. If the meat is flaky and lighter in color, it is done; if it is darker and still fleshy, close the lid and let it go for a while longer.
4) Carefully, remove the plank from the grill (e.g., onto a cookie sheet as shown above) and it the coals or grill still have some life left in them, grill off a healthy side of vegetables. Particularly good choices are thickly sliced zucchini or asparagus (I don’t think there is a better way to cook asparagus). Simply toss the veggies with some olive oil, salt, and pepper (or other seasonings of your choice) and lay them right on the grill at high heat for a relatively short period of time.
In the end, you might get something like this (above). I truly enjoyed both the journey (spending time outside grilling) and the destination (delicious lean protein and vegetables). Let’s hope we get some more good weather soon…