July 4th has come and gone (how did that happen so quickly?) and overall the summer has been totally gorge. We’ve had mostly beautiful weather with a  few hot streaks here and there, and I’m loving that it’s light out till 9o’clock. With that in mind, I have a little confession. I hear it over and over again in the hot, sticky, height of summer we’re about to enter: omgit’swaytoohot to turn on the oven, we’re having salad & grilled chicken [insert fish/steak/veggies as needed] again!

So here’s the thing. I don’t really get it. I mean, I guess I just can’t relate. Maybe I’ve been lucky enough to never live in a house where the oven made everything around so totally unbearably hot? (And nope, I’ve never had central AC.) Or maybe I never leave the oven on too long to notice? I mean, roasting salmon and veggies takes all of 20 minutes. Or maybe it’s that I hardly use the oven to make dinner, ever, any time of year. Yep, that must be it. I don’t see too many casseroles or around these parts and I can’t remember ever making a lasagna or pot roast (ok, that’s a lie, I did, just this once – and it was good.) Alright, I understand. If I ever actually used my oven for dinner, and it had the tendency to make everything in my kitchen sweat after being on for a half hour, I’d most certainly be staying far, far away from that oven and eating more grilled burgers, turkey sandwiches, and take out pizza than I can even imagine. And of course, salads with grilled stuffs.


Regardless of my relationship with the oven, I’ve already spent more time hanging out with my grill than I did all of last summer. (It was a weird summer, that last one. I think we grilled three times. I have no explanation. Ben will say our grill sucked, and thankgoodness we have a new one now.) And while I love me some salad every day for lunch, the exact same one day after day, I have this weird thing about dinner that I have to have something different every night of the week. Make that the entire month. In fact, for a meal to be “on the rotation” in this household means it gets eaten about twice a year. True story, I’ve been known to throw a tantrum if Ben requests something we ate < 3 months ago because obviously we just ate it and my tastebuds aren’t ready for it again yet and even more likely, I am dying inside because I need to come up with something to make and eat and blog about.

I know, I should get me some real problems.

And there I go, lying again. ‘Cause I do/did have some real problems but this isn’t really the place to talk about them. And I made these mussels two times in four days. With the same dinner on the other two nights (yes, I promise you’ll hear about that one soon.) And I’d probably be one happy clam to eat them back to back, for the remainder of this hot, humid summer because even though the oven doesn’t bother me, these two oven-less meals are definitely my two new favorite things to make in this kind of weather. So if turning on the oven in July and August is your biggest nightmare, I suggest you add this to your burger and salad rotation, stat.

So the awesome thing about making mussels on the grill is that they are probably a complete 180 from anything else you normally grill, the whole meal is done in less than 20 minutes, and when you dine al fresco with mussels and a beer and your lovey, or a vat of sangria and 20 of your closest friends, you feel totally elegant in this casual-chic way. Believe me, I know. Oh, and did I mention mussels are one of the cheapest things in the seafood case? So there’s no need to wait for Friday when it’s a perfectly acceptable Monday. Step away from the oven, baby.

PS. To soak  up all the yummy sauce, I made a half-batch of my super-simple gluten-free chickpea flour pizza dough and grilled it without any toppings. Delish!

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Grilled Mussels with Spicy Coconut-Tomato Sauce

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup light coconut milk
2 lbs fresh mussels (discard any mussels that have already opened)
Fresh mint or cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium-high on one side and medium for the the other burners. Add olive oil to a medium cast-iron skillet and place it directly on the grill, on the medium-high side. Close the grill and allow the skillet to heat.

When oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges. Add garlic and seasonings and saute for one more minute. Add the diced tomatoes, stir, and cover the grill for 4-5 minutes, allowing the sauce to cook and thicken.

Add the coconut milk to the skillet, stir, and turn down heat to medium. Dump the mussels directly on the grill grates and close the cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until all the mussels have opened. Transfer to a large serving bowl and carefully pour the sauce over the mussels. Sprinkle with chopped mint or cilantro and serve immediately.

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com