Better barbequing all year long

I have heard that there are people who hang up their barbeque tools after Labour Day. I suppose these same folks might put their white pants and shoes away as well, tradition-bound as they seem to be. Not for me – while I might not bust out the white patent pumps in December, I sure do enjoy barbequing in all kinds of weather. Autumn can be a particularly pleasant time to be outdoors, after all. In the spirit of year-round grilling, I bring you a quick roundup of handy items for grillers both novice and experienced.

Three-Compartment Grill Basket

three compartment grill basket

What sets this basket apart from others is quite literally the fact that it comes apart! I love to use it for grilling veggies; because there are three compartments, it’s super easy to vary the cooking times for different ingredients. It’s also a lot easier to clean up afterwards than traditional grill baskets. Available online at kitchenware emporium Sur La Table.

Cave Plate grilling stone

cave plate soapstone grill

Made by Ottawa legend “Rizak the Horrible” (aka Todd Chambers of Really Horrible Enterprises), this soapstone grill is useful for all sorts of grilling duties. One side is slightly roughened, making it ideal for flatbreads or pizzas, while the smooth side can be used for vegetables, fish, meat …. pretty much anything and everything. With just a touch of oil it serves as a non-stick, easy to clean surface that also keeps food from falling through the grill.  Available in Ottawa at Kitchenalia in Westboro and Around the Block Butcher Shop (formerly Brian’s Butchery) in Bell’s Corners.

Gastro Grilling Cookbook

gastro grilling cover

Barbeque Guru Ted Reader’s ninth cookbook is, in my opinion, his best yet. As the publisher says, “Gastro Grilling is for everyone who loves to fire up the grill at any time of the year and turn an everyday meal into a gastronomic delight!” The book offers a host of tricks, including tips for wintertime grilling, along with dozens of great recipes in various categories, including party foods, sandwiches, cocktails, desserts and more. I’ve challenged my husband to see if we can prepare every single one within the next six months. Available at traditional and online booksellers everywhere.

Herb zipper

herbzipper better

This is one of those gadgets that I thought might be gimmicky but actually turned out to be quite useful. It’s ideal for stripping the leaves from herbs such as rosemary and thyme – all you do is pull the herb stem through the appropriately sized hole, and the leaves drop into the attached measuring bowl. Available online at surlatable.com.

Octopus Bottle Baster

octopus baster

The playful design was what first drew me to this barbeque tool, which is a bottle and basting brush combo. Simple fill it with your favourite basting sauce (it works best with thicker ones) and then you can squeeze and spread quickly and easily. I like to wash and reattach the baster after use and then store the remaining sauce right in the bottle, in the fridge. It’s BPA free too! Available at surlatable.com.

Accu-temp digital thermometer

An instant-read digital thermometer is an essential kitchen tool.

This instant-read digital thermometer takes the guesswork out of barbequing meat – no more under- or over-cooked steaks, chops or chicken breasts! I bought mine at Canadian Tire for under $15 and have used it for years.

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Melon and Bacon Salad

Two weeks of particularly fresh, flavourful food in the Constantly Cooking kitchen are drawing to a close. I had so much fun with the August Farmers’ Feast Challenge, dreaming up great new dishes thanks to a bursting bushel basket of produce from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market.  The inspiration for this salad was the classic cantaloupe-prosciutto combination that is so delicious and popular. I love the contrasting colours of the melon, bacon and mint; the simple dressing really helps the ingredients’ naturally yummy flavours shine through. While I love the vibrant green colour of the canary melon from Rochon Garden used in this version, orange-hued cantaloupe would work nicely also. This would be a great brunch dish or an appetizer for a summery meal.

Cool, juicy melon and warm, crisp bacon are a perfect pairing. The lemony vinaigrette and mint complement both of the salad's main components.

Cool, juicy melon and warm, crisp bacon are a perfect pairing. The lemony vinaigrette and mint complement both of the salad’s main components.

 

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 small melon (canary or honeydew)
  • 8 pieces bacon, cooked and cut into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) honey
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method

  • Cook the bacon (I like to bake mine on a parchment-lined sheet at 375F for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through).
  • While bacon is cooking, cut the melon in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds; cut melon into 1.5 inch (3.75 cm) wedges and cut rind off each wedge. Slice the melon flesh into large cubes (approximately 5 inches / 3.75 cm square) and put these in a serving bowl.
  • Put the olive oil, honey, lemon juice, Dijon and a few grinds of pepper in a small jar with a tight lid. Cover the jar and shake until dressing is well blended.
  • Once bacon is crispy, drain it briefly on a paper-towel lined plate and then coarsely chop it into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces.
  • Drizzle about two-thirds the dressing over the melon cubes and gently toss to combine. Add more dressing if needed – you want the melon well coated but not drowned.
  • Sprinkle bacon pieces and mint over the melon; toss again and serve immediately.

Serves 4 – 6.

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Celery Gin Fizz 

I know what you’re probably thinking. “She’s taking this kitchen-inspired cocktails thing a little too far. A celery flavoured drink? Really?” Well, all I can say in response is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, especially if you prepare it with fabulous, local celery as I did thanks to Just Farms at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. This is one awesome libation. Fresh, fizzy and a just a little sassy – don’t be surprised if your friends suddenly think you’re a mixologist par excellence after you serve up a round of these beauties.

With just a hint of celery flavour, this cocktail has an intriguing, refreshing flavour.

With just a hint of celery flavour, this cocktail has an intriguing, refreshing taste that will both surprise and delight your guests.

Ingredients

For the celery syrup:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) celery leaves (or ¾ cup / 185 mL chopped celery stalks)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar

For one cocktail:

  • 5 oz (45 mL) gin
  • ½ oz (15 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 5 oz (45 mL) celery syrup
  • Soda water
  • Ice
  • Celery stalk for garnish

Method

  • Combine celery leaves (or chopped stalks), water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain syrup into a clean jar; cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
  • To make one cocktail, fill a cocktail shaker or 500 mL jar (with lid) with ice.
  • Add gin, lime juice and celery syrup.
  • Cover and shake well for 1 minute to blend and chill the drink.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass. Add 2 ice cubes and top with soda water. Garnish with a celery stalk.

Recipe makes 1 cup (250 mL) of celery syrup.

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Purple Cabbage and Apple Salad

As soon as I saw the gorgeous purple cabbage from Bergeron Gardens in my August Farmers’ Feast basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. This beautiful salad is quick to prepare and oh-so-colourful. I love using purple cabbage in salads for the lovely contrast and flavour it provides; just be aware that the vibrant colour will ‘bleed’ into other ingredients so you may not want to assemble this salad until just before serving time. Salty cashews make a great topping but almonds, pistachios or even sunflower seeds would be just as delicious.

Red cabbage makes for a glorious salad, especially with diced apples, a yummy vinaigrette and salty chopped nuts on top.

Purple cabbage makes for a glorious salad, especially with diced apples, a yummy vinaigrette and salty chopped nuts on top.

Ingredients

  • ½ head purple cabbage
  • 1 large apple (I like Romas as they don’t turn brown as quickly)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) finely minced shallot
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) minced fresh mint leaves
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons (45 – 60 mL) coarsely chopped salted cashews

Method

  • Shred cabbage really finely with a sharp knife or mandoline. You want 3 cups of shredded cabbage for the given quantity of dressing. Put in a serving bowl.
  • Core and finely slice the apple. Add to cabbage.
  • In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, combine lime juice and salt. Cover and shake until salt dissolves. Add olive oil, shallot, cumin and pepper. Cover and shake again.
  • Drizzle cabbage and apple with dressing. Toss well to combine. If not serving immediately, refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
  • When ready to serve, add chopped mint and toss. Sprinkle with cashews and serve.

Serves 4.

 

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Perfect Purple Potato Salad

Ever since I figured out a better way to make potato salad, I’ve enjoyed its flavour a lot more. Cooking the potatoes in salted water is an important first step; dousing them in vinegar as soon as your drain them is the real magic, though. The acid seeps into the potatoes giving them a pleasant tang, which means you don’t need an acidic dressing to get a lovely sweet-sour profile. When I spied gorgeous purple potatoes from Just Farms in my August Farmers’ Feast Basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, I knew right away what I wanted to do with them. Unlike some vibrant vegetables such as purple beans that lose all their colour when cooked, purple potatoes maintain a pretty great hue that is showcased in a dish like potato salad. Of course you can make this recipe with regular potatoes also, thought it won’t be quite so showy.

Purple potatoes, which don't lose their vibrant colour when cooked, make for a dramatic and delicious potato salad.

Purple potatoes, which don’t lose their vibrant colour when cooked, make for a dramatic and delicious potato salad.

Ingredients

1 pint (about 500 mL) small purple potatoes
1 tablespoon (15 mL) coarse salt
2 tablespoons (30 mL) white vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced red onion
1 stalk celery, finely diced
¼ cup (60 mL) finely diced red pepper
1 dill pickle, minced
¼ teaspoon (1.25 mL) freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
¾ teaspoon (3.75 mL) powdered mustard
¾ teaspoon (3.75 mL) crushed coriander seeds
½ cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons (30 mL) minced fresh celery or parsley leaves

Method

  • Wash potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into 1” (2.5 cm) pieces and place in a large saucepan. Add just enough water to barely cover.
  • Sprinkle with salt and bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. (6 – 8 minutes).
  • Drain potatoes in a colander and transfer to large bowl. Add vinegar and toss gently.
  • Let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours. If letting stand for longer, refrigerate.
  • In a small bowl, stir together onion, coriander, red pepper, pickle, seasonings and mayonnaise.
  • Gently fold dressing into cooled potatoes.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Serves 3 – 4.

 

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Apricot Tart

This freeform tart or crostata really showcases apricots at their finest; I could think of no finer way to treat the luscious fruit from Warner’s Farm in my Ottawa Farmers’ Market August Farmers’ Feast basket. Because apricots have such tender skin, there’s no need to peel the fruit. You can adjust the quantity of sugar in the filling to suit your tastes – simply bake the fruit first per the directions, then taste and add a little more sugar if you like, before you put the fruit in the crust.

A rustic apricot tart showcases this fruit in an attractive and delicious way.

A rustic apricot tart showcases this fruit in an attractive and delicious way.

Ingredients

Pastry:

  •  1 ¾ cups (445 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 6 ounces (175 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons (60 mL) cold water

Filling:

  •  2 pounds (900 grams) fresh apricots, washed and quartered (approximately 6 cups prepared fruit)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter, in chunks

Glaze and topping:

  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Place flour, sugar and salt into food processor. Add butter.  Pulse with on and off motion until mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  • Beat egg yolk lightly, add water. With machine running, add liquids to flour mixture, then immediately turn off machine.
  • Turn mixture (it will still be crumbly) out onto lightly floured surface and gently knead together into a ball.
  • Flatten mixture into a circle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
  • Place fruit slices in a baking dish, sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar, then dot with butter. Bake for about 10 minutes until fruit is just tender but not mushy.  Let cool to room temperature.
  • Roll out chilled pastry between 2 sheets of parchment paper, lightly flouring dough, to a 12” or 13” (30 – 35 cm) circle.
  • Transfer pastry to parchment-lined pizza pan or large baking sheet (edges of dough can overlap edges of sheet for now). With a slotted spoon, add fruit to centre of pastry, leaving a 3” (7.5 cm) empty border.
The fruit will continue to shrink as it cooks so don't worry about overfilling the pastry.

The fruit will continue to shrink as it cooks so don’t worry about overfilling the pastry.

  • Reserve fruit juices in baking dish.
  • Fold pastry border up over fruit, leaving the centre of the pie open (so fruit shows in centre).
  • Glaze pastry with egg white, pressing folds gently to seal, then sprinkle with pastry with sugar. Scatter sliced almonds over exposed fruit.
Many people find a freeform pie easier to assemble and serve.

Many people find a freeform pie easier to assemble and serve.

  • Bake on middle rack in oven for about 25 minutes or until pastry is uniformly golden.
  • Boil down any fruit juices (you can do this in the microwave) until slightly thickened (about 2 minutes), then pour juices into centre opening of tart to glaze the fruit.
  • Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 8.

 

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Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Leek and Red Pepper

I have to confess that I have never been a big fan of Brussels sprouts so I was a little intimidated when I saw a box of them from the Avonmore Berry Farm stall at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market in my Farmers’ Feast Challenge basket. Despite a lifelong love of other cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli, cabbage and bok choy, I have consistently avoided these little green orbs. I suspect it was the bitter, sulphurous odour they give off (not to mention the corresponding taste) when they are overcooked. At any rate, I will be ignoring these humble sprouts no more. Packed with nutrition, they are also exceptionally delicious when prepared with a little care. This pretty salad is a winner.

After a lifetime of avoiding Brussels sprouts, I am now a big fan of them, thanks to this tasty salad recipe which features, leeks, red peppers, a delicious vinaigrette and a topping of Parmesan.

After a lifetime of avoiding Brussels sprouts, I am now a big fan of them, thanks to this tasty salad recipe which features, leeks, red peppers, a delicious vinaigrette and a topping of Parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) thinly sliced leeks (white and light green portion only)
  • 1 cup ( 250 mL) thinly sliced red pepper
  • 1 pint (approximately 225 grams) Brussels sprouts
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons (5 – 10 mL) maple syrup, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) Parmesan shards

Method

  • Trim the stem ends of the Brussels sprouts then slice them thinly (1/4 inch / .3 cm or less) from top to bottom. You should get about 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) of sliced Brussels sprouts.
  • In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, combine thyme leaves, olive oil, maple syrup, cider vinegar and Dijon. Cover and shake until well blended. Set aside.
  • In a large, shallow pan (use a wok if you have one), heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced leeks and red peppers. Sauté for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring often, until tender.
  • Add sliced Brussels sprouts and salt to the pan and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring often, until the sprouts are turning bright green and the thickest slices are just barely tender. Don’t overcook the sprouts as this will give them a bitter taste.
  • Transfer the cooked vegetables to a serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Serves 4.

 

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