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Monday, April 27, 2015

Barbecue-roasted Cauliflower and Kale with Bulgur Salad

We have been keeping our eyes pointed to the forest floor for the past week, looking for signs of ramps. Over the weekend, we noticed the ramp shoots poking out of the ground, so we will be scouring the edges of our secret forest, foraging for ramps for the next week or 2.  Wish us luck!! We promise to spend the weekend creating some delicious sauce recipes to compliment simple grilled dishes for next weeks blog.
In the meantime, here is our final grilled cauliflower recipe. It is perfect for families , since it is ideal as a main course for vegetarians, or as a healthy side dish to accompany grilled chicken.

Barbecue-roasted Cauliflower and Kale with Bulgur Salad

1 ½  cups water
pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup coarse wheat bulgur
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
4 cups kale leaves, massage, trim spine and chop
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ cup red onion, chopped

Bring water, salt and black pepper to a boil and add bulgur. Stir, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, until bulgur is tender. Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork.  Cool.

Combine 2 tbsp of the olive oil and 2 tbsp of the fresh lime juice.  Add to the cooled bulgur with the chopped parsley and mint. Toss, cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes and reduce to medium.  Turn off  the middle burner. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower florets and chopped red onion with 1 tbsp olive oil and red curry paste.  Spread on a grill tray and place on the barbecue over the unlit middle burner and grill indirectly for 25-30 minutes, until cauliflower is tender and golden brown.
  Meanwhile, toss chopped kale with 1 tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp each of salt and ground black pepper.  Spread out evenly on another grill pan and place on  the upper rack of the barbecue and grill along with the cauliflower for 15 minutes, until the kale is starting to brown and become crispy.

Combine roasted kale and cauliflower in a large bowl and toss with remaining 2 tbsp of fresh lime juice. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve: Spread bulgur salad on a large serving platter and pile high with the roasted cauliflower and kale.

Monday, April 20, 2015

First Warm Spring Dinner

The weather last week was spectacular! We enjoyed the week immensely, particularly during our early morning dog walks.....The warm sunshine and blue skies brought the best out of the plant and wild-life in Kitchener-Waterloo.  The birds were busy building nests and seeking out mates. There were hawks, geese, ducks, robins, cardinals and bluejays flying all around us. As the week progressed, the snow disappeared, the ground dried up and the trees, grass and flowers started to pop!

We decided to celebrate spring on Friday with cocktails on the patio at Andrea and Teds, and a simple dinner prepared on the barbecue.
While we are patiently waiting for the spring vegetables to appear, we have been using a lot of herbs to brighten up our winter dishes.  The sauces for both the Halibut and the cauliflower that we grilled are great examples of how fresh herbs can bring out the best of simple grilled foods.

Spicy Halibut with a Cooling Yogurt Herb Sauce

6 halibut fillets

for the spice rub:
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
½ teaspoon paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle them over the fish one hour before cooking.

Preheat the barbecue on MEDIUM HIGH.  Clean the grids thoroughly with a wire grill brush, and coat the grids with plenty of vegetable oil to prevent sticking.

Reduce the heat to MEDIUM LOW and place the fish flesh side down on a 45 ° angle.  Let cook for 2 ½ minutes before flipping over on the same 45 ° angle.  Cook another 2 ½ minutes, then flip to the other side on the opposite angle.  After 2  ½ minutes flip to the same angle for the last 2 ½ minute stretch.  Transfer to a serving platter.   To serve, coax a thin flat spatula between the skin and the flesh and transfer to a plate with a bed of lightly dressed greens.  Top with yogurt sauce, recipe follows.

Cooling Yogurt Herb Sauce

¾  cup low fat greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
grated zest of one lemon
1 ½ tablespoons minced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Combine all the above ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover with wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour while preparing the rest of the dish.  

Roasted Cauliflower with Sauce Vierge
adapted from Modern Sauces, 2012. Martha Holmberg

This recipe for Roasted Cauliflower may have appeared in our blog before, but it is the sauce that makes it such a special dish.  The flavours of all things green: herbs, olives, jalapeno peppers, pickles, lime…..pack a huge punch and raise the bland colour and flavour of cauliflower to new heights! 

2 large heads cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
1/3 cup olive oil3 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Sauce Vierge 

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to MEDIUM.
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets  and thyme in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a grilling tray and place on the grids. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the cauliflower is golden brown and tender.

 Place in a warmed serving bowl and drizzle generously with the Sauce Vierge.

Sauce Vierge

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
2 tbsp gherkins, finely chopped
1 tbsp shallots, mince
1 tbsp capers, drained, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tsp preserved lemon, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, toss together the parsley, basil, olives, gherkins, shallots, capers, jalapeno pepper, preserved lemon and garlic. Stir in the olive oil, then stir in the lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper. This highly savoury sauce should rest for 30 minutes, to allow the flavours to develop. It is best used within the hour. Store leftover sauce in the refrigerator in an air-tight container and use the next day on pasta or grilled meats.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dry-brined and Smoked Turkey

Our motto frequently bears repeating – When cooking for a crowd, prepare in advance and stick to your specialties for the main course. This smoked, dry-brined turkey is ideal for this.  It was the perfect centerpiece for a large family gathering last weekend.  Don’t save turkey for special occasions such as Thanksgiving!



The dry brining process requires preparing the bird 3 days in advance of putting it on the smoker.   This step will take 10 minutes max. Then pop it in the refrigerator and forget about it for 3 days.  If you love juicy, flavour-rich turkey, this is the recipe for you!

15 lb fresh turkey
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp lemon zest

Begin 3 days before cooking:
Prepare the turkey by removing the neck and gizzards, wash it inside and out and pat dry.
Combine the coarse salt, herbes de provence and lemon zest in a bowl. This mixture will be sprinkled on the turkey, inside and out, concentrating on rubbing it into the breasts, thighs and legs. Place the turkey into a thick sealable plastic bag,  squeeze out the air and close. If you can not find a sealable bag, do the best that you can to wrap it so that it doesn’t leak all over the refrigerator- possibly placing the wrapped turkey inside a stock pot or roasting pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 3 days.

The day that the turkey is to be eaten:
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator, unwrap it and pat it dry. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. 

Light the Broil King Keg and adjust the settings for a constant temperature of 300°F. Scatter soaked apple or cherry wood chips over the coals. Fill the drip pan with water and replace the cooking grids.  Place the turkey on the grid and close the lid.  We put it on at noon and it was finished at 7. 

Be sure to follow our golden rule: Use a meat thermometer! Turkey is finished when the temperature of the breast meat reaches 170°F/77°C.  We always pull it off when the temperature reaches 165°F, then let it rest, covered for 20 minutes before carving.  Do not worry if it is finished earlier than you want to serve it. It will stay moist and flavourful, even if it has to stand for an hour while you are finishing up the other dishes that you are preparing. (Even better if some of  your guests brought a few dishes to complete the meal).

Crunchy colelslaw with mango and watermelon radishes!

Nice to have a full house!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Ham and lemony side dishes

In the days leading up to Easter, we arranged to meet some friends at Relish Cooking Studio for some fun, inspiration, and a really delicious lunch.   Donna-Marie and Maria devised a great menu, and did an excellent job of injecting interesting food facts into our lesson.  Fortunately, all of the recipes were a perfect fit for the project we planned for our family Easter gathering:  curing and smoking our own ham!  We were able to tailor everything for our family food requirements by replacing the farro with quinoa, and the puff pastry with gluten free pastry.  

Preparing the ham was very easy, but required some advance planning.  The only tricky part was sourcing one critical ingredient:  Prague Cure # 1, a pink salt that is not the same as Himalayan sea salt.   We were able to find it at our specialty food shop, Vincenzo’s.  Without it the ham would have been  a less appetizing grey colour.  We cured the pork in brine over 2 days, but probably 4 or 5 days would have been ideal, and even longer for a larger cut of meat. 

Home Cured and Smoked Ham

1 8-pound bone-in pork leg section

for the brine/cure:
6 litres water
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup pickling spice
1 tablespoon cloves
½ cup Prague Cure # 1

for the paste:
2 heads garlic, peeled
3 sprigs rosemary
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

for a little sweetness:
¼ cup honey, warmed slightly

In a large pot, combine the water, kosher salt, sugar, pickling spice and cloves.  Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Let cool to lukewarm and stir in the Prague Cure # 1. 

Meanwhile, remove any thick skin from the outside of the meat.  Score the fat underneath with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern.  Place the meat in a large non-reactive vessel and pour the cooled liquid over top.  Using a meat injector, inject some of the brine deep inside the meat in several places.  Weigh the meat down so that it stays submerged in the liquid.  Refrigerate at 40°F for 2-4 days, stirring and turning once a day.

Remove the pork from the brine, and place it in a colander set over a large bowl.  Let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

First thing in the morning soak some apple wood chips in water for 30 minutes.  Light the Broil King Keg and adjust the vents for a constant temperature of 200 °F.  Drain the wood chips and scatter them over the embers.  Place the diffuser pan over the coals and fill with apple cider or a combination of cider and water. 

Meanwhile, combine all of the paste ingredients in a blender and whir to combine.  Pat the mixture all over the outside of the meat and set it on the prepared smoker.  Inject the warmed honey inside the meat in several places.  Smoke at 200°F, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 -150°F, about 10-12 hours.  Let stand 20 minutes before carving.  

Farro Salad with Sugar Snaps, Spring Peas and Watermelon Radishes

1 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups farro (spelt)
3 ½ cups water
Kosher salt, to taste
3 tablespoons lemon verbena vinegar
6 tablespoons lemon infused olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or a combination of cilantro and basil
½ pound sugar snap peas, trimmed, blanched, and halved
1 cup small peas, thawed if frozen, or blanched if fresh
2 watermelon radishes, chopped
freshly ground pepper, to taste
crumbled feta cheese for serving

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the farro and toast, stirring, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Season with salt, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the farro is tender, about 18 minutes.  Drain through a fine-mesh sieve, then spread the farro in a thin layer on a baking sheet to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar with the fresh herbs. 

In a large bowl, toss together the farro, sugar snaps, peas, radishes and vinaigrette.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with feta cheese to serve.

Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart with Basil

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (President’s Choice works best)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1“ pieces
2 teaspoons lemon zest
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup whole milk
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons basil, chopped
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
3 ounces herb goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly butter a 10” tart pan with a removable bottom.

Gently roll pastry dough into a 14” circle.  Lift the dough into the pan, pressing it up the sides, and trimming any excess.  Transfer to the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the oil.  Add the shallots and cook until soft, then at the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the asparagus and lemon zest and cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, and herbs. 

Scatter the vegetables over the bottom of the tart shell, and pour the custard filling over top.  Sprinkle with the goat cheese and place in the oven to bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is set, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Transfer the tart from the oven to a wire rack and allow to cool slightly before removing the tart case.  

We had a nice Easter morning visit with Beatrix and Eleanor