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Monday, March 23, 2015

Grilled Striploin and Mango Salad with Watermelon Radishes and Spicy Thai Dressing

Everybody knows that we spend a lot of energy celebrating birthdays in our families- coffee and birthday cake with grandma, family birthday dinner at home, birthday lunches out with friends, birthday outings….  It is a great way to get together with those that you love, but frankly, can be both exhausting and fattening by the end of the “Birthday Week”!  This week was Leslie's “Birthday Week.” Thank goodness that in between all of the gatherings and outings, her actual birthday landed on a day that we block out the evening for a trip to the gym!  Therefore, her birthday dinner was a fabulous light meal of grilled striploin steak served on top of a fresh, tangy thai salad. Delicious!! Happy birthday Leslie!

 Grilled Striploin and Mango Salad with Watermelon Radishes and Spicy Thai Dressing

Watermelon radishes are beautiful and the sharp flavour pairs up perfectly with grilled beef and sweet mango.

2  striploin steaks, 1½ inches thick
6 cups mixed greens
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 mango, julienne strips
½ English cucumber, julienne strips
2 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh mint and coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
½ tsp minced red chili
finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp tamarind juice (soak a piece of dried tamarind, found in Asian and Indian supermarkets, in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes, squeeze it and you have created the tamarind juice!) 
 3 spring onions, thinly sliced

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to MEDIUM. Brush grids with olive oil. Place steak on grids and grill 2 minutes per side, turning 3 times - for a total of 8 minutes cooking time. Follow this link for instructions on how to create the perfect steakhouse diamond pattern on your steak.

Let the steak rests for 5 minutes before cutting into thin strips, across the grain.  Meanwhile, combine the dressing ingredients in glass jar and shake vigourously to combine.  Toss in a large salad bowl with the mixed greens, bean sprouts and remaining salad ingredients.  Serve on a dinner plate, topped with slices of grilled striploin and garnished with sliced green onions.

The Raptors gave us a win for Leslie's birthday
#1 Fan!
Another birthday meal!?!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beer Can Chicken on the Smoker

Spring is definitely on the horizon, there is no denying that after the beautiful sunshine and warm weather that we had this weekend. As the snow in the backyard starts to melt and bits of plant life begin to poke out through the snow, we will soon be spending more time cleaning up the garden!  Obviously, this leaves fewer hours in the kitchen.  Todays recipe is the perfect idea for what to prepare for dinner to suit this new schedule.  Beer Can Chicken on the Smoker is a classic dish! Smoked chicken is juicy and flavourful. There is very little in the way of "recipe", and a lot in the way of "flavour", when it is finished. As soon as you have mastered this technique for preparing roast chicken, you will find yourself making it often.
We make this dish at least once a week!!!
Once it is on the smoker, you are free to carry on with your other activities- then throw together a salad and you have a wonderful week night meal, with plenty of leftovers for the next day!
Beer Can Chicken on the Smoker

1  5-pound chicken
1 small bunch thyme
1 small bunch oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs sage
4 sprigs parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can beer

Open the beer and pour half of it into a small glass.  Sip on it through your preparation if you like!

Light the Broil King Keg and set to a constant temperature of 300°F..

Wash the chicken thoroughly inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Pick off the leaves of half of all the herbs and chop them finely.  Place them in a small bowl with the garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Mix well and set aside.

Stuff the remaining herbs on their stems into the half empty beer can.

Gently massage the skin of the chicken to loosen it, and from any available edges, slide your fingers between the skin and the flesh.  Stuff the chopped herbs into these pockets, and massage the mixture evenly under the skin.  Sprinkle the skin of the chicken with more salt and pepper.

Scatter some soaked and drained pecan chips over the coals, and replace the cooking grids.

Lift the prepared chicken onto the beer can, and set the whole thing onto the Keg, splaying the legs for support.  Close the lid, and cook for 2-2 ½ hours.  Remove very carefully from the Keg, bearing in mind that the liquid will be very hot.  Let rest for 20 minutes before carving. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Weekend Lunch

We optimistically welcomed the first taste of spring this weekend, when we set the clocks ahead on Saturday night. The weather cooperated on Sunday, bringing us beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures. The birds also appeared to be enjoying the sunny day, and their songs seemed to suggest that we stay outdoors and barbecue something for lunch- so we did! These Pork Banh Mi Sandwiches are perfect for a weekend lunch, because everything can be made well in advance and assembled at the last minute.  The flavour of the pork patties is zesty and rich. The accompanying pickled carrots, lettuce and coriander lighten up the sandwiches and add a freshness that is much appreciated on the weekend.

Pork Banh Mi

For the pork patties:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 stalks lemongrass, peeled,  trimmed and finely grated
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp black pepper
2-3 lb ground pork
60 ml short grain rice(toasted)

For the pickled carrots:
2 large carrots
2 tbsp coarse salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 sprig fresh dill.

For the sandwich:
3 baguettes
srirachi sauce
1 head lettuce
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3 green onions, chopped

For the pork patties:
Finely grate the bottom third of the trimmed lemongrass stalks into a large bowl. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, chili pepper flakes, fish sauce, black pepper, vegetable oil and ground pork. Mix well.
Divide into smaller portions and form 24 oblong patties.  Meanwhile, toast the rice for 5 minutes and cool. Whir in a small food processor or spice grinder until finely ground.  Roll the pork patties in this rice flour and refrigerate until ready to grill. Patties may be stored in a plastic container at this point and placed in the freezer for use at a later date.
Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes. Brush grids with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to MEDIUM. Place patties on grids and grill for 8-10 minutes, turning once or twice to guarantee even cooking.

For the pickled carrots:
Peel carrots and slice into thin coins. Sprinkle carrots with salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse well and squeeze out excess moisture with paper towels. Combine in a mason jar with sugar, rice vinegar and dill. Refrigerate.

Assemble the Banh Mi Sandwiches:

Slice baguettes lengthwise and cut into thirds toast them lightly on the hot grill. Arrange baguettes with grilled pork patties, lettuce, mayonnaise, srirachi sauce, pickled carrots, chopped coriander and chopped green onions on the table and let everyone assemble their own sandwiches.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Keeping Warm with Pork Belly !!!

After a brisk snowshoe through the forest, Lynn warmed us up with her delicious Morning Glory muffins and coffee.  Yum!
Sunshine is the perfect tonic against the cold temperatures
February has officially been declared the coldest month on record here in South-Western Ontario! Nonetheless, we have managed to enjoy it by embracing the winter weather and spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors-snowshoeing,skiing, shovelling .....   In addition, the requirements of being responsible dog owners include giving them lots of exercise and the opportunity to play in the fresh air - well, Wally and Baldur are certainly thankful to us for their daily walks on the golf course!!

But honestly, there is nothing like comfort food to warm your insides during these long stretches of frigid weather. Pork belly is an iconic comfort food. This recipe looks lengthy, but believe us, it is worth the effort!  We clearly outline the basic steps for low and slow grilling of pork belly. The results are melt-in-the-mouth delicious!!

This pork belly can be prepared on the barbecue, using a heavy pot, such as a dutch oven.

Sticky Glazed Pork Belly and Scallops in Savoury Broth

Pork belly:

2 lb pork belly, piece with skin removed
For the rub:
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 star anise
1 tsp chinese 5-spice
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

For the braising liquid:
1 head garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
½ fennel bulb, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leafs
1 ½ cups dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock

Oil for basting

For the glaze:
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup mirin(or sweet white wine)


2 lbs scallops

 For the marinade:
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2  cup white wine
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp lime juice

4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the Pork Belly:
Preheat the barbecue and set it to cook at 300°F.  Coarsely grind the peppercorns, star anise and fennel seeds together with the cinnamon and Chinese 5-spice in a coffee grinder. Toast over low heat for about 1 minute, then rub this spice mixture over the surface of the pork belly.
Using either the barbecue, or  in a heavy dutch oven on the stove top, sear the pork well on both sides.  Remove from heat.  Heat 2 tbsp of canola oil in the dutch oven and add the garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, onion, fennel, thyme and bay leaves. Cook slowly until the vegetables are tender. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the pork belly and the chicken stock to the dutch oven, cover and place in the closed barbecue or oven for 2 hours.  
Remove from the barbecue or oven and take the pork from the vegetable mixture. Reserve the liquid and vegetables in a large measuring cup. Place in the refrigerator to cool and allow the fat to solidify. Skim fat off the top and discard. Place reserved broth in the refrigerator.

Pressing the pork belly under a heavy cast iron pot 
Place the pork belly between 2 rimmed baking trays and place a heavy object on top of this stack to weigh it down.  Put it in a cold place for at least 3 hours ( we put it outside, with a heavy cast iron pot on top). This will compress the pork belly, so that the layers of fat and meat meld together and the pork belly piece becomes uniform , making it easy to portion it into 16 smaller chunks. It is now ready to finish on the grill with the glaze.
Pressed pork belly is ready to be cut into portions

For glazing:
Combine the brown sugar, soy sauces and mirin in a medium saucepan or bowl. Set the grill to cook on MEDIUM. Toss the pork belly chunks with the glaze and place on the grids. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side. Brush liberally with glaze. Meanwhile, remove the broth and vegetables from the refrigerator and heat it up.

For the Scallops: 

Season the scallops with salt and pepper. 
Gently saute the ginger, garlic and shallots in canola oil in a large saute pan, for 2-3 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the white wine, reduce by half.  Add the sweet chili sauce and lime juice. Cool this mixture and add scallops to marinate for 20 minutes.  Place the scallops on the grill, set at MEDIUM and grill for 2 minutes per side, brushing with the marinade as they cook. Be cautious not to over cook the scallops.

To serve:
Divide the scallops between 8 serving bowls.  Ladle the broth and vegetables over the scallops and place the glazed pork belly chunks on top. Garnish with basil and green onions.

Always happy to help with recipe development!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chinese New Year

Kris and Baldur were both speeding down this hill on the cross country trail.
Chinese New Year was celebrated all over the world last week. We decided to mark the occasion of the beginning of the year of the Ram with a weekend long Chinese feast. Our other weekend plans involved taking advantage of the deep snow surrounding Ellicottville, NY., and spending as much time as we could on our cross-country skis in the magical forest behind Holimont.  In order to accomplish both, Andrea pulled out a beautiful cookbook,  Beyond the Great Wall, 2008.Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid,  which inspired us to adapt a number of their simpler recipes for our grilling menu. The ingredients were easy to find, the recipes  simple and the flavours were outstanding. Here are some of the recipes that we enjoyed this weekend (between ski outings!).
These golden trout were sweet and tender.

Dai Grilled Fish

Ted was very patient about filleting these fish more or less according to the directions.  We put them on soaked maple planks to stabilize them on the grill. 

2 small whole freshwater fish, about 1 pound each, filleted, but leaving the heads and tails intact
For the filling:
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 cup finely chopped scallions, white and tender green parts
1 small hot red chili pepper, finely minced
 2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
4 wedges of lime

Soak 4 pairs of long chopsticks or bamboo skewers and some kitchen string in water for 10 minutes, and 2 maple planks for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, clean and gut fish if they haven’t already been prepared to this point.  The instructions for filleting the fish are as follows:

One at a time, lay each fish down on a cutting board with the head end toward you, the tail pointing away, the spine of the fish to the right, and the open belly to the left.  With a very sharp knife, starting at the base of the tail, on the belly side, cut across the base of the tail, slicing into the fish just down to the bone.  Slice almost all the way over to the spine.  Now cut toward you along the length of the backbone, again cutting through the flesh just down to the bone.  Stop before you reach the gills and then slice toward the belly side, stopping before you reach the edge, so the rectangle you have cut stays attached.  Lay your knife almost horizontally into the backbone cut and slice along the ribs to detach the flesh from them, as if filleting the fish, but do not cut all the way through to the belly edge. 

Tie one end of two chopsticks together. Open the flap of one of the fish, and pull it back to keep it open.  Place the fish diagonally into the moth of the chopstick holder so the flap is held open, and secure the other end of the chopsticks.  Repeat at the other end with the second set of chopsticks. 

Combine all the filling ingredients, cutting in the coconut oil with 2 knives or a pastry blend to incorporate evenly.  Spread the filling over the surface of both fish, and set the fish on top of the soaked planks.  Place them on a preheated barbecue set to LOW and cook for 20 minutes before testing for doneness.  Serve with wedges of lime. 

If cooking directly over the flame instead of on a plank, cook for 10 minutes only on MEDIUM LOW.

Silk Road Tomato-Bell Pepper Salad

1 medium-large orange bell pepper,
2 medium ripe tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped coriander and mint, combined

Remove the core, seeds and ribs from the pepper, and cut it into ¼” x 1” strips.  Place in a medium shallow bowl.  Cut the tomatoes into small chunks and add to the bowl.  Toss with the salt and chopped herbs, and serve at room temperature. 

Pea Tendril Salad

½  pound pea tendrils or pea shoots
½ pound mixed sprouts, such as radish and broccoli
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
¾ tsp salt
1 small red cayenne chili pepper
2 tbsp peanut oil
½ cup thinly sliced shallots

Combine the rice vinegar, sesame oil and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Strip and discard the seeds from the red cayenne chili pepper and thinly slice it. Set aside.
Place the pea tendrils/shoots and mixed sprouts in a large shallow serving bowl. Stir the dressing and pour it over the pea tendril/sprouts mixture and toss gently.
Meanwhile, place a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add the peanut oil, then the sliced shallots. Using long chop sticks or a spatula, keep the shallots moving so that they do not burn. Fry for approximately 2 minutes, until they are golden-brown. Spread the shallots and oil over the pea tendrils, sprinkle on the sliced red cayenne chili pepper and serve.

Uighur Lamb Kebabs
These succulent,  marinated lamb kebabs have a tart, garlicky flavour, thanks to the pomegranate juice.
1 pound boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1” square pieces
For the marinade:
1 medium onion, quartered
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Place the onion chunks into a food processor and whir into a paste. Transfer onion paste to a medium size bowl and combine with the other marinade ingredients.  Add lamb pieces and coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and let rest for 2 hours.
Preheat the barbecue on HIGH for 10 minutes, then reduce to MEDIUM. Thread the lamb onto metal skewers(or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes).
Place the skewers on the grids and grill 2 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook for 2 additional minutes on each of the other 3 sides, for a total of 8 minutes. They should still be pink in the middle!

Yuanyang Grilled Potatoes

4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed, skin-on
2 tablespoons canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground Ground Sichuan Pepper

Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water. Boil for approximately 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely cooked through. Drain and let cool.
Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, the reduce to MEDIUM. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into 1 ½- inch chunks. Toss them lightly in the canola oil and place them on the grill, turning occasionally until all sides are golden and crispy. Serve plain, accompanied by the sea salt and freshly ground Sichuan Pepper.

Serve with Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce
 Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce
We also served this sauce pork and leek dumplings.
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fine fresh ginger threads.

Combine in a small bowl and stir.

Leek and Pork Dumplings

1 large leek, white part only
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pound ground pork
½  small red chili pepper finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 package wonton wrappers
corn starch

Trim the leek of roots and dark green leaves. Slice it in half lengthwise, and soak it in water to remove any debris.  Drain well, then cut it into ¼” slices. Heat the vegetable oil in a small pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Combine the cooled leeks, pork, chili pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium bowl.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle it with corn starch.  Have a small bowl of water on hand.

Place a teaspoon of the prepared filling in the middle of one wonton wrapper.   Dip your finger in water and trace the outside of the wonton to just moisten it.  Gather up the edges of the wrapper and pinch it just above the filling while twisting slightly to secure.  Set it on the baking sheet and repeat.  The dumplings can be frozen at this point, then stored in the freezer in an airtight container, or cooked immediately.

To cook, heat a small amount of oil in a nonstick pan fitted with a lid.  Lay some dumplings spaced 1 inch apart in the bottom of the pan.  Let cook for a few minutes without disturbing to allow the bottoms to brown slightly.  Pour in about ½ cup water, then cover with the lid to allow the dumplings to steam.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the meat is cooked (slightly longer if cooked from frozen).  Serve hot with Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce, or any other sauce of your choice. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Treats

With temperatures in our area dipping below the -30°C mark we were happy to spend much of the weekend cozied up to the fire, but we did still manage to use the grill for dinner!  Our Valentine's dish was inspired by a column in the Washington Post, but instead of using prepared duck confit, we slow-roasted the duck legs in the Broil King Rib Roaster, and added some stir-fried vegetables for crunch and colour.  Samantha was in charged with cutting the red peppers into heart shapes for the occasion!

Tender Duck over Coconut Rice Noodles

Serves 4

4 duck legs
¼ cup sherry or vermouth
1-2 tablespoons yellow mustard
for the rub:
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
for the broth:
1 1/2-inch piece ginger root
1 bunch (3 ounces) cilantro
1 can coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
3 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon Sambel Olek
2 limes

8 ounces flat rice noodles

for the sautéed vegetables:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 cup red bell peppers (cut into heart shapes, optional)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
for the garnish:
1/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

Prepare the duck legs the night before cooking by CAREFULLY piercing the skin in several areas with a fork or sharp paring knife.  Lay them in a flat glass dish and pour the sherry or vermouth over the duck, leaving them uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.  By the end of the roasting time, the fat will have dripped away, leaving moist succulent meat, with a crispy skin.  DO NOT PIERCE THE FLESH, as you do not want the juices to escape during cooking.

Coat the duck legs in a thin layer of yellow mustard. This will allow the rub to adhere to the duck and will help develop a zingy, crispy skin. Coat them with a layer of the rub and lay in a large flat glass dish.  At this point you can either cook the duck legs in a smoker set at 200°F, or in side a rib roaster or other heavy cast iron vessel in a barbecue with the outside burners set on LOW and the middle burners off.   Cooking time will be 3-4 hours at these very low temperatures.  Continue cooking until the internal temperature of the duck legs is 165-170°F.  Shred the duck meat and crispy skin and keep warm.

Meanwhile, peel the ginger, then cut it lengthwise into very thin slices. Coarsely chop the cilantro leaves and some of the tender stems. Arrange the coconut in a single layer on one side of a small baking sheet; spread the cashews on the other side. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Let the coconut cool on the baking sheet. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

Combine the coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, star anise, crushed red pepper flakes, the ginger and half of the cilantro in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cut the limes in half, then squeeze their juice into the saucepan, stirring to incorporate. Discard the star anise.

While the sauce is simmering, stir-fry the sugar snap peas, mushrooms and red peppers in a wok set on MEDIUM-HIGH, until just tender-crisp.

Meanwhile, add the rice noodles to the boiling water; reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 3 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain, and divide evenly among individual wide, shallow bowls, piling the noodles in the center of each bowl.

Scatter equal amounts of the duck meat over each portion, then pour equal amounts of the broth around the noodles in each bowl. Arrange the vegetables over top, then sprinkle with the toasted coconut, the cashews and the remaining chopped cilantro.
Serve right away.

Wicked Chocolate Brownies

Jane Peirce from Toronto shared this amazing recipe with us.  The mini marshmallows make them both moist and chewy, and our gluten free version turned out beautifully.

1 cup butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour (either gluten free or regular)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups mini marshmallows

Line a 9 x 11 baking pan with parchment paper, and lightly grease the paper.  Preheat the oven to 350°F

In a medium bowl set over gently simmering water, melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chips stirring often.  Set aside to let cool slightly.

Beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.  Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. 

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold this into the chocolate and eggs.  Stir in the marshmallows, and scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan. 

Bake for 35 – 37 minutes.

Cool completely before cutting, because they are very gooey.  Serve with ice cream and raspberries.