Smoke signals

November 16, 2009

grilling eggplant

A lot has changed since I was a kid. Today, apparently, it’s a tragic embarrassment to have your mom call across the street that it’s time to come in from playing street hockey to eat your dinner. I’ve been instructed to text my son that his dinner is ready. Apparently, he’ll still be able to claim me as his mother if I follow such instructions. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that I’ll be sent into exile.

Not so when I was 12 going on 13. In those days the only texts I knew about were the books in my school bag and I certainly didn’t take those outside to play or want to spend any extra time with them!

One way to get attention from the ball hockey players, basket shooters or skateboarders on the street is to grill something delicious that gets them coming to you. But grilling in cool weather presents some challenges you don’t face in summer time. So, in order to produce smoke signals that create enticing foods night after crisp, autumn night, follow these cooler weather grilling tips (not be confused with my winter grilling tips.

• Cook even small foods covered to retain heat
• Likewise, don’t leave the lid open too long when turning or basting food
• Increase the setting by one notch if the air is 10 degrees Celsius or more cooler than room temperature
• If cooking over indirect heat, rotate the food more frequently than usual.
• Bring larger foods (such as roasts and whole chickens) to room temperature before grilling in cold weather
• Take foods inside as soon as they are cooked so that they don’t cool down too quickly

This  Grilled Honey Spiced Eggplant (pictured above) is perfect for autumn grilling.


Bonfire envy

November 11, 2009

marshmallows toastingGenerally, I love being a Canadian — but when I learned last week that Brits have a Bonfire Night every November 5th to celebrate the capture of renegade Guy Fawkes in 1605, I was bitter. Why don’t Canadians have a bonfire night? Just for surviving our crazy climate we deserve a bonfire. We do! We really, really do!

So, since we have no culturally sanctioned bonfire holidays here, I decided to put my pyromaniac urges to good use by lighting up the charcoal grill over the weekend while I was raking leaves.

During the summer, standing over a smoky, hot charcoal grill can be uncomfortably hot. But, stoking up the coals as you do your yard cleanup in the fall is actually a pretty fantastic way to make an afternoon spent outside in the crisp fall air more enjoyable.

So, why not create a low and slow grilled brisket or flat chicken this weekend? Or, just use the hot coals to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and to warm your hands after planting bulbs?

Be sure to have lots of marshmallows around and cups of hot chocolate so that you can bribe your helpers to stick around and help for more than a few minutes!

Is your grill kit packed away for the winter or are you still grilling and barbecuing?


Multi-tasking grillers unite!

October 7, 2009

shrimp to grillIt might be autumn but I’m still grilling as often as I can. The only downside I’ve found to grilling, though, is that I find it difficult to be both in the house making a salad and side dishes and outside turning and moving little bits of food such as shrimp or scallops around.

My solution: throw ‘em on skewers! Not only will small foods not fall through the grating when they’re held together on a skewer, but turning four skewers takes much less time than turning 24 individual shrimp.

Got any multitasking tips you’d like to share? I’m always looking for ways to turn two hands into four.


Grilled honey-spiced eggplant

August 27, 2009

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When Monica Bhide’s book Modern Spice came out earlier this year bloggers and food editors went ga-ga. Despite how appealing every recipe looked, it was this one for eggplant that I just couldn’t quit thinking about.

So, when I found myself alone in the kitchen with an eggplant, I gave it a try. But, instead of using Bhide’s skillet method, I cooked my eggplant on the grill and glazed it with her pomegranate, honey and ginger sauce as it was becoming soft and pillowy.  The result:  one full lady alone in the kitchen without an eggplant. Seriously. It was my entire meal.

Since it’s eggplant season, tell me about your favourite way to enjoy this wonderful vegetable?


Hot weather comfort food

August 21, 2009

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At long last, the heat and humidity has come to Toronto. We’ve had an amazingly summery week and I’ve loved every single minute of it. Seriously. You don’t hear me complaining about the heat – I even cycled to work and played tennis. I just love it!

The only downside to the hot weather is having to cook in a steamy kitchen. No fun. So, I took my dinner prep outdoors.

Pictured above is a yummy cauliflower curry that we sopped up with grilled naan bread. Once the curry was done I threw in some extra charcoal and grilled a few  lamb chops, too. It was a fantastic dinner if I do say so myself.

How do you beat the heat?  Do you order in, subsist on salads or what?

Curried Cauliflower over Charcoal:

Combine a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with two tablespoons of mild, medium or hot curry paste and a tablespoon of minced ginger. Add a little extra cumin if you like. Cut up a small head of cauliflower and stir the florets and a handful of golden raisins into the mixture. (If you don’t live with Martin who is allergic to legumes, add some drained, rinsed chickpeas, too). Cook, stirring often, on the hot barbecue until the juices are thickened and the cauliflower is fork tender. Stir in chopped fresh mint or coriander and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.


Spun gold – a collection of rotisserie chicken tips

August 7, 2009

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When I posted my glossary of barbecue links here last week, I realized how long it’s been since I spun a chicken on my barbecue rotisserie. How could I have fallen out of such a good habit? I mean, what’s yummier than a juicy, crispy-skinned, smoky flavoured rotisserie chicken?

I spared no time remedying the situation and made these yummy chickens last Sunday when my sister-in-law and her granddaughter came to visit. The next day I shredded the leftover meat and made soft tacos – two fantastic meals!

If you haven’t used a barbecue rotisserie before, here are a few tips you might want to consider before tossing birds onto the spit:

• Choose a rotisserie spit that not only fits your barbecue, but that is made of durable, good quality metal like stainless steel. I had one a few years ago that was chrome plated and as soon as it got very hot, the shiny plating started to flake off onto the food. Yuck!
Line the area directly under the chickens with a piece of foil or an old baking sheet so that as the juices flow from the meat, flare-ups don’t occur. (I had forgotten this step during the first few minutes that these birds were on the spit; that’s why the wing and leg tips are scorched).
Turn off all but the front or back burner on the grill. I like to leave the back one on so that when I reach over the front of the grill to baste the chickens my hand doesn’t get singed.
• Adjust the temperature on the burner so that you can maintain a constant temperature of 300°F (160°C) to 350°F (180°C) when the lid of the barbecue is closed.
• Add a couple of smoking pucks over the ignited burner to augment the smoky flavour if you like.
• The chickens will need about 90 minutes to cook. If you’re going to use a glaze like the chili-lemon one below, brush it over just during the last 15 minutes or so of cooking.
Let the chickens rest for 15 minutes on the spit before removing it and carving the birds.

Chili-Lemon rotisserie grilled chicken glaze

1/4 cup (50 mL) each honey and lemon juice
1 tsp (5 mL) chipotle pepper sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) each chili powder and chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper

Whisk the lemon juice with the barbecue sauce, chipotle pepper sauce, onion, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper until well combined. Baste the chicken with this glaze during the last 15 minutes of cooking on the rotisserie.

PS: Just to prove that I can learn from my mistakes, here are two Cornish game hens I made to ensure my instructions would work perfectly at your house:

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Grilling glossary

July 29, 2009

grilling glossary

Label me lazy or christen me clever, but today’s post recycles some of my past links so that you (and truthfully me, too) have a glossary of all my grilling and barbecuing recipes and tips:

Buying and using grills and barbecues
Budget grilling
Grill master quiz
How to buy a grill
Lighting briquette
Winter grilling guide

Smoking and smokers
How to use cedar smoking sheets
How to use smoking briquettes
Matching meats with woods
How to turn your grill into a smoker

Cooking on the grill
Best rib recipe (2008)
Perfectly sticky gooey ribs (2009)
Burgers: basic and beyond
How to grill a steak
Chimichurri steak
Gourmet brie burger & cheeseburger tips

Grill safety
How to calibrate an instant read thermometer
How to use an instant read thermometer

Do you have a great grilling tip or a fabulous, hot-off-the-coals recipe you’d like to share? If so, please post it below. Links are welcome!