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Orange Mustard Grilled Pork Tenderloin with steamed veggies

Pork TenderloinTHE VERDICT:

We have now made this dish twice: once on the barbecue and once in the oven. Both times it turned out quite well. It is a simple yet elegant dish that pairs well with most side dishes. Definitely an excellent choice if you are having company over for dinner. Even when we purchase only one pork tenderloin, there are always plenty of leftovers, so the 4 servings this dish supposedly makes must be for one carnivorous group of diners.

If you follow Michael Smith’s instructions, you will end up with a tenderloin that is still pink in the middle. If serving the pork to young children, we recommend cooking it longer so that it is cooked all the way through. Cut into small pieces, this pork was a much enjoyed finger food for Zayden.

If you want to try it yourself. . .

THE RECIPE:

Orange Mustard Grilled Pork Tenderloin (source: The Best of Chef at Home by Chef Michael Smith)

2 pork tenderloins

1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate

1/2 cup grainy mustard

a sprinkle or two of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Whisk the orange juice concentrate and mustard together. Season the pork tenderloins with salt and pepper, pour the marinade over them and marinate for a  few hours, or even overnight.
  • Preheat your barbecue to its highest setting.
  • Grill the tenderloins for 10 minutes or so on each side, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 155°F (68°C). Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Freestyle variation: You can add some personalized flavour to the marinade with the spice of your choice. Ground cumin, coriander, ginger, chili powder and curry powder are all excellent choices. Instead of grilling, feel free to roast this pork loin in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.


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Lime Marinated Steak with Grilled Zucchini

Steak & ZucchiniTHE VERDICT:

This dinner was super easy because the marinade is not a true marinade. You don’t have to remember to prepare it ahead of time, so  you can prepare this meal at the last minute, and it will still taste great. The only change I would make to this recipe is to prepare more zucchini. There was plenty of leftover steak, but no leftover veggies. Zucchini grills well, but I think I’d prefer it with salt and butter instead of the spices suggested in this recipe.

To modify for baby: Make sure to cook the steak thoroughly then mince or puree it unless baby already has quite few teeth. Toothier babies may be able to chew the steak if it’s cut into small pieces. The zucchini will be quite soft when it comes off the grill, so it just needs to be cut into small enough pieces for your little one to handle. We found that Zayden can manage cooked zucchini skin, but if your baby isn’t so proficient, you may want to remove the skin as well.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Lime Marinated Steak with Grilled Zucchini (source: Today’s Parent magazine; original recipe)

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White Wine Marinated Shrimp with Garlic Sauteed Bok Choy

Shrimp & Bok ChoyTHE VERDICT:

This was a simple, fresh meal. The white wine marinade is pretty basic and could also be used to flavour fish or chicken. While it is a good staple marinade to have in your repertoire, we preferred the Honey-Wasabi Shrimp from Rachel Ray’s magazine that we grilled up earlier in the summer. Bok choy is one of our “go-to” veggies, and it always pairs well with shrimp. A simple saute in some garlic and oil, and you’ve got a healthy, flavourful side dish.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

White Wine Marinade (source: Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine; original recipe)

Garlic Sauteed Bok Choy (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

1 head of bok choy (or several heads if you are using baby bok choy)

6 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

  1. Thoroughly rinse bok choy as it tends to contain a lot of dirt and sometimes small insects between the stalks.
  2. Separate leaves from stalks. Cut stalks into bite-sized pieces. Tear leaves into smaller pieces.
  3. Heat oil in a wok or saute pan. Add garlic and saute until just browned.
  4. Add the chopped bok choy stalks. Saute until tender.
  5. Add the leaves and cook until just heated through.
  6. Serve.

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Bison Burgers with Zucchini Sticks

Bison Burgers & Zoo SticksTHE VERDICT:

We’re determined to enjoy our BBQ even if the weather doesn’t cooperate this summer. After grilling up some bison steaks, we were eager to try the bison burgers we’d seen at 3p. Justin tried the jalapaeno version (of course!) and I tried the regular patty. We served them on whole wheat hamburger buns from Cobs, dressed them up with some Qualicum Spice cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and used cucumber and tomato slices in lieu of condiments. Overall, a good burger though a bit drier than using ground beef. Due to the lower fat content in bison, it’s best to cook your burgers at a lower temperature to avoid excessive dryness.

The zucchini sticks were our alternative to fries and a great way to use up the zucchini we had sitting in the fridge. They aren’t quite as tasty as the deep fried restaurant version, but came very close. While we used them as a side dish, they would also make a great casual appetizer or snack.

If you want to try it yourself . . .

THE RECIPE:

Parmesan Crusted Baked Zucchini Sticks (source: Closet Cooking; original recipe)

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Brown Rice & Lentils with Lime Grilled Veggies

Lentils, rice & veggiesTHE VERDICT:

I actually ate this meal for lunch. It is made up of leftovers from two weekend meals, and Zayden ate exactly what I ate with very few modifications.

The brown rice and lentils were a side dish for a dinner where we enjoyed a baked ham and some steamed broccoli. As the rice/lentil combo is a complete protein, they became the main dish for my lunch the next day. I really love the simple, earthy flavours of this dish and cooking it in chicken broth with bay leaves really adds some flavour (too often lentil dishes can end up tasting like dirt). I did absolutely nothing to change this dish in order for Zayden to eat it. He has been eating solids for about a month at this point and has already shown he can handle chunkier food if it’s soft enough, so I thought I would try serving this dish as is, and he really enjoyed it. He liked the rice and lentils so much, in fact, that I froze some of the remaining leftovers in order to have more on hand for him later. I can now say from experience that this version of brown rice and lentils freezes and reheats well.

The lime grilled veggies were leftover from a barbecue where we served them alongside Yogurt and Tamarind Grilled Chicken. These veggies are one of our summer BBQ staples, but they can also be broiled in the oven. Though the recipe says to boil the potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes before putting them on the barbecue, my experience tells me that this is not long enough for the potatoes. Try boiling them for 5 minutes before adding the carrots. And a little extra lime never hurt either. As for preparing this dish for baby, simply mince finely and serve. It’s a great combination of veggies that complements most casual grilled meals very well.

If you want to try it yourself. . .

THE RECIPES:

Brown Rice and Lentils (source: The Best of Chef at Home by Chef Michael Smith)

a splash of olive oil

1 large onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup of brown rice

1 cup of dried lentils

4 cups of chicken broth or water

a bay leaf or two

a sprinkle or two of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Splash the olive oil into a small pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes until they just start to turn golden brown.
  • Add the rice, lentils, chicken broth (or water), bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain the simmer. Continue cooking until the rice and lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let stand for a few minutes before serving.
  • Freestyle variation: you may add any fresh or dried herbs you like to this dish. Rosemary, thyme and tarragon all work well. At the last second, you may also add a 1/2 cup of raisins or some sliced green onions.

Lime Grilled Veggies (source: Spark Recipes; original recipe)

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Honey-Wasabi Grilled Shrimp with Tomato and Bocconcini Salad

Wasabi Shrimp with Tomato-Bocconchini SaladTHE VERDICT:

Both of these recipes are easy to make and extremely tasty.  We used wasabi paste for the shrimp marinade and halved the amount based on the recipe, which used wasabi powder.  Next time I’d use closer to the same amount of paste as powder, as the shrimp could have used more kick.  The tomato-bocconcini salad was inspired by the traditional Caprese, but we did a mini-version, with heirloom cherry tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market, baby bocconcini, basil and olive oil.

This was a very quick meal to throw together, but still might make a better weekend meal because shrimp tends to get rubbery when reheated. That might explain why the  recipe made just enough shrimp for dinner with no leftovers.   The salad kept well for lunch the next day. I think we might use pearl or cocktail size bocconcini next time, as the baby bocconcini was a little big.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Honey-Wasabi Grilled Shrimp (source: Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine; original recipe)

Tomato and Bocconcini Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

4 or more cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 container of baby or cocktail bocconcini

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, sliced into thin strips

olive oil

coarsely ground black pepper

  • Combine first three ingredients in a salad bowl.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Add pepper to taste.


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Spicy Orange Salad

Spicy Orange SaladTHE VERDICT:

We are totally in love with this salad. We tried the recipe for the first time a few weeks ago and have made it twice since then. It is a great summer salad and would be the perfect addition to a barbecue or brunch. It pairs especially well with spicy food as it has a little heat itself, but the juicy and refreshing citrus will keep your mouth from overheating.

The second time we tried it, we combined 2 grapefruit with 2 naval oranges and it still tasted great. We love it as a side dish with Yogurt and Tamarind Grilled Chicken.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Spicy Orange Salad (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

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Hamburgers and Yam Fries

Burgers and Yam FriesTHE VERDICT:

We planned this meal as a classic kick-off to the summer barbecuing season, but sadly the weather did not cooperate. Though I should probably confess that we never got around to cleaning our patio furniture, so the rain was just one reason we didn’t enjoy this meal out on the patio as planned. But the first burger of the season enjoyed alongside a cold beer and some yam fries still managed put me in the mood for sunshine when it finally decides to stick around for a while.

Not to brag, but I am known for my hamburgers. I always freestyle them a bit based on the mood I’m in and what ingredients we have on hand. Somehow they always seem to turn out well and tonight was no exception. The recipe below is the closest I will probably ever get to nailing down a proper recipe.

The yam fries were our first attempt to make our own. Trying to be healthy, we decided to bake them. They tasted pretty good, but were more like mushy yam sticks than actual fries. I see more experimenting in our future.

THE RECIPES:

Hamburgers (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

1 lb. extra lean ground beef

1 egg

1/2 of a small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic minced

sprinkling of bread crumbs

ground black pepper and/or white pepper, to taste

a few pinches of chili powder

pinch of salt

4 hamburger buns

hamburger fixings of your choice (e.g. tomatoes, cheese, lettuce)

  • Combine ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, onion, garlic and seasoning in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands.
  • Divide meat mixture into 4 equal parts. Roll into balls and then press into patties.
  • Grill on the barbecue until cooked through, approximately 5 minutes per side.
  • Serve on hamburger buns with hamburger fixings.

Yam Fries (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

2 yams

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. ground pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil

  • Peel the yams and cut them into strips.
  • Toss with remaining ingredients.
  • Spread out on baking sheet.
  • Bake at 500°F for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.


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Yogurt and Tamarind Grilled Chicken with Curry Vegetables and Basmati Rice

Yogourt Tamarind Chicken with Curry Vegetables

THE VERDICT:

There’s nothing like making curry from scratch.  Fresh spices lend a much more complex flavour to the dish than generic paste or powder, and the cook can more easily influence the dish to their liking.  The vegetable dish can be made with any variety of vegetables (local and in season, ideally) but care must be taken to add each vegetable to the pot so that they all reach the proper level of softness at the same time.  The chicken dish turned out much better than I expected, and both of us would make it again.  It is a very simple and low maintenance dish, so as long as you can be proactive and marinade it beforehand.  A good idea would be to prepare the marinade in the morning before leaving for work, so that it is ready to cook when you get home. Cooking the chicken was a cinch.  We used the Griddler to grill the chicken, but a cast iron grilling pan or BBQ would work just as well. While the recipe says the lemon wedges are optional, the citrus really does enhance the flavour of the marinade.

Leftovers were tasty and the vegetables held up overnight.  We didn’t overcook them so they weren’t completely mushy the next day.  The curry was even more aromatic as the flavours had time to intensify.

On Vij’s cookbook:  I’d highly recommend this cookbook.  The introductory sections give a great background on Indian cooking and the spices traditionally used (note that he doesn’t once mention nuts even though many Indian restaurants seem to use nuts to thicken sauces) and background on their restaurant.  The recipes are mostly doable without having to devote your life to prep, and are written in a great anecdotal style which lends insight into his thought process.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Yogurt and Tamarind Marinated Chicken (source: Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine by Vikram Vij)

¾ cup plain yogurt, stirred

1 Tbsp. tamarind paste

3 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

¼ cup canola oil

1 ½ Tbsp. salt

1 ¼ Tbsp. ground cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. garam masala

2 ¼ lbs. boneless chicken thighs

1 lemon cut into 6 wedges (optional)

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, tamarind paste, garlic, oil, salt, cayenne, and garam masala. Add chicken and mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours. The longer the chicken marinates, the stronger the flavours will be.
  • Preheat a grill, barbecue or stovetop grill pan to high heat. Remember to turn on your exhaust fan if cooking indoors as the cooking process will create some smoke.
  • Grill chicken on one side for 2 minutes, then turn over and grill the other side for 2 minutes. Repeat this process for a total of 4 minutes per side.
  • While chicken is still piping hot, squeeze a little fresh lemon to taste.

Note: Be sure to use boneless chicken thighs as breast meat doesn’t absorb the flavours of the marinade as well. If your tamarind paste has the texture of a fruit smoothie rather than a thick jam, use 2 Tbsp. instead of 1 Tbsp.

Makes 6 servings.

Coconut Curried Vegetables (source: Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine by Vikram Vij)

½ cup canola oil

25-30 fresh curry leaves

1 Tbsp. black mustard seeds

1 ½ cups finely chopped onions (2 medium)

1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. chopped garlic

2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 large)

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. turmeric

½ tsp ground cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 (12 oz.) can coconut milk, stirred

1 lb. eggplant in 1.5 inch cubes

1 lb. cauliflower in 1.5 inch florets

¾ lb. red, green and/or yellow peppers in 1.5 inch cubes

¾ cup chopped cilantro

3-4 cups cooked basmati rice

  • In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Keeping your head at a distance from the pot, add curry leaves and mustard seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 1 minute or until just a few mustard seeds start to pop. The curry leaves will cook and shrivel.
  • Immediately add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, salt and pepper.
  • Sauté the masala for 5-8 minutes or until the oil glistens on top.
  • Stir in coconut milk. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low.
  • Add eggplant, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add cauliflower and bell peppers, cover and cook for 5 minutes more.
  • Stir in cilantro.
  • Serve on top of rice.

Note: You can use whatever vegetables you like for this dish, but remember to add them according to cooking time, so that they don’t end up over or under cooked.

Makes 6-8 servings.


Garam Masala (source: Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine by Vikram Vij)

This spice mixture is used in many Indian recipes.  Garam means “warm” and Masala means “spices”.  There are many variations to a basic masala but they are all relatively pungent and spicy, and tend to have some sweetness to them.  This is Vij’s famous mixture that is used in many of their dishes.

1 heaping tsp whole cloves

1 1/2 tsp black cardamom seeds (about 10 whole pods)

6 heaping Tbsp cumin seeds

1 Tbsp pounded cinnamon sticks

1/4 tsp ground mace

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Make sure you have your stovetop exhaust on as this is pungent cooking!  In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat cloves, black cardamom seeds, cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks on medium to high heat, stirring constantly.  When the cumin seeds become a darker shade of brown, remove from stove.  Transfer the roasted spices to a bowl and cool for 20 minutes.  Place roasted spices, mace and nutmeg in a grinder or mortar/pestle and grind until it has the consistency of black pepper.  Can be used right away and will keep for up to 6 months.  We’ve found it keeps even longer although I tend to add more to dishes the longer I keep a batch.


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Beef Souvlaki with Greek Salad

Beef Souvlaki with Greek Salad
THE VERDICT:

If you are organized enough to prepare and marinade the souvlaki the night before, then this is an easy weeknight meal. If you have a tendency to forget these sorts of details, plan it for a weekend. While the recipe says to broil the meat, this is also a great recipe for the barbecue in the warmer months.

I have loved both of these dishes since first learning to make them in high school. They are so simple that it is easy to free style them or adjust them to include ingredients that you have on hand. I have also found that the salad is quite popular at potlucks and travels well for picnics.

Leftover salad makes for a great snack or light lunch the following day. The meat does not reheat well, but you could always eat the leftovers cold (maybe tossed with the salad) if you like that sort of thing.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Souvlaki (source: my high school cooking class)

40 ml oil

25 ml minced onion

40 ml wine vinegar

½ ml salt

10 ml Worcestershire

½ ml pepper

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ ml oregano

½ ml dill

300g steak or chicken

Day 1:

  • Combine marinade ingredients and pour into Ziploc bag or Tupperware container. Add meat and refrigerate.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak in water overnight.

Day 2:

  • Preheat broiler. Put oven rack in top position.
  • Remove meat from bag and place on skewers. Place in foil lined broiling pan.
  • Broil 8-10 minutes. Turn once after 5 minutes.

Makes 3 servings.

Greek Salad (source: variation on my high school cooking class recipe)

large splash of olive oil

small container of feta cheese

a few large pinches of dried oregano

some fresh ground pepper to taste

large splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar (whatever is handy)

half a red onion (if you like onion)

2-3 tomatoes

1-2 green pepper

1 cucumber

black olives (if you like them)

  • Crumble feta cheese into salad bowl. Toss with oregano and pepper.
  • Chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl.
  • Add remaining ingredients and toss.

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