Is it over yet?

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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As I write this morning, I am trying to ignore the few errant snowflakes kissing my kitchen window, and the wee stubborn patch of grey ice protected by my deck from the sun’s still weak rays.

The winter’s late arrival only made it angrier, and I’m glad to see its hind end, even if it’s ambling away instead of running.

I’m done — at least for now — with stews and hearty soups and big hunks of meat, because I’m craving bright warm days and eating outside in flip-flops.

Grilled sweet pepper and onion salad

This salad is wonderful with the vegetables fresh off the barbecue, or out of your oven, but it’s equally delicious the next day, after the flavours have had the time to intensify. Stir in a couple of handfuls of cold pasta and you have a whole new dish. Enjoy this with fish, meat or as part of a vegetarian meal. It looks great on a buffet table, too. Here is where you use your best olive oil, and that little jar of finishing salt you bought on a whim. If you aren’t whimmish, then kosher or any coarse variety will be fine. This salad serves 6.

1 each red, yellow and green bell pepper

1 large red onion and 1 large sweet onion (or 2 red)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/4 cup each firmly packed fresh basil leaves and Italian parsley

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp. Dijon or hot grainy mustard

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

generous pinch of coarse salt

Remove stems and seeds from peppers and cut them into quarters. Slice onions thickly. Toss with vegetable oil and grill on the barbecue over high heat or roast in the oven at 450 F for just a few minutes, until there are nice char marks. Remove from heat and coarsely chop; place in a large bowl. Place herbs, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, mustard and pepper in a food processor and process until well mixed and finely chopped — you can do this by hand but it will take longer. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a thin, steady stream until you have an emulsified dressing. You can also use a whisk, of course. Pour dressing over warm vegetables and toss to coat. Tumble out on a nice serving platter and sprinkle salt on top just before serving.

• • •

Can we talk meat for a minute?

First, buy the best quality you can find and afford, preferably bone-in, not too much fat around the edge, and at least an inch thick.

To test for doneness, press the soft flesh at the base of your thumb with your hand completely relaxed — I know you’ve heard this trick before, but it really works. That spot is exactly how a perfect rare steak should feel.

Don’t put cold meat on the grill — take it out of the fridge an hour in advance.

Don’t slather on barbecue sauce at the beginning — it will either char because of the sugar or cause the meat to boil.

For rubs, dry the steaks thoroughly and apply the rub 15 minutes to an hour before cooking — try mine (below) or use any that you like.

BBQ beef with onion and orange relish

Yes, you can broil or even fry these steaks, but if you have a barbecue, this is the time to turn it on. This piquant relish goes well with chicken or pork, but beef stands up best to the bold flavours.

4 big thick steaks — T-bone would be great

1/2 tsp. each salt, freshly ground black pepper, ground cumin and dried oregano

1/2 tsp. each dried rosemary, dried thyme, onion powder and garlic powder

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Relish:

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

2 oranges, peeled with membranes removed, coarsely chopped

1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dry steaks thoroughly with paper towels. Combine salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, rosemary, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and vegetable oil. Rub briskly into steaks on all sides. Allow to sit at room temperature about an hour. Grill or broil to desired doneness — about 12 minutes total for very thick steaks medium rare — and allow to rest 10 minutes. For the relish, fry onions in oil until golden brown. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add vinegar and honey and bring to a boil. Stir in oranges, salt and pepper and serve.

Gingered shrimp and rice

If you love surf and turf, this will become your favourite all-in-one side dish to go with whatever meat is on the grill today. Serve any leftovers cold as a salad — perfect for lunch. Of course, this recipe works with reheated, pre-cooked shrimp, but it’s not as good. This amount serves 4 to 6.

1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

2 tbsp. each lemon and lime juice

1 tsp. each finely grated lemon and lime zest

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chicken broth

1 cups long grain rice

1 lb. medium-sized raw shrimp, shelled

2 tsp. vegetable oil

Whisk together gingerroot, garlic, jalapeno peppers, lemon juice, lime juice, zest, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and pepper; set aside. Bring chicken broth to a boil and add rice; simmer about 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Drop shrimp into hot oil in a frying pan and fry until barely cooked through. Stir into cooked rice. Add dressing and toss to combine. Allow to sit together a couple of minutes and serve.

 

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c-o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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