Our ability to celebrate every single ray of sunshine that penetrates the cold, salty clouds makes our ocean outpost livable. We throw off our coats and sweaters, push our pale toes into sandals, and hit the streets — whether the temperature is seven or 17, we can’t waste even a minute of these long, light days.
Two of the most evocative flavours of summer are smoke and citrus, so let’s go there right now because summer time’s a-wastin’.
Asian citrus chicken barbecue
Here’s a versatile dish, perfect on the barbecue or under the broiler when the weather won’t co-operate. This recipe is also delicious with thick-cut pork chops. Don’t underestimate the power of the marinade here. It will taste OK without the full overnight treatment, but will be more succulent if you take the extra time. Allow two to three thighs or drumsticks per person. Of course, you can remove the skin and use boneless cuts, but the dish will suffer tragically. If you want to cut the fat, remove the skin just before serving. Bones bring flavour to the table, so there’s nothing I can offer you to replace their loss — but do reduce the cooking time, please.
4 lemons, quartered
1 orange, quartered
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed but left whole
1 thumb-size piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled and crushed but left whole
1 handful fresh cilantro, left whole, stalks and all
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (or wine vinegar)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
12 chicken thighs or drumsticks, skin on and bone in
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. spicy chili sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Combine lemons, orange, onion, garlic, ginger and cilantro in a thick plastic bag. Give the lemon and orange pieces a squeeze as you throw them in. Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil and add to bag, along with chicken pieces. Seal and smush around to coat the meat. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, but up to overnight.
Remove chicken and scrape off any onion or other bits that cling. Grill over medium-low heat (or broil on the middle rack of the oven) about 8 minutes a side or until juices run clear — check the chicken often to make sure it doesn’t burn. While the chicken is grilling, bring the marinade to a vigorous boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 full minutes, adding a little water if it gets too dry. Strain sauce and stir in oyster sauce, chili sauce and black pepper. If it is too tart, a squirt of honey won’t hurt at all. Serve with or pour over chicken.
Greek style lemon roasted potatoes
There cannot be a more flavourful way to cook potatoes than this — they seem to suck up the lemon the way we suck up the sun. I’ve tried a dozen versions — usually adding lemon juice early in the cooking process — but this is the easiest and most reliable method I’ve found. You should allow half a potato per person, but I promise you, that won’t be enough.
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 pieces each
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. each coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small lemons, juiced and rind finely grated
1/2 tsp. dried oregano or Greek seasoning mix
Toss potatoes in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet — foil will make cleanup easier — and roast at 425 F until golden brown and nearly cooked through. If it’s warm and sunny outside, grill them in a vegetable basket on the barbecue. Turn them a couple of times to make sure all sides are evenly browned. Stir in the garlic and roast 5 minutes longer. Stir in lemon juice and rind and oregano and bake until liquid has evaporated. If you are using the barbecue, transfer potatoes to a container before adding the lemon juice. Serve right away.
Lemon cream cheese muffins
These muffins are so sweet and rich they really should be called cupcakes and served for dessert instead of breakfast. For a simpler, more muffin-like result, omit the glaze. Follow the instructions carefully for incorporating the cream cheese — you don’t want big lumps.
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 lemons, juiced and rind finely grated (divided)
4 oz. cold cream cheese
1-1/2 cups flour (divided)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. butter or margarine
1/2 cup (or more) icing sugar
Whisk together sugar, milk, oil and juice from 1 of the lemons; set aside. Place cream cheese in a bowl with 2 tbsp. of the flour. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the cream cheese into small pieces — you want them no bigger than dried yellow peas; set aside. Whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and grated rind from both lemons. Add dry ingredients to wet all at once, stirring until just combined — don’t overmix. Stir in the cream cheese-flour mixture. Spoon into 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups and bake at 375 F for 18 to 20 minutes — until a tester in the middle comes out clean and tops are just starting to turn golden. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack. For the glaze, melt butter in a microwave and stir in enough icing sugar to make a very thick and almost dry, pebbly paste. Add enough of the remaining lemon juice to make a glaze, with the consistency halfway between pourable and spreadable. Top warm muffins with glaze and allow to cool completely to set.
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, NL, A1E 4N1.