The 24th of May (celebrated in Canada yearly on the last Monday before May 25) is the first of the much-anticipated summer long weekends – Queen Victoria’s birthday.
It is celebrated with gusto – cottage openings, the first dip in the lake, fireworks and, of course, all sorts of al fresco dining, whether barbecues or picnics, to be shared with friends and family.
As if to acknowledge the festivities, the first of our local asparagus, as well as greenhouse crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are available to add colour, flavour and variety to dishes.
I hope you will find these recipes, some compliments of Foodland Ontario, ideal for the birthday celebrations!
Cedar-smoked trout with dill mayonnaise
Cooking on a cedar plank adds an enticing smoky taste to fish. Its takes only minutes to prepare and best of all, the baking dish is discarded in the fire with only the delicious fish to enjoy. Serve with dill mayonnaise, salads and good bread for a wonderful outdoor feast. And all the ingredients can be homegrown!
Seaport Merchants at Victoria Park and St. Clair is my favourite place to buy fish. If you call Lorne and Marilyn ahead of time (416-755-9960) they will have your fish and planks ready for you! You should be able to fit two trout fillets on one plank but check before you leave.
8 oz (250 g) fresh trout per person
1 or 2 cedar planks
Salt and pepper
1 or 2 lemons
Soak cedar planks in cold water for four to six hours. You can weigh them down with heavy cans so they don’t float.
Pre-heat barbecue grill to high. Arrange soaked planks on grill. Close barbecue lid and let planks smoke for five minutes. Arrange fillets skin side down on planks. Sprinkle fillets with salt, pepper, drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. If you wish, slice lemons and arrange on top of fillets. Close lid and let fish grill 12 to 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with fork. Using a metal spatula, gently remove fish to heated dinner plate and serve immediately.
TIP: If you hate fish skin, it will easily lift off the fillets at this point and be left behind on wooden plank. Wooden planks may be discarded after use. (No washing necessary!)
This sauce is the perfect accompaniment to fish but it is equally good with new potatoes, asparagus and grilled lamb.
1 cup (250 mL) low fat mayonnaise (Or substitute half
with plain yogurt)
1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh chopped dill (any remaining dill
may be chopped finely, wrapped in plastic wrap
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, grated zest and lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
In a food processor, combine mayonnaise, yogurt if using, dill, 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (15 mL), squeeze lemon juice into sauce, stir in salt and pepper. Puree mixture. Pour sauce into serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. May be made two days ahead. Makes one generous cup (about 250 mL).
Asparagus is the perfect companion to fish and now is the season to enjoy it! Choose asparagus with closely closed purple tips. I prefer the thicker stalks to the thin ones but the tips of asparagus tell the freshness. (Open tips mean they are older!)
Snap off the ends of the asparagus where they break easily (discard between a third to half of the asparagus) – one pound (500 g) feeds two or three people. Rinse under cold water. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil (enough water to just cover asparagus in a single layer); cook asparagus, uncovered, two to three minutes at most. Yes, that’s all it needs. If serving hot, have everything else ready to go and plates heated – both asparagus and fish cool quickly. Drain asparagus and serve immediately.
The good news: asparagus is equally good served hot or cold, especially with the dill sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt – divine!
Grilled asparagus – Brush asparagus with vegetable oil and grill on barbecue with fish, turning often until lightly browned, about five minutes.
Enjoy every delicious spring mouthful, and happy birthday!