B-Day season – short for barbecue day – has begun with a vengeance. No longer the hearty soup, the sustaining stew. At last, the freedom to the great outdoors and grilling. Right on cue is the availability of lobster, local pickerel, Ontario lamb and as accompaniments, fiddleheads, asparagus, new potatoes and tomatoes, and, of course, rhubarb for a sweet finale. A feast in the making!
Believe it or not there are a few people who are not keen on barbecues. Why? They hate burned or scorched food, black on the outside and raw on the inside, and they loathe the mish-mash of accompaniments slapped down some time after the lukewarm main course which was ready long before the other dishes.
The problem: barbecues require timing. It should be a team effort between the outdoor chef and the indoor chef. Usually, the outside chef pre-heats the barbecue, arranges items on the grill, then, with beer in hand, gazes off into the distance while the main course sizzles. Meanwhile, the indoor chef is scurrying around setting the table and assembling the salads or accompanying vegetables, not to mention a dessert. If the indoor chef and outdoor chef happen to be one and the same – well, the race is on! Barbecues require organization and clear communication in the kitchen.
Have a menu – count backwards from the finished product to what has to be done first. For instance, set the table, prepare and refrigerate salads, assemble condiments, have drinks ready, pre-heat dinner plates (barbecued food cools quickly). THEN, and only then, put the food on the barbecue.
If you are crazy enough to want to do the whole meal on the barbecue, make sure you have a grill large enough to accommodate the entire meal and that all items can be cooked at the same temperature.
I hope you find this menu meets full taste and ease requirements!
Grilled vegetable salad
I love grilled vegetables. One of the benefits is that you can use up whatever bits and pieces you have in the refrigerator. Also, they can be served hot or at room temperature. I like to prepare this first, followed by the main course and bread.
One thing about grilled vegetables to keep in mind is that they shrink. You can prepare a huge bowl of them only to have them wither away to half their original size. Make oodles – leftovers are great as a salad or in a sandwich the next day.
Just about anything goes. Here are some suggestions:
Sliced zucchini, blanched asparagus (blanch in boiling water 1 minute prior to grilling, the same for fiddleheads and new potatoes, which require steaming for 5 minutes), sliced or whole mushrooms, sliced peppers of all colours, cherry tomatoes whole, sliced eggplant, thinly sliced sweet potatoes, sliced carrots, parsnips, eggplant – you get the picture. Anything goes and it all tastes delicious grilled.
Toss in a huge bowl well sprinkled with ½ to 1 cup (125 mL to 250 mL) olive oil, sea salt, pepper and herbs of your choice. The quantity of olive oil depends on the quantity of vegetables. You want enough to lightly coat the veggies.
Make a huge square of barbecue foil, turning up the edges to form a disposable baking tray. Arrange vegetables evenly on tray and barbecue on pre-heated medium-high barbecue, 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are beginning to brown and are tender. Vegetables should be turned once to prevent burning. Timing may vary depending on the wind and temperature of the day. (It takes longer on cold days and in strong wind.)
Once cooked, tip vegetables onto a platter which will accommodate them and sprinkle with good balsamic vinegar. Taste, and season with more sea salt and pepper if necessary. Yum! Who needs meat? These are also good tossed with cooked pasta, basmati rice or simply served with fabulous bread.
Lamb chops and sausage
No doubt you have your favourite butcher. One of my favourites for sausage is Vincenzo’s at Westlake and Danforth. They make a terrific chicken and sun-dried tomato sausage, low in fat and oh, so tasty. They also carry Ontario lamb. Allow a chop and one sausage per person.
Brush lightly with olive oil; sprinkle lamb chop with salt and pepper. Place on pre-heated medium-high grill and barbecue, turning several times, until chop is medium-rare and sausage is cooked, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately on heated plates with good bread. (Vincenzo’s sells good crusty bread too.)
Rhubarb for dessert!
Keep it simple – warm stewed rhubarb spooned over ice cream is fast and delicious, with all the taste of spring.
4 cups (1 L) rhubarb cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar
1 2-inch piece (2.5 cm) orange peel
1 cinnamon stick
In large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring rhubarb, sugar, water, orange peel and cinnamon stick to boil; reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, or until rhubarb is tender. Discard orange peel and cinnamon stick. Serve immediately or at room temperature over ice cream or vanilla yogurt.