• Make good use of the barbecue this season. NYT’s minimalist Mark Bittman offers 101 quick hits on the grill, from grilled lime to squeeze over grilled buttered corn to slowly grilled fresh figs stuffed with cheese. Some of it seems a bit overdone, such as grilling avocadoes for guacamole, but there are so many other good ideas here, it’s easy to dismiss the few questionable ones.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/dining/30mini.html?ref=dining

  • An unusual way to highlight the tempting  bounty of fresh strawberries is in a cheesecake that uses soft goat cheese instead of cream cheese and tops it with a balsamic-berry sauce.

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-summerpierec2-3jul02,0,4017525.story

  • Gourmet Magazine is being revived as an online entity this fall, apparently with an app for the I-Pad. But what about the rest of  us who haven’t bought into the latest Apple gotta-have? I was a long-time subscriber and loved what Ruth Reichl had done with the magazine. No word yet on whether she’ll be involved with the new online entity. “It will be free to download, with registration required, followed by paid content options,” says an announcement on the website. Mmmm, paid content options: is the “everything’s free online” ride finally ending?

http://live.gourmet.com/

Here it is, almost July, and I am finally forced inside because of the rains. The hot, dry and sunny weather which blessed us from mid-May on have had me working on our two acres from sunup to sundown while the computer — and everything else inside the house — gathered dust.  So while I have some gardening down time, let me tell you about several new cookbooks that celebrate our favourite  season.


Weber’s Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling
By Jamie Purviance
Published by Sunset/Raincoast 2009, soft cover, $27.50; 320 pages

Jamie Purviance is at heart a teacher. This is his third grilling book for Weber and carries on the meticulous and inspired work he puts into both the recipes and the full-colour illustrations of specific methods. He shows you how to prep leeks for grilling, how to skin a halibut fillet, how to char-grill oysters. He covers all the bases in this one, from meats, poultry and seafood to flatbreads, vegetables and fruit. We’ve tried a number of recipes in the book and came away delighted with most of them (the  grilled squid wasn’t a hit). We bought fresh spot prawns off the boat and grilled them with Purviance’s recipe for Thai-seasoned shrimp and a watermelon salsa (he mixes his cuisines to great affect). Fabulous! We tried his cedar-planked chicken thighs with soy-ginger glaze, also very good but I must tell you, they made a big mess of the grill as the marinade and juices ran off the plank while the chicken cooked. But probably our favourite was his Dr. Pepper-brined pork loin with cherry-chipotle glaze. I did not have any tart cherry preserves so substituted rhubarb sauce with delicious results. In fact, any tart-sweet preserves should work just fine. Because there were only two of us, I used individual loin chops cut from a whole loin. I brined them, oiled them as directed, then grilled them over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes on each side. I did not grill them with the sauce, but served that with the chops, once they were cooked. Here’s Purviance’s recipe for the whole loin.

SODA-BRINED PORK LOIN WITH CHERRY CHIPOTLE GLAZE
4 cups Dr. Pepper (don’t use diet pop)
½ cup kosher salt
1 boneless centre-cut pork loin, 3 to 4 lbs.

Glaze
1 jar (9 oz.) tart cherry preserves
½ cup Dr. Pepper
½ cup water
1-2 tbsps. minced canned chipotle in adobo
4 tsps. Dijon mustard

Vegetable oil

Pour soda (the Americans call it that; we call it pop) into a large bowl and slowly add the salt (the mixture will foam up quite a bit so be sure to use a bowl large enough to prevent overflowing). Stir until the salt dissolves completely, 1 to 2 minutes. Place a large disposable plastic bag inside a large bowl, and carefully pour the brine into the bag.

Trim excess fat and silver skin from the pork. Submerge the pork in the brine, seal the bag, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients.

Remove the pork from the bag and discard the brine. Pat dry with paper towels. Lightly coat the pork with oil and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over high heat.

Brush cooking grates clean. Sear pork over direct high heat, with lid closed as much as possible, until the surface is well marked but not burned, 8 to 12 minutes.

Place a large disposable foil pan over indirect high heat and pour the glaze into the pan. Transfer the pork to the pan and turn to coat with the glaze. Grill the pork over indirect high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until barely pink in the centre and the internal temperature reaches 145° to 150° F, 25 to 30 minutes, turning in the glaze every 8 to 10 minutes. If the glaze gets too thick or starts to scorch, add a little water or more Dr. pepper to the pan. Transfer pork to cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with remaining pan sauce on the side. Serves 6.
– From Weber’s Way to Grill

Sips & Apps: Classic and Contemporary Recipes for Cocktails and Appetizers
By Kathy Casey
Published by Chronicle/Raincoast 2009, hardcover, $25.95; 204 pages

Cocktails are hot and don’t call those who mix them up for you bartenders. If they’re doing the right job, they’re  known as  mixologists. Forget the standard martini or the plain ole margarita. Think fresh raspberry bellini, fresh apple (or cherry) mojito, or even ginger sake cocktail sushi, a gelled bite of cocktail dynamite served on a slice of cucumber. That’s the tone of Kathy Casey’s latest book, a full array of inspired drinks that can take you from brunch to backyard gathering to wedding reception. Casey, Pacific Northwest chef, mixologist, savvy culinary entrepreneur and author of nine cookbooks here offers enough cocktails to make your parties sing into the next century, along with a host of wonderful appetizer recipes, — lamb sliders served on home-made rosemary buns, Bollywood chicken skewers with spiced yogurt dip, Asian shrimp cakes with sweet chili sauce, sausage olive poppers, chipotle deviled eggs. So bottoms up! It’s party time. Here are two recipes to get you going, one for a fabulous variation on the classic sangria, the other an appie created by Casey to bring out its best sides.

SAKE SANGRIA

An inexpensive dry sake works best with this, says Casey.

1 (750ml) bottle sake
6 tbsps. honey
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, halved lengthwise, then cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces (use the entire stalk)
½ lemon, thinly sliced
1 small tangerine or orange, thinly sliced
1 large plum or apricot, pitted and cut into think wedges (optional, if not in season)
In large pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir with a spoon, crushing some of the fruit. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 2 days, to let flavours marry before serving. Serve over ice and include some of the fruit in each serving. Makes about 4 cups, 6 to 8 servings.

SAKE TERIYAKI STICKY CHICKEN WINGS
¾ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sake (or substitute dry sherry or dry white wine)
2 tbsps. very finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
3 tbsps. unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsps. cornstarch
3 tbsps. water
1 dozen whole chicken wings or 2 dozen drummettes, about 2 ½ to 3 lbs.

Garnishings
2 tbsps. toasted sesame seeds
Thinly sliced green onion tops

In small saucepan, whisk together soy sauce, sake, ginger, garlic, sugar, pepper flakes, green onions, vinegar, cornstarch and water. Set pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to thicken. Mixture will be very thick. Let cool. If not using immediately, store covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

If using whole wings, disjoint the wings and remove and discard tips; you should have 24 pieces. Put them in a large bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Add sauce mixture to bowl with chicken and mix well to coat wings evenly. Spray a 9- by 13-inch  baking pan with cooking spray or lightly oil it. Arrange drummettes and sauce in a single layer in the dish.

Bake for 30 minutes. Stir and turn the chicken pieces over and bake for 20 minutes more. Stir and turn chicken pieces again and bake for 10 minutes more, or until chicken is tender and sauce is thick and glazy. Total cooking time is about 1 hour.

Stir drummettes in sauce once more, then transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Spoon some of the extra sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with sesame seed and green onions. Makes 24.

– From Sips & Apps


Cooking Light: Fresh Food Fast; 5-Ingredient, 15-Minute Recipes
By Cooking Light Magazine
Published by Oxmoor House, 2009, softcover, $32.50; 368 pages

It may be tempting to just throw burgers and dogs on the barbie and serve them alongside a store-bought tub of potato salad. But this is the impossibly fresh season, and with a little forethought and a well-stocked pantry, a delicious meal using fresh and good quality ingredients is only 15 minutes away, according to the promise of this book. High flavour ingredients such as mustards, capers and olives coupled with the fabulous fresh ingredients available everywhere now make for easy and delicious eating. Although the book is geared to all the seasons, with plenty of quick recipes for the busy fall and winter seasons, there’s no need to forego a refreshing snooze in the hammock when dinner’s only a few minutes away. The salad chapter is loaded with fresh and fabulous ideas for great summer eating, such as steak salad with creamy horseradish dressing, spinach salad with grilled pork tenderloin and nectarines, and curried chicken rice salad. Here’s another example.

SALMON, ASPARAGUS AND ORZO SALAD WITH LEMON-DILL VINAIGRETTE

6 cups water
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 ¼ lb. skinless salmon fillet
¼ tsp. salt
¼ freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat broiler.

Bring 6 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add asparagus; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove asparagus from water with tongs or slotted spoon, reserving water in pan. Plunge asparagus into ice water; drain and set aside.

Return reserved water to a boil. Add orzo, and cook according to package direction, omitting salt and fat.

While orzo cooks, sprinkle fillet evenly with salt and pepper. Place fish on a foil-lined broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Using 2 forks, break fish into large chunks. Combine fish, orzo, asparagus, onion and lemon dill vinaigrette in large bowl; toss gently to coat. Yield: 6 servings.

LEMON DILL VINAIGRETTE
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
3 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 tsps. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Yield: 1/3 cup.

– From Fresh Food Fast