Category Archives: appetizer

Ausable Chasm Grand Canyon and Rhubarb Apple Walnut Braid


Few days ago we had a special occasion. Good reason to get away from the bustle and hustle of the city, and have our computer-locked heads unwind in a fresh air and wilderness. We’ve selected Ausable Chasm Grand Canyon, NY for a destination: the nearest major powerful nature spot that works magic for body and soul to help restore the spirit somehow lost in translation. Four hours of driving (Montreal-Plattsburgh round trip with pit stops), 30 minutes of border crossing, four hours of hiking in the majestic canyon, few hours of chilling in Plattsburgh after: one wonderful day of a powerful natural healing activity equal to a week of vacation!  With rafting on the agenda it would be even better although we didn’t do it at this time. If you’ve never been there, check here or hereto see what kind of experience you are missing.  
The silence of the enchanted forest interrupted by mighty gushing roaring waters of the waterfalls whoosh all the thoughts away almost instantly, leaving you feeling serene and irrelevant tiny particle of the whole picture. I wish I could just have clipped myself to one of the rocks and stay there forever… But there are only so many hours in the day, huh?
A short picnic was a great idea to take on a trail to the Secret Vista.

We brought a few gourmet sandwiches with homemade meatloaf, garden tomatoes and avocado; our staple zucchini corn bread (I can’t believe I still didn’t post the recipe) and an absolutely decadent, totally grown up style rhubarb-apple-raisin-walnut braid that appeared to be the highlight of the little feast. 

If you can imagine a dessert that can replace a good quality wine (not allowed in the park) this would be a great pick.
For an impromptu recipe made a night before the travel, lo and behold, this braid turned out to be extraordinary.  I wanted to use the fresh rhubarb longing on the fridge shelf in a pack of newspapers,  to be eventually claimed. 
Without a question, the puff pastry was going to wrap anything that would come out as a dessert from the oven that night. There are some ingredients I prefer to buy ready-made and the pastry dough is one of them. Why wasting time on the elaborate pastry dough-making process if the one from the store has proven to be your best friend on so many occasions (PS: this grand recipe included)? 
The filling made of fresh rhubarb, green apples, sultana raisins and toasted walnuts tastes really multi-dimensional:  with the mild tartness of the rhubarb and its astringency of the hazy summer evening (when mixed with brown sugar, apples, raisins, walnuts and cooked together ); with the piquancy of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and crumbled gingersnap cookies that’s reminiscent of Christmas holidays… To me it has a bouquet that can easily be compared (or even better, when paired with), to a nicely bodied Tempranillo with the nose enticing marmalade, hints of smoke, vanilla and figs (yes, figs!). As usually, you’ll never know till you try, right? And if you do, please tell me after if I wasn’t the last fine gueule to appreciate it.
Enjoy!
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Two years ago: Easy Banana Ice Cream
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RHUBARB APPLE WALNUT BRAID
Ingredients:
1 ½ cup fresh rhubarb, peeled and cut in ½ inch pieces
1 cup green apple, peeled, cored and cut in small cubes
½ cup sultana raisins
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup toasted walnuts, ground
½ cup gingersnap cookie, crumbled or crushed
1 package (397 g) puff pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 teaspoon icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Instructions:
Mix together chopped rhubarb, apples and raisins in a small bowl. Mix together brown sugar and corn starch in a medium sauce pan. Stir in rhubarb, apples, raisins and vanilla. Cook over low to medium heat until bubbling and thickened. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely. Add walnuts and mix.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Whisk together egg and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into 12” x 9” (30 cm x 22 cm) rectangle. Place pastry onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Spread half of the crumbled ginger cookies along the middle third of the pastry. Spoon the rhubarb-raisin-apple-walnuts mix over. Top with the rest of the ginger cookie crumbles.
Cut 1-inch (2.5 cm) wide strips on either side of the filling. Fold strips on each side alternately over filling to create a braid. Brush pastry with egg mixture.
Bake the braid for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden.
Remove baking sheet from oven and let cool slightly. Dust with powder sugar if wish be. Cut carefully into slices with the bread knife. Serve warm or cold with fresh berries on a side and ice cream if you wish.

Beat the Heat with Avocado Pistachio Cold Soup


Oh, how badly I needed this freshness for the last few weeks! This was today.
Yesterday.
The heat is on, on the street / Inside your head, on every beat /And the beat’s so loud, deep inside
The pressure’s high, just to stay alive / ‘Cause the heat is on…
 
The heat paralyses me. It makes me feel sick. It makes me feel like jumping into a water spray, then bed crashing under the dozen of fans and watching National Geographic series about rainforests, thunderstorms and waterfalls till dawn. 
Then go back to the sprinkle again….
Why the water sprinkles are only for kids? Why does siesta have to be only a cultural phenomenon? Why can’t we all have power naps during summer heat? I guess these questions are rhetorical, huh? Or, may be, the heat just makes me delirious… I actually thought we were only at the beginning of July, but half of it is gone already. Just yesterday these wild geese ducklets were eggs, these cattails didn’t exist and these strawberries were flowers. I was feeling so much younger. I was actually ready to resume the horseback riding I abandoned back in my twenties… 
I missed jazz festival and dozen of other attractions I wanted to visit so much. I’ve become a reckless blogger. Half of my design projects have been put on hold. The mood board sketches are flying all over the house. My photo-bank is about to eat me alive if I don’t start cleaning it asap. See what the heat is doing to me?  This is not good. I need to slow down this shutter speed of life. I need a fresh start.
At least I’ve done plenty of gazpachos. Cold soups are the wonderful culinary creation. They feed and nourish in a wink and deliver freshness, speed and convenience to our time-poor, exhausting summer schedules.
This one is a keeper for me during excruciating hot summer days. Not only it’s super-delicious and easy to make; it’s hard to underestimate the avocado’s potent anti-inflammatory, hydrating and blood pressure-stabilizing powers, which in this recipe are also supported by cucumber, handful of pistachio nuts, grilled zucchini, buttermilk and organic miso (fermented soya paste) – I marked the last ingredient as optional, considering its rare occurrence in most people’s fridges. I used the leftover grilled zucchini to add a slight grill tone to the soup, recycle and give some extra substance, but leave them out if you want.
You can whip this uber-yummy soup for spur-of-the-moment summer guests in, literally, 10 minutes. Serve it in verrines garnished with extra pistachios and all you can imagine fresh herbs including parsley, dill, cilantro, mint, basil, chives, oregano, tarragon, etc. 
The fresh herbs give an incredible hit of flavor to this otherwise subtle and smooth cold soup. Drizzle it with a bit of olive or truffle oil and/or sprinkle with smoked paprika for an extra zang. Not a big herb lover? Add a dash of curry, cumin and ground coriander in the mix.
Tweak it to be more or less acidic playing with lime or lemon juice to your taste. PS: kosher pickle or kimchi liquids are not excluded as the idea ingredients for a kick and extra health benefit. Thin it with vegan broth, unsweetened almond milk, extra buttermilk, cold spring water or even cold green tea if necessary.
Great tip from experienced guacamole makers: add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.
This soup is a true vegetarian summer dream dish on its own. But if you crave more substance on a side serve it with croutons or these decadent tiny cheese puffs (recipe will follow).
Cheers to All and Viva Summer Freshness!
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AVOCADO PISTACHIO CUCUMBER GAZPACHO
Yields: 4-8 portions (depending on the size of the verrines)
Ingredients:
4-6 ice cubes, made of quality spring water (plus few crushed ice cubes for serving)
1 tablespoon raw pistachio nuts, shelled (plus 1 tablespoon for garnish)
1 ripe avocado, peeled (keep the avocado seed to preserve the color if you plan to eat soup next day)*
1 cucumber (Lebanese, or ½ English cucumber; other kind to be peeled and de-seeded)
1 small zucchini, grilled, broiled, or pan-fried (optional)
1 cup vegetarian (or lean organic chicken) stock
1 cup buttermilk (or unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup quality spring water
1 teaspoon miso paste (optional)
¼ teaspoon quality salt
¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (or chili powder)
Fresh herbs for garnish: mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, oregano, basil, etc.
Olive oil for drizzle (optional)
Instructions:
Add ice cubes to blender. Top with nuts, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, stock, buttermilk, lime juice, water, miso, salt and paprika or chili. Puree on high speed until smooth Thin the soup with additional stock, buttermilk, or water if desired. Pour into bowls. Garnish with ice cube crush, pistachios and fresh herbs. Drizzle with oil or lemon juice. 
* Add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.

Restaurant Style Flaky Bread Recipe


This recipe has bewitched Bon Appétit (BA) magazine to the point it was called their favorite bread of 2014. According to BA’s recipe developer and writer, Alison Roman, ‘It’s not often you dream about something you ate at a restaurant. But the warm, buttery, pull-apart, roti-esque ‘’flaky bread’’at Brooklyn’s Glasserie is powerful stuff. Once I made my own version, I found even more to love: It’s easy to throw together (just five ingredients) and crazy versatile (eat it with eggs in the morning, with dip for a snack, or wrapped around grilled meat at dinner). Best of all, you can make the dough ahead of time, freeze, and when a craving strikes or a friend stops by unannounced—boom! Just griddle and you’re good to go.’ Sounds intriguing, no? FYI, the bread from the Glasserie’s menu with focus on Middle Eastern food is called Griddle Bread.  Guess what, we’ve been having a recurring stash of the flaky/griddle bread dough in our freezer for the last 10 months and have no plans to abandon this habit. There is only one way for you to find out why, n’est-ce pas?  

The enchanting flaky bread is painfully similar to Paratha bread originating from South India, but who cares, right? As long as it can enthrall so many readers and bread-making enthusiasts, I’m in for the journey, and hopefully so will be you. I actually bothered to compare the traditional Paratha bread and the BA’s Flaky Bread recipes and discovered only one difference: ghee vs butter. The name Paratha means the ‘layers of cooked dough’ (with ghee or butter + salt successfully breaking it into the warm salty flakes when cooked). Whichever was the source the flaky bread inspiration morphed from, I have to admit: this bread is a total winner as no-leavening part of making it, flaky-salty crisp and ability to match almost anything edible you can think of with it, make it absolutely superior to many other bread creations. 

If you happen to be moving on July 1st (the weirdest thing to do on Canada Day and oddly enough, the most popular one in Quebec), this snack might save your day.

Bring it to your next potluck gathering or picnic, dress it with the blanket of homemade hummus or lentil avocado spread and it will jazz up the party in an instant – a highly rewarding experience I lived through already.

Equally, just a dollop or melting butter or ghee with some spiced honey drizzle over the hot flaky bread make complex and powerful flavor-texture dynamic with the subtle punch of sweet fire from chili honey which is hard to forget. And, hey, don’t you think about the calories when eating it or you will ruin the feast! PS: the quote above is for the re-assurance.

Two most important conditions to make the flaky bread a success: SALT for sprinkling and the right SKILLET. Salt has to be flaky: Maldon salt is suggested in the recipe, but I got away for less with fleur de sel or grey unrefined fine sea salt of French or Greek origin.  The cast iron skillet or griddle is highly advised, although I found it also very satisfactory to use ROCK-style pan, like the one in the image above and the one you can see on the images: it has white spots on the surface
Im skipping the visual step of making dough as this post is written on a short notice, but it’s no brainer as the recipe below explains. I suggest while making dough coils though, try to add some bits of bacon or cheese in them for an extra decadence.

Lets put it this way: I hope it will warm up your morning tomorrow (the forecast says we will have ‘cats and dogs’) and may be with the number of great dips or stuffing and some help of Sugar Sammy’s episodes  will help to bring the ‘two solitudes’ closer.

Happy Canada Day and Cheers to All!

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RESTAURANT STYLE FLAKY BREAD
Yields: 10 flaky breads
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more, room temperature, for brushing (about 10)
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), or fleur de sel, or Mediterranean natural unrefined fine sea salt  
Olive oil (for parchment)
Instructions:
Whisk kosher salt and 3 cups flour in a large bowl. Drizzle in melted butter; mix well. Gradually mix in ¾ cup water. Knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is shiny and very soft, about 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic; let rest in a warm spot at least 4 hours.
Divide dough into 10 pieces and, using your palm, roll into balls. Place balls on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 15 minutes.
Working with 1 piece at a time, roll out balls on an un-floured surface with a rolling pin into very thin rounds or ovals about 9” across. (If dough bounces back, cover with plastic and let rest a few minutes.)
Brush tops of rounds with room-temperature butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Roll up each round onto itself to create a long thin rope. Wind each rope around itself to create a tight coil.
Working with 1 coil at a time, roll out on an un-floured surface to 10” rounds no more than ⅛” thick. Stack as you go, separating with sheets of parchment brushed with oil.
Heat a large cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Working 1 at a time, brush both sides of a dough round with room-temperature butter (omitting the butter-brushing step made a better job in my case) and cook until lightly blistered and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer bread to a wire rack and sprinkle with sea salt.
Ahead: Coils can be rolled out 1 month ahead; wrap tightly and freeze. Cook from frozen (add 1–2 minutes to cooking time).

Adapted from: Flaky Bread Recipe by Alison Roman, Bon Appétit magazine, 02/2014

Tequila Boom-Boom Spare Ribs Recipe

Tequila Boom-Boom BBQ Sauce Spare Ribs

¡Hola, amigos! Here’s something different for you to swirl with the set of ingredients from the lands of Aztecs and Maya: Tequila Boom-Boom Sauce Spare Ribs recipe. If you are looking for something new to try this Father’s day, this might be of an interest. These ribs will assure your papa’s (+ party) complete satisfaction.  We devoured them with gusto and had a good Mexican laughabout any rib sauce we’ve tried previously including the sickly-sweet and flat commercial sauces. For the secret ingredients, I basically added some tequila and a few new capsicum varieties to my staple Cajun BBQ sauce. The base sauce has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity as well as and a long record of successful meat and poultry basting for all kinds of events in case you will be looking for a kids-friendly version and would wish to omit tequila. However, the new version layered with tequila, arbol, ancho chiles and Cholula makes it better and bolder for my adult taste.

Tequila Boom-Boom BBQ Sauce
Tequila shot added to the BBQ spare rib sauce

The upside of this recipe is that you can make the ribs and sauce way in advance of the event (fully cooked or par-cooked),  up to 48 hours ahead if you keep it in the fridge and/or up to a week sealed and kept in the freezer saving yourself time and headache of the party prep. It will also travel well and will make a centerpiece appetizer or main.

The downside is that you would have to allow at least 3.5 hours to make it.

The most popular tequila Jose Cuervo makes an excellent base for Tequila Boom-Boom drink
Tequila Boom-Boom is actually a Mexican drink made of equal parts of tequila and Sprite (or similar, like 7Up or ginger ale) served in a rock glass with a dash of Grenadine syrup.  Another name of this drink is a Tequila Slammer, because of the way the drink is taken:  the fifth of the glass is empty to allow the mix of tequila and carbonated drink to fizz. You then put your hand over the top of the glass and slam it onto the bar counter to mix it. This move causes the drink to foam fast, so you have to drink it immediately, or it will spill. This drink is strong; I didn’t want to get intoxicated early in the afternoon, so I decided to give a splash of it to my favorite my favorite BBQ pork rib sauce I was making the other day.  The result was amazing, definitely worth sharing.  I marked Seven Up  optional in the recipe to make the sauce stickier and to cut on evaporation and caramelization time for your convenience.
Several dried capsicums and ground coffee are used in the rub and added to the BBQ sauce

Capsicums and the spice rubs are all rage this summer with dozens of new varieties and combinations coming from all over the globe. I am more than willing to try them all.  This recipe obviously took Mexican direction, so in addition to tequila I used crushed arbol flakes, ancho chile powder and Cholula spicy sauce, all originating from the Bestico (aka Mexico).  Naturally, you can have tequila swapped with whiskey, bourbon, gin or vodka depending on your preference and give it some other cultural direction to Memphis, St. Louis, etc. (the recipe gives a choice of chilis if pure Mexican fare is hard to find in your area).

Perfectly cooked ribs should be tender, but still juicy and not falling off the bone.

The recipe below is the oven BBQ method, which I much prefer to the grilling method for both, time and quality results. Albeit, I often combine both by baking ribs in the oven until ready and almost falling off the bone; and finishing them on a low BBQ heat for the basting part of 15 minutes. FYI, the most appreciated ribs are not supposed to fall off the bone. According to the famous carnivore, Jay Rayner, the best tasting pork ribs should be tender, but still juicy and well attached to the bone. The falling off the bone is a sign of an overcooked, overfrozen or over-re-heated meat. Properly cooked ribs should still have some resilience and chew and would pull cleanely off the bone with your teeth.

Rubbing spare ribs with the mix of spices and herbs.
Makin BBQ sauce and ribs’ brushing stage
Cutting spare ribs into individual portions

Voila, our succulent out of this world ribs are done and ready to be served.
OK, one rib down already while I’m still taking pictures! That’s a good sign. Someone’s gonna be happy tonight…

For the summer side course, keep it simple: boiled/grilled seasoned corn and refreshing coleslaw salad (recipe will follow shortly).  For the corn seasoning, try the Lime Chili Butter, OR brush it with my new favorite: Honey-Cinnamon Butter -1 tablespoon of salted butter melted with a dash of honey (or maple syrup) and a pinch of cinnamon.
Tequila Boom-Boom Spare Ribs with Russian Slaw and Honey Cinnamon Corn Sides
For the colder days, pasta with simple tomato sauce made from the garden tomatoes would make an amazing companion to these ribs. I suspect, Daddy won’t trade it for the world’s best cupcake as this would be so much better than mac n’ cheese.

Enjoy and don’t forget to serve the paper towels!

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TEQUILA BOOM-BOOM BBQ SPARE RIBS
Yields: 4 main to 8 appetizer portions
Ingredients:

1 rack of pork spare ribs (2 pounds, or 1 kg)

Spice Rub:
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile or cayenne powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coffee
1/2 freshly ground black pepper
Tequila BBQ Sauce 

1 small dried arbol pepper, crushed, OR , 1 teaspoon of regular chili flakes

1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Seven Up (optional)
juice of one lime
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1/2 cup molasses, OR honey, OR maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cholula chili sauce, OR Tabasco
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Trim the ribs of any excess fat or sinew.  Remove the thin membrane from the back side of the ribs and discard (PS: I’m not always doing it, but this would prevent the ribs from coiling). Optionally, cut the rack in 4 individual portions for a better fit into the baking pan.

Combine the paprika, ancho chile powder, coarse salt, paprika, oregano, marjoram, cumin, garlic, onion powder, ground coffee and black pepper together in a mixing bowl to make a rub.  Rub the mixture into the ribs on both sides and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place ribs into a baking pan (I prefer the glass one), cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, turn the ribs over. Cover back with foil and bake ribs for another 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the basting tequila sauce (see the instructions below). When done, the ribs will be tender and the meat will have shrunk back from the bones.
Lower the oven temperature to 275F. Brush the ribs generously with the Tequila BBQ sauce and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the ribs over and brush with the sauce. Return to the oven for 7-10 minutes. Repeat coating the ribs on both sides for another 5 minutes each side. Remove from the oven. Brush with extra sauce if wish be. Let stand for a few minutes, cut in individual portions if necessary and serve.

Tequila BBQ Sauce:

Soak the dried chili flakes in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of hot water to rehydrate for 5 minutes.  Add the soaked flakes, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, tequila, Seven Up, lime juice, onion, garlic, molasses, hot sauce and salt and pepper to the blender or food processor.  Pulse few times until the mixture is smooth. Equally, you can grate the onion and garlic and just mix the ingredients in a bowl with the fork.

How to Grill a Perfect Asparagus


”Summer is for leisure. Slow down. Take a break. Tune in,” the real me has been whispering to the other me for a long-long time. Multitasking and distractions have been my pet peeve this season (if not this year).  I’ve been so busy and exhausted I stopped admiring food for a while: simple fresh garden food. Can you imagine? What can be worse for the food blogger in summer? I felt food numb, almost like that hilarious food critic played by the legendary Louis de Funès in The Wingor Thigh movie (L’Aile ou la Cuisse) when he was stroke by engurdie(food numbness in French)  Naturally, I used this state as an excuse to start grilling dinners from anything I could grab fast on my way back home, mostly meat: bangers, steaks, chops, chicken breasts… Boys were happy, but soon enough I couldn’t tell apart grilled steak, pork, or chicken. They all tasted like trash to me and just added to the constant headache and fatigue. I wanted to slow down the time and get present again with the food I eat. I needed a good energy fuel. I started grilling peppers, zucchinis, radishes, scallions, eggplants, cauliflower to assuage the animal’s protein guilt and damage. Everything still tasted boring, but was at least a step up from just meat & salad. I’ve experimented with dozen takes on salsa verde and chimichurri… Hmm, better, but still boring. I couldn’t find the ingredient that would bring me back to life. I suppose this is what chefs or writers, or critics call BLOCK.  

Then the asparagus season came and I decided to stop for 30 minutes and took time to explore just ONE very simple thing: how to make a perfect grilled asparagus. The result was outstanding: I finally was able to enjoy my dinner. I also learned a new skill and for a split second actually felt accomplished. It brought me back to the focus I craved so much.

Fast, affordable, simple, elegant, light, nutritious, this dish made me happy. As they say, happiness is not perfect until it’s shared with others, so I’m sharing it with you. Packed with UMAMI, the mysterious mouth filling fifth flavor plays very well with 4 other taste receptors in this quite minimalistic dish. Asparagus is a known umami intensifier, which in this recipe is powerfully enhanced by the Asian-style brushing sauce made of olive/sesame oil, dash of soya sauce, garlic and Dijon and sesame seeds sprinkle. Wow, as simple as it is, it makes FLAVORS GALORE!

Asparagus is liked by almost everyone I know. Yet generally it is not seen as a source of huge inspiration. Well, this recipe was an inspiration to me. I’ve learned some invaluable tips on how to grill asparagus to the perfection. No biggie? Yes, biggie, because, guess what, I can almost bet, YOU didn’t know these HOWs either.

Tip No 1. Previously, I used Mark Bittman’s recipe to drizzle the asparagus with olive oil (sometimes I would stretch to bacon drippings, or duck fat) throw it on a BBQ for a good 10-15 minutes along with other vegetables. Although acceptable, my grilled asparagus always left much to be desired.

I suspected that time and temperature had to do with it, but so all us do with boiled eggs, yet very few actually know or take time to check the exact timing to boil a perfect egg hard, coddled (soft boiled), or mollet (semi-liquid yolk). Last year I was reading My Canada Eats Foie Gras memoir by food critic Jacob Richler and in one particular story famous Torontonian, Chef Marc Thuet, was explaining in a very core way that the perfectly cooked asparagus has to be al dente. A-HA!

Timing of the grilling process vary from chef to chef, critic to critic, home cook to home cook. After coming down from Bittman’s 10-15 minutes to 2-5 minutes suggested by the most famous chefs; I figured the best timing to have a medium sized asparagus grilled to perfection would be exactly  90 seconds each side as advised in this video by Chef Rodney Bowers from Toronto. This timing is best to deliver crunchy and crispy, real al dente spears you can even warm up next day in a microwave and no one would ever say it wasn’t right form a grill.

Tip No 2. I’ve always been frustrated with having to use giant tongs to grab the asparagus losing many valuable spears through the grill. It took me only few minutes to figure out the technique to grill a perfect asparagus from a pro: Sesame Grilled Asparagus recipe from Chef Steve Raichlen which I actually use for this post, with the brushing sauce slightly modified. He uses pre-soaked wooden toothpicks or bamboo skewers to make a raft boat from 4-5 spears at a time. What a genius idea!

Tip No 3. Finally, the dressing: before, during grilling, or after?  I tried all three and they all work well with me. Some don’t like the bitter touch of the burnt oil, so they prefer to season the grilled asparagus after. I personally love the taste of that char, so I brush the asparagus rafts before and during grilling.

Tip No 4. Is optional and relates to the gardening. Last fall, around mid-October I made an experiment and planted some cut offs of asparagus spears into our garden (1-2 inches deep). I completely forgot about it. Last week I was mulching and saw some tiny little asparagus sprouts popping up. WHOA! Definitely maybe I will be planting more this year (will try to use the leftovers all summer long too): it’s a beautiful perennial, great veg and makes one of the most beautiful foliage to please the eye of a picky gardener or a florist. Try it for yourself in preferably half-shadow, moist place (starting it close to compost would be the best idea) planting 3 to 4-inches long cut offs 1-2 inches deep.

That’s it for today. Please tell me if these tips worked with you.

Happy grilling!

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Two Years Ago: Fiddlehead Ferns Pasta
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SESAME GRILLED ASPARAGUS
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
Ingredients:
Wooden toothpicks or bamboo skewers
1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons mixed sesame seeds
Salt and black pepper

Instructions:

Soak skewers in cold water for 1 hour in a shallow pan. Drain and set aside.

Preheat grill to high. Snap off the woody bases of the asparagus and discard. Skewer 4 or 5 asparagus spears together, using the toothpicks or 2 bamboo skewers, forming a raft shape.

Combine the olive, sesame oil, soy sauce, mustard and garlic in a small bowl. Stir with a fork to mix. Brush this mixture on the asparagus rafts on both sides. Season the asparagus with a little salt and lots of pepper.

When ready to cook, place the asparagus rafts on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned on both sides, 90 seconds per side. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds as they grill. You can serve the asparagus as rafts or un-skewered.

Note: This recipe makes a large quantity. If necessary, cut the amounts of ingredients accordingly.

Adapted from: Sesame Grilled Asparagus, by Steve Raichlen