One of my favourite times of year begins officially today: spring.
The vernal equinox, when the hours of daylight and dark are equal, marks not only the official start to spring, but also a return to longer hours of daylight, and shorter hours of dark. Hurray!
And, there are some hopeful signs in some gardens, with bits of green sprouting up out of the frozen ground and buds swelling on those bare tree limbs.
I’m ready to barbecue. Well, since I have a covered deck, I do some barbecuing through the winter, but I get serious with longer, warmer days.
I love the fact that when you barbecue there aren’t any dirty pots or pans to scrub after your meal. There may be some to rinse before cooking, but then they’re all done and they’re not nearly as bad to wash as cooking dishes.
Barbecuing is simple too, yet the variations are endless with a few different marinades and sauces, and even a basic barbecue sauce, like the one below, can be varied endlessly with a few additions and subtractions. The main thing is to have some sweet and sour, spice and a background flavour.
Salads go well with barbecued foods and in the coming weeks we should be able to get local greens that will really add punch to the salad bowl, along with other young vegetables that taste excellent raw or only slightly cooked.
A little char on sprouts like asparagus adds a delightful flavour and it’s easy to do them alongside your meat. The same holds true for many other vegetables, from peppers and onions, to zucchini and potatoes.
So, celebrate spring with a barbecue. Here are a few ideas to begin with.
If you’d like more, there are some great ideas in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, now available in local bookstores and many other places books are sold.
Zippy BBQ Sauce
This may seem like a lot of ingredients, but it’s well worth the few minutes it takes to put together and it’s much better than commercial sauces, plus you can control what goes into it, including sugar and salt. Once it’s made up, keep it in the fridge. It’s good for at least a few weeks and you could freeze some of it to keep it longer, if you think it will not be used earlier. You may substitute tomato sauce or paste for the ketchup.
1 small onion
2 stalks celery
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. (15 ml) butter
1 c. (250 ml) ketchup
1/4 c. (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. (30 ml) brown sugar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) cider vinegar
1 tbsp. (15 ml) Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. (5 ml) dry mustard
1 tsp. (5 ml) hot sauce
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) fresh-ground pepper
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
Finely chop onion and celery and mince garlic. Melt butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat and add the onion and celery, sauteing until limp. Stir in the garlic, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about a half hour on the lowest temperature.
Cool and refrigerate.
Brush on steaks, burgers, roasts or chicken while barbecuing.
Taste of Asia Chicken on a Stick
This has an exotic flavour that’s not too sweet, but is a combination of spicy, zesty and sweet, mellowed by the smoky barbecue flavour. It’s nice served with skewers of vegetables and a rice pilaf or pasta dish.
1 tbsp. (15 ml) minced ginger
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. (5 ml) lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 ml) orange zest
2 tbsp. (30 ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp. (30 ml) orange juice
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml) hot sauce
(1 tsp. (5 ml) brown sugar) opt.
1 lb. (454 g) boneless chicken
Mince fresh ginger and garlic finely. Zest an orange and a lemon and mince it finely.
Combine with remaining ingredients in a medium-sized bowl that will fit the chicken snugly. You can use your favourite hot sauce to give it a bit of a kick, and vary that suggested teaspoon to your own taste. The brown sugar is only needed if you feel it should be sweeter.
Slice skinned and boneless chicken into inch-wide strips for looping onto metal skewers and let sit in the marinade for an hour or two in the fridge.
Thread chicken onto skewers and grill for 5-7 minutes a side until just cooked. Be careful you don’t dry out the chicken.