watermelon feta salad, a staple for the summer

watermelon feta salad

watermelon feta salad

For those super hot days, nothing beats a refreshing watermelon salad with feta. Interesting combination but unbeatable, as it is both savoury and refreshing.   It’s easy and quick to prepare and makes for a great salad to accompany a BBQ.

There are many different variations of this salad, as seen in restaurants and on the web, sometimes it’s served with mint instead of basil, and olives and onions are even added to the mix, but I like to keep it simple as I find the olives and onions can overpower the watermelon. However don’t scrimp on the ingredients, try to get the best feta you can find, not Canadian feta but Greek feta, and even better if you can get your hands on the goat feta, also use the best olive oil you have and choose the pinkest watermelon possible!

No need to prepare this in advance as it only takes 5 minutes to assemble!

Serves 2

ingredients:

  • watermelon, 1/2 inch slice then cubed
  • 1 inch thick slice of greek feta, cubed
  • bunch of thai basil or purple basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • ground fresh black pepper
watermelon feta salad

watermelon feta salad

  1. Cut one slice of the watermelon and cube it and assemble on a plate by keeping same shape as slice.
  2. Sprinkle cubed Greek feta overtop watermelon.
  3. Sprinkle basil leaves and then drizzle olive oil overtop.  Squeeze lemon juice from 1/2 lemon and grind fresh black pepper over salad.
  4. Voila, that’s it.  Simple, easy and refreshing!

Enjoy!

Super easy finger-lickin’ good tender baby back ribs!

spicy baby back ribs

spicy baby back ribs

Believe it or not, you can actually make your own super tender spicy baby back ribs in your kitchen.  Southerners are famous for their smoked ribs but it’s actually very easy to get similar results at home and you don’t even need a smoker, all you need is an oven and a BBQ!  And even if you don’t have a BBQ, you can even use the broiler in you oven to caramelize them.

These are so easy to prepare you won’t believe it.  All the work is done in the oven with very little involvement from you.   The secret to super tender ribs is to slow cook them in your oven at a very low temperature for 5 hours, that’s it!  This is the perfect recipe when hosting a BBQ for a large group as it takes little effort, and everything can be prepared in advance except for the final stage at the BBQ where you caramelize the ribs with the sauce.

I must however outline just a few tips when buying the pork ribs.  We’re actually fortunate in Quebec for having some of the best pork around, however this may not be the case everywhere else.   Since there are no grades of pork as there are with beef, to ensure you get the best pork ribs simply pick a rack that has a deep pink colour.

Additionally, note that before we apply the rub on the ribs, it is also important to remove the membrane, which is found on the back of the bone-side of the ribs.   This is however the most difficult thing to do as sometimes it all comes off in one piece and other times you just have to go at it in strips.

The best way to remove the membrane is to start at the narrowest end of the ribs on the bone-side of the ribs, and at this point, using your knife, lift up the corner of the membrane so you can grab a hold of it.  Then grab the corner of the membrane with a paper towel and pull it straight up and away from the rack of ribs, sometimes it helps to just to run your fingers under it to push it along.  Yes, I know it doesn’t sound like much fun but that’s really the only hard part in preparing these ribs!  Trust me it will be worth it and once you do a few of these you’ll get the hang of it!

Serves 4

ingredients:

  • 4 half racks of baby back ribs
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

BBQ sauce ingredients:

  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup honey
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
spicy baby back ribs

spicy baby back ribs

  1.  Cut a piece of aluminum foil double the length of a rib rack and place it on a baking sheet.
  2. Once you have removed the membrane from the back of the pork ribs, place two racks on each baking sheet and sprinkle the chili powder all over both sides of the ribs and massage it in.  If time permits it’s best to refrigerate the ribs, uncovered, for an hour or so, which will help the rub infuse the meat.
  3. Preheat oven to 250oF.  Fold the foil over the ribs so all the meat is covered and fold over all the edges to make a bundle.  Then cut a couple of small vents with a knife on the top of each bundle.
  4. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 3 hours.
  5. Then reduce the heat to 225oF and bake for another 2 hours.
  6. After cooking for 5 hours the meat should be very tender and the meat should have started shrinking away from the bones.
  7. While you are heating up the BBQ to high, you can prepare the sauce.  In a medium saucepan stir together all of the ingredients for the sauce and place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Cook sauce uncovered, stirring occasionally, until all of the flavours are well blended for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove the sauce from heat and set aside.
  8. When ready to BBQ, oil the BBQ rack, season the ribs lightly with salt and pepper and and brush the top of the ribs liberally with the sauce and place face down (the side with the sauce) on the BBQ grill.  (If you do not have a BBQ or just want to do these in the winter, preheat your oven broiler to high and place ribs face up with sauce on an oiled rack in a broiler pan.)   Grill the ribs until caramelized, for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Then turn ribs over and brush with additional sauce, and cook until caramelized for another 8 minutes.
  9. Transfer ribs to a serving plate.  For the perfect BBQ serve with corn on the cob and buttermilk coleslaw!  Buttermilk coleslaw recipe follows!

Enjoy!

Go-to creamy buttermilk coleslaw for BBQ season

buttermilk coleslaw

buttermilk coleslaw

This buttermilk coleslaw is my go-to summer BBQ salad!  It is a great side to most meats that you will BBQ, such as beer-can chicken, baby back ribs, as shown above, or sausages.  It is especially well paired when you’re serving up something that is spicy as it helps cut the spice with it’s creamy and rich buttermilk dressing.  It is also perfect in a pulled pork sandwich too!

This is a great salad to prepare for a BBQ as it can be made in advance and refrigerated.  My husband even prefers it the next day so you can even prepare it a day in advance if need be.  It’s so easy and quick to put it together that you can also make it on a weeknight BBQ as you can whip this up in under 15 minutes!

Take note that even though the dressing tastes rich, it doesn’t necessarily have to be high in fat content.  Yes, the buttermilk is low in fat, but feel free to use light mayonnaise and low-fat sour cream, as I do, it will cut down on the fat and be just as rich and creamy tasting!

Serves 4

ingredients:

  • 1 small red onion (or ¼ of a large red onion) thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Packaged coleslaw (pre-cut green and red cabbage and carrots)
  • If there are no carrots in the packaged coleslaw julienne 1 carrot

ingredients for dressing:

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
buttermilk coleslaw

buttermilk coleslaw

  1. In a large bowl combine red onion and shallots in white vinegar.
  2. Add packaged coleslaw to large bowl (and carrots if no carrots are included in the packaged coleslaw) and toss.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together ingredients for dressing, mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, parsley and chives.  Season dressing with salt and white pepper.
  4. Pour buttermilk dressing in coleslaw mix and toss until well coated and serve! That’s it!

BBQ “finger lickin’ good” spicy sweet sticky wings!

spicy sweet sticky wings

I know, I know, wings are probably not the healthiest part of the chicken but these are so finger licking good you won’t be able to resist.  Plus it’s summer time and they make a great appetizer to whatever you’re grilling on the BBQ.  The wings are super easy to prepare as you get them started in the oven under the broiler and when you are ready to serve them just finish them off on the BBQ to get a bit of charring and the required grill marks before you toss them with the spicy sweet sauce.  The whole process will take you under 30 minutes.

My only piece of advice with regards to these wings is that you should make more than you need, as it’s guaranteed that you and your guests will be begging for more!

Serves 6, about 5 wings per person

spicy sweet sticky wings

spicy sweet sticky wings

ingredients:

  • 30 chicken wing pieces, cut at the joints and wingtips discarded
  • 4 tablespoons of non-salted butter
  • ¼ cup of jalapeno jelly or pepper jelly (you can find it at the grocery store where you will find canned or bottled grilled peppers)
  • 2 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup
  • 2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • pinch each kosher salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat broiler on high.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Rinse the chicken wings under cold water and pat dry.  The wings you will get at the grocery store will mostly not be cut up.  They are however easy to cut, just lay the whole wing flat on the cutting board, feel for the joint where the wing tip (smaller pointy section) connects to the rest of the wing.  With the tip of the knife touching the cutting board, just cut straight through at the joint, which separates the wing tip from the wing.  Discard the wing tip.  Then locate the joint, which connects the wing and the small shaped drumstick, and by using the same technique simply cut through the joint to separate these two parts.
  4. Arrange wings in a single layer on the baking sheet and place under the broiler for about 6 to 8 minutes until one side turns brown then turn all the wings over and broil for another 6 to 8 minutes until brown and cooked through.
  5. In a small sauce pan melt butter over low heat then combine all of the remaining ingredients and heat through for about 5 minutes and keep warm on low until ready to serve the wings.
  6. Heat BBQ over medium high heat and brush the BBQ grate with oil.  When BBQ reaches a temperature between 375oF and 400oF, grill the wings over direct heat, turning frequently for about 4 to 5 minutes until they are nicely charred with grill marks.
  7. In a large bowl combine the chicken wings and the spicy sweet sticky sauce.  Let this all rest for about 5 minutes in the bowl.  This will give the sauce some time to caramelize and thicken over the wings.
  8. Then serve wings on a platter with a cold lager and make sure to get some extra napkins for your guests!
spicy sweet sticky wings

spicy sweet sticky wings

fried stuffed zucchini flowers

zucchini blossoms

zucchini blossoms

We served this summer-time indulgence to friends this weekend and they were gobbled up in a blink of an eye!  Obviously frying them takes away from the delicate flavour so distinctive of these flowers, but as we all know frying is just like bacon, it just makes everything even tastier.

Sadly these beautiful golden blossoms do not stay fresh for too long after they are picked, and will wilt within a day.  If eaten the day of the purchase it will be easy for you to stuff them, but if you wait any longer the flower petals will wilt and it will be difficult to open them to stuff the flowers.  In this case you can just fry them without stuffing them, which is also very delicious.

However in this house, we prefer the fried stuffed version where mozzarella cheese oozes out of them!

The recipe below, which has been adapted from a William-Sonoma recipe, is based on the traditional Roman recipe, which recommends using mozzarella cheese to stuff the zucchini blossoms.  However since the typical mozzarella found at the grocery store can sometimes lack in taste, we chose to stuff them with mozzarella de bufala instead, which is a little more creamier.  The anchovies also add the characteristic saltiness to make it even more flavourful.

zucchini flowers

zucchini flowers

ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of cold sparkling mineral water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus oil for deep-frying
  • 4 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella de bufala
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 20 zucchini blossoms
fried stuffed zucchini flowers

fried stuffed zucchini flowers

  1. Before stuffing zucchini flowers you must remove the pistils or filaments which are found inside the flower   However it’s a little tricky to remove the pistils without damaging the flower petals and therefore I recommend that you do this as soon as you get home with the zucchini flowers before the petals begin to wilt.  If not the flower petals will stick together which will make it difficult to reach in the flower and pinch off the pistils.
  2. Once the pistils are removed you can then stuff the blossoms shortly before you are ready to fry them.
  3. To make the batter, mix the flour and the 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl.  Add the eggs, sparking water and 1 tablespoon of oil to the flour mix and whisk until well blended.
  4. Cut the mozzarella ball into sticks which are about 1 inch long and ½ wide.  Pat the anchovies dry with paper towels and cut each fillet into fours.
  5. You can fry the zucchini blossoms in a deep fat fryer if you have one or otherwise you can just as easily fry them in a heavy and high fry pan that is about 3 inches deep.  In either case heat the oil to 375oF.
  6. You will also need to heat oven to 175oF so you can keep the fried zucchini flowers warm as you fry the others.
  7. While the oil is heating, gently spread open the petals of each flower and insert a piece of the cheese and a piece of anchovy into each flower and press the petals closed.
  8. Once the flowers are stuffed, dip the flowers one at a time into the batter to coat the flower completely.  Lift out and let the excess drip back into the bowl.  As this can get quite messy it’s best to dip all the flowers and then fry them.  I usually just place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and lay the battered blossoms on the paper before I put them in the deep fryer or the frying pan.
  9. Once the oil is heated through you can then slip the battered flowers into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides for about 4 minutes.  In the deep fat fryer turn them halfway through so they can brown on all sides.  Afterwards use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel on top of a plate to drain.  Season with fleur de sel and then place in the oven while you fry the remainder of the flowers.
  10. Then serve immediately as is and enjoy!

fresh springtime four-herb pesto spaghettini

four-herb pesto spaghettini

four-herb pesto spaghettini

The beauty of spring is that we no longer have to buy expensive fresh herbs from the grocery store, which often go bad before we get to use them all up.  We are now able to pick our own fresh herbs either from a window box or a home garden.  There’s nothing like using fresh herbs and here’s a pesto recipe that will beautifully leverage the bright flavours of the fresh herbs in your garden.

This is an updated version of the pasta served with pesto.  The pesto is comprised of four herbs which you should hopefully have in your herb box or garden; parsley, tarragon, sage and basil.  The difference between the basil pesto and this four herb pesto is that these herbs are chopped and not taken through the blender so the flavours of each herb is much more prominent.   The four-herb pesto spaghettini can be served as is for a vegetarian option, but if you enjoy a little protein as I do, you can simply top the pasta with chopped strips of prosciutto as I have done here.

The pesto can be prepared a few hours in advance and then combined with cooked pasta when ready to serve.

Serves 2

four-herb pesto spaghettini

four-herb pesto spaghettini

ingredients

  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lightly packed fresh sage leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • spaghettini for two
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper & kosher salt
  • 2 slices of prosciutto (optional)
four-herb pesto spaghettini

four-herb pesto spaghettini

  1. Boil lightly salted water in a large pot over medium-high heat for the spaghettini.
  2. Finely chop the parsley, basil, tarragon, and sage and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle the lemon juice on the herbs and coat the herbs with the lemon juice.
  3. Combine the garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts in the blender or food processor.  Then add the olive oil slowly as the machine is still running and process until mixture is creamy and fully blended.
  4. Pour this oil mixture into the bowl with the herbs and stir to combine.
  5. Add the spaghettini to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
  6. If you wish to top the pasta with prosciutto, while the pasta is cooking chop the prosciutto into ribbons and set aside.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to a serving bowl and toss pasta with the pesto, a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  8. Top with the prosciutto and serve.

refreshing chilled cucumber and dill soup

Image

cucumber and dill soup

cucumber and dill soup

A cold soup is the perfect appetizer for a summer BBQ and this one is particularly refreshing, as the crushed caraway seeds and the dill give it that special zing.  Since this is the beginning of the growing season, it’s a perfect time to use the locally grown garden cucumbers instead of the all-year-around English cucumbers which have little flavour in comparison to the garden cucumber.   If you can’t find the local garden cucumber you can of course use the English cucumbers.

This easy recipe is adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe.  The only special equipment you will need for this recipe is a blender to purée all of the ingredients.

This refreshing chilled soup can be prepared in advance up to 12 hours before you serve it, which makes for an easy appetizer to serve when entertaining a group of friends for a BBQ.

ingredients

  • 4 garden cucumbers peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (low-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3 green onions, both light green and darker green tops, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped and a few sprigs for garnish
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock or broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil

Serves 6

cucumber and dill soup

cucumber and dill soup

  1. After peeling, halving lengthwise and taking it out the seeds of 3 cucumbers, chop the cucumber halves coarsely.
  2. Transfer the cucumber halves into a large bowl and combine with the yogurt, lemon juice, green onions, dill, garlic, caraway seeds, salt and white pepper.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside a room temperature for about an hour.
  3. In the meantime you can peel, half and seed the 4th cucumber and then dice this last remaining cucumber into small ½ inch cubes.  Set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Once the flavours of the cucumber and the other ingredients have combined you can pour into a blender and purée until smooth.  Then slowly add the vegetable stock and continue to purée until it is fully blended, for about 30 seconds.
  5. Transfer soup into a pitcher and cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours.  You can actually make this soup about 12 hours in advance as it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until your are ready to serve it.
  6. When ready to serve the soup, mix in the olive oil into the soup and serve in small bowls or as we did in verrines.  Then just add cubed cucumber to each bowl, top with a sprig of dill and serve immediately.