Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Broccoli on the Grill

Broccoli  --- Hot off the Grill

We've had success putting our broccoli on the grill while we cook our meat, so I thought I'd share how it is done. It is a twist on the technique used for Hayden's Sprouts.

The moisture from the recently rinsed broccoli steams the broccoli and the direct heat from the grill browns the bottom.  Using garlic powder eliminates the risk of bitter or burnt garlic, but adds flavor.

Broccoli on the Grill

1 head of fresh broccoli, rinsed
aluminum foil
olive oil
garlic powder
salt and pepper

For an average sized head of broccoli, you will need two equally sized sheets of aluminum foil, approximately 16-18 inches long.

Place one sheet on the counter, drizzle some olive on it.

Then, be sure your broccoli is recently rinsed, and not dry, you will need a little moisture for success.

Cut the broccoli into pieces, including the stems, so they are all about the same size for even cooking.

Place the flat side down into the olive oil and rub it around to coat the flat side with the oil, and pack them closely together in one layer.  Leave about an inch or two all around the outside.  In other words, keep them in the center of the foil.
One layer is important for even cooking and getting a browned bottom.

Drizzle more olive oil over the top.  Add a generous amount of garlic powder (not garlic salt) and then season with salt and pepper.  Be sure to get the spices on all of the pieces of broccoli.
Now, place the second piece of aluminum foil on top.  Start in one corner, and fold the bottom edge over the bottom, as if you were sealing a pie, or a parchment packet for fish, until you are all the way around the foil, and have a tightly closed packet of broccoli.  If you need to, squish the broccoli together to ensure that there are not any gaps.  If you tear the foil, just crimp it together.  You don't want any places for the steam to escape.
Place the packet on a tray or small cookie sheet for transportation to and from the grill.
Coordinate the timing of the broccoli with whatever else you are grilling.
Grill for about 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat.  12 minutes is too long.  You don't have to turn it.
Be careful when you open the packet.  It will be steamy and very hot.

The broccoli will be bright green but browned on the bottom if you have your timing right.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Peach Melba is a French chef's dessert for an Australian

Dame Nellie Melba, Australian opera singer, in costume

Famous French chef, Auguste Escoffier, created "Peach Melba" for Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba, who dined at his restaurants in London in the late 1890's and early 1900's.

"Dame Nellie Melba (1861–1931) was probably the most famous soprano in the world in the early decades of the twentieth century. Born Helen Porter Mitchell, she took the stage name of Melba as a contraction of her native city of Melbourne. She was based in Europe for long periods but toured Australia extensively. Melba worked tirelessly to raise funds for charities in Australia during World War I. In 1920, she became the first artist of international reputation to participate in direct radio broadcasts."  Source:  Museum of Australian Currency
PBS food writer, Tori Avey tells the whole story at The History Kitchen. Or click here to go to the site:
I compared The History Kitchen recipe (which she says is translated from Escoffier's words) to many different versions in my French cookbooks and online, and came back to the original to try.
I can see why this is such a popular dessert! Creamy and cool, rich but not cloying.
The key to a great Peach Melba is perfectly ripe peaches.  So either let them ripen on the windowsill or speed up the process by putting them in a paper bag, loosely closed, at room temperature for a couple of days.

Peach Melba
(adapted from Escoffier's Peach Melba on The History Kitchen on PBS)

Serves 6-8

4 ripe, tender peaches
superfine sugar
1-2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 pint vanilla ice cream like Ben & Jerry's
12 ounces fresh ripe raspberries
1 heaping cup of powdered sugar
4 T. slivered almonds, toasted

Note:  Make the raspberry sauce and peel/sugar the peaches, at least an hour before your serve the dessert, i.e., be sure to do it ahead of time.

For the raspberry sauce, use a mini-food processor or blender, to puree the fresh raspberries.
Strain the pureed fruit through a sieve to remove the seeds.
It takes a long time -- about 5 minutes of continuously pushing the fruit through the sieve, and scraping the juice from the bottom, but you will be left with just the seeds.  Which should be discarded/composted.
Put the strained fruit back in the food processor and add the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and process until smooth.  You will be adding a cup of powdered sugar in total.
Chill it, covered, in the refrigerator, until time to serve.
For the sugared peaches, carefully peel the peaches*, remove the pit, and slice in half.  Squeeze lemon over them, then sprinkle sugar on both sides, cover and put them in the refrigerator to chill until time to serve.

*There are many suggestions as to the best and easiest way to peel peaches, with most references recommending blanching then shocking them in cold water, to make the peel easy to remove.  I have always found that if I am patient and careful, I can just peel them with a good paring knife.

For the almond topping, spread the almonds in one layer and either toast them in a toast oven or regular oven, just until they begin to color.  Watch them carefully, and don't let them burn.  I noticed that Escoffier called for raw blanched almonds, but toasting them always brings out more flavor.

For the ice cream, you can make your own from scratch like Escoffier did, but with so many good options available in the supermarket, we chose Ben&Jerry's Vanilla.

To assemble the dessert:

Choose a nice vertical glass dish so you can see the layers.

Place one big scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom.

Add the raspberry sauce.

Place a peach half to the side, so you can still see the raspberry sauce and ice cream, sort of like a hat.

Then, sprinkle the toasted almonds on top.
Serve promptly.

I can't believe it took me this long to discover Peach Melba.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Weetabix - An Australian Original by Tom

Weetabix is Australian 

Last year we got hooked on a very funny Irish television series entitled "Moone Boy".  Chris O'Dowd is the imaginary friend of Martin Moone, and, as it turns out, it is a bit of retrospective of O'Dowd's childhood experiences.  One of the episodes involves getting a new bicycle from collecting many boxtops from a cereal named "Reddibix".  Martin's sisters cringe at the thought of having to eat so much of this stuff.  We wondered why.  So we went on the hunt for the cereal.  No such cereal exists in real life, but Weetabix does!
Weetabix is the British version of the original Australian cereal Weet-Bix.  Clever rebranding.  We can thank Australian Bennison Osborne for inventing this high fiber cereal.  He developed it in the mid-1920s, but through a series of circumstances it ended up being manufactured in England in the 1932. 
English food until the last thirty years or so has not been known for its culinary excellence.  Weetabix fits right into that stereotype, and perhaps even helped to promote it.

It comes in the package nicely bundled as a biscuit.  It looks like a hybrid of plywood and sawdust.  But then the magic happens.  As soon as milk touches it, it turns into a soggy mess.  It is rather hard to describe the taste of Weetabix once in this state.  Obviously because the main ingredient is wheat, it does have this taste.  Although I have never eaten Cream-of-Wheat cold, I imagine this would be a fairly accurate description of its taste.
So there you have it.  An Australian invention that found its way to England and eventually into our kitchen pantry.  It may be there for a while.

Friday, July 3, 2015

How to eat Vegemite and Hugh Jackman

Vegemite is made from brewer's yeast, a by-product of brewing beer.
It was invented in 1922 in Australia and 22 million jars per year are sold by most estimates.

What's more Australian than Vegemite!

Thanks to our niece, Emily ---she sent me the link---Hugh Jackman shows us (and Jimmy Fallon) how to eat Vegemite.

Or go to the link here:

I bought a jar and white bread and we tried it, too, following Hugh's directions.
First I toasted inexpensive white bread.  Then added butter.  
Then, only a little bit of vegemite, thinly spread across the surface of the toast.  

So what does it taste like?  To me, it tastes a lot like miso paste.  It is salty and bitter.  Or kind of like a spread of briny black olives. But malt-ier.  Kind of like Worcestshire sauce.
It's has lots of nutritional value.  B-vitamins and probiotics.

Later in the day, I also tried it on a toasted cheese sandwich using it instead of mustard.  But I definitely used too much, and it was overpowering and too salty.

A little goes a long way...

Here's the link to the Vegemite site if you are interested in learning more about it's history and how to use it.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July: Australia

July: Australia

July is Australia month for our food travels.  The calendar has vegemite toast, lamingtons, beer, BBQ snag, balmain bug, meat pie, fish and chips, flat white and peach melba.

Vegemite (some sort of brown paste which is spread on toast) will be the first thing I will look for at the grocery store.  I have always heard it tastes awful but I have always wanted to try it.

Lamingtons sound delicious:  a sponge cake with chocolate and coconut with a layer of cream in between.

Flat white refers to a layer of velvety foam on top of coffee, similar to a cappuccino or latte.

Snag is a colloquialism for sausage on the BBQ or barbie.  And a balmain bug is butterfly fan lobster, a species of slipper lobster.

Meat pie is a popular take-away food.  It's a small pie in a tin, made with minced meat and gravy and the data says Australians consume on average 12 per year.

Peach melba is a dessert of peaches and ice cream with a raspberry sauce, and it was invented for Australian soprano, Nellie Melba.

Will be fun to try a few of these iconic items.