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Posts Tagged ‘cottage’

As Sitelle and I live a few hundred kilometres apart, it’s always a treat when we get together for dinner.  We had the pleasure of dining together last week, and I knew I wanted to cook something easy and fun involving the grill, as I was cooking for a small crowd (my parents and her fiancé joined in on the party!)   We started with her tasty kuri squash soup and ended with my favourite dessert of all-time, raspberry glacee pie. All in all it was a lovely escape from the hectic life of a medical clerk!

Shish kabobs are one of my favourites – and with all the gorgeous fresh produce (ripe cherry tomatoes! perfect yellow zucchinis! fresh red onions!) at the farmer’s market in Ottawa, I couldn’t help but be inspired. Who doesn’t love meat cooked by fire (not to mention veggies cooked by fire)??

I love the hint of rosemary in the marinade as it keeps the meat tasting fresh. Whenever I make these kabobs, I usually try to use a high-end cut of meat.  The marinade will tenderize the beef regardless, but as the recipe calls for little beef, it’s always special to splurge on the high-end nicely marbled cuts.  Feel free to mix up the type of veggies – the combination below is the classic choice in my family.

If you are feeding vegetarians too, it’s easy to simply leave off the meat on a skewer or two.  I usually have leftover veggies after threading all the skewers balanced with beef and veggies anyways.  With these extra veggies, I cook them on a separate skewer or simply in a large basket for the BBQ.  Charred vegetables make for great leftovers!

Classic Beef Shish Kabobs

The kabobs got eaten before I was able to snap a post-grilling pic, but here they are assembled and ready for the grill

Classic Beef Shish Kabobs

Serves ~6

Ingredients

For the marinade

3/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, pressed

2 tsp. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 lb top sirloin steak, trim the fat and cut into 1-inch cubes

For the kabobs

2 red onions, cut into large wedges

24 cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed

2 zucchinis cut into large rounds

24 cherry tomatoes

2 peppers, cut into large 1-inch chunks

2 tbsp olive oil

Freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste

6-12 metal skewers (or if using bamboo, soak in water for half an hour)

Directions

To make the marinade: In a bowl, stir together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, rosemary, and pepper.  Place the beef cubes in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in the marinate. Seal the bag and marinade at room temperature for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight in the fridge.

About half an hour before you want to start grilling, combine the vegetables with the oil and seasonings.  Toss gently to combine. Place the beef in a bowl and discard the marinade.  Thread the beef and vegetables on the skewers, dividing them evenly, until the skewers are filled.  Start and end with a vegetable on your skewer as often the grill isn’t as hot near the edges.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill – either over hot coals or high propane. Place the skewers on the grill directly over the heat.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, then turn the skewers with tongs. Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes more for medium-rare or longer for well-done.  The veggies should be cooked but firm and nicely charred, while the meat should give easily when pressed.

To serve, slide the beef and veggies off the skewers onto a platter and enjoy.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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As a kid, my family would go strawberry picking in July at a nearby farm. Our family would arrive in a multiple car convoy, with my grandmother leading the way. Each grandchild would be handed a basket and unleashed on the fields. We would spend the next few hours contently picking berries. More often than not, the majority of berries we picked ended up in our stomach rather than the basket. Our more disciplined parents and grandparents had more success in actually picking berries, so we would return to our cottage with mountains of ripe, juicy strawberries.

The challenge was to do something exciting with all these berries. Our family was always up for the challenge – we froze berries whole for later use in the summer, we whipped up frosted strawberry desserts, we baked numerous strawberry pies, and we cooked enough strawberry jam to last us the year. We lived in strawberry heaven for a few weeks before raspberry season arrived!

Today, the farm has been converted into a golf course, but we continue to jam using strawberries from the Farmer’s Market. Making jam is not particularly time consuming or difficult. The trick is in making sure you follow directions for the pectin crystal and avoid any risk of botulism by properly sterilizing jars and instruments. There are a variety of pectin crystals on the market – my mother really likes CERTO light because it is one of the few that uses more fruit than sugar.

Hulling the strawberries

Hulling the strawberries

Your fingers, counters, and bowls are at risk of being stained by the strawberry juice, so I recommend hulling berries over newspaper and using a dark colored or metal bowl to crush the berries. As for the jam pot, note that the jam will nearly double in volume while cooking, so be sure it’s large.

Sterilizing our jamming instruments and transforming our crushed berries into jam!

Sterilizing our  instruments and transforming our crushed berries into jam!

The fresh jam is delicious on breads, but also over icecream or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon!

 

Strawberry Jam

Makes ~8 cups of Strawberry Jam
 
Strawberry Jam
 

Ingredients:

6 cups washed, hulled and crushed strawberries
4 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 box CERTO light pectin crystals

Appropriate number of jars, rings, and lids (either four 2-cup jars or eight 1-cup jars). If the berries are particularly juicy, an extra jar may come in handy!
 

Directions

Sterilize jars by placing them in the oven at 225oF for 10 minutes. Keep warm until filling time. Boil utensils in a pot of water for at least 15 minutes and lids at least 5 minutes before use.

Place crushed strawberries in a large saucepan. Combine the CERTO light pectin crystals and ¼ cup of the measured sugar. Add to strawberries.

Bring the strawberry mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining sugar. Return to a rolling boil (i.e. one where you cannot stop the pot from boiling when stirring hard) for 1 minute. The jam will nearly double in volume at this point and start spitting. It is also highly susceptible to burn at this stage, so continue to stir hard!

Remove jam from heat. Continue stirring jam for 5 minutes. During this time, skim foam off jam.

Pour jam using sterilized utensils into warm sterilized jars to ¼ inch from rim. Cover with lids and screw rings on tightly. The jars should seal overnight. Occasionally, one does not, so store it in the fridge and eat this jar first.
 
NOTE – this is the 2013 CERTO Light recipe – they occasionally change up the crystal formulation, so be sure to follow whatever recipe is listed with your pectin crystals.

Bon appétit!
 
– Catherine

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Family dinners at the cottage are often more exciting than one bargains for.  Earlier this spring, my grandmother was given a whole frozen Arctic char.  She decided that the occasion to serve it would be for her 63rd wedding anniversary.  The dilemma was how to cook the fish?  No one in my family had ever attempted to cook a whole fish before, and certainly not a beautiful large Arctic char!

On their 63rd wedding anniversary, my grandparents enjoying an evening swim!

We decided to try to poach it.  My mother dug up from her basement, a dusty fish poacher given to her as a wedding gift over two decades ago (never once used).  I was to look up a recipe, and chose Martha Stewart’s court-bouillon recipe for poached salmon.  It looked simple, yet flavourful using fresh spring ingredients.  And the Arctic char would add the Canadian twist!

Cooking the fish proved to be more exciting than expected.  Our first excitement came when we realized I had forgotten the recipe at the grocery store.  Then, as it thawed,  we discovered it had yet to be gutted (my uncle saved us here).  Finally, half way through the poaching, my sister scraped the crown of her foot on a rock covered with zebra mussels. She suffered a series of cuts, but more seriously, a gash that proved to need stitches!  Realizing emergency might take a while, we decided to enjoy the fish and chocolate zucchini cake before taking my sister into town for stitches.  But really, what would a special dinner be at the cottage sans adventure?

The fish itself was delicious – succulent, flavourful, and soft – the 14 of us polished it off nicely.  Indeed, my mother thought it was so delicious that she decided to cook it the following week for a dinner party!

A feast of Arctic Char!

Poached Arctic Char

(serves 12-15)

Ingredients

1 bottle dry white wine

1/2 fresh fennel, sliced

2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

3 bay leaves

1 bouquet garni (1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley and 1 bunch thyme, tied together)

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

Water

1 large Arctic char, between 6-8 pounds, gutted (salmon substitutes beautifully)

Directions:

Set the poacher diagonally over the stove so it touches two burners.  Place all the ingredients for the court-bouillon into the fish poacher.  Add water until the fish poacher is about 3/5th full.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Gently lower the Arctic char into the court-bouillon.  Cook at a bare simmer for about 20 minutes.  Slide two wooden spoons through each handle of the rack, and lift it to remove the fish.  Serve on its own or with a creamy dill sauce.  (Be sure to freeze the stalk for another dish.) Poached Arctic char is perfect for special occasions!

– Catherine

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