Monday, 27 June 2011

Grilling: Marinades, BBQ and dips, oh my!

So, I'm obsessed with food. It's no secret. I have been travelling for the past five months, and half of my pictures are of delicious local delicacies (ancient ruins and gorgeous churches be damned). When I go to a restaurant, I spend my time pondering which spice gave the chicken that kick or how they made the sauce SO creamy but not heavy.

I have learned a lot about cooking since living (more or less) on my own with a kitchen since September of last year. My "aha" moment occured last fall. My friend had given me a basil plant for a birthday present the previous summer. I LOVE pasta, but much Prego red sauce with fresh basil can one college girl eat? I had no idea what do with all that basil. I Google'd recipes with basil and realized that pesto is made out of basil! WHO KNEW?! I went to the grocery store and carefully selected the required ingredients. I didn't have a food processor, so I hand-chopped the basil, walnuts, parmesan, and garlic and seasoned it with fresh ground pepper and olive oil. (Here's the recipe I used:

It was amazing. I ate that pesto with everything--grilled cheeses, pasta, crackers, baked tomatoes...I savored the taste of all those fresh, whole ingredients mixed together but still distinct.  I loved how every time I made it, it tasted a bit different. I could change it easily by adding just a dash of red pepper or a bit of lime juice. I was amazed that I could make such delicious food.

Ever since then, I have been on a quest to learn to cook. Not just how to follow recipes, but how to cook from scratch. You can make almost anything yourself! I mostly made this blog because I've been trying out a ton of new things lately, and I want to remember them. The past four days, we have had barbecue, which means lots of marinade!

The one thing everyone should know about marinade is the main ingredients. As long as you have some sort of oil, some sort of acid (alcohol, wine, vinegar, citrus juice), and a good combination of spices, your marinade should work. The acid breaks down some chemical component of meat, allowing the oil and spices to permeate it. (If you're cooking tough meat, lots of acid will help soften it.) The following recipes encompass my experimentation with marinades!

Sunday, we cooked salmon. My boyfriend's roommate and I couldn't agree on which style would be better, so we tried them both. The boys preferred the first style, but I loved my sweet and tangy variety.

We cooked them each the same way: throw everything in an aluminum foil packet and cook on the grill for 8-10 minutes. Our grill was a little hotter than the recommended seafood/fish temperature, but they were still delicious.

Rowan's Salmon and Veggies

Salmon filets
assorted veggies (We used red & yellow peppers, onions, and potatoes. If you use potatoes, boil them  a bit before. They cook a lot slower than the salmon and other veggies.)
dried chiles

Before you close up the packet, drizzle olive oil on the veggies only.

Brown Sugar Sauce Salmon

Salmon filets

Brown Sugar Sauce:

1 part soy sauce
3 parts brown sugar
1+ part mustard
dash of vinegar
salt & pepper to to taste
Combine all on the stovetop until blended.

Marinate them for about an hour before you grill.

As for tonight, I also created some killer sauces.

Barbecue Sauce (used on chicken thighs)

1 part lemon juice
2 parts soy sauce
2 parts vinegar
3 parts ketchup
3 parts brown sugar
salt, chili powder or cayenne (anything spicy), mustard, and pepper to taste
Combine on the stovetop until all blended.

The ideal combination for me is a full flavor--with the right proportions, you can have a sauce that starts tangy, fades to sweet, and finishes spicy. SO SO YUMMY! Remember that the opposite tastes can work to cancel each other out. Too sweet--add more acid (vinegar or lemon). Too tangy--calm it with sugar. Just missing that kick--hot hot hot! Pepper or cayenne will always help.

There were also some tough pork chops to make delicious, and a simple marinade seemed the best bet.

All-Purpose Marinade
1 part olive oil
1 part vinegar
garlic, salt & pepper to taste

(Yup, that's it. Marinate and then grill. I made a fresh batch to baste them with while grilling, just in case, but it wasn't really necessary. However, make sure not to use the sauce that has touched the raw meat if you decide to baste.)

Finally, my boyfriend's sister Sabine makes an excellent white dip that goes with anything. We put it on bread, bratwurst, and cucumbers. It's really light but has a great flavor.

Sabine's Sauce

1 part mayo
1 part Greek yogurt
dash of mustard
dash of lemon juice
garlic & chives to taste

I'm a cooker, not a baker, so sorry about the super vague recipes! My technique usually involves mixing everything and tasting it approximately 15 times, while simultaneously adding microscopic amounts of spices, until I believe it's perfect.

Eet smakelijk!

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