By Nancy Fisher
Every spring I look forward to firing up the BBQ and cooking over a flame. Even when it is a bit too cold to be standing out there, or it starts to rain or snow, the first chance I get I’m snapping my tongs and firing up the grill. While it is easy to resort to familiar favourites of burgers, sausages and foil wrapped baked potatoes, I also like to try out new things to see how they adapt to the grill. To be honest, I do not consider myself a grill master, nor do I have a very fancy BBQ, but I did buy a metal basket for cooking vegetables and I have been enjoying it very much.
On June 17 and 18 the village of Blyth is hosting the Rutabaga Festival so I thought the time was right to test this under-loved vegetable on the grill. My go-to method with other root vegetables is wrapping in foil so I did a packet of rutabaga in that style and more in my new basket. For both styles I peeled, chopped and par-boiled the rutabaga until it was fork tender. I use this partial cooking method for most BBQed vegetables. I wrapped half of the rutabaga in a double layer of foil and added a bit of oil, a tablespoon of butter and some seasoning. In this case I used a commercial blend of Cajun seasoning for both styles. After wrapping tightly, I placed the packet on the upper shelf of my BBQ and let it roast for about 20 minutes, keeping an eye on it and moving it to a cooler side when I thought it might be getting close to finished. The other half of the chopped, par-boiled rutabaga I tossed with a bit of oil and the same seasoning. I preheated my cooking basket for about three minutes and then tossed the rutabaga in. I made sure to turn the flame to a medium low setting and stirred it often to prevent burning. It caramelized wonderfully and was cooked in about 8 – 10 minutes. As most grills are different, this will vary based on the level of heat you are using and placement on the grill.
Both results were delicious and it is nice to use what I often think of as a winter vegetable in another season. I’m excited to vary the seasonings – the Cajun spice was great and went with the rest of the meal I was serving, but I’d like to try some more traditional flavourings like nutmeg, and maybe a bit of brown sugar. The foiled wrapped version was much like cooking it in my oven, but I did really enjoy the colour and caramelized flavour of the portion cooked in the open basket. If you are looking for a slightly different BBQ vegetable, give rutabaga a try.
Along with things from the grill, June is all about the salads. Since I have a family member who is vegan and some who just don’t like mayo-based salads, I am always eager to try alternatives. This carrot apple slaw was a nice change. It is very sweet so adjust the amount of honey if you want to tone that down or replace it with sugar for vegans.
Carrot Apple Slaw
2 large carrots grated with the largest side of your grater
1 apple not peeled - I used a Gala, but a more tart variety might be nice to cut the sweetness
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons oil - I used an extra virgin olive oil and it may have been a bit too fruity, a neutral flavoured oil might be better.
1 – 2 teaspoons honey - adjust to taste or use table sugar for a vegan friendly version
Pinch of salt
¼ cup chopped cashews or pistachios (optional)
Fresh herbs of your choice (optional)
Peel and shred the carrots – you can julienne them but I don’t have that kind of patience. Chop the apple into julienned slivers. Mix gently in a serving bowl. In a separate bowl mix lemon juice, honey or sugar and salt. You may want to add some fresh herbs, mint would be very nice. Pour dressing over the carrots and apple and combine. Keep refrigerated until serving. Top with some chopped nuts at time of serving.
A refreshing change from a cabbage slaw and very kid friendly too.
June is also strawberry month. Although it seems like we can get fresh berries most of the year, we all know that the very best are the ones you pick down the road at one of our berry farms. I wait all winter for that first juicy bite. But if you have a lot of strawberries and are looking for other ways to use them up, you might like to try a strawberry muffin. This is my standard go-to muffin recipe, and I admit it makes more that 12 regular sized muffins depending on how much extra stuff you put in. In this case I made 12 extra large muffins using the oversized paper cases, but you can stretch the batter out to 14 or 16 if you portion smaller.
• Preheat oven to 350°F
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped strawberries (or raspberries – frozen work great)
In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside
In another bowl beat eggs, milk, vanilla, and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry mixing until just moist. Gently fold in strawberries.
Spoon into muffin cups – either paper or greased pan. To be fancy and if you have smaller cute strawberries place a half strawberry on top and sprinkle with some coarse sugar.
Bake 30 – 35 minutes for 12 large muffins or slightly less for more, smaller muffins.
As always check with a toothpick a few times to be sure they are cooked through.
If you want a pretty pink glaze, thoroughly crush 1 or 2 strawberries in a bowl and mix with icing sugar to form a thin glaze. Strain through a sieve and drizzle over cooled muffins. ◊