Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chilled Soup is easy, quick, healthy and downright delicious for all ages!

Warm weather is a perfect time to sip on a refreshing chilled soup. Soup has a universal appeal. In the cooler months nothing beats a steaming bowl of hot soup but hot weather begs us to cool off with a delightful bowl of cold soup!

Most cold soups are full of flavour and pop with colour. Fruit based cold soups have just the right amount of sweetness to make you say ‘ummmm’ with each bite. Fruit soups are a refreshing start to a summer meal or the perfect way to end a meal. Enjoy chilled soup at the next family picnic, late night dinner on the patio, sipping on the deck for lunch, on the boat, or at the dinner table…really almost anytime and anywhere is the right time to enjoy a delicious chilled soup.

Vegetable based cold soups can be a vegetarian’s delight; add some beans and it is a complete meal. For those who enjoy a bit of meat, it is easy to incorporate fresh crab, shrimp or other light protein. Fruit soups are an excellent way to start or end a meal and vegetable soups can actually be the meal along with some Artisan bread.

Whether fruit or vegetable, most cold soups are either cooked very lightly or not at all…sounds wonderful on a hot sticky day!

Farmers markets, backyard gardens and a good produce department are perfect places to get inspired with the plethora of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Sweet soups are usually fruit based enhanced with a bit of honey and savoury soups can be filled with vegetables and spices. That being said, there are no firm rules other than using quality fruit and/or vegetables. Over-ripe food will produce a less than desirable soup. Using food at its’ peak is the best way to ensure a great tasting chilled soup.
A few basic tips when making cold soups are to chill the soup thoroughly, many times overnight. Taste the soup once it has chilled and adjust seasoning if necessary. Most pureed chilled soups should be almost too thick to pour.

The sky is the limit for variety in cold soups! Try Cucumber with Yogurt and Dill. Mango, Tomato-Basil, Watermelon Gazpacho, Curried Pineapple, Chilled Apple with Curry, the timeless, and classic Vichyssoise and the summer favourite, Gazpacho to name a very few.

Want to try a simple cold soup that friends and family will rave about? Whip up this easy Strawberry soup. If kiddies are eating simply replace the Chardonnay with white grape juice. You can even pour the strawberry-grape soup into popsicle moulds and make ‘soup-on-a-stick’ for the kids, they will love it. The Chardonnay and strawberries make an elegant and delicious soup that begs to be made and eaten now!

Chilled Strawberry & Chardonnay Soup

Ingredients Serves 4
12 oz strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup liquid honey
1& 1/2 cups Chardonnay wine (White grape juice can be substituted for the Chardonnay)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
Pinch of cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp strawberry yogurt
1 kiwi, peeled, cut in half from top to bottom then cut into slices

Place strawberries, honey, Chardonnay and lemon juice in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and put in fridge to chill a several hours or even overnight. Once chilled thoroughly, add the lemon zest and strawberry yogurt mixing ingredients together.
Pour into 4 chilled soup bowls* and garnish each bowl with sliced kiwi.

*Have fun serving the chilled soup in chilled martini glasses or half of a hollowed out cantaloupe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marinade Tips for the BBQ

Summer brings out the desire to use the outdoor grill. The smell coming off the grill is like no other and flavour peaks from food sizzling on the grill. Pack even more flavour in by using a marinade on your favourite meat, fish, poultry or vegetable. Basically a marinade is oil, an acid and seasonings imparting great flavour into grilled food. Marinades also add moisture along with flavour and using them is an easy way to achieve quick success as a ‘grillmeister’!

Here are a few marinade tips plus a quick marinade recipe. When ever you use a marinade that includes vinegar, lemon juice, or wine (an acid base marinade) be careful not to let the meat to sit longer than 4 hours or it can actually start breaking down the texture of the meat.

A quick no fuss-no muss way to marinade is to put the meat and marinade in a heavy-duty plastic zip lock bag; since it keeps the food completely surrounded by the marinade, it eliminates the need for frequent turning. Press out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator, never on the counter at room temperature.

A few ingredients like chopped garlic and parsley leaves may scorch over direct high heat and taste bitter. Although they add flavour to the marinade, you may want to brush them off the food before grilling. If you want to another hit of flavour to the food on the grill, tie-up five or six fresh herbs with heavy cotton string securing the herbs to make a fragrant ‘basting brush’. Dip the herb ‘brush’ into a favourite sauce, marinade or just olive oil to baste as the food cooks on the grill!

The following step seems so simple and yet can make a big difference; simple shake off as much marinade as possible before grilling to promote a good sear. If the meat is too wet, it will steam and drip liquid onto the coals, inhibiting the development of that distinctive crisp, browned exterior.

Simple Citrus Marinade
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (can interchange orange and/or lime juice)
1-2 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs. finely chopped shallots or green onions
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, tarragon, dill or sage, or 1 tsp. dried herb of choice (choose your favourite herb mixture)
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. cumin (optional)
2 tsp. minced jalapeño chilli
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, lemon zest, thyme, minced jalapeño, salt and pepper. Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly covered jar for up to 2 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Have fun with marinades on the grill!