Grilled Salmon & Trout Teriyaki Rice Bowls

It’s been unseasonably warm this fall, so I thought that another light, refreshing meal was in order. The girls requested rice bowls, so that’s what we ended up doing! I found a few pieces of both salmon and trout on special at the local grocery store, but neither one had quite enough to feed the entire family. In the end, I served each person a slice of each kind of fish.

I marinated the fish in Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce, and then my husband put it on the smoker grill. I always cook this kind of fish on a baking sheet even on a grill, and even if it’s skin-on like ours normally is, because once done it tends to fall apart into the machinery beneath. While the meat was cooking, I put on the rice, steamed some bok choy, thinly sliced some carrots, cut up one of my many home-grown cucumbers, chopped the onion tops from my garden (they’re a great substitute for chives), and cut up some enoki mushrooms. By the time all that was done, the fish was ready. Then all that was left was to assemble the bowls, and to eat!

Too Many Tomatoes

It’s that time of year again when everything seems to be ripe at once and it’s physically impossible to eat it all before it goes bad. Case in point: my tomatoes. I grow predominantly cherry tomatoes, although a friend did give me one black tomato plant that has done very well this year. I just find cherry tomatoes to be more flavourful than most of the larger varieties. And I plant tonnes, since I know that I’ll want to include them in a number of preserves come fall.

Case in point: this is what I brought in from the garden the other day. I think that these tomatoes, and probably the onions as well, will soon become spaghetti sauce. I might even go for the healthy veggie tomato sauce I made last year, and include the eggplant that should be ripe in a few days. (I had a lovely huge one ready to go, and then an animal go to it. Figures.)

At the same time, I had a few small radishes, the last of the cucumbers (the vines were starting to die back), and a few potatoes that were beginning to poke through the surface of the dirt. Something needs to be done with all of this produce before it rots!

The first step for me is to make at least one dinner with the fresh ingredients. I barbecued some chicken thighs with my usual spice mix (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and sea salt), and cooked up some of the potatoes on the grill at the same time. I know that they look very similar post-grill, but the difference was immediately apparent once they were cut open. I added some cherry tomatoes and sliced radishes as a veggie once everything else was cooked. It was a very simple meal, but it was both tasty and easy to prepare — which I needed after spending a couple of hours in the garden!

Steak and Bannock

We’ve been having some real problems with power outages in our area lately. It seems like whenever we have a storm or a particularly hot day, the part of the grid that I live in goes down, often for hours. It’s particularly frustrating because a few streets over, who have infrastructure that was put in at the same time as where I live, there won’t even be a glitch.

Such was the case last night when I came home from a grocery run with the kiddos after school. There was a thunder and lightning storm, but there were no issues at the store, so I didn’t think anything of it. Lo and behold, when I returned home we had no power, and apparently we hadn’t for at least an hour. Well, that changed my dinner plans drastically! I’d been planning on making pasta with homemade pesto, but without a burner upon which to boil the water, that was out. (Honestly, I’m starting to think that our next barbecue should be the kind with a burner on the side, since this happens so often.) So I rummaged through the day’s purchases and found something that could easily be cooked on the gas barbecue (I couldn’t use the wood pellet one since the auger is electrically driven).

Luckily I’d picked up a pack of steaks that I’d planned to marinade for the next day’s meal. There was a really good special, and the inch-thick steaks were cheaper by the pound than medium ground beef. So I threw them on the grill with a dusting of Montreal steak spice, and cooked them low and slow (about 300 to 320F) for about an hour, so they’d be done all the way through without burning.

But what to do for a side dish? I had no bread made; I was out of potatoes and corn; rice and pasta were right out because I couldn’t use the stove. But suddenly my Girl Guide training popped into my head: what about bannock? Granted, we’d always made bannock by twisting the dough around a stick and cooking it over the campfire, but traditionally it was made on a griddle or a flat stone. A cast iron pan on a gas barbecue isn’t that much different, right?

It turns out that I was absolutely correct! A perfectly decent bannock can be made this way, and honestly it’s not very difficult. I used the recipe I’d learned years ago from The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts (1959), which was my father’s book before me and was one of my favourite resources for techniques as a Girl Guide. (This recipe just so happens to be vegan/vegetarian so long as you use a vegetable oil such as canola oil as your fat, which I admit wasn’t a huge factor when pairing with steak, but it would have been useful if I’d had a vegan guest.) I preheated my grill to 325F, since I was cooking the steak in there anyway. I basically treated the bannock like a big, slow pancake: cook for 10min or so with the lid closed, open the lid and flip the dough, and then close the lid to cook for another 10min or so. I stayed outside with the bannock and checked on it often because I really wasn’t sure how long it would take — except when it started to rain again. The heat wasn’t terribly consistent, especially with the rain cooling the whole thing down at one point, but it still turned out quite well. Basically, it was just a giant biscuit that I didn’t have to run the oven to make — which makes me think I’ll be making it on future hot days where I don’t want to have to cook indoors.

The steak was done to perfection, by the way. It was melt-in-your mouth. Not too shabby for an improvised meal cooked without electricity!

Don’t Do This

So. Um. I messed up.

Last night for dinner, in an attempt to create a meal with the ingredients I already had on hand (despite my freezer becoming progressively emptier), I decided to grill some pork belly slices on my smoker grill. I’d done my research and it can be done, with apparently tasty results, too! I figured I’d serve it with tiny boiled potatoes and steamed spinach, i.e. what I had left in the fridge. So I prepared the meat, heated up the grill, and threw the strips on.

For the first four minutes (I set a timer), everything was going well. The pork belly was grilling nicely, changing colour from “uncooked” to “cooked” with a few grill marks, just as intended. So I flipped the strips, closed the lid, and set the timer for another three minutes, as directed. I popped back inside to deal with the side dishes while it cooked.

Then my hubby came through the door, having walked down the street from the bus stop, and asks me, “Are you barbecuing something? Because something smells really burned outside.”

Crap.

There was a MASSIVE flare-up on the barbecue while I was otherwise occupied. Smoke was billowing out of the chimney. When I opened the lid, the flames shot up higher than I was tall. Every piece of meat in on the grill was on fire.

I turned off the power to the grill, both to remove some of the fuel from the fire and because smokers have a fan that forces the air through the machine. Unlike a gas barbecue, which has no moving parts (or at least mine doesn’t), the fan on a smoker literally fans the flames, which I very much did not want. Then I grabbed the longest tongs I owned and pulled the charred remains of the meat from the grill, blowing some of it out as I removed it. Fuel sources removed, the fire died down and quickly burned itself out. At least I didn’t have to use the fire extinguisher. (Due to the construction of a barbecue, which is made to circulate air through, I couldn’t just throw a lid over it to starve the fire entirely of air, like you would with a grease fire on a kitchen stove.)

So here you have the cremated remains of what was supposed to be last night’s dinner. In an interesting twist of fate, the few pieces that weren’t completely charcoal were actually still pretty tasty. Despite my absolute fail this time, I think I may try to grill pork belly strips again. However, it will be the only thing I will do at the time and I will watch it like a hawk. Hopefully I am capable of learning from my mistakes.

Husbeast and the kids had Kraft Dinner and hot dogs in the end, while I had leftovers, by the way. After this debacle, I just didn’t have time to make another dinner from scratch.

Teriyaki Grilled Salmon

Last night the family wanted burgers, but while my kids would eat them every day given half the chance (especially Thing 2), I wanted something a little bit different. That being said, I still didn’t want to cook inside, since it was quite hot and humid. My solution was found at the fish counter at the grocery store.

I marinaded a piece of skin-on salmon for about thirty minutes in Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce, which is not my usual go-to for teriyaki. When I’m just spreading the sauce over the top and baking my fish, I generally use Golden Dragon Thick Teriyaki Sauce, which, as the name implies, is a thick sauce with more of a consistency of a ranch salad dressing (although nothing like the taste). The Kikkoman version, however, is a much thinner sauce, more like a broth, and it’s great for a marinade if you have the time. To add to the flavour, I had my husband throw the salmon on the wood pellet barbecue alongside the burgers and the tiny potatoes, while I steamed the spinach inside. The salmon was moist, tender, and absolutely perfect when it came off the grill. The rest of the family was having fancy maple ale burgers, but I think I got the better end of the deal by a long shot.

BBQ Ribs & Potatoes

The other day I had a desire both not to cook in the house and to try something new. Well, new to me in the cooking department, at least. I grabbed a rack of pork ribs from the grocery store, threw them in a pre-made marinade, and chucked them on the grill.

Although the meat was definitely edible, even tasty, I did discover that I had a lot to learn about cooking ribs because they ended up being rather chewy. When I’ve had ribs that other people have made, they always end up being fall-off-the-bone tender. I think I really needed to cook them low and slow to get that desired tenderness. Perhaps in a slow-cooker, or on a low setting on the smoker grill, once we get the auger fixed. Quick and dirty on the gas grill just isn’t going to cut it for the results that I’m looking for.

As a side, I made foil packet potatoes with garlic butter on the barbecue. They don’t look like much, but they were cooked to perfection and were packed with flavour. As a veggie, we had a quick leafy salad.

All in all, I would consider this dinner to be a provisional success. It wasn’t perfect, but everyone came back for seconds, and I learned something. It wasn’t bad for a first attempt, but I’m sure with practice I could do better.

Grilled Duck Breasts & Strawberry Shortcake

Yesterday I decided to cook something I’d never cooked before: duck. I’d eaten it before, generally in Asian fusion food, but I’d never cooked it. It’s different than most of the poultry I’m used to working with (i.e. chicken and turkey) in that it’s a red meat. It’s honestly more like ostrich. Somehow I’d managed to cook up ostrich long before I’d ever worked with duck, which is a little odd seeing as duck is domestic and ostrich is most definitely not. But I digress.

I found the duck breasts in the frozen section of T&T Supermarket a while back, and I bought them because they looked interesting and they were on special (my favourite combination). I’m not sure if this is usually the case, as I have no baseline, but that day they were significantly cheaper than beef. The breasts weren’t whole; they were already cut up into what I think of as tiny little steaks.

I used the marinade from a Grilled Wild Duck Breast Recipe that I’d Googled, knowing full well that since I liked all of the ingredients separately I’d probably like them together. I only did a quick marinade of about half an hour, since I wanted to taste the meat and not just the sauce. Then I threw the steaks on a preheated gas grill. The real challenge here was not to overcook them. I didn’t want them to be rare in the center, but they were so small that I really worried that I’d accidentally turn them into shoe leather. I settled on about five minutes per side, and that ended up being perfect. There was just a bit of char on the outside, but the middle was tender and soft.

I served the duck breasts on a bed of basmati rice, alongside some green zucchini that I’d sliced and grilled at the same time as the duck breast. Timing is always an issue with this kind of meal, so I cooked the rice first, then put the duck on, and then the zucchini, since it was sliced fairly thinly. It all came to the table piping hot and delicious.

For dessert we piled into the car and drove over to my parents’ house for strawberry shortcake. This time my mother made it, but she basically followed my Nan’s recipe. It was an assemble-it-yourself kind of affair (which the kids love), so if mine ended up being sloppy and leaning, that’s nobody’s fault but my own. Part of the problem with structural integrity is that I had to use a non-dairy whipped topping, which never beats as stiff as true whipping cream. Also, we upped the sweets game by drizzling dark maple syrup over the top, further compromising the tower’s support but definitely enhancing the taste.

Dessert finished and hands (and tables, and place mats) cleaned of sticky syrup residue, we headed back home to put the children to bed and to spend some quiet time digesting.