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A Beginner’s Guide to the Barbecue

posted in Main Dishes by Emily Chapelle

Now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to get outside and grill.

What’s that?

You’re new to grilling?

You’re afraid to light a barbecue?

Well, have no fear. It’s not as complicated as it looks. If you’re thinking about buying a barbecue, we’ll break down the pros and cons of charcoal and gas grills. For those just finding their way around a grill, we’ll follow up with some of the first steps to throwing some food on the barbie. And for those who are already all fired up, we’ve got some recipes ready to go, as well as a slew of barbecue tips and tricks. And even if you’re a city slicker like Kathy, and outdoor grilling isn’t an option, try indoor grilling!

Which Barbeque to Use? Charcoal or Gas?

Despite what some fervent grillers say, one isn’t necessarily superior to the other. There are pros and cons to both grilling methods, so it’s really your call! Here’s a rundown of some of the pros and cons:

Charcoal Barbeque

  • There’s a full range of prices: inexpensive grills are easy to find, and upscale models are available too (+)
  • Gets very hot (+-)
  • Needs to be manually lit and preheated for a minimum of 20 minutes (usually much longer) (-)
  • Cleaning is more complicated due to ashes (-)
  • Smoky flavor every time you grill (+-)
  • Tough to keep a constant temperature (-)
  • You get to play with real fire (+)

Gas Barbeque

  • Typically pricier than charcoal, though inexpensive models are available (+-)
  • A more complicated grill means more parts that can break (-)
  • Easy to clean (+)
  • Has the option of smoky flavor or not, with use of wood chips in a smoker box (+)
  • Convenient (+)

For more details about the differences between gas and charcoal grills, check out chow.com’s objective and clear breakdown.

Get Your Grill On! (How to Use your Barbecue)

  • If you’re using a charcoal grill, empty the ashes from your last grilling session.
  • Both types of grills need to be pre-heated before you start cooking. Gas grills turn on easily (make sure the lid is open while you’re lighting the grill!), but if you’re new to lighting one, here’s a video demonstration. To light your charcoal grill, you’ll need a chimney starter. Please don’t light your charcoal with lighter fluid! It seems like a quick fix, but it can make your food taste “chemical.” Let the gas grill heat up for at least 10 minutes, and your charcoal grill for at least 20.
  • After your grill is preheated, use a brass-wire brush to scrape the charred goo and gunk off of the grate. You’ll need to give it a good scrape at the beginning of grilling season. Then, during grilling season, a quick brush before and after grilling should do. After you grill your last meal for the summer or fall, leave the grease on the grate to prevent rusting over the winter. (If you don’t have one of those brushes, you can use some aluminum foil to do the trick!)
  • Once your grill is clean, oil the grate by grabbing an oiled paper towel with some long tongs, and wiping it over the bars. You’ll need to use an oil with a high smoking temperature, like canola oil.
  • Now that your grill is hot and the grate is clean, your food won’t stick to it as much, and you’re likely to get those classic grill lines!

What to grill

Sure, everyone knows steaks and burgers can go on the grill, but did you know that it’s also great for sandwiches and pizza? Here’s a list of recipe ideas to get you started.

Barbecue Tips and Tricks

  • To avoid losing juices during turning, always flip your meat or vegetables using tongs or a spatula, rather than a fork.
  • Try to limit the flips. Ideally, you should flip each item once during the grilling process.
  • Whatever you do, don’t press down on burgers or chicken (or anything) with a spatula while they’re grilling! This squeezes out the juices and once they’re gone … they’re gone! If you’re bored and need something to do with your hands, learn to juggle (but not too close to the grill, please!).
  • For great smoky flavor, soak some wood chips (hickory, oak, or other hardwoods but not treated lumber!) in water for a while, then throw them onto your charcoal and cover the grill, or if you’re using gas, put them into your smoker box following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • To infuse grilled foods with herb essence, toss herbs directly onto the charcoal while you’re grilling. Or, if you’re using a gas grill, soak the herbs in water, and place them on the grate before putting your food on top of them.
  • If you want to baste your meat or vegetables, save this step for last. That way the sugars in ,your marinade or sauce won’t have time to caramelize or burn.
  • If this all sounds too complicated, or if it’s raining or cold outdoors, you can grill indoors with a contact grill or use a grill pan.

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Scrambled Eggs

print recipe card posted in Breakfast and Brunch, Eggs, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

If all you’ve got in your refrigerator is eggs, milk and butter, you’ve got yourself a meal.

There isn’t a single time of day that scrambled eggs don’t taste good! Who knows, this simple meal may become one of YOUR signature dishes.

Here is a list of the equipment you will need to make scrambled eggs:

  • A small cup to first crack the eggs into to check for shells
  • A small bowl to put the eggs in for mixing
  • A fork or whisk for mixing
  • A small sauce pan or fry pan, preferably non stick
  • A silicone spatula
  • Measuring spoons

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For 2 servings, or 1 ½ eggs per person the Ingredients are;

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • Salt and pepper to your taste

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When you buy eggs in the grocery store, check that there are no broken eggs in the carton.

In the United States, by USDA requirement, eggs come already washed so you can use them straight away.

Begin by cracking each egg individually into the small cup. Check the egg to see that it looks okay and that there are no shells. Then add the egg to the mixing bowl.

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Now add a sprinkle of salt and black pepper (to your taste), and 2 Tablespoons of milk to the eggs. (There is some debate – see comments below – about when to add the salt – before or after cooking.)

Beat this mixture with a fork, or a whisk, in a vigorous elliptical motion until the yolks and the whites are all a nice bright yellow and completely blended together.

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(Graydon, in the comments below, likes to skip all these steps and just mix everything up in the pan you are cooking in!)

Put the beaten eggs to one side, and melt 2 teaspoons of butter over medium low heat in a non-stick pan. If you turn the burner up too high the eggs will cook faster, but you will end up with very watery, soggy tasting eggs. So be sure to keep the temperature at medium-low.

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(Non-stick pans make cleaning up so much easier! However, Non-stick pans can easily be scratched with metal utensils. You’ll need to buy a silicon spatula or scraper. Caution: if you have an old fashioned rubber spatula and not silicone, it will eventually melt when you cook with it.)

When the butter has melted, add the eggs to the pan. As the eggs begin to cook, GENTLY move them around with the spatula so that they cook evenly.

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GENTLY and slowly stir the eggs.

Continue cooking the eggs until they are thickened but still soft.

Some people like really soft scrambled eggs, other people like really dry scrambled eggs. Just keep gently stirring the eggs until they look like what you think the perfect consistency is.

Transfer the eggs to the plate and serve them immediately. (As Jon pointed out in the comments, the eggs continue to cook even when removed from the pan and will get rubbery if left in the pan.)

If you wish, you can add some extra ingredients while the eggs are cooking. For example, try tossing in some chopped ham, sprinkling in slowly as you stir the eggs. Or you might try adding some shredded cheese, or chopped green onion or chives. My favorite addition is chopped parsley.

To find out even more about eggs, be sure to check out my post “How to: Eggs“.

***

Five Second Rule lives!

YIKES! When I was taking the photographs for this blog post I dropped my camera into the egg mixture! I scooped it out and wiped it off. The automatic lens sticks a little but my camera still works! Who knew?

(Although some of the photos do look a bit hazy!)

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Enjoy!

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Washing Lettuce

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

When making a salad, lettuce is usually one of the main ingredients.

What you need to know about lettuce is mostly how to wash it and to make sure that it’s edible and attractive.

If you are unsure what type of lettuce to buy, check out my post “Salad Greens From A to Z”.

The lettuce you buy from the supermarket may or not be packaged in some way, but it came from the ground and you can’t just start eating it, unless you’ve bought the pre-washed kind.

When grocery stores started selling pre-washed lettuce I thought it was brilliant, until I bought a bag. I discovered that if I didn’t use it within a day or two it was history (with a bit of a slimy edge). Granted, when I used it immediately, it was a huge time-saver. But, if you know how, it really only takes about 4 minutes to wash, dry and store lettuce.

Knowing how to wash and store lettuce (and other “salad greens”) is not that big of a mystery, particularly if you have a salad spinner. And I do recommend that you get one. They are relatively cheap and they make washing lettuce a snap.

Salad spinners cost about $25. If you eat a lot of salad it is well worth the investment.

However, let’s begin with the “but I don’t have a salad spinner” approach.

First, cut the head of lettuce away from its root with a knife. (You can also just do this with your hands – the root should break off easily.) Then, separate the leaves.

To wash iceberg lettuce first remove the core with a paring knife.

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Then break it apart with your hands. (Some heads of iceberg are much firmer than others!)

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Fill a large bowl with cool water and gently place the lettuce leaves in the bowl giving them a gentle swish as you drop them in the bowl.

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After about 30 seconds of floating in the water the sand or dirt will sink to the bottom. Gently shake the water off each leaf and place them one at a time on paper towels or a clean dish towel. Blot the lettuce dry with some more paper towels.

OK, that’s the manual way. Now let’s use the salad spinner.

A salad spinner is a great little tool for both washing the lettuce and getting the excess water off. It comes in three parts – the bowl, the colander (the bowl with the holes in it) and the lid.

You begin the same way by cutting off the root and separating the leaves. But now, you place the leaves inside the colander, which is sitting inside the bowl.

Fill the spinner with water. All the sand on the lettuce leaves should sink to the bottom.

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Lift the colander (with the lettuce in it) out of the bowl, pour away the water, and then replace the colander in the bowl. Finally, put the lid on.

Now you can spin the lettuce by turning the handle. The spinning action will force the water off the lettuce, and help it to dry.

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Storing lettuce

If you’re not going to use the whole head of lettuce, then lay out the washed leaves on paper towels…

… and roll them up and put them in a plastic bag.

To save money, you can use the plastic bags from the produce section of the grocery store.

When lettuce is washed and properly stored, it stays fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 to 6 days. However, note that lettuce that you’ve washed yourself and stored properly will last longer then pre-washed lettuce.

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