Sunday, June 30, 2013

Terlaner Classico D.O.C 2012 - Cantina Terlano

Terlaner Classico 2012 is a blend of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Cantina Terlano in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy (South-Tyrol). This white wine is a special edition to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Cantina Terlano, founded in 1893. The 2012 has been made of 60% Pinot Bianco, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Tasting notes: Pale gold color in the glass. Rich aromas of ripe tropical fruits with hints of apricots and citrus. In the mouth crispy minerals unfold, becoming more intense towards the finish. Beautifully balanced wine with great potential that will further improve in the coming years.

Food pairing: Very good with fish and veal. Also good with delicate, fragrant vegetables such as white asparagus or fennel.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Year's day Chili - BBQ Chili con carne

Without doubt, Chili is one of the world’s favorite one-pot stews. But to qualify it as great taste might be a bit stretched. Yet, after a few hours of simmering on a kettle BBQ or smoker, this preparation of Chili renders a hint of smokiness that lifts it to a whole new level of ‘comfort food’.

I accidentally discovered this unique flavor on New Year’s day, when I had some friends coming over and wanted to surprise them with a sturdy dish to help soothe the hangover from the night before. I had prepared the Chili a couple of days before and it just needed an hour of slow simmering to reheat. To keep the dutch oven with Chili out of view, I moved it outside to my kettle BBQ for a few hours of slow simmering. The result was incredible! Of course you can make this dish on any other day of the year as well.

For this recipe you'll need this type of BBQ or something else that has a lid and is big enough to hold your dutch oven or iron pan. Also make sure you use a cast iron pan or something else that can take the direct heat from the coals.

With that sorted, let's get started by firing up the BBQ!

Like most traditional dishes, there is a lot of controversy on what should go in this dish: beans or no beans, tomatoes or not, meat or no meat... So this needs a little disclaimer to avoid any bickering: this is my version of Chili con Carne, based on the traditional Spanish dish of chili peppers, beef, tomatoes and red kidney beans.

Now let's get serious. Here's the list of ingredients:
1,5 kg minced beef
1,2 kg canned red kidney beans
1,2 kg canned diced tomatoes
140 gr tomato puree
3 large onions
3 red bell peppers
1 head of garlic
140 gr tomato puree
120 gr of your favorite chili spice mix (mine has ground chili peppers, onion powder, cumin, garlic powder and dried oregano).
1 stick of cinnamon
2 pc of star anise
Worcester sauce
Hot sauce (Tabasco)
and the secret ingredient: a shot of Jack Daniels Whiskey

Nowhere in the traditional recipe, but I like to add bell peppers to my Chili. I roast them in foil, remove the skin and finely dice the meat before adding them to the dish.

Wrap the bell peppers in tin foil (shiny side in!) and cook them in an oven (180˚C) for 45 minutes or, in this case on the BBQ.

Move the peppers to the BBQ, place aside direct heat from the coal, close the lid and slowly roast for an hour.

Firmly brown the minced beef in small portions in a skillet on your stove.

Transfer to a dutch oven and add the tomato puree and diced tomatoes. Do not fry the tomato puree. We need the acidity.

Open the tin foil and leave the bell peppers to cool. Once fully cooled down, the skin will come off very easily. Remove the stem and insides.

Finely chop the bell peppers and add them to the chili.

Put the canned beans in a colander, drain off any liquid and rinse thoroughly. Leaving the liquid makes your Chili way too starchy. Add the beans to your Chili.
Add your Chili spice mix, a table spoon of worcester sause, hot sauce (I used Tabasco) and the stick of cinnamon.

I like spicy, so I added some extra cayenne pepper and ground chili peppers.

Mince the onions and fry them in the same pan you used for the meat. Do not clean the pan in between. We want the onions to deglaze the pan and get all the meat flavors in our chili.

Add two pieces of star anise and some water. Simmer for 10 minutes. The star anise will give an incredible boost of flavor to your chili! (Thanks for the tip, Heston B.)

After the water has evaporated, remove the star anise...

..and transfer the onions to your Chili. Add just enough water to cover. Bring the Chili to a simmer on your regular stove.

Once you have brought the Chili to a firm simmer, move your dutch oven to the BBQ. Place aside the direct heat from the coals.

The last ingredient: a shot (or two) of Jack Daniels. This will add a nice taste of vanilla and almonds, but also some additional smokiness.
Do not put a lid on the pan. Just close the lid of your BBQ and leave to simmer for at least one, but preferably two hours. This will allow the smoke to permeate the Chili.

Longer cooking times will bring down the freshness of the peppers and the tomatoes, which should be avoided.
I find cooling and reheating will benefit dishes like these much better than endless hours of simmering. And it's better for the environment too :-)

You might consider adding some cherry or oak wood to the fire to boost the smoke, but it's not really necessary.

Stir occasionally and add some water if needed.

And there you have it. A nice big bowl of steamy, spicy goodness. I hope you'll find like I did, that the hint of smoke really adds to the flavor of the Chili. There's many different toppings like diced raw onions and sour cream. I like my Chili con Carne served over white rice with corn chips and shredded Gouda cheese. Hope you give this a try.


Monday, June 24, 2013

BBQ Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Serving creative vegetable side dishes with your BBQ can be a drag. Vegetable skewers and corn on the cob are very tasty, but also quite drab. To get on top of healthy BBQ again, here’s a fancy and creative side dish that not only tastes good, but will also have your guests go ‘Wow: how did you do that?’

2 Zucchini
2 Eggplants (Aubergines)
3 Bell peppers
2 large onions (pref. red)
Fresh rosemary
Fresh Garlic
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

You will need two oven-dishes of approx. 28 x 18 x 4cm (11" x 7" x 2") or a similar dish and a board that fits neatly in there. We got some pressing to do, later.

First, slice your eggplants in approx. 1,5cm (1/2”) thick slices. Don’t go much thinner or you’ll risk breaking them on the grill. Because of the high water content of the eggplant, we need to get some of that out via a process called 'degorging'. This will not only draw out most of the water but also make them more firm when cooked and boost the flavor.

Put them on a tray and sprinkle them liberally with coarse sea salt. Leave to rest.

After 20-30 minutes, little puddles of water will have appeared on the aubergines. Turn and repeat the process on the other side.

When both sides are done, rinse thoroughly to remove the salt. Quickly pat the eggplants dry with a clean towel or kitchen paper.
Prepare some garlic oil by pressing two cloves of garlic into 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
Slice all your other veggies into slices of similar thickness. You can use any kind of firm vegetable you like: carrots, fennel or even potatoes. Anything that will hold its shape and will not go mushy on the grill.

Brush all the vegetables with a little oil, season with salt and pepper and cook on both sides on a hot charcoal grill.

Leave to cool on a tray.

Now, I did not, but you should: cover the bottom of your oven-dish with clingfilm.

Shred some sprigs of rosemary and lay them in the bottom, then add the grilled vegetables in layers, putting a little rosemary, some salt and pepper and a sprinkle of the garlic oil between the layers.

Start with the zucchini and finish with the eggplant.

When done, cover again with clingfilm and put the second oven-dish or board on top, so it covers the entire dish.

Weigh down with whatever you have available in your kitchen and put the 'lasagna' in a cool place for 2-3 hours.

Carefully remove the clingfilm. There might be some juices collected in the dish. Make sure you drain those off first.

Turn out onto a platter and serve in thin slices.
You can serve your lasagna cold or carefully reheated for a few minutes on a low BBQ.

And there you have it: a wonderfully tasty and fancy vegetable side dish for your next BBQ feast!


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