Monday, February 25, 2008

Grilling Vegetables - Tips And Techniques

If you have never grilled vegetables on your barbecue before, now is the time to start. It is easy to do and you will experience tastes only obtainable by grilling.

Here are some tips and techniques for preparing and grilling vegetables.

What vegetables are best for grilling?

Almost any vegetable can be grilled, obviously some grill better than others. Here is a list of vegetables that do especially well on the grill:

Corn on the cob, all types of peppers, Zucchini and summer squash, eggplant, asparagus, whole tomatoes, Portabello mushrooms, potatoes, artichokes, fennel, and whole onions.

How to prepare your vegetables for grilling.

For corn on the cob, peel the husks back a little over half way. Do not pull them off completely. Try to get most of the corn silk off, then pull the husks back up and tie them to the cob, then soak the whole ear in water for about an hour before setting over a hot fire on the grill.

You can also do this. When you take the cobs out of the water, untie them and brush them with a mixture of melted butter and chili pepper sauce, salt and pepper, then tie them back up and then put them on the grill. They are really good!

Zucchini should be washed thoroughly, ends trimmed off, then slice the Zucchini lengthwise in one-quarter inch thick slices. Brush with olive oil and place over a hot grill. They will not take long so keep and eye on them. Do not over-cook.

Asparagus can be rolled in olive oil, salt and pepper and placed across the grill and turned occasionally. They are great and again, do not over cook.

Eggplant should be sliced about half an inch thick, salted and placed in a strainer to drain. After about half of an hour, dry the slices with a clean paper towel and brush with olive oil and grill.

Artichokes should be halved lengthwise and placed in boiling salted water for about 15-20 minutes, then drained thoroughly. Brush the cut sides liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper and place cut side down over hot fire.

Whole bell peppers can be grilled till the skins blister and turn black. Then scrape or pull the blackened skin off, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and enjoy. You can also do this with Anaheim chiles and Chiles Poblanos, also known as Ancho or Pasilla chiles.

Russet potatoes should have their skins cleaned thoroughly and dried. Then cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until only half cooked. Let them cool and cut into triangles lengthwise and spray with olive oil, place on hot grill, turning occasionally until brown and crispy.

You will notice that we have used olive oil in all the examples above but you can use peanut oil, walnut oil, or hazelnut oil if you wish. Canola or sunflower oils are just too bland for grilling.

Also, we have been grilling our vegetables directly on the grill but you can also use foil to construct a package for your vegetables. For example, slice a bell pepper and an onion, place in the middle of a large piece of foil, enclose the vegetables after dousing with olive oil and salt and pepper. Seal the package and place on the hot grill. It should be done in about 15 minutes.

You can also prepare a whole onion this way. Skin the onion, cut a cross from the top down three-quarters of the way through the onion, pour on some olive oil and wrap with foil, salt and pepper and put on the grill. Wallah!

There you have a few examples of the wonderful world of vegetable grilling. Now here are some more tips on grilling in general.

If you are going to buy a gas grill, be sure to get one with at least 40,000 to 50,000 BTU's (British Thermal Units) as this will give you enough heat to make those attractive grill marks on your steaks, hamburgers and vegetables.

Vegetables generally are grilled over high heat, so when grilling with charcoal, build a 3-zone fire with the coals piled in a double layer on one side of the grill, then in a single layer in the center of the grill and then with no coals on the other side.

This lets you sear over the high heat of the double layer, cook over the moderate heat of the single layer, and keep your vegetables warm over the coal free zone.

You may want to invest in a vegetable tray. That is a tray with small holes that you can place onto the grill which will hold smaller vegetables like cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves or various sliced vegetables.

Another valuable accessory would be a fish basket. This eliminates the fish from sticking to the grill and flaking-up and falling through the grills.

Stock up with some bamboo skewers for small kebabs and chicken sate (Thai style chicken). To keep the skewers from burning just soak them in water for about an hour before using.

So there you are. This information should give you the confidence to begin grilling those vegetables for your next barbecue party.

How To Make A Great Latte Or Cappuccino Coffee

Imagine starting out your exciting day in Paris with a true continental breakfast, consisting of a hot milky latte coffee accompanied by a croissant served with plum jam. Or perhaps imagine yourself sitting down to a foamy cappuccino as your morning coffee, while looking out over the blue Mediterranean from high on the cliffs on Italy's Amalfi Coast.

If you make your hot milky coffee in the traditional French or Italian ways you can let your imagination take you to all sorts of romantic places while you enjoy your cup of coffee prepared in the authentic style of the destination of your choice.

A latte made in the French style uses steamed milk, while the Italian style cappuccino froths the milk. The difference is subtle, but important. In both cases, an espresso machine gives you the best results. Not long ago only commercial businesses could afford an espresso machine, but today there are many affordable models available for use in the home.

For both steaming and frothing the milk, you need to start with cold milk. You can't expect good results trying to foam milk that has already been steamed, for example. It is best to keep both the milk and pitcher chilled in your fridge.

A stainless steel pitcher works best, and for foaming milk a bell shape gives better results than a straight sided pitcher.

To steam milk, you can fill the pitcher to around two thirds with milk, but for foaming milk it should be filled to only about one third. To match your servings, choose a smaller pitcher size for use at home compared to the ones you see designed for making enough to serve several cups in a commercial coffee shop.

Before starting, run a burst of steam through the steaming wand to clear the jets, and make sure the wand is clean.

To steam the milk, bury the wand in the milk to just above the base of the pitcher, turn the steam on full, and hold the wand steady in one position. You are aiming to heat the milk to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or 76 degrees centigrade. Above 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 93 degrees centigrade the milk will scald, and the taste will alter sufficiently to ruin your coffee. An expert barista or coffee maker is able to judge the temperature by the sound of the steaming, but until you master this art you may want to use a thermometer attached to the side of your pitcher.

To foam the milk, the difference is that you place the wand just below the surface of the milk, and move it about to combine air into the milk to create a thick foam with fine and uniform sized bubbles. You are aiming for the same milk temperature as when steaming. Again, experts can judge the right temperature by the sound.

An ideal foam for a cappuccino can be assessed by waiting about 20 seconds, then taking some of the foamed milk in a dry spoon. The foam should be thick enough that it will not fall off the spoon when it is turned upside down.

To make the cup of latte coffee, add two thirds steamed milk to a one third of a cup shot of espresso. For a cappuccino, hold back the foamed milk to pour out one third steamed milk into the espresso, and then add one third foamed milk to top off the cup. Sometimes a latte is described as a flat white because it does not use the foamed milk.

A cappuccino is usually served with a sprinkling of cinnamon or chocolate to taste.

Then sit back and enjoy your coffee while you dream of distant places.