Cauliflower steaks, all smoked-up

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Since we became those people – the kind who own two types of barbecues – earlier this summer, we’ve been experimenting a lot with charcoal versus gas. Overall I’d say we’ve found most barbecued foods turn out better using the charcoal, big egg-style grill because you just can’t beat that smoky flavour. That was definitely the case during our second run at cauliflower steaks a few days ago.

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Geir’s plate

Last summer, we grilled cauliflower steaks for the very first time, and loved them. I figured they’d be hard to beat. This time, I marinated them for about an hour (simple stuff like oil, balsamic, white wine vinegar, garlic, herbs, lemon), and we heated up an Emile Henry stone inside the charcoal grill. As you can see in the photo, the steaks got a lot more colour, and around the edges, the florets became crispy and heavenly. The cauliflower soaked up the smoke more than we had anticipated – and it worked perfectly.

Accompanying the steaks was a spicy corn and tomato salad with chunks of goat paneer, as well as some freshly-made garlic scape pesto. Also, a dollop of goat’s milk Greek yogurt, just for fun. All the goat products were from our favourite goat farm, Ran-Cher Acres.

I still can’t get over the incredible texture of cauliflower steak. It takes a while to cook them through – about 20-25 minutes – but the consistency and flavour is worth it. And if you’re wondering – yes – they are extremely filling!

fresh off the grill (left) my plate (right)

fresh off the grill (left)
my plate (right)

Pesto for breakfast, lunch and dinner

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As a pizza fanatic, I often have a jar of pesto on hand at all times. I prefer the crunchy, herby, garlicky base rather than traditional tomato sauce. I’ll admit, though, the pesto is not usually made by me, but by Riverview Herbs.

Due to the abundance of beautiful herbs growing on my patio, I decided to make a batch myself. What I created was a deliciously fresh, earthy and (very) garlicky pesto, great for a variety of dishes. Obviously I used it on pizza, a couple times, but I wanted to  branch out from that. Here are three other very easy-to-make dishes that incorporate pesto for an intense flavour boost, all day long. And no, I didn’t eat all three of these meals on the same day!

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Breakfast: I threw together a market veggie scramble with pesto and goat’s cheese; one of my favourite, quick meals for the morning when you want something healthy and substantial.

How I did it: Heat the pan with a little olive oil, throw in some sliced onion, then chopped red pepper, asparagus, and a minute or two later, cherry tomatoes. Season. Allow them to cook about halfway. In a bowl, scramble your eggs with creamy Fox Hill milk, salt and pepper, then some pesto (a tablespoon or two). Pour in the pan and scramble away. Add swiss chard (spinach is good too) last and let it wilt. Dish into a bowl, adjust seasoning if you need to, and crumble Ran-Cher Acres goat’s cheese on top.

IMG_4125Lunch: Using my trusty panini press, I made pesto grilled cheese with sliced yellow tomato. If you’re making grilled cheese anyway, I definitely recommend adding some pesto in there. For this sandwich, I used Ran-Cher Acres goat paneer, which has a really unique texture. After buttering the bread (a really hearty multigrain loaf I buy at Local Source), I spread pesto thick on one side, layer both sides with sliced cheese, and put the tomato in the middle (or else it makes the bread soggy). Just remember that something needs to buffer the tomato’s moisture.

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Dinner: Light up the barbecue for grilled trout with creamy pesto sauce, forbidden rice and asparagus. This was the perfect summer meal. And pretty healthy. I had the rice done in advance, as the black rice takes about 50 minutes to cook on the stovetop.

How I did it: Everything on the barbecue. I reheated the rice in a little pot, just adding a touch of water, butter and some fresh thyme. For the fish, I oiled the skin side and grilled it skin-down, on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes. In a pan, I heated up some pesto with a tiny bit of butter, and simply whisked in creamy Fox Hill whole milk, until I had the consistency I wanted. I also grilled some asparagus. When it was time to plate, I used the rice as a base, topped with a piece of crispy-skinned trout, asparagus, doused everything in some freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and topped with the pesto sauce. The citrus really brings everything together as there are a lot of flavours competing in this dish, but it is lightened considerably and balanced by the lemon and works really well.

If you’re wondering what I put in my initial pesto recipe, it was something like: Fresh parsley and chives (main ingredients), thyme, toasted pumpkin seeds (second main ingredient), Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic, roasted garlic, olive oil, meyer lemon infused olive oil, roasted garlic olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a touch of water.