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VOL. 37 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 20, 2013

Who needs meat for great grilled meal?

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I really got into grilling vegetables and fruits this summer. I replaced my gas grill with charcoal after, years earlier, replacing my charcoal burner with a gas grill, something I consider a mistake.

After getting my charcoal grill up and running again, I grilled everything I could imagine.

I grilled most all of our meat dishes – pork chops, hamburgers, chicken, salmon, swordfish, lamb chops – anything “grillable.”

Then I went on to grill most of our vegetables and fruits: corn, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow and acorn squash, artichokes, peaches, apples, pineapples and bananas. Some of those have to be done very carefully, but they are delicious.

Since the weather has turned into “deep-freeze” cold, my outdoor grilling has come to a halt. I have pulled out my little indoor grill, which like a gas grill, just isn’t the same.

It works in a pinch, however, and it’s still healthier than frying in oil. I just spray a bit of non-stick cooking spray on it and grill away.

I’ve also started roasting a lot of vegetables and fruits. Roasting does impart a different flavor from grilling, but it’s so good.

Roasting makes even some of the bitterest and hardest vegetables so sweet and tender. It changes the flavor and texture completely.

Do you just love fried okra but not the calories and fat from the breading and oil? Try it a healthier way, and get the same flavor by roasting it. Just toss it with a small amount of heart-healthy olive oil, sea salt and pepper, place it in single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a pre-heated, 425-degree oven for 15 to 25 minutes. Delicious. You’ll never go back.

Another favorite is roasted parsnips, carrots and Brussel sprouts.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pomegranate Syrup

Pomegranate syrup

2 cups of pomegranate juice (I use the Lite brands.)
1/3 cup of white granulated sugar
Strip of orange rind (about 2x1 inch)

Mix the juice, sugar, and orange rind in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to bring the syrup to a low boil, and then boil the syrup until it’s reduced to about 1-1/4 cups, stirring more frequently as it reduces. This will take 50-90 minutes. The syrup will thicken as it cools. Cover and store in a refrigerator for up to six months. Use on meats and vegetables or as a topping on oats and desserts.

Roasted sweet potatoes

3 pounds of sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup pomegranate syrup (recipe above)
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Pomegranate arils (seeds) for garnish
Fresh Basil, finely chopped for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450-degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and then dice them into bite-size chunks. Toss them with olive oil. Sprinkle them with sea-salt. Roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and browned.

While the potatoes are roasting, stir together the pomegranate syrup and allspice.

Place the hot sweet potatoes in a serving dish. Pour the pomegranate syrup over potatoes and toss gently. Garnish as desired. Extra syrup can be passed at the table.

Simply clean and peel the parsnips and carrots, wash the Brussel sprouts, cut the carrots and parsnips into bite-size chunks, and cut the Brussel sprouts in half. Then toss them in a bowl with a small amount of olive oil, sea-salt, black pepper, and a bit of dried basil, marjoram, rosemary and thyme.

Finally, place them in a roasting pan and roast on 425 degrees until tender (about 30 minutes.) Simply delicious.

Another favorite is mushrooms. Caramelized mushrooms are amazing as a side dish or used as a topping for steaks and burgers. There are a few tricks of the trade when it comes to caramelizing mushrooms, though.

First, no matter what recipe you’re preparing the mushrooms for, never wash them under running water. To clean mushrooms, wipe them off with a damp paper towel. This takes longer, but it will prevent them from being a soggy mess, especially if you’re planning to caramelize them.

Also, when caramelizing mushrooms to get the deep, caramel flavor, you have to resist the temptation of stirring them. That’s right. I know it’s hard to do, but it’s necessary for the caramelizing process. And be sure to not overcrowd the pan.

Clean the mushrooms, and then slice them into thick slices. Add a small amount of butter and olive oil to a pan and heat over medium high heat.

Add about two cloves of minced garlic and sauté about a minute. Quickly toss together the mushrooms in about a tablespoon of soy sauce. (Don’t do this ahead of time, as the soy sauce will remove too much moisture).

Add the mushrooms to the pan, and stir briefly to coat. Cook four to five minutes – no stirring allowed. Serve as a side dish or as a topping.

Finally, there’s roasted asparagus – one of my very favorites! Clean the asparagus, trimming the tough stem. Toss it with a small amount of olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, and then place it on a roasting pan. Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the top of it and then stick it in a 425-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until they reach the desired tenderness.

That should give you some new ideas to bring a bit of freshness to our cold winter days! This also brings me to a close, but not without sharing one more delicious recipe with you! Enjoy!

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