BBQ SWEET POTATOES AND MINI-SLIDERS (SHOT ON LOCATION, BRIAN’S BALCONY, OVERLOOKING LAKE ONTARIO)

Hello, Culinary Playmates:

It is I, Helenka, your fearless advocate of gustatory creativity (aka I eat weird but really tasty food and think you should, too). Normally (as if anything Brian and I do is normal) we would have released this outdoor episode during the cold winter months. But, as we had a mild winter this year, we didn’t need the psychological boost. However (and that’s a really BIG HOWEVER), we are now in May … so why am I still wearing my winter coat? [Weather update: it warmed up by the afternoon so I’ve been able to upgrade to my spring coat.] Uh … hello? Universe, dear? [It’s always best to be polite with the old thing.] It’s May in the Northern Hemisphere: a time when we should be heading into summer. Not only that, but we who live in North America will be celebrating two long weekends (Victoria Day in Canada and Memorial Day in the U.S.A. at the end of the month). It would be really nice if we could get rid of some of the layers. Perhaps we can remind the universe by unveiling this episode a few weeks in advance. ::crosses fingers; toes, too::

What could be an easier time to combine some unusual flavours than during a barbecue? Indeed! As barbecues are designed to be a casual form of dining, you can take chances with your marinades, herbs and spices. Food choices, too. After all, considering how many times I’ve moaned about my special barbecued yams, it was high time for Brian to recreate the taste sensation. What was most special was mixing sweet (maple syrup) with savoury (garlic and mustard). There are so many cuisines where this is considered to be routine. [I sometimes indulge in buying frozen Sweet’n’Spicy Thai chicken wings.]

What are some other ways you could follow the same principle? I know many people are trying to cut down on beef consumption, so what about barbecuing turkey or chicken burgers, slathering on mango-chipotle sauce on one side and honey mustard on the other? I’d give that combo two thumbs up (and I can see Brian sticking his thumbs into the picture, too). It’s also important to remember that, if you’re using commercial sauces, a salad dressing can be a marinade and a marinade can be a salad dressing. Don’t get boxed in by labels.

If you’d like to move away from burgers and do a fancier meat, what about marinating pork tenderloin in apple cider, olive oil and crushed cloves before barbecuing and serving with barbecued apple and onion chunks. Or a beef tenderloin in pomegranate juice and olive oil and serving it with a glaze of reduced pomegranate juice, balsamico and a few artfully scattered fresh pomegranate seeds. You may as well toss a few of the seeds onto a colourful side salad, too. Or lovely thick salmon steaks onto which you’ll place a slice of chilled rolled cilantro butter. [You can tell my imagination is working overtime just about every waking moment of the day.]

As for sides, you can see what fabulous success we had with sweet potatoes (and yams, previously). You can do the same thing with other root veggies as long as you slice them thinly enough, so that the outside will be crispy and the inside creamy and tender. I still can’t believe how amazing the baby eggplant slices were that we had on a previous episode. So don’t let the otherwise long cooking times for whole veggies derail you from enjoying them outdoors. Slice them thinly enough and they’ll be done very quickly.

The other thing you can do is enjoy the bounty of summer fruits on your grill or barbecue. We’ve already done peaches, bananas and pineapple (if memory serves) indoors and there’s no earthly reason not to savour the best of summer with a touch of heat, altering texture, consistency and taste. That’s what I call practical chemistry!

Well, I hope we’ve given you enough of an inspiration to zoom out of your comfort zone when it comes to barbecues (as if we didn’t do that often enough with indoor cooking, too). Just remember: it’s all supposed to be … (can you guess what the magic word is?) FUN!!!

Enjoy!

B&H =:)