BBQ Tapas

Canada Day 1999 marks the 133rd anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Like our American neighbors who celebrate July 4th, Canadians all over the country will be celebrating with parades, picnics and backyard barbecues.

As a whole, Canadians aren't known for their "out front" patriotism. In fact, the word most people use is "apologetic". Not so on Canada Day! It may be the only exception to that perception, but we sure love to do it up proud! Here's a chance for all Canadians to celebrate the melting pot that is Canada. You'll find them at the cottage, on their boats, and in their backyards. You'll even find them on Parliament Hill celebrating with the Governor General and the Prime Minister. Each Premier in his provincial capital will sponsor a festival but none will match the pageantry of Ottawa -- the federal capital -- where dignitaries rub shoulders with the citizenry and vie for goodies from all our national ethnicities. Canadian flags festoon everything from front lawns, to car antennae, to clothing and rosy cheeks. Federal Minister for Culture and Heritage Sheila Copps was on the hot seat a while back for offering Canadians free flags for just phoning or writing in. Naysayers the bunch of them. Nothing wrong with promoting patriotism. Nothing wrong with encouraging people to fly their colors.

On to the grill! When you look up tapas in a Spanish dictionary you get "snack". To say that that's what we mean when we say "Tapas" however, is an understatement. In this sense Tapas is more like a smorgasbord of flavors and textures. Little bits of this and that to thrill the palate and satisfy the craving for flavor and fun.

It's a good idea to have a rotation of "chefs" at the grill. You'll have people clamoring for their turn. The bbq is the center of the entertainment and, since most of the action takes place there, no one wants to be left out!

Once the guests start arriving, fire up the grill and you're ready to begin. Throughout the evening -- or afternoon -- keep an assortment of food coming off the fire and your guests will just pick it up as they go. I think this is where "grazing" first got it's start.

The first thing that's necessary is appropriate drinks. Have on hand a good assortment of soft drinks, beer and bottled water. Chilled white wine is a welcome addition as well as some type of punch. Make up a large pitcher of Sangria or experiment with one of Purple Haze. In honor of the occasion, be festive with a Crimson Maple, a salute to our flag.

Next in line is the food. Because Tapas is synonymous with variety, it's a good idea to plan on several different dishes. You could choose a couple that are not grill items if you like. And don't forget the marinated olives that are a mainstay of Spanish Tapas spreads. I've included my favorite recipe. Finish it all off with strawberries and ice cream, the blend of red and white making the Canada Day celebration complete.

Shrimp with Garlic and Ancho

  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Over medium heat in a small skillet, sauté the garlic until just starting to get golden. Strain through a sieve, setting the garlic aside for use later.

Allow the oil to cool and pour over the shrimp adding the ancho chili powder and tossing lightly to coat well. Let stand 30 minutes, then thread onto skewers for grilling. Place over hot coals and cook until just pink, this should only take a few minutes. Remove from heat, take the shrimp off the skewers, toss with the garlic slices and serve with pieces of crusty bread.

Grilled Vegetables

The variety of vegetables you can use here is limited only by imagination. If you can eat it, you can probably grill it. Just try.
  • Any assortment of vegetables sliced 1/2" thick, for instance:
  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 3 or 4 zucchini
  • firm ripe tomato
  • Vidalia onion
  • sweet peppers
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • potato
  • fennel
  • 1/2 cup each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • salt, fresh ground pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp each of chopped fresh basil, parsley, oregano and garlic

Combine vinegar, oil, seasonings and herbs till well blended. Brush over sliced vegetables and let marinated for 20 - 30 minutes. Grill lightly basting with marinade while cooking. Serve hot off the grill.

Jerk Seasoning

This recipe comes from Piers Thompson, a member of a chili head list I belong to. It's simply the best Jerk seasoning recipe I've come across in a long time. So here's a "Cheers" to Piers!
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 2 - 6 Scotch bonnets or habaneros
  • 1 tbs allspice berries, ground
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs soft brown sugar

Finely chop the things that need chopping and then mix all the ingredients together. Stick it in a food processor and chop it up as finely as possible.

Keep in the fridge for a day to allow the flavors to blend. Will keep for ages in the fridge (it's probably not safe to keep it for 3 months but I have done so in the past with no ill effects).

Use this seasoning for wings or ribs. Par cook them first, then season with the jerk mixture and marinate for a couple of hours or even over night. When you're ready for them, just grill them til they're done through and serve. Just stand back and watch them go!

Marinated Olives

The salt cured olives called for in this recipe are available at most Italian grocers or delis.
  • 4 cups dry salt cured black olives
  • 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 - 6 cloves garlic minced fine
  • 1 tbsp (or more) habanero chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well to ensure that the olives are completely coated. Cover and let stand at least 24 hours before serving.

These don't need to be refrigerated and will keep well stored in a cool dry place -- if they last that long!

Margarita Chicken Strips

  • 1/4 cup Tequila
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp grated lime peel
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps lime juice
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers finely chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 lb boneless chicken breasts cut into strips

Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a large container or zipper closing bag. Place chicken in marinade mixture and make sure to coat all sides. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, turning often.

Heat grill, place chicken strips lengthwise on skewers -- like satays -- to ensure even cooking and grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill 4 - 6 inches from coals. Cook, turning once and brushing occasionally with marinade until done.

BBQ Pizza

Just take your basic pizza dough recipe and instead of the oven, do it on the BBQ!
  1. Simply get the bbq very hot, then turn one side to very low, leaving the other side on full. Place the dough directly on the grill on the low side for about two minutes. Remove from the bbq, flip dough over, add

    the toppings of your choice, and put back on the grill for about five to eight minutes. The first step of the two minute cook on the one side can be done a couple of hours ahead so that if you are doing these for a group, you don't have too long to wait.

  2. To make Focaccia bread, shape the dough into foil pie plates. After they have risen the required amount of time, they can be cooked on the bbq the same as in an oven, assuming that your bbq has reasonable

    temperature control. Place the foil pan on what is usually used as the bun warming rack, or as with the pizza, turn one side low and leave the other sufficiently high to give a temp of around 375 - 400. The Focaccia in the foil pans also freeze very well. Simply shape the dough and put into the oiled pan, then place it in a well oiled zip lock bag and freeze. When you are ready to use, remove from the freezer and bag, cover and let it thaw out -- takes several hours -- dimple it, spread olive oil on it, sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbs, olives or whatever you use, and bake it when it has risen enough.

Purple Haze

These are fun to do in test tubes as "shooters", but they are equally enjoyable over ice for leisurely sipping.
  • Make sure all of your ingredients are well chilled
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Vodka
  • Blue Curacao
  • Triple Sec

Into a large chilled pitcher pour equal parts of cranberry juice and vodka. Add about half that amount of Blue Curacao and a splash of Triple Sec. It should have the appearance of Grape Kool-Aid. Remember tho', it only looks like Kool-Aid!

Crimson Maple

You're going to be busy keeping up with the demand for these!

    Into chilled champagne flutes, over ice pour equal amounts of champagne and cranberry juice.

Strawberries and Ice Cream

The beautiful contrast of red and white makes a perfect ending to our Canada Day celebrations.
    There's no measuring necessary for this recipe, just to taste.

    Wash, hull, and slice your strawberries in half.

    Dust lightly with fruit sugar and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. (Just enough to coat all the berries.) Mix well to combine and allow to stand aside for half an hour or so.

    When ready to serve, simply spoon it over vanilla ice cream and stand back!

Armed with the above recipes, I just know that you'll all be celebrating in style at the grill. "Happy Canada Day" to my Canadian compatriots and "Happy Independence Day" to our American friends!


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