Through the Kitchen Window

June packs a lot of reasons to celebrate. It descends on us with a veritable shower of weddings, graduations and convocations. Whatever your celebration, you probably find yourself caught up in a maelstrom of hustle and bustle and preparations, perplexed about what to serve.

In our house, June will be no different. The girls are coming home for good and moving into their new place on the 16th, Matthew comes home from England for a visit on the 17th. While he’s here, he’ll have his convocation from college as well as celebrate his 23rd birthday. Earlier in the month, on the 4th, I’m hosting a bridal shower for a couple of dear friends who are tying the knot. Towards the end of the month, I’ll be helping host the reception for their wedding. My youngest son, Anthony, turns 18, a long awaited milestone!!! There’s Father’s Day, Last Day of School, and, with Canada Day itself falling on July 1st, a Saturday, some may get the Friday off work and some may get the Monday, so there’ll be celebrations the entire weekend right at the end of the month. For our American neighbors, our Canada Day is followed closely by their Independence Day. And in between, another son, Vincent, celebrates his 20th birthday.

Parties and celebrations, by definition, involve having those near and dear to you helping to celebrate, but just as importantly, festive food and drink are necessary. So that’s my assignment for this column, to come up with a suggestion or two that you may not have thought of but which will be sure to make your festivities the hit of the season.

Have your utensils at the ready, this is going to be a gastronomical celebration!!!

I think we’ll start with dessert, just because we can!

Bomba Tricolori

My daughter came up with this for a recent family function and it was an unqualified hit. A word to the wise, key limes can be a bit bitter and you may want to substitute regular limes, although we found that the marriage of the three flavours went a long way towards lessening the bite. For the orange, outside layer:
  • 4 cups extra pulp orange juice
For the red, middle layer:
  • 2 cups cranberry juice (we used pure juice from a health food store rather than cranberry cocktail)
For the centre of the bombe:
  • 1 cup key lime juice, with pulp, mixed with one cup non-carbonated mineral water
Basic Sorbet
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/3 cups fruit juice, strained or not (I prefer it with pulp, but it’s your preference)

Stir the sugar and water together in a saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to med-high and boil for 30 seconds without stirring. Remove from heat, pour into heatproof bowl and cool completely. When cooled, cover and refrigerate 4 hours.

Add 1 2/3 cups of the syrup to your fruit juice and taste. It should be almost too sweet tasting. Adjust and add more sugar syrup if necessary.

Pour into a non-metal bowl and place in the freezer for 3 hours or until set but not solid. Remove from freezer; break up into chunks and process on high until it reaches a smooth consistency. Return to the freezer to allow to refreeze. Repeat the process once more returning it to the freezer a second time.

Meantime, prepare three nesting bowls for the shaping. Line the inside of the largest bowl with plastic wrap. Remove the frozen mixture from the freezer, reprocess and this time, scoop the sorbet into the bowl and shape against the sides, being careful to make the layer as even as possible and leaving a hollow centre. Line with plastic and set the middle sized bowl inside the sorbet shell. Return to the freezer and allow to set. Repeat the process with the middle layer using the smallest bowl to help keep the shape. With the third flavour, you fill in the hollow completely.

When Marina made ours, she started with orange sorbet on the outside, cranberry sorbet in the middle and lime sorbet filling it in. Also, when she removed the orange sorbet from the freezer the first time to process it, she added a container of frozen pineapple – orange juice concentrate to give it a bit of a flavour burst.

When you’re ready to serve, just set it gently in a large bowl full of warm water, but be careful not to leave it in for more than a few seconds. You want to encourage it to loosen from the sides easily, but you don’t want it to melt. Upend the Bombe on a serving platter that you’ve garnished with some edible flowers, and stand back for rave reviews!!!

When the weather is nice and balmy, all thoughts of cooking indoors leave my head in favour of my deck and the barbecue that holds a place of honour on it. For festive occasions, because my family is filled with Lamb Lovers (capitals intentional) one of our favourite things to prepare is as simple as it is elegant and delicious.

Agnello sulla Griglia

While lamb loin chops are the “usual” cut of choice for grilling, I’ve found we have great success with shoulder chops, a more economical and generous cut. And when legs of lamb are on sale, I’ll stock up on them but have my butcher cut them into inch thick chops for grilling instead of roasting whole. For eight shoulder chops:
  • the juice and some pulp of six lemons
  • half of one bunch of fresh rosemary
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced

Combine the juice, pulp, rosemary (I find an easy way to remove the rosemary leaves from the stem is the run your fingers quickly in the opposite direction of the way they grow) and garlic. Combine well and add a few good grinds of fresh black pepper, or try white pepper for a nice flavour lift.

Add the lamb and make sure it’s well coated, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove from the refrigerator an hour or so before you want to grill them.

Heat your grill to high and place your chops on it, making sure not to crowd them. Grill to desired doneness, turning only once, for a nice chop that will melt in your mouth. For a wonderful aroma while cooking, and an extra infusion of rosemary to the lamb, I sometimes toss the other half of the rosemary sprigs directly onto the coals just before putting the lamb on the grill. The scent will draw everyone in the vicinity to your bbq.

While searching for a slightly different twist to vegetables on the grill, I remembered this potato dish that a girlfriend of mine used to make. I’ve altered it slightly. Joanne used to make it back when we were a lot younger and, presumably, healthier so she used scads of butter. For today’s more health conscious times, I’ve changed the butter to olive oil and reduced the amount considerably. Still a yummy dish though.

Jodie’s Taters

I know she’d kill me for using her childhood nickname here, but, I think it has a kind of “ring” to it, don’t you???
    Quantities will vary according to how many you’re planning on feeding and the only change I would suggest is that if you find you have more than four or five people, you may want to divide the vegetables in half and make two packets instead of just one.

    For each person, peel and slice into ¼” slices, 2 medium potatoes, 1 medium carrot, half a red pepper and half a small red onion. To the final mixture add 2 – 4 shallots thinly sliced and 4 – 6 cloves of garlic minced. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper and some fresh thyme sprigs. Coat generously with olive oil and combine to make sure everything is well coated.

    Take a double thickness of heavy duty foil and securely wrap the vegetables in it, taking care to make a package that has a uniform thickness and isn’t more than about three inches thick. Cook on a hot bbq for about 45 minutes, turning a couple of times to avoid burning. Once they’re done they can keep warm on the warming rack of your bbq while you grill your meat.

The only thing your meal needs now is a salad and an appreciative audience.

Here’s hoping all your celebrations are festive and flavourful!!!