Grilled Artichoke Hearts

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We’re big artichoke fans in our house. It’s funny how people who’ve never tried them before look at you like you’re from Mars when you bring them out. We usually trim the prickly outer leaves, boil them up whole, and then eat them one leaf at a time with a tasty dipping sauce.
Occasionally though I’ll spend the time to make this delicious recipe for grilled artichoke hearts.
They’re a bit more work than the standard but oh, so worth it!
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Grilled Artichoke Hearts 

Serves: 6Ingredients:

6 large artichokes, 10 to 12 ounces each
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preparation:

  1. Bring a large pot (8 to 10 quarts) of salted water to a boil. Prepare the artichokes by snapping off the dark outer leaves until you expose the yellowish leaves with pale green tips.
  2. Lay each artichoke on its side. With a sharp knife cut off the remaining leaves just above the base. Using a small teaspoon, scoop out the fuzzy choke. Cut the base of each artichoke in half lengthwise, through the stem, and then trim the stem, leaving about 3/4 inch attached.
  3. Using a small, sharp knife or vegetable peeler, trim and smooth the rough and greenish areas around the base. Trim about 1⁄16 inch all the way around the stem to expose the tender part of the stem.
  4. After each artichoke heart is trimmed, place it into a large bowl mixed with lemon juice (to prevent discoloration). Drain the artichoke hearts and cook them in the boiling salted water until you can pierce them easily with a knife, about 10 to 12 minutes, but don’t overcook them.
  5. Drain the artichokes in a colander and place in a large bowl. While still warm, add the oil and salt. Toss gently to coat the artichokes.
  6. Preheat the over Medium heat, and brush the cooking grates clean. Lift the artichoke hearts from the bowl and let any excess oil drip back into the bowl. Grill the artichokes with the lid closed as much as possible, until warm and lightly charred, about 4 to 6 minutes, turning them once or twice. Serve warm.

Home Brew

In my culinary pursuits I’ve visited microbreweries of every shape and size. A quick count and I realize I’ve visited hundreds of them. From a couple guys making beer in a warehouse, to massive brew-pubs and bars. From Dunedin, FL to the mountains of Virginia and out to Santa Barbara, CA. In every corner of Ontario and over in Europe and Israel… I sample a lot of small batch beer. I don’t love every one. They are all so varied. But I love the experience. There is something magical about trying beer brewed by someone who has followed their passion.  Every micro-brewery has a proud back story and a unique angle to bring to the beer scene. I’ve peered into massive vats, sampled wort, discussed the benefits of brewing small batch ale VS lager, and sampled a lot (a LOT) of beer. All of this is really to say – I know an awful lot about beer brewing and I know how difficult it can be. But oh how I’ve always yearned to give it a try.

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Now, while I’m quite capable in my kitchen at home and in front of a grill I’ve always considered beer brewing something a little too far out of reach. It’s an intricate and delicate process that can be thrown askew by so many variables. I’d much rather enjoy a cold pint than curse a ruined batch of the stuff!

Recently though I decided to give it a go and reached out to the folks at Brewer’s Best for a little help. Brewer’s Best makes brewing kits and ingredient kits to make home brewing as simple as possible for beer fans – and best of all they are now available in Canada! The Brewer’s Best equipment kit arrived with everything I needed to get going:

  • primary fermenter
  • bottling bucket with spigot
  • easy-clean cleanser
  • siphon hose
  • bottle filler
  • hydrometer
  • thermometer
  • bottle brush
  • capper
  • airlock
  • bucket clip

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I know, it looks intimidating – and to be honest, beer brewing is not a simple process. You’re going to be steeping grains, boiling hops, cooling wort, pitching yeast, fermenting beer, and bottle conditioning. The great thing about Brewer’s Best is that they take you through every step of the process and make sure they simplify it so that anyone can do it. The equipment is all supplied, the instructions are all clear, and the ingredients are all prepared and measured. You just need to follow along!

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The ingredient kits come in dozens and dozens of varieties. So you’ll be able to brew whatever beer is your favourite. I decided to go with an Irish Stout and had a great time brewing up a five gallon batch and getting the whole family involved in the process. I’ve got a week left until I crack open my first bottle and I’m already talking it up with the guys. I’ve got lots of thirsty friends volunteering to help me sample the first batch. Here’s hoping it lives up to my expectations!

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Whether the beer is good or great it’s been an awesome experience. I’m really digging the whole home brew experience and embracing the role..

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In conjunction with Brewer’s Best,  I’d like to set one of you up with your own ingredients kit. Just comment below and let me know which type of beer is your favourite. Contest closes July 1.

Winner randomly selected via random.org: congrats Steve Woolf!

 

 

Kung Po Chicken

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Marinating a recipe’s protein in cornstarch and sake is a Chinese technique known as silkening. It gives food a tender, velvety texture like the awesome Orange Beef recipe.

I made this delicious recipe for Kung Po Chicken for my wife on Valentine’s Day one year (back before the days of her peanut allergy…) In addition to being incredibly tasty, it was also fast and simple – a winning combination. The sweet & savoury sauce pulls the whole dish together. While the smoky, hot Chiles and crunchy peanuts add delicious highlights and great texture. I give this one two thumbs up!
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Kung Po Chicken 

Adapted from Kylie Kwong 

Serves: 4
Ingredients:
White rice, for serving
1 pound 1/4 boneless chicken thighs, cubed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons peanut oil
10 small dried red chiles
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preparation:
  1. Combine the chicken with the cornstarch and rice wine in a bowl. Cover, place in refrigerator and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Place oil and Chiles in a hot wok and then turn heat to low. Cook for about 60 seconds or until Chiles begin to darken slightly. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove Chiles and drain on paper towel.
  3. Leaving Chile-infused oil in wok, turn heat up to High and stir-fry half the chicken cubes for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Add extra oil if needed and stir-fry remaining chicken for 3 minutes. Return all chicken to wok, along with reserved Chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  5. Add sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce and vinegar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Serve immediately sprinkled with salt and pepper, over rice.
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