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Fireworks of flavour

Fireworks of flavour

By Rita Demontis QMI Agency
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Long weekend entertaining ideas

May 19, 2010

Long weekend's coming up -- Victoria Day, May Two-Four and the first unofficial weekend of summer.

Victoria who? We've known this special occasion as Firecracker's Day, and across Canada kids and adults alike are looking forward to lighting up the night sky with fire, flame and colour.

How about setting off a fireworks of flavour on your plate, too?

Hot sauce, fiery peppers and spicy curries are guaranteed to make your taste buds sizzle and soar with pain and pleasure.

And good health -- research shows these foods and flavours deliver quite the healthy punch thanks to all the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties they have. And then there's capsaicin, a natural chemical hot chilies give out -- not only is it the source of all that heart-stomping heat, but it helps erupt all those endorphins in our brains that make us feel all giggly, euphoric and happy.

So what if our eyes are streaming with tears and our nose is running -- ask any lover of hot food and you'll be told nothing beats the sensational heat of spicy treats.

So get out the sparklers and Roman candles and even the little red school house: It's Queen Victoria's Birthday! A chance to enjoy fireworks everywhere.

According to gocanada.about.com, Victoria Day is a public holiday observed across Canada on the Monday before May 25th, and celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday, queen of Great Britain and Ireland, who was born May 24, 1819 and died at Windsor Castle on Jan. 22, 1901.

The Victoria Day Weekend is the first popular weekend for spring summer travel and many Canadians open up their cottages, plant gardens, or just get away. Expect crowds at resorts and hotels and busy highways. Fireworks displays are common, especially on the Monday night.

SPICY GAZPACHO

This cooling gazpacho offers the perfect amount of heat. Recipe courtesy Go South!

3 large tomatoes, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 green pepper, roughly chopped

2 jalapeño peppers, roughly chopped

1/4 cup (50ml) fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp. (15ml) cider vinegar

2-1/2 cups (625ml) tomato juice

1 cup (250ml) clam juice

1 tsp. (5ml) olive oil

1 tsp. (5ml) paprika

1/2 tsp. (2ml) salt

1/4 tsp. (1ml) ground cumin

1/4 tsp. (1ml) freshly ground black pepper

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Chopped cilantro and diced avocado for garnish, if desired

In large bowl place chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, cucumber, green pepper and jalapeño. Add lime juice and vinegar, mix until combined. Let stand, covered, refrigerated, for 2 hours.

Remove bowl from fridge. Add tomato juice, clam juice, olive oil, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin and Worcestershire. Pour mixture into blender and blend until smooth, adding extra tomato juice if too thick. Chill for 2 hours before serving.

To serve, ladle cold soup into chilled bowls and top with chopped cilantro and diced avocado. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

SPICY PORK ROLL UPS

Bursting with flavour, these roll ups live up their name! Recipe courtesy of Longo's (longos.com)

1 pork tenderloin, about 12 oz/375 g

2 tsp. (10ml) canola oil

1 tsp. (5ml) ground cumin

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 plum tomato, chopped

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped

2 Tbsp. (30ml) chopped fresh coriander

4 small whole wheat wraps

Lime wedges

Trim pork tenderloin and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (5 mm) slices. Stack a few slices at a time and cut into 1/4-inch (5 mm) strips.

In nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork and cumin and cook, stirring for about 6 minutes or until hint of pink remains. Remove to plate.

Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook onion, tomato and jalapeno pepper for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add pork and stir to combine and reheat. Add coriander and stir to coat. Divide pork mixture among tortillas and serve with lime wedge. Squeeze lime into tortilla before rolling up to enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Serve these roll ups with rice or mixed salad for an easy weeknight meal.

JERK CHICKEN SKEWERS WITH HONEY-LIME CREAM

You're going to need rubber gloves when handling the hot peppers in this recipe courtesy of Weber's Way to Grill by Jamie Purviance.

Paste

1 habanero or Scotch bonnet chile pepper

1 cup (250ml) lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil

4 scallions, white and light green parts, roughly chopped

6 medium garlic cloves

2 Tbsp. (30ml) finely chopped fresh ginger

2 Tbsp. (30ml) granulated sugar

1 Tbsp (15ml) fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp (15ml) ground allspice

2 tsp. (10ml) kosher salt

1 tsp. (5ml) freshly ground black pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Sauce

½ cup (125ml) sour cream

½ tsp. (2ml) finely grated lime zest

1 Tbsp. (15ml) fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp. (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. (10ml) honey

¼ tsp. (1ml) each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To avoid burning your skin, wear rubber or plastic gloves when you handle chile. After handling chile, do not touch your face or any other part of your body, as that might cause a burning sensation. Remove and discard stem of chile, then cut away and discard hot whitish veins and seeds. Put rest of chile in bowl of a food processor. Add remaining paste ingredients and process until smooth.

Trim chicken of any fat. Cut chicken lengthwise into even strips and place into a large, resealable plastic bag. Spoon in paste. Work paste into chicken, press out air in bag, and seal tightly. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for 2 to 3 hours.

In a small bowl whisk sauce ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let sauce stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. Prepare grill for direct cooking over high heat.

Wearing rubber or plastic gloves, thread chicken strips onto the skewers, being sure to keep each skewer well within flesh of chicken. If you don't have rubber gloves, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after this step.

Brush cooking grates clean. Grill skewers over direct high heat, with lid closed as much as possible, until meat is firm and juices run clear, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once or twice. Serve warm with sauce.

Serves: 4 to 6

NOTE: You'll need 8 to 12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
 

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