February 23, 2006

it's indoor grilling time

Grilled salmon and yellow squash (above)

Grilled chicken and blanched asparagus (below)

Although summertime is most often associated with backyard picnics and barbecues, indoor grilling is the answer to wintertime’s grilled food cravings. Summertime, in the Philippines, reminds me of picnics at the beach and grilling, which also brings me to think about pork barbecue. This is a popular grilled specialty and a streetfood mainstay in Manila. Just like lemonade stands here, perhaps anybody in Manila can just as easily get away with setting up a small grill stand in front of his home and start grilling and selling these delicious stuff. Thinly sliced small pork pieces are marinated in a basic soy sauce and lemon juice combination, to which is added a long list of spices and other secret ingredients. The best dip for this is a simple vinegar, minced garlic, salt and pepper combination. This goes well with most grilled food. The long holiday weekend went by fast. We had a chance to try a newly-opened branch of a popular family-style Italian restaurant chain out here. I was hoping to find my favorite grilled salmon and angel hair pasta with a lemon flavored sauce in the menu, but unfortunately they have altered their menu and dropped it from their list. I ended up ordering another pasta dish instead. It was very rich, cheesy and creamy. It was very good and I enjoyed it, but my craving for something grilled remained. This inspired me to fire up my grill pan at home. I tried this combination of salmon and chicken with yellow squash and asparagus, on the side. It’s the best time to try asparagus, they’re in season now. I like this particular young or baby variety with thinner stalks. They’re very tender and tasty. I just blanched them for a few minutes but decided to grill the squash. A little lemon juice, pepper and capers added to store-bought instant hollandaise mix, makes a perfect sauce for the asparagus as well as for the other grilled stuff. This lemon-caper sauce is quick and easy to make from scratch. If a grill pan was used, the pan drippings must be scraped and transferred to a sauce pan. To the chicken drippings in the pan, add one to two tablespoons of butter, olive oil or a combination of these two. Loosen and incorporate all the pan drippings before adding a tablespoon or two of flour. The flour is then cooked for a few minutes, before adding some water or chicken broth and lemon juice to it. Season with salt and pepper. Stirring the sauce with a wire whisk is important until the sauce reaches the right consistency. More water may be added if the sauce gets too thick. Finally, stir in some capers and a few lemon slices, for garnish.

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