Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Summertime grilling begins

We’re well into the May long weekend, and for many this is the time to start using our barbecues for cooking almost everything from steaks, burgers, chicken, to roasts of all kinds, to any vegetables of your liking.

Today’s recipes offer some nice changes from the same old, same old. This would be a great time to experiment with smoke cooking, and if you’ve never tried this, a pork shoulder or butt is ideal to start experimenting with this type of cooking.

The pulled pork recipe below is made from a big chunk of meat that is a lot more forgiving to beginners than other meats and you can be successful on practically any grill with a lid. It is a delicious change for everyone.

Asparagus and halibut are in season right now and we have two excellent taco recipes  that have a wonderful blend of flavours. The halibut lends a buttery flavour to the natural bitterness of the radicchio, while rounded out by the creaminess of the avocado. If radicchio offers too much of an edge, try substituting this ingredient with red cabbage.

Lightly grilled asparagus spears are smothered with chunky tomato salsa, topped with cotija cheese, and nestled in a warmed whole grain tortilla.

Barbecued Pulled Pork

1 boneless pork butt ( 4-5 lbs)

5-6 cups of favourite wood chips for smoking, well-soaked in water

Santa Maria Rub

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. finely ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dry rosemary (or fresh, finely minced)

1/2 teaspoon dry sage

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Finishing Sauce:

1- 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup hot water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne, ground or to taste

In a small mixing bowl, combine all the rub ingredients.

Coat pork butt with seasonings and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 8 to 24 hours.

Preheat half the grill for medium heat. Place foil pan with about a third of the drained wet chips over the heat. Place pork butt on grill away from the direct heat; close the lid and allow it to smoke. Add wood chips as necessary until all used up. Keep temperature at medium, or between 200 - 225 degrees F.

Smoke pork  for 5-6 hours or until internal temperatures reach 185 degrees F. Use baste every 20 minutes during last few hours of cooking. Remember to boil any remaining basting sauce before using it on shredded pork (health reasons).

When pork reaches internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees F on instant read meat thermometer (after about 4 to 5 hours), remove it from grill and double-wrap in foil to keep juices from leaking out. Return pork to the grill (indirect heated side).

The pork is finished cooking when it pulls apart easily and reaches an internal temperature of 190 to 195 degrees F, about another 1 to 2 hours.

Let rest for 1 hour, then unwrap the pork butt and “pull” the pork by hand or using two forks, shredding it and discarding any large pieces of fat.

Serve with any remaining boiled basting sauce, and/or your favourite BBQ sauce, in a toasted bun. Coleslaw is excellent with this.

Halibut Tacos with Spicy Radicchio-Avocado Slaw

2 pounds halibut fish filets

12-16 corn tortillas

For marinade:

1/3 cup oil

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For slaw:

1 head of radicchio, core removed and chopped into strips

1 avocado, pit removed and chopped into cubes

Juice from 1 lemon

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 large red jalapeno, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. chipotle in adobo sauce, puréed

1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Pinch of salt and black pepper

Combine marinade in small bowl. Place halibut filets in resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over top. Seal bag and place into refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

While fish is marinating, prepare slaw. In large bowl, combine mayonnaise, oil, cider vinegar and chipotle in adobo purée. Once combined, add radicchio, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix chopped avocado with lemon juice; do not add chopped avocado at this point. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat grill to medium heat. Remove filets and place flesh side down onto oiled grill grate. Cook for 3-4 minutes until grill marks appear. Using spatula, carefully work fish away from grill grate and turn over on other side. Continue cooking for an additional 10-12 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily.

Toward the end of cook time, warm the corn tortillas on the grill, about 1 minute per side.

Once the fish has cooked, remove from the grill and place into a large baking sheet.

Add chopped avocado to slaw.

To assemble, simply place 1/4 cup of slaw and desired amount of fish to each tortilla. Fold and enjoy.

Grilled Asparagus Tacos

16 asparagus spears, ends trimmed

4 whole grain tortillas, warmed

Sea salt

Coarse ground black pepper

1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa

1/3 cup Cotija cheese, shredded

Soak asparagus in cold water for 10 minutes.

Preheat grill for medium-high heat. Place asparagus spears on a hot grill and cook until they slightly soften and have good grill marks, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from grill.

Place 4 spears in warmed tortillas, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a healthy dollop of salsa and top with Cotija cheese.

Note: Cotija is a sharp, salty white grating cheese that softens but doesn’t melt when heated. Look for it in Hispanic markets. Substitutes: Parmesan, Romano, anejo or feta cheese.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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