Archive for June, 2010

Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
June 2010 Edmontonians

There’s something about cooking outdoors. Food always seems to taste better.
Most campers/RVers today use portable BBQs like the one my colleague Linda has. Her portable Coleman grill is so versatile and easy to use, it’s a must for beginners or pros who don’t want a lot of fuss and muss.
But nothing beats going back to the days of our forefathers, when everything was cooked over an open fire. You just can’t duplicate the flavour—that slight taste of smoke as you slow grill over a bed of coals. Besides, it’s not outdoor cooking unless you get a face and lung full of smoke.
I thought I’d share some of the basics of cooking over an open fire, so you can give it a try this summer. Some of the techniques also apply for grilling on a charcoal barbecue.
Bob Chapman, the GM of Wholesale Sports, says that it’s unfortunate the good old days of cooking over an open fire may have gone the way of the little red caboose. He estimates that 10 percent or less of today’s campers actually cook over a bed of hot coals in a fire pit. It’s a dying art. 

Outfitting your campfire kitchen can be a simple task. There are a number of stores that outfit campers and hikers in Edmonton. Wholesale Sports, on St. Albert Trail just off the Yellowhead Trail, has one of most extensive cooking sections I’ve ever seen.
For basic cooking utensils, you’ll want a cast iron frying pan, Dutch oven and sauce pan, as well as a coffee pot, a few wooden and slotted spoons and spatulas. The modern campfire kitchen includes a grill basket to cook meat, fish or vegetables over the coals. You can buy a sandwich maker, kebob skewers that are three feet long, enabling you to safely hold them over the open fire as you cook. There’s even a popcorn maker and—are you ready?—a special grill to make pizza over an open fire.

You’ll find the Dutch oven perhaps one of your favourite and most versatile tools. Make sure you get one with a tight fitting lid and three small feet on the bottom. This pot can be used on a tripod or grill, or you can bury it in coals and place a few coals on the lid. This is where it gets its name from—the heat on top and bottom act like an oven. It’s incredible for roasts, stews, casseroles and soups. I’ve even seen cakes and breads done in them. It’s your best all round tool.
Back in the early days of cooking over an open fire, a wooden tripod was used with grills suspended at various heights over the fire. Now, tripods are made of metal and can easily be adjusted for height. On average, they run around $27 and are easy to use and transport. They make cooking and keeping food warm a snap—your stove top/warmer all in one.
Don’t forget to bring along some heavy duty oven mitts, the professional type is best. Or make yourself a sturdy hook device to lift your Dutch oven off the coals. Be careful and keep in mind, it is cast iron and red hot! I’ve seen many a stew and pot roast end up in the coals because someone tried to lift the Dutch oven off with a tea towel. 

When campfire cooking, we have to think safety first. Where possible, you should dig a fire pit… at least a foot deep and two to three feet round. Save the dirt to one side to fill in the pit when you’re done. Ideally, surround the pit with rocks to contain the fire and provide a base for a grate.
Campfire cooking is not hard once you get your timing and heat control down. The key is your heat. Light your fire 20 to 30 minutes before you need your coals. Hardwoods like oak, cedar or wild Alberta willow are best. Cherry, apple or plum give off a nice flavourful smoke. If you attempt to cook over open flame, any grease dripping off the food will cause the flames to flair up and burn your food. So make sure you have a good bed of coals. I like to heap them toward the center so you can move your cooked food to the edges of your grate to keep warm.
A few things to remember: Have a shovel for moving the coals as you need to adjust your heat, to overturn your coals as you pour water over them to extinguish your fire, and fill in the hole when you’re done. A pail of water should be kept next to your wood pile in case your campfire gets out of hand. And, as any outdoorsman/woman knows: Make sure your campfire is out—cold to the touch. And check for fire bans in the parks or wilderness areas you plan to visit.
Happy cooking!


Read Full Post »

Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
June 2010 Edmontonians

1 perch fillet per person—2 if they are small
1/4 cup of butter
1 tsp. Fresh dill-diced fine
1/4 purple onion diced fine
2 cloves of diced garlic
Wedge of lemon per person
Salt & pepper to taste
Vegetable spray or Pam


1.      Make sure your coals are arranged properly with the hottest in the centre and fewer and fewer coals to the outside to ensure a medium and low heat.

2.      Take a baking rack or small grill and spray well with oil.

3.      Lay fish on top of small grill and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.      In a sauce pan, combine butter, dill, onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent.

5.      Set to side of grill over fire pit. (Low or no heat)

6.      Place rack containing fish on top of your regular grill over fire over medium heat. Baste constantly with dill sauce. Fish should be cooked 3-4 minutes per side if thin. Thicker pieces should grill 5-6 minutes per side.

7.      Serve with a wedge of lemon with rice, and vegetables like grilled cob on the corn. Yum.

Serves four.

Read Full Post »


Posted by Linda Bodo of Absolute Bodo 
June 2010

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The next best time is now.            ~ anonymous

It can be modified to almost any degree; coaxed into a magnificent manor or a leaf so thin we can wrap a package in it. Organic and renewable, this substance harvested from the stems of trees boasts an impressive portfolio of accomplishments… including the ability to generate fuel to take the chill off a blustery winter’s day or toast a S’more to perfection.
I have been known to drool over a mid-century chair coaxed from a single piece of teak or weep at the sight of a monumental grain elevator gracing our prairie landscape. But, I also appreciate the diverse properties of wood in the raw—that hard fibrous lignified substance veneered in bark, logs, branches or twigs. Although these leftovers often meet their fate in a pile of firewood or in a chipper, they can be morphed into objects d’art for the home and garden with a little imagination.
Here are a few favourite raw wood projects from my books, columns and to-do folders. I use a pair of sharp pruners to cut smaller branches and a jig or table saw for larger units. When working with natural timber, be sure to dry it for several days to prevent finished pieces from warping or shrinking after completion. Alternately, soak branches or twigs in water overnight to keep timber pliable for shaping if you will be adding decorative elements to your finished project. Use exterior wood glue for adhesion if the finished product will be subjected to the elements; otherwise high-strength hot glue is perfect for wood-on-wood bonding. Finally, seal surfaces with beeswax or furniture wax to add a subtle sheen and offer protection.
So, before you put another log on the fire, consider the possibilities.

You don’t have to sap your pocketbook to create these groovy garden gadgets. Thin branches or willow reeds can be transformed into obelisks for climbing vines or veggies… or al fresco privacy screens.

Stop barking up the wrong tree. Organic furniture does not have to cost a branch and a trunk. Fashion these stylin’ stools from leftover logs or branches. Cheap and chic.

Dramatic lighting is the root of all good decor. Whittle up a chandelier, pendant or table lamp by dressing up a lamp kit with branches or driftwood.

If your thumb happens to be evergreen, you’ll love assembling these crude tables from sticks and stems.   

Leaf traditional hardware behind and construct natural hangers, hooks and rods from unprocessed materials harvested from your own backyard.

Spruce up existing furniture or accessories with twigs or branch discs. Awesome for a cabin or lakeside retreat.

Yew will love these candle holders, simple to make and easy on the pocketbook.

Read Full Post »