i’ve had a crazy couple of weeks working part time with loblaws doing their #tatsethenewnext campaign for canada’s 150th, as well as being a brand ambassador for a few local breweries, participating in a chef battle at boehmer toronto (which i won!), catering for a friend’s bridal shower and then a wedding. but in between all of that, i’ve finally gotten my bbq back and been trying to grill all of the things! i’ve been making lots spicy chicken, beef short ribs, a beautiful marinated pork chops from bespoke butchers, sausages, and tons of veggies like corn, peppers, onions, and asparagus. oh and a few hot dogs (yes, i have a gross love of hot dogs topped with an obscene amount onions – don’t judge me). but amid all of the grilled meat, there is nothing better than charred veggies soaked in oil and vinegar, finished with sea salt. summer eating has always had my heart. give me a pile grilled veggies and meat over slow roasted anything any day.
since i’m a food science nerd and love reading about the chemistry behind the things we enjoy (and don’t enjoy!), i decided to look into why exactly bbq’d foods are just so much better, and the answer is pretty simple: foods like meat when they’re grilled because the maillard reaction. the maillard reaction was discovered by the french chemist, loius camille-maillard in 1912, and is responsible for the beginning of so much insight into and development of flavour. in a nutshell, it’s a chain of reactions that begin when food hits the grill and proteins are broken down into amino acids which react with sugar, to produce new flavours, colours and aromas. this happens not only on the grill, but pretty much anytime you give food colouring using heat – that’s why searing is so important and never a step to be skipped – it imparts all of the amazing, mouthwatering flavour! but back to grilling – i think grilled foods are just better due to 1: the maillard reaction and the marinades, but also the association of summer – kicking back with a cold beer and grilling food over fire.
check out this super informative (and funny) article from serious eats on the topic if you want to learn more! it delves into the reactions in baking and other foods and explains how it all basically leads back to the maillard reaction. in the meantime, if you just want to get to cooking, fire up the grill and make this simple, satisfying summer dish i’ve eaten at least twice in the last week!
grilled zucchini with mint & pickled red onion
2 green zucchini, 2 yellow zucchini sliced into ribbons using a mandolin
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 bunch fresh mint, torn
add the onions, vinegar, garlic, chilli and sugar to a small bowl and let rest. toss the zucchini with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. add to hot grill, and cook until tender and charred.
add to bowl and toss with more olive oil, salt and pepper. add onions and most of brining liquid. add torn mint and toss. let rest for 5 minutes before serving over baby arugula.