Make the Most of Your Backyard With Tips for the Grill and Garden, Plus a Recipe for Alsatian Pizza With Onions and Bacon
From gardening basics to tips and recipes for the grill, we take a look at some easy ways to get your backyard summer-ready. Photo: 10'000 Hours/GettyImages
We’re halfway through summer (gulp!) and it’s time to take a look around the yard. The garden may be taking over, the grill might need a makeover — not to mention your grilling routine may need a shakeup. To wit, we’ve got the recipe for Flammekueche, an Alsatian twist on pizza that’s also popular in Switzerland.
Speaking of which, we asked a few outdoor and barbecue experts for their top tips for mid-summer upgrades, including how to avoid common grilling mistakes. But there’s more, from weeding out the weeds to adding those extras that will give your backyard and your barbecue skills game.
Choose the right gardening tools for the task at hand.
The proper garden tools can make gardening easier, which, in turn, will make it more enjoyable. Make sure you know what the tool you’re using is for to avoid unnecessary struggle. Here is a quick guide from the outdoor experts at Home Hardware to some of the most common gardening tools to make sure you’re using them right:
Gear up with sturdy digging tools: Include a Round Point Shovel — the round point cuts into the soil. It is ideal for general-purpose digging, lifting and throwing soil.
Get ready with soil clearing and weeding tools: Including a Garden Hoe — a standard gardening hoe features a blade at the end of a handle set at 90 degrees. It is used for removing weeds and shaping and clearing soil.
Tidy up with pruners and saws: Including a Hand Pruner — a bypass pruner (or shears) provides close, clean cuts on live branches. An anvil pruner is intended for chopping dead shoots and branches.
We’re about these hot summer days and longer evenings but in many places in Canada, there are often unwelcome guests on the patio or porch — mosquitoes. And those pesky bugs might even keep some of us from spending more time outside.
A recent survey conducted by Thermacell Repellents shows that 86 per cent of Canadians would enjoy themselves more in the outdoors if they knew they were protected against mosquito bites, and 79 per cent would like to find an odourless and spray-free repellent.
Thermacell specializes in innovative, DEET-free spatial repellents that create an invisible, odourless 15ft. barrier of protection from mosquitoes. While similar products on the market trap and terminate mosquitoes, Thermacell deters these pests from coming near us in the first place. Best of all it eliminates the need for greasy, messy and smelly sprays.
The essential barbecue tools, according to Home Hardware: First, you’ll want to make sure you have grill tongs, a fork, spatula and basting brush on hand. Here, a few more suggestions:
- Get a high-quality barbecue tool set that can withstand regular use and exposure to heat and cleaning.
- Most barbecue tools come with hook ends: purchasing a set of hooks to hang your tools keeps your grill organized.
- Add versatility to your grilling repertoire: Get creative and bring variety to your outdoor grilling dishes. A pizza stone lets you grill delicious pizza on your barbecue. It’s a great way to prepare pizza that cooks evenly, with a crispy crust and smoky flavour.
- A Rotisserie Kit brings versatility to your barbecue. The rotisserie gently rotates foods above the grate for juicy, slow-roasted meats. Try it with chicken, turkey, roasts and more.
Common Grilling Mistakes
Summer is peak grilling season and, according to Napoleon, makers of barbecues and fireplaces, one of the impacts of the pandemic has been a surge in people cooking their meals on the backyard barbecue.
The company also says that barbecue sales have steadily increased over the past 15 months, including a large group of rookie grillers picking up the tongs and spatula. Add to that, those age-old habits that veterans of the barbecue just can’t seem to shake, or may not even be aware that what they are doing is hindering their performance.
The pros at Napoleon offer some thoughts and tips on some common grilling mistakes, and what can be done to avoid them.
Impatience: This is a big one. Let the grill get to temperature. Placing food on a cool grill may cause it to stick, and will impede the chances of getting a good char, particularly if you are cooking a good cut of meat like a steak. When you fire up the barbecue, turn it to high, close the lid and let it get nice and hot before starting to cook. Also, avoid constantly lifting the lid to poke and prod your food. Every time you open the lid, you let heat escape.
Flipping and Flopping: Ideally, when you are cooking meat you only want to flip it once. This minimizes how many times you have to open the lid (see the point above) and gives a nice, even cook. Educate yourself on the meat you are cooking and how long it needs. If you have a chicken breast that calls for 12 minutes on the grill, put it over the fire, set a timer for six minutes and wait. As it rings at six minutes, flip the breast and reset the timer.
Take the Temperature: Don’t make your dishes a guessing game. Know exactly when they are done by using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature. The Napoleon Accu-Probe is a Bluetooth-enabled device with ports for four temperature gauges, allowing you to monitor the cooking of your entire meal with updates on your mobile device.
Clean Up: Don’t wait until the next time you use your grill to clean it; a hot grill is easier to clean. Once the food is off and resting (more on that in a minute), use a bristle-free brush or cedar scraper to clean the cooking grids of any leftover food chunks.
Impatience, the Sequel: Your food has reached the right temperature and the char on the outside is mouthwatering. The temptation is to dig right in, but it is time to once again practice patience. Let that meat rest; it will still continue to cook for several minutes once it is taken off the heat, and all the juices will seep back into the centre of the meat. So once it is removed from the grill, put it on a cutting board or dish and cover with aluminum foil for at least five minutes before digging in.
Flammekueche – Alsatian Pizza With Onions and Bacon
From Andrea Alden, Napoleon Barbecue digital writer, food blogger, photographer and stylist
“I have heard of Flammekueche before, but I have never made it. What an experience. Fresh and delicious, everything you could imagine pizza to be if it were from France and Germany. Traditionally it’s only served with bacon and onion, however the addition of mushrooms, fresh herbs, and even cheeses like gruyere or emmental are not uncommon.
Nestled on the border of France and Germany is a little area known as the Alsatian region. There, cultures have collided, blended, and meshed to create some of the most unique dining experiences on earth. One such specialty is the Flammekueche, also known as the Alsatian Pizza, or Tarte Flambée. A lovely combination of baked flat dough topped with fresh cheese known as fromage blanc, bacon, and onions. All of this is baked to a crisp perfection. There is some debate on whether or not the dough should contain yeast. This classic appetizer is a definite crowd pleaser. Follow this mostly traditional recipe and grill yourself some homemade Flammekueche.”
Prep Time: 80 Min
Grill Time: 15 Min
¼ cup warm water (105°F to 110°F)
¾ tsp. dry yeast
½ tsp. sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour + for dusting
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/16 tsp. salt (pinch)
Cornmeal for dusting
½ lb. (8 oz.) Farmway Foods Sliced Bacon cut into slices
1 large yellow onion thinly sliced
1 egg yolk
1 cup fromage blanc or quark
½ cup crème fraiche
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1. First thing is to make the dough. Activate the yeast by adding it and the sugar to the warm water and allowing it to bloom until bubbly and foamy. About 10 minutes.
2. In a stand mixer with the paddle or the dough hook combine the flour, oil, salt, and yeast, mixing until the dough becomes a shaggy ball.
3. Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead by folding and rolling the dough for about 5 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, put it back into the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel for an hour, until doubled in size.
4. While your dough is rising, make the filling. Slice the bacon into thin strips and pre-cook them until they are starting to crisp, over medium heat. Drain on a paper towel. Reserve some of the bacon grease and you can optionally cook the onions until caramelized, unless you prefer your onions slightly crisp and sharp.
5. In a bowl, combine the egg yolk, fromage blanc, crème fraiche, and nutmeg.
6. Place a baking stone or pizza stone onto the grill and preheat to 400°F.
7. Divide the dough into 2 to 4 portions. Roll them out as thin as possible, 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick. The shape depends on your skill and the shape of the pizza/baking stone you are using, but it’s not super important, just make sure that your dough fits on the stone. Sprinkle the pizza peel and stone with cornmeal. transfer the dough to the preheated pizza stone using the peel and bake for about 4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.
8. Once a dough portion has been baked, top it with the cream mixture, bacon, and onion slices. Bake for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough has crisp edges and the toppings are bubbly. Serve.