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We are knee deep in cocktail party season and I’m going to post a recipe that will keep you on budget! Do you love Boursin? Are you appalled at the price? In Toronto, a little 150 g (a touch more than 1/2 cup) pot could cost $6.00+++!!! So I improvised and created this herb-infused cream cheese spread, it’s equally as good and costs a lot less! Make this a couple of days in advance so the flavours have time to meld, you won’t be sorry.

Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

Makes about 250 mL or 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • dry or fresh herbs, to taste
  • garlic, minced finely
  • 70 g butter, softened
  • 100 g cream cheese, softened
  • 100 g ricotta
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Chives or green onions, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil over low heat with the fresh herbs and garlic, simmer for 10 minutes to infuse. Allow the infused oil to cool completely.
  2. Pour infused oil through a fine sieve and reserve, discard herbs and garlic.
  3. In a small processor, pulse the cheeses and butter together until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the cooled olive oil and continue to pulse until it has been entirely incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve at room temperature and watch it disappear.

Notes:

  • The first time, I used a combo of fresh lemon thyme, rosemary, tarragon and Greek oregano. This time, I used finely grated Herbes de Provence.
  • I had homemade ricotta, but if you do not, just double the cream cheese, it’s still delicious!
  • Use whipped cream cheese for a similar texture to the actual Boursin.
  • I like to serve this spread in a small glass pot but any container will do. To serve similar to the actual Boursin, line a ramekin with plastic wrap and pack the spread into the plastic wrap and freeze. To serve, Remove from the freezer and invert on a platter and remove plastic wrap. Allow the dome to come to room temperature.
  • Serve with bread, crackers or crudité.

Baked Cornmeal Tuilles

We are fast approaching the holiday entertaining season and what better way to kick-start the party-fun than with some tasty cornmeal tuiles! I first saw these beauties on lovely Lorraine’s beautiful blog in early spring, and I knew at first sight that they would be making an appearance on my blog. The yield is amazing, I got about 50 tuiles from one batch! Now that is economical. And they are tasty too. I will definitely make these tuiles again, thank you dear Lorraine.

It’s best not to make these in the middle of the summer heat, like I did. What was I thinking?!?!?!?

Baked Cornmeal Tuiles

For the original recipe, please click here.

This recipe makes 50 chips about 9 cm x 7 cm (3 1/2″ x 2 3/8″)

Ingredients:

  • 215 g plain fine cornmeal, not flour
  • 40 g gruyère, finely grated
  • 5 g salt
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 250-500 mL water, boiling
  • 2 g Herbs en Provence
  • oil or non-stick spray for brushing baking sheets

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Put a Silpat mat on the baking sheet. Add the tuile template, if using. Brush or spray the Silpat liberally with a high flash point oil, like grapeseed.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, gruyère, salt and butter, mix well. Pour the boiling water into the cornmeal mixture and mix to a cream of wheat consistency. See notes.
  3. Spoon 8 mL (a heaped teaspoon) into the centre of each tuile template and spread out to the edges using an offset spatula. Bake for 8-10 minutes, then carefully flip over and continue to bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until edges have gently browned and they are crisp.

Notes:

  • Lorraine specifically indicates not to put them on a parchment-lined sheet because that is what the original author suggested, but I like to live dangerously and tried it anyway—it didn’t worked out; I found that crisping took a lot longer because the parchment held onto the moisture. I found a happy medium by baking them on a Silpat matt brushed or sprayed with oil.
  • I mixed everything together with my immersion blender because I wanted a slightly finer texture to the cornmeal and I wanted to break up the herbs a bit more.
  • Confession: My chips were not curling beautifully so when I flipped them, I snuck a cannoli roll underneath each chip to give it curl.
  • An Australian cup is slightly less than a North American cup, but I found the recipe worked out anyway. for the pictured recipe, I used 400 mL water.
  • I reduced the salt by half and it was salty enough, but keep in mind that Gruyère is also very salty.
  • Consider adding some other flavourings, such as granulated garlic or onion powder. I would add 5 g at a time and taste to make sure it’s not overpowering.
  • I found that my tuiles shrank about 30% while baking so I increased the spoon drop to 8 mL (a heaped teaspoon) from 5 mL (a level teaspoon).
  • I tried to make lovely, even ovals but was not able to get it right no matter how hard I tried, so I created a tuile template using a silicon matt (that I bought at the Dollar Store for $4) and an Exacto-knife and oval cookie cutter. It literally took me 10 minutes! Or you may buy a tuile template here. Make the template about 20-30% larger than you want your chip to be because they shrink that much!
  • These make lovely little snacks when serving cocktails. These chips are deceptively sturdy and will hold up to any dip.

Way back in later September, JT and I rented our neighbours’ cottage in Muskoka. Its vista reminds me of our beloved cabin that we no longer visit. But that’s a whole other story for some other time. Right now, I’d like to focus on the cottage we rented, and its beautiful views. Click on the images below to view the gallery.

We invited some dear vegetarian friends up for a couple of days and one of the days we had a grazing dinner of tapas and cheeses. One dish that was very successful was the mushroom and chestnut paté with cognac. You would be hardpressed to guess this does not have any meat. The texture is creamy and smooth with great depth of flavour.

Mushroom and Chestnut Paté with Cognac

Makes 125 mL Paté

Ingredients:

    • 100 g roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (I used this one)
    • Handful of raw cremini mushrooms
    • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
    • 2-3 cloves roasted garlic
    • 80 g butter, room temperature
    • 15 mL EVOO
    • 30 mL cognac
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • pinch of allspice
    • pinch of salt and black pepper
    • ~20 g butter, to top off paté

Directions:

  1. Melt 20 g butter with the olive oil in a pan. Sauté the shallots until caramelized, add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the chestnuts and sauté lightly until softened. Deglaze the pan with the cognac.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. When cool, add the cooked ingredients to a food processor or jar of the immersion blender. Add remaining softened butter (not the melted butter at the end of the list), roasted garlic and spices and pulse until very smooth.
  4. Add the paté to a plastic-lined pan and press into the corners or into a shallow mason jar, as pictured, and smooth the top over. Pour melted butter over the top and allow to harden.
  5. Allow this paté to come to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

  • You may substitute the butter with vegan butter should you desire, however I am unsure of the impact it would have on the overall flavour.
  • You may use any type of mushroom, I love cremini’s earthy sweetness.

Baba Ganoush Revisited

We are knee-deep in entertaining season so I thought I’d share some easy recipes for entertaining. Homemade dips are simple to make and are a million-times better than store-bought dips. I’ve suggested grilling the eggplant for a smoky flavour in my recipe but if your grill is tucked away for the long winter, you can broil them for a similar effect.

Speaking of entertaining, do you own a wood-burning fireplace or know someone who does? Do you struggle to bring wood in from your wood pile when you have friends over? The sawdust and bits of wood alway stick to your clothes and the number of trips in and out is tiring! I have a solution! I’ve created a handy log carrier, hand made by yours truly in Canada! This is the perfect gift for the wood burning fireplace owner! Made of heavy duty denim, with a copper handles, these carriers can hold 12-14 kg (25-30 lbs) of wood, the perfect amount for a roaring fire without breaking your back! They are $60 (Canadian) each or two for $100 (Canadian). Shipping within Canada and to the US is available but you’ll need to contact me before November 23 to make sure you get it by Christmas. Now let’s get busy and make some baba!

Baba Ganoush

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 400 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 8 small Thai aubergines, halved and seeded
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 15 mL tahini
  • 6 g cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill aubergines on very hot BBQ, until skin is charred and the flesh is soft (we did ours mostly on the skin side on the BGE).
  1. Roast the garlic in a parchment pouch wrapped in foil. Cool.
  2. Peel the charred skin and away from the aubergine and discard, peel roasted garlic and discard skins.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, add all of the ingredients and purée until smooth, season to taste.

Notes:

  • I like to toast my cumin for big flavour.
  • Use raw garlic if you wish, we have developed a bit of an aversion to raw garlic so I roast it whenever possible.
  • Use as much olive oil to give you a smooth dip.
  • I would not substitute peanut butter for the tahini in this case.
  • If you like a tarter dip, add more lemon juice.
  • Seeds of the eggplant tend to be bitter, so I’d remove them.

This past July, we traveled to Wisconsin to visit friends at their gorgeous lake house; it was bittersweet because they were selling it to move down to Arizona for good. The weather wasn’t great so we only got in one very short boat ride but we enjoyed every last minute. We shall miss visiting this little gem in Wisconsin. But that just means we’ll be visiting Arizona even more!

While we were in Wisconsin, our dear friends introduced us to an incredible product: Rick Bayless’ Fonterra Grill salsa! It was to die for! The layered flavours of grilled vegetables and fresh cilantro created a complex salsa that was totally unexpected, so of course, I had to try to recreate it upon our return. I used our Big Green Egg which is the ultimate charcoal barbecue! It imparts the most incredible smoky flavours but if you have gas or propane, just fire up some wood chips on the side for a similar experience.

Grilled Vegetable and Cilantro Salsa

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Yields about 1 Litre of salsa (about 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg tomatoes, seeded (reserve seeds and pulp for tomato jam)
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 4 jalopeño peppers, seeded and veins removed or to taste
  • 2 nora peppers, rehydrated in warm water, skins and seeds removed (yields about 15 mL flesh), optional
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, skin on
  • 2.5 mL smoked sweet paprika
  • Salt
  • Cilantro leaves, good handful or to taste
  • juice of 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Remove seeds and pulp from the tomatoes and set cut-side down on a cooling rack lined with parchment paper. Overnight is best, you want to dry out the tomatoes as much as possible.
  2. Roast the tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños and onion on an open flame (I used our Big Green Egg) until softened and slightly charred. Wrap the garlic in parchment and then foil and roast over the open flame until soft.
  3. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, peppers and garlic, discard skins. Add roasted veggies and cilantro leaves to a food processor and chop to desired consistency. Add salt and lime juice and pulse to combine.
  4. Add the scraped flesh from the Nora peppers to the processor and pulse a few more times.
  5. Fill sterilized jars with the salsa. If you are not using right away, you will want to process the jars in the typical canning methods. I processed my salsa for 15 minutes.

Tomato Jam

Yields a scant 250 mL (1 cup) tomato jam

Ingredients:

  • 370 g tomato pulp (all the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes that you plan to roast for the above recipe)
  • 100 g shallots, minced finely
  • 10 g garlic, minced finely
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 mL cooking sherry
  • 15 mL white balsamic vinegar
  • 1.25 mL baking soda
  • basil, chiffonade
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the onions and garlic until caramelized, deglaze the pan with cooking sherry. Add the tomato pulp, basil, season with salt and then add the baking soda, being careful because the baking soda will foam up.
  2. Cook for about an hour until most of the water has cooked off. About half-way through the cooking, add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well.

Notes:

  • I used a combination of vine-ripened tomatoes and Roma because that is what looked the best to me.
  • I have mentioned this before, baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the tomato and therefore there is NO NEED TO ADD SUGAR (yes, I yelled that!).
  • You could do whatever you wish with the pulp, I just don’t like throwing away food!
  • Since this post was written, I’ve made two additional batches of this salsa and the last batch was rush so I used the entire tomato instead of seeding it, it made for a wetter salsa so I strained it before canning. The seeds added a bit more texture that wasn’t unpleasant. But, I’d still go the extra mile and seed the tomatoes if I have the time.

Late in the summer, I got together with a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in quite some time. We had a long lunch chatting about what’s going on in each of our lives and ended up reminiscing about wonderful vacations we have each had in Spain. Of course, my head goes directly to food and I had couldn’t stop thinking about a spectacular dish we had during one of our first meals in Almaria: a scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion! It was out of this world. The delicate flavours worked so well together. I thought this dish could make a lovely starter or a beautiful amuse bouche, appetizer or light main course for the holidays; of course, I put my own little spin on it and it is equally as compelling. In the Notes area, I have made suggestions on how to make this dish vegetarian or vegan.

This scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion is the artistic creation of Joseba Anorga Taberna, a contemporary restaurant rated as one of the top ten in Almeria.

Seared Scallops in Creamy Grilled Corn Velouté

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main

Ingredients:

  • 300 g grilled corn (or frozen corn)
  • ~200 mL chicken stock
  • 20 g roasted almonds (with or without skins)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 20 g pancetta, cut into small bits
  • 15 mL grapeseed oil
  • 4-6 large scallops
  • butter
  • 45 mL white wine vinegar
  • Splash of water

Directions:

  1. Rince frozen corn, if using, to defrost. Purée the corn with almonds and the chicken stock until desired consistency is achieved (I used 200 mL for a thicker velouté). Press through a fine sieve to catch all of the corn skins, discard skins. Reserve the creamed corn at room temperature until required.
  2. In a small pan, fry the pancetta in the grapeseed oil until crisp; set on paper towel to remove excess oil. Reserve the pancetta fat (there isn’t much).
  3. Add the butter and reserved pancetta fat to a large cast iron frying pan. Dry the scallops well. When the oil is smoking hot, add the scallops and sear each side without turning or moving. The scallops will release from the pan when they are ready. Flip each scallop only once.
  4. Remove the scallops and cover to keep warm.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine vinegar and splash of water, if using and reserve for drizzle (I did not need to add water).
  6. To serve, spoon the corn velouté into shallow bowls (I like a rimmed soup bowl for a main or a small shell dish as an appetizer. Add the hot scallops, sprinkle on the crispy pancetta and drizzle with the deglazing liquid. Serve immediately garnished with shallot curls.

The subtly sweet corn compliments the delicate sweetness of the scallop, and then there is the salty bacon and the acidity of the pan juices. Heaven!

Notes:

  • This dish can easily be made into a vegetarian or vegan by using King Mushrooms instead of scallops as I have done here (they have a similar texture to scallops and will sear just like scallops). Substitute a robust olive oil for the butter and vegetable stock for chicken stock. Obviously, omit the pancetta but sprinkle the finished dish generously with sea salt for balance.
  • Searing is possible only when the scallop or King Mushrooms are perfectly dry, so pat them dry before you cook them.
  • If you are using frozen corn, add a pinch of sweet smoked paprika to emulate the smokey flavour of grilled corn.

This was our actual dinner, it was very tasty indeed.

I’ve been following “Memorie di Angelina“, an Italian blog by Frank. I like this blog because (like my other favourite Italian blog “from the Bartolini kitchens“), Frank documents authentic Italian recipes with easy instructions and mouthwatering photos. I have been drooling over his recipes all year and during this last summer, I was overwhelmingly inspired to recreate his Frittelle di pasta cresciuta con zucchine (Zucchini Fritters)! Those of you who have been following me for years know that I am not a fan of deep fried food, but once in a while a recipe calls out to me and I am compelled to make it: this is one of them.

These fritters are unlike any fritter that I’ve had; they are soft, pillowy, and slightly chewy, yeasted bread dough balls with delicate shavings of zucchini and thinly sliced shallots (I added the shallots, they were not in the original recipe). They are fried at a slightly lower temperature so they don’t brown quickly and get dark and crusty. The trick is to fry them through without getting them golden like most deep-fried fritters would be. The flavour is a little taste of heaven and if you feel decadent, serve them with a romesco sauce or an aioli (as Frank kindly suggested). I made the recipe as Frank outlined on his beautiful blog and yielded about 41 (may have been 42 — quality control, of course 😉) tasty morsels. I served them 4 per person but you may want to serve the entire batch if your crowd is hungry enough. They freeze beautifully and reheat in a 300° F oven in less than 10 minutes.

The dough is rather shaggy when raw, but using two spoons to portion the little balls (one to portion, the other to push off into the oil), it’s easy and not as messy as I had envisioned. I was quite surprised that I yielded back almost the same amount of oil as before frying, which means the little balls did not soak up much at all — it makes total sense as they didn’t taste oily or deep fried. Each ball swells as it fries and turns into about 1-manly bite or two-lady-like bites, perfect for cocktails. It’ll be some time ’till we drag out the outdoor cushions again but I thought I’d share the recipe for the Holiday season.

Neapolitan Zucchini Fritters

Makes about 40-42 little balls

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g “00” flour
  • 250 mL warm water
  • 5 g Instant dry yeast
  • 300 g zucchini, shredded
  • 25 g shallot, thinly sliced
  • 5 g salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yeast with the water and mix well. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover, set aside for 2-4 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the shredded zucchini with a generous amount of salt and set aside for the duration of the proofing of the dough.
  3. Scrape out the zucchini into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. Place the rinsed zucchini into a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the water from it as possible. Sprinkle into the prooved dough and mix well. Add the salt and the shallots and mix well.
  4. Preheat oil to 350° F.
  5. Using two spoons, scoop out a small amount (about a generous teaspoon) and gently push the dough into hot oil, being careful not to splash. Add only a few at a time so the oil doesn’t lose its temperature. Lay the fried balls onto a clean paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve immediately or set aside/freeze and reheat at 300° F for 4-8 minutes.

These are light and flavourful Italian fritters. Do you like my new outdoor cushions and pillows? I made them using my new heavy duty sewing machine!

 

I have no idea what happened to the original post, way back from 2011, but all that the blog post ended up with are some bad photos and no recipe! So here I will post this tasty recipe again, just in time for BBQ season down under! This marinade and BBQ sauce would be quite tasty on tofu or Seitan, we usually have it on chicken.

Did I ever recount the time I won a slow cooker from Chef Roger Mooking’s website? It was a New Years Eve contest, you were to depict a photo that describes your New Years Eve. Of course, I set up a shot using several booze bottles, a few undergarments, tools and a lamp shade! I won runner up but they sent me the same grand prize! Here’s the pic:

(The winner’s photo was of a bunch of friends down south smoking cigars around a table at night)

Chef Roger Mooking’s Chicken with Papaya BBQ Sauce

For the original recipe, please click here.

Papaya Marinade

  • 30 mL coconut cream (from top of 1 can)
  • Seeds of 1 large papaya
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 g ginger, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 g cilantro stems, chopped

Papaya BBQ Sauce

  • 15 mL vegetable oil
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 65 g coconut sugar
  • zest and juice of 2 limes
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • remaining coconut milk
  • 125 mL rice wine vinegar
  • 1 papaya, large dice
  • 10 mL salt
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