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Archive for July, 2011

A lovely, flavourful breakfast at the cottage are these individual ramekins of spinach and feta fritatta. One egg, 1 tbsp of feta, 1 small finely chopped shallot, 1 tsp finely sliced chives, pinch of basil or oregano and 1/4 cup chopped spinach per person – a little brunch!

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Pre-heat oven or BBQ to 350F.
Prepare one ramekin per person by spraying with non-stick spray.
In a small skillet and a quick spray of non-stick spray cook the shallots until translucent, add spinach and wilt.
Remove from heat.
Beat eggs well, adding all remaining ingredients, mix well.
Divide mixture between the number of ramekins you’ve prepared.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
Serve with a salad of watermelon sprinkled with lime juice and a chiffonade of mint.

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It’s seven in the morning and I’m posting a recipe from my bed at the cottage! It still amazes me! What I really should be doing is going for a half hour swim, but the air is a bit nippy – hmmm, comfy bed or chilly swim?

Simple red cabbage slaw
2-3 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/2 finely shredded celeriac (celery root)
1 green onion finely chopped
About a dozen or so mini cherry tomatoes sliced in half
3 tbsp low fat mayo
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Combine all vegetable ingredients and mix well.
Combine all wet ingredients and mix well.
Toss the slaw with the dressing to coat well, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Serve chilled.

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It’s a long weekend in Ontario – Monday is the civic holiday, so we’re at the cottage! It’s my first time up this year, weather, social activities etc., have kept us away; but it sure is nice to be up here (minus the 3.5 hour plus traffic drive up).

It still amazes me that the first time I came up (over 30 years ago), we were totally off the grid; generator for electricity, boat access only, no telephone. Now, we drove in, have A/C, and I’m posting to my Facebook and blog! Few steps forward, and a few back! I just love being connected to the world from my muskoka chair on my porch overlooking the beautiful lake!

It’s not my gourmet kitchen at Limerick Lake, but I can whip up some tasty repasts! Or so says JT! Today’s lunch is a nod to my new blog-friend Ann of Cooking Healthy for me http://www.cookinghealthyforme.com/ she did a frittata-style quesadilla that looked scrumptious! JT had requested my adult grilled cheese (from my friend B-B Barb), so I decided to combine the two for a grilled cheese fritatta quesadilla! YUM! Serves 2.

30 g sharp cheddar, freshly grated (we used Balderson’s because they are local)
20 g Parmesan, freshly grated
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/4 jalopeño chili, finey chopped
1 tbsp whiskey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 10″ fajita shell
Non stick cooking spray

Beat egg, add whiskey and beat thoroughly.
Add cheeses, onion and jalopeño and mix well. Set aside in the fridge for 10-20 minutes.
Take the fajita shell and cut in half.
Pre-heat cast iron skillet, spray non-stick spray into it.
Fill each fajita half full with half the cheese mixture. Fold over half.
Carefully place into the skillet for about 8-10 minutes, flip carefully when the first side begins to crust. Turn off heat and cover and cook for 4 additional minutes to allow egg to puff up.
Serve immediately with a side of slaw or salad.

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We finally bit-the-bullet and had new windows installed in our 1928 Craftsman-style home. We had intended on doing it with the Reno 4+ years ago, but then we reached our saturation point of spending; not exactly a budget, we just got sick and tired of spending money! Glad we waited though, because it seems that window prices have been reduced since then! We decided to do all the windows and the front door and what a difference it makes. Last night the humidity disappeared and the temperature dropped, so we immediately took advantage, turned off the A/C and opened ALL the windows. Most of the old windows were painted shut, so they wouldn’t even open, so our new found cross ventilation was very exciting! I am also very excited about being able to clean the windows inside and out (our old windows had storms painted on and the glass sandwiched inside the storm was filthy!) Woo hoo. Small things bring me pleasure.

Still not the tennis bracelet, but new windows will keep me happy for a while!

Diningroom Window

Front Door

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The heat wave in Toronto continues and since we ate heavily on the weekend with our good friends Rae and Mon, tonight seemed like a good night for lighter fare: Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps. We use Boston Bibb or Butter Lettuce for the wraps, and ground turkey for the meat, the rest is what ever your heart desires. We adapted this recipe from Epicurious, click here for the original. Serves 4.

For the meat

  • 1 quick spray of Pam
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped finely
  • 400 g lean ground turkey
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp peanut sauce (you can use peanut butter, if you don’t have the sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Garnish

  • 1 English cucumber, shreaded
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh thai basil
  • 1/3 cup green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small jalopeño pepper, finely diced
  • 12 large butter lettuce leaves, cleaned and dried
  • Lime wedges

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp peanut butter or peanut sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar

Directions

  1. Heat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat and spray with Pam. Add onion and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add turkey and sauté until brown and cooked through, breaking up with back of spoon, about 7 minutes. Add garlic.
  3. Add peanut sauce, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce; heat through. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat in microwave or skillet, adding water by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary, before continuing.)
  4. Transfer turkey mixture to medium bowl. Serve with individual bowls of each of the garnishes.
  5. Make dipping sauce by mixing all three ingredients well.

To make wraps, spoon turkey mixture onto a lettuce leaf, add garnishes as desired, fold in sides over filling, and roll up. Either dip lettuce wrap into the dipping sauce, or spoon a little spoonful into onto the meat before rolling. Note: I usually mix the chopped cilantro, basil and mint all together. The green onion and jalopeño are also mixed in one bowl, as JT eats neither, but I love them! This dish is wonderful either hot or cold.

Dinner in our back yard.

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This is my lettuce wrap before I wrapped it! So tasty!

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I wanted something healthy and not too heavy to go with ribs we were BBQ’ing for Rae and Mon, so we settled on Moroccan Style Quinoa. This recipe is a delicious combo or tart, salty and sweet, with the great texture of the Quinoa (super grain). I used a lovely bowl I picked up in Budapest during one of our first visits as a married couple. It’s about 25 years old now!

Moroccan Style Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup dry Quinoa
  • 2 cups water (I usually do 50-50 water and LS Chicken Stock)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 chopped, roasted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried cherries, cranberries and raisins (you can use currents too)
  • 1/4 chopped honey dates, chopped
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1-2 tbsp mint, finely chopped
  • 2-4 tbsp parlsey, finely chopped

Moroccan Style Quinoa

  1. Toast Quinoa in deep pan over medium heat (it will sound like pop corn, when you hear it start to pop, count to ten and remove from heat).
  2. Add water stock mixture and salt. Stir on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Cook 10-12 minutes or until the Quinoa has absorbed the liquid. Allow to completely cool.
  3. When cool, add the remaining ingredients (reserve a few pistachios for presentation) and stir well. Serve with your favourite BBQ!

I’ll probably have this for lunch on Monday with some roast chicken on top! YUM! Let me know if you have any favourite Quinoa recipes you’d like to share.

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We decided to make a typical BBQ picnic style dinner for our good friends Rae and Mon. What is more typical than BBQ ribs? Now, I have made ribs several times but the recipes are all so labour intensive; marinate, boil, bake and finally BBQ, so it’s not something I like to do a lot. Last year I found a recipe on Bon Appétit, July 2005, by Ted Reader a famous Canadian Chef (never trust a skinny chef — this dude is totally trustworthy!) Chef Reader’s Brown Sugar and Bourbon Ribs totally rocked and were not that much work; tender, sweet, smokey, just plain damn good. I’ve adjusted the recipe by very little due to unavailable ingredients (just too lazy to get them!), but you can click here for the original recipe.

Basting Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple butter (I took one delicious apple, cored it and cooked it in about 1/4 cup water until soft. Add a pinch of cinnamon and blend with an immersion blender, strain through a fine seive. Presto: apple butter)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider (didn’t have this ingredient)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Ribs:

  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I just used a pinch as our guests are not ‘spicy hot’ food lovers)
  • 2 2- to 2 1/4-pound racks baby back pork ribs
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 6 thin rounds peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider (I used organic apple juice, as there wasn’t any cider this time of year!)

Preparation

For basting sauce:

  1. Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
  2. Set aside in refrigerator overnight.

For ribs:

  1. Mix first 7 ingredients in small bowl. Using small sharp knife, loosen membrane from underside of each rib rack and pull off (or score membrane). Rub the seasoning mix into each side of each rib rack. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Cover and chill at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lift ribs from pan. Scatter onion, cinnamon stick, and ginger in pan. Pour in cider (apple juice). Return ribs, meat side down, to pan; cover pan with foil. Roast ribs until meat is tender and begins to pull away from bones, about 2 hours. Uncover; cool at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  3. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill ribs until heated through and slightly charred, about 5 minutes per side. Brush generously on all sides with basting sauce. Grill until sauce becomes sticky glaze, about 3 minutes longer per side. Transfer rib racks to cutting board. Cut racks between bones into individual ribs. Arrange on platter and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

These are the preliminary photos, final photos will be posted tomorrow. Oops, the camera never made it to the table!

Dry rub marinated ribs ready for the oven

Into the grill they go

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This is an adaptation of Roland’s recipe that I really enjoyed on our ‘girls weekend’ in the Muskokas last week. I am going to use an adaptation of Oprah Winfrey’s fat free Caesar dressing for the salad because I want to keep the calories down.

Deconstructed Caesar Salad

Serves 4

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste)
  • 1/4 c reduced-sodium soy-sauce or use 1 tbsp anchovy paste (or to taste)
  • 1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c fat free mayo (instead of egg)
  • 4 grilled croustini
  • 4 medium thick slices of peameal bacon.
  • 4 tbsp EVOO, the darker the better
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 2 medium sized romaine hearts
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, various colours, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  1. Put the garlic, soy sauce (or anchovy paste), lemon juice and mayo into a blender and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate.
    Dressings usually taste better when the flavours have time to combine, I would recommend making the dressing the night before.
  2. Cut each romaine directly down the centre, long-way. Brush off any sand or wash and allow to drip dry.
  3. While the romaine is drying, mix the minced garlic and 4 tbsp EVOO in a small sauce pan. Heat gently to infuse the EVOO with the garlic (do not boil, garlic will be bitter instead of sweet and nutty).
  4. Brush cut side of the romaine with the warm (not boiling) garlic EVOO mix and sprinkle sea salt on each side. Set aside. Brush each side of the croustini with the remaining EVOO garlic mixture, set aside.
  5. Pre-heat grill to around 357°F. Grill each side of the pea-meal bacon and cook 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness. You want grill marks on them. Grill the croustini at the same time as the peameal, you will want the croustini soft in the centre slightly toasted on the surface.
  6. When you have flipped the peameal bacon, place each romaine on the grill cut side down. Grill to desired char (Roland likes a real char, and it was delicious, but if you suffer from heart burn, you will not want to char too much).
  7. Assembly: Place one slice of peameal on each plate, add the grilled romaine semi overlapping the peameal, sprinkle with the halved cherry tomatoes (6 halves each); set the croustini against the grilled romaine; drizzle with the dressing (I am going to use a Clear Squeeze Sauce Bottle so I can control it) and shave large shavings of the Parmesan on each plate. Serve immediately.

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It’s my birthday on Friday and JT bought tickets to see Steely Dan at Ontario Place’s Amphitheater. I am very much looking forward to it. My pre-birthday dinner is Thursday night at Bar Mercurio – my new Italian favourite! We’ll probably go to La Societé for the actual birthday dinner (yes, I like to stretch it out as much as possible)
We’re having our good friends Rae and Monica to the house for a city weekend. They usually come up to the cottage sometime in the summer, but we are not happy with the condition of the porch this year (handyman still needs to get to it) and Rae and Monica’s eldest daughter is off at university in Guelph, so they are more comfortable being an hour away instead of three with two younger one’s still at home! Hence the Bloor West Village weekend! They arrive around 11 on Saturday and we plan to head up to Bloor to Bloom for lunch. It’s Summerlicious so we can get three courses for $20. We’ll probably have a cocktail or two before we go ;-).

Here is the menu for the weekend. I will post the recipes of the courses I have not previously posted in their own post so they are easier to find.

Saturday Dinner

Roasted Red Pepper and feta
Deconstructed Grilled Caesar Salad (I have borrowed this recipe from my Muskoka host Roland. He made a grilled Caesar that was to die for, so I had to include it)
Chilled Avocado Soup with Cilantro oil
Ribs and Moroccan Quinoi salad (with nuts, and dried fruit), Garlic bread
Frozen Lemon Mousse

Sunday

Meusli for a small breakfast, coffee, tea
Lunch: Panini crèpes with ham and cheese a dijon sauce with grilled asparagus

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Home grown mini tomato and bocancini skewers; Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Feta skewers

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It’s been an absolutely gorgeous July — the humidity broke earlier this week, and it’s been glorious eating al fresco. We BBQ roasted some rather tasteless tomatoes for a fresh Caprice salad (we did it on the BBQ so we wouldn’t have to turn on the oven!) and grilled a couple of large scallops. I reduced some Blueberry Balsamic to a delicious tangy dressing (Blueberry Balsamic from the Filling Station in NYC – yes, I have been known to purchase some unusual souvenirs!) and drizzled some delicious peppery EVOO (the EVOO was a gift from Tom and Iona when they were over for dinner a few months ago, it’s made by his family!). We even had a good selection of home grown mini tomatoes freshly harvested that day! Very tasty indeed!

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I started growing garlic last fall when I realized I was so disappointed with the Chinese garlic so commonly sold in our grocery stores – tasteless, easily sprouts, just ICK! Some of our home grown garlic was ready for drying, small as it was, it sure smelled great! So, JT pulled out a beautiful loin of pork from the freezer and I immediately thought: Dijon mushroom sauce! Yum.

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Home grown garlic at the front

Here’s what I did for the sauce:

Ingredients:

  • Pam or equivalent
  • 1/2 finely sliced Vidalia or sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup carnation skim milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups finely sliced mushrooms

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions until translucent with a couple of sprays of Pam or equivalent.
  2. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft.
  3. Add the liquids, and once boiling, add the garlic and Parmesan cheese and Dijon, stirring well. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Once it is thickened, remove from heat and blend a bit with an immersion blender (leaving most bits).Serve on roast loin of pork wrapped with Prosciutto (100g per person), on a mess of baby arugula leaves!
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Roast Loin of Pork

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Roast Loin of Pork, Mushroom Sauce on a bed of Greens

Those are our tomatoes!

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I have been looking around the net for a compelling Chocolate Avocado pudding to try. Yes, it does sound weird, but that’s what makes it too difficult to resist! Still feeling a little hesitant to serve it to guests until I found a very easy recipe, which included a banana! So tonight is the night (as Rod Stewart sings) we are having a BBQ Pizza dinner. JT is in charge of the pizza and we’ve decided on Margherita (our home made tomato and roasted red pepper jam as the base, sliced tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella, with basil, of course!). It’s sweltering in Toronto, and we plan to eat outside, so I changed up the recipe a bit to make it more “ice creamy”. Since I want to serve this as more of an ice cream, I added the frozen banana and processed just before serving. This is a very rich dessert, so a small portion is key (by the way, I had a spoonful and JT had the rest of mine!). This recipe makes about 3-4 small servings.

  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
  • 4+ tbsp honey, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ripe banana, frozen
  • 1/4+/- cup water or milk
  1. Chop avocado coarsely and add to your immersion blender jar, add honey, cocoa powder and vanilla and process till smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides a few times with a rubber spatula. I use my immersion blender because it really makes a smooth creamy paste.
  2. Refrigerate covered in the blender container.
  3. Just before serving, add coarsely chopped frozen banana and process until smooth, adding the water in small amounts until the desired consistency is achieved. Serve immediately garnished with bits of coconut.

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One of my anniversary gifts to JT was a cold smoker. A Smoke Daddy cold smoker to be exact. Since it attaches to your existing BBQ, we had to figure out how to actually do it without drilling into it! Fortunately, the Weber has several holes and JT was able to come up with a solution.
The main thing about cold smoking is the ‘curing’ process as cold smoking doesn’t cook, it just adds smoke flavour. Since we’d never done a cold smoke before, we wanted to experiment with smaller pieces of salmon (instead of a whole fish). I found this recipe for a dry brine to cure the fish and loved it right away – it reminded me of the Lomi Salmon I made several months ago. We had two 200g pieces of salmon (feeds 4), and kept the ingredients to the dry brine in the same proportions as the recipe. The dry brine draws out all if the moisture from the fish, leaving you with the redest salmon you’ve ever seen! It’s quite beautiful. I actually found this recipe quite salty, so the next one will be another recipe, for sure.

Dry Brine Mix

Salmon in the brine

After about 12 hours in the dry brine

Smoking the salmon with a maple glaze

Thinly sliced smoked salmon plated on Susur Lee's 19 ingredient slaw

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I was fortunate enough to sample La Société during the launch of Delicious Food Show last Thursday…I knew I had to come back — I spec’d out the best table for my return. Gorgeous! Very French Bistro; similar look and feel to Balthasar’s in NYC
We made reservations for 8:15, but arrived at 8 (traffic was amazing, go figure) AND they had our table ready despite that the place was packed. We used Open Table to make reservations and noted that we wanted a particular table, and they TOOK NOTICE! We were seated right away and within minutes our waitress (very professional) brought us water, and someone else brought us bread and butter (did not look nearly as good as Le Select‘s bread, so I didn’t bother a taste).
It took a while to take our drink order, but we were not in a hurry. We had an amazing table on the patio, so we were able to enjoy the moment. Although the place was jumping with activity, we did not find it noisy.
Our dinner was nicely paced and our wine was refilled in a timely manor (we did not have to reach for the bottle ourselves at all!).
We both ordered the Bibb Salad, which was garnished with roasted walnuts and blue cheese; very tasty – lots of crumbled blue and chopped walnuts; my only comment would be that it was slightly underdressed. I ordered the steak tartar, which was presented with a little Bibb and crispy fried potato gratings. The potato gratings were a wonderful alternative to the frites that is usually served with this dish. It was garnished with a soft boiled quail’s egg — quite delicious indeed. My husband ordered the Braised Short Rib, and said it was as good, if not better than Le Select’s version. His only negative comment was that some of the vegetables were slightly over done (‘tasteless’ was what he said). We did not order dessert or coffee because we wanted to head up to the Park Hyatt Toronto Lounge to enjoy the natural light show of the pending electrical storm.
La Société is definitely a keeper for sure, and it’s very practical —just hop on the Bloor Subway and there you are.As the evening progressed and the natural lighting dimmed, wait-staff were around to place lit candles on each table. There was also some spot lighting on the surrounding greenery and some street lights below, but that’s all the lighting there is for the upstairs patio. Although very romantic, they could use a bit more.

La Société: Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet) – A note about the noise: we sat outside on the top patio in a secluded corner with a lot of umbrellas up, so the noise level was managed very well. The main interior of the restaurant seemed a bit noisier than the patio, because there are few soft surfaces. The tables across from the bar were a bit more secluded and seemed quieter as the walls are lined with velvet or suede (we sat there during the Delicious Launch on Thursday).

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