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Archive for August, 2011

Morocco, here we come!

A friend recently directed us to an amazing airfare with Air Canada and Air France to Morocco — we couldn’t resist! We’ve never been anywhere THAT exotic before; we are both very excited. We’re going in November, so I’ve got enough time to sew up a few ‘conservative’ summer outfits (the stores in Toronto are only selling winter wear now)!
I’m really looking forward to the cuisine – I’ll be cooking up a bunch of Moroccan recipes prior to our visit yo get a real taste for it! Mmmmmm!
Long story short, if anyone has any good tips about Morocco, particularly Marrakech and Casablanca, we’d love to hear it!

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The sun is setting earlier and the temperatures are not reaching the highs that July gifted us. A tree in my neighbourhood has already begun to change colour which means the evening temperatures are dipping lower and lower. The Canadian National Exhibition has been in full swing for a 9 days already. And with that Autumn is fast approaching on Summer’s heals. Sadness at the loss of yet another year pokes at my heart, but as soon as my feet grow accustomed to wearing full shoes and socks, I become excited to dive into my fall wardrobe and of course, my wonderful collection of boots. BBQs, chilled soups and refreshing salads are soon to be replaced by warmer, heartier foods and with that, the house becomes alive again with the wonderful aromas of autumn foods. But I digress. I still have time for one more salad!

A couple of bloggers I follow were recently on the East Coast enjoying the plentiful sea foods offered out there, so I began hankering for a simple shrimp salad. Of course, I’ll make enough to have for lunch at work tomorrow.  And as usual, I’ll take my inspiration from Epicurious, but adding my own twist.

Spicy Shrimp Salad

Spicy Shrimp Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cooked medium shrimp, peeled, de-veined, tail off (I hate messing with my fingers when there is a dressing or sauce all over them)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-4tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1 avocado diced (lightly sprinkled with the lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown)
  • 1/2 cup mini tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • Handful of baby arugula, per person

Directions:

  1. Combine mayonnaise and seasonings in large bowl, add shrimp and avocado and gently mix well to coat.
  2. Create a bed of arugula and add the vegetables in the centre. Spoon on top the shrimp avocado mix. Garnish with green onions and chopped scapes.

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We’re invited to a surprise benchmark birthday party this weekend for a long time friend of our’s. I wanted to make an easily transported, no fuss dip. JT absolutely loves Bar Mercurio‘s white bean paste that they serve instead of butter with their focaccia, so I knew I had to make it! I wanted to make it a few days ahead to allow the flavours to really blend.
The picture doesn’t do it justice. This dip is SOOOOOO creamy, you would think there is gobs and gobs of butter in it, but there ISN’T! So incredibly good, and creamy.

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White Bean Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried navy beans (if you use canned, make sure you rinse really well)
  • 5 cups LS chicken stock or a mix with water
  • 2 tbsp panchetta
  • 2 tbsp shallots
  • 2-4 tbsp lemon juice
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp LS chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Remove most, but not all excess outer skin from garlic bulb. Put into a tightly fit ramekin. Drizzle with the olive oil and 3 tbsp chicken stock. Seal tightly with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes or until garlic is soft.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, fry the panchetta until crispy. Remove from pan but reserve the fat in the pan.
  4. Cook the shallots in the reserved bacon fat until translucent.
  5. Rinse the beans (it is recommended not to soak over night as that apparently increases the propensity to cause gas, and no one wants that!). Add them with the stock into the pan with the shallots. Cook the beans until very soft and mushy (1 1/2 to 2 hours. Or you can reduce this time significantly by cooking in a pressure cooker). Allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. When the garlic has cooled to room temperature, squeeze each clove out of its skin into a large food processor bowl. Add the beans, the liquid from poaching the garlic and panchetta. Add lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Process until smooth and creamy. . Serve with pita chips or bread sticks.

As a note, I thought I would want to press this mix through a fine seive, but JT reminded me that those bacon bits would be lost, so I processed a bit longer so the bacon bits are a lot smaller. It has a very smooth and creamy texture.

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We were down in wine country region in South Western Ontario on the weekend, and I couldn’t resist picking up some fresh corn on the cob. This is really a treat for me as it’s been about four years since I’ve incorporated more-or-less a low-ish carb diet; I’ve limited vegetables that are carbs (such as corn, peas, carrots). I’m not perfect, and I do eat carbs, but when I do, I really want them to be worth it.

Inspired by Tastefood, with her grilled flank steak and Chimichurri sauce that she blogged about on Sunday (another rendition of this popular sauce) I decided to make Chimichurri again. Originally I made the Chimichurri Sauce in early September in 2008 and posted it (it’s funny how I’m making it again, right about the same time!). What goes better with corn on the cob than a good old fashioned steak – we got tenderloin (not quite budgetary, but sure is tasty). And the Chimichuri was great on the steak and a great substitute for butter on the corn.

In searching around the net, I discovered that not all Chimichurri‘s are created equal. Some folks are quite adamant that there is no oil in it (too fancy), they also say that shallots are too fancy! And I’ve found that instead of lemon juice, people feel quite strongly about using red wine vinegar, and there always seems to be oregano added. I’ve always felt a recipe is a guideline, that one is expected to modify to one’s own taste. I ended up switching out the lemon juice for the red wine vinegar…but I used shallots, regular onions would have been too harsh! I also used a freshly picked Jalapeño from my garden instead of the pepper flakes. The parsley and garlic was also harvested from our garden. Very tasty, indeed.

I’ll leave the grilling instruction to my new friend Ann (cookinghealthyforme, she’s lost oodles of weight by simply modifying the way she cooks!) Ann is the true southern grilling expert! Check out her blog, she’s got great photos!

Grilled Ontario Corn, Beef Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri Sauce (adapted from Epicurious.com)


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots (about 2 medium)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes (or 1/2 small Jalapeño Pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients into a small food processor bowl and process until the desired consistency is achieved. Allow the flavours to blend in the refrigerator for about 1 hour (allowing it to set in the fridge for a while also mellows the shallots). Drizzle on corn on the cob, steak, pork or whatever you choose. It’s a fresh, green sauce that goes great with everything!

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Jt cooks dinner most week-nights because he works from home and has a bit more time than I do. I know I am very fortunate to have this, but I miss it particularly since The Big Reno 4+ years ago! He’s a great cook, and I keep telling him to start a “guy’s cooking class” — I mean his food is really good! JT whipped up this recipe last night. It was amazing. The flavours so fresh and creamy…I’m having left-overs as I type this — oh sorry, I dazed out for a second!

The original recipe is from Food Network US’s Tyler Florence, and is very good in its own right, but we made it a bit healthier, of course! I love this dish with either left over BBQ’d Chicken or Salmon. Both are extremely delicious! The photo is a little blurry, I took it with my lowly iPhone 3Gs, but you can see all the flavours (I tried to sharpen it up in Photoshop, it’s a wee bit better). This dish is very good either hot or cold.

JTs Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienne
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Carnation Fat Free Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced into halves
  • 6 ounces goats milk feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pasta (we like fussili with this dish) enough for 4 (we like to use Catelli Smart, which is high fibre but NOT whole wheat pasta)
  • 400 g left over BBQ’d chicken or Salmon, cut into small chunks

Directions:

  1. Boil water for pasta in a pasta pot, fitted with a strainer. Spray your skillet with non-stick spray. Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic to skillet and sauté for 2 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, add the fresh pasta to boiling water, cook until al dente, about 5 minutes.
  3. Now add the artichoke hearts, and olives to the skillet. Saute 1 minute then stir in the Carnation Fat Free Evaporated Milk. When this has heated through, add the chicken or the salmon.
  4. Strain the pasta and transfer to a large pasta bowl. Add the chicken mixture to the pasta and toss. Season with oregano, fresh basil, salt and pepper, and then add the crumbled feta just before serving. We like the feta just a little melty, not too melted.

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I’ve been following a lot of blogs lately. I seem to have a had a bit of a obsession with Charles’s chutney (of Five Euro Food, check out his blog, great appetite appeal), and then there was Rufus’s peach and cherry bruschetta! Darn you…two, I had to ‘create’!
It’s peach season in Ontario, and on Sunday we drove down to the Niagara region (about 2 hours from our house in Toronto); fertile farms, gorgeous vineyards and lots of farmers markets!
We bought peaches. Unfortunately, our cherries were long gone,  so I had to revise my plan. I decided to make a simple peach chutney – delicate peach flavour, tart and sweet balsamic pairs perfectly with creamy cheeses ! I had some Canadian Brie on hand – got it on sale, not great taste, but with a little chutney, it would be wonderful and indeed it was!
Ok, now we need a baguette. Yes, normal people would say, let’s stop at one of our bakeries and get one, but, wait for it… I decided to make it myself! Now having said that, I just saw Manu’s kitchen referencing Not Quite Nigella‘s blog and a 60 minute baguette. Perfect. I used to make pretty good bread, until my hubby usurped my title of chief bread maker, I won’t get into it here, but let me say, I haven’t made bread in about 3 years! But 60 Minute baguette? I could do it, for sure. Or not. The flavour was definitively there, but the baguette, such a failure! I don’t think I kneaded it long enough, even though I it running in my kitchenaid with the bread hook for the allotted time.  Well, and it also could have been that I substituted 1/2 the flour for whole wheat which doesn’t have as much gluten in it. At any rate, the baguette was more of a bread roll…each roll remaining independent of the previous (I probably couldn’t achieve this on purpose if I had tried!). But the chutney was the star. Sorry about the baguette photos, they really are an insult. I will try again…soon.

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My Peach Chutney

Makes about 1 cup of chutney

Ingredients:

  • 3 Ontario fresh peaches (really, peaches from anywhere will do!), skinned, stone removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 Vidallia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • splash of olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a splash of olive oil, sauté the onions until translucent, add the peaches.
  2. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top and sauté until you smell it.
  3. Add the balsamic and the molasses. Cook this down until the balsamic reduces to a syrup. I like a stiffer chutney, so I reduced it right down.
  4. Season to taste. Serve over room temperature Brie on lightly BBQ’d baguette (I took Rufus’s suggestion and BBQ the baguette WITH the brie to slightly melting). Top with your home made chutney and enjoy.

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After a grueling Saturday (we pulled out a 15+ year old Euonymous that took up about 10′ x 20′ in our front yard — we were quoted around $800 to remove!), we needed something restful to do – road trip. Sunday proved to be a dull and dreary day, with showers promised throughout, so we decided to head down to wine country and do some wondering and eating. It’s peach season in Ontario so, of course, we had to pick some up…and boy, are they GOOD! I love fresh, local fruit.

First, we headed down to Niagara Falls to check out Canada One Factory Outlets that was having a huge sale — a real dud! There was however a Coach store; I am not a fan, but I am consistently amazed at how many people are. They stand in line to pay $200 for a purse. Really? 90% aren’t even leather. And they have the Coach brand pasted all over them, so you not only pay an exorbitant price, you are a walking billboard. Insert Head scratching here.

Back to the day. Niagara was overcast, but great for driving. We took the scenic road to Port Dalhousie where we dined at one of our favourite restaurants, Treadwells. We’ve been a few times, and the owner always recognizes us.  We sat outside on their lovely patio, getting a few intermittent rays.

We started with the Charcuterie platter, which had local Prosciutto (very tasty), duck liver paté (which was more like a rilette), a couple of different salamis (local) then without thinking, we both ordered a meaty dish! I had the Steak Tartar and JT had the Croque-Monsieur.  Although we both found the charcuterie a bit on the pricey side ($20) it was plentiful and a nice variety of flavours. And supplied with enough bread. There were two sauces and a pickle, a roasted red pepper puré and a very nice apricot chutney. The pickle was a mustard-like sauce on very tiny blanched cauliflower. All three added a nice punch to the meat and paté. About the only thing neither of us was keen on was a pig cheek bacon — we both felt it should have been crispy, instead it was just greasy and sloppy. I’d order the charcuterie again, but perhaps following it with a salad next time, instead.

The Croque-Monsieur looked amazing and the thick cut fries were a true indulgence, unfortunately, my tartar was a bit gristly which kind of turned me off  (they immediately removed it from our bill). We enjoyed both with local wines. We were both too full for dessert.

Treadwells:

Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5 (they have a lovely patio along side a damned river. We were one of two couples and it was very private), service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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