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Archive for June, 2012

The weather in Toronto is warm and crisp this week, the humidity is all but gone, which is a lovely change to the close weather we were having over the last couple of weeks (sadly, it will turn ‘oven-hot’ again tonight). We turned the A/C off and opened windows, taking full advantage of all the fresh air, but someone forgot to tell the birds that 3:30am is far too early to get up and start chirping. Did they not get them memo?

Here is one of the culprits, I’m sure (I didn’t want to scare him so I took the photo through the screened window). This Blue Jay (not to be confused with our team*)  and his partner were at the feeder by the kitchen window the other day — the small bird feeder. The partner was smart and was picking up the seeds from the ground. Can you see how ridiculously he is balancing to get to the seeds (his feet are hanging onto the feeder just below his neck and he is balancing with his tail); clearly this feeder is not his size!

It’s like he sitting at the ‘kids table’

This incredible weather also means that we can enjoy our meals al fresco under the canopy of the arbor in our garden. Our lives are a little topsy turvy as JT recently started a new job that has him working some nights until 8:30 which leaves me to prepare ‘dinners’ that will mainly be used as lunches for us both the following day. I guess this forces me to eat, because I can get caught up in various chores around the house or blogging and simply forget to eat (I can be pretty focused). In general, I come home, cook ‘dinner’ eat it and prepare our lunches for the following day. Then I sit and blog. Sometimes I cook something I can blog about, this is one of those times.

Would you say this is a 3 dressed up as a 9?

Sissi at With a Glass reminded me of Surimi Crab (yes, fake crab) and that it does have a place on the luncheon menu, as long as you buy good quality brand and pair it with a tasty side or salad (Sissi and Maria at A-Boleyn made fresh rolls out of them which for me ended up to be rather unattractive when I tried to make them, practice makes perfect!) So an Asian inspired Surimi ‘crab’ salad was to be on the menu on this day. Surimi ‘crab’ is low in fat, contains some omega-3 so it is a good low fat dinner/lunch option.

Incidentally, we are presently redesigning the packaging for Clover Leaf Surimi (we do all of their packaging, the photos in the link are NOT our’s, they were provided) so it’s apt that I post a recipe for it. Sadly, my photography skills do not compare to the skills at our studio, but then again, nor does my camera! The plate, however, is a hand-me-down from the studio!

We are heading out to Illinois and Wisconsin this weekend (it’s a long weekend for us too, in Canada we celebrate Canada Day on July 1) to visit our friends Paul and T, so I want to use up the fresh goods in the fridge so I don’t have to toss them (or worse yet, so they don’t walk out on their own!). Much of this recipe is what’s in my fridge right now, I was trying to go without purchasing new produce. The measures are eyeballed, go with your tastebuds. The trick to this salad (or slaw) is to cut all of the vegetables uniformly so you can get a little bite of everything. To keep this salad over a few days, separate the wet (cucumber and mango) from the rest and mix as required. The ratio should be about 1/3 wet to 2/3 dry.

Surimi “Crab” Salad

Serves 4 (2 for lunch and 2 for dinner, 100 g protein portions each)

Ingredients:

  • 4oo g Surimi Crab, flake style
  • 1./2 Jicama or Yambean, finely grated on  a mandolin
  • 1/2 celeriac or celery root, finely grated on  a mandolin
  • 6 radishes, finely grated on  a mandolin
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 10-20 Thai basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 regular basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, finely grated on  a mandolin
  • 1 slightly unripened mango, finely grated on  a mandolin

Directions:

  1. Combine the Jicama to the basil leaves and mix well. I use my hands so all the ingredients are evenly distributed in the salad.
  2. Combine the cucumber and mango. Keep the wet from the rest so that the salad doesn’t wilt in the fridge. Mix only as required.

Dressing Ingredients:

This is just eyeballing, make the dressing to your own taste.

  • Trim off bits of mango from the stone (keeping away from the stone) that you weren’t able to grate with the mandolin (you’ll be surprised how much fruit is left over).
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 lime cordial
  • 1-2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (or to taste)

Dressing Instructions:

  1. Add all the ingredients to your immersion blender container and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as required.

Assemble Instructions:

  1. Combine 1/3 wet ingredients with 2/3 dry and mix well. Add a few tablespoons of the dressing and mix again.
  2. Plate, adding about 100 g surimi crab.
  3. Garish with sesame seeds, if desired, I forgot.

What ever it is, it sure is tasty

Notes:

  • I use Rose’s Lime Cordial as a short cut for lime juice and honey. I find it has the right balance for sweet and sour for my taste buds.
  • About a 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro is a wonderful addition. I didn’t have cilantro at home (my plant died) and in order not to buy anything new to make this meal, I omitted it.
  • Red cabbage also makes a great addition to this salad (see above for why it’s not in the recipe)
  • Mango has the same toxic ingredient as does poison ivy, therefore you want to ensure you remove ALL of the skin and stay about 0.5 cm from the stone. This ingredient causes stomach upset.
  • If you run out of mango, I have successfully substituted dried apricot (reconstituted with a little water) or even tamarind paste, both make exceptional dressings but you will need to adjust the salty and sour bits to taste.

*Sports reference provided for my friend Jed, the Sportsglutton

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Beautiful tenderloin of pork was on sale at the butcher this past weekend, and it’s a favourite of ours because it is low in saturated fats (compared to other cuts of pork). I trim off all of the excess fat, to minimize the calories, but you can do as you wish.

Here is an interesting note for Canadians buying supermarket meat (not sure if the same is true in the U.S. or E.U.) that I learned through working for the design firm specializing in food packaging. If a piece of meat says that it is “seasoned” it does not mean that it has spices on it. It means that it has been ‘plumped’ with water, sodium phosphate and salt. They say they do this to retain moisture but in reality, if you cook the product properly, you should have a moist and delicious piece of meat. They do it to make the meat look bigger and plumper. You will also notice that the label, by law, will indicate the meat protein percentage. For example, a similar plumped loin of pork will say “minimum 18% meat protein”. In addition, if you’ve ever bought this type of product, you will notice that when you cook it, it shrinks incredibly, and that is because it is plumped and the liquid cooks out of it, leaving you with the 18% meat protein. It kinda grosses me out. Even when I didn’t know this fact, I usually stayed away from a “seasoned” product as I would usually want to season it myself with my own herbs and spices. Strange but true.

This is not seasoned pork

This recipe is really quite simple: meat, cheese, tomatoes, black olives, garlic, lemon thyme, lemon rind and butcher’s twine. Oh, OK, I’ll write it out for you.

Mediterranean Stuffed Loin of Pork

Serves 4 (we used two portions for dinner and two for lunch the following day).

Ingredients:

  • 400-600g pork loin (not seasoned)
  • Handful of crumbled feta (I would have used John’s home made feta, if we lived close-by)
  • Handful of black olives (I used a mix of Kalamata and sun dried olives)
  • Handful of sun dried tomatoes (I used dried, but you can use the ones in olive oil)
  • 1 tbsp lemon thyme
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Get the stuffing ingredients prepared first. Pit the olives and cut in half. Crumble the feta and gently mix in the lemon rind and lemon thyme. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into thin slices.
  3. Now for the meat: remove all sinew and fat from pork. Cut down the centre but not all the way through; try to cut the pork so the thickness is relatively even.
  4. Spread pork out flat and rub the garlic into it.
  5. Add the sun dried tomatoes, olives and feta. Press the feta down to help it stick to the other ingredients. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Roll up the sides so that the stuffing stays put in the middle. Wrap butchers’ twine around it, nothing fancy, you just want to hold the sides in place so it cooks wrapped and keeps its shape when sliced.
  7. Heat a cast iron pan on the stove with a little oil. Sear the pork on all sides. Place the pan and pork into the hot oven and bake for about 30 minutes. The inner temperature of the meat should be 150-160°F, depending on how well done you enjoy your pork.
  8. Remove from oven and allow the pork to sit covered for 10 minutes. Slice into 2cm thick slices.
  9. Serve on greens or with a starch. Enjoy.

Delicious creamy feta, sun dried tomatoes and black olives makes the filling special and ensures the pork will be tender and juicy

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JT has asked me to thank everyone for their lovely birthday wishes; thank you!

I have some exciting news to share with you today! I was approached by Daniel Maxian, a contributor at MyCityCuisine.org, a wiki project providing travelers with information on local cuisine in cities around the world. He said he was working on an article about Lemon Tarts and came across the recipe you have posted for the same dish.
“I think your recipe would be a great addition to the MyCityCuisine wiki resource, so I highly recommend that you have it added to the Featured Recipe section on the Lemon Viennese Tarts page.” Woohoo! I’m really pumped over this! Thank you for allowing me to share my excitement with you. Here is the link for the page.

I spotted this recipe for Strawberry Souffés with Fresh Berries on my friend Liz’s blog a couple of weeks ago (That Skinny Chick can Bake) and I knew I had to try it. It fit right into my healthy cooking and I was having a gluten intolerant friend over for brunch…perfect timing!

But I first made the ‘test’ dessert for my nephew Brian (Ceement Boy) who was over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. It was a great success and I’ll be making it again on the weekend for my gluten intolerant friend.

Now you must be wondering why I have lovingly named my nephew Ceement Boy? I’m more than certain he is wondering too, as he is one of my lurkers (one who reads the blog but never comments; that’s OK, I’m just pleased that he cares enough to read about my mundane life, thanks Brian, I mean Ceement Boy).

The story goes like this: JT and I are NYC; it’s late one evening and I’m blogging, updating or just responding to comments on my blog using my iPhone 3Gs. Ding Ding, my phone pings. Hmmm, there is a text. It’s from Brian. That’s a bit odd in in itself as we are not texting buddies. He says “Be on vacation!!! Don’t blog!” Many of you will be able to relate to this, but blogging is part of you. You just can’t stop! You are either in the act of blogging, or preparing to blog or thinking about a story to blog about. It’s innate. So Brian, it just isn’t possible, sorry. (As I’m typing this, I wonder where all the words went before blogging?)

Upon our return from the Big Apple, we had Brian over for dinner; the night before we were coordinating our timing and JT gets a text from Brian referring to me as Princess Blogalot. Hmmmm. Did someone have a few cocktails? In retaliation (yes, I can be vindictive that way) I thought I would come up with a nick-name for Brian. Brian is a structural engineer specializing in cement, hence Ceement Boy. I like to draw out the Ceeee really long. Country and western-style ;-). Somehow I don’t even mind Princess Blogalot. Not too much, anyway.

Since we’re all trying to watch our waistlines, this dessert was a perfect intensely flavoured ending to our delicious meal. Our in-season Ontario strawberries really popped with flavour and the aged balsamic reduction drizzled over top added that wonderful tartness that the strawberries craved. The toasted slivered almonds were for texture as the egg white souffé is light, airy, full of flavour and needed a bit of crunch.

I snapped this pic with my crappy iPhone 3Gs. When will they release the 5???? I can’t wait forever.

Please head over to Liz’s blog to see her recipe. I have altered the recipe to our taste and requirements.

Strawberry Soufflés with Fresh Berries

Serves 4, 200 mL ramekins

Ingredients:

  • Butter, to grease ramekins
  • 340g fresh strawberries, divided
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp sugar, divided, or to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier, optional
  • 4 tbsp toasted almonds slices
  • 4 tbsp balsamic reduction for garnish

Directions:

  1. Butter four 200 mL ramekins and dust with sugar. Set aside. May be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
  2. Purée half the berries with 2 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste), lemon juice and cornstarch. Pour into small sauce pan and cook on medium till puree boils and thickens. Cool completely. May be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
  3. Slice remaining berries and add 1 tablespoon of sugar (or to taste) and 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier. Mix and taste for sweetness. Set aside. May be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
  4. Just before serving, pre heat oven to 400°F.
  5. Beat egg whites till foamy. Slowly add in remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and whip till stiff peaks form. Slowly fold purée into egg whites, one third at a time. Divide between the four ramekins and smooth tops with offset spatula. Run finger around perimeter of each soufflé to make a slight indentation in soufflé. Slide tray of ramekins into oven and bake 14-17 minutes or till soufflés are puffed and golden.
  6. Serve immediately garnished with sliced berries, toasted almonds and drizzled with balsamic reduction.

Another dark and dreary photo with my iPhone 3Gs.

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There were too many candles to put on the cake so I just used one

It was JT’s birthday last week. It’s just the two of us, so we usually keep it low key, but we do like to fancy it up with the food. Lobster was on sale at our local market so we took advantage and bought two for his birthday dinner. We love lobster and rarely indulge due to its rich and pricey nature so a birthday celebration is the perfect time to take advantage of this delicacy. We dined in our outdoor dining room under the early evening sky. It was wonderful.

JT didn’t mind, because this entire cake was his. Of course, he didn’t eat it in one sitting 😉

When I asked what JT would like for dessert he said cake. Now that stopped me in my tracks because he is more of a pie person than a cake person. But then again, I had just shown him Charles’ recipe (Five Euro Food) for Kladdkaka and he knew I was dying to make it so he said ‘cake’ or kaka in Swedish. He is so thoughtful and generous. Oh, but wait…this generosity may have some selfish motivations ;-)!

Night-time photos are not the best

I knew I would like this dessert from the name alone. Kladdkaka. Kladdkaka, kaka, kaka, kaka, kaka, Kladdkaka. Giggle, giggle, giggle. But I digress; I knew I would like this dessert because I LOVED his Tuppkaka dessert (that, for the record I have now made about 6 times). Plus Kladdkaka is very easy to make, one bowl is all you need. In fact, I was lazy and made the entire cake in the food processor. I didn’t even bother to change the blade to the plastic ones. Just processed away. The cake has an intense chocolate flavour without being sweet; don’t be too afraid of the sugar quantity, you need it to mellow the bitterness of the cocoa powder. Next time I think I’ll add a tbsp of espresso powder and a good pinch of cayenne pepper! I may even try to make this gluten free, using almond flour instead of white flour. Stay tuned.

Caster sugar is plain sugar that is much finer than regular sugar but not as fine as powdered sugar. It is supposed to melt a lot easier. I just put my regular sugar in the food processor with metal blades and I pulsed it until it looked significantly finer than original but now powdery.

Kladdkaka

Such a moist and chocolatey cake, but not as sweet as you would think

adapted from Charles at Five Euro Food

Ingredients:

  • 200 g Caster Sugar
  • 140 g unbleached Flour
  • 50 g Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 120 g Butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, heated until runny

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Add the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder to the bowl of your food processor. Plus few times to incorporate evenly.
  2. In the microwave, melt the butter slowly so it doesn’t overheat. Add melted butter and vanilla to the food processor in an even stream. Mix well, scraping down the sides as required. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the chocolatey mix until a smooth thick batter forms.
  3. Lightly grease a round tin about 20cm in diametre (I used a spring form tin). Spoon the batter into the tin and smooth out to the edges (it is rather thick). Resist the urge to try this batter, it’s seriously good and you won’t be able to stop.
  4. Take a knife and draw a spiraling circular pattern into the cake top (dig in about 1/2cm). Using a fine tip cake decorator, squeeze the slightly warm but runny seedless raspberry jam into the cut pattern. Don’t worry about how it looks on top, it will be dusted with confectioner’s sugar so it doesn’t matter. I wanted the raspberry jam to seep into the cake, which it did very nicely.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes before removing and allowing to cool for ~10 minutes before carefully removing from the tin. Try not to over-bake the cake. If you do, all delicious gooeyness may be lost!
  6. Serve with fresh raspberries and whipped cream, or just on its own, for a gooey, chocolatey delight!

Thanks Charles for another winner — hope you don’t mind my creative license!!

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When I was 29 I contracted Mononucleosis for the first time (even though it is commonly known as a teenagers illness, I’d never had it before). We had been invited to a brunch at a friend of a friend’s place (we usually met up at a pub but this time it was brunch at her place) and one of the guests had it. Ironically this guest was the daughter of a nurse and she STILL ill advised her to attend the brunch in a totally infectious state. Two of us (Barb and I) were gifted with Mono that day. I was reminded of this story because my friend Charlie’s daughter (Hotly Spiced) is suffering through ‘the glange‘ herself (glange in Australia, Mono in North America — hey, I wonder what they call it in England?).

I was home for about a month from work, and my boss was very understanding. In those days we only had internet by dial up, so it was quite painful doing any form of work. But they kindly sent home a large paperweight Mac and some floppies so I can drudge through my boring day. The nature of the illness is that it robs you of any energy, so I worked for a bit, but mostly watched TV like a zombie which for the by and large was brutally bad in those days.

Chewy and lightly scented with Rosemary

There were a spattering of cooking shows on TV during that time, I don’t believe Food Network existed or it was just being born. At any rate, I got onto Biba’s Italian Kitchen. I loved her food and how accessible she made it (like John does at from the Bartolini Kitchens). I was sleepy watching Biba when she started making a sponge for focaccia bread. Now this is interesting…I jumped up (OK, maybe I wasn’t as close to death as I may have made out I was) and grabbed the nearest scrap of paper and oil pastel (OK I may have also been drawing in bed) and scribbled down the recipe. Years later JT bought me her cookbook Trattoria Cooking which is not as impressive as I had hoped (no photos at all). But the Focaccia recipe is in it and I recently made it for a dinner party we had.

Where is that special EVOO I’ve been saving?

Rosemary Focaccia

Adapted from Biba’s Trattoria Cooking

Makes one 12″ x 18″ sheet of focaccia

Sponge Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp quick rising dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Directions:

  1. Prepare the sponge by mixing the flour and yeast water together and knead for 3-4 minutes by machine. My sponge was very wet, so I had to add quite a bit more flour to the mix. You want the sponge a little softer and sticker than a normal bread dough.
  2. Allow to rise in a bowl wrapped tightly with plastic wrap for 2-3 hours (I proofed my sponge in the fridge overnight, cover lightly in olive oil).

Focaccia Ingredients second rising:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp quick rising dry yeast dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves, washed and dried
  • 3 tbsp EVOO, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. If you have proofed your sponge in the fridge like I did, you will need to allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the second rising in your mixing bowl with a dough hook attachment. Add the sponge and kneed energetically for about 5-7 minutes. After kneading, the dough should be smooth and pliable.
  3. Cover with a light drizzle of olive oil and tightly wrapped plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°F for 30 minutes before baking. Lightly oil a 10″ x 14″ cookie sheet and roll out the foccacia until it is about 1/2″ thick or to the edges. Dimple with your fingers. Bake until focaccia is golden in colour.
  5. I like a chewy focaccia, so I generally brush water on the entire surface after it has finished baking (the crust won’t set hard this way). Serve warm with your best olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

You can also see some pretty impressive focaccia bread recipes below:

http://rufusguide.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/rosemary-and-caramalized-onion-foccacia/

http://www.inspirededibles.ca/2011/07/stone-baked-kamut-focaccia-with-fresh.html

http://angiesrecipes.blogspot.ca/2011/02/rosemary-cranberry-focaccia-with-pine.html

http://fromthebartolinikitchens.com/2011/03/02/spianata/

http://www.kitchenbelleicious.com/2011/08/24/chipotle-olive-foccacia/

http://thatskinnychickcanbake.blogspot.ca/2012/05/provencal-olive-fougassefrench-fridays.html

 

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I saw this recipe on a few blogs because it was the daring bakers challenge (on Lorraine’s blog here and Sawsan’s blog here) and I was immediately drawn to it. I love spice cakes and combined with nuts and rose petals? I just couldn’t resist. Poor Sawsan had an issue with her cake, but I loved that she posted it anyway! It’s a very tasty cake and I will more than likely make it again.

We were having friends Rae and Monica over for dinner and they like dessert (but not rich chocolate, for some reason) so I am always on the lookout for something new to try. Lorraine topped her cake with a gorgeous combo of pistachios and edible rose petals…OMG so lovely, and she also made a light syrup to drizzle over it, which I also did. Unfortunately I did not have edible rose petals nor pistachios so I used dried cherries and mixed nuts. I also added a bit of cognac to the honey drizzle for some adult effects!

Now I must digress for a moment and talk about that jar you see in the background. It is a jar or Turkish nuts (variety) in honey. My friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytails gave it to me last year and I have hesitated to open it because of my previously bad behaviour (I devoured the last jar in a matter of months, just standing at the pantry and spooning copious amounts into my mouth); so I stashed it at the back and immediately forgot about it. We were out for dinner with Barb and Carol, a good friend from out East when I remembered that I had the jar in my pantry. I mentioned I was going to bake this cake and we all agreed the nuts would be exceptional on the cake as décor, texture and flavour. Carol asked how I used up my first jar: I said I stood in front of the pantry and ate it by spoonfuls until it was no longer. I don’t think she believed me, but it’s true!

It’s like ruby jewels decorating the cake

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Recipe adapted from these lovely and talented ladies: Lorraine’s blog Not Quite Nigella and Sawsan, Chef in Diguise

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda (bi carb of soda)
  • 2 cups all-purpose (unbleached) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed, chilled
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Turkish nuts with honey (or just 1/4 cup nuts and 1/4 cup honey)
  • 2 tbsp cognac (you can also use rosewater instead, however I find the flavour a little too strong, plus I prefer booze ;-))

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 340°F. Line a 10 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper on the base and sides. In a cup mix the baking soda and milk and set aside. In a large food processor add the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and butter and process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Place half of the above mixture in the base of the pan patting it down with fingers to make a base and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg and nutmeg for 2 minutes until fluffy and pale. Add the vanilla and the milk and soda mixture and whisk until combined. Then add the remaining half of the flour and butter mixture and mix until smooth (you can still use the whisk for this as it is quite liquidy still). Pour on top of the base crumbs and then sprinkle the walnuts on top (my walnuts baked right into the cake, they actually fell into the centre, so I will suggest you fold the walnuts into the cake. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean – many have found that while the top looks cooked, the batter is runny underneath so try the skewer in several places.
  3. When cake is ready, remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan (thank you Sawsan for your experience). While doing this, heat nuts and honey mixture gently and add the cognac. Pour the nut and honey mixture over the top of the cake allowing the honey to soak into the cake. Sprinkle the chopped dried cherries over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The walnuts fell into the batter during baking, so I suggest folding them in.

I used the loaf pan because I knew I wanted a certain sized cube as a small portion. I dressed each portion individually for my dinner party. I froze the remainder of the cake.

The jar has the nuts layered in a beautiful pattern.

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I had an incredible ceviche salad some time ago that Sissi of With a Glass reminded me of with her lovely recipe for her Hot & Cold Rice Bowl with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber. This salad combined the wonderful creamy avocado with the tangy citrus of the refreshing grapefruit. I decided I needed to serve something a little off the beaten path for a dinner we were having with our good friends Rae and Monica a couple of Saturdays ago and came up with this refreshing and flavourful recipe that was inspired by our recent trip to NYC. Norma (Garden to Wok), that lettuce you see in the photo is home grown.

To keep things on the healthier side, I didn’t use flour tostadas but instead substituted them with whole wheat flax fajita shells, cut into triangles and broiled for a few minutes to make them crisp, like crackers.

Our first lunch in NYC inspired this recipe. The lettuce you see is home grown.

Shrimp Ceviche with Grapefruit, Avocado, Cucumber and Corn

Serves 4 appetizer portions

Ingredients:

  • 150g raw shrimp (20-30 per lb count), shelled, deveined and chopped into equal bite-sized portions
  • 1 small ripe avocado, finely diced with about 3 tbsp lime juice sprinkled on it or you can dice the avocado just before serving
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned, seeds removed, juice reserved.
  • 1/4 cup of frozen corn (defrosted)
  • 1/4 cup of finely diced cucumber
  • 2 tbsp toasted unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of sugar or honey
  • 1 lime cut into wedges
  • 4 tbsp avocado paste (recipe can be found here) or use guacamole
  • 4 lettuce leaves, washed and stored until serving (we had curly lettuce)
  • 1 small fajita shell (we always have whole grain flax)(use gluten free for a GF version)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 tsp fresh mint, chiffonade finely
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix the juice from the grapefruit and lime juice in a jar with a lid; taste and add sugar to taste. Add the cut shrimp (raw) pieces and coat well. Refrigerate until the shrimp is entirely opaque (it took my shrimp about 4 hours as I left them in about 1/2″ chunks)
  2. In another covered jar, mix the grapefruit, corn and cucumber. Reserve in the refrigerator.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat the fajita shell lightly in EVOO. Cut into 8 even triangles. Bake each side until the shells are golden, flipping when done. Allow to cool.
  4. When you are ready to serve, add the shrimp (and liquid) to the reserved grapefruit, corn and cucumber and mix; add the sesame oil, cayenne pepper, sugar or honey, salt, cilantro and mint. Stir well.
  5. Place one lettuce leaf on each plate. Spoon equal amounts of the ceviche into each leaf. Garnish with a lime wedge and sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Take two of the toasted fajita shells and smear a bit of the avocado paste on each one and stack one on top of another. Garnish each plate with one stack of two.

Notes:

  1. Ceviche is seafood cooked with acid. It does indeed cook, but it you are squeamish, then pre-cook your shrimp by boiling it until done. Don’t soak it in the grapefruit/lime mix as it will continue to cook and you will have rubbery ceviche. Simply reserve the shrimp in the fridge and dress when you are ready to serve.
  2. This recipe calls for a balance of salty, sweet and sour. I keep my ‘dressing’ separate from the raw shrimp so I can taste it until I am satisfied that it is good.

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First I’d like to apologize, my Armenian Nutmeg Cake post was inadvertently published on June 10 yesterday (which was June 15) I was sure I had it set up for June 20. I hastily reset the publish date to June 20 without realizing all the comments attached. I am hoping the comments remain but if they don’t I apologize in advance and by no means expect you to comment again. WordPress can be such a pain in the !@## sometimes! Now back to our regular programming.

I am soooo excited with my vegetables this year! I grew green onions for the first time this year on the garage roof (best sun ever), and I also filled a pot with lettuces on our back deck. The first harvest was amazing. I haven’t bought my tomato plants yet, these weekends have been crazy hectic and this one is no different.

The onion might have been left in the ground a little long

Crisp Green Lettuce, YUM

It’s cocktail season on the back deck and you know how I love my little hors d’œuvres whenever I serve booze. So I decided to make French Onion Gougeres, little cheese puff stuffed with the deliciousness of sweet onion confit and gruyère cheese. The cheese is all melty and the puffs are reminiscent of the crouton within the French Onion Soup and the caramelized onions are of course the onions within the soup. The only thing that’s missing is the rich beef broth, but I didn’t want my gougeres soggy so it was omitted.

I made the puffs a couple of months ago and froze them. They freeze incredibly well. For the Cheese Puff recipe, please click here.

A perfect little bite with a perfect martini. Cheers!

I filled these beauties with the onion confit I also made some time ago and froze (I freeze small batches in little zip lock bags so I can pull out a small amount or two and use as needed). (Yes, Norma, I also cook for my freezer!).

The sweet onion, the oozy gruyère and the crisp pate a choux is making my mouth water.

Please click here for the Sweet onion confit recipe.

French Onion Gougeres or Pate a Choux

Serves 2 for hors d’œuvres

Ingredients:

  • 4 pre made cheese puffs (they defrost very quickly)
  • 4 tsp Sweet Onion Confit
  • 4 1cm squares of good quality gruyère

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F
  2. Cut the tops about 3/4 off the cheese puffs leaving them attached at the back.
  3. Stuff each of the puffs with 1 tsp of the onion confit and one square of the gruyère.
  4. Press the tops back down. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until the cheese has melted and the puffs are firm to touch (we like them a little crispy on the outside).
  5. Serve immediately with Vodka Martinis, shaken and not stirred.

Cheers.

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The long weekend a few weeks ago proved to be as beautiful as the weatherman promised, if not more so. Other than the bites from the black flies and mosquitos, it was darn near perfect. High 20°C during the day, and cool enough to sleep in without having to turn on the heat. Perfect I say!

You may recall that I posted Sawsan’s recipe a while ago for feta and basil flat bread, but frankly my omission of the olive oil did not do it justice, at all. I had frozen about half the dough waiting on a perfect opportunity to try it again (the olive oil was to be added when rolling out the flat bread, so I was good to go!).

You see how flaky the flat breads became with the olive oil? We cooked them on a well oiled griddle on the BBQ because it was too hot to turn on the oven.

The long weekend presented the perfect time because we were in need of hors d’œuvres for cocktails; this time I did not skimp on the olive oil. Sawsan, I MUST say it was marvelous! JT said the BEST he has had. I had a hard time not sampling them (I did try a couple, OK, maybe a few, but that’s IT!). We shared them with JT’s sister (known as Sid) and husband and the Ceement Boy (nephew Brian — I’ll get into that story sometime soon). We had polished most of it off when Ceement Boy dropped his wine glass onto the side of the dish and it broke into smithereens! He was trying to keep up with me as I broke a wine glass the night before! The cheddar dip can be found here.

The flat bread could have been even better had I made my own feta, like John (from the Bartolini Kitchens) did here.

I will definitely make this lovely and tasty hors d’œuvres again

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The weather was unbelievable on the May long weekend. We couldn’t help ourselves to drag the table down to the dock and two chairs so we could have lunch right on the water.

The sun was so bright, my photo turned out a little ‘hot’

The recipe is the similar to one I posted some time ago, but I changed it up so here it is again. It’s so versatile that you can put anything you desire in it. AND what was new and different was the amazing poached egg on top (yes, I had the egg yolk on this one, I figured I earned it!).

The yolk just oozed all over the tabouleh making it so delicious and rich. That little sprinkling of feta sure didn’t hurt either!

Quinoa Tabbouleh and a Poached Egg

Serves 4 (or two for lunch with leftovers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 each red, yellow and orange peppers
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 4-6 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsp crumbled sheeps milk feta
  • 2 or 4 poached eggs

Directions:

  1. Add salt to water and boil.
  2. Toast Quinoa for a couple of minutes in a dry pan – moving around so it doesn’t burn (when you hear it pop, count to 5 and remove immediately)
  3. Add Quinoa and cook for 12 minutes on a soft boil, or until all the water is soaked into the Quinoa.
  4. While cooking the Quinoa, add minced garlic to lemon juice, allow to sit.
  5. Remove Quinoa from heat and add lemon juice and garlic mixture, mix well. Allow to absorb and cool.
  6. Chop all veg into similar sized pieces (I like about 1/4″ dice).
  7. Chop parsley and mint finely.
  8. When Quinoa has cooled, mix everything together. Serve with a poached egg over it and crumbled feta.

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