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Over the summer we don’t watch a lot of television, instead, we enjoy sitting outdoors on our patio and chatting about the day’s events. But since the renovation has finished, we cannot help but want to retire early to our fancy room and enjoy a television show or two before bed. On such an occasion, we were watching America’s Test Kitchen and they made this wonderful dish. Both JT and I were drooling by the end of the show and if it weren’t 10pm, we would have jumped out of bed to make the dish right away. The very next day, I shopped for the ingredients and made a large batch. This makes a lovely light meal or a slightly heavier appetizer or hors d’œuvres. It brings all of the usual flavours of Vietnamese cuisine and it’s so satisfying. The raw patties freeze well and can be grilled frozen because they are small, just make sure the internal temperature reads 155° F (Canada) 160° F (US). Don’t skip marinating the grilled burgers in the sauce, it adds a rich meaty flavour to the sauce and the sauce flavours the meat beautifully.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties

Makes about 20 small slider-sized patties

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 10 mL chili paste
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 10 g sugar
  • 45 mL fish sauce
  • 45 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 160 mL hot water

Ingredients for the pork patties:

  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 2.5 mL baking soda
  • 2.5 mL white pepper
  • 454 g pound ground pork

Ingredients for the salad for 2-4 people:

  • 250 g rice vermicelli
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • a generous handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stems, cut thinly
  • a generous handful of fresh mint leaves, cut thinly
  • a handful of peanuts, sesame seeds or finely sliced green onions for garnish

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce first because it is best if it stands for a few hours. Add all of the ingredients to a heatproof container and combine well until the sugar has entirely dissolved. Set aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Combine the ground pork with all of the ingredients and mix well. Measure out small portions (we wanted them for hors d’œuvres and appetizers, so we did slider-sized patties) and form into firm patties.
  3. Grill each patty on a hot grill until sides have caramelized and the centre is 155° F (Canada) or 160° F (US). Directly from the grill, add the patties to the sauce and allow to sit in the sauce for 5-10 minutes turning a few times if they are not entirely immersed.
  4. Meanwhile, boil enough water to cover the rice vermicelli and allow to soften to al dente! Strain.
  5. To serve, lay the torn Boston lettuce on each plate or a serving platter, scatter the cucumber, cilantro and mint over the leaves. Top the greens with the softened noodles and add the pork patties. Garnish with peanuts, sesame seeds or finely sliced green onions or all of the above! Drizzle with the sauce and serve remaining sauce on the table.

One of the last meals we had outdoors before September kicked in.

Notes:

  • The sauce needs to mellow because it is very limey at the beginning. The meat juices help the sauce mellow out.
  • We have reduced the sugar in this recipe by eliminating it from the patties, we found it balanced enough.

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This unusual cake was a contribution of a dear neighbour we had over recently for a dinner party. We were so blown away with the use of quinoa that we had to give it a try ourselves. The recipe is super easy and oh-so-chocolatey! The original recipe isn’t vegan or dairy-free but I did substitute melted coconut oil for the butter and lactose-free milk for the milk. For Vegan, you could use soaked chia seeds for the eggs. Let me know how it turns out if you try the vegan version.

Be ready to hand out the recipe, this cake is that good. I was pleasantly surprised with the frosting, very rich and chocolatey; the mild avocado flavour was not off-putting (unless you hate avocados).

Care for a slice?

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

For the original recipe, click here.

Makes a double layer 20 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 300 g cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry yields about 300 g cooked)
  • 120 mL whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 170 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 140 g coconut sugar
  • 90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 20cm round baking pans with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add all of the wet ingredients, quinoa, eggs, vanilla, milk with sugar, salt and cocoa to your large food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the baking powder snd blend until combined.
  3. Turn into prepared pans in equal portions and bake for 30 minutes-or until a cake tester comes out cleanly.
  4. Cool. Turn out of pans and frost with the frosting below.

Chocolate Avocado frosting

Click here for the original recipe.

Makes about 250 mL, plenty to frost the cake above

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe avocados
  • 45 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 90-120 mL pure maple syrup
  • Splash of pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into the cup of your immersion blender and blend repeatedly until entirely smooth.
  2. Frost cake as soon as it has cooled. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Notes:

  • If you blend all of the cake ingredients together for too long, you’ll get a brownie-like texture.
  • Flegg (vegan egg substitute) is ground flaxseed with water mixed until gelatinous.
  • For the frosting, I used 90 mL Maple syrup and it was sweet enough.
  • The original recipe suggests the icing will discolour if made too soon before serving but we didn’t think leaving it for a couple of days impacted the colour to a great degree after all it’s pretty chocolate-brown anyway!
  • Avocados must be super ripe to get the creamy texture of a buttercream. You may use frozen avocados.
  • The second time I made this recipe I used coconut oil instead of butter and it was lovely.

Well, the renovation is complete. What should have taken 4-6 weeks ended up almost 5 months! This was a better experience than the first; our contractor was younger and had excellent communication skills which made the process much smoother. Basically, we took about 1/3 of our master bedroom and added an ensuite and walk-in closet and we also updated the main bathroom. We contracted the cabinet maker to make the built-ins on the wall across from the bed. JT and I installed the crown moulding. The master bath has all the amenities: fog-free mirror, heated floor, heated towel rack, flush-mount rain shower and so on. I am still on the hunt for a carpet for the bedroom. Here is a short video of the project.

 

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Lemon Miso Sauce

Many of our dear friends have dietary restrictions, be it taste, choice or health restrictions, which makes having a dinner party quite challenging. We had such friends over last month and I decided that I wanted to remake the wonderful dinner we made in Lyon; halibut wrapped in prosciutto with an olive sauce. The problem was that said friends are 1. vegetarian and dairy-free and 2. hate olives (go figure, he is Greek!!!)! Yes, I could have chosen another dish but we really had the taste for the prosciutto-wrapped halibut. So I checked with our guests and the fish could be cooked with the prosciutto but served without and I had to re-invent the sauce.

Many years ago we celebrated New Year at home with a lovely seafood dinner consisting of lobster and I had wanted a garlic butter sauce that wasn’t as rich because the lobster was rich enough without adding the butter. I tested a miso broth with garlic and it was a hit. The miso gave the same creamy mouth-feel that melted butter did and the saltiness mimicked the salted butter flavour. I drew from that experience to create a creamy, briny butterless sauce to go with the fish.

Lemon Miso Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 300 mL sauce

Ingredients:

  • 300 mL water
  • 30 g garlic confit, puréed
  • 30 g white miso
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Combine water and miso and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and add garlic confit purée and the lemon slices. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve lemon slices for the fish garnish.
  3. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Peach Tarte Tatin

You know you have a winning dessert when the same friends ask you to bring the same dessert you brought to their home the last time. This is that dessert. It really ticks all of the boxes, local, delicious, fresh peaches, crispy and chewy puff pastry and last but not least, smooth sweet caramel. You just can’t go wrong!

Peach Tarte Tatin

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 large, firm-fleshed peaches, we used Ontario Peaches
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 75 grams butter, cubed
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 30 mL cognac
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, about 250 g (store-bought is fine), defrosted in the refrigerator 

Directions:

  1. A day or so before you wish to serve this dessert, peel the peaches and remove the stone and cut them in half. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice and place on a paper-lined cooling rack, cover with a clean kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to allow to dehydrate a bit.
  2. In a cast iron or non-stick pan, add the sugar and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized. DO NOT STIR but you may swish the sugar in the pan as it begins to turn golden to cook more evenly.
  3. Add the butter and swirl until melted and combined with the sugar, add the pinch of cinnamon salt and the cognac and continue to swirl to combine.
  4. Turn the heat to low and add the apples in a circular pattern keeping in mind that the part you can see is actually the bottom of the tarte.
  5. Cook the apples for about 8 minutes on medium-low. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  6. While the apples are cooking stove-top, untouched, cut the defrosted pastry in a slightly larger circle than the pan and put into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan with the apples from the heat, and top with the pastry, tucking in the sides all the way around.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Turn out, upside-down onto a serving platter and serve warm.

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After a couple of failed attempts at making beef ribs, I was a little hesitant to try again but since I had already purchased them I decided to take a chance and try again. I read up on different methods of cooking beef ribs as much as I can. From what I gathered, the primary difference in cooking beef ribs (pork doesn’t seem to be as bad) is getting the connective tissue to soften and melt into the meat to make it tender, almost falling off the bone. I really wanted a one-stop recipe without having to boil them first; it was a super hot and humid day and I didn’t want the extra heat and humidity in the house! I found a few recipes that baked the ribs in foil pouches, sealing in the flavours from the dry rub that was applied the night before. Bingo! But just in case the beef ribs failed again, I repeated the recipe with pork ribs and they were just as good!

The spice-blend can be altered to your preference. Or even use a bulgogi rub, or a tandoori rub, to change it up entirely! I love that the ribs steam in the pouches with the spice rub, sealing in the flavours. To be honest, you really didn’t need the BBQ sauce at the end, but it did allow the meat to caramelize and not dry out. This recipe will definitely be repeated before the summer ends.

Barbequed Beef Ribs

Serves 2-4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg beef ribs
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 12 g granulated garlic
  • 10 g dehydrated onion
  • 5 g chile powder
  • 35 g brown sugar, packed
  • 5 g smoked paprika
  • 10 g paprika
  • 5 g smoked sea salt
  • 2  g oregano
  • Your favourite BBQ Sauce (I used about 125 mL)

Directions:

  1. Remove the membrane from rib backs and cut the ribs to a length that will fit all of the ribs in your BBQ without overlapping.
  2. Combine all of the spices in your spice grinder and grind to a fine powder; add the oregano and stir well. Place the ribs in a zip-lock bag and pour in the spice mix. Rub the spice mix into the ribs well and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the BBQ to 250° F with indirect heat (we used our Medium-sized Big Green Egg with a cast iron diverter and stacked grills).
  4. Lay a long piece of foil on the counter. Lay each rib section onto half of the foil so it doesn’t overlap, fold over the length of foil and seal the edges so it is entirely contained. Repeat until you have all the ribs in the foil pouches.
  5. Place pouches on the grill with indirect heat and cook for 3.5 to 4 hours or until ribs are fork-tender and almost falling off the bone (ribs will cook at different rates depending on the thickness and whether they are beef or pork, so check around 3 hours). Remove the ribs when they are ready (at this point, you may hold them in a warm oven on a baking sheet in their pouches).
  6. Increase the BBQ temperature to 375° F and remove the diverter so heat is now direct.
  7. Carefully remove the ribs from the pouches and brush them with your favourite BBQ sauce. Place the ribs directly on the BBQ and grill until the sauce is slightly caramelized, sticky and delicious. Serve immediately.

These beef and pork ribs turned out fantastic!

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I remember seeing these tasty morsels a few years ago and was intrigued by the tapioca flour ingredient but I soon forgot about them. Recently, we were watching America’s Test Kitchen and by fluke, they were making a batch which reminded me how much I had wanted to make them. These days, more and more of our friends have become gluten intolerant or simply wish to reduce their gluten intake so this recipe comes at the right time. Plus the weather is perfect for cocktails on the back deck while the sun moves across the sky for its exit. I’ve made a few adjustments to the original recipe and have converted it to metric weight measures because that is my preference for baking.

We loved these little cheesy dough balls and you can bet that I will make them again and again. I hope you try them too.

Would you care for a few with your cocktail?

Brazilian Cheese Bread (gluten-free, lactose-reduced)

Makes 50-60 little balls. For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 390 g tapioca flour (starch)
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 10 g plus 2 g salt, divided
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, divided
  • 200 mL lactose-free milk
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 115 mL grapeseed oil (any vegetable oil)
  • 212 g sheep’s milk semi-firm cheese

Directions:

  1. Combine tapioca flour, baking powder and salt and mix well in the large bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat until just boiling the milk, butter and grapeseed oil.
  3. While mixing the flour on low spead, add the hot milk solution and beat well for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for about 8 minutes or until dough is shiny and smooth.
  5. Add the cheese and mix for about 1 minute.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with damp parchment paper. Put the baking sheet on top of another baking sheet (these little breads tend to burn on the bottom so insulating the bottom will help them bake more evenly).
  7. Scoop out 15 mL spoonfuls the prepared baking sheet. It’s easier if you dip your scoop into water each time. Shape into little balls.
  8. Combine the egg yolk with the 2 g salt and mix well.
  9. Brush the egg yolk mixture on top of each dough ball and bake until tops are golden and crusty 18-20 minutes. Turn the pan around for the last 5 minutes of baking.
  10. Refrigerate the dough while baking the first batch. Repeat making little balls of dough until finished.
  11. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Notes:

  • Check the saltiness of the cheese you use, and adjust the salt measurement accordingly. I found America’s Test Kitchen recipe was a little saltier than I like.
  • I used Starkey and Hitch goat’s milk gouda in this recipe.
  • America’s Test Kitchen found the dough too sticky to work with so they rested the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours before baking. I did not find the dough too sticky so I skipped that step (it’s about the same as choux pastry) .
  • The recipe is as easy as making choux pastry but the texture is quite bready.
  • Freeze in a zip-lock baggy. To reheat frozen balls, bake them at around 275° F until defrosted and warm.

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Japanese Pancake

I tend to crave light Asian flavours and textures during the summer heat and when I saw my dear friend Sissi post about Japanese pancakes again, I had to try them. They are filled with lightly cooked cabbage, topped with soft, earthy mushrooms and garnished with a spicy-sweet mayo. I have to admit, they are rather moreish and even JT got out his phone to add this dish to the list of “What to eat, when we have no idea on what to eat!” I cheated and used packaged shredded cabbage and I think if I had shredded the cabbage in a finer texture, it would have been even more pleasurable. Sissi gives some wonderful pointers about these unique savoury pancakes.

Serve these delicate, delicious pancakes with your choice of sauce, the options are endless.

Japanese Pancakes

Serves 2 luncheon-size pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 60 g onion
  • 100 g cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 50 g black oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 40 g “00” flour
  • 2 g baking powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 100 mL chicken stock
  • 10 g roasted garlic

Directions:

  1. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the egg, chicken stock and roasted garlic together then add the flour and baking powder and salt, if using. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Combine the onion and cabbage and mix well. Pour the batter over cabbage mixture and toss until coated and cabbage sticks together.
  4. Heat a small frying pan with a small amount of oil so the batter won’t stick. Scoop half of the batter into the pan, distributing evenly. Arrange half the mushrooms on top and press gently into the pan.
  5. Cover and cook the pancake until side 1 is golden, flip gently and cook covered until side 2 is golden and the inside has set, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Serve hot garnished with thinly sliced green onions, black sesame seeds and sweet and spicy mayo.

My sweet and spicy mayo is simply about 15 mL mayonnaise with a dash of sriracha sauce and honey, mix well and pipe through a fine hole in a ziplock baggy.

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