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Archive for the ‘Main Courses’ Category

How are you? It’s a question that has gained more substance than it garnered in the past. We used to ask it in passing, often not even thinking about the answer, which was usually, “fine”. Our answers have become more thoughtful because now we are genuinely asking. Making sure everyone is “fine” is the only way of taking care of one another at this time.

I honestly miss cooking for my friends and family. Oh sure, I’ve baked a few care-packages, but it’s not the same as sharing a meal you’ve laboured over with love. Sharing your home, a meal, or a drink with people you love. This blog also allows me to share, I thank you for kind words and support during this unparalleled time. So how are you?

I’ve been cooking a lot. It makes my day more interesting and we really look forward to the meals which have become more of a focus these days. It also makes me think of all the wonderful times we’ve shared meals with friends and family.

Several years ago we met up with friends in Almeria, we were staying one night and then driving to my cousin’s flat in San José. We stumbled upon Joseba Anorga Taberna quite by accident and had one of many memorable meals that time in Spain. One of the tapas we ordered was a seared scallop in a creamy corn velouté and it was incredibly delicious. The unexpected combination of sweet corn and sweet scallops hit our tastes perfectly. I filed it in my recipe vault in my head and in 2018, I recreated the dish and it did not disappoint.

Scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion

Fast forward to our 2020 Spanish adventure to one of our favourite tapas tabernas in Almeria where we had a marvellous creamy rice dish with mushrooms. It was delicious, creamy, cheesy and absolutely more-ish. Upon our return to Toronto, I wanted to recreate the dish but I had scallops and corn on my mind, so I reinvented it.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto from Casa Paquita in Almeria.

I had also filed a wonderful cauliflower risotto recipe that my friend David (Fine Dining at Home) posted in 2012. He recreated a Heston Blumenthal recipe where Heston made a really flavourful stock using the cauliflower end cuts and I wondered if corn-stock would have a similar effect on the risotto. It sure did! Of course, because my dish had scallops in it, I skipped the cheese and used the creamed corn velouté from the stock to add more creaminess to the disk. You could also add a splash of cream or butter.

Creamy Corn Risotto with Bay Scallops

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 for a main course or 4 for an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g frozen corn see notes)
  • ~250 mL water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ~250 mL chicken bone broth (or the amount that would yield 500 mL corn broth in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 120 g La Bomba Rice
  • 30 g clarified butter
  • 200 g bay scallops

Directions:

  1. To make the corn broth, bring the frozen corn, water and salt to a simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve both the corn and broth separately. Reserve 70 g corn kernals, set aside.
  2. Add the chicken bone broth to the corn broth to make 500 mL stock and heat to a simmer.
  3. Purée the cooked corn (minus the 70 g) from the corn broth and press through a fine sieve. Reserve.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic. Add the dry rice and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the warm broth 125 mL at a time, stirring constantly, adding additional broth as the rice absorbs it. The rice should be tender with a small bite to it and it should be creamy but not soupy. This process will take about 25 minutes. Add the puréed corn and stir well. Turn the heat off, cover and set aside.
  6. Dry the bay scallops well. Heat the butter in a cast-iron frying pan, add the scallops to the pan but do not crowd, we want seared scallops not steamed!
  7. When the scallops have cooked fully, add to the risotto and stir. Plate.

Notes:

  • Grilled corn would have been better but we were still on lock-down when I made this dish. Grilled corn cobs would have made excellent stock.
  • Bacon would have been a nice addition, I had actually forgotten I had some in the freezer, next time.

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During our first major grocery shopping when we arrived in Spain, JT bought some frozen ready-made Tuna Empanadas. I was excited because we love tuna and we love empanadas and we had never had tuna empanadas. Sadly, we were extremely disappointed, the quality just wasn’t there. The filling was mainly tomato sauce with nary a taste of tuna. But I got the taste of empanada in my head and I knew eventually, I would need to make some.

I made most of our meals during our time in Spain. And when I did, I made double or triple batches so that we could have a quick lunch or dinner after a tiring day of exploring. The European refrigerator in our flat has three good-size freeezer drawers to store home-made meals. At home in Toronto, I make these traditional Chilean empanada made with beef and pork; years ago a friend and neighbour kindly showed my Mom how to make and it’s been family favourite ever since. But in Spain, beef is not as common so I decided to use Chicken. I didn’t grind the chicken (no meat grinder) but I roughly chopped it into smallish chunks so that you can still get a chicken texture as you eat the empanada. Another option would be to roast it and shred it.

The winds on the Med had increased to about 45 km per hour, which made sitting outside nearly impossible. In fact, I was worried the wind would pick up the empanada and steal it away!

Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanada)

Makes 6 large empanadas

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 90 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 12 g roasted puréed garlic
  • 433 – 450 g skinless chicken breast, roughly chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 10 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200 g frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 3 g cumin
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 3 sheets puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
  • 1 egg, whisked with 30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. 
  2. Add the chicken and stir to cook evenly. Cook all the way through.
  3. Add the roasted garlic, cumin and cook stirring until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the drained frozen vegetables, black olives and dates. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each puff pastry sheet to 20 cm x 40 cm and cut in half, then cut each half into a 20 cm circle, reserve pastry ends for the fancy finish.
  5. Brush all around the edges with the egg wash. Fill one half of the round with 1/6th of the cooked, cooled chicken mixture leaving about 2 cm all the way around the edge and then fold half to create a crescent, pressing down the edges to seal.
  6. Brush the top of the empanada with the egg wash. Finish edges into a fancy design (I used the left-over pastry and made it into a rope design). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
  7. Continue with remaining ingredients until you have 6 meal-sized empanadas. 
  8. Freeze for future use or bake at 400° F until pastry is golden.
  9. Serve with a lightly dressed salad.
The vegetables are also unusual for empanadas, but we like veggies so I added them!

Notes:

  • Traditional Chilean Empanadas are made with golden raisins but believe it or not, I was not able to find any type of raisins in our little village so I used dates. This is not a sweet dish, the dates or raisins just add a bit of sweetness so taste your dates or raisins and determine how many you will use depending on how sweet they are. The dates I used were not the same sweetness that the dates I buy in North America, so I used ten, but you may need to reduce it if you use the super sweet kind. 
  • I used puff pastry because my little kitchen in Spain is ill-equipped and very small. You can use this recipe for pastry but I am unsure of how well-fitting the proportions of filling to pastry will be. You can always freeze extra pastry in a ziplock bag.

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As our time in Spain was sadly coming to an end, I had developed a menu plan that utilizes the food we had in our pantry/refrigerator so that there was little to no waste (I didn’t have a group of friends here to have a pantry clean out party with). This was one of those meals.

As most recipes, this one evolved to the posted rendition. We’ve enjoyed this meal a few times in Spain and again during the weeks of isolation upon our return. Now my focus is rationing pantry items and getting a tasty, healthy meal out of a recipe. A few friends have kindly offered to grocery shop for us, for which we have been grateful because the online shopping/delivery services all seem to be a week out! But I don’t want to push their generosity, so I’m rationing the staples. Plus, this is a fantastic opportunity to clean out my Toronto pantry!!!

Mediteranean Tuna Casserole

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dry Romano Beans, cooked
  • 125 mL greek yogurt
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • Sea salt
  • 100 g celery, sliced thinly
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped (no pits)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 50 g green onion, thinly sliced
  • 45 g Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 85 g canned tuna, drained
  • Butter, for greasing casserole pan
  • 50 g cheese, grated
  • 50 g bread crumbs, toasted
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • EVOO

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk the greek yogurt with the roasted garlic and salt. Combine the beans with the celery, black olives, red peppers, green onions, feta and tuna, mix well. Add the yogurt and mix well.
  3. Grease a small casserole with a bit of butter. Pour the tuna mixture into the casserole and spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Combine the grated cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. Spread evenly over the tuna mixture. Drizzle with a little EVOO.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or everything is heated through. Tent with foil if the breadcrumbs are toasting too quickly.
  6. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This is a meal that I was trying to use up ingredients, if it strikes your fancy, throw caution to the wind and improvise with whatever you have in the fridge/pantry!
  • The first version had rotini pasta which was lovely but I prefer the beans.

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The first time we tried gnocchi was in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It may seem a bit odd that it took so long living in a multi-cultural city like Toronto, particularly since Toronto had the largest Italian population of any city outside of Italy (in 2016, we had the fourth largest Italian population), but back then the restaurant scene was really bad. Italian food was more or less American Italian (not to imply that it’s bad food, just limited), serving spaghetti, lasagna or pizza, nothing quite as exotic as gnocchi graced the menus. High-end restaurants were generally decorated in a men’s club style, dark and dingy and the waiters were often grumpy old guys in dark pants, white shirts and short aprons. Then, for some reason it all changed. JT read a lot of real estate articles and one such article was about a restaurant in mid-town that spent a million dollars in creating one of the best Italian restaurants in the city; imported décor, a well-paid chef and a menu that used traditional Italian ingredients described in Italian words. Of course, we had to try it and we were not disappointed. It still took a few more years for the rest of the industry to up its game but we were certainly on the right track.

When I told my Mom that I’d ordered gnocchi and what it cost, she was appalled! She called it peasant food! Of course, my generation had no idea what that was and maybe that’s why the restaurant industry changed, we were willing to pay for it! And we were hooked! Those soft little pillows drenched in a rich sauce were stuff dreams were made of, so I began experimenting with recipes after seeing Biba Caggiano make it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen) on the very early Food Network. She made it look so easy, and it was! JT proclaimed that he would no longer be able to order gnocchi in a restaurant because he would be disappointed after eating mine! Then came the low carb movement and we put those dreamy little pillows on the back burner. Fear not though, they are making a comeback albeit in moderation.

In our effort to eat less animal protein and more plant-based proteins, I created this gnocchi recipe using lentils. I’ve made them a few times because they are quite easy to make and super tasty, and they have the same light, fluffy consistency of traditional gnocchi. We like the contrast of texture by pan-frying the little pillows until one side is crispy, but you don’t have to. This recipe would be quite lovely with a sage and butter sauce or any sauce for that matter.

Pan-Seared Lentil Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Makes about 40 gnocchi, about 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 50 g red lentils
  • 90 g “00” flour
  • 10 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 g unsalted butter, divided
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 50 g gorgonzola, divided (any blue cheese will do)
  • parmesan for serving

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils until soft (about 1:2 ratio) in enough water to cover. Blend in a processor until very smooth.
  2. Add the flour a little at a time and blend. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then remove and knead gently with your hands until a smooth dough is achieved. Roll into a 1 cm roll and cut about 1.5-2 cm lengths. Roll each pillow up the tines of a fork or a gnocchi paddle to get the grooves.
  3. Boil water with a little salt and cook the gnocchi until they float to the top. Strain the gnocchi and set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Melt butter in a frying pan and sear the gnocchi until a little crispy on one side. Remove from the pan. Add 5 additional grams of butter to the pan and sprinkle about 10 g of flour on it. Cook the roux and add about 125 mL milk or cream. Add some of the gorgonzola into the roux and allow it to melt (reserve a little gorgonzola for garnish).
  5. Add the gnocchi back to the pan and stir to coat. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan and dot each plate with remaining gorgonzola.

Notes:

  • I use my trusted gnocchi paddle that I bought in Florence to make the grooves in the little pillows and recently I discovered that using a very small round measuring spoon to press the gnocchi up the paddle creates perfect groves on one side and a nice little divet on the other (without ruining my mani). The more grooves and divets the more the sauce will stick to it, and who doesn’t love sauce?!
  • I used gorgonzola cheese but you may use any blue cheese. Gorgonzola is slightly milder but creamier than blue cheese.
  • Traditional gorgonzola sauce uses heavy cream instead of a roux, but I prefer to use milk and a roux. You may do it either way.
  • I never add egg to my gnocchi because that is the way Biba Caggiano made it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen). My gnocchi binds well and has never fallen apart in cooking.

JT and I just completed refinishing our kitchen floors, don’t they look lovely? (and yes, that means renting a belt sander and working our ancient butts off!). The best light was on the floor, they are clean!

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I must apologize, my post did not post as I had hoped (perhaps it was because it was scheduled for Wednesday!). Better late than never!

Our summer began with the most perfect temperatures (for me), low 20’s° C (low 70s° F) with low to no humidity. You have to understand, Toronto becomes a sauna in the summertime, high temperatures and humidity and which makes it seem so much hotter and muggier than it actually is. It’s usually so soupy that a shower seems less wet than going outside! As soon as July hit, so did summer temperatures 34° C (93° F) and in rolled the humidity (making 34 seem like 42° C or 107° F). I am a sweater, I sweat thinking about physical effort, it’s really awful, so these hot temps force me to stay inside with the A/C cranked low and a fan blowing on me. It really is a curse.

I came up with this recipe for a lunch during a long-weekend that I was locked inside my house. I wanted something fast, light and easy with ingredients I had at home. Usually, I wouldn’t blog about this type of recipe but JT loved it so much, he literally asked for it again the very next day! This is day two, I didn’t have enough home-grown tomatoes so I added a vine-ripened tomato I had at home. I’ve made this salad a few more times! The bulgur adds a lovely texture, not quite chewy but not soft either. The tuna is a nice addition but it’s even tasty without it for a vegan recipe.

Mediterranean Red Bulgur Salad with Tuna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

This recipe makes 4-6 servings

To make this vegan, omit the tuna.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g red bulgar
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 can tuna (flaked white albacore in water)
  • 10 cm cucumber, finely diced
  • a handful of parsley, chopped finely
  • 3-4 mint leaves, chopped finely
  • 12 or so kalamata olives, chopped
  • a handful or so of grape tomatoes, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped artichokes

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 60 mL)
  • same quantity olive oil, or less
  • 10 mL tomato paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, tomato paste and salt and mix well.
  2. Add the garlic cloves to the bulgur water with salt. Cook the bulgur according to directions (mine said 500 mL water with 200 g bulgar). If all of the water did not absorb, strain. Discard garlic.
  3. Pour dressing over the strained, hot bulgur. Cool slightly.
  4. Combine everything for the salad and mix well.
  5. Serve immediately in a bowl or spoon into iceberg lettuce leaves.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have any tomatoes, use about 125 mL sundried tomatoes in olive oil, strained and chopped.
  • I usually buy chunk albacore tuna because we like it better than flaked but this recipe is better with flaked because it distributes more evenly.
  • If you dress the bulgur when hot, it will absorb the dressing more and evenly.
  • I would have added a little Greek Sheep’s Milk crumbled feta if I had some at home. If you do, omit the salt in the dressing.

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Everyone has busy days, the type of days that you’re too busy to cook and the easy thing to do would be to order in or throw some unhealthy grocery-store frozen dinner into the microwave and be done with it. We’ve all done it and what happens is interesting: you don’t eat for the love of food, you just eat and because it’s fast and easy. But then, it never hits those emotional triggers so we end up feeling awful and regretting our choice. There is nothing I hate more (other than the obvious crap going on in our world) than regretting calories. Fret not dear friends, I have the perfect solution with this slow cooker lasagna, and you need not make enough for an army because this handy hack will have you getting that slow cooker out more often!

This is the one slow cooker hack you’ve been waiting for: Line your slow cooker with a silicon mat and lay your smaller, heat-resistant dish on top of it. Presto, a custom-sized slow cooker.

The Silpat protects the ceramic slow cooker from the metal of the loaf pan.

I made this awesome Lentilles du Puy lasagna this way. I won’t lie, there is some prep work with this dish, but a little pre-planning on the weekend will make it a breeze on that busy weeknight. The recipe was inspired by my LA friend, Greg of Sippity Sup, he had made an incredible Swiss Chard Lasagne with Bechamel that literally had me licking my lips during the entire read through! He used one of my favourite ingredients: béchamel sauce!

Creamy béchamel with eggplant and roasted red peppers just melt in your mouth.

Slow Cooker Lasagna with Eggplant, Roasted Red Pepper and Lentilles du Puy

Recipe inspired by Greg’s Swiss Chard Lasagna

Makes one 12 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm loaf pan, serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 60 g Lentils du Puys, cooked
  • 100 g onions, chopped
  • 10 g Ice® Mama Mia garlic, finely chopped (see notes)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 400 mL San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • 250 mL béchamel sauce with a pinch of nutmeg (see notes)
  • 4 gluten-free, oven-ready lasagna noodles (I used this brand)
  • 1 Chinese eggplant, sliced into 0.5 cm thickness (about 6 slices)
  • 176 g roasted red peppers (about 6 small roasted red peppers)
  • 150 g Mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. In a splash of olive oil, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the oregano and basil and stir well.  Add the San Marzano tomatoes and cooked lentils, stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. This makes around 500 mL.
  2. Prepare a 12 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm loaf pan with non-stick spray. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of the lentil tomato mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Lay 1 and 1/3 noodles over the lentil-tomato mixture (covering the entire pan area). Top with 1/3 of the lentil-tomato mixture spread evenly over the noodles, then a single layer of 2 roasted red peppers, then lay two slices of the eggplant over the peppers. Top with béchamel and about 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat until everything is layered, making sure you top with the grated cheese.
  4. Lay a silicon mat (like Silpat)  into the slow cooker and place the loaf pan onto it, in the centre (see notes). Cover and turn the slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or until noodles have cooked through. Relax.
  5. When the noodles have cooked through, pre-heat the broiler in the oven and broil the lasagna on high until cheese is bubbly and caramelized. Serve hot with simply dressed greens.

A nice bubbly, caramelized cheese topping!

Notes:

  • You may have seen me searching for softneck garlic sometime late last year. It was, of course, the wrong time of year for farmer’s market garlic, but that didn’t stop me from trying my best to hunt it down. During this process, a friend on Facebook mentioned Beneli Farms, a Manitoba, 5th generation farming family specializing in garlic for the last 15 years. I reached out to them and they were very quick in getting back to me and eager to help but sadly they were not able to courier me softneck garlic in time, but they did courier a large selection of their specialty garlic! I use garlic a lot but I am still going through my generous stash. For this dish I chose their Mama Mia™ Ice® Garlic for its smooth flavour. It was definitely the right choice as it did not overpower the dish, just provided a smooth, delicate garlic flavour in the tomato sauce. Thank you Garth and Miranda.
  • To make gluten-free béchamel sauce, simply substitute a good gluten-free flour with the all-purpose flour. Don’t forget the pinch of nutmeg.
  • The Silpat mat simply protects the ceramic bowl of the slow cooker from the the metal loaf pan.
  • The Gluten-free noodles I’ve used in this recipe stand up a bit better than regular oven-ready noodles and maintain a good texture in this dish. The liquid proportion I’ve indicated is perfect for cooking the noodles without destroying them, i.e., they still have bite.
  • Leftovers may be frozen for future quick meals, but don’t count on it!

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One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat a more vegetable-based diet. I have no intention on going vegetarian but I would like to limit my intake of meat a bit more; currently, we don’t eat a lot of beef, but we do eat pork, chicken and lamb (we will continue to eat fish). In this effort, I searched out a meatless chickpea recipe with turmeric. Turmeric has gained some notoriety for its medicinal properties that I wanted to take advantage of. If you wish to read more about it, read this article. Turmeric is also quite beautiful and tasty too! I altered a Guy Fieri recipe to our taste.

Be careful as the turmeric discolours everything, even nailpolish!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Raisins and Turmeric

This recipe makes 4 medium servings.

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • zest of one orange, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Pour the oil into a large mixing bowl, and then add the spices, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, chickpeas and onions, and toss to coat everything evenly. Toss in the raisins and zest and mix in evenly. Place on a sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven until lightly browned and the cauliflower is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach or baby kale, dressed with a light vinaigrette.

Notes:

  • I always used dried chickpeas, about 140 g dried chickpeas will yield the cooked amount required for this recipe.
  • If you have leftovers, simply warm up with some vegetable stock and purée into a smooth, velvety soup.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil seems like a lot, but it really just covers the cauliflower and chickpeas.

The turmeric shaded the cauliflower in a beautiful yellow colour.

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During the month we spent in Arizona, we had the pleasure of celebrating American Thanksgiving with our dear friends down there. Our dear friends who live there offered to make the turkey (thank goodness, as I did not have any of my special kitchen tools!) so I offered to make a few different sides. We had dear friends visiting from Toronto and they are vegetarian and I wanted to make something special for them for Thanksgiving, so I made this Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington. I purchased the puff pastry to make it easier but I made everything else. I was surprised to find roasted Italian chestnuts (in the Kosher section, no less!) but sadly the mushrooms were just plain cremini and white mushrooms, not much variety. It’s always a bit of a challenge to cook in a strange kitchen and shop in a different part of the world, but I think this one turned out wonderful and with a variety of mushrooms, it would be amazing! Please excuse the photos, this is the one and only blog post I managed to eak out during our stay in Arizona, I was THAT busy!

Scroll down to the end of this post to see the house we rented. It took us some time to find one that was decorated in light airy colours, most of the rentals are dark and dowdy, filled with ‘granny’s furniture’ and I just couldn’t bear to live in that for a month! Although I might have chosen a slightly lighter tone for the walls, this house made me happy.

Fresh out of the oven.

Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 Wellington about 30 cm x 15 cm (12 inches x 6 inches)

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 cups variety of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup navy beans, soaked
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup port
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked with a little water.

Directions:

  1. Cook the navy beans in 3 cups veggie stock or water, cool.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan, caramelize the onions in the melted butter and olive oil on medium heat (about 20 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat up and caramelize the mushrooms add the port to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini and roasted chestnuts and sauté until carrots are slightly softened.
  4. Add the rosemary, panko, cooked navy beans, and veggie stock. Season to taste. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  5. On a cold surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to about 30 cm x 40 cm (12 inches x 16 inches). Brush the Dijon mustard on the pastry and mound the cooled mushroom filling in the centre of the pastry. Turn up each side until they meet in the middle and pinch closed. Pinch the ends closed and trim off excess pastry.
  6. Turn the log onto a parchment lined baking sheet seamed sized down, and brush with the egg yolk. Decorate with leaves from the leftover end pastry and brush with egg wash. Bake in a hot 400° F oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden.
  7. Serve sliced hot out of the oven, or reheat to serve.

A tasty treat wrapped in delicious buttery pastry.

Click on any photo for the slideshow.

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The chef at our favourite French Bistro has left and his long-time sous chef has taken over. In general, the menu changes to suit the new chef but, because this is a traditional French Bistro, very few of the menu items changed. Sadly, one item that did change was the serving of the braised short rib, one of JT’s favourites. Instead of blue cheese risotto, the chef serves it with greens and pommes fourchette (literally, forked potatoes) and it’s not quite the same. When I mentioned that I was going to make short ribs, JT specifically asked me to make the blue cheese risotto. This dish is extremely rich, so I suggested that I make it with cauliflower rice instead of real rice and JT agreed. The meat is cooked on low for a long time but that is what makes it so delicious, so don’t fast forward and use high, low and slow is the way to go. Also, cut the carrots into good sized chunks so that they don’t disintegrate during the cooking process, my carrots still had great texture at the end.

Sherry Braised Short Rib with Cauliflower Blue Cheese Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print this recipe.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL beef short ribs
  • 200 g onions, finely chopped
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 125 mL cooking sherry (or red wine)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 200 g (1 medium) carrot, cut into one-bite chunks
  • 120 g (1 stalk) celery, finely chopped
  • 20 g (3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) corn starch, dissolved in a small amount of cold water

 

Directions:

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the short ribs in small batches in a cast iron pan, transfer to a pre-warmed slow cooker.
  3. Add onions to the hot cast iron pan and cook until translucent, add celery and garlic and cook until garlic becomes aromatic. Add the carrots and cook for about a minute. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  4. Combine the stock, sherry, tomato paste and mix well, use to deglaze the cast iron pan, turn the heat off. Add the cornstarch that has been dissolved in a small amount of water and stir well into the deglazing liquid. Pour the liquid over the meat and carrots in the slow cooker. Stir well.
  5. Lay the fresh thyme and bay leaf into the slow cooker and cover with braising liquid. Cook the ribs for 5-6 hours, covered on low or until meat comes cleanly off the bone. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
  6. Serve on top of a bed of cauliflower blue cheese risotto (I didn’t jot down the recipe, but this one would be delicious).

 

Notes:

  • Always brown meat in small batches, otherwise you’ll end up steaming them instead of browning.
  • I sprinkled the seasoned ribs with Mycryo and got a gorgeous sear.
  • My sauce turned out to be the perfect consistency, not soupy at all.

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Although I am not a huge fried food fan (I know, I’m weird), JT loves the stuff. I don’t even like the way it stinks up the house, so if I do pull out the deep fryer, I usually set it up on top of the BBQ outside, sorry neighbours!

Recently, I’ve been experimenting using coconut flour instead of regular white or whole wheat flour in the breading process because I discovered that coconut flour draws moisture out, so it actually makes a fabulous base for a truly crispy coating, much like that of the unhealthy deep frying method. The first time I made this dish, I just eyeballed everything and hoped for the best. I received a lot of mmmmm, yummmm and best of all, JT said, “please make this at least once a week.” If that isn’t the top accolade, I am not sure what is. A week later, I got out my scale and measuring cups to document the recipe. If you like crispy breaded, deep fried-like things, I would encourage you to try this healthier alternative.

I can see using this method to “un-deep fry” many things in the near future!

Crispy Unfried Breaded Fish

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2, 100 g portions

Ingredients:

  • 200 g firm white fish, like tilapia
  • 40 g (1/3 cup) coconut flour
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) egg whites
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp water), plus a little more near the end of the breading process
  • 45 g (1/2 cup) whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut the fish up into smaller, one to two bite portions, about the same thickness.
  2. With a whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy.
  3. Dredge the fish in the coconut flour, then dip it into the egg whites until entirely covered. Place the fish back into the coconut flour and coat again, and dip it into the egg white for the last time.
  4. Toss the wet fish pieces into the panko until entirely covered, shake excess off. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with steps three and four until all of the fish is coated evenly and lined up on the baking sheet. You may need to add a bit more egg or water into the egg white mixture as it thickens with the coconut flour near the end. Discard unused coconut flour, egg whites and panko.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for thirty minutes to two hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F). Bake fish, turning once until both sides are golden and the fish has an internal temperature of 63° C (145° F). Serve immediately with Romesco sauce.

You may toast the panko, like my friend Sissi does, but I find using the whole wheat panko gives it a head start to a gorgeous golden colour.

Notes:

  • Use this recipe in the popular fish tacos (like my friend John’s recipe), but these are much healthier.
  • These fish pieces would also make a delicious hors d’œuvres, serve with tartar sauce.
  • The facts below do not include the frying process.
  • Recently, I have been adding about a tablespoon or so of toasted black and white sesame seeds and it really enhances the crispy texture as well as adds lovely flavour (I wish I had taken a quick pic of it, they are truly fabulous).

This is the nutritional breakdown of the coconut flour breading.

All purpose flour and whole egg breading.

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