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MeatlessBalls_intro

You may recall that several months ago I did some food prep for the Global Morning Show showcasing a new cookbook Toronto Cooks; 50 Toronto Restauranteur chefs gave up their signature recipes for this beautifully photographed cookbook and they are the actual recipes that they serve in their restaurants without any intentional omissions! I had the privilege of making Chef Rocco Agostino’s Spicy Meatballs and although the meatballs were out of this world, they were slightly on the heavier side than I like to eat so when I saw Lorraine’s Vegetarian Bean and Quinoa Meatballs recipe, I was all over it! Because I wanted an Italian flavoured ball I used only her base ingredients and the flavourings from Chef Rocco’s incredible recipe. Thank you Lorraine, you’ve come up with another winner! The meatless balls are tender with great texture from the bulgur (a swap I made due to an over processing error on my first test).

One of the key, flavour-building ingredients is Chef Rocco’s Bomba. Sadly I was not able to find the recipe online, so I am not going to post it. Bomba is a combination of raw vegetables, brined artichokes, Italian chili peppers as well as a few other flavourful ingredients, ready-made can be purchased at specialty stores or better yet, buy the Toronto Cooks cookbook, it’s the best Toronto Restaurant cookbook you’ll find!

Spicy Vegetarian Meatballs with a Rich Tomato Sauce

For the original recipe, please click here,

Ingredients, Tomato Sauce:

  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • 200 g (1 small sweet onion) onion, finely diced
  • 10 g (3-4 cloves) finely chopped garlic
  • 680 mL puréed San Marzano tomatoes, with a little water to rinse out the jar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 125 mL (1/4 cup) Bomba
  • salt to taste (be careful because the Bomba can be salty)

Directions, Tomato Sauce:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with 15 mL olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomato purée, baking soda and simmer for five minutes.
  3. Add the chopped basil, Bomba and simmer until dark and thick. You may cool and refrigerate at this point.

Ingredients, Meatless Balls:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 130 g onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 10 g dried wild dehydrated mushroom powder
  • 125 mL roasted red pepper, puréed
  • 45 mL (3 tbsp) Bomba
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan grams?
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 124 g 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 136 g raw bulgur (yields 2 cups cooked) 170 g bulgur yields
  • 65 g dry red kidney beans, cooked as per package directions and chopped roughly
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped finely

Directions, meatless balls:

  1. Add oil to a hot frying pan and cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, add the cooked bulgar, chopped cooked beans and onion mixture and mix with a fork. Add the roasted red pepper purée, Bomba, Parmesan, ground almond and bread crumbs and mix in well with the fork. Taste for seasoning (taste now because you won’t be able to when you add the eggs) and add salt and pepper as required.
  3. Slightly whisk two eggs and incorporate into the mix.
  4. Fold in the fresh parsley, chives and basil.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake meatless balls for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
  7. Cool completely and refrigerate until required.
  8. Reheat sauce. Reheat meatless balls for 20 minutes at 300F..
BakingMeatlessBalls

These are the little guys baking.

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Don’t let them fool you, these are very filling meatless balls.

SobeysCardinalMeatsBunker

I was so pleasantly surprised the other day at the grocery store when I saw my own work on the packaging! I worked a full week on these easy to assemble, ready made foods.

Notes:

  • Although I do love quinoa, I substituted bulgur here because I had over processed my first recipe test and it resulted in a pasty texture so instead of chucking the whole thing, I added bulgur. My husband loved the texture so when I made the second batch I simply substituted it altogether.
  • This recipe is about texture as much as it is about flavour, although it’s not meat, the texture has a great bite to it.
    I found reheating the meatless balls in the sauce softened them up too much so I heated them in the oven 300F for 15-20 minutes.
    As most dishes like this, it’s best the next day so I always make it one day before I needed it.

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Last fall we had my lovely niece and her beaux for the weekend; Laura recently graduated from Western University with her degree in Law and she is articling in Toronto. I wanted to make a traditional Hungarian dinner because they had never had Hungarian food. I had intended to follow the recipe verbatim, but I just couldn’t help myself and did end up changing it a slight bit. The result was wonderful and JT thought I finally got it right, the way he remembered my dear Mom to make this tasty dish. The original recipe is from Ilona Horváth’s “The Traditional Hungarian Kitchen” cookbook, published originally in 1996.

Although this recipe takes 2-3 days to prepare, there is little kitchen time as most of it is in the marinade. The finishing is relatively easy. The original recipe was made entirely in a dutch oven but I’ve modified it to a slow cooker because I was not able to be at home the day we wanted to have it. The gravy is a tangy, creamy gravy balanced with the addition of caramelized sugar, but it is NOT SWEET. The julienned carrots and parsnips add texture and natural sweetness. The meat comes out fork tender and you really don’t even need a knife to eat it.

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The tangy gravy goes perfectly with the sweet carrots and parsnips. Sorry the photo is so hot, it was night when I shot this.

Vadas Hus; Hungarian Wild Meat revisited

Serves 4-6. This recipe takes 2-3 days to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 800 g (1 3/4lb) eye of round or good stewing beef, whole
  • 50 g  bacon (pancetta works)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (the Hungarians would use lard here)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 10 g (scant tablespoon) sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3/4 Non-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) julienned carrots
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) julienned parsnips
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) grated carrots
  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) grated parsnips
  • 1 small onion chopped roughly
  • 1 L  (about 4 cups) water
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Tidy up the meat by removing any excess fat and membranes. Allow to come to room temperature.
  2. To prepare the marinade, cook the carrots, parsnips and onion in 1 L water with black pepper, bay leaves and salt until half cooked. Add the vinegar and cool to room temperature. Pour over the meat and refrigerate 2-3 days turning every so often. Remove the black peppercorns.
  3. Remove the meat from the marinade and dry completely, bring to room temperature. In a large dutch oven, heat the canola oil and cook the bacon and reserve, add the meat  to the bacon oil and sear each side well.
  4. In the meantime, pre heat the slow cooker on high and add the original marinade, reserved bacon and bay leaves. Once it is warm add the seared beef and cook until beef is tender (3-4 hours) turning often.
  5. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and allow to rest. Discard the bay leaves. Strain the vegetables from the slow cooker (reserve the liquid) and add to the dutch oven, sprinkle with flour and fry to brown lightly. Slowly add the reserved marinade liquid and stir to thicken.
  6. In a small sauce pan, melt the sugar until it is golden in colour (not dark) and then mix with a couple of tablespoons of cold water, pour into the thickened vegetables in the dutch oven. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the remaining 2 tsp vinegar and Dijon mustard. Purée the entire gravy adding the yogurt or sour cream with an immersion blender until very smooth. You can run this through a fine sieve for a very smooth gravy. Keep warm.
  7. Boil the remaining julienned carrots and parsnips until cooked but there is still a slight bite to them. Strain and keep warm.
  8. Slice the meat into 1 cm or 1/2″ slices and plate over the puréed gravy, top with the julienne parsnips and carrots. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.
  9. Serve with Hungarian Bread Dumplings.
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JT loves it when I pan sear the gombocz in butter and it becomes crispy and delicious!

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We celebrated our fourth Progressive dinner a few weeks ago with our lovely neighbours. During the last dinner the boys dreamed up our next theme: Beer! I was lucky enough to be next up for the main course so I was excited because I don’t often cook with beer and I don’t often make stew; I was thinking Guinness Stew!

We started at house one with a variety of beer cheeses and beer candied bacon (definitely on my list to make!), they also served a delicious Steam Whistle Butternut Squash Soup garnished with bits of the candied bacon and a splash of cream, very tasty indeed. Then of course it was our place and then at the third house we enjoyed dessert which was a fantastic Beer Brownie, it was definitely moist and flavourful. All of the dishes were wonderful and the company was great. We’ve even determined our next theme: Mad Men! We’re going to have fun with that as far as I could tell, all they did was eat cake and drink. Should be an interesting party!

Guinness is by far my favourite beer; thick, creamy, caramel tones and even a little liquorish flavours are a perfect pairing with the hearty, earthy beef. My friend Angela (of Titanic Anniversary, Truman Capote’s Black and White, James Bond 60th Anniversary dinner parties) served up this Beef and Guinness Stew for the Bond party and I knew it would be the recipe I wanted to make. Plus it has Guinness in it. Did I mention it has Guinness in it?

I made this stew the day before because stews always taste better the next day and I would urge you to do the same. JT confessed he likes this stew better than his Bœuff Bourguignon! Make sure you refrigerate overnight and then bring it to room temperature before you reheat. I also added carrots because one of our neighbours is not a mushroom eater so I wanted another vegetable in it and it tastes and looks amazing. I used eye of round which is a rather tough cut of beef, but I wanted to bake it longer at a lower temperature and I wanted a meat that would stand up; it was amazing, totally fork tender keeping its shape for serving. I also added a bit of beef stock when I reheated because the sauce thickened up a bit too much, use your own discretion on how thick or watery you want your sauce to be. Guinness’ website offers up a recipe that looks very watery but it’s entirely up to you.

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The biscuits were perfect for this type of stew

Guinness Beef Stew

Serves 6-8 (it’s a filling meal, so you may even get 9 out of it!)

(original recipe is by Executive chef John Cordeaux of The Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto as published in Canadian Living) I have altered the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb (907 g) eye of round beef roast, trimmed and cut into 5-8 cm (2-3″) cubes (I like bigger chunks of meat, serving size is 2-3 per person
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetabIe oil
  • 6 slices chopped bacon
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) small mushrooms, either halved (if large) or whole (if small)
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced in 2-3 cm (1.5″) chunks
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 can (440ml) Guinness draught beer
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grainy mustard (I made my own here)
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) white pepper
  • 1 cup of beef stock (to be added when reheating the stew)
  • Fresh Rosemary to garnish

Directions:

  1. In ovenproof Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the beef in batches, transferring to bowl using slotted spoon (don’t drain, you’ll want the liquid from the beef too).
  2. Once the meat has been browned and removed, cook the bacon until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes; remove bacon with slotted spoon to a piece of paper towel to drain and then reserve.
  3. Drain off the pan fat and melt the butter over medium head. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms (I was concerned that they would over cook over the 3 hours in the oven).
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook continually stirring for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook stirring for another minute. Whisk in Guinness, grainy mustard, salt and pepper until smooth.
  5. Return beef and bacon and juices to the pan, cover and bake at 250°F (121° C) until beef is tender, about 2.5-3 hours.
  6. In the meantime, peel and cut carrots into chunks. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour (not 100% done).
  7. When beef is cooked, add the carrots and mushrooms and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until day of serving.
  8. Remove beef from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (2-3 hours).
  9. Pre heat the oven to 200°F (93° C). On the stove top, warm beef slowly to boiling, adding beef stock as required. Fold instead of stirring to avoid breaking apart the meat.
  10. Cover and put into the oven until ready to serve.
  11. Serve with Cauliflower Celeriac “Mashed Potatoes” and a Butter Biscuit (recipe).
GuinessStew_1287

Thick, rich Guinness Stew, I know you want some!

Note: Don’t be concerned that the stew might be bitter, the long cooking process, sweet tomato paste and onions certainly round out what ever bitterness there may have been. Allowing to rest overnight also helps round out the flavours.

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As you know I’m a free agent at this particular juncture in my life and although I am keeping my ear to the ground and looking actively for work in my field, I am pretty realistic about the prospects out there and I’m keeping an open mind. The support from my blogging peeps is phenomenal and I thank you for your interest and offer to help! I am constantly touched and surprised by the generosity and kindness of, for all intensive purposes, strangers! It is because of you I am keeping my mind open for alternative opportunities, one such opportunity became a reality just two weeks ago.

About a year and a half or so ago, I had the good fortune to be invited to a taping of Top Chef Canada, Season 3 and there I met with Lucie Richard, Toronto-based Food Stylist with whom I chatted extensively about her craft. At that time, she very generously offered to have me ‘assist’ on one of her photo shoots. Two weeks ago it came to fruition and I assisted on a National Brand ice cream shoot. You cannot imagine how excited I was!

Ice cream is one of the most difficult things to shoot because of the very short window of opportunity before it begins to melt. I was thrilled to experience such a challenging product with one of the best in the field; Lucie was kind and generous with her advice and patience and she taught me an incredible volume of information on shooting ice cream. The tricks of the trade tend to be quite personal and what one stylist does may not necessarily be exactly what another does, so experiencing variety is key to coming up with your own tricks of the trade. The client has very specific expectations in what the characteristics of the ice cream should look like so you really need to know what you’re doing.

We used dry ice to super cool the tools, we worked in small batches for short periods of time, constantly re-freezing the ice cream so it doesn’t glaze over in the melting process. And the studio was kept very cool with air conditioning so I brought a sweater and I even brought gloves in case I needed to warm my hands. Of course, the work is fast and furious and there is no time to be cold.

The trends 15-20 years ago was to use ‘fake’ product. Ice cream was a highly guarded secret recipe of shortening, food colourings and inclusions. Today, most companies want the real deal and that in itself presents some interesting opportunities. And then there is Photoshop®, which has at times saved this incredible craft. We even took Photoshop into consideration, shooting slightly brighter and darker versions of the same shot in order to make sure we have what it takes to make the best composite. Of course, the Photoshopers are so skilled and talented, you can’t tell that they have added a little of this and a little of that to make that shot.

The client was very happy with the ice cream photo and we even finished a few minutes early. It was a huge success for me, and gave me the confidence to send out notes to my Food Stylist peeps that I’d love to assist. Who knows, this may become something!

Sadly, blogging is the driver and result of cooking passion; I make recipes for meals that I want to blog about. But we also want to eat the food I blog about. It’s wasteful to make an extra portion just for the blog so either JT or I will suffer with the pretty but stone cold blog version of a dish or eat separately which is what happened with this amazing ‘ravioli’.

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The pasta is relatively thin, so you can see all the good stuff inside!

Some time ago I saw this unique ‘ravioli’ treatment on my friend Celi’s blog (the kitchen’s garden), she was inspired to make this delightful dish after her daughter who works in a very upscale restaurant in Melbourne told her about it. We were at the cottage at the time I read the post and you know how we are unable to divert from plan because of ingredient limitations, so I was itching to make this beautiful dish as soon as we returned to the city.

One thing led to another and it wasn’t until the Friday before Thanksgiving that I finally got it together to make this tasty dish. Thank you Celi, it is exceptional! It’s reasonably fussy so I will have to figure out a way to simplify it so I can make it as a starter for a dinner party. I used John’s recipe (from the Bartolini Kitchen) for the pasta dough (with minor modifications) and Celi’s rough description for the filling. Even JT commented that he would definitely have it again. So it’s a win/win, all the way around. Thank you Celi and John for inspiring me to make this gorgeous dish.

The ravioli is comprised of sautéed spinach, ricotta and parmesan cheese  and the crowning glory is the simple egg yolk enveloped within the light pasta dough. When it is cooked, the yolk is simply warmed so that it becomes thick but remains runny and once it’s broken into, it mixes with the sage brown butter and becomes a delightful sauce over the ricotta, spinach and pasta. This is definitely a winner and will be shared with friends soon.

Ravioli with Egg Yolk and Sage Brown Butter Sauce (uova-da-raviolo)

I forgot to sprinkle additional parmesan on this one, shhhh.

I forgot to sprinkle additional parmesan on this one, shhhh.

Serves 2 with lots of pasta left over (I made additional plain ravioli and filled it with seasoned ricotta and froze them for future use).

Ingredients, for the pasta:

  • 1 scant cup flour
  • 2 egg whites

Directions, for the pasta:

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour and egg whites and process until you achieve a ball of dough.
  2. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Ingredients, for the brown butter sauce:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp finely sliced sage
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

Directions, for the Brown Butter Sauce:

  1. Melt the butter and cook until it is brown, remove from heat and add the sage and garlic and allow to infuse while making the filling.

Ingredients, for the ravioli filling:

  • 2 whole egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • 1 roasted garlic, puréed (I used a fork)
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, and 1 tbsp for garnish

Directions, for the ravioli filling:

  1. In a small frying pan, sauté the spinach with a splash of EVOO until wilted, set aside to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, roasted garlic and 2 tbsp parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt as desired.

Directions, for assembly of the ravioli:

  1. Heat a large deep pan of salted water to a steady boil.
  2. Roll out four thin sheets of pasta about 10-15cm in diameter (4-6″) (I used #5 on my Kitchenaid Pasta Attachment, but I think #6 would have worked very well too).
  3. In the centre of two of the pasta sheets, add a mound of spinach and on top of that add 1/2 the ricotta mix. Make a divot in the centre and add the room temperature, raw egg yolk. Place the second sheet on top and push out any air and seal the edges well. Cut this into a shape or leave it rustic.
  4. In the meantime, reheat the brown butter sauce on low.
  5. Boil the large ravioli for 2-3 minutes or until the pasta is completely cooked but leaving the egg yolk runny. Serve with the hot brown butter sauce and parmesan cheese for garnish. If you have a few extra sage leaves, add them as garnish too.
  6. Enjoy while the yolk is still runny.
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The egg yolk oozes out and mixes with the brown butter very nicely.

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We had these for lunch, for appetizers I will make them smaller and use small egg yolks!

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October is slipping through our fingers very quickly. Socially, we are already booking into November which never ceases to amaze me. Blogs are filling the virtual world with comforting fall recipes, halloween decorations and stories. My dear friend Kelly (a fellow Canadian who recently moved to California , the delightful writer and creative genius of Inspired Edibles) made a comment on my last spooky story about a haunted house tour in London she participated in several years ago and that reminded me of my own haunting experience in the UK. So I would like to continue with the Spooky Story series on my humble blog (to be honest, I had no idea I had so many of them!) Please pardon the photos in this post of our trip to the UK, they were before digital cameras and I simply took an iPhone photo of them for this post!

It was about 4 years into our marriage and JT and I were vacationing in the UK; we rented a car and drove from  town to town from the south-west to the south-east culminating our adventure in London for a few days (as a side note: we saw the Queen Mother speed along in her Rolls Royce while we were walking to Buckingham Palace). We specifically chose to stay in old mansions and guest houses on this trip, it was not only budget friendly but it also was much more fun than the large international hotels.

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Bibury Court Hotel

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This was high fashion in 1990! Well, at least my hair was high.

One such town was Bibury which is a quaint little picturesque town in the heart of the Cotswolds. We stayed at a very large, very old manor house Bibury Court Hotel, incidentally the same manor house that JT and his dear Mom stayed in several years earlier. “The hotel is found on the edge of the famous village of Bibury, once described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England” taken verbatim from their website!

On these holidays, one of the things JT really loves to do is visit old castles and there were plenty of them in England; of course his favourite part of the castle was always the dungeon! As you can well imagine, my young self was not thrilled at such prospects, but as a good young wife, I accompanied him through many a dungeon throughout England and each one gave me the willies — some worse than others.

After our visit to Warwick Castle, I was particularly spooked. Not sure why, but as soon as I entered the very ghoulish dungeon I had an uneasy feeling and some very cold air wafted over me (of course, dungeons are cold and damp so that wasn’t entirely unusual).  The uneasy feeling was so overwhelming that I was unable to spend more than a second in the dungeon and we had to cut our time short. We retreated to our lovely manor house on the edge of town.

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This was the creepiest room by far in the dungeon.

We rented a lovely room which was pleasantly decorated and reasonably spacious for the time. But the view was something to be desired, particularly by someone who was recently spooked by dungeon spirits; our room over looked the grave yard (cue scary music). JT was nice enough to see if there was another room facing a different direction but sadly they were fully booked so we were stuck. I said it didn’t bother me, but you know it did.

We had a lovely dinner in the converted restaurant coach house and an after dinner drink in the quaint little bar tucked in beneath the grand old staircase in the manor house. And then it was time to retire. I tried not to think of the old cemetery, but it weighed heavily on my mind.

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That was the window that the wind and ghosts were pouring in from. The grave yard was directly outside.

Eventually, I drifted off to sleep but it wasn’t a restful sleep. As I lay curled up on the comfy bed, snuggled under the generous duvet, the large windows facing the grave yard at the foot of the bed flung themselves open and the curtains wafted menacingly in the cold fall winds sending a chill throughout the room. But it wasn’t just wind blowing in; there were ghosts…lots of them. Apparently that is the moment I jumped out of bed and screamed to shut the windows. Of course, the windows were not open and nor were there cold winds nor ghosts blowing in. Occasionally, when I am stressed I talk in my sleep and the only way to console me is to agree and remedy, however ridiculous it may be. JT learned this lesson with the bed spiders (sorry Chgo John, that’s a whole other story). So JT simply got up and pretended to whisk out the ghosts,  close the windows and lock them down tight, explaining what he was doing along the way.  That seemed to be good enough for  me and I was able to continue my sleep with the consolation that the grave yard and ghosts were on the other side of the locked windows. The next morning, JT took quite the delight in telling me the story but I had no recollection!

I’m sure it was the heavy, meat laden meal I had that night which no doubt contributed to my restless night; had I chosen something lighter, such as vegetarian Paella, I may not have had such vivid dreams of ghosts and grave yards!

I have documented several paella recipes on my blog (please see here, and here)

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A traditional Paella Pan is essential to make this authentic dish

Seafood Paella with Salmon Chorizo

Original recipe from Matiz La Bomba Paella Rice on back of bag. This particular bag of rice was a beautiful gift from our biscotti neighbour, wasn’t that thoughtful? This was only the second time I made this dish the authentic way on top of the stove. Nothing was even remotely over cooked!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • approximately 650 g of seafood, I used Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Salmon and Cod
  • 1 Salmon Chorizo (for recipe, please click here)
  • 4 cups vegetable or fish broth, warmed
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used unsalted)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1/4 c green peas
  • 1/4 c sweet corn
  • 3/4 cup of La Bomba Pealla Rice
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. About 1 hour to 1 day prior tocooking the Paella, add the saffron to the white wine and refrigerate.
  2. In a Paella Pan, on medium heat, add 2 tbsp EVOO and sweat the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped red pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, diced tomatoes  and white wine saffron mix and simmer for another 5 minutes. This is the Sofrito.
  4. Add La Bomba rice and stir until the rice is thoroughly covered with the Sofrito.
  5. Slowly add the broth to the paella, moving the rice around gently until it is evenly distributed throughout the pan. The instructions indicate not to stir the rice after this point.
  6. After about 10 minutes of simmering, add your selection of seafood into the mixture, evenly distributing and gently burying it within the rice. After 15 minutes, add the peas and corn and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Once the broth has been completely absorbed, remove from heat and cover with a lid or aluminum foil and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  8. Serve in the Paella pan garnished with lemon and lime wedges (which I forgot!).
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The rice is short grain and soaks up the vegetable stock like a risotto rice would, making a deliciously creamy dish;jl

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Our neighbours were kind enough to bring us back authentic Paella rice called La Bomba.

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I even used Saffron from Morocco! The dish was perfect in every way.

I thought you might enjoy some photos from the Thanksgiving weekend in Muskoka:

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Unfortunately, the colours were just past their prime.

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Some of the golden colours were still quite beautiful.

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The scenery made for a beautiful drive.

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A few leaves still hanging on for dear life!

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Sunrise from the boat house at my brother’s place

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The setting sun still produces an incredible effect in the sky.

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I totally agree.

I totally agree. And by ‘right’ I’m sure Ms. Midler is referring to pointy stiletto’s wouldn’t you say? (Charlie, Kristy, Liz and Lorraine?)

Speaking of shoes, my dear friend Monica was recently at Fallsview Casino and spotted this store that specializes in life-sized chocolate shoes. It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven!

Chocolate Shoes...could life get any better?

Chocolate Shoes…could life get any better?

And coincidentally, we had Rae and Monica over for dinner and I always like to make something special when we have company so when I saw the recipe on Bam’s kitchen, I knew I HAD to try it. Bam made the entire recipe gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and egg free, but I didn’t have those restrictions so I improvised.

The flavours are subtle cajun and although you can add as much heat as you wish, I used fresh jalopeño chilies with the veins and seeds cut out to reduce the heat. The grilled pineapple adds a wonderful sweetness and the grilled jalopeño cornbread is a lovely base for the dish adding subtle smokiness from the grilling. I used an old favourite recipe for the cornbread, Fred’s Not Here Jalopeño Cornbread it packs a lot of flavour and the recipe can be halved easily — I didn’t do that because I wanted the extra. Also, for the night of the dinner party, I served 10cm (4 in) round cakes, but the muffin size is a much better proportion (hence my presentation in this post). Thank you Bam for the inspiration.

Cajun Grilled Shrimp with Grilled Pineapple and Mango Salsa on Grilled Jalopeño Cornbread

Serves 4

The flavours were complex but also worked very well together.

The fresh flavours worked very well together.

Fred’s Not Here Jalopeño Cornbread

Makes 12 regular muffin-sized cornbreads or four 10cm cakes plus 6 regular muffin-sized cornbreads

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 medium ground corn meal
  • 1 1/4 all purpose flour (I’m going to try using quinoa flour next time)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 green finely diced jalopeños (if you like things spicy, add cayenne to your taste).
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Spray non-stick cooking spray generously into each muffin cavity.
  2. Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. Blend eggs, milk and oil in another bowl.
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry.
  5. Fold in the shredded cheese, jalopeño and onion.
  6. Spoon to fill muffin cavity and bake for 25 minutes or until firm and golden.

Grilled Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of salsa

Ingredients:

  • 3 thick slices of pineapple
  • 1 good size Mango
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 green finely diced jalopeños
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Dry off the pineapple and grill the pineapple until you get some good grill marks (takes about 10-15 minutes per side). Set aside to cool
  2. Dice the mango into 1 cm or 1/4 inch dice. Add the finely chopped red and green jalopeños, scallion, lime zest and lime juice. When the pineapple has cooled, dice it in a similar size to the pineapple, mix into the mango.
  3. Add the chopped cilantro just prior to serving. Serve cold.

Cajun Grilled Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of cumin
  • dash of corriandre
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 16 large shrimps

Directions:

  1. Clean shrimp and remove the shell, leaving the tail intact.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together and pour over the shrimp, marinate for about 1-4 hours (marinating too long will cause the acid of the lime juice to ‘cook’ the shrimp).
  3. Heat the grill to smoking hot! Grill the shrimp until no longer opaque. Keep warm.

Assembly:

  1. Cut the crown off the cornbread muffins so that both top and bottom are flat. Brush both sides lightly with softened butter.
  2. Grill corn bread muffins on both sides so good grill marks are achieved and it heats the cornbread through. Place one cornbread round on the centre of each plate. Add the chopped cilantro to the salsa and pile it on top of the cornbread, don’t worry if some fall to the side, it actually looks better that way.
  3. Mound the shrimp on top of the salsa and garnish with a little coriander leaf.

Notes:

  • Cornbread may be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.
  • Freeze left over cornbread for another occasion.
  • The salsa is fantastic on burgers, so save some for another time.
  • The cornbread tops can be saved in the freezer for another recipe, like stuffing!
This one had too much coriander garnish

This one had too much coriander garnish and not enough salsa on the plate

Actual Photo from the dinner party; bad lightling and perhaps a glass or two of wine made it blurry. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Actual Photo from the dinner party; bad lighting and perhaps a glass or two of wine made it blurry. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

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My friend Barb made an incredible feast for Chinese New Year, she had so many delicious things it was really difficult to choose just one. But when I saw the Lemon Chicken plated out, I knew I had to try it because, believe it or not, I happen to adore the not so good for you version at Chinese fast food stalls! It turns out that lemon in savoury dishes is not one of JT’s favourite things, although he did say he didn’t hate it. Well, what he actually said was he prefers the taste of lemons in desserts! Go figure. I really enjoyed this recipe because I adore sour and sweet combos. And I have to admit, I reduced the sugar for our dinner and if I were to make it again, I would reduce it even more as I found it a little too sweet for my taste (I have adjusted the recipe below to reduce the sugar). I also baked the skinless, boneless Chicken breasts instead of pan frying to be a little healthier.

Lemony Chicken

Original Recipe from House and Home

Serves 2, 100 g portions

IMG_4153_BLOG

Cutting the chicken into strips allows them to cook faster so that the crumbs become crispy but don’t burn.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I have reduced this from my pictured recipe already)
  • 1 heaping tbsp grated ginger root
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 200 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup panko-style bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Mix of greens such as shredded romaine lettuce.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the water with the ginger.
  3. Stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest and quickly return to a boil.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in about 1 tbsp cold water and stir well into the lemon mixture. Cook on medium neat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Remove all residual fat from the chicken. Place in a zip lock bag and pound so that the breasts are even thickness. Cut each breast into similar thickness stips.
  6. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, stir well. Set aside.
  7. Whisk egg white, water, soy sauce and garlic in another bowl, set aside.
  8. Pour Panko into a third bowl and mix in the sesame seeds.
  9. Set up your breading stations so that the flour mixture is first, the egg whites second and the panko last.
  10. Dredge the chicken strips in the flour mixture and shake off excess, then dip into the egg whites and lastly coat with panko/sesame mix. Repeat with all the chicken strips until all have been breaded.
  11. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 12-15 minutes (turning about mid way) or until chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F or 74° C.
  12. Reheat the sauce. Fill a bowl with mixed greens, place chicken strips over the greens and dress with the hot lemony sauce.
  13. Enjoy!

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I know I’ve posted a chick pea and cauliflower curry recipe before, but this one has a bit of a twist, it’s Thai and I just couldn’t resist! The fresh flavours that Thai spice combinations brings to this dish is simply mouth watering, and it’s even better the next day (fortunately, I made enough for my lunch at work). You can blanket this beautiful curry over Jasmine rice, perhaps with a little coconut in it, but we just put it over a combo of Arugula and Spinach to manage the waist-line! I found the original recipe here but I made my own changes just because I felt it needed it when I tasted it mid-way.

Thai Chick Pea Cauliflower Curry_BLOG

I don’t know about you, but I am really getting tired of these night-time photos!

Chick Pea and Cauliflower Thai Curry

Serves 4,

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (I used Vidalia)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2+1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3-4 tbsp coconut milk powder in about 1/4 cup boiling water, dissolved
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 4 kafir lime leaves
  • 12-14 oz can chickpeas
  • 1 generous head of cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup lime cordial
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, lightly chopped for garnish
  • 1 finely sliced scallion for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat up a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp. oil plus the onion and garlic. Stir-fry 1 minute.
  2. Add all of the dry spices, plus fish sauce fry together briefly.
  3. Add the cauliflower, stock and dissolved coconut milk powder. Add the kafir lime leaves and cook the cauliflower until it is fork tender but not too soft. Add the chick peas and heat through.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in the lime cordial and give it a good stir.
  5. Do a taste-test. Adjust the salt level by adding a little more soy or fish sauce if not salty enough. If too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice.
  6. Garnish with chopped coriander and finely sliced scallion and serve hot with either rice or greens.
  7. ENJOY!

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I just noticed that WordPress is adding advertising into my content in links which are not mine. How to tell the difference is that my links have a dotted underline and the ad links are solid and dotted together. Not cool at all.

Last week I was blown-away flattered by my Hungarian friend Zsuzsa (Zsuzsa is in the kitchen) when she invited me to participate in a blogging event to post your Easter Menu! You can read about Zsuzsa’s Easter here; she grew up very close to where my Mom grew up in Budapest. It’s really just a round up of past post recipes and a little bit about your Easter memories. How could I say no?  Thank you Zsuzsa, I would be honoured. Zsuzsa is taking part with the following Hungarian ladies: The author of this event, Éva from Takarekos Konyha (this blog is in Hungarian) and Elizabeth from Food and Thrift.

Growing up, Easter was always about bunnies for me. Yes, we went to church and all that but let’s be honest, it was about the bunnies! At eight years old, my very first pet bunny was an albino Dutch whom we called Boom Boom (he was called Boom Boom because he stomped his hind feet loudly). Sadly good old Boom Boom only lasted 3 years, but he made such an impression on me that I’ve only ever had bunnies as pets! I cried so much when he died that my Dad swore he would never let me have another pet because losing them made me too sad and he just couldn’t bear it. I was sixteen before I was permitted to have Boon, another albino Dutch but smaller than Boom Boom (no, we weren’t very imaginative with the names!). But I digress, back to Easter.

Mom and Dad in Edmonton with the Chrysler Tour in 1960

Mom and Dad in Edmonton with the Chrysler Tour in 1960

You already know that my Dad was a Puppeteer (and if you don’t, you can read about it here) and we had a family business with the puppet shows. Easter was a big time for us, these holidays meant that the malls, schools (note that this link is NOT mine) and some companies needed entertainment for their events and what’s not to like about a puppet show? So many of our Easters were on the road with the show. In fact, Boom Boom was first adopted because my Dad needed a live bunny for the show (he was the star, don’t worry, it was all very humane).

Believe it or not, the Show was about Bunnies.

Believe it or not, the Show was about Bunnies.

TheEasterShow_BLOG

And there were singing Eggs too

But Easter also had a serious side: FOOD! Chocolates, coloured eggs and of course, ham. I don’t have many of the recipes that we had at Easter but I’ve gathered a bunch I am going to have this weekend when we have JTs family for Easter Sunday lunch. I hope you enjoy them.

My Mom only used Canada Grade A Large size eggs

My Mom only used Canada Grade A Large size eggs

Hors D’œuvres were usually Deviled Eggs (here and here) and French Salad (Francia Saláta). I don’t have a post about Francia Saláta, but you can see Zsuzsa’s recipe here (my Mom never put potatoes in her version). I may do a new hors d’œuvres recipe I saw on my friend Lorraine’s blog of her recent trip to Amman, Jordan. It involves cheese and phyllo pastry, that’s all I can give you!

A wonderful addition to any Easter table

A wonderful addition to any Easter table

We usually had an Easter kalács (Zsuzsa made a gorgeous one here) but I’m making John’s Easter Cheese Bread instead.

The most succulent tenderloin ever

The most succulent tenderloin ever

We’ve decided to go nontraditional and have a beef tenderloin for lunch. This recipe is my favourite way to serve this special cut of meat.

The only place you'll miss the potatoes is on your waist-line!

The only place you’ll miss the potatoes is on your waist-line!

I’m going to serve it with my traditional Celeriac Cauliflower Mash. And a wonderful lemony Asparagus from my friend Greg’s Rufus’ Guide.

It's a symphony of colours

It’s a symphony of colours

And a little tangy German Purple Cabbage Slaw.

Now if you had any room for dessert, I’m going to make Charle’s Sweedish Apple Cake (from Five Euro Food), which totally looks like the perfect ending to a rich and heavy meal. It’s really just all apples and then there’s more apples. The only flour in this is the use of the breadcrumbs as the base, thickener and likely adds a little texture. I love that I can make it sugar free too, since I have a diabetic and a hypo-glycemic in the house — I like to make only one dessert that everyone can enjoy and not make the person feel odd that they have something else.

I may not be able to comment on your blogs for the next few days but I’ll definitely read up when I get back into civilization with internet. Thank you for reading my blog and leaving comments, you really, really make my day. Thank you to every one of the blogs I read, you provide me with the inspiration for my blog and it really wouldn’t be the same without you!

Happy Easter to All!

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I have a confession to make: I’m in love and it’s not JT. It’s really not as bad as it sounds, my love affair is with a certain Indian. OK. I’ll ‘fess up, it’s Naan. There. I’m in love with Naan. The bread, silly! I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve made this recipe but suffice it to say it’s double digits! About the same time that Maria over at a-boleyn live journal made our delicious naan recipe into a gorgeous pizza, I had the same idea (yes, I blog well in advance!). So on the day the world should have ended (again) I made a naan pizza for dinner. What a way to go!

It’s basically whatever you have in the fridge, our ingredients were goats cheese infused with garlic and EVOO, torn prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes in EVOO and chopped spinach topped with shaved parmesan cheese. What more can you want?

Why Naan? I usually like my pizza crust super thin and crispy, what the naan brought to the table (pardon the pun) is a bit more bite and a lot of chewiness. Delicious chewy goodness. Need. I. Say. More. ?.

A slightly chewy crust made delicious by garlic infused goats cheese

A slightly chewy crust made delicious by garlic infused goats cheese

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I must apologize, we were away for a couple of days after Christmas so I haven’t been as attentive with responding to comments and commenting; thanks for understanding.

This salad has become a staple in our home and would have been a great alternative to the Paella for our progressive dinner. I had trouble finding the authentic Lentilles du Puy until I spotted them in our Superstore for a fraction of the cost, but they are from Alberta! I read that the soil conditions are similar to that of Du Puys in France, 500g for about $2.75. I have yet to taste them to compare to the French lentils, but as soon as I do, I will update this post.

You have Charles at Five Euro Food to thank for this post. On my last entry for Lentilles du Puy, he mentioned he goes for lunch to a small bistro and they serve this salad with a poached egg on top. Here is his comment verbatim, it was so inspiring: “Hi Eva, this is one of my absolute favourite lentil dishes – the place I eat it serves it with small cubes of raw carrot which provide a lovely texture and… the pièce de résistance on top… a soft poached egg. Seriously, you HAVE to try that. Cracking open the egg so the yolk runs out over the lentils… it’s so lovely!” Of course, you just knew I HAD to have it. And at a risk of making JT SICK TO DEATH of this salad, I made it again (Luv you JT). Unfortunately, the photos are at night so they are crap, but you can certainly see the most deliciousness of the cracked yolk flowing over the lentils…it was very delicious and highly recommended.

PS. This time, I even added the small cubes of carrot to be sure I had the same experience. Thanks again Charles.

Poached Egg on Lentilles du Puy Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

What an AMAZING idea Charles, thanks so much!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentilles du Puy (French green lentils) picked over and rinsed
  • 3 cups water (the original recipe has 6 cups but you have to drain the remaining water)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 pancetta slices, chopped (about 3-4 table spoons)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 fresh flat-leafed parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 carrot, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4-6 poached eggs

For vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp cup EVOO
  • 1 bunch arugula, coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan render the pancetta to a crispy consistency. Remove pancetta and add the onions and sweat until transparent. Add the garlic, type and parsley sprigs (reserve the leaves). Cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for another minute, add the water all at once and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in bells peppers and simmer mixture, covered, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes. Lentils may be made 2 days ahead and kept covered and chilled. Reheat lentils before proceeding with recipe.

Directions for vinaigrette:

  1. Transfer 2 tablespoons lentil-cooking liquid to a medium bowl and whisk in vinegars, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk dressing until emulsified.
  2. Drain lentils (if required, I didn’t have to) well in a sieve and discard parsley sprigs. Toss lentils with chopped parsley and vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, arrange arugula decoratively around salad, or serve without as is pictured below.

The wonderful yolk breaks into the most luxurious sauce over the tangy lentilles, it is quite a lovely flavour and texture experience

LentilsDuPuys-1

I retook this picture because I really didn’t like the light in the earlier ones. I also folded in baby Arugula into this version and laid it on a Kale salad.

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We have an Indian restaurant just north of where we live in BWV called North of Bombay. It’s a lovely place, nicely decorated in a contemporary style, close enough to walk (about 20 minutes) and the food is very good and it’s never crowded and the service has been very good. But for some reason, we ALWAYS order takeout or delivery. Indian is like that for us. And they have a crappy wine list. But they have the most delicious Beef Bhuna that we’ve ever had so that is the recipe I was trying to replicate for our Indian themed dinner party. Their menu describes it as Eye of round cubes cooked with fresh onions,green pepper, ginger, coriander, tomatoes, herbs & spices. So when I was searching the net, those were the key ingredients I was looking for. The recipe below is loosely based on this recipe but I changed it to replicate the flavours of North of Bombay’s Beef Bhuna. I also changed up the technique because I wanted to cook it slow and low as per Bœuff Bourguignon.

Beef Bhuna

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Serves 4-6 as part of a bigger menu

Ingredients:

  • 400 g eye of round beef, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Green Pepper, cut into similar size squares as the beef
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp of Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you find this too hot)
  • a pinch of ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1+ cup water
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300° F.
  2. In an oven-proof pan (like Le Creuset’s dutch oven) sear the beef in about 1-2 tbsp high flash point oil (like peanut or canola). Remove from pan. De-glaze with a 1/2 cup of beef stock, pour over the meat.
  3. Add finely chopped onions and cook well (I saw Madhur Jaffrey on Martha Stewart once and she said that Indian cooking doesn’t sweat the onions, but they cook the onions dark, but not burned).
  4. Add the curry, chilli, cayenne, cardamon and coriander and cook JUST until you can smell it. Add the garlic, fresh ginger and garam masala give a quick stir. Now add the water and combine well. Return the beef to the pan and give it a good stir. Cover and bake in the 300° F oven for 2-3 hours or until beef is fork tender. Check frequently and add water as required; you don’t want it soupy, just a nice light gravy. About 30 minutes to serving, add the green pepper — you don’t want the green pepper soft and mushy.
  5. Serve hot garnished with cilantro leaves and green onions with Basmati rice and Naan.


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This is the fallen tree. We have several in our neighbourhood,
all about the same age. I’m hoping they have stronger roots!

I’m on a bit of a lentil kick these days, and that’s rather funny as I have never really like them. My favourite is the Lentilles du Puy that I recently blogged about, but the recipe that inspired my recipe kept creeping into my head so I had to make it. It’s a warm or cold salad; for lunch the following day I had it cold over a bed of arugula and spinach (my favourite) and it was very tasty and filling (or the three F’s Full bodied, Flavourful and Filling). This shall definitely go into my repertoire for weeknight dinners and lunches. It was also very easy to make which is a bonus for everyone.

I found the lentils at Pusatari’s in Yorkville, but they were a bit more expensive than the package I bought in Lyon. I got many great tips on where to find them in Toronto from my readers and I thank you kindly. This recipe is from Epicurious and although I did not change much of it, I did change up the method considerably. Also, this would make a great vegetarian dish if you omit the pancetta, I just couldn’t help myself ;-)!

Lentilles du Puy Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

LentilsDuPuys-1

I took this photo over again in the summer of 2014 because I really hated the lighting in the original photos. While the lentils were still warm, I folded in a good handful of baby arugula leaves and served it on a massaged Kale salad.

A feast for the eyes as well.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentilles du Puy (French green lentils) picked over and rinsed
  • 3 cups water (the original recipe has 6 cups but you have to drain the remaining water)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 pancetta slices, chopped (about 3-4 table spoons)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 fresh flat-leafed parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced  (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

For vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp cup EVOO
  • 1 bunch arugula, coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan render the pancetta to a crispy consistency. Remove pancetta and add the onions and sweat until transparent. Add the garlic, type and parsley sprigs (reserve the leaves). Cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for another minute, add the water all at once and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in bells peppers and simmer mixture, covered, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes. Lentils may be made 2 days ahead and kept covered and chilled. Reheat lentils before proceeding with recipe.

Directions for vinaigrette:

  1. Transfer 2 tablespoons lentil-cooking liquid to a medium bowl and whisk in vinegars, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk dressing until emulsified.
  2. Drain lentils (if required, I didn’t have to) well in a sieve and discard parsley sprigs. Toss lentils with chopped parsley and vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, arrange arugula decoratively around salad, or serve without as is pictured below.

I’m just about to have some, won’t you join me?

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In October we were invited to another theme dinner party: Truman Capote’s Black and White Masquerade Ball, the party of the century! We were asked to dress in black and white and wear with a mask, which worked out perfectly since Halloween was just around the corner!

Our lovely hostess made this beautiful little booklet for the evening. The menu was pulled from Capote’s favourites, Basil Chicken Hash and served similar to the style of the time. We all had a blast! Mind you, I think we lasted about 10 minutes wearing the masks! Sadly, I didn’t get any pics of JT and I. Nor did I shoot the hash…but rest assured, it was AMAZING. The basil infused the chicken and although there is nothing Thai about it, it had a slight Thai flavouring to me. This will definitely go into our steady repertoire, such a flavourful and easy dish.

My friend chose Ina Garten’s recipe which turns out to be healthier than the real deal, believe it or not; Ina uses an extra pot to sauté the peppers, but I wanted to make it much simpler and modified the recipe accordingly.

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Our lovely hosts also gave us a bit of a teaser for the next themed dinner party in the Springtime…it will be Bond 007! What fun! Now, tell me which Bond girl should I be?

Basil Chicken Hash

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network

Serves 4, 100 g chicken per serving

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin removed (400 g)
  • 5 stalks of fresh basil leaves
  • dash of EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small boiling potato, peeled and large diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped in large quarters
  • 1 red bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh leaf parsley
  • dash of vegetable or chicken stock
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray and lay two stalks of the basil leaves down (I was lucky, I used what was left from the garden).
  3. Place the chicken breasts on top of the basil, bone side down. Lightly rub each chicken piece with EVOO and sprinkle with salt. Put two more basil stalks on top of the chicken and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and cut the chicken in large dice pieces and set aside.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan and add the potatoes and onions, salt and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until evenly browned and cooked through. I added a dash of stock at this point. Add the peppers, garlic, thyme, paprika and tomato paste and mix well. Add the chicken and another dash of stock and place into the oven to finish for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Garnish with the remaining torn basil leaves, minced scallions and chopped fresh parsley, toss together and place on a serving platter. Serve over greens (I only had one smallish potato but if you use the recipe as is, you will not need a side with it).

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This is the dish that we prepared with Chef Villard in Lyon during our short visit in September. We made the dish again for friends and fellow blogger Barb and Kevin (Profiteroles and Ponytails) I had to make modifications (shown in brackets) as I wasn’t able to source ingredients or these are our personal preferences. And I didn’t get a chance to snap a pic of our finished dish because the light was poor and I didn’t want to be ‘the blogger‘ (I get enough of the rolling eyes from JT). But I know I shall make this again and update this post with the new photo. Thanks for understanding.

Our main course: Monkfish wrapped in bacon with a green olive veal stock sauce, fingerling potatoes sautéed in EVOO and snap peas with arugula (rocket) pesto. It was DELICIOUS!

Halibut wrapped in Proscuitto with Kalamata Olives in a Brown Jus Reduction

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 600 g Monkfish (we used Halibut because that is all my fish monger had the day I needed it. Go figure, they had a run on monkfish!)
  • 6 slices of prosciutto (Chef used smoked bacon, but we prefer the less fatty prosciutto)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 250 mL beef or veal stock (we used beef as I couldn’t get veal stock)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 60 g Kalamata olives, rough dice (Chef used green olives, but we preferred the flavour of the black Kalamato)
  • 15 g butter (Chef used 60 g which is about 4 tbsp)
  • sea salt
  • white pepper (we omitted the pepper)

Directions:

  1. Have your fish monger filet and skin your fish, wrap with prosciutto and secure with butcher string. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Sweat the shallot in 2 tbsp olive oil, then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar. Add the stock and allow to reduce about one third. Add the butter, and olives and stir well. Set aside.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 175° C or 350°F
  4. Brown the fish in an oven safe pan in olive oil and minced garlic for about 5 minutes (or until the prosciutto is crispy).
  5. Add the warm beef and olive jus to the fish and bake for 5-7 minutes in the pre heated oven.
  6. Serve the fish sliced into about 100-120 g per person with the brown jus and cooked olives with snap peas and arugula pesto and roast potatoes.

Notes:
Chef Villard suggested that if your fish has a thin tail, you should fold it back on itself so that the thickness is even and it cooks at the same rate.

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I’ve been following a blog called Cooking with Corinna who has been doing the Ducan diet (you know, the French diet). Corinna has been very successful in losing weight following this diet and has decided to try and healthy up some of her favourites so that she doesn’t fall back into old bad habits and jeopardize her success. The first recipe she ‘healthed up’ was pulled pork. JT loves pulled pork but it’s not something I ever make at home, mainly because it is so unhealthy, or so I thought. Corinna’s method was relatively simple and frankly quite obvious but, for some reason I never thought of it myself. She simply chose a leaner and healthier cut of pork — pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder. Genius! I was inspired to make this pulled pork for dinner the other night and boy was it a success! Corinna used a slow cooker, but I chose to get my roasting pan on the grill outside (it was so hot and humid that day, I couldn’t bear even the slow cooker!). The trick is low and slow; I cooked our 300g tenderloin for almost four hours on 121°C (250°F). I turned it a few times and made sure it was always covered in BBQ sauce. You can use a store bought BBQ sauce, or you can throw one together in minutes like I did. Soooo easy. You will be surprised that you won’t be able to tell the difference from the unhealthy version! And if you want to keep it even healthier, choose a BBQ sauce based with fruit instead of sugar.

Thanks Corinna, this one will be a keeper, that’s for sure!

A Healthier Pulled Pork

Serves 3, 100 g portions

BBQ Sauce Ingredients:

Original recipe can be found here.

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup vinegar, preferably red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp prepared mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp espresso coffee powder

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the flavours have blended well. Remove from heat and set aside.

Pulled Pork Ingredients:

Original recipe can be found here.

  • 300 g pork tenderloin with silver skin and excess fat removed. This is a great video on preparing pork tenderloin. I removed ALL of the fat to keep it healthier.
  • 1-2 tbsp canola oil (or an oil with a high flash point)
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce, home made or store bought.
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Preheat BBQ to 121°C (250°F).
  2. Heat the roasting pan on the stove with the canola oil until almost smoking. Sear all sides of the tenderloin. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Add the BBQ sauce and make sure that the tenderloin is brushed evenly with it. Place the covered roasting pan on the BBQ and turn off the heat directly below it. You’ll have to watch your BBQ so that the temperature maintained for the 4 hours is around 121°C (250°F).
  3. Turn the tenderloin 3-4 times making sure it is always covered well with the BBQ sauce. I kept about 1 cup of water near the BBQ and added water as the sauce became thicker and evaporated. Eventually around 3.5 hours, the meat will literally fall apart and you will be able to mix it well with the BBQ sauce and cook it for the last half hour.
  4. Serve warm or cold, on a salad, on a bun, or even in a fajita shell. Garnish with chopped cilantro and finely chopped green onions.

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What goes around comes around right? My friend Charles at Five Euro Food posted this recipe last week and coincidentally I was just thinking about making a chick pea salad for dinner, so I thought, why not his recipe? His recipe incorporated all the flavours I love in Hummus but he made it into a delightful summer salad; and with the heat wave we’ve been having, it’s a perfect summertime dish (well, maybe not declared perfect by guest, but certainly perfect in my mind!). Of course, I didn’t have time to get to the green grocer, so I used vegetables I had on hand, which is exactly what Charles had prescribed.

I actually made it with two rather healthy sized cloves of garlic, and woe, it was strong; in fact, so strong, I had to rinse a portion off for JT so he doesn’t offend his customers! I ate mine full octane, because, well, it’s been rather slow these last couple of weeks so I just thought, what the heck! I’ll be eating the entire parsley plant later!

I took a bit of artistic license by adding roasted red and yellow peppers and tomatoes

Deconstructed Hummus Salad

A recipe from Five Euro Food, slightly altered.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 540 mL (19 oz) chick peas
  • 1-2 mini cucumbers, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 each roasted red and yellow peppers, cut into small cubes
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalopeño, finely chopped
  • 2 oven roasted tomatoes, diced (please see this post for oven roasting tomatoes; because of the heat, I did it on the BBQ)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) EVOO
  • 59 mL (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.
  2. Combine the vegetables and chick peas and mix well. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. If you wish the vegetables to mix with the dressing in advance, I would suggest leaving out the cucumber until serving as it tends to get a bit on the mushy side.
  3. Serve over greens or spinach, as below.

It was a light, refreshing and garlicy dinner. Lunch will be wonderful tomorrow.

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I was over at Sissi’s blog last week and was intrigued by her Korean Pancake with Shrimp and Scallop. It really wasn’t the recipe that intrigued me, but her description of this unusual dish: “I was literally spellbound by this extraordinary snack” and as many of you commented I was curious to see why such a simple dish could possibly spellbind a sophisticated cook, like Sissi. So I had to make it.

When I mentioned to JT that we were having this pancake for dinner, he was skeptical, but he is open minded and will try anything once. After he finished 2/3’s of the dish, he turns to me and says “I would like you to make this again”. Now THAT is success in my books.

My first attempt was Sissi’s recipe verbatim (with the exception of the sauce, to which I added a bit of fresh ginger), but sadly the pancake broke in half and was an unco-operative subject for a photo, so of course, I had to make it again, with a twist! The texture of this pancake is really nothing like a North American pancake at all, so if you are expecting light and fluffy batter, you will be disappointed. It is dense (as if you overworked a North American pancake and the gluten’s were invigorated!), slightly chewy with a nice firm texture. There is a touch of sweetness from the corn flour. The sauce is really incredible and I would recommend it for anything, not just this dish (such as scallops on a bed of greens!).

Gluten Free South Western Korean-inspired Pancake

I didn’t notice any taste difference using the chick pea flour. Even the texture was relatively similar.

Recipe adapted from Sissi’s blog With a Glass (click here for original recipe)

Serves 2

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 stalk of green onion finely cut
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. It’s best to make the sauce first so it has a little time to blend and allow the flavours to meld together. You can even do it a day ahead, adding the green onions and sesame seeds just when you are ready to serve so they remain crisp.
  2. Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Pancake Ingredients:

  • 3 spring onion stalks, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 medium hot green chili, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium hot red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 50 g chorizo sausage, finely chopped
  • 30 g fresh or frozen corn
  • 40 g red pepper (capiscum)
  • 40 g crimini mushrooms

Batter Ingredients:

  • 56 g chickpea flour
  • 20 g corn flour (take fine cornmeal and run it through a food processor until it resembles the texture of regular flour)
  • 200 mL ice cold water
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 egg whites, beaten

A very tasty lunch, indeed

Directions:

  1. Combine all the batter ingredients and mix well with a whisk.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and lightly spray with non-stick spray or olive oil.
  3. Pour about 1/3 of the pancake batter onto the pan, allowing it to fill the entire diametre of the pan.
  4. Add the pancake ingredients, distributing everything evenly so you can get a small taste of everything in every bite.
  5. Pour the remainder of the batter over the the pancake and allow it to cook through. You will see the batter become quite a bit denser looking as it cooks. Carefully flip the pancake so that both sides are golden.
  6. Serve with the previously prepared dipping sauce.

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Three neighbours on our street are participating in a progressive dinner party. It’s where we each have a course at our home for the dinner. The idea came to me after seeing Episode 23 of Season 7 (clip), full episode for US readers only of Desperate Housewives, the Come on Over for Dinner episode. I can only hope that no one will burn their food, that there will not be a murder and that none of the husbands plan to leave any of the wives at our event. JT and I are doing the main course and after careful consideration, we decided that a cold dinner on such a hot night 88°F or 31C, would be perfect. And it’s pretty easy too, not leaving any chance for timing issues because everything is prepared in advance and kept in the fridge. Clever, eh? That also saves me from burning the dinner, oh, my, my.

Let me start off that I am no expert smoker like Greg at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide but I dare say that I do make a great hot and cold smoked salmon! The texture is more like baked salmon, but it parlays that gorgeous smoky flavour that cold smoking brings to the table. I would also like to add that we do not have the professional smoker that Greg has, but we do have an 8″ Smoke Daddy cold smoker. Now these folks at Smoke Daddy have taken the guess work out of the equation for us amateur smokers and made it very easy to adapt our Weber to be able to add the sophisticated flavour of smoke to any BBQ’d dish.

We prefer to get the Wild Pacific Salmon which has the deep pink colour because it’s beautiful and very flavourful (incidentally, the pinker the salmon the more shrimp it ate in the wild) but this recipe will work with any salmon.

Hot and Cold Smoked Wild Pacific Salmon

I prefer my fish soaking in a brine.

Recipe is from a multitude of sources perfected over the years

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 kg wild Pacific Salmon, skin on or off (it’s easier to move about if you leave the skin on, it practically falls off on its own when it’s done)

Directions:

  1. Mix the brown sugar, salt and water until dissolved. Lay salmon in a long container with a good lid (one that fits into the fridge).
  2. Pour brine over the salmon and refrigerate with the lid on over night or up to two days.
  3. About 1 hour before you are ready to smoke, remove the salmon from the brine and dry off completely. Place the fish on a wire rack above the now empty container it was in and refrigerate without any cover for 1-2 hours. It needs to dry out (much like me, after a long weekend with Paul and T!)
  4. Prepare your cold smoker according to directions (we used mesquite wood). Place salmon skin side down in the smoker and cold smoke for 45 minutes (I placed my fish close to the front because eventually I will turn the back burner on).
  5. After about 45 minutes, turn the back burner on to a very low heat of 121°C or 250°F continuing to cold smoke (with the 8″ Smoke Daddy, I had to refuel once during the entire cooking process). Bake and smoke the fish for an additional 30-90 minutes, depending on how thick it is. You can tell it’s done by pressing down on the thick flesh, it should bounce right back.
  6. Serve cold, warm or hot with a lemon aioli.

Smokey, sweet and just ever so slightly salty. This will go very well with the lemon aioli (sorry Katherine).

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I finally got around to updating my blogrolls on the right. It’s funny how I just forget how to do things just because I haven’t done them in a while.

There is a heat wave going in the Mid-west and Eastern Seaboard right now, today during the early evening, Toronto was  94°F* or 32°C with relatively high humidity. It’s actually quite unbearable, but I won’t complain because it will be winter very soon and that’s a lot worse in my books!

It’s actually too hot to eat outdoors so we use our festive chargers and lovely colourful napkins and pretended to be outside. We’re just back from our Illinois/Wisconsin trip to visit our good friends Paul and T and we need to buckle down and start eating right again so all our hard work in April doesn’t go to waste (or waist!). Tonight we’re having Tilapia and I wanted something a little different so I sat down and thought about it. Several years ago, I purchased a small bottle of porcini dust for a small fortune. The porcini dust is long gone, but the idea stuck in my head — why couldn’t I make my own porcini dust? So I did just that but I also added a couple of dried morels for good measure. An entire crust of fungi would be a bit too earthy for such a delicate fish, so I augmented it with ground walnuts, which turned out to be a perfect combo. And the walnuts helped crust it up nicely. We pan fried it on the BBQ to avoid turning on the oven. I hope you enjoy this Kitcheninspirations original.

It was so hot outside tonight that the fish almost cooked without the BBQ!

Walnut, Morel and Porcini Crusted Tilapia

a Kitcheninspirations original recipe

Serves 4 (2 dinners and 2 lunches in our case)

Ingredients:

  • 8 g dehydrated porcini mushrooms
  • 4 g dehydrated morels
  • 2 g granulated garlic
  • 8 g dehydrated onion
  • 2 g maldon sea salt
  • 20 g walnuts
  • 400 g tilapia (or another firm white fish)
  • Greens, tomatoes and cucumbers

Directions:

  1. In a dedicated savoury coffee grinder, add the fungi, garlic, onions, and sea salt. Grind until it is finely ground. Add the walnuts and grind them into the mix, a slightly coarser texture (mine was a little too fine). The walnuts are a bit oily, so you’ll need the dryer ingredients to balance off the oiliness.
  2. Dry off the tilapia and spoon the mixture onto each side, pressing it into the fish.
  3. Heat a cast iron pan on the BBQ until sizzling, spray with non-stick spray. Add each piece of fish (I would do the same thicknesses at one time) and cook until it is opaque. It took the thicker parts about 5 minutes each side and the thinner parts about 3 minutes each side.
  4. Serve over an easy salad of greens, tomatoes and cucumbers.
  5. Dress with a warm white balsamic mushroom dressing (posted here).
  6. Enjoy.

The walnut complimented the earthiness of the fungi very well.

*For my faux pas, having Metric before Imperial measures on Independence Day. Am I forgiven? 😉

And I’ll leave you with this single thought.

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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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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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This weeknight meal started out to be a navy bean curry, but I went a little overboard on the spices and it ended up with the flavouring of our holiday in Morocco. If you please you could add some raisins, currents or even dates. Perhaps a nut or two for some crunch. All in all a very flavourful recipe that I hope you will enjoy.

Moroccan Inspired Navy Beans with Mushrooms

Serves 1 (just multiply by the number you need). I eyeballed this recipe, so if you decide to make it, make sure you alter it to your own taste! The only important bits are to soak the beans and cook them all the way through, the rest is really up to you!

The beans were cooked in the ‘curry’ until creamy

Ingredients:

  • 75 g dried Navy Beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic finely minced (I like my microplane for this)
  • 1/4 cup dried mushrooms, reconstituted in warm water, liquid reserved
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cremini and white mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp Meat Masala
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger (I used the powdered Moroccan ginger)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Water, as much as the beans will absorb
  • 1/2 cup celery chopped
  • 1/4 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp green onions
  • Hot pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Non-stick spray

I like to add pepper flakes for a bit of heat

Directions:

  1. Lightly spray a pressure cooker with non-stick spray and heat. Add onions. Cook the onions until they are brown, you’ll have to watch this as the spray doesn’t really give you enough fat so you’ll need to add very little bits of the stock. We don’t want to steam the onions, we want to BROWN them.
  2. Add 1-2 minced cloves of garlic and ALL of the dry spices and cook until you can smell the wonderful aroma (you are cooking the bitterness out of them). Add the drained beans and cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add the white vinegar and mix well. Add the remaining stock and about 2 cups of water. Close the lid and put the timer on for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, check to see if the beans have absorbed all of the water (how fast they absorb will depend on how dry they were…and how long you soaked them. Cooking the beans can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour). Keep adding water, or the reserved mushroom liquid until the beans are soft.
  4. In the meantime, heat a skillet and spray lightly with the non stick spray. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked (even the rehydrated ones). About half way through the cooking, add the remaining minced garlic. Set aside.
  5. When the beans are fully cooked, add the mushrooms, chopped celery and tomatoes and heat through.
  6. Serve garnished with the cilantro, green onions and hot pepper flakes.
  7. Enjoy.

This photo shows just a small portion, 75 g of dry beans is actually quite a lot of food

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