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Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

Spring came early to Toronto, with warm, sunny days as early as the first week of April! Buds burst on trees and shrubs and we waited with bated breath for the blooms in hopes that we wouldn’t get a spring frost. A good spring always has rain and we’re OK with that as long as we get some sunny days interspersed to keep our mood elevated and this spring was perfect. The rainy days were a touch cooler (still above freezing) but cool enough to crave soup. JT has been a real trouper this winter, eating without complaint, my favourite brothy soups but his true love are creamed soups so I thought I’d create this creamy, tasty soup on a rainy mid-April day. I served this with Cheesy Onion Scones!

Cream of Celery Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 400 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 g sweet onion
  • 300 g celery hearts, tender leaves included, roughly chopped
  • 50 g cauliflower florets (as a thickener)
  • 400 mL vegetable stock
  • 7.5 mL lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 30 mL table cream

Directions:

  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a soup pan and sweat out the onions until translucent, add the celery and cook on medium/low for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower florets and vegetable stock and simmer until all of the vegetables are soft.
  3. Purée until smooth and taste for acidity and salt, add as required. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. Just prior to serving, add 30 millilitres of table cream, stir well.

Celery in North America doesn’t have a strong anise flavour, it’s very mild.

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We’ve been eating a lot of soup lately, Vietnamese Pho, Italian Wedding Soup, Thai Lemon Grass Soup and Japanese Ramen. The Ramen has been a favourite because of the soft boiled egg and the delicious noodles. I haven’t been able to find authentic fresh ramen noodles so I’ve been using those horrible little Ramen soup packets (don’t worry, I toss everything but the noodles) that we can usually get for 4 for $1.00 (you know those awful little packets we used to eat when we were poor students?). But I had an urge to make my own ramen noodles. I reviewed several recipes and discovered that they are not that difficult but they are time-consuming (isn’t anything good time-consuming?) I wasn’t able to source the sodium carbonate without having to buy about 250 g (that would last me years!) so I followed the directions to make my own and it worked out perfectly. 

The noodles take a bit of effort to make but they are well worth it. They are significantly better than the packaged noodles and they are a little heartier. I made two servings of the noodles which turned out to be 4 servings so I dried half of them for next time.

This is about half of the amount that the recipe made.

I used this ramen recipe with sliced grilled chicken breast and this ramen egg recipe

Homemade Ramen Noodles

Makes 2-4 servings

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 3 g sodium carbonate (baked baking soda) 
  • 80 g water
  • 2 g kosher salt
  • 2 g vital wheat gluten
  • 198 g “00” bread flour

Directions:

  1. Combine the baked baking soda and water and stir until the baked baking soda has entirely dissolved. Add the salt and stir to dissolve.
  2. Combine the vital wheat gluten in the large container of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment and process once or twice to combine the wheat gluten and flour.
  3. On a medium/low speed, pour one-third of the water into the bowl and process. Allow to rest for 30 seconds, add the second third and allow to rest for 30 seconds and finally finish with the last third of water combo and process for about a minu or until it is quite crumbly, allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. When rested, pour the dough onto a piece of parchment and press the dough together into a ball. Divide the ball into two and form two disks (the dough is very dry at this point). Roll each disk out so that it is about 0.5 cm so it will fit through the largest setting of your pasta maker. Wrap the disk you are not working on with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out further.
  5. Put the dough through the thickest setting, then the second thickest, then the third and fourth thickest. Fold the dough in half and start again on the thickest setting to the fourth thickest setting. Repeat the process two more times. Fold the dough and wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Repeat with the second disk.
  6. Once they have rested, (I cut the sheets in half so that they are not too long) lightly coat each side of the sheets with flour and run the sheets through the spaghetti attachment and fold them into loose nests. Put them into a ziplock bag overnight in the refrigerator (this helps improve the taste and texture).
  7. Cook for about 2 minutes or until al dente in boiling UNSALTED boiling water (the exact time will depend on how thick your noodles are). Drain and rinse. Use immediately.

A delicious bowl of noodley soup.

Notes:

Why these specific ingredients are important:

  • Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour which give the noodles a chewy texture.
  • Adding vital wheat gluten gives the noodles an even chewier texture.
  • Sodium carbonate (baked baking soda) gives the noodles elasticity, springiness and glossiness as well as flavour.
  • The Ramen soup recipe I follow is this one.
Baked Baking Soda
  • I baked about 115 g of baked baking soda so I don’t have enough for ten years! By using the 2/3 weight as per the instructions, it will take 2-5 hours. Once you have dehydrated the baking soda, it becomes extremely caustic, so don’t let it come into contact with your skin. Store in an airtight container.

 

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This winter we ate a lot. I mean, we ate a lot of soup. Who am I kidding, we did eat a lot, but we also ate a lot of soup. I became quite proficient at some of our ethnic favourites, this Thai Lemongrass Shrimp soup being one of them. I reverted back to an old favourite recipe from an Australian cookbook a friend gave me years ago, Bay Books Cookery Collection, Thai Cooking Class, written by Somi Anuntra Miller and Patricia Lake. It is a well-illustrated cookbook with some great background, techniques and lists of ingredients for successful Thai cooking. In fact, it is my GoTo Thai cookbook. I have tweaked the recipe to resemble that of a favourite Thai restaurant.

Shrimp Lemongrass Soup (Tom Yam Goong)

Makes about 500 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL chicken stock
  • 8 pieces fresh galangal
  • 8-12 Fresh Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 pieces of 2 cm lemongrass, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 60 mL lime juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 2.5 mL chilli paste
  • 5-10 g of cane sugar
  • 8 fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (skins reserved)
  • 10 fresh cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 80 g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 Campari tomatoes, cut into 6ths
  • Chiffonade of Cilantro leaves, Thai basil and thinly sliced green onions to garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken stock, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass along with the shrimp skin to a slow boil and then simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Strain out the stock so that it is clear and without any bits.
  2. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, chilli paste and cane sugar and continue to simmer until sugar has completely dissolved. Taste for balance and add a bit of lime juice or sugar to balance if required.
  3. Boil water for the noodles, completely cover noodles in the hot water and allow to soak until al dente. Rinse in cold water to stop from cooking further.
  4. Bring the soup to a slow boil and add the mushrooms and shrimp and cook until the internal temperature of the shrimp is 120° F.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the bowls (it’s winter and they cool down incredibly quickly). Reheat the noodles by running them under super hot water.
  6. Assemble the soup: add half of the heated noodles to each bowl, top with 4 shrimp in each bowl and spoon the hot liquid over the noodles and shrimp, dividing the mushrooms equally between the two. Add a cut tomato into each bowl and garnish with the chiffonade of cilantro and Thai basil and green onions.

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Caramelized Onion and Lentil Soup

Serves 2 (about 400 mL)

Ingredients:

  • 150 g sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 100 g dry red lentils
  • 500 mL beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gruyère crisp for garnish.
  • 2 g salt
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Caramelize the onions with olive oil with a little salt.
  2. Cook the lentils with the bay leaf in the stock until soft. Remove the bay leaf, discard.
  3. Combine the caramelized onions with the cooked lentils and purée until smooth, adding a little stock until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Serve in French onion soup bows garnished with the cheese crisp.

Notes:

  • You can eat the crisp like a cracker, or you can crumble it into the soup for texture and flavour.

A creamy, hearty soup that will help keep you warm on these chilly winter days.

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Winter means soup weather to me and I’m always trying to change it up from the regular repertoire. This soup was developed to use some excess cilantro before it bit the dust. Cilantro haters, please move along, nothing to see here!

The bright green colour is joyful, don’t you think?

Broccoli, Avocado and Cilantro Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 300 g broccoli
  • 70 g sweet onion
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • 15 g cilantro
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste (or to taste)
  • 250 mL coconut milk (not the cream)
  • 250-375 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • Splash of fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop broccoli and onion into medium-small pieces and coat generously with olive oil. Roast at 375° F until tender.
  2. Combine the roasted broccoli, onions, avocado, cilantro, green curry past, coconut milk, about half of chicken stock and roasted garlic puree and blend until very smooth, adding more chicken stock at achieve the desired viscosity for the soup. Push the soup through a fine sieve into a medium-sized pot and re-heat on medium-low.
  3. Season to taste. Serve hot garnished with small roasted broccoli florets and cilantro.

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Way back in late October, we went over to a friend’s house for dinner, outdoors of course. We’ve all been scrambling to make the outdoors as warm and cosy as possible not feeling comfortable enough to entertain inside. My friend went all out with a brand new gazebo (which we helped erect), heaters and electric blankets (even some for sharing). It was easy to enjoy this flavourful soup in large mugs, under infrared heaters, cosying up with electric blankets while gazing at a romantic wood fire. The soup was warming and soothing on a particularly chilly evening. I hacked the recipe because we liked it so much.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL cauliflower purée
  • 400 mL coconut milk
  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 5 cm lengths
  • 1 nub of fresh galangal
  • 15 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 10-20 mL green curry paste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • leftover cooked chicken or turkey
  • 150 g diced frozen vegetables
  • 1 green onion, sliced into 3 cm lengths
  • handful of finely chopped cilantro
  • Vegetable or Chicken stock (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the baking soda, chicken or turkey, frozen vegetables, green onion and cilantro and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the broth is flavoured with the aromatics.
  2. Scoop out the aromatics (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal) and discard. Add the baking soda and mix it in well (it will bubble up for a minute or so).
  3. Add the turkey and frozen vegetables and stir to warm. Add vegetable or chicken stock if you find the soup too thick. Serve piping hot.

Notes:

  • Frozen vegetables, like this, are a staple in my freezer, they are perfect for quick soups!
  • I keep kaffir lime leaves in the freezer, they are so flavourful.
  • I prefer to keep the soup on the thicker side, particularly if you’re eating it outdoors, it tends to stay warm longer.

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Like many blogs have already declared, it is officially soup season in this part of the world. I often use lentils to “beef” up soups because they are super filling. JT loves creamed soups and I love brothy soups, so to be fair, I try to make a variety of each type to keep us both happy. That way he doesn’t complain when I make Phố or chicken soup at least once a month (read: week). This was a spur of the moment creation that was so tasty, that I wanted to make sure that I remembered what I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Creamed Cauliflower, Lentil and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 750 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250-400 mL vegetable or chicken stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • 15 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the cauliflower and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 250 mL chicken stock and lentils and cook until everything is soft. Blitz with an immersion blender slowly adding coconut milk, blending until smooth. Add more chicken stock to achieve your desired thickness, if necessary.
  3. Serve piping hot.

 

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Renovations have begun so we have had to move out of our bedroom and bathroom upstairs. The guys have hoarded off the affected areas but construction dust is relentless. We moved into the basement guest suite, it feels like we are staying in a hotel, sort of, except for the dust. The majority of the mess has been limited to the second floor but soon the electricians will descend and all hell will break loose. We have decided to update our electrical so the entire house will finally be up-to-date. Fortunately, these renos have not affected the kitchen, so I’m still able to play!

This is a creamy, intensely flavoured soup. If you are a fence-sitter about mushrooms, this soup is not for you. But if you like the earthy goodness of mushrooms, then run to the kitchen and make this soup, it’s that good. By the way, it’s still soup-weather in these parts.

We are getting early afternoon sun in the kitchen these days, it’s so nice to be out of that winter light!

Dry-Seared Mushroom Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 g variety of dark mushrooms (I used portabello, cremini and shiitake)
  • 40 g sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • 500 mL beef stock, or more to taste
  • 15 mL dark soy sauce
  • 15 mL puréed roasted garlic
  • 30 g almond flour
  • Pinch of tarragon, to taste
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • 15 mL white truffle olive oil

Directions:

  1. Clean the mushrooms and slice about 2mm thick. Heat a non-stick, cast iron or ceramic pan until it is very hot (no oil, cooking spray or anything). Place sliced mushrooms in the pan, making sure not to overlap or crowd them. Sear each side until golden, remove and set aside and repeat until all of the mushrooms have been seared.
  2. In a medium Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the onions until caramelized.
  3. Add the almond flour and toast lightly.
  4. Add the beef stock, dark soy sauce, roasted garlic and about 3/4 of the mushrooms (I reserve about 1/4 for texture for the soup), cook for about 45 minutes or until the stock is richly mushroom flavoured and the mushrooms are soft enough to purée.
  5. Purée the soup until creamy and smooth with a high-speed immersion blender. Add the smoked paprika and white truffle oil and purée again. Press through a fine sieve to get a super creamy soup.

Notes:

  • In trying to eat fewer carbs, I have used ground almonds as a thickener in this soup. Feel free to use your own thickener for preference but the almonds really create a creamy mouthfeel and add a lovely nuttiness to the soup.
  • I specifically avoided white mushrooms because they don’t have the strong earthy flavour I was after.
  • If you don’t like truffles, omit the white truffle oil.
  • I used some interesting wild mushrooms as the garnish for the photo.
  • If you have access to Mycroyo, you may wish to coat the mushrooms with it for the perfect sear.

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As you can imagine, I had hoped that winter would be on its way out by our return from Europe last week. Sadly, it wasn’t so. Temperatures, although slightly warmer were still not showing signs of spring. And Facebook was of no help, throwing into my face, a year that the crocus’ were out and the lily of the valley was growing in thickly. No, spring has not sprung — that damn groundhog lied, again.

During these colder days, I like to eat soup so I’ve been creating new flavours since our return. I cobbled together a version of this recipe just before we left and JT liked it so much he asked for it upon our return so I got out my measuring tools and recreated this tasty dish for posterity. To me, lentils have always been paired with warm South Asian spices, more like curries, which we adore but I wanted something different. This soup comes together quickly and is thick and luscious enough to make a meal on its own. It has some nice comforting flavours of roasted garlic and cumin with a beautiful fresh hint of kaffir lime leaves and coconut. I didn’t have time to source fresh Kaffir lime leaves so I used the dry stuff, if you use fresh, you may wish to cut it back a bit, they are meant to be a background note. The lentils purée up creamy and smooth and make a gorgeous luxurious soup. I will serve this at an upcoming dinner party, I know it will be a hit.

Some crispy rice crackers would have made a nice side for this dish.

Thai Inspired Lentil Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.25 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL coconut oil
  • 130 g sweet onion, chopped
  • 15 mL puréed, roasted garlic
  • 5 mL cumin
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves (mine were dried)
  • 300 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 L chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a Medium Dutch oven. Sauté the onions until translucent. Add the roasted garlic and stir until fragrant.
  2. Add the lentils and stir to coat. Dust with the cumin and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the kaffir lime leaves and the chicken stock and cook until lentils are soft. Remove the kaffir lime leaves.
  4. You can run an immersion blender through the soup, leaving a few chunks for texture or entirely creamy or you may leave it soupy.
  5. Garnish with toasted coconut.

Notes:

  • I usually remove 250-500 mL of the chunky soup and purée the remainder until smooth and creamy and then I add back the chunky bits for texture.
  • Lentils generally thicken as they sit so you may wish to add a bit more stock or coconut milk depending on your preference for the thickness and how long it sits before serving.
  • America’s Test Kitchen recently mentioned that a sprinkle of baking soda on onions as you sauté them will reduce their acidity and make them caramelize quicker. I have been using this technique since I saw it.
  • When I prepped for Anjum Anand, she had me toast the cumin quite a bit, but for me, toasting until fragrant is enough.

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As you know, my friend, David Chrighton (Fine Dining at Home) was on Master Chef UK last fall (I know, sooooo cool). He went all the way to the finals! Sadly, he didn’t win the title, but OMG, he went ALL THE WAY to the finals! David is a Captain for an airline and flies commercial jets. I can certainly see how nerve wracking Master Chef can be, and that’s where his pilot nerves of steel came into play! Not that he wasn’t a wee bit nervous (we did spot a few beads of sweat on his brow) but he never wavered, not even when he was cooking a Michelin Star Chef’s recipe! Ashley Palmer-Watt, head chef of Fat Duck, three-star-Michelin resto in Bray, was a guest on the show on Episode 24. Each participant had 5 hours (5 HOURS!) to complete one of Chef Ashley’s famous recipes. David lucked out and got one the most complicated recipes with 120 stages of preparation! Now THAT is stressful!

Now don’t get into a tizzy that I will post one of these complicated recipes, no sirree, I don’t have the the patience, but one of the positive windfalls of being a runner-up on Masterchef UK, is that Dave is now a celebrity chef! He is still a pilot but he also does pop-up restaurants and demonstrations at fairs and markets! During one such pop-up, he posted an awesome looking white gazpacho and since we were having a heat wave, I knew I had to recreate it for a dinner party. Dave didn’t post the recipe so I improvised; my version was a light green so I called it Spring Green Gazpacho!

The recipe is rich in flavour but not heavy. A variety of complex flavours coat the mouth and speaking of mouth, it has an incredibly smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Thank you, Dave, for the inspiration. By the way, Dave totally rocked that complicated recipe for Chef Ashley.

Spring Green Gazpacho

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 600 mL

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 175 g cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 150 g grilled corned, removed from cob
  • 100 g avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 125 mL milk (avocado gives the fat, so feel free to use a low fat milk)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 3 g fresh basil leaves
  • 100 g Greek yogurt
  • 20 g toasted almond flour
  • salt, to taste
  • Cubed cucumber, grilled corn, pomegranate arils, chiffonade of fresh basil as garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Press through a fine sieve. Store in the refrigerator for maximum 4 days.
  3. Serve chilled with a garnish of chopped cucumbers, fresh basil and grilled corn and pomegranate arils.

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In the Spring edition of the LCBO’s (our liquor store) Food & Drink magazine, they featured a Turmeric, Miso & Ginger Soup that immediately caught my attention. In mid-March, we were still craving soups, believe it or not, so I thought I’d give this colourful soup a go in my humble kitchen. The flavours were earthy, brightened by the lemon juice and sweetened by the peas and corn, everything one could want from the spring soup.

An Earthy soup to warm and ward off any spring colds.

Turmeric, Ginger, Miso Soup with Peas and Corn

Makes 1 L soup

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 50 g celery, sliced
  • 1 L vegetable stock, divided
  • 20 g ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 20 g white miso
  • 15 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 70 g each, frozen peas and frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock-pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook for a minute or so longer.
  2. In a small measuring cup fitted for your stick blender, add about 125 mL vegetable stock, the ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the turmeric mixture to the celery and onions and cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and corn and stir for a minute.
  4. Serve hot.

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Many years ago, I made a hummus soup that was so luxurious and flavourful that it felt decadent, but it wasn’t! It was all the bright flavours of typical hummus with fewer calories and fat. You already know that I love using lentils for quick and flavourful soups and sauces so this recipe will come as no surprise. It can be made as thick or as thin as you choose. I used roasted garlic instead of fresh garlic to tone down the garlic hit but also provide a beautiful nutty background flavour. I also added freshly grated turmeric, which is not in traditional hummus but added a lovely earthy tone.

Lentil Hummus Soup

Makes about 1 L, but it depends on how thick you make the soup.

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

To print recipe, please click here..

Ingredients:

  • 120 g red lentils
  • 375 mL vegetable stock, or to taste
  • 50 g tahini (or natural peanut butter)
  • 20 g roasted garlic
  • 10 g turmeric, freshly grated
  • 4 g toasted cumin
  • 15 mL lemon juice
  • 50 mL olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 10 g feta, per serving, for crumbling

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock until very soft. Add the tahini, garlic, turmeric, cumin and lemon juice and stir well until the tahini has melted into the soup.
  2. Transfer to a glass stick blender container and blend until very smooth, adding more stock if you see necessary. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you are blending. Season to taste.
  3. Serve hot garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

A deliciously velvety hummus-style soup.

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We’ve been away. In Arizona. Where it was high twenty, low thirty degrees (Celsius). I’m sorry you were still in winter, while I was enjoying endless sun and dry warmth in Arizona. Well, not really sorry. I may have even rubbed it in with some weather network posts. It was truly wonderful. It was liberating not to have that 10-minute dressing routine even before you step outside. My feet rejoiced! No socks! My feet weren’t freezing to death even though they were covered in wool and leather. I could totally get used to it. But now we’re back in reality and cooking warming and hearty dishes like we did for Super Bowl.

We hosted another Super Bowl party in February and you guessed it, the theme was the cuisine of the teams playing! I’ve always wanted to make an authentic clam chowder with oyster crackers so I took advantage of this serendipitous opportunity. The clams were sweet and the chowder was creamy and delicious. The party was a grand success and New England lost, now that’s karma, don’t you think?

New England Clam Chowder

Makes 1.75 L of chowder.

For the original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 135 g finely chopped French shallots
  • 160 g chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
  • 10 g garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 32 g all-purpose flour
  • 282 g Vongole baby clams, drained, juices reserved
  • 300 mL evaporated milk (not condense)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in the reserved clam juice topped up with water to cover. Turn down to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat, drain potatoes, reserve the liquid and set both aside.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed large pot, sauté shallots and celery with the bay leaf until soft. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the flour and stir on low heat for two minutes, without allowing the flour to brown. Whisk in the reserved potato clam liquid with a pinch of smoked paprika. Cook until thickened.
  3. Add the baby clams and the evaporated milk and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes. This chowder is much better the second day so if you are making this chowder in advance, refrigerate until cold, then re-heat on low when required.

A rich clam chowder with delicious clam bits in every bite.

A flavourful cracker that does not disintegrate in the chowder.

Lemon Pepper Oyster Crackers

Makes 150 g of crackers. For the original recipe, please click here.

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 145 g 00 flour
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 2 g freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 g sugar
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 1 g freshly grated lemon zest
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 70 mL cold water, or enough to make a smooth dough

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, salt, pepper, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in the small bowl of your food processor. Pulse until well combined.
  2. Drop the butter into the flour mix and pulse until it has been incorporated and is mealy. Slowly add the water while processing, add only enough to make a dough that holds together.
  3. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and form into a solid round. Allow to rest 15 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Roll dough to about 2 mm thick and cut with very small cookie cutters (or cut with a knife into diamond shapes). Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and open the door and allow to cool and crisp up for an additional 30 minutes. Serve with New England Clam Chowder.

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Soup has been on our menu quite often this winter. Personally, I adore soup, so much so, we’ve coined the expression “I love soup so much, it could be my middle name”! My favourite are brothie soups like chicken noodle, Phõ, lemongrass, and miso to name a few, but JT prefers creamy soups so I throw him a bone every so often and blitz the soup with my immersion blender. This one turned out exceptionally well so, I decided to repost. Plus the light is getting much better and I couldn’t resist.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

  • 25 g variety of dried wild mushrooms
  • 35 g red lentils, dried
  • 140 g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 90 g sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 60 g celery, roughly chopped (about 1 rib)
  • 25 g butter
  • 40 g roasted garlic (about 5 large cloves)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ~300 mL vegetable stock
  • 2-4 tbsp finishing olive oil

Directions:

  1. Soak the dried, wild mushrooms in about 500 mL water for a minimum of 30 minutes. Strain through a gold coffee filter and reserve liquid. Rinse the mushrooms.
  2. Caramelize the onions in the butter. Add the celery, roasted garlic and rehydrated mushrooms and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and lentils and simmer loosely covered for an additional 30 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, toss the sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms in some olive oil and roast in a hot oven (375° F) until caramelized (roughly 20-25 minutes), turning once.
  4. Remove soup from heat and purée with an immersion blender until smooth, adding vegetable stock to desired consistency (I added about 300 mL). Press through a fine sieve for a velvety, smooth texture. Add salt and pepper to taste and purée once more. Garnish with the caramelized mushrooms and drizzle with the finishing olive oil. Serve piping hot with Cheddar Orange Scones.

Notes:

  • No matter how well your blender purées creamed soups, push it through a fine sieve for a creamy and velvety texture. Then blitz it again just before serving. This is a tip from the 1-star Michelin chef we had a cooking lesson with in Lyon.
  • Thick creamy soups that are not made with cream, like this one, deserve a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Serve with a scone to make a hearty lunch.

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I have had a bum shoulder for the longest time. I’m seeing a chiropractor and she does acupuncture and some massage techniques which have been quite successful but I thought I’d help it along by adding some turmeric to my routine because it is widely known as an anti-inflammatory. We had a couple of days with back to back dishes with turmeric and it seems to have helped. Although it isn’t nearly as cold out as it was in December and early January, it is still winter in these parts and soup is definitely at the top of my list of cravings.

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Soup with Turmeric

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL of soup

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 20 g roasted garlic (about 3 large cloves)
  • 60 g red lentils
  • 350 mL vegetable stock
  • 200 g tomatoes
  • 10 g turmeric
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 250 mL Coconut Milk

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the coconut milk in the bowl of a small slow cooker and cook (mine only has one temperature) for 4 hours.
  2. Purée to a smooth creamy velvety soup, adding the coconut milk slowly. Press through a fine sieve. Reheat if necessary. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil, chili oil or toasted coconut.


It is a smooth and velvety soup.

Notes:

  • Because I blitzed the kaffir lime leaves into the soup, it is imperative to press the soup through a fine sieve to catch the hard bits. It will also result in a velvety smooth, creamy soup.
  • The coconut milk adds a bit of sweetness to the soup, but doesn’t make it sweet.
  • The lentils add creamy texture and protein.

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Our dear friends gave me a beautiful cookbook from their last cruise, it is a celebration of courses through the journies of their fleet: Culinary Courses Journeys. Although most of the recipes are quite fancy, the book is amazing inspiration and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t check it for reference!

It was such an occasion that I was leafing through the book that I found a gorgeous representation of a Minestrone Soup and I knew I had to make it for dinner. And then I realized that I did not have a Minestrone on the blog. Gads!

The soup is packed with fresh vegetables in a light tomato and basil scented broth. The protein is navy bean to keep it healthy. You could add a parmesan rind or two to the broth while cooking.

The tuile melts into the soup for a beautiful flavour and textural addition.

Rustic Vegetable Minestrone

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.5 L (6.25 cups) soup.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 125 g (~1 cup) sweet onion, diced
  • 10 g (2 – 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 150 g (~1 cup) zucchini, diced
  • 115 g (~1 cup) celery, diced
  • 120 g (~1 cup) red pepper, diced
  • 75 g (~1 cup) king mushrooms, diced
  • 140 mL (4 oz) puréed tomatoes, juice or sauce
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 350 mL (1 2/3 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 stems of basil
  • 4 stems of lemon thyme
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) dried beans
  • 35 g (~1 cup) baby spinach
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Directions:

  1. Cook the dried beans according to directions.
  2. Heat Olive Oil in a large pot and sauté onions until translucent, you may need to add a little stock or water. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add all of the vegetables and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Combine the puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Pour over the vegetables and add the basil and thyme stems and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove stems.
  5. Add the cooked beans and baby spinach, stir and heat through.
  6. Serve garnished with a Parmesan tuile (recipe below) and roughly torn basil leaves.

Basil Cheese Tuile

Makes 1 tuile

Ingredients:

  • 7 g (1/4 oz) hard fatty cheese (like Parmesan or Cheddar), finely grated
  • 1 large basil leaf, chiffonade
  • pinch of granulated garlic

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven on high broil.
  2. Mix cheese, basil and granulated garlic well.
  3. On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape the tuile as desired (I made a tear drop).
  4. Broil until evenly browned (mine took about 4 minutes but it depends on how thick you make your tuile); to prevent burning, you may need to cover part of it with bits of parchment as it bakes.

Notes:

  • I like a little crunch left in my vegetables, so I generally under cook rather than over cook.
  • If you make this in advance, keep the beans separately so they don’t turn to mush.
  • I used Ivanhoe Horseradish Cheddar because I thought it would be a nice zing to the soup.
  • Make as many tuile as you need, just multiply the ingredients by the servings required.

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Recently, we were dining at our favourite French restaurant in our hood. We were sitting at the bar chatting with the staff and another patron when, for no apparent reason, a wine glass slid off the top shelf and plummeted to the ground, shattering!

Well, that was interesting! No one was near it, and the manager said that they put rubber mats on the shelves to prevent this type of thing. Yet, it slid off the shelf entirely on its own. Later, someone mentioned that the location had been a funeral home when it was first built in 1923 (we’ve been here 17 years and have only known the location to be restaurants!). You decide what happened, but my bet is on a sneaky ghost giving us a fright!

Smoked Garlic and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print the recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6 cups) soup

Ingredients:

  • 25 g smoked garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • 560 g cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), cut into smallish florets
  • 1 L (4 cups) chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 90 g (1/2 cup) red lentils
  • non-stick spray
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C).
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to a small ramekin, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Pour about 1 cm (1/2 inch) stock over cloves and cover with either foil or ramekin lid.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and add the cauliflower, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add the ramekin with garlic to a corner of the baking sheet. Bake cauliflower and garlic for 30-40 minutes or until quite soft, turning frequently to avoid burning. I like to add a little stock to the bottom of the roasting pan to make sure I get all the little bits from the pan.
  4. Pour the cauliflower into a large pot. Peel the garlic and add it to the cauliflower, add some of the stock and purée until smooth. Add the red lentils and cook until lentils are soft. Purée again until smooth, adding stock until you achieve the desired consistency. You may wish to run this through a fine sieve to make it even more luxurious.
  5. Serve hot.

The cloves are cold smoked and are still raw.

Perfect timing as it’s getting pretty darn cold!

Notes:

  • A dear friend gave me a couple of heads of smoked garlic, she picked it up at a local farmers market. I had never seen or heard of it before but you can bet that I’ll be trying to make it soon!
  • The smoked garlic is raw and therefore needs some cooking when used in this quantity, I prefer roasting, usually with olive oil instead of stock, but we are trying to lose a few summer pounds.
  • The smoke in the garlic is very subtle, that is why I added the smoked paprika, but be careful, it can get overwhelming very quickly.
  • I added the lentils to get some protein into this meatless meal, and it also is an amazing thickener that becomes so velvety smooth when puréed.
  • Some topping suggestions:
    • Crumbled crispy bacon
    • Crispy onions
    • Grilled cheese croutons
    • Grated cheese (like gruyère or sharp cheddar)
    • a dollop of Crème Fraiche or sour cream

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Today is Victoria Day of the long weekend, which happens to be very important for Canadians because it is the May Two-Four Weekend: Queen Victoria’s birthday, cottage opening, garden planting, and the first outdoor BBQs and patios!! It is also the weekend that JT and I tied the knot! Yes indeed, we hitched up on the holiday Monday of a long weekend. Now, now, don’t get your knickers in a knot, the wedding ceremony started at 3pm on the holiday Monday, so people realistically could still get up to the cottage, open and get back in time for the wedding. Not everyone was happy about our decision, but it wasn’t really our fault, you see it was our first time and we had no idea how far in advance you had to book your venue for the reception (we found one venue that was taking bookings 3 years from the date), so when we found one available on the holiday Monday only 5 months after we got engaged, we went for it.

The weeks leading up to our wedding were lovely; gorgeous, warm, spring weather, three beautiful bridal showers, and the shear excitement every time a parcel arrived at the door! I had everything planned out, it would be a glorious day and everything would be perfect. I should have known things don’t always go as planned.

The night before the wedding, I tried on my dress and Mom and I decided we really didn’t love the neckline, it was far too high; fortunately, the dress was lace and I was able to trim away the bits we didn’t care for, using manicure scissors, and it worked out perfectly. I went to bed that night with my hair in rollers and I said a little prayer for my Dad who had passed in 1981 and crossed my fingers and toes that it would be a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

I awoke Monday, May 19 to a cold, dark and dreary, rainy day. I honestly thought I would be devastated but I wasn’t, I was absolutely fine. Things would go on with slight modifications. No big deal. And because the rain persisted ALL DAY, people were not that upset about having to leave the cottage early (we had a lot of cottager guests). After the ceremony, we were going to take photos in my In-Laws’ garden but since we couldn’t, we moved it inside (they had a lovely mansion), everything was just fine. The strange thing about that day was that it rained constantly, without stopping ALL DAY with the exception of the few times I stepped outside — to get into the limo from my Mom’s home, to get out of the limo at the Church, and to and from my In-Law’s home and finally to and from our reception! It stopped EVERY SINGLE TIME! I didn’t use an umbrella and I did not get wet! Thanks, Dad! We had a typical dinner for a wedding of that time (caesar salad, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, and steamed veg) but considering the cool day, we sure could have used some soup and this soup would have been perfect. (click on the photo below for a short slide show). Please forgive me, the eighties were unforgiving style-wise!

To celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary (I was a child bride ;-)), we took a little road trip to Stratford, Ontario to see Guys and Dolls and stay overnight. Stratford is aptly named for the city in England and its primary mandate is to present Shakespearean plays but also includes a variety of Greek tragedies and Broadway-style musicals (wiki) to broaden its reach. It was a great weekend, although the weather went from 30° C (86° F) to 10° C (50° F) with high cold winds, we enjoyed walking around this pedestrian-friendly town with an excellent food scene. Here is a little slideshow of our trip.

As I mentioned, the weather turned on the morning of our trip (and our actual wedding day) and we were basically back in November! I had a huge soup craving and this one would have certainly hit the spot. I have made these grilled cheese croutons, again and again, they are excellent in a caesar salad too (use Parmesan instead of cheddar)!

Creamed Broccoli Pesto Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L or 4 cups soup

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 100 g (1 medium size) sweet onions, chopped
  • 300 g (2 stems) broccoli, including the stems, chopped
  • 20 g (3-4 cloves) garlic, roughly chopped
  • 45 ML (3 tbsp) basil pesto (I used this recipe but used ground almonds instead of pine nuts)
  • vegetable or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Using a splash of olive oil, caramelize the onions, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli and garlic and cover with stock and cook until softened (about 30 minutes).
  3. Add the basil pesto and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until very smooth, adding more stock to achieve desired thickness (I did not need to). Press through a fine sieve.
  5. Serve with Grilled Cheese croutons (recipe below).

These are crisp, cheesy croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of seeded bread (we like this one)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  2. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and coat with the Mycryo. Bake, stirring often until bread has become dried croutons. Toss with the shredded cheddar and return to the oven and bake until cheese melts and caramelizes.
  3. To serve the soup, ladel soup into warm bowls and toss the grilled cheese croutons on top and serve piping hot.

If you love crispy cheese, you will love these croutons.

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PeaKaffirLime_First

A few months ago, one of my Chef FB peeps posted about a product she received called Mycryo®. I was intrigued, I had never heard of such a product so off I went to research it. The product is powdered cocoa butter and their website touts that it seals in flavour with fewer calories than pan firing in oil! How exciting is that?! I immediately thought of a few applications that release fluids quickly making it difficult to sear: Scallops, mushrooms, potatoes, and the list goes on! I HAD to HAVE it! So off I went to their website to see where I might purchase this unique product, and to my delight, there were quite a few stores. I made the mistake of not calling ahead to see if they had it in stock and I shuffled off to several stores (sigh, you know how I hate going to specialty grocery stores!) to track it down but was sadly disappointed, although I did make some other purchases so my trips were not entirely useless. I returned home, with a sunken heart and proceeded to call and email around but, I was not able to find it. What to do? My desire for this product had not waned, so I tweeted the Canadian company and they immediately responded and the next thing I knew, they sent me a full-size sample! Isn’t that lovely?

Mycryo

I’ve been using Mycryo® in my everyday cooking (I even transferred some to a small bottle to take to the cottage), although I haven’t had a blog worthy recipe before this one, it works just as they claim. I’ve tried Mycryo® with mushrooms, scallops, shrimp, pork shoulder (for pulled pork) and pork tenderloin (roast), oven roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes. It doesn’t splatter as much as oil does and that makes me happy because I don’t need to clean up a mess! Although, I must tell you that I haven’t had as much success with potatoes or sweet potatoes, but that may be due to the fact that I only have a small convection oven at the cottage, where I tried it. This recipe, however, works out perfectly with this unique product, the shrimp did not release any liquid, making a wonderfully crisp coating, just like deep frying but without the excessive calories.

PeaKaffirLime3

That shrimp is either enormous or that’s a very small bowl 😉!

Chilled Pea Soup with Kaffir Lime Coconut Milk garnished with Toasted Coconut Shrimp

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.25 L (5.5 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 25 g coconut milk powder (around 4 heaping tbsp)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 cup water
  • 750 g frozen peas (about 1 lb)
  • 10 g dried Kaffir Lime Leaves (a good handful, use less if fresh)
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 10 g grated frozen ginger (about 1 tsp)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Combine coconut milk powder with milk and water and blend with an immersion blender until well blended.
  2. Add the defrosted peas, dried kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, ginger and 2 cups vegetable stock (or water) to the coconut milk. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and add the lime juice, blend again briefly (see notes below).

PeaKaffirLime2

The soup tastes like summer!

Serving Suggestion, per person:

Ingredients, per person:

  • 1 large shrimp, entirely peeled (I hate to have to fish the shrimp out with my fingers to pull off the tail)
  • 1/2 tbsp AP unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tbsp egg white with a pinch of sugar or honey, whisked
  • 1 tbsp toasted coconut
  • 1/2 tsp Mycryo®*

Directions:

  1. To toast the coconut, Toss with 1/2 tsp Mycryo® and toast lightly in a small frying pan set aside to cool,.
  2. Dredge the shrimp in the flour and coat well. Next coat the shrimp with the egg white mixture. Then back into the flour and dip back into the egg white mixture (see notes). Then lastly,  coat the shrimp well with the toasted coconut, set aside. Continue until you have all of the shrimp prepared.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F). Lay shrimp on their sides onto a baking sheet. Gently sprinkle Mycryo® on side one, then flip the shrimp and sprinkle on side two. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until entirely opaque.
  4. Pour the chilled soup into a soup bowl, gently add the shrimp so that it remains visible (I may have propped said shrimp on an inverted bowl in the soup, food styling trick for photography ONLY!). Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • Obviously, to be vegetarian and vegan, omit the shrimp!
  • Substitute 1 cup coconut milk plus 1 cup water for the coconut milk powder and milk. To reduce calories, reduce the proportion of coconut milk to 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 cup milk and 1 cup water.
  • To get more out of your soup, blend the remaining pulp from the sieve a few times adding only a little water or vegetable stock, press through a fine sieve each time and add to the main soup. I usually do this 2 or 3 times and the pulp is reduced about 1/2 to 1/4 each time!
  • Pulp broth: do yourself a favour and boil some water (I did about 500 mL or 2 cups) and pour it over the pulp, allow to sit until cooled and then strain it through a fine sieve (like a metal coffee filter) and reserve the liquid for your next soup. It packs a bunch of flavour and now you have stock from something that would have been compost! Compost the remaining pulp.
  • Refrain from adding additional sweetness to the soup until you have tasted the final product, I feel the peas should be sweet enough.
  • Other garnish options are:
    • Whipped coconut milk with toasted coconut.
    • 1 or 2 grilled shrimp per serving (just dust the dry shrimp in Mycryo® on both sides and put on a hot grill)
    • Toast some coconut and chiffonade some mint, dress each bowl.
    • a dollop of crème fraîche with some toasted coconut.

Disclosure:

Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations received 550 g container of Mycryo® by Mycryo® Canada free of charge; this recipe was developed by Eva Taylor for Kitcheninspirations, and the opinions expressed in this post are that of Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations.

nutrition

Nutritional facts based on 250 mL soup with 1 shrimp, approximately 26 g.

WWnutrition

WW tables based on 250 mL soup with 1 shrimp, approximately 26 g.

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CHilledAppleSoup_First

Recently, I assisted on a motion shoot (defined as a video/film shoot) on location at someone’s very lovely home. These shoots can be challenging particularly when the kitchen is part of the set that they are shooting. In the past, I’ve had to prepare everything in advance and simply plate on location (on the floor, no less) but this was a much bigger production and we were provided a specially designed portable, professional kitchen! This portable kitchen was such a luxury because we were off on our own (no one bugging us) with 2 ovens, 1 upright freezer, 2 refrigerators a bakers rack and lots of counter space! And best of all, we had Air Conditioning because with two full-sized ovens running at 218° C (425° F), it can get pretty toasty inside!

This is an example of a prep area that is less than perfect!

This is an example of a prep area that is less than perfect because the kitchen was part of the set!

The story of this professional kitchen is rather interesting. The creator noticed that Food Stylists were usually provided less than satisfactory circumstances even though the food they were preparing was the hero of the shoot, so this guy took it upon himself to purchase a cube truck and convert it to a professional kitchen, he has two now and is as busy as ever! To be honest, we cannot thank him enough, it is such a luxury (compared to prepping on portable burners in the garage or on the lawn!)

These shoots take many people to run smoothly, there are the usual suspects: director, camera people, prop stylists, food stylist and all the support staff! It’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of. We even had our own on-site caterers (called Craft Truck) who provided delicious food throughout the day; for example, shortly after 7am, there was a BLT sandwich, then a granola berry parfait, then smoked salmon on toast smeared with cream cheese and capers (that one, I couldn’t resist, the rest of the snacks, I passed on), followed by a hot lunch of grilled salmon, grilled whole chicken legs, pork tenderloin, several salads, steamed veg, potatoes, rice and beans and a variety of desserts, then around 5pm, snack sandwiches were passed around. We were definitely well fed! Coffee, juice and water were available all day long.

KitchenTruck

This is the exterior of our mobile professional kitchen. Fortunately, we were parked at the end of the driveway so we only had a short run to the set.


KitchenTruck_2


Our portable kitchen is ready for action. Sebastion was setting up the kitchen, complete with stand alone freezer, 2 glass door refrigerators, 2 full-sized ovens, 2 sinks, a bakers’ rack and A/C!


KitchenTruck_3

There were 3 food stylists for this shoot (one lead and two assistants). We were non-stop from 7am until after 5 all day!

The food on site was plentiful and we were never hungry or in need but this chilled soup would have been a lovely addition considering how sweltering hot it was that day. Let’s just say I had a lovely glow on all day, if you know what I mean!!!

This is a refreshing, chilled soup served on a hot, muggy day in the city and it’s very easy to prepare.

Chilled Apple, Cucumber and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 600 mL Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium shallot (about 30 g), finely chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (about 175 g), cubed (reserve 1/4 for garnish, as pictured)
  • 2 stalks celery (about 60 g), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (I used pea broth*)
  • 1/3 English cucumber (about 65 g), roughly chopped.
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Sauté chopped shallots until translucent. Add celery, apple and vegetable stock, cook until softened (about 10 minutes), . Remove from heat and add the cucumber.
  2. Using an immersion blender, blend several minutes until smooth.
  3. Chill for several hours or make a day or two in advance.
  4. Serve cold and garnish with very thinly sliced apples. For other garnishes, please see notes.

Apple Soup

A tasty and refreshing soup that is only lightly sweetened with apple flavour.

Notes:

  • The pea broth was the result of the liquid used to blanch freshly shelled peas and then I cooked the shells again, then strained the broth through a fine sieve.
  • I chose not to strain this soup through a fine sieve because after I blended it for several minutes, I didn’t mind the final texture (some apple skin and cucumber skin, you can see how minute they are in the photos).
  • The cucumber adds a piquant note, omit if you are adverse to such flavours.
  • The apple flavour is very subtle but adds a lovely sweetness and tartness to the soup. I did not add sugar, but if you like a sweeter soup, consider using a sweet apple (like Gala) or adding coconut sugar in addition to the coconut milk powder.
  • Consider garnishing with some crispy cooked bacon.
  • This soup would be elevated if you garnished it with one large scallop caramelised in butter and drizzle with the scallop butter.

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Gazpacho_First

Recently, my long-time blogger friend Liz, of That Skinny Chick Can Bake posted a delightful Gazpacho recipe which made me immediately crave this summer sensation! Liz’s recipe took her back to her childhood when her dear Mom recreated the recipe on a summer car vacation to Aspen after having it at a favourite restaurant. My recipe isn’t quite as romantic, in fact, it has no history nor does it conjure up childhood memories because cold soup in a Hungarian household is Sour Cherry Soup, a delicious soup made from European Sour Cherries in a lightly sweetened syrup, yogurt and cinnamon — it is delicious but it does not come anywhere near the complex flavours a Gazpacho has. Each vegetable contributes a certain aspect and my proportions are intentional. Some gazpachos are onion heavy so I used a very small French shallot, and I didn’t use garlic this time, I wanted a mellow flavoured soup with depth. Liz chose tomato juice or V-8 which adds a lot of flavour, I went with plain ordinary vine-rippened tomatoes and water — you could use a veg stock instead. I like a smooth soup so I press it through a fine sieve several times, I find the tomato seeds and the red pepper skin adds a little too much texture, and I do blend for several minutes a few times to get as much out of the pulp as possible. I loved Liz’s crouton garnish, because it adds such texture and interest but we’re going light this week and omitted it. Thank you Liz, your inspiration was perfect timing as we’ve been having 35° C (95° F) with high humidity.

To see more chilled soups that I created in the past, please click below:

Gazpacho

A full flavoured soup, perfect for hot and muggy summer days.

Gazpacho

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.5 L strained soup (about 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Red Pepper (Capsicum)
  • 125 g celery
  • 140 g zucchini
  • 100 g radish
  • 120 g cucumber
  • 15 g shallot
  • 25 g avocado
  • 430 g vine ripened tomatoes
  • 500 mL water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • mint
  • basil
  • parsley

Corn Salsa

  • 40 g sweet corn
  • 40 g cucumber, finely cubed
  • 40 g celery, finely cubed
  • 5 g cilantro, chiffonade
  • zest of one fresh lime
  • splash of lime juice
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Chop everything roughly and add to a large 4 L bowl. Blend with a stick blender (immersion blender) until smooth.
  2. Press through a fine sieve and blend the remaining pulp with about 500 mL of the strained soup, press through a fine sieve again. I usually repeat twice to get the most out of the pulp. Discard pulp (or compost) and refrigerate strained soup for a couple of hours.
  3. Combine sweet corn, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice and salt, stir well. Top each bowl with 1 tbsp of the salsa just prior to serving.

Note:

  • I used about 2 large mint leaves, 20 basil leaves and 4 parsley sprigs.
  • Avocado would be an excellent addition to the salsa garnish.

GazpachoWW

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

GazpachoCalories

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

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GreenPea&BasilSoup_First

In my line of work, sometimes I acquire excess food from time to time — it’s just stuff that’s left over. The protocol is to offer it first to the client, then the photography staff, art director and lastly the food stylist (me). Recently, we were shooting a video ad for a popular small appliance on location in someone’s home, I had to shop and prepare about 12 recipes in advance and arrive only to do last minute plating and garnishes. It’s not the best situation for food because the food can look wilted and old very quickly, but it had to be done, so I persevered and it was done. It was an extremely professional group and the video team was equally as lovely (everyone came over to hug me after the job was done). Because the location was a private house, we had to vacate very quickly, packing up in warp speed — no time to wash anything, everything was put into bags to be washed at home. The leftover food was repackaged and everyone helped and carry everything to my car. Many of the items (everything on set) was garbage because we didn’t have proper refrigeration (like chicken wings and drumsticks that sat out at room temperature for about 4 hours) but some of the vegetables were entirely usable, including the ingredients in this recipe. The bag of frozen petite pois (small peas) had defrosted but were still very cold so they were fine and the basil was in tip top shape and so this soup was born. Peas and basil are a lovely combination and I urge you to give it a try, it really is so refreshing and moreish plus it is an absolutely gorgeous colour. You can serve this simple soup hot or cold, we had it hot for dinner with a nice dollop of goats cheese melting into the soup. Bon Appetite!

Green Pea and Basil Soup, chaud ou froid

Makes about 1 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 750 g bag frozen petite pois (sweet peas), defrosted
  • 500 mL vegetable stock (preferably homemade like this easy, economical recipe)
  • 10-20 large basil leaves, to taste
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large glass container, combine the petite pois and vegetable stock with 10-20 basil leaves. Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth, taste and season accordingly.
  2. Press this liquid through a fine sieve (the pea skins are not a great texture in this soup). Serve hot or cold with a chiffonade of basil or a dollop of goats cheese.

GreenPea&BasilSoupNew

This simple yet versatile soup may be served hot or cold. Think about garnishing it with a caramelized scallop!

Notes:

  • This is a light soup, if you would like it to have more body, consider blending an avocado into it, starting with half and blend until smooth and taste for richness, blend in the second half if necessary.
  • If you are not fond of basil, try mint, it also pairs beautifully with sweet peas.
  • The beauty of this soup is its simplicity, no cooking, few ingredients.

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Cod_First
This is a recipe that we’ve been making since 2008 when it appeared in the LCBO’s Food & Drink, Early Summer Magazine. In fact, JT has often made it for my birthday! I’m not sure what initially drew me to this ingredient heavy recipe but I do know that I have absolutely loved it since day one! We often make it without the shrimp dumplings as an everyday dish, but I recently made it for a dinner party with dumplings so I thought I’d finally share it with you. Although it does look daunting, the steps are easy and the dish comes together beautifully with very little effort so you too can enjoy your dinner party. We haven’t made many changes, with the exception of a few minor ingredient modifications and doubling the broth, I just adore the flavour of the broth and always feel like it could have used just a bit more…so our version includes, just a bit more!
BroiledCodShrimpDumplings Did anyone else notice that the recipe clearly states 3 shrimp dumplings per serving but this one only has two?

Broiled Sake-Marinated Cod with Shrimp Dumplings in Shiso Broth

Serves 4 generously

Original recipe by Lucy Waverman, LCBO Early Summer 2008

Ingredients for Cod and Sake Marinade:

  • 400 g Cod
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) sodium reduced soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) honey
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) mirin
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) sake
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) grated peeled fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) grated garlic

Directions for the Cod and Sake Marinade:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and whisk well. Lay cod in a single layer in a shallow, non-reactive pan and pour the marinade over, making sure the cod is covered it it, wrap container in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, turning Cod occasionally.

Ingredients for the Shrimp Dumplings: 

  • 175 g shrimp, deveined and cut into pieces
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) grated fresh garlic
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) honey
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) mirin
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) water
  • 25-32 wonton wrappers or this recipe

Directions for the Shrimp Dumplings:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients but the egg yolk, water and wonton wrappers in the bowl of a small food processor and process until well puréed. Set aside. Lightly whisk the egg yolk and water together.
  2. Place one teaspoon of the shrimp mixture into the centre of a wonton wrapper, rub a bit of the egg yolk-water mixture on the edges and fold up the edges in a decorative pattern, squeezing out any air. Set finished dumplings on a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet and continue until you have used up all of the shrimp mixture (how many dumplings you get will depend on how much shrimp mixture).
  3. Freeze the dumplings until required, it only takes a minute longer to cook them from frozen and they are much easier to handle while frozen.

Ingredients for the Shiso Broth:

  • 4 cups (1 L) chicken stock or water
  • 4 tbsp (50 mL) sodium reduced soy sauce
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) mirin
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp (4 mL) honey
  • 1 tsp (4 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 oz (30 g) shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 20 thin slices peeled carrot
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) julienne leek (white part only)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) baby spinach leaves
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) white sesame seeds, toasted

Shiso Broth and Serving:

  1. Pre-heat the oven on High broil. Remove the Cod from the marinade and lay onto a parchment lined shallow sided baking tray. Broil for 8-10 minute or until an internal temperature of 168° F is reached.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil and boil 12 shrimp dumplings for about 3 minutes or until they float to the top. Remove dumpling with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Combine all of the Shiso Broth ingredients but the spinach and sesame seeds in a large pot and slowly bring to a boil (adding the marinating liquid as a punch of flavour). Cook until the carrots are soft and then reduce to a simmer, adding the spinach and the shrimp dumplings to wilt and warm through.
  4. Warm 4 shallow, rimmed soup bowls. Add about 1 cup of broth, including mushrooms, spinach and carrots and top with the broiled Cod serving with 3 dumplings per plate. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Notes:

  • I always use sodium reduced Soy sauce.
  • I have replaced sugar with honey.
  • No need to purchase drinking Sake, a good quality cooking Sake will do the trick.
  • The LCBO recipe makes far too many dumplings so just freeze what you don’t use for next time.
  • The LCBO recipe for the dumplings contain scallops but they are ridiculously expensive so I have omitted them, either way is tasty.
  • In a pinch, you can buy ready-made shrimp dumplings although I have not done this.
  • Purchased wonton wrappers tend to be a bit too thick, so I recommend to roll them to a thinner thickness so they don’t taste too heavy.

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CompostBroth_first

Warning, night photos with very bad lighting!

Many years ago, a woman from Florida started commenting regularly on my blog. Of course, I began reciprocating on her blog (which was the point, I guess) and I discovered that the more blogs I commented on, the more comments my blog would garner. That can get old really fast. I nick-named the task ‘comment whoring’. These days, I only comment on a select few blogs, many of them I have actually met the author in person and have a non-blog relationship. It’s not that I don’t like lots of comments (it makes me feel very popular, unlike real life), but I’d rather have a few of real value than a bunch of “yum!”. I’d love to hear what you think. I like to leave value comments too, you may have noticed that they can be a bit wordy! 😉

That woman from Florida was a Military wife and she knew how to make a dollar stretch. One of her posts was about a vegetable stock made entirely from vegetable trimmings. At first, I thought it was strange (OK, and a bit gross) but a really good friend recently mentioned she does the same thing, so I decided to give it a try. I am proud to say that I am now totally a convert. The stocks are always richly flavoured and a beautiful colour due to the onion skins. Onion skin broth is supposed to be a natural blood pressure remedy, although I have no idea how much you need to have for it to work! I keep a ziplock bag in my freezer and not one Veggy trim goes in the bin, it all goes into the freezer bag and once I have filled the bag, I take out my broth pot and fill it with water and simmer with all the trimmings for 3 hours, give or take. At the end, I turn the gas off and allow it to cool off. I strain the liquid 2-3 times, having the final strain through a metal, fine coffee filter (not the paper kind, they bung up too quickly). The straining allows you to capture any bits of dirt and gunge that may have gotten in the stock. The stock is delicious on its own or used in recipes. No two broths are alike. I encourage you to give this a go, there are no rules other than washing your trimmings well or just buy organic (although, I’d still wash well). And as usual, I don’t salt until I use it because everything requires different seasonings.

 

CompostBroth

This pot was comprised of some leftover shoot veggies and lettuces.

 

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Dumplings_First

Fibre is always a good thing to add to your diet and as we age it becomes more and more important. With the weather being chilly (because it’s February and we live in Toronto, DUH!) I’ve been craving a lot of soup, and my favourite is a broth soup. Every week I make a large batch of compost stock (well-washed vegetable trimmings) and my dinner is usually the vegetable broth with chopped vegetables but sometimes I crave something more. Recently JT was away for some councillor meetings so I was able to experiment freely without judgement and I came up with these high fibre dumplings. The egg adds the protein and the dumplings add more than 3.5 times the fibre a regular dumpling would have. They remind me of matzo balls but a tad firmer, which I prefer anyway. So if you’re trying to add a bit more fibre to your diet, give these gems a go, I think they’re pretty tasty.

HighFibreDumplings_8460

The parsley adds delicious flavour so don’t skip it.

High Fibre Soup Dumplings

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • a good fist of parsley leaves
  • 1 extra large egg

Directions:

  1. Add all the dry ingredients and parsley to the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until mostly powder.
  2. Add the egg and 2 tablespoons water and mix thoroughly and let sit 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken.
  3. Drop by teaspoon-full into the boiling soup and cook thoroughly (usually when they rise to the top).
  4. Serve immediately.

DumplingNutValue

Based on 2 servings

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ChickenALaKingSoupDuring my childhood, we ate mostly Canadian-ized Hungarian food. And by Canadian-ized, I mean that Mom used yogurt instead of tejföl (sour cream), oil instead of lard etc. Every weekend we would have a roast of beef or pork (but mainly beef) and in the summer, Dad would BBQ steak and thick juicy bacon (szalonna). On weekdays Mom had her repertoire of chicken and fish dishes and I do recall the odd (when Dad wasn’t home for dinner) meatloaf, with the obligatory hard-boiled egg inside and various Hungarian stews like Lecsó and tok fózelék (a similar dish to creamed spinach but it’s on the sour side).

Around the timeI turned 14, I became interested in cooking recipes that I chose myself and my dear Mom encouraged me. One of my favourite resources very early on was the Milk Calendar, put out in full colour print for free by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Every December, I eagerly awaited the Milk Calendar tucked away in the weekend edition of the Toronto Star. One of the first dishes I ever made on my own was Chicken á la King with leftover chicken (back in the day when a roast chicken fed a family of four AND had enough leftovers for another meal!)

I have to admit, I am unsure if the following inspiration came from the Milk Calendar (I’m leaning toward this) or my beloved Five Roses Cookbook (recipe page 233). What I can tell you with most certainty is that as I was making this soup, I instantly recognized the aroma and flavour of our beloved childhood Chicken á la King. The ingredients are quite unexpected and it’s pretty healthy to boot. If you love the flavours of a creamy Chicken á la King, you will LOVE this recipe.

When did you first begin cooking on your own and did you have a favourite recipe book that you used until it fell apart?

ChixALaKingSoup_7961

Chicken á la King Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes  3 or 4 servings 700-800 mL (3 1/2-4 cups),

Ingredients:

  • 180 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • water to cover
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cooking onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, cubed
  • 1 carrot, cubed
  • 2 radishes, cubed
  • 2 tbsp frozen peas (optional garnish)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 100 g chicken breast, skinless and boneless, cut into smallish strips
  • chicken stock
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the celery, carrot, and radish until soft. Add the chicken and cook through. Set aside in another bowl.
  2. In the same saucepan, add the remainding 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the lentils, stir and cover with water. Cook until lentils are very soft. Remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender until very smooth, adding chicken stock until desired thickness is achieved (I left mine relative thick so it’s more stew-like). Add the apple cider vinegar and blitz until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Return the puréed lentils to the heat and slowly reheat, add the cooked vegetables and chicken and stir well. Serve pipping hot.
ChickenalaKingNF Healthy Chicken á la King Soup

WWPointChixalaKing 

Traditional Chicken á la King

 

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FrenchOnionSoup_First

Recently we had some good friends for Brunch and my friend Angela told me how she makes the most delicious vegetable stock from vegetable trimmings. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’d heard of this frugal stock but to be honest, I was skeptical on how good it would be — stock from trimmings? That’s bunny food! I’ve been using roast chicken carcass for soups for a few years now but I’ve never jumped into the compost bin head first to make this vegetable stock before. Angela and her husband were quite convincing on how good this stock is, so I decided to give it a try.

My first attempt was a simple stock using vidalia onion skins, garlic skins, eggplant ends, zucchini ends, celery leaves, cilantro stems and green onion ends. I made sure to wash the skins very well and tossed them into a large stock pot with enough water to cover. I tossed in a tiny bit of salt and boiled, then I reduced to a simmer for about 4 hours. WOW! I can’t tell you how good this was! For a lunch, I simply sautéed more zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and celery and ladled the “Compost Stock” over it and drizzled it with parmesan cheese, boy was it GOOD!

When I saw how dark and rich the onion skins made the stock, I thought: why not make a French Onion Soup from it (we’ve made French Onion Soup here and here and here before)? And that is the way this recipe came about. It’s so easy and inexpensive that I urge you to try it. You can make it vegan by omitting the cheese or just use vegan cheese (not sure how good that could be!). And if you’re looking to save a few calories, omit the croutons and the cheese.

JT tried it and could not believe it was made with onion skins and caramelized onions, no stock at all — verdict, he loved it. For this version, we saved around $4 because I usually use an organic beef stock or sometimes I even roast some beef bones which would have saved us $6.00)!

Veg FrenchOnionSoup

Would you like a bowl?

A Vegetarian French Onion Soup

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6.25 cups) of soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large organic Vidalia onions, including skins
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 L (roughly 4 quarts) water
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (omit if vegan or vegetarian)
  • croutons, enough to fill 2 French Onion Soup bowls

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250°F (121° F).
  2. Wash outer skin of the onions well. Peel onions, add skins with the bay leaves and salt to a large stock pot with 4L (4 quarts) water in it. Stir and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  3. Slice onions very thinly on a mandoline (any larger bits that can’t be sliced, just add to the onion skin stock pot).
  4. Heat olive oil to a large Dutch oven and once hot (but not smoking) add onions; sweat onions until translucent and just beginning to caramelize (about 20 minutes). Add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cover with a piece of parchment (as illustrated below) and bake for 2-3 hours at 250° F (121° C) or until golden and fully caramelized.
  5. When stock is a rich, dark colour strain through a fine sieve to remove skins and bits and finally through a very fine sieve to remove any fine particles (I use a reusable coffee filter). Combine stock with caramelized onions and heat through. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as required.
  6. Plate in French onion soup bowls with croutons and mounds of Gruyère cheese, broil so it’s all melty and bubbly and serve hot!
  7. For a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the cheese or use vegan cheese.

parchment2

Parchment cover for the onions

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.45.35 PM

Based on 4 servings per batch without the Gruyère and croutons

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

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CreamedLentilSoup_First
Lunch in my new freelance reality is often something simple like cauliflower florets with a homemade bean dip but these last few weeks have made me crave soup like nothing else. Often I have something frozen that I can thaw on the range or in the microwave at a moment’s notice but because I had a head cold, I totally exhausted my stash. No canned soups here, homemade is way too easy!

We always have a pantry-full of dried beans and pulses, but as usual, I forgot to soak my beans so I used the next best thing and what I’d consider “instant” — the old standby, red lentil (they are Australian! Who knew?) The red lentil cooks up quickly and has a mild earthy flavour that takes to being flavoured with other vegetables and spices. I also noticed that I was very short in other ingredients so this soup was dictated by what was on hand, a few button mushrooms, onions, garlic and about 1 celery rib. JT loved it, as did I so I was very glad I had the forethought of jotting down the ingredients as I made up a batch. I netted about 600 mL which makes for a hearty meal for two but can be served as smaller portions for four as a starter. Definitely going to bookmark this one for the future, it’s a keeper!

Creamed Lentil Soup with Warm Goats Cheese & Mushroom Relish

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO in a small Dutch oven, add the celery, onion and garlic, sauté until soft and onions are transluscent.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for a moment, add the water and stir well.
  3. Cook the lentils over medium heat until soft. Transfer to a glass bowl and purée until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender. Set aside while making the warm relish.
  4. Garnish with crumbled herbed goats cheese and warm csramelized mushrooms.

Ingredients for the Warm Relish:

  • Handful of button mushrooms, cubed very small
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp herbed goats cheese

Directions for the Warm Relish:

  1. Melt the butter in a small cast iron frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté until caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Garnish soup as indicated above.

A comforting, smooth, filling soup with some great flavours.

A comforting, creamy, filling soup with some great flavours.

Notes:

  • The herbed goats cheese was something I had on hand from another dish, it is simply softened goats cheese, finely chopped parsley, thyme and sun dried tomatoes, sea salt combined.
  • Feel free to substitute plain goats cheese, crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • I usually press a soup like this through a fine sieve but did not feel it necessary this time, it was super creamy and smooth.
  • I would have loved to garnish with some finely chopped fresh herbs but sadly my herb garden was put to rest a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.51.27 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.52.48 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

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CoconutPumpkinSoup_first

Sorry guys, I’m a day late with this post…it’s been a little busy!

It’s definitely fall up here in the big smoke; the weather went from 25°-30° C (77°-86° F) to 5°-10° C (41°-50° F). That’s chilly. Mind you, it would help if I started wearing socks in my shoes, I just can’t bear that claustrophobic feeling my tootsies get all confined in socks/shoes/boots. How about you, do you dread confining your dogs in socks and shoes?

This soup came about because I bought a couple of smallish pie pumpkins for social media; I actually carved a client’s logo into one of the pumpkins! It turned out really well and I had an entire pie pumpkin left over. Then I got two more social media clients (bittersweet, story to come) who sells Caribbean food and sauces so I was dying to try their organic coconut milk! I checked my dear friend Lorraine’s blog for an easy pumpkin roasting technique and a delicious starter was born for thanksgiving dinner. This soup would be lovely with butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t in season. I suggest smallish portions (125 mL or 1/2 c) because it’s quite rich.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Makes about 875 mL (3.5 cups) depending on how thick you wish to have it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pumpkin, oven roasted
  • 1/2 onion, oven roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, oven roasted
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare pumpkin as Lorraine does in this post. Lightly coat onions and garlic with the coconut oil. Roast until soft.
  2. When Pumpkin is cooked through, onions and garlic are soft, add pumpkin flesh, onions and garlic to a blender contain with the vegetable stock, coconut milk, banana, curry powder, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg. Pulse blender until completely smooth. Set aside.
  3. Minutes prior to serving, re heat soup and pulse in blender once more to ‘lighten’. Serve immediately.

CoconutPumpkinSoup_7011

The banana adds a very subtle flavour, try not to overdo it as it will overpower the soup.

Notes:

  • Sadly cottage season is over and we’ve closed it down.
  • The banana is an interesting undertone, omit if you don’t care for bananas.
  • To have a lighter soup, don’t use full fat coconut milk or reduce the amount and replace the difference with skim milk.
  • A seared scallop would be a wonderful garnish in this decadent soup.

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GuinessOnionSoup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Do you have any St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Years and years ago, my friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, on hiatus right now) used to drag us and a bunch of her buddies to some Irish pub uptown. It became quite the tradition, each year a different venu, drinking beer and getting silly (and by getting silly, I am specifically referring to the particularly exuberant cheers when we smashed our beer glasses and broke a few!). When she moved out west, we just stopped celebrating. Then about 6 years ago (actually, 6 years and 2 weeks), my dear friend and colleague Andy and his partner Mark opened an Irish Pub in Leslieville called The Roy Public House (named after Mark’s dad who passed a few years earlier) and ever since we’ve been celebrating this holiday with a beer or two there (I might add, with mature calmness!). I just love heading over to the east end of Toronto, the pub is always filled with locals and friends and it’s a great spot to catch up over a pint. The food is pretty tasty too, the Cobb Salad and the Half Pound Beef Dip are a couple of our favourites. If you’re ever in the big smoke, you MUST drop by and have a pint and grab a bite. This particular St. Patrick’s Day will be no different…sometime tomorrow afternoon we’ll pop over to The Roy and raise a glass or two in honour of St. Patrick.

Have you ever had a recipe in your head for months and months? This Irish inspired soup was something I had at a rather unassuming Irish pub in Barrie last fall…we were heading up to my brother’s cottage for Thanksgiving and our normal Sushi lunch place, just off the highway had unexpectedly closed down so we needed a new place, fast. We had been running late and were very hungry so we literally stopped at the first place we found in old downtown and what luck that we did. They have a chef who insists on house-made menu items and the Guinness Onion Soup is one of her specialties so I had to try it. It actually floored me on how delicious it was! The Guinness caramelizes the onions beautifully and brings a rich (not bitter) flavour to the soup — dare I say, even better than the traditional French Onion Soup. I had this soup in my head all winter long and knew eventually a recipe needed to be developed so what better time to develop it than for St. Patrick’s Day. Other than a little slicing, it’s a pretty easy recipe, I even made my own no knead bread (because JT was up at Limerick Township doing his Councillor duties!).

The recipe makes 1.75 L and it’s totally freezable (or you can have it for three lunches and three dinners like we did — I liked the soup THAT much).

GuinessOnionSoup2

The broth is a bit richer than traditional French Onion Soup

 

Guinness Onion Soup with Cheddar and Croutons

Makes 1.75 L (depending on how much you boil it down)

Ingredients:

  • 650 g sweet onions, finely sliced
  • 200 g leeks, finely sliced
  • 440 mL Guinness draft
  • Quick spray of canola oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar 1 L beef stock
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated old cheddar per serving
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Sweat the onions and leeks in a large oven proof Dutch oven until translucent and have begun to caramelize (about 30 minutes).
  2. Pre-heat oven to 300° F (149° C)
  3. Add the Guinness and apple cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves and give it a stir.
  4. Cover with a loosely cut piece of parchment with a hole in the centre like the illustration and place in oven until onions are richly caramelized and Guinness has cooked down about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and add 1 L of beef stock and bring back to a boil on the stove, taste and season now (keeping in mind that the cheddar will also add some saltiness).
  6. Create large homemade croutons from a couple of slices of no knead bread (cut into 2-3 cm (1″) cubes and toss with a little canola oil, toast until crispy all over.
  7. Ladle about 1 cup of soup into each pre-warmed bowl with a generous serving of cooked onions. Add broth to cover and sprinkle some grated cheddar over the onions. Add a few croutons and add more cheddar. Broil on high until cheese melts and is bubbly. Serve immediately, don’t stop to take photos.
parchment2

Notes:

  • There are a lot of onions in this version because I was looking for a hearty soup.
  • Notice I didn’t do the calorie calculation, there are some things we just don’t need to know.
  • The vinegar adds a little bite and bit of sweetness, if you don’t like my Onion Confit then omit it or add less (or even substitute a good, rich balsamic vinegar).

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RoastedTomatoSoup

This time of year, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere are not quite as fortunate as those who live in the southern hemisphere; I’m referring to being able to source the best produce, of course. Personally, I think tomatoes are the greatest disappointment by far (next to strawberries). More often than not, I bite into a tomato and taste nothing. Nadda. Mealy. Pasty. Nothing. This time of year, I tend to gravitate toward the best canned tomatoes, knowing that they were picked and packed at their prime. But somehow, when it comes to using the humble tomato as the main ingredient, the STAR as it were, I feel that canned just wouldn’t cut it and alternative measures must be taken.

Some of you who have been on this journey with kitcheninspirations will recall that I posted a rant and a solution about unseasonal tomatoes a few years ago (4 to be exact) and todays post is about a great use for those oven-dried tomatoes. Oven drying is a long procedure but well worth it, particularly because there is little to no effort involved. Just a few clicks on the hydro metre and you’re almost all the way to a delicious tomato recipe.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Serves 4-5 150-175 mL servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) tomatoes ~ this doesn’t have to be precise (I used vine ripened)
  • 500 mL to 1 L chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or chicken stock stock)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp goats cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp unflavoured yogurt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250° F (121° C).
  2. Remove all loose skin from each garlic clove, leaving the tight skin on. Place the cloves into a small ramekin and add about 2 tbsp olive oil and some sea salt. Cover with foil wrap and tuck into the corner of the oven. If you prefer not to bake the garlic at the same time as the tomatoes, you may roast the garlic in a 350° F (177° C) oven for 40-45 minutes or until soft.
  3. Wash and slice the tomatoes into thirds (believe me, the tomatoes lose a lot of water in the dehydration process so you must leave them THICK). Place cut side down on some paper towel for about a minute.
  4. Rub a cooling rack with a lightly oiled paper towel and place directly over a baking sheet (to catch any drippings).
  5. Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up on the prepared cooling rack and place in the centre of the pre heated oven. “Bake” for 4-5 hours until most of the moisture has been eliminated from the tomato.
  6. Once dehydrated, add all of the tomatoes and the roasted garlic (skin removed), baking soda into a heat-proof bowl and slowly add the stock. Blitz with the immersion (stick) blender until smooth, adding more chicken stock until the desired consistency has been achieved. Season with salt as desired.
  7. Push through a fine sieve and blitz once more for added creaminess.
  8. Combine the goats cheese and the yogurt and whip until fluffy. Set aside for serving.
  9. When ready to serve, heat the soup through and add a dollop of the goats cheese and yogurt into the centre. Serve piping hot.

RoastedTomatoSoup2

This thick, creamy soup is perfect for cold, snowy days. It would also be delicious chilled on a hot summers day.

Notes:

  • The addition of baking soda came from JT, he uses this trick in his delicious Chicken Cacciatore to quell the acidity of the tomatoes. It really brings out the tomatoes’ sweetness — try it instead of adding sugar!
  • I whipped the goats cheese with yogurt to make it easier to melt into the soup, we swirled it in and it was delicious.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 10.05.29 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 10.06.12 AM

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This past weekend was unseasonably cold at the lake.

This past weekend was unseasonably cold at the lake.

A very dear friend of mine invited me to a taping of a daytime lifestyle show called Steven & Chris last week. It was their first show of their eighth season so it was very special, that’s a long time to be on a show and what’s even more impressive is that they’ve been life partners for 22 years! My friend has been a long-time fan of the show and has been to several tapings over the years so we got the VIP treatment; we were the first to be ushered into the studio and first to be seated (front row, no less). It was truly an action packed show of which I’ll share the details after it airs, but I will share a few pics.

This is an HD camera.

This is an HD camera.

Our very excitable Audience Coordinators.They knew my friend by name!

Our very energetic Audience Coordinators.They knew my friend by name!

An ussie. Yes, it's a new word.

An ussie. Yes, it’s a new word.

Steven is the handsome devil on the left and Chris is the cutie-pie on the right.

Steven is the handsome devil on the left and Chris is the cutie-pie on the right.

Chef Michael Smith is a special guest.

Chef Michael Smith is a special guest (centre)

My dear friend invited me to another taping on September 30 when the special guest is a World Famous Chef! But I can’t say who just yet! I’m so excited. Thanks so much Angela, I really appreciate that you chose me for these exciting events!

DeconstuctedFrOnSoup-1

A caramelized, baked onion in a bed of beef stock and a Gruyere tuille

Deconstructed French Onion Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ordinary cooking onions
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • a few stems of fresh tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Please refer to this recipe on baking the onions and proceed to step 4.
  2. Lower the oven temperature to 250° F (121° C), add the beef stock, bay leaf and tarragon stems and cover the dutch oven with a lid or foil. Continue to bake for 2-3 hours or until the onions are extremely soft.
  3. To make the tuiles, line a baking sheet with parchment. Turn oven to broil, high heat. Pile 4 evenly spread circles of the grated Gruyere onto the baking sheet, about 5 cm or 2 inches apart. Broil on high until cheese is completely melted and begins to colour. Watch carefully as the cheese will burn very quickly. Remove from heat and place the parchment with cheese tuiles on a cooling rack and cool completely. When cooled, gently remove the tuiles and set aside.
  4. Discard the bay leaf. Remove onions from the beef stock and cut into the skins in quarters to reveal the soft centre. Remove the inedible onion skin. Place cut onions into the centre of a pretty bowl and ladle in a little stock. Garnish with the Gruyere tuille and the baked tarragon stems.

DeconstuctedFrOnSoup-2

It tastes just like French onion soup.

DeconstuctedFrOnSoup-3

I just can’t get enough of these tasty baked onions!

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A nice thick soup to help keep ourselves cool over the summer.

A nice thick soup to help keep ourselves cool over the summer.

Recently we had a half a watermelon left over from a weekend and I needed some space in the fridge for a styling gig so I had to do something with the watermelon, pronto! Summer was still in full swing so something cool and refreshing was on my mind. I’ve been seeing a lot of almond milk on the blog-o-sphere so I thought I’d like to get in on the band wagon and incorporate it into this soup. The almond meal adds some lovely texture and a subtle almond flavour, so I beefed it up with a small splash of pure almond essence. The yogurt make it very creamy and the basil and mint flavourings are just subtle background flavours. A sophisticated soup for a warm cottage evening.

This soup has body.

This soup has body.

Chilled Watermelon Gazpacho Scented with Almond, Basil and Mint

Serves 4 as appetizers

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg water melon
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond essence
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 tsp chopped mint
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop watermelon into a large bowl, add the almond flour, essence, yogurt and herbs. Blend until very smooth. Set aside in the fridge for 2-4 hours so the almond flour has time to absorb some liquid and thicken the soup.
  2. Blend again and press through a fine sieve. Serve chilled garnished with pomegranate seeds or more mint.

A brighter Watermelon Gazpacho can be found here.

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of recipe testing lately. It’s a lot of fun because many of the recipes are ones I wouldn’t normally try, so it pushes me to try and taste new things. One of the recipes needed baking potatoes but of a specific size so when I had some left over, I figured why not make soup (plus I had lots of stock left over too!)? I knew from past experience that if I called this Vichyssoise I would be lambasted because I didn’t use leeks nor did I use cream so, to nip it in the butt, I just called it Chilled Baked Potato Soup! 😛

I made this for lunch and I didn’t have anything else with it so I wanted it hearty. Add more stock if you don’t want it as thick.

ChilledBakedPotatoSoup_3123

JT: “It really does taste like a baked potato!”

A Room Temperature Baked Potato Soup

Makes about four servings 375 mL each (1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large baking potato, scrubbed clean
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)
  • 1/4 strip of bacon, cooked until crispy, per serving (substitute with feta or crumbled vegan feta (recipe to come))
  • 1 tsp of sour cream or crême fraiche or Greek yogurt, per serving (or vegan sour cream)
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Pierce the baking potato with a fork (so it doesn’t explode) and wrap with parchment and then foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserts easily.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small ramekin, add the garlic cloves (with skin on), the chopped onion and cover with 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Season with a little salt and cover the ramekin with foil. Bake along side the potato for 30-45 minutes or until the garlic is very soft.
  3. When the potato is done, cut in half and scoop out all of the flesh with a spoon into a glass bowl. Squeeze out the garlic cloves from their skin and add to the potatoes, pour in the chicken stock with the onions and salt into the potato mix. With your stick blender, purée adding stock until you achieve the consistency you want. Press through a fine sieve to ensure it’s silky smooth.
  4. Serve at room temperature (or reheat), garnished with 1 tsp sour cream, crumbled bacon and chopped green onion.

It really does taste like a baked potato!

A creamy, dreamy room temperature soup. No that’s not a fish bowl back there!

Notes:

  • I’m in the process of creating a recipe for vegan feta (a brined cheese) so stay tuned!
  • The soup definitely tastes better at room temperature rather than chilled, you get more of the potato flavour at room temperature.
  • If you heat the soup, add some grated cheddar on top, I didn’t because I thought it might be weird because it wouldn’t melt.
  • You may replace the stock for roasting the garlic with olive oil, I did not because I wanted it a bit healthier.

Based on 4 servings

Based on 4 servings

Using non-vegetarian ingredients

Using non-vegetarian ingredients

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I’ve been busy :-). You already know that I’m writing social media content for a marketing company’s food related client(s) and now they’ve up’d the ante and put me on contract to write for them, every month until September! Plus last week they’ve scored yet another food related client! YAY! I’m totally loving it, but it means even less time for blogging, boo. These days my mind is filled with possible posts and brand related photography for their posts and not mine…and then last week my recipe testing gig also started up again and I’ve been working hard at testing recipes for my recipe developer client. But I’m not complaining, just letting you know that I may not be by to comment on every post you make but I do read them (in the middle of the night) so know that I’m out there thinking of you ;-).

And my food styling is still going on, last week I actually styled (not assisted) for a shoot for my old (boss, friend, neighbour, Kim) and it was fantastic! Here’s a photo of the photographer and Kim as we wait for an approval for the shot from the client (not at the shoot).

Waiting for approval.

Waiting for approval.

Temperatures in Toronto and the cottage have been on the cooler side but it’s been incredibly humid; for example one day last week we had 98% humidity! That’s what we call close, one would comment that “it feels very close today.” I’m still not complaining because it’s not -25C and it’s not snowing…yet. But it does feel close!

We had a friend over for dinner and I wanted a refreshing starter for our dinner so I came up with this tasty soup. I know I’ve already posted about a chilled melon, kiwi and prosciutto soupbefore but this one is different. For vegetarians, I suggest you use feta instead of prosciutto for the saltiness.

HoneydewSoup_3058

Chilled Honeydew Melon Soup with Crême Fraiche and Prosciutto and frozen melon balls

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 800 g honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 75 g cucumber
  • Mint to taste
  • 1 large basil leaf
  • 3 tsp Crême fraiche
  • Frozen melon balls
  • 1 slice prosciutto, crispy fried

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except the crême fraiche, frozen melon balls and prosciutto into your blender or immersion blender container and process until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Make tiny little melon balls with a very small melon baller like this. Place on a piece of parchment and freeze for several hours.
  4. Garnish with frozen melon balls and crumbled crispy fried prosciutto or crumbled feta.

Notes:

  • Our melon was very sweet so we didn’t need to sweeten it further, but you may use honey to taste.
  • Vegetarians should replace the prosciutto with a very salty feta to get a similar profile.
  • Vegans could get a similar profile replacing the prosciutto with chopped sun-dried olives.
  • The frozen Mellon balls were made with this tiny melon baller

HoneydewSoup_3054

 

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The ice is melting. Thank God! We are so over winter. This past weekend was warm enough to walk outside in a light jacket and no hat (ok, I did start out wearing gloves, but took them off). The ground is defrosting and the air smelled like my childhood spring; do you remember that wet mud, musty smell? I don’t know about other ladies in our hemisphere but I’ve stopped wearing socks! There I said it. My poor dogs are so sick of being all locked up and claustrophobic in socks and boots that they needed to be liberated! Yes, they may still get a bit chilled at times, but I don’t care! I’m done. And sadly the start of this week is back down to 2C (xxF) so this soup post is not entirely outside of expectation even though it was made about a month ago.
This soup was a last minute St. Paddy’s Day effort to make something green for dinner and I dare say it turned out even better than expected, so here it is on the blog for posterity and for me so I remember to make it again (it was that good)! It’s so creamy and smooth you’d never guess there is no cream in it!

BroccoliSpinachSoup_2286

The smooth creamy texture makes you think it’s much more sinful than it is!

It’s a nice thick vegetable soup without cream or any type of starch in it. The beautiful green colour comes from purée-ing raw baby spinach leaves into the warm broccoli soup and blitzing it for about two to three minutes to get the creamy consistency you see, I didn’t even push it through a fine sieve. There is no butter nor cream but you can add a pinch if you’d like.

The garnish is oven dried baby spinach leaves which I was hoping to make into a post on their own, but alas they were far too delicate and did not make the test! But they do make a gorgeous garnish, n’est pas?

Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli florets, including stems
  • 1 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cups water or stock
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves, raw

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a quick spray of non-stock or olive oil, adding water as needed until they are translucent. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cook stirring often until they are very tender. Add a couple of cups of water or stock and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Pour contents into a heat proof beaker and purée using your immersion blender (or you may do this step in a regular glass blender). Purée for a minute or so and then  add the raw baby spinach and purée for another 2-3 minutes until very smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more water or stock if you feel it’s too thick.
  3. Serve warm garnished with dried spinach leaves*.

Notes:

  • To oven dry spinach leaves: Pre-heat the oven to the lowest temperature, mine is 170°F. Take the largest leaves from the package of baby spinach and lay over a dry cooling rack making sure they do not overlap. Place in the warm oven and watch for 15-20 minutes until they are completely dry and crispy. This would also work wonderfully with basil leaves. This is a great alternative to deep frying them.

BroccoliSpinachSoup_2291

The bright green colour is attributed to the raw spinach that’s been puréed into the cooked broccoli soup. Do you think I have a thing for green?

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ChillyTemps_1842

-22°C is -7.6°F (wind chill: -38°C is -38.4°F)

We had some very cold weather in December and I know some of my dear readers are experiencing some very hot weather — I can’t say which I prefer more, but at least one can put a few more layers on in the cold, not much you can take off after you’ve taken it all off in the heat (or maybe that was a vision we didn’t need!). To help combat the chill over the holidays, I made a big batch of beef barley soup which we had for a lunch and then froze the remainder for quickie servings in the future; it’s always easier to eat healthful if you are armed with healthy food.

BeefBarleySoup_1846

A thick soup flavoured with lots of mushrooms and chunks of beef

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup or 3 stalks celery, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 L Low Sodium beef stock
  • 5-7 dried  “fa goo” Chinese mushrooms, sliced (hydrated but save the liquid and strain it through a fine sieve)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 1″ sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 400 g cubed beef (relatively small)
  • 1 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1-2 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • water, if necessary

Directions:

  1. Allow the beef cubes to come to room temperature. Preheat the slow cooker on high.
  2. Add 1-2 tsp canola oil to a hot cast iron dutch oven and brown the beef on all sides. Add to the slow cooker pot.
  3. In the same dutch oven, cook the onions until translucent, then add the garlic until fragrant. Stir in the pearl barley and toast for a few moments. Pour into the slow cooker with the beef. Add the beef stock to the slow cooker and give it a good stir.
  4. Deglaze the dutch oven with the sherry and add it to the slow cooker and add the bay leaf, thyme and finely chopped rosemary. Cook for 4-6 hours on low temperature or 3-4 hours on high.
  5. For the final hour, add the sliced hydrated mushrooms and the strained mushroom stock and give it a good stir.
  6. After the final hour, test the barley for doneness and soup for thickness, should you want a slightly less thick soup, add more water.
  7. Remove the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt and a sprig of rosemary.
  8. Cool leftovers completely and pour into plastic containers for freezing.

BeefBarleySoup_1843

A nice dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt is always a nice addition. Of course the crostini with brie never hurts either!

Although December and January were very cold, in late January and early February we were bombarded with snow. A lot of snow, all at once. I know other parts of the world get snow, but this is a lot for us, particularly those of us living in the city with smaller lots which means we have a really hard time finding the space to shovel the snow off the sidewalks and driveways! Enjoy the photos below and just be grateful you didn’t have to shovel it.

Feb5Snow_2041

This snow mound is just about 1 metre high (39″)

Feb5Snow_2040

You can see how high the snow is piled from our gorgeous little tree!

Feb5Snow_2042

These are our Rose of Sharon ‘trees’. They are about 3 metres (10 feet) tall, but they just look like shrubs with the snow piled up to their canopy!

 

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My nephew Brian came for dinner in late January and it was a bitterly cold day so I thought starting out with a soup would be welcome. I’ve always enjoyed Italian Wedding Soup but recently had a very bad version while shopping in Buffalo which has jaundiced me from ordering it again at a restaurant, surprisingly it was in an Italian restaurant, but it was a chain, so I should have known better.

I have updated the traditional recipe using some unusual ingredients, I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think. I ground my own beef and pork but you can easily buy already ground meat (extra lean of course). You’ll be surprised that I used puffed quinoa in the meatballs because I didn’t want to use bread crumbs or panko! Pretty clever don’t you think? I also used kale instead of the traditional spinach because I like the way kale holds up in a soup. Israeli couscous was my clever substitution for the pasta, it’s still pasta but I really liked the look of the balls in the soup.

ItalianWeddingSoup_1882

A flavourful broth with a variety of textures make this soup a welcome addition to my soup repertoire.

Italian Wedding Soup, my way

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 1.5 g each of lean beef and pork
  • 1/3 cup puffed quinoa
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp freshly chopped oregano
  • 1/4 tsp each nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper (I use a mix of mainly white, s little black and a little red)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 1/2 L (about 1 1/2 qt) Home-made or Low Sodium Chicken stock
  • 1/2  (about 1 1/2 cups) large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 bunch kale (about 4 cups) finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots (about 2-2 1/2 cups), cubed
  • 2 celery ribs (about 1 cup), cubed
  • 3 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • water, if necessary
  • 1 good size Parmesan rind

Directions:

  1. In a large, chilled metal bowl, combine the onion, beef and pork, puffed quinoa, parmesan cheese, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and the lightly beaten egg. Shape into smallish meatballs and set on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 177° C 350°F. Heat a skillet with 1 tsp canola oil and fry each meatball to brown all sides in two batches. Use the second tsp of canola oil for the second batch. Replace on cookie sheet lined with clean parchment and bake the meatballs until done (about 30 minutes).
  3. Cook the Israeli Couscous as per package directions to al dente. Set aside.
  4. Pre heat a large soup pot with 1 tsp canola oil, sauté the sweet onion until translucent, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the chopped kale, carrots and celery and stir for about 4 minutes.
  5. Cover with chicken stock and top off with additional water if desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan rind.
  6. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables have reached their desired consistency, I like a very slight crunch so that they are not mushy in the soup. Add the couscous and baked meatballs just before serving to heat through.
  7. Remove theParmesan rind and eat.
  8. Serve garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese.

ItalianWeddingSoup_1887

The shaved Parmesan adds a delicate saltiness to this delicious soup.

Tips:

  • If you are making this soup to freeze, I would recommend freezing the meatballs and the Israeli couscous in separate bags to the soup and adding to heat just at serving. I kept a batch in the fridge with the couscous and meatballs and they got mushy in two days.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.29.17 PM

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Several years ago we dined in a lovely bistro in the heart of the financial district downtown Toronto called Forte Bistro and Lounge. JT had read about Chef Greg Argent in one of our foodie magazines and he knew right away we had to experience his cooking! Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around but the delicious memories of Chef Argent’s cuisine still lingers on.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

One such dish was the unique French Onion Soup Dumplings ($11): a tender pasta dumpling filled with braised veal broth and gruyère cheese; what made this tasty dumpling so unusual was the surprise of the explosion of veal glacé that would fill you mouth with flavour after biting into the tender pasta, immediately reminding you of French Onion Soup! I have tried many times to recreate this wonderful dish without success and then Chef Argent revealed his ‘secret’ when I asked how he does it. Today I will share with you the secret of the tasty, unassuming little dumpling, but you must swear never to speak of it again! Although the recipe is laborious, I urge you to make a batch to serve as an amuse bouche or little hors d’œuvres at your next Super Bowl party (you may freeze uncooked dumplings on a parchment lined sheet lightly dusted with flour and then put them into a zip-lock bag), you will not only thank me for the wonderful compliments your lucky guests bestow upon you, you may even wish to send me gifts! 😉

Did you figure out the 'secret'?

Did you figure out the ‘secret’?

French Onion Soup Pillows

makes 60 single bite pillows

Ingredients for the broth:

  • 0.5 kg (about 1 pound) Beef bones or oxtail bones
  • 130 g (about 4.5 oz) sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp merlot salt (from my friend Kristy at Eat, play, love; our family food adventures)
  • 600 mL water, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry
  • 3 g (a scant teaspoon) powdered gelatine (agar agar will not work here)
  • 1 cup caramelized onions (please click here for a great recipe)
  • Home made pasta dough or 60 square won ton wrappers (for a great pasta dough recipe, please check out Chicago John’s kitchen)
  • Gruyère cheese to garnish

Directions for the broth:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F 177°C. Put a 11.5 cm x 21.5 cm (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) metal loaf pan into the freezer.
  2. Sear the beef bones well on high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp cooking sherry or port. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a minute or so on the residual heat from searing. Spread the onions out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef bones to the pan and nestle into the onions, add the merlot salt, bay leaf and 300 mL water. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated, top up as needed.
  3. Remove pan from oven and remove tin foil. Add an additional 200 mL water and boil on the stove top until liquid is reduced to about 150 mL (about 5 oz). Strain through a fine sieve and press as much liquid out of the cooked onions as possible.
  4. Set aside about 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the stock and cool. Keep the remainder stock on a soft boil.
  5. Stir the gelatine into the cooled stock until melted. Add the boiling stock and stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into the super cooled loaf pan. Refrigerate until set.

FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1960

You can develop a little assembly line to speed up the process!

An unexpected, rich, delicious soup explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

An unexpected, rich, delicious broth explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

Directions for assembling the pillows:

  1. Roll out the pasta dough to #4 thickness on the Kitchenaid Pasta roller (less than 1 mm or 0.125 inch). Using a 6-7cm (2.5″ -2.75″) oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals to make both sides of the pillows.
  2. Remove the jelled broth from the fridge and cut into 0.5-1cm (0.25″-0.5″) rectangles.
  3. Onto each oval, more or less centred, add one jelled broth rectangle and about 1/4 tsp caramelized onion. Wet your finger and run a wet bead along the outer edge of the pasta oval. Turn up both sides of the oval and squeeze the edges together to bind — you don’t want these pillows to burst open when boiling.
  4. Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and add each finished pillow to it so as not to touch each other. Freeze and bag frozen pillows into a zip lock bag or container. Use as many as needed.
  5. Bring an appropriate  amount of salted water to a boil. Add frozen pillows and boil until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean dish cloth to drain off water. Present on a Chinese soup spoon and garnish with a small amount of finely grated gruyère cheese. Brûlée the cheese until it is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.

FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1950

The Brûléed Gruyère cheese taste just like the burnt bits on a French Onion soup bowl.

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I have three Indian cookbooks from which I can usually find something I want to make, perhaps with some additional guidance from a cooking site or blog. The one cookbook I bought because every single recipe had a lovely photograph! It’s relatively small 12 cm x 15 cm (5″ x 6″) which makes it even more adorable! It came with a ribbon book mark attached to the spine so you can mark the recipe you are making or the next one since it has lay-flat binding. With all these things going for it, you would think I would love this cookbook, but sadly I don’t. In fact, I have not enjoyed one of the recipes I’ve made from this book without significant changes! I should just chuck the thing but I can’t because I really like the way it looks. I know it’s silly but it is what it is.

This is a recipe I altered after having acquired a Meyer Lemon from a shoot in November and I wanted to make something with it. I puréed the soup to a smooth velvety consistency and I dressed it with a cumin yogurt drizzle with green onion slices, you could also drizzle with a flavour olive oil. The Papadams are from our trip to Chicago when Chgo John took us to his favourite ethnic stores.

Lemon Lentil Soup_1334

The earthy lentils burst with fresh, lively flavour with the lemon

Lemon Lentil Soup

Serves 2 generously (1 cup portions or 250 mL each)

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dahl or yellow lentils
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peel and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-4 cups water (depending on how thick you prefer your soup)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Shopped green onions as garnish
  • papadums

Directions:

  1. Rinse the lentils and cook with the ginger, garlic, chill and turmeric and 2 cups water until soft.
  2. Add the salt, lemon juice and rind and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, adding water to achieve the consistency you prefer.
  3. Press through a fine sieve and set aside.
  4. In a small frying pan add the cumin and toast until fragrant. Cool. Once cool add to the yogurt and mix well. Salt to taste. Transfer to a small plastic squeeze bottle.
  5. Reheat soup and pour into rimmed soup bowls. Begin piping the yogurt from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, then 2 to 7 and finally from 9 to 3. Then using a sharp knife beginning in the centre of the bowl, draw a spiral circle culminating at the outer ring (this will make the pattern). Garnish with the chopped green onions and papadums.

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Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

It’s super creamy and super filling

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