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Archive for the ‘Vegetable Sides’ Category

We just love Asian flavours, particularly in the summertime. The food is light, fresh and easy to eat on these endless, hot, muggy, summer days. I’ve made quick-pickled daikon in the past as a garnish but this time I wanted something that will serve a few meals. I love Nami’s no-nonsense approach to authentic Japanese food so her blog Just One Cookbook is generally my go-to and this was no exception. I did make a minor change by omitting the heat and reducing the sugar (even though she warned against it). I love the fresh crunch of this daikon pickle. But be warned, the daikon odour will penetrate everything and it is potent! I put the Lamp Berger on every time I open the jar!

Pickled Daikon

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

  • 454 g fresh daikon, julienned thinly
  • 45 g sugar
  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL mirin
  • 2 g salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a tightly sealable container (you may wish to double bag it because it really stinks up the refrigerator).
  2. Mix well. Seal the container and place in the fridge for 2 days.
  3. After 2 days, rinse well and strain. Sterilize a jar and add the daikon to the jar, seal and refrigerate. Will keep for about 1 month.

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My dear friend Lorraine Elliott published this recipe while we were wintering in Spain. It’s not super hot in Spain this time of year and we prefer it that way because we are not fans of extreme heat or crowds. I like to choose simple recipes that can be baked in the oven to warm the kitchen up a bit. The moment I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t source Halloumi in our little village or even the big supermarket in the city so I used a Spanish Manchego. It was delicious! A perfect lunch with a tomato side salad.

It’s similar to Spanakopita but not really.

Spinach, Feta and Manchego Pie

Makes a pie about 12 cm x 25 cm x 3 cm.

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
  • 400 g frozen spinach, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
  • 100 g sweet onion, finely sliced
  • 20 g roasted garlic, puréed
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 120 g Greek feta, crumbled
  • 80 g of Manchego, grated
  • 15 mL milk, divided

Directions:

  1. Once the spinach has defrosted, squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry to about 2 times the size of your pan. Insert it into the parchment-lined pan and dock it with a fork.
  4. Press a sheet of foil into the pan to hold the sides of the pastry up. Add some weight to avoid it from rising too much. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.
  5. In the meantime, sauté the onion until translucent, add the spinach and break it up to incorporate the onion evenly. Stir in the roasted garlic purée and nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl.
  6. Add the cheese to the spinach and stir until entirely combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Roll the second sheet of pastry to the size of the pan. Return it to the refrigerator.
  8. Remove the foil from the baked pastry and spoon the spinach mixture pressing it evenly into the pan.
  9. Brush the top part of all four sides of the pastry with milk. Remove the second pastry from the refrigerator and lay it over the spinach-filled pastry. Press the sides of the top pastry into the spinach-filled pastry.
  10. Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining milk and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
  11. Slice the pie into equal portions, serve piping hot with a little salad.

Note:

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chickenschnitzel_first

We just got back from a two-week holiday in Arizona. I apologize for not commenting as much as I usually do, but you know the drill on holidays.

Regarding Arizona, I would love to say it was perfect weather, and perhaps it was, for Toronto weather but it was cold, sometimes snowy and rainy. Our time with dear friends more than made up for the lousy weather. Although we did have a few gloriously sunny days before the ugly, rainy days we spent in Sedona. Fortunately, our time at the Grand Canyon was clear, albeit cold (read: two layers of leggings, three long-sleeved Ts and a light winter jacket with hat, mittens and scarf). Once I get our photos sorted, I’ll post a few good ones on the blog, in the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my favourite ‘diet’ dishes, chicken “schnitzel” with roasted garlic cauliflower mash!

Chicken “Schnitzel” with Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 460 g cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 165 g chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 35 g egg white
  • 2 Ryvita whole wheat snack bread
  • 10 g whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup Herbes en Provence with granulated onion and garlic
  • few sprays of non-stick spray
  • chopped fresh dill for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Break down cauliflower into equal-sized florets and set on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast until softened. Add a bit of water at the end to steam to perfect tenderness for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets into a glass bowl and add the roasted garlic cloves. Blitz with the hand blender until creamy and smooth, adding a bit of water if necessary (I just added the left-over steaming liquid from the roasting pan). Set aside.
  4. Divide the chicken into two equal portions and butterfly each, cover the chicken with plastic and flatten it to about 0.5 cm or 1/4 inch with a kitchen mallet. Put them into the fridge.
  5. Add Ryvita to a small zip lock bag and smash into smaller but coarser bits. Add the Herbes en Provence and mix well.
  6. Add the egg whites into a large flat bowl and beat with a fork.
  7. Remove one chicken cutlet from the fridge and lightly dust each side with the whole wheat flour. Then dip it into the egg whites to cover both sides. Sprinkle each side with the Ryvita mixture to coat evenly. Repeat with second cutlet.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Spray each side of each cutlet and cook cutlets on both sides until nicely golden and the internal temperature is 185°F. Serve immediately with a slice of lemon and some fresh dill sprinkled onto it.

Notes:

  • The diet I use allows for two 100 g servings of protein per day.
  • If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, simply put a few unpeeled cloves into a ramekin filled with a little water or stock and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until softened.
  • Even though the chicken is very thin, it is so tender, it will knock your socks off.

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roastedwildmushroom_first

During our Epic European Vacation this past September, JT booked us into a One Star Michelin Restaurant, Alejandro, just outside of Almeria in the quiet town of Roquetas de Mar. We decided to do lunch because it was a little far to drive for dinner and we were already in Almeria, dropping off our dear friends Paul and T at the airport. Plus, lunch is more reasonable and probably less crowded. As it turned out, we were the only ones in the small restaurant for the majority of our meal, the entire kitchen team (I saw three chefs) and front of the house (two people) focussed on serving us, talk about service! The luncheon degustation tasting menu (nine courses) was only 50 Euros each, including a 10% tip (10% is the norm)! There were a few outstanding courses that I will attempt to recreate, tipping my hat to my new friend, David Crichton of Fine Dining at Home who consistently creates restaurant-quality meals in his humble home kitchen. Dave, I think you’d like this.

I won’t do a full review of the restaurant because they did not speak English, although, they had one English menu that they pointed to as they explained the dish in Spanish. #lostintranslation I should have used google translate! Notwithstanding, it was an exceptional meal and for the price, I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in or near Almeria (it’s only about a 30-minute drive from Almeria).

I won’t lie, this recipe is not quick, nor is it an easy recipe but if you make the mousse in advance, the rest comes together rather quickly. The mousse freezes well so I can see freezing 60 mL or 1/4 cup portions for future dinner parties.

The first layer, obscured by mushroom crumbs, is a mushroom mousse. The mushroom crumb is made from mushroom powder with toasted panko, seaweed and sea salt; it provides textural balance to the ultra-creamy mousse. The whole wild mushrooms are coated with Mycryo® and roasted in a super hot oven to coax out their subtle sweetness and temper their earthiness (the mushroom mousse and crumb brings all the earthiness needed for this dish). I used a variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms, sadly, not nearly as interesting as the dish below, but equally as tasty. I’m excited to make this dish for our next dinner guests!

The original dish

The original dish: Roasted wild mushrooms, sitting a top of mushroom crumbs which was covering a smooth as silk mushroom mousse. An incredible combination of flavours and textures. Fortunately for photography, the restaurant was brightly lit.

Roasted Wild Mushrooms on Mushroom and Chestnut Mousse with Mushroom Crumbs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe inspired by the One Star Michelin Chefs at Alejandro, Spain.

Makes 6 appetizer servings

Ingredients for the mushroom mousse:

Makes about 300 mL (1.25 cups) Mousse

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 50 g shallots, roughly chopped
  • 35 g garlic
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) EVOO
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo®
  • 200 g mix of wild mushrooms,roughly chopped
  • 100 g peeled, roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) mushroom stock

Directions:

  1. Remove outer layer of garlic skins but leave the inner layer intact. Place garlic bulb into a heatproof ramekin and cover partially with olive oil. Roast in a 175° C (350° F) oven until soft. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a dutch oven, add shallots and cook until caramelized.
  3. Dust the mushrooms in Mycryo® and add to shallots, stir and add the roasted chestnuts. Cook mushrooms and chestnuts until they are well seared and very soft, add roasted garlic.
  4. Purée with an immersion blender with the mushroom stock (adding a little at a time until desired consistency for mousse is achieved). Press the mousse through a fine sieve. Set aside and keep warm until plating.
mushroommousse

This is the mushroom mousse, so smooth and creamy.

Ingredients for the roasted mushrooms:

  • Mycryo®
  • 240 g wild mushrooms, mixed (choose smaller ones for the presentation)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 ° C (425° F). Coat the clean and dry mushrooms with Mycryo®. Spread in a large cast iron frying pan, leaving plenty of space around each mushroom (do not crowd, you don’t want them to steam, you want them to roast).
  2. Place cast iron pan in the hot oven. Turn mushrooms often for about 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms have browned and cooked through. Set aside and keep warm until plating.

Ingredients for the mushroom crumbs:

  • 60 g (1/2 cups) panko
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 15 g (1/4 cup) mushroom powder
  • 10 g Seaweed Bouchées (like this), crumbled
  • sea salt
  • Pinch of smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a frying pan, add panko and toast until golden. Remove from heat, add the mushroom powder, salt, smoked paprika and seaweed bouchées, stir well. Spinkle onto a clean piece of parchment and cool.
mushroomcrumb

This is the mushroom crumb, an earthy flavour with a good crunch.

Assembly:

  1. On warms plates, smear about 50 mL (1/4 cup) of the warm mushroom mousse. Sprinkle with the mushroom crumbs covering the mousse entirely and top with a variety of roasted mushrooms.
roastedmushrooms

The finished dish. It was met with a lot of mmmmmm.

Notes:

  • To make mushroom powder, take a variety of dried mushrooms, pulse in a coffee grinder dedicated to spices until it is a fine powder. Press through a fine sieve to catch any sand bits. Reserve in a clean jar for future use.
  • To make mushroom stock, take 10 g (1/3 cup) of a variety of dried mushrooms and place in a microwave-safe container and cover with 250 mL or 1 cup water. Microwave on high until mushrooms have reconstituted. Pour mushroom liquid through a fine gold coffee filter to capture all the sandy bits. Reserve 125 mL or 1/2 cup and freeze the rest for some other recipes (great in mushroom risotto).
  • This recipe is my impression of what we had in Spain. JT said it was pretty good according to memory.
  • UPDATE (January 2, 2017): I served this as the first course of our New Year’s Eve Dinner 2016 and got RAVE reviews! If you have mushroom lovers in your crowd, it’s worth the time and effort to prepare this dish. I made extra mousse (it’s the fussiest part) and froze it for an upcoming dinner party.
  • Because I was serving this as a course in a multi-course meal, I pre-roasted the mushrooms and then reheated them in a non-stick pan with about 2 tbsp butter.

 

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CoconutCauliFriedRice
A Chicken Mole Enchilada is not a low calorie dish, it’s about balance so I decided that I wanted a lighter side, hence the Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”. It’s really easy to prepare and goes well with Mexican and Thai dishes. The coconut flour absorbs moisture and helps the cauliflower “fry” instead of steam.

Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1 L or 8 cups coconut cauliflower “fried rice”

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower, washed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower to the bowl of your food processor (blender or emersion blender will not work), plus a few times until cauliflower resembles rice. Add the coconut flour and pulse to combine.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the EVOO in a large Dutch oven, add the cauliflower rice in batches (we don’t want to steam it, just heat it and give it a rough fry, like fried rice). Continue until all of the “rice” has been fried. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Notes:

  • Coconut flour absorbs moisture so the coconut cauliflower rice actually retains a similar texture to rice.
  • Coconut flavour may not work with all dishes but it was absolutely wonderful with the Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
  • You may also add some spices to this dish, like cumin or coriander but the mole was flavourful enough, I did not want to confuse the palette.

 

CoconutCauliflowerRice NutFacts

Based on 15 servings.

CauliflowerCoconutRice

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HungarianGreenBeanStew_first

Green bean stew (Zöldbab Főzelék) is one of those Hungarian dishes that is an aquired taste, it has a bit of a sour flavour and is usually rather heavy on the dill. I never liked it as a kid, but it is a Hungarian staple particularly as spring approaches. Recently, I found myself with a relatively large package of the lovely, extra-thin green beans and I wondered how I could make this roux-based dish a little healthier. I omitted the lard (I know, it’s flavour but we’re also trying to lose a few so we’re being good!) and I remade the roux with puréed lentils! Not so traditional, but it was rather tasty. With JT giving it a solid thumbs up, I’ll definitely be making this dish again!

Healthy Hungarian Green Bean Stew (Egészséges Zöldbab Főzelék)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Green Beans, trimmed and cut i bite-size pieces
  • 90 g leeks, roughly chopped
  • 20 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 30 g red lentils
  • 1 tsp Hungarian Paprika
  • Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped.

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven, sauté green beans until soft but still has a bit of a crunch adding a tablespoon of the vegetable stock as needed. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, add leeks, garlic and lentils and sauté adding a bit of vegetable stock until lentils are soft, add the paprika near the end. Purée the lentil sauce until smooth add  vegetable stock until desired consistency is achieved (should be thick like a roux). Add the yogurt and purée again until smooth. Return the beans to the lentil sauce and add the chopped dill (to taste), heat through and serve immediately.

Notes:

  • For an authentic Hungarian Green Bean Stew, please visit my friend Zsuzsa for her recipe.
  • I wanted a fat-free and gluten-free roux and that is why I chose red lentils to thicken the sauce.
  • This is a slightly sour dish from the yogurt, if you don’t like that type of flavour, omit it.
  • I served a baked tilapia on the stew, the tilapia is just seasoned with salt and pepper.
This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

Based on 2 servings per recipe.

The healthy version based on 2 servings per recipe.


This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

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SweetPotatoHummus_first

A couple of weeks ago my kitchen had all sorts of half used leftover vegetables from a testing I did for my recipe testing lady. They were for recipes that called for specific volumes of vegetables (such as, 1 cup) instead of the quantity of vegetables (such as 1 medium carrot). I always find those recipes a bit odd because I am left with bits and pieces that lay around for weeks without any specific purpose. Indeed, I could have thrown them into a soup or stew but I wasn’t making either of those things. Then I saw my lovely friend Lorraine’s Roasted Vegetable Hummus recipes and thought “GENIUS”! What a great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover veg. Thank you Lorraine, truly a great idea (ps, it was darn delicious too!).

Because this recipe was created to use up leftover vegetables, feel free to modify the quantity or variety to what you have on hand. This would also work beautifully if you had leftover roasted veg from a dinner. Hummus is an easy Middle Eastern dip/spread and the seasonings should be to your personal taste; we love the traditional flavours so I’ve kept it pretty much the same with the exception of substituting tahini with toasted sesame oil because that’s what I had (you can use peanut butter too, I know, GASP!!!).

It turned out that The Hungarians had never tried sweet potatoes (not sure if it’s a veg not available in Budapest or they were never introduced to it) but it was a grand success as a dip AND as a roasted vegetable side for our roast chicken dinner one night.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Hummus

makes about 1 cup, depending on the size of your vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 1 large clove of garlic, whole
  • 3 tbsp EVOO, divided
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp each, cumin and coriander
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp smoked sesame oil
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190° C (375° F).
  2. Add sweet potato and carrot cubes to a large roasting pan and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Add garlic (peel and all) to a small ramekin, top off with 2 tbsp olive oil and and water. Season with sea salt. Cover with foil and tuck into a corner of the roasting pan.
  4. Roast vegetables for about 35 minutes or until very tender, try not to brown the vegetables so that the dip colour remains vibrant.
  5. Scrape vegetables from roasting pan into a glass bowl, squeeze the garlic out from its skin and pour the liquid from the garlic into the glass bowl with the sweet potato and carrot.
  6. Toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant, add to the glass bowl along with the remainder of the ingredients (with the exception of the sesame seeds). Purée until smooth, season with salt and pepper, if desired. For an ultra smooth dip, press through a fine sieve. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature with bread, crackers or crisp vegetables.
SweetPotatoHummus

It’s creamy and naturally sweet.

My dear friend Genie of Bunny, Eats, Design suggested I submit this post to our growing edge for June, themed Picnic, hosted by Maddie from Supper Lovin’

our-growing-edge-banner

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AppleChutney_First

There is nothing like the push of having extended stay visitors to open your eyes to see all the deficiencies in your home. Case in point, several years ago I filled a few cracks on one of my kitchen walls and then I painted over the patches but since the rest of the wall was about 4 years old, the paint dried a slightly different colour and the wall looked patchy in certain lights. It was on my to do list f o r e v e r! So a couple of weeks ago, after I filled in a few new cracks, bought a new can of paint (when did paint become SO expensive?) I finally repainted the entire wall. A fresh coat of paint really freshens up a room. Of course, once I started filling in cracks all over the house and painting, there was no stopping me…it turned into a two-day project. But then it’s another thing off the list.

Recently we had James, a long-time college friend of JTs over for an Indian dinner and I made my new favourite Jamie Oliver Chicken Tikka Masala recipe along with Palek Paneer, the best Naan ever and a few condiments, pickled carrot and this delightful Apple Chutney. I am certain that James, who is a renovator, was too polite to say anything about my patchy walls but I kept the lighting low anyway!

What are some of the nagging to do’s on your home maintenance list?

AppleChutney

Sweet, tangy with a little bit of heat.

Apple Chutney

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 Granny Smith apple (about 165 g)
  • 165 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 80 g dates, coarsely chopped
  • 10 g fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 70 mL water
  • 1 tbsp Sweet Apricot Chili Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a heavy bottom sauce pan and cook on medium heat until onions have caramelized and the sauce is thick but still have texture.
  2. Cool. Serve at room temperature.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for 1 week or freeze.

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We’re buried in the chaos of the Christmas holidays and on Wednesday and Thursday we were buried in snow! This was our first real accumulated snow fall and the first has always been my favourite kind — the virgin snow delicately covering our urban landscape like a thick, fluffy duvet. It’s really a perfect backdrop for Christmas and with the company party coming up tomorrow, it’s perfect timing. Hopefully the city mess and dirt will keep at bay so the snow remains perfect for one more day.

Mushrooms have always been a huge favourite at our house, be it fresh, plain button mushrooms or fresh, wild mushrooms like shiitake, portobello, king or cremini, we even have a few recipes for the specialty dried variety. But for this special recipe, I chose fresh wild mushrooms.

I created this vegan recipe (to be enjoyed by all) because I wanted to show-case oven roasting mushrooms because it’s a technique that is relatively new to me (oven roasting vegetables is not new, just oven roasting mushrooms). Oven-roasting mushrooms brings out their sweetness and subdues the strong earthiness that some wild varieties have. Toss in finely chopped, fresh garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from our neighbour’s father’s olive grove in Greece and these tasty fungi make a mouth-watering filling for these classy little tarts. By adding a bit of puréed red lentils AND puréed roasted cauliflower and celeriac mash put these gems over the top flavour-wise and adding a lovely creamy texture that glides into your mouth like a velvet cape.

This is the FLAKIEST pastry EVER!

This is the FLAKIEST pastry EVER!

Vegan Mushroom Tarts

A Kitcheninspirations original recipe.

Makes about 36 little tarts

Ingredients:

  • 600 g variety of wild mushrooms (I used  a combo of white, King, Portobello and Shiitake
  • 20 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 50 mL EVOO
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup red lentil purée (click here for recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower and celery root mash (click here for recipe)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450° F (232° F)
  2. Toss roughly chopped mushrooms in garlic, EVOO and salt. Spread out in a large roasting pan  and roast for about 20 minutes or until the released liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are roasted golden. Turn often so the mushrooms don’t stick to the pan.
  3. Cool.
  4. Add mushrooms to a food processor and process until all are relatively small bits. Fold in the red lentil purée and the cauliflower and celery root mash. Season to taste.
  5. You may freeze the mushroom filling at this point to use later. To use later, defrost first.
  6. Fill the baked pastry cups with the mushrooms and reheat at 200° F  (93° C) for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

Vegan Thyme Pastry Cups

Vegan tart pastry recipe from Vegan Baking with minor alterations. The links below for vegan butter and shortening are included in case you feel like experimenting. (This is an EXCELLENT Vegan blog with a lot of instruction and science behind the madness).

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ¾ cup (161 grams) or 1 ½ sticks cold Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated margarine cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup (108 grams) or 1 stick cold Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 3 Tablespoons cold vodka (believe it or not, I did not have any, so I omitted it)

Directions:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Cut in the vegan butter and shortening just like you would a normal butter pastry, keeping it as cold as you can.
  2. Add the cold water and vodka and work lightly until it forms a ball. Make three disks and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap for 30 minutes or overnight (mine was over night).
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  4. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper to about 1 mm (1/16″) thick. Cut with your favourite cookie cutter and shape into mini muffin cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
  5. Use immediately or freeze until required. No need to defrost before re-heating with filling.

Notes:

  • To help avoid the pastry getting soggy with the filling, I froze the pre-baked pastry and the filling separately and combined and reheated just prior to serving.
  • This pastry is also enough for one 9″ double crust pie. The original recipe serves up a sweet version too. Your should definitely check it out.

 

 

 

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Baked Onion_3

It’s like a globe of caramelized deliciousness.

I’ve been having so much fun and yes, it’s work and it’s wonderful. I even have a real styling gig booked and I’m super excited about it…5-6 solid days. It’ll be grueling  because we’re shooting around 50 shots in a week! I’ve already practiced some of the dishes to make sure the day goes smoothly. It’s for a line-up of proteins for home meal replacements using 9  fully cooked products in 4-5 applications each. I had to come up with the usage suggestions based on the client’s parameters (I actually had to come up with 10 each – 90 in total and from the 10, they selected 4-5 that I’m making during that week). It was fun but challenging in coming up with the ideas because I didn’t want just ordinary options. They all had to be relatively easy to put together, few ingredients that “Mom” would have easy access to and meals that come together in less than 30 minutes because “Mom” is super busy.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a couple of photos that although I was assisting, the wonderful stylist allowed me to style entirely on my own. They were published this past spring by Viva Magazine Online.

Foodfeature_viva_spring2014-2

Rustic Breakfast Pizza

Foodfeature_viva_spring2014-7

These were incredibly delicious.

This is a pdf of the Foodfeature_viva_spring2014, we did all the food in this issue. I cooked most of it and the food stylist plated it, the only one I had next to nothing to do with was the duck confit. The photographer is Arash Moallemi, please click here to see his work.

I don’t often get the pleasure of watching specialty cable channels like Food Network Canada because we cancelled our cable service 2 years ago and now use a digital antenna. I could go on line to watch, but many of these channels now put advertising into the shows and you are unable to fast forward like the old VCRs and I no longer have the patience to watch it through. About 2 weeks ago, I was at someone’s house with cable TV and we watched Laura Calder’s French Food at Home. She made a few recipes that I would consider ‘keepers’ but this one really stood out for me so I made it at the cottage as a light lunch and rest assured I will be making this beautiful dish again and again. Next time, it’ll be an appetizer for a dinner party. I hope you enjoy it, it infuses the house with a gorgeous fragrance as it bakes and because it bakes on such a low setting, it won’t warm up your house in the middle of the summer. I hope you enjoy it too. Please click here for the original recipe because I made some alterations.

Baked Onions with Dijon Tarragon Vinaigrette

Makes 4 whole onions, serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ordinary cooking onions
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil from roasting the onions
  • 1 tsp finely chopped tarragon
  • Good grind each of pepper and sea salt

Directions:

  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Add 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a small Dutch oven.
  3. Remove only the exterior skin of each onion and cut the stem side flat. You want some skin left on the onion for presentation. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Nestle the onions into the olive oil and bake uncovered  for 15 minutes at 425 F.
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 250F and cover the dutch oven with a lid or foil. Continue to bake for 2-3 hours or until the onion is extremely soft.
  6. Combine the white wine vinegar, mayo, Dijon mustard and olive oil and whisk well. Stir in the chopped tarragon and a good grinding of salt and pepper.
  7. Spoon a little bit of the baked olive oil in the centre of a plate. Put each onion on top of the baked olive oil.
  8. Cut the onion skins in about 4 places and peel back to reveal the creamy goodness. Drizzle the tarragon dressing over each serving.
  9. Serve warm with Crostini or just as is and wait for the accolades!
Baked Onion_1

The onion breaks down and becomes wonderfully soft and sweet.

 

Baked Onion_2

We were at the lake when I made them.

Notes:

  • Laura cautioned against using olive oil because she didn’t want the flavour to over power the delicate sweetness of the onion, I did not find that it did.
  • Laura placed her onions on little piles of sea salt, I didn’t have any so I did not employ that method.
  • Laura used a raw egg in her dressing, I used a tablespoon of mayo instead.
  • The baked olive oil is packed with flavour so save the left overs to make a very yummy salad dressing.
  • An additional serving suggestion is to serve it with a Gruyère crisp but I didn’t have Gruyère  at the lake.

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Recently we were invited to a “slider” party. The invitation pictured one of those garden slides that you soak with the garden hose and take a running leap onto it and slide all the way down. But it wasn’t a party like that. We’re talking food sliders! You know, the tiny little sandwiches or burgers that you generally have a few of. The BBQ was hosted by that Titanic, Black and White and Bond party couple and it was the same five couples. Each couple was charged with bringing their own favourite slider for dinner. Yep, that meant we all ate five (FIVE) mini burgers! But it was great fun.

I figured there would be a good selection of burgers (chicken, turkey and beef) so I wanted something a wee bit different; I made our Whiskey BBQ Pulled Pork (previously posted here) with a celeriac, fennel and cabbage slaw. I was inspired by my friend Sissi over at With a Glass when she presented us with her own version of a fennel slaw with an ouzo mayonnaise, but sadly I happened to mention my intentions to JT and he gave me that look; you see, he likes fennel and he likes ouzo but felt that the two together might be a little too strong. I begged to differ but some things are not worth arguing about, so I kept the fennel and made a new dressing for it. It was a tasty slaw and it went very well with the pulled pork. I omitted the mayonnaise from this slaw as we were dining al fresco and I wasn’t sure how long the food would sit outdoors in the heat and sun. The lemon juice and zest were added to mimic the tangy flavour of mayo.

CreamyRemoulad_3209

It was creamy without being heavy.

Celeriac, Fennel, Carrot and Nappa Cabbage Slaw

Makes about 10 cups of slaw but it depends on how large your vegetables are.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized celeriac
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium sized fennel
  • 1 small head Nappa cabbage
  • 3/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-4 tbsp honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Reserve 6-8 large cabbage leaves for presentation.
  2. Grate the celeriac, carrot, fennel and cabbage using a fine grater, mix well. Set aside.
  3. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, zest and honey and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Mix the dressing with the slaw and serve chilled on a flat plate with the leaves spread around to hold the slaw.
Pulled Pork_3207

Such a cute little slider, don’t you think?

Pulled Pork_3204

I made tiny little pretzel buns for the pulled pork sliders.

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We had JTs family for Easter brunch again this year and I wanted to change it up a bit and serve some different sides. I recently started following John over at Kitchen Riffs and he posted a fantastic update to the traditional scalloped potato dish…he added celery root! Can you believe it? This change was very appealing to me because although scalloped potatoes are not considered healthy, this version is slightly healthier than the traditional version. While potatoes have almost 1 calorie per gram, and a glycemic load of 29, celery root has 0.4 calories per gram with a glycemic load of 6! While it may not make this a healthy dish, it does help mitigate some of the other not-quite-so-healthy ingredients in this dish.

EasterTable_2506

Our Easter Table

I was also inspired to add some thyme to this dish as I was preparing the béchamel sauce and it was fantastic; the thyme really played into the celeriac flavours beautifully. The celeriac also made this dish a lot less starchy than one made exclusively with potatoes. I’m definitely keeping this version for future family dinners.

A warm, bubbly crispy crust scalloped potato and celeriac

A warm, bubbly cheese crusted scalloped potato and celeriac

The original recipe came from my trusty Five Roses Cookbook which is now falling apart at the seams, but that’s OK, it looks well-loved!

ScallopedPotatoes_2504

The thyme flavour with the celeriac is a pleasant surprise.

Scalloped Potatoes with Cereriac

Serves 10-12 small servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized potatoes (Yukon Gold work very well), peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1 small celeriac (celery root), peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 Vialia onion, sliced very thinly
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, plus one sprig for garnish
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Prepare an oven-proof baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (I like to use one pretty enough to serve from and that way I’m not messing around plating the dish). Preheat the oven to 190°C (350°F).
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat, increase the heat a little and add the flour, mixing well to combine. Cook this mixture for a few minutes making sure not to burn it. Slowly add the milk into the cooked flour and whisk to combine and remove all lumps. Add the chopped thyme and salt and whisk well; cook the béchamel until thick (should still be pourable).
  3. Beginning with the potatoes, layer a single layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish and cover the bottom fully. Next layer the onions over the potatoes and then the celery root. Cover these three layers with the thyme béchamel sauce. Repeat the layering process with the béchamel sauce until you have used up all of the vegetables, leaving a small amount of béchamel to pour over the very top of the layers.
  4. Place the baking dish onto a cookie sheet (you’ll thank me later) and sprinkle the cheddar over the béchamel. Bake uncovered for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a cake tester flows into the potato, celery root easily. Serve hot.

 Notes:

  • Béchamel thickens as it bakes so don’t worry if you feel your béchamel is runny, it will be fine made with the proportions in this recipe.
  • This dish may be made in advance, cooled and refrigerated. Reheat with additional cheese (broiling may be necessary).
  • When you reheat, make sure the béchamel bubbles up.
ScallopedPotatoes_2497

A traditional dish with a new angle!

This is using the celeriac.

This is using Potato and Celeriac.

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Potato and Celeriac, yielded about 12 portions for the dish I used.

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Happy Easter everyone! Hope you all had a lovely weekend. In Canada we have Good Friday as a holiday. Some things like the LCBO are closed on Sunday as well. Saturday will be a busy day, so better get there early to stock up for the family dinner!

My earliest memory of eating Hungarian Lecsó was when I was about 8 or 9 years old and my father made it for us. We were a typical Eastern European family in that the father virtually never cooked, that was ‘woman’s work’ but my Dad did step up on the occasion that my dear Mom had to go into the hospital and have an operation. I don’t remember much else about this time except that Dad cooked lecsó. One other thing, my 6 or 7 year old brother was beside himself with worry when our parents told us that Mom was going to be away in the hospital for a few days, and through tears a great degree of anxiety he asked, “Who will cook for us?” Our obsession with food runs deep.

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Circa 1974 Edward’s Gardens in Toronto. Dad, my little brother and I. Mom was taking the photo. What the heck is going on with my hair????

My experience has been that Lecsó is to Hungarians what Lasagna is to Americans or Bangers and Mash are to the English, it’s a fairly common staple. It’s easy enough to put together and it’s comforting and satisfying without being overly filling. The Hungarians generally use a Hungarian green pepper which is more like a Cubanelle, longer and lighter in colour with a more subtle flavour than the green peppers we are accustomed to in North America. I switched up this dish by using colourful red, yellow and orange peppers (capsicums) and Vidalia Onions which are much sweeter.

The traditional protein accompaniment in our household was Debreceni Kolbász which is like a thick hot dog, named after the city in which it was made. Most Hungarian sausages are coarsely ground pork seasoned heavily with paprika and garlic where as a Debreceni is subtly seasoned very finely ground pork that has the texture that resembles what you would know as a hot dog. The only difference from North American hot dogs and Hungarian Debreceni is that Debreceni has a very distinct ‘pop’ as you bite through the casing. I haven’t had a Debreceni in many years for the same reasons I haven’t had a hot dog — they are just too unhealthy to be worth it for me. I made poached Cod to eat with this dish and it was exceptional.

Lecso_2296

A delicious and warming brothy sauce with cooked peppers, onions and tomatoes.

Hungarian Lecsó

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 2 orange peppers, sliced
  • 2 yellow peppers, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped (peeled and seeds removed)
  • 1 medium sized Vidalia onion, finely sliced
  • 200 mL home made tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish

Directions:

  • In a light spray of olive oil, cook the onions until translucent.
  • Add the sliced peppers and tomatoes and cook until very slightly softened.
  • Add the tomato sauce and seasonings and cook for about 10 minutes on a medium temperature.
Lecso_2293

Spice it up a notch by adding some hot peppers to the mix.

Notes:

  • Hungarians traditionally use lard as the fat which adds flavour but is extremely unhealthy so I add a pinch of smoked paprika which also adds to the depth of flavour that the debreceni would bring.
  • Traditionally the peppers are cooked until limp but I prefer a little texture to my lecsó so I don’t cook them as much.
  • Like most stewy dishes this is a lot better the second day.
  • Consider adding a poached egg to this dish (Hungarians might eat this with scrambled eggs).
  • Sour cream or yogurt are also used as a garnish to this dish.
  • Cubanelle peppers come in both hot and sweet varieties and look virtually identical. You will want to make sure you buy the right one and not make the same mistake we did for a meal we served at the cottage several years ago — that was a rude awakening!

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JT and I were sipping wine in the living room by a roaring fire, we were discussing the Christmas “Do-Over” dinner that we decided to host in January. I had just done all the shopping for the menu and then JT mentions that his family are not much stuffing lovers. THAT in itself is blasphemous, but what made it worse is that I had just done all the shopping. Did I mention that I had just done all the shopping? I had bought a lot of mushrooms. A LOT. And they weren’t cheap so they were not going to be omitted from the dinner!

So instead of making a stuffing of mushrooms and chestnuts I created a pilaff! And what a success it was; the earthy mushroom flavours with the slightly chewy texture of the wild rice and the sweet chestnuts and brown rice complimented each other so well, I decided to blog about it so I don’t forget to make it next time. This recipe is really just a combination of suggestions, so if you don’t like something, omit it and add a bit of something else. Even the volumes of everything are a suggestion, so put on your recipe developer hat and make this pilaff your own!

Another great thing is that you can make it the day before so you’re not in a panic the day that  6 people descend on you!

WildMushroomRicePilaf_1946

Even my Nephew who is not fond of mushrooms had a generous helping!

Wild Mushroom Rice Pilaff with Chestnuts and Cognac

Serves 8-10 as part of two other side dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g – 1 kg wild mushrooms (I used 1 Portobello, ~5 cremini, ~12 shitaki, ~1 large bunch oyster), chopped roughly
  • 300 g (3.5 oz) roasted chestnuts, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced rather small
  • 1/2 sweet onion (about 1 cup), chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup wild rice (cooked, as per directions)
  • 1/4 cup sweet brown rice (cooked, as per directions)
  • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp thyme

Directions:

  1. In a very hot Dutch oven, cook pancetta until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel and set aside. You may use the pancetta grease to cook in, but it you’d rather be a touch healthier, wipe out the pan and spray with a little non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the cognac. Add the butter to the hot pan and once melted add the chopped mushrooms. Cook with the top off until the mushrooms are no longer chewy.
  3. Stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and cooked rice until well blended. Spray non-stock cooking spray in a decorative casserole dish which can be put into the oven and pour the mushrooms and rice into it. Don’t pack it down.
  4. If you are making this the day before, allow to cool completely and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, remove the pilaff from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and reheat for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.
WildMushroomRicePilaf_1945

The chestnuts are such a sweet and creamy surprise!

Tips:

  • You may ‘chop’ the mushrooms in a food processor to save time, but be careful not to chop too finely. I did not use this method because I wanted larger, identifiable mushroom pieces.
  • You may also use barley, wheat berries or any other sturdy grain instead of wild rice.
  • Cooking sherry may be substituted for the cognac or brandy, but I prefer cognac with mushrooms.
  • I like to buy already peeled and roasted chestnuts like these, but you can roast and peel your own.
  • To add another layer of texture and flavour, add 1/2 cup of chopped roasted pecans.
Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.55.51 AM

Based on 10 servings

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Are you tired of the same old vegetables served at holiday gatherings? I know I am. This recipe is a perfect new take on the traditional Brussels Sprouts and best of all, they are so easy to prepare! My lovely SIL Wendy makes a version of this tasty treat every year at Thanksgiving (it may be because I always ask her to), but I’ve never made it at home! So for our Christmas “Do-Over” last month I decided to give it a go. Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and omit the pancetta, but you may need to add a bit extra salt.

We had a Christmas “Do-Over” because JT’s 90 year old father wasn’t well enough to travel to Peterborough where JT’s sister kindly hosted the dinner since we weren’t sure we would have power. This tasty side dish is easy to eat and fast to prepare, what more could you want? Oh, yes, it’s tasty too.

ShreadedBrusselsSprouts_1941

Aren’t Brussels Sprouts just very tiny cabbages?

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and White Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 8-10 as part of two other side dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g (about 14 cups) washed Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1/2 (about 1 cup) sweet onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
  • 50 mL (about 1/4 cup) white balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 100 mL (about 1/2 cup) chicken stock

Directions:

  1. In a large dutch oven, crisp the pancetta to golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel, set aside.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the white balsamic and chicken stock. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and sauté until slightly wilted. Stir in the pancetta. Serve hot.
ShreadedBrusselsSprouts_1942

You’ll never think the same way about Brussels sprouts.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.47.32 AM

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Recently we entertained our lovely neighbours across the street; it was a thank you dinner of sorts because they happened to rescue us on my benchmark birthday party this past summer when we ran out of beer! We asked them what kinds of food they enjoy and Indian was one of the selections. I love cooking Indian food but because there are just the two of us I usually don’t bother but doubling the audience makes it all the more worth-while. It was an extravagant meal so I started cooking a couple of days in advance and it really didn’t seem to be that much trouble; the saucy, stewy dishes of India lend themselves to being made ahead and allowing the flavours to combine over time making them taste so much better than the day they were made. I was very pleased with the results and will definitely make these dishes again in the future.

I also would like to thank Helene DeSouza (Masala Herb) for posting her favourite Palek Paneer recipe this month, if it wasn’t for her I likely would never have made this dish having tasted a restaurant version that was unremarkable. Helene’s recipe has the complex depth of flavours that one expects from Indian food. I urge you to try it.

The menu:

  • Onion Bhajis  (I made this one again and it was extremely tasty) with Tamarind Chutney (recipe to come)
  • Aloo Papri Chat (please click here for the recipe)
  • Carrot Pickle (please click here for the recipe)
  • Beef Bhuna (please click here for the recipe)
  • Butter Chicken (please click here for the recipe) NOTE: I used 1 lb fresh roma tomatoes and 2 cups of home made tomato sauce made from raw tomatoes cooked down and blended until smooth WITH oven roasted tomatoes blended and the whole thing run through a very fine sieve to get rid of the skin and seeds).
  • Palek Paneer (The Palek (spinach) gravy is new from Helene DeSouza who runs Masala Herb in Goya, India; recipe below)
  • Naan (please click here for the recipe) and Papadums (I bought some very special Papadums in Chicago when we visited with Chgo John of From the Bartolini Kitchens)
  • Chai Crême Brûlée (please click here for the recipe)

Paneer

The texture turned out perfectly this time.

The texture turned out perfectly this time.

This firm, unripened Indian cheese makes a rectangle 23 cm x 13 cm x 2 cm (9″ x 5″ x 3/4″).

This is the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 liter Fresh whole milk
  • 5 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a deep and heavy bottom pan at medium heat (this is really important, so the milk doesn’t burn). Allow it come to a gentle boil (around 200 F) and stay there for a minute. Make sure the milk is not vigorously boiling, if it does, immediately reduce the heat and bring the milk back to gentle boil.
  2. Begin by adding the lemon juice a table spoon at a time, stirring gently to incorporate. With each addition you will notice that the milk separating. The final addition of lemon juice will separate the curds from the whey very obviously. Switch off the gas immediately or if you are cooking on electric, remove pan from the element to stop the heat.
  3. Line a sieve with double layered cheesecloth, making sure the cheesecloth is long enough to be bundled up and tied later. Pour the curd and whey through the cheese cloth. Set the whey aside or discard (I tried making ricotta from this whey but there was no more curd to be had. I understand that Whey is healthy so you can search the net to find uses, I did not and trashed it).
  4. Wash the curd in the cheese cloth, by running it through cold water to remove the lemon taste.
  5. Tie up the cheesecloth in a tight bundle and hang it over something to allow it to drain for about 30 minutes.
  6. Line a nice rectangular pan with a double folded cheese cloth making sure you have enough length and width to fold over the top. Add the curd to the pan, pressing it firmly into the pan. I didn’t press my corners and edges well enough and they were a bit crumbly. I used a small glass to help push the curd down and compress it. Place the  wrapped cheese between two cutting boards over a sink or a large pan and put a heavy pot on top for 1-2 hours.You don’t want to add too much weight for too long as it can drain out way too much moisture from the cheese making it hard and crumbly. Your cheese should have a slightly elastic texture so when you lightly press your finger into it, it will bounce back.
  7. Wrap it and store it in the fridge for up to a week or cover well with plastic wrap and freeze. Defrost entirely before use. If you find your cheese still is a bit too wet, you can store it LIGHTLY wrapped in the fridge and the chill will dehydrate it further (I did not have to).
  8. Cut the block into small one bite chunks and add to the Palek sauce to warm up. Be very gentle when stirring as to not crumble the cheese too much.
Paneer_1480

Cubes of firm unripened cheese remind me of firm tofu.

Palek Paneer (Spinach Gravy with Unripened Cheese Cubes)

Saag Paneer_1474

The lemon juice also helps to preserve the lovely green colour of the spinach.

Please click here to see Helene’s lovely recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 250 g baby spinach (or a standard large size bag)
  • 1 green Chili
  • 100 mL water
  • 1 small Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 1 tbsp Garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • pinch Cinnamon powder
  • ½ tbsp Garam Masala
  • ½ tbsp red Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 200 grams fresh Paneer bite size cubes (Indian Cottage Cheese)
  • cilantro and green onions to garnish.

Directions:

  1. Wash spinach well and if you’re not using baby spinach, remove all the hard stems.
  2. Blanch the spinach in 100 mL water, set aside.
  3. In 2 tbsp oil, fry the onions until caramelized. Add the garlic paste and stir for a moment. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, Garam Masala and chili powder and allow to develop their aroma. As soon as you smell the herbs, remove from heat. Add the tomato past and combine with the blanched spinach.
  4. Purée with an emersion blender until very smooth, add a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavours. Press through a fine seive.
  5. At this point you may put the finely puréed spinach mixture into a container and store in the fridge for a day or two.
  6. When you are ready to serve, reheat slowly in a pot, and add the two tablespoons of cream, salt and pepper. Add the Paneer and stir very gently so that the paneer does not break apart. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and green onions.
Saag Paneer_1475

The gravy was rather thick, you can loosen it with water, vegetable stock or more cream.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You may think that I’m referring to Christmas, but then you’d be wrong. It’s Halloween, of course! JT and I traditionally have a pumpkin carving contest, and this year is no different. We scour the net for unusual pumpkin patterns and when we find one we get down to the dirty job of carving. Carving is made easier with the right tools, but then again isn’t everything? I bought a set of pumpkin carving tools at an end of season sale last year and wish I had bought two sets! So in light of the grand tradition, I’m going to ask you to vote on your favourite pumpkin! May the best pumpkin win!

WitchyPumpkin_1262

Vote for me. Vote for me!

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Vote for me. Vote for me!

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Hope the decorations and the scary music doesn’t frighten the wee ones too much!


We were craving a unique hors d’œuvres so I remade a traditional polenta recipe into a delightful orange snack: polenta “fries”! The orange is strictly from the sharp cheddar. And the best part is that you can easily freeze these babies for those lovely drop-ins during the holiday season.

Cheddar Polenta “Fries”

PolentaFries_1154

They are crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • 2 cups stock (vegetable, beef or chicken)
  • 150 g grated old cheddar cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Bring stock to a boil and add the smoked paprika and chili flakes.
  2. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking quickly as you add it.
  3. Add the grated cheese and mix well.
  4. Turn heat right down to low and cook for 10-15 minutes until it no longer feels as hard grain.
  5. Turn into a parchment lined square Pan about 22 cm x 22 cm or 9″ x 9″ and press down evenly and firmly. Allow to cool.
  6. Cut into 1cm or 1/2″ wide “fries” about 5 cm or 3″ long. Fry each side until golden in a light oil.
  7. Serve warm with marinara sauce or salsa.

Other serving suggestions:

  • Serve with soup instead of crackers.
  • Cut into small rounds and serve instead of rice or potatoes with a gravies meat.
  • Cut into small rounds and serve as ‘crackers’ topping with a cold cut or a pickle round!
PolentaFries_1160

Marinara Sauce or Salsa are the perfect accompaniment.

PolentaFries_1162

You sure I can’t interest you in even one?

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We’ve been off on a little vaycay to the U.S. capital city, Washington, DC and I’ll post the photos and stories soon — but I also have a little surprise!
My friend Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella posted a wonderful alternative to fried rice and for obvious reasons I was ALL OVER IT. Of course, this blog wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t change it up a bit — not that Lorraine’s version her Cauliflower Fried Rice wasn’t perfect, I just didn’t have all of her ingredients handy and I wanted it now! So I made it Curried Cauliflower “Fried” rice and boy did it hit the spot; it was even delicious the next day when I took it to work with some grilled shrimp on top. Very tasty indeed.

Thai"Fried"CauliflowerRice_4728

Resist over cooking because you really do want a tiny little crunch.

Curried Cauliflower “Fried” Rice

Serves 4 generous portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup sultana raisins
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp low fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • a few sprays of non-stick EVOO

Directions:

  1. In three rounds, place the washed and dried cauliflower into a food processor and pulse roughly until you get a coarse grind, like rice.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet add the EVOO and the ground cauliflower and “fry” until lightly browned. You are trying to achieve a nice golden crust on it, scraping is essential. Try not to add liquid as that will boil the cauliflower and you don’t want it too soft — you still want a touch of a bite to it. If your pan isn’t large enough, you may need to “fry” in batches so the excess doesn’t ‘steam’ the caulflower.
  3. Add the curry powder and heat until fragrant mixing it into the “fried” cauliflower rice.
  4. Remove from heat and add the coconut milk, lime juice and honey (it’s easier if you mix the three in a small container and add at once). Give it a good stir into the cauliflower.
  5. Add the raisins and green onions and mix well.
  6. Garnish with unsweetened grated coconut, serve warm.
Thai"Fried"CauliflowerRice_4730

The curry flavours really went well with the sweet cauliflower.

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

Thai Chick Pea Cauliflower Curry_BLOG

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

Chick Pea and Cauliflower Thai Curry

Serves 4,

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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Who says you can’t have breakfast for hors d’œuvres? Breakfast anytime is great, particularly when I had a few quails eggs left over and we needed a quick little hors d’œuvres for cocktail hour! Serve these on toast points or rice crackers like I did. I garnished with a small dot of yogurt and dill for colour.

Scrambled Quails Eggs with Cheese

Makes about 8 crackers

A little scrambled egg bite

A little scrambled egg bite

Ingredients:

  • 4 quail eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • dill to garnish
  • 8 rice crackers (I used these)

Directions:

  1. In a heat proof bowl, whisk together the quail eggs and cheese. Cook over a Bain Marie until the eggs are no longer runny, folding over constantly.
  2. Serve about 1 tbsp of the scrambled egg on toasts or crackers, garnish with yogurt and dill.

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For the same dinner as the previous post, I made this wonderful German Purple Cabbage Slaw. I’m not exactly sure how authentic German it is, but it did indeed have flavours from German slaws that I’ve had and it was so pretty against the Candied Salmon and Rösti potatoes. It made for a very festive dinner. I was inspired by this recipe, but since I already had purple cabbage at home, that’s what I used and not the white cabbage in the recipe. What I really liked about this recipe is that the dressing is added hot which will slightly wilt the cabbage, but cabbage is strong enough that there will still be a slight crunch to it. They normally add caraway seeds but since I hate them, I omitted them!

Pretty like jewels. Sparkling, pretty jewels.

Pretty like jewels. Sparkling, pretty jewels.

German Purple Cabbage Slaw

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 small purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 140 ml cider vinegar
  • 100 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a glass micro-wave safe container, combine oil, vinegar, stock, salt, mustard and sugar and heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring often.
  2. Add the shredded cabbage to a non-metallic bowl and pour vinegar-oil mixture over cabbage and combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. To serve, check seasonings, adjust, drain dressing and serve in a decorative bowl. You may want to let the slaw sit in a colander to drain completely, otherwise you will have purple cabbage stains on your table cloth. I guarantee it.
  4. Garnish with parsley.

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Way back in December we had our good friends Lee and Stefan for dinner. JT and I decided to make Barb’s Salmon that’s like Candy (with a few minor alterations, will blog soon about it) with Swiss Rösti potatoes, German Red Cabbage Slaw (coming soon) and John’s Yogurt Dill Sauce. It was a huge success and the best part is that these potatoes may be made in advance and reheated. The Swiss usually have this for breakfast, and I know I’m breaking all the rules by serving it for dinner…so arrest me (did you say you had hand-cuffs ;-)?)

These famous potatoes can be purchased ready-made that you just slip them into the frying pan and reheat, but I wanted to make them from scratch; how hard could that be? I searched and search the web and came across several variations on the preparation of this classic side dish, and after much deliberation I chose my method. Some of the recipes par-boiled the potatoes and some did not; I chose to par-boil to cut down the finishing time (plus I had read that not par-boiling makes the interior of the rösti a little starchy tasting).

Swiss Röstli Potatoes

Crispy yet soft on the inside

Crispy yet soft on the inside

Serves 4-6 (depending on how hungry you are)

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Medium Sized Yukon Gold Potatoes (actually, you can use any potato you would use as mashed potatoes)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop potatoes in half (you want a chunk large enough to grate without grating your knuckles).
  2. Put the potatoes into a pot with cold water and salt (this step was prevalent in many recipes, something to do with cooking evenly) with salt and bring to a boil. Keep on the boil until there is still some resistance when you poke the pieces with a fork or cake tester — you definitely DO NOT want to cook them 100%.
  3. Remove from the pot and allow to cool completely.
  4. On a large grater, grate the potatoes entirely.
  5. Heat a large cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of oil (err on more than less). Add the potatoes so that they evenly fill the pan, and lightly compress. Cook until it is crispy on one side.
  6. If preparing ahead, allow to cool and set aside now.
  7. To reheat: Flip. If you are brave, use this method, if you’re like me, then two dinner plates will do the trick very nicely. Cook the underside of the Rösti until crispy and the potatoes have heated all the way through.
  8. Serve by cutting into wedges. I served this dish in the cast iron pan I cooked it in because I wanted it to maintain the heat on the table.
  9. Service with Yogurt Dill Sauce.

We had barely enough leftovers for breakfast the following day — that’s how good they were. In fact, this is a meal I will make again; it’s rustic yet has a certain sophistication with all the flavours going on.

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There is another Indian Restaurant in Toronto that we really like, and you’ve probably heard of it because it’s in all the major cities around the world, it’s called Bombay Palace on Jarvis Street. We usually go there for lunch and there are two particular things I love, the carrot pickle and the Aloo Papri Chaat (described as a sweet Medley of crispy wafers chickpeas, potatoes with yogurt-mint chutney dressing). I tried to find as close a recipe as possible to this tangy, sweet and crunchy side, and this one was pretty darn close. I had to make a few changes due to unavailable ingredients, but to be honest, the flavour didn’t suffer for it. I must warn you, it does take a lot of steps.

Aloo Papri Chaat

A delicious mix of sweet and tangy flavours with the crunchy texture of the wafers

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 7-8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 dried apricot
  • 1 small cooked potato, cubed
  • 100 g chick peas
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt (if using Greek yogurt, you will need to add milk to achieve the right consistency)
  • 1 chopped green chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala (see spice mix below)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup peanut oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Make a soft dough with the flour and semolina by adding a little bit of water at a time.
  2. Roll the dough out into a rectangle and cut into bite-sized squares.
  3. Heat the oil to fry the squares and fry them until they puff a little and are golden. Drain oil off and set aside.

Directions for the Tamarind Chutney:

  1. In a small heavy bottom sauce pan, add the tamarind paste and the apricot. Add about 1 cup of hot water to it and heat to a boil until the tamarind paste dissolves and the apricot is mushy. Blend well with an immersion blender. Strain out any hard bits from the tamarind paste.
  2. Add the sugar, chili powder and mix well. Boil until all of the water evaporates and you are left with a thick rich paste.

Ingredients for the Chaat Masala:

Note: the original recipe for Chaat Masala called for Mango Powder which I did not have, and therefore I substituted the apricot into the tamarind mix to replicate the sweet and tangy flavour of the mango powder.

  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black salt

Directions for the Chaat Masala:

  1. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. If some of the spices are seeds, you will need to grind them well.

Directions for the Yogurt Sauce and assembly:

  1. Whip the yogurt with a whisk until thin and runny (or if it’s Greek Yogurt, add a little milk),
  2. Add  the cubed potatoes, chopped green chili, the chickpeas and a teaspoon or two of the tamarind and mix well (being careful not to break up the potatoes).
  3. Add the bite sized Papri (wafers) and mix gently to coat.
  4. Garnish with Coriander leaves and finely chopped green onions.

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party, the lighting sucks as it was already night

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It must be officially fall because the temperatures have plummeted and the rains have set in, the skies are grey and the wind is noisy. Kind’a depressing weather, and it certainly doesn’t inspire so I wasn’t up to menu planning; but paging through a local grocery chain’s fall 2010 issue, JT found a recipe he thought he would like to have to spice up our weekly meal plan. We’re making chickpea and potato curry. Now I don’t usually gravitate toward potato recipes, but I was totally uninspired in making the menu this week and decided to just go for it, potatoes and all. Next time, I would add a handful of sultana raisins to add the sweetness this curry was missing. Or alternatively I think I’ll try this with sweet potatoes or even butternut squash as I think the sweetness of the sweet potato or butternut squash would be heavenly with the curry.
Do you meal plan? I generally plan out the entire week on Sunday and do the groceries Sunday afternoon. I always make enough for lunches for the following day. The planning makes my head want to explode for an hour or so but then I don’t have to think about it! I store the plan on the iCloud in my Reminders app on my iPhone and that way I have it no matter where I am (because if I’m having fish on Thursday I’ll need to pick it up from my fishmonger that day and my Reminders will remind me!)
The dish comes together reasonably quickly and cooks in about 30 minutes. I think it took me 10 minutes to prep everything (mise en place) so 40 minutes tops. And I am sure you can do this in the slow cooker, I would choose low and cook for 4-5 hours (just remember to heat the curry powder in a lightly oiled frying pan before you add it to revive the flavours). The starch in the potato makes a very nice and creamy sauce. In the recipe below I cut the potatoes down to half, as I just didn’t want as many carbs. The method for preparing the onions is a little unconventional, but it worked out very flavourful.

Warm with a touch of heat is nice when it’s blistery cold outside

Chickpea and Potato Curry

Original recipe can be found in Longos Fall 2010 magazine or here.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 vidalia onion, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated finely with a microplane
  • 1 small hot chili pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp mild curry powder or paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed small (about 2 potatoes)
  • 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 cups greens (arugula or spinach) per person

Directions:

  1. In your immersion blender, purée onion, garlic, ginger and chili pepper into a fine paste (you can do this in a mini processor too, but I find the immersion blender does a finer job).
  2. In a large deep skillet, heat oil and cook onion paste for about 5 minutes or until softened.
  3. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add 2 cups of the water and stir to make a gravy consistency (it was actually quite liquid/soupy for me).
  5. Add the potatoes; cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender but firm.
  6. Add chickpeas, garam masala and remaining water and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened and potatoes are very tender.
  7. Serve on a bed of greens, sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

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