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Posts Tagged ‘Appetizer’

Recently, we had a dinner party and I served a grilled caesar salad as one of the courses. Of course, you MUST have REAL bacon so JT cooked the bacon up on the BBQ (none of that maple crap) and I asked him to save the drippings for the roast potatoes but by the time I got around to tossing the tators in the bacon drippings, I had second thoughts so I used only about a tablespoon and tossed the rest with olive oil. I had about a 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings sitting in the refrigerator, crying for something creative so I came up with this easy recipe. The drippings have such an amazing flavour, and the bits of bacon add just the right amount of crunch. I think I may have to cook up another batch of bacon just for the drippings so I can bake another batch of these tasty morsels.

Bacon and Parmesan Cheese Puffs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 42 small puffs

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings
  • 5 mL 1/2 tsp salt
  • 145 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 120 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 1/2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled to small pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Place water, bacon drippings and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until combined.
  4. Return to heat and stir cooking the flour mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan and is a shiny ball.
  5. Place in a food processor with plastic blades and process for 15 seconds (give or take).
  6. Add eggs, one at a time and process for 40 seconds (err on the longer side of give or take).
  7. Add the cheese and process for another 5-10 seconds until smooth. Stir in the crumbled bacon.
  8. Dip a spoon or small ice cream scoop into 1 cup cold water with 5 mL (1 tsp) plain vegetable oil, place walnut-sized spoonfuls on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 3 cm (1 1/2 inches) apart.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • You may also prepare this recipe with a good quality handheld mixer or stand mixer but I would suggest an immersion blender with the whisk attachment is not strong enough for this pastry.
  • These delightful balls puff up about 12 minutes into baking and are ideal for stuffing with a piping funnel (I bought a really cheap one from a dollar store and it works very well). Stuff with goats cheese, or your own recipe.
  • Unstuffed, they freeze very well, just pop them into a zip lock bag. To use, you need not defrost them, simply put them into a preheated 150° C (300° F) oven for 10-12 minutes, until defrosted and heated through.

The bacon drippings give this treat great flavour and the bacon bits some nice texture.

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I have seen this beautiful sauce pop up over a couple of blogs I follow, like Karen of Back Road Journal and Maureen of Orgasmic Chef and since I was making a Spanish potato omelet for an appetizer for a recent dinner party, I knew I had to pair it with this luxurious sauce. Spaniards sure know how to make beautiful raw dishes like Gazpacho, this sauce is smooth and perfectly balanced, making it an amazing addition to chicken or fish or even a simple pasta or gnocchi dish. The toasted almonds become the thickener and the olive oil emulsifies everything to a smooth, creamy sauce. I omitted the bread because I wanted to make it gluten free and because our dinner party had two kids, I went light on the smoked paprika and garlic, feel free to ramp it up if you’re in the mood.

Spanish Romesco Sauce

Makes 375 mL  (1 1/2 cups) sauce

Original recipe, please click here

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fire roasted red pepper, skin removed
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup almond flour, toasted
  • 3 Campari tomatoes (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine vinegar
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Mediterranean Sea Salt*, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Add everything but the parsley to your immersion blender container and blend until creamy and smooth.
  2. Stir in the finely chopped parsley.
  3. Serve warm or room temperature over fish, chicken or pasta. You can even use it as a dip for raw veggies or crackers.

*This is the sea salt I used. I purchased it San José, Spain last year.

Notes:

  • You may use 1/2 cup passata if you don’t have campari tomatoes
  • I always forget the parsley so it’s not a big deal if you miss it.
  • I have also used smoked sea salt and it’s heavenly
  • I generally use roasted garlic purée which I have on hand because our stomachs can’t take raw garlic

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I’ve been a little busy since we’ve returned from Arizona, you may have noticed my absence commenting and that I didn’t post last week. I was going to fret about it and try and throw together something but decided against it. Life happens.

One of our dear friends sold their home in the burbs and moved into their condo just before we left for holidays. JT and I helped them paint before the move, with the move, and a little organization. You see, their home was around 2,500 square feet and they moved into a 600 square foot condo. To say they down-sized is an understatement. I have to admit, I was a little jealous that they were able to rid themselves of excess, but I had to be honest with myself, and I’m not there yet. This past weekend, we went to visit and you know me, I never go empty handed, so I made these cheese crisps.

When I made the gluten free version of cheez-itz, I rolled them a bit thinner than usual and loved how crisp they baked up, so this time, I adjusted the gluten recipe and rolled them out in my KitchenAid pasta maker and the results were exceptional. Thinner crackers baked up so crispy, I was hooked. If you like cheese tuiles, then you will love these cheese-flavoured, light, crisp crackers, but be warned, they are quite addictive.

I added a little album of our trip to Arizona at the end of this post, if you are interested. Basically, it was the coldest and rainiest time in Arizona this year. We experienced -15°C (59° F) and snow in The Grand Canyon and although the sun did make an appearance from time to time, it never really warmed up. I wore layered leggings and tops, a winter coat, gloves and scarf and ear muffs, most of the time while we were in The Grand Canyon and Sedona. It rained so much in Sedona; Sedona gets about 38 cm (15 inches) of rain a year, in two days we had 4 cm (1.5 inches)! Oh well, it’s another reason to go back!

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 350 g crackers (about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g full-flavoured, hard cheese, grated (see notes)
  • 45 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (see notes)
  • 1 cup (125 g) flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tbsp ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the water in the large food processor bowl and pulse until fully combined.
  2. Slowly pour in the ice water and process until the dough comes together. It may not look like it will, but it will.
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your surface and roll out small bits of the dough thin enough to get through #1 on the KitchenAid Pasta maker attachment. Run each sheet through three times on #1, two-times on #2 and two-times on #3. Return to your work surface and cut with a variety of cookie cutters. I chose smallish ones because I wanted bite-sized nibbles. They shrink to about 65% of the original size.
  4. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  5. Transfer crackers to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Notes:

  • Use whatever full-flavoured cheese you have. This batch was made with equal quantities of sharp Cheddar, naturally-smoked Cheddar and Beemster.
  • I prefer to use the pasta maker to roll the dough because it guarantees the dough to be the same thickness throughout the batch. I wouldn’t go thinner than #3 though, really thin crackers will burn very quickly before they crisp up.
  • Change up the flavouring from smoked paprika to granulated garlic, finely ground dehydrated onions, finely ground dehydrated mushrooms, but be careful not to have too large chunks as they will get caught in your pasta maker rollers!

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gazpachogelato_first

One of the first courses we had at the One Star Michelin Restaurant, Alejandro, just outside of Almeria (in the quiet town of Roquetas de Mar) was a wonderful Gazpacho Sorbet. During our Paella Lesson in Madrid, we discovered that Gazpacho is a staple in most Spanish households. They make a few batches each week, drinking a cup-full when peckish or feeling down. It makes total sense, as it’s packed with raw vegetables and full of vitamins. I, too, have begun to keep a litre or so in the fridge, particularly now, with the seasons changing, and it’s so easy to catch a cold.

gazpachosorbet_alejandro

This is the original Gazpacho Sorbet at Alejandro’s in Spain. I didn’t care for the odd presentation in the glass so mine was more freestyle. It was garnished with a candied lemon slice.

You may use any old Gazpacho recipe, I used the one we made during our Paella Cooking Lesson at Cooking Point. The main difference is that the Spaniards add a slice of bread (for body) and a significant amount of olive oil to balance the acidity. The New York Times published a beautiful description of a good Gazpacho (see original article here), “The texture is always smooth and light, with a mouth feel similar to that of whole milk. It is not the watered-down salsa or grainy sludge often served in the United States under the name of gazpacho, but an emulsion of fat (olive oil) in liquid (vegetable juice and vinegar) that is light and fluffy on the tongue and a fantastic conductor of flavor, just like vinaigrette or hollandaise.”

The recipe below is perfectly balanced, I wouldn’t change a thing. There is just a hint of onion and garlic, you don’t want this to be too oniony or garlicky. And while I would normally shudder at the volume of olive oil in this recipe, you really need it to balance out the acidity and it adds that silky mouthfeel Eric Asimov of the New York Times described above. Turning it into Sorbet is a surprising, yet satisfying dish. Definitely bookmark for the warmer weather.

gazpachogelato_2Authentic Spanish Gazpacho

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 500 g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 50 g green pepper (about 1/2 an ordinary sized pepper)
  • 40 g cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped (English is fine)
  • 30 g onion, roughly chopped
  • 20 g bread, crust removed
  • 1/2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 15 mL sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 5 mL cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 60 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients but the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a blender or a large measuring cup. Blend or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
  2. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Return the liquid to the blender or large measuring cup and blend in the Olive Oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Pour the soup into the bowl of your chilled ice cream maker and turn it on until it has thickened and frozen like sorbet. Serve immediately or store in an airtight freezer container in the freezer for no more than one hour, it will freeze solid.
  4. Garnish with herbs, or finely chopped vegetables. Alejandro served it with a slice of candied lemon.

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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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KingMushroomScallops_First

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would post a few favourites. I created a “king mushroom ‘scallop'” recipe last year (here) but the pic was awful and I wanted to try the recipe again using Mycryo®, the powdered cocoa butter that sears and seals in flavour. The mushroom ‘scallops’ seared beautifully, just like a real scallop and as I mentioned before, they have an uncanny textural resemblance to real scallops, without the price tag!

Scallops, these days, are outrageously priced and I don’t know why. Costco has a bag of extra large frozen scallops that used to go for about $17 but over the years have snuck up to almost $30 which works out to just less than $3 each! Even though this recipe uses a vegetarian mushroom, you won’t miss real scallops. These tasty little morsels are sitting on a pillow of creamy avocado paste and then drizzled with caramelized shallots, deglazed with a hint of champagne vinegar. The flavours are sophisticated and the presentation is easily eaten by hand, good enough for any upcoming cocktail party, or before a dinner party and they are vegetarian. If you can’t get your hands on Mycryo®, use ghee, or if you wish to make them vegan, use a good quality oil with a high smoke point.

King Oyster Mushroom “Scallops” on Crostini

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 5-6 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works too)
  • 2 relatively thick stemmed King Oyster Mushrooms, cut into 2 cm (0.5 inch) thickness (tops removed and reserved for another recipe)
  • 2 tbsp Mycryo®
  • 2 tbsp avocado paste (recipe here) or pesto
  • 5-6 crostini

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the shallots and cook until caramelized. Deglaze pan with the champagne vinegar. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Coat the king oyster mushroom slices generously with Mycryo®. Heat the same frying pan until very hot, add the mushroom ‘scallops’ and sear each side until golden and heated through. Remove from heat.
  3. Return the caramelized shallots with vinegar to the pan with the seared mushrooms and coat mushrooms well. 
  4. Prepare each crostini with a good smear of avocado paste or pesto, add one mushroom ‘scallop’ to each toast and spoon caramelized shallots with deglazing sauce over the crostini. Garnish with tiny basil leaves. Serve warm.

Notes:

  • White wine vinegar is a good substitute for champagne vinegar.
  • Fry a little pancetta before melting the butter for added flavour (not vegetarian).
  • Substitute real scallops for the mushrooms (not vegan).
  • Try to get King Oyster mushrooms that are about the same thickness as a good-sized scallop.

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pomegranatesyrup_firstRecently, JT and I spent three wonderful weeks touring through London, Almeria, San José, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid and finally Paris. It was awesome. I will recount some wonderful meals and memories in future posts but I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe to make pomegranate syrup because my dear friend Sissi (With A Glass) recently posted a beautiful salad which included pomegranate seeds and the dressing was created with pomegranate molasses, a slightly sweet and sour syrup.

Sissi’s post went live around the time we had just spent the day in Granada, a large, historical city in the south of Spain. We did a wonderful walking tour of the city with Panchotours with Registered Tour Guide, Veronica and at one point she mentioned that the word Granada in Spanish means pomegranate! What a coincidence! The name is appropriate because the streets are lined with gorgeous pomegranate trees. Yes, you could just reach up and grab a fresh pomegranate, how cool is that? Sadly, they were not quite ripe enough, otherwise, you know I would have!

granada-pomegranate

ourtourguide

Our lovely tour guide, Veronica.

Several weeks prior to our departure, we purchased something and for some unknown reason were given a 473 mL bottle of Pom Pomegranate Cherry Juice for free. We don’t normally drink juice as it is far better to eat your fruit than drink it so it sat in the refrigerator until now! Making the syrup is so easy, I won’t even list it as a recipe. Simply pour the entire content of the bottle into a non-reactive pan and boil it on medium-high for about 30 -40 minutes or until it reduces to about 100 mL. I didn’t want an overly thick syrup (the viscosity is about the same as maple syrup) so you could boil it down even more — but be very careful, after a very short time, it can burn very easily! Allow to cool and pour into a sterilized bottle. Store in a cool, dark location.

pomegranate-syrup

It’s a thick, sweet and slightly sour syrup. that is delicious on chunks of Parmesan.

alhambra

The view of the Alhambra.

granadaview_new

Panoramic View of Granada.

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CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_First

Occasionally, I click on a Facebook sponsored post, these waffle bites were one of them. But the photo was not for a recipe, it was just a photo and when I googled the bites the results were quite disturbing (like a train wreck of Mac ‘n Cheese, a total mess), nothing like the image that was sponsored on Facebook! So I put on my thinking cap and came up with this recipe. I basically mixed a serving of waffle batter with 1 serving of macaroni and cheese and sprinkled both top and bottom with more shredded cheese. These are bites so I did not fill the waffle pan, I wanted them small. You need to cook these slightly longer than a normal waffle because you want the cheese to crisp up, it’s the only way they will come away from the pan without leaving a cheesy mess.

CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_4

Delicious Cheesy Morsels

Mac ‘n Cheese Waffle Bites

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 4 small waffles, cut into fourths, about 16 crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 leftover serving* of your favourite Mac ‘n Cheese (any packaged or homemade will do).
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of shredded good quality old cheddar (or any good melting cheese)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Make sure your leftover Mac ‘n Cheese is at room temperature (not cold out of the fridge)
  2. Combine egg and milk and beat well.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into egg mixture and beat until well combined and thick.
  4. Pour over leftover Mac ‘n Cheese and mix well.
  5. Preheat your waffle iron. Brush both sides generously with olive oil. Add a couple of tablespoons of shredded cheddar to the base, spoon in about 1/2 cup of the Mac ‘n Cheese waffle batter onto the centre and add a couple more tablespoons of the shredded cheddar on top and close the pan.
  6. Waffles need to cook a little longer than normal so that cheese crisps up.
  7. Waffles are cooked when the top of the waffle pan easily peels away from the waffle, although you may need a little nudge to release if cheese is sticking to the iron.
  8. Cut into quarters with a pizza cutter.
CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_2

If you like crispy cheese, you will LOVE these.

Notes:

  • *A leftover serving is basically a 1/2 cup of uncooked noodles and cheese sauce.
  • To make more, simply multiply the waffle ingredients by the number of servings of Mac ‘n Cheese (for example, KD has 4 servings per box, so ingredients would be 4 eggs, 2 cups milk, 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder etc…).
  • I, intentionally did not make these bites the full-size of the waffle pan, I wanted them irregular and smallish.
  • Waffle bites are crispy and not creamy, they are like a giant Mac ‘n Cheese chip.
  • Add chopped green onions for extra flavour.
  • Serve with salsa, a bruschetta topping or greek yogurt or sour cream for dipping.
CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_3

A view of the lake.

I didn't cook the first one long enough and it literally split in half. Perfectly edible but not pretty!

I didn’t cook the first one long enough and it literally split in half. Perfectly edible but not pretty!

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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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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’

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ScallopKingMushroomHD_FIRST

Spring has finally sprung in Toronto and our weather is finally behaving as it should; the greenery is no longer terrified to show itself and many have already begun their journey into Summer 2015 — the saucer magnolias are spectacular in the hood. The Japanese Cherry blossoms in High Park are still tucked away but a few days of warmth and sunshine should remedy that and they’ll be in full bloom in no time. We had our first drinks on the back patio on Friday and we celebrated with some tasty bites.

Now about these bites, I came upon this discovery quite by accident…I was exploring a recipe for bacon-wrapped mushrooms I saw on Greg’s lovely blog (BTW, exceptional recipe) using King mushrooms and as I was cutting into them, I couldn’t help but think they looked a lot like scallops. So a few days later, I dug out an old favourite recipe I posted in 2008, Grilled Scallop Bruschetta with Avocado Paste — The King mushrooms made a wonderful substitution for the scallops but sadly I didn’t have any of our favourite avocado paste (I freeze it in ice cube trays and then put them into plastic baggies for quick hors d’œuvres). It’s a classy hors d’œuvres for a summer cocktail party that I hope you will give a try. For a vegan version, you can omit the parmesan cheese from the pesto or serve it over the avocado paste as I had intended. The King mushrooms not only look like scallops but cooked well, they even have a lovely scallop-like texture.

ScallopKingMushroomHD copy

King Mushroom “Scallops” on Pesto Crostinis

a Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick King Mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp of your favourite sugary vinegar, or a sauce with a high percentage of sugar (for caramelization) (I used a Baco Noir & Blueberry Balsamic)
  • 1 tsp canola oil (or oil with a high flash point)
  • 4 thin crostini bread, your choice
  • 1 tbsp pesto (please click here for recipe)
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Wipe/wash the king mushrooms and dry off well. Cut into 4 thick slices. Marinate the slices in the vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Reserve marinating vinegar.
  2. Toast the bread on both sides and slather with 1 tsp of the pesto on each. Set aside.
  3. Heat a cast iron frying pan until very hot add the oil and heat up. Drop each slice of mushroom onto the hot pan and lower the temperature to medium. You want to cook the mushroom while developing a beautiful caramelization on each side.
  4. Add one slice of cooked mushroom to each avocado slathered crostini. Add the marinating vinegar to deglaze the pan and thicken by cooking it down (shouldn’t take long). Drizzle the pan juices onto each crostini, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Serve immediately.

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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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I thought I would begin this post with a little spring. I know I’ve been complaining a lot about the weather. A lot. So, in light that this past weekend we finally got some spring-like temperatures and it seemed that everything just burst into bloom, I wanted to share my joy. Yes, spring has sprung in Toronto (about damn time). Here are a few lovely blooms from my morning 8 km or almost 5 mile power walk through High Park.

This is our little Japanese Cherry Tree.

This is our little Japanese Cherry Tree.

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These are Japanese Cherry Blossoms in High Park.

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There are several places that these beautiful trees are planted so each one has a slightly different time-table depending on how much sun and if they are in the valley like these, they aren’t quite in full bloom yet.

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The Forsythia bloomed at the same time as every thing else.

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The Saucer Magnolia, almost there.

Karma. It gets you every time. Case in point: last week I assisted on a national brand motion shoot (video for commercial), two action packed days of sorting through frozen product looking for the ‘perfect’ specimens and then deep frying said specimens. Yes, indeed my friends, deep frying! Now those of you who’ve followed Kitchen Inspirations over 7+ years know that I am not a fan of deep fried foods (yes, I know, it’s blasphemous) so deep frying two days straight was an experience, to say the least. And yes, I did smell like Eau de Frire!

This little recipe can be deep fried but it needn’t be, pan frying does the trick too. I made these for a special celebration coming up this weekend, my father in law turns 90! We’ll be springing him from the long term care facility to bring him to our house to party on. We’ll be breaking out the good china to celebrate! Happy Birthday Dad!

MiniRostiPotatoes_2632

A crisp potato ‘cracker’ with crême fraiche and smoked salmon with a little dill and chives.

Mini Rösti Appetizers

Makes about 60 x 3 cm (~1.25 inch) diametre rounds

Ingredients:

  • 600-800 g (1.3-1.8 lb) 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) 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 potatoes from the pot and allow to cool completely.
  4. On a large grater, grate the potatoes entirely. Using a 3 cm (~1.25 inch) cookie cutter, sprayed with non-stick cooking oil, press a good tablespoon of grated potato into it and compress slightly. Lift cookie cutter off and repeat until all the potato is used up. Heat a large cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of oil (err on more than less). Add the little rounds of potatoes and cook until they are crispy and golden on each side. Drain on paper towel, cool and then freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, pack them into a zip lock bag. Use as required.
  5. To reheat: pre heat the oven to 300F and bake frozen potato rounds until warmed through, about 12 minutes.
MiniRostiPotatoes_2621

Using a smallish ice cream scoop, I was able to keep each one about the same size.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2620

Yes indeed, that is a honey wand that was repurposed as a plunger to flatten each disk out.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2622

They made quite a few!

MiniRostiPotatoes_2623

They’ll crisp up again when you reheat them.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2629

Just a bite-sized nibble.

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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!

ScaryPumpkin_1255

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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Today I celebrate another benchmark birthday. All I could think of is, I can’t really be THAT age! But what the heck, like wine, we only get better with age, right? — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

JT organized a beautiful little cocktail party of our closest friends and family yesterday and it was lovely. Of course, I prepared a lot of the food and I’ll be posting about a few new things soon. In the meantime, here are a few great recipes from the Canada Day long weekend. Cheers!

An early morning paddle shows the sparkly lake.

An early morning paddle shows off the sparkly lake.

The old boathouse built by JTs grandfather in the late 1800's

The old boathouse built by JTs grandfather in the late 1800’s

I’ve mentioned before that our cottage is rather remote and we don’t have very good grocery stores close by, in fact the closest is about 45 minutes away and it takes about 20 minutes just to get out to the main highway to get there so planning is essential. Recently we had our lovely friends Rae and Monica up for the weekend and so I put together a great menu plan that allowed for reinventing left overs. One such left over was a combination of several of the meals that resulted in 4 fantastic flat breads that we used as hors d’œuvres on Sunday night. Each of these flatbreads are fantastic on their own, but the variety is also quite lovely. Plus, all of the ingredients are available ready made if you aren’t as fortunate to have left overs.

Quick and Easy Flat Bread Hors D’œuvres

Italian Delight: Gorgonzola, Parmesan and Parsley with Walnuts

The sharp Gorgonzola was a lovely contrast to the candied walnuts

The sharp Gorgonzola was a lovely contrast to the candied walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1 oz gorgonzola
  • 1 oz grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts candied with balsamic
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf Italian Parsley
  • 1 clove garlic

Directions:

  1. Peel the garlic and cut it in half. Rub one side of the naan with the cut side until it leaves the naan fragrant.
  2. Add cumbled gorgonzola and grated parmesan. Sprinkle with the candied walnuts. (To candy the walnuts, simply add the walnuts to a saucepan with about 2-4 tbsp of balsamic and boil until the balsamic has thickened, cool on parchment and break apart to use)
  3. BBQ until cheese has melted and then add the parsley. Cut into portions.
  4. Serve warm.

Mediterranean: Caramelized Onion, Roasted Red Peppers and Goats Cheese with Pine Nuts

Sweet and tangy Onion against the creamy goats cheese was a lovely foil for the sweet red peppers

Sweet and tangy Onion against the creamy goats cheese was a lovely foil for the sweet red peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1/2 a large caramelized onion
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper, skin off, sliced reasonably thinly
  • 3 tbsp crumbled goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts

Directions:

  1. Evenly distribute the roasted red peppers on the top of the naan.
  2. Add the crumbled goats cheese and sprinkle with the pine nuts.
  3. BBQ until cheese has melted. Cut into portions.
  4. Serve warm.

Mexican: Salsa and Cilantro

The sassy flavours of Mexican  saturated the Naan well

The sassy flavours of Mexican saturated the Naan well

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 2-4 tbsp chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Evenly distribute the salsa on the Naan.
  2. BBQ until warmed through. Cut into portions.
  3. Serve warm.

Greek: Red and Yellow Peppers, Green and Yellow Zuchinni, Kalamata olives and feta

Tangy flavours and lots of texture

Tangy flavours and lots of texture

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt with 1 garlic chopped into it
  • 1/4 red pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 yellow pepper, sliced
  • Green and Yellow zucchini sliced
  • 2 tbsp Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 3 tbsp crumbled feta
  • pinch of dry oregano

Directions:

  1. Spread the greek yogurt and garlic on the Naan.
  2. Lightly sauté the red, yellow peppers with the green and yellow zuchinni strips (not too soft)
  3. Evenly distribute the peppers and zuchinni on the top of the Naan, dot with the feta and Kalamata olives.
  4. Sprinkle the oregano evenly.
  5. BBQ until warmed through. Cut into portions.
  6. Serve warm.

I’ll leave you with two amazing shots of the sunset from two different nights. This is what makes the drive worth it!

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The sunset on Friday night; red sky at night, sailors delight!

SunSet

Sunset on Sunday night, very surreal

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I had to post this again, because, OMG, aren’t they just the cutest? I’m talking about the teeny, tiny quail eggs. We were in Yorkville with Paul and T and I stopped into Pustateri’s (very high end expensive grocery store) to pick up some quail eggs to make tiny deviled eggs. I wanted a small egg because we were going out for dinner and I didn’t want a big, heavy hors d’œuvres to fill us up.

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Aren’t they cute?

To see my original recipe, click here. I made 18 servings, and I only eyeballed the ingredients and had too much filling left over, I would suggest 1 tablespoon of mayo per four whole eggs, and you can eyeball the volume to make sure you’ll have enough and not too little. The quail eggs have a tougher membrane on the outside, so it actually makes it easier to peel than a normal egg.

Deviled Quail Eggs, a little hors d’œuvres

Makes 18 deviled eggs

Ingredients:

  • 9 quail eggs
  • 2.5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt to taste
  • Paprika to garnish

Directions:

  1. Put your desired quantity of quail eggs into a saucepan and fill with cold water to 2.5 cm or 1 inch over the height of the eggs. Bring to a boil and keep on a moderate boil for 5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare a bowl of cold water with lots of ice. Once the five minutes are done, strain the eggs and put them immediately into the ice bath. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, these will cool down very quickly because they are so small.
  3. Peel each egg, rinse off remaining shells. With a wet knife, cut each in half length-wise. Remove the yolk into a bowl, set whites aside.
  4. Add the mayo and Dijon to the egg yolks and whisk until it is smooth and totally combined.
  5. With your largest rosette maker in your icing piper, pipe into each egg cavity to fill. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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You can see the size difference to a Canada Grade A large egg on the left.

We had very special deviled eggs for our hor d'œuvres that evening.

I was going to system out the paprika mess on the back left egg, but then I decided to leave it real!

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I am very excited to tell you that THIS post will tip this blog over the 100,000 views! I can hardly believe it. My humble little blog from Bloor West Village. Go figure. I was going to do some sort of prize, but I have no idea how to measure who my 100,000 visit was. So I’ll have to think of something else. WOOO HOOO!

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Oh Christmas Tree

We decorated the tree a few days after we got it home. Now I know it’s probably a lot larger than many cultures, but for Canadians this tree is small; even by our standards it’s a wee bit puny, we had to put it up on a table to get the height we needed! But I’m OK with that, because that just gives us more room for presents!

These delicious little bites were baked, believe it or not, and you will be surprised at how soft and chewy the centre is and how crispy the exterior becomes when you reheat. I don’t think I will deep fry my bhajis ever again.

Baked Onion Bhajis

Don’t be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

original recipe from BBC. Makes about 24 mini bhajis.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Vidalia onion very thinly sliced
  • 120 g/4 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • non stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Pre-heat a 12 or 24 mini muffin tin.
  2. Beat the eggs and add the finely chopped onion rings, mix well.
  3. Combine the flour, ground coriander and cumin and stir well. Add to the egg, onion mixture and stir well to combine.
  4. Generously spray the mini muffin tin, add about 1 tbsp of the batter per cavity. Bake for 7-10 minutes, then flip each bhaji so that it browns evenly on both sides and bake for another 7-10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. To serve, pre-heat oven to 350°F and place bhajis onto a cookie sheet and heat for about 10-12 minutes, crisping up the exterior.
  6. Serve immediately with some onion chutney or tamarind chutney.

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

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

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

Gluten Free South Western Korean-inspired Pancake

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

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

Serves 2

Sauce Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Pancake Ingredients:

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

Batter Ingredients:

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

A very tasty lunch, indeed

Directions:

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

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Happy Independence day! We’ve just returned from our weekend with Paul and T, or I should rather say, we’ve survived another weekend with Paul and T! Great company with lots of eating and drinking and some exciting activities (tubing, believe it or not)! We thoroughly enjoyed cooking at the Lake House and I’ll recreate a few of our recipes in the coming weeks.
But for now, we’re back to reality. Now that patio season is in full swing, and the cocktails are flowing, we need a good repertoire of hors d’œuvres to serve whilst sipping our poisons. I was scrounging around the freezer and found these mini potato latkes I made a couple of months ago and thought, hmmm, what would go well with that? I was over at Norma’s wonderful blog and of course, she posted recipes from the Locust Grove’s Sunset Sensations…and there it was. It hit me like a stone (I always get it wrong!). Smoked Salmon Mousse. Thank you Norma for the inspiration. Although the recipe provided by Chef Ed of Lola’s Cafe and Crave Restaurant was a bit rich for my taste, I adapted it slightly lighter and I wanted to use up some ingredients hanging around my refrigerator this week. It’s so easy, you could do it with both hands tied behind your back…oh, my, my. 😉

Two for me and one for you!

Mini Potato Latkes and Smoked Salmon Mousse

For the mini latkes, please see Martha Stewarts recipe here (I make mine small, about 5cm in diametre and freeze them after I cook them)

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 30 g smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup softened goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp cream or milk
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1 tsp fresh chives, minced
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients except the chives to a small food processor. Processes until smooth.
  2. Heat latkes until crispy. Spoon about a tsp onto each latke and garnish with chives.

I always make an extra, just in case

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The long weekend a few weeks ago proved to be as beautiful as the weatherman promised, if not more so. Other than the bites from the black flies and mosquitos, it was darn near perfect. High 20°C during the day, and cool enough to sleep in without having to turn on the heat. Perfect I say!

You may recall that I posted Sawsan’s recipe a while ago for feta and basil flat bread, but frankly my omission of the olive oil did not do it justice, at all. I had frozen about half the dough waiting on a perfect opportunity to try it again (the olive oil was to be added when rolling out the flat bread, so I was good to go!).

You see how flaky the flat breads became with the olive oil? We cooked them on a well oiled griddle on the BBQ because it was too hot to turn on the oven.

The long weekend presented the perfect time because we were in need of hors d’œuvres for cocktails; this time I did not skimp on the olive oil. Sawsan, I MUST say it was marvelous! JT said the BEST he has had. I had a hard time not sampling them (I did try a couple, OK, maybe a few, but that’s IT!). We shared them with JT’s sister (known as Sid) and husband and the Ceement Boy (nephew Brian — I’ll get into that story sometime soon). We had polished most of it off when Ceement Boy dropped his wine glass onto the side of the dish and it broke into smithereens! He was trying to keep up with me as I broke a wine glass the night before! The cheddar dip can be found here.

The flat bread could have been even better had I made my own feta, like John (from the Bartolini Kitchens) did here.

I will definitely make this lovely and tasty hors d’œuvres again

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Happy Thursday everyone. By now I am sure you have read Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) had a Tapas dinner party on the weekend and we were kindly invited; we had such a variety of food and it was soooo good. I made Chgo John’s Cheese Bread again (how many times do I have to make this bread before EVERYONE sees that they MUST make it?) and some devil’s on horseback and the Chorizo with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar. I had a few leftover red and yellow peppers and decided to add them to the recipe, so below is the updated recipe, with photos this time. It’s such an easy tapas to make, just add what you have on hand, and you can make it in advance, as I did and just reheat in the oven or you can do it all right away. I would suggest, however, not to make it in cast iron unless it has an enamel coating as the vinegar will remove any seasoning you have diligently worked so hard on. We just served the dish in these adorable cast pans.

The martini with more in it is mine.

Chorizo with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 4 if you’re having other tapas courses

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup 1/4″ sliced and halved chorizo sausage
  • 1/3 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (I prefer Mayan sweet onions or vidalia)
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped (I prefer to use my microplane)
  • 1/2 cup mixed sliced yellow and red peppers
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a small pan, add chorizo and caramelize each side.
  2. Add onions and garlic and sauté for a minute, add the peppers and sauté for another minute.
  3. Add balsamic and allow balsamic to reduce slightly 3-4 minutes (this will thicken the balsamic a bit)
  4. If you are making this in advance, I would add the tomatoes when you reheat so they maintain some shape. If you make this to eat now, add tomatoes and sauté for another minute.
  5. Serve immediately or reheat (adding the quartered grape tomatoes) with that gorgeous Cheese Bread I cannot stop making and bragging about.

I wish you had smell-a-vision like I do.

I feel like Grover in the "near".... "far" episode

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As you may have noticed, I am often swayed by the recipes of my blogging friends. And this time is no different, because I fell for Sawsan of Chef in Disguise’s Fteer falahi (Cheese and anise flat bread). I had feta at home and fresh basil, so I thought I would use them (plus JT is not a huge anise fan). I had a little extra pot of the Titanic Pâté for our Sunday dinner with nephew Brian and the flat bread went very well with it.

These flat breads are soft but firm enough to hold a heavier spread, like the Titanic Pâté. Cheers!

I made only half the recipe Sawsan made because we are not huge bread eaters, and it made a lot of dough, so I froze half as raw dough and will be using it in the future. I liked the over all texture, but I did make a mistake, I didn’t brush it with oil at every fold (trying to keep the calories down). It turned out a little harder and not as chewy as I had hoped, but the flavour was certainly there. When I make the frozen batch, I will be certain to use the oil that Sawsan’s recipe recommended. As well, Sawsan recommended that I leave my dough a little thicker so it’s chewier. I can see this recipe being used for many a dips in the near future. Thank you Sawsan, you have inspired me yet again.

Fteer

Makes 2 12″ flat bread squares

Ingredients:

  • 0.5 kg all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I left this as the full recipe, JT said my bread was not salty enough!)
  • water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of sheeps milk feta cut into small 1 cm cubes
  • 1/4 cup of chiffonade of basil

Directions:

  1. In a 1/8 cup of warm water dissolve the yeast and sugar (make sure your yeast is alive!)
  2. Sift the flour and salt into your large stand mixer bowl, add the yeast/water mixture and start kneading adding water gradually till you get a soft sticky dough consistency (I added a little over 1 cup of water but the amount varies with the type of flour)
  3. Machine knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, allow to rest , covered in a warm place for half an hour (I kneaded 7 minutes).
  4. Preheat your oven to 270°C or the highest temperature it will go.
  5. Gently combine the vegetable oil and olive oil and keep it next to your working area.
  6. Wet your hands with a little oil and cut the dough into 4 balls , brush each ball in the oil mixture and allow to rest for another 10-15 minutes. (don’t skimp on the oil)
  7. Brush your working surface with a little oil, start with the first dough ball you cut and spread it into a circle roughly 25 cm or 10 inches in diameter. Sawsan has some great photos on how to fold the dough, please visit her post here.
  8. Spread your filling onto the pressed dough and begin folding, much like a croissant dough, folding the left third over the centre, then the right over the centre, then the bottom fold up one third and finally fold the top down one third. You should have a nice folded smallish square. Allow this one to rest while you start working on the next one.
  9. When you have finished all of the dough balls, go back to the first square and brush it with oil and spread it into a larger square using a rolling-pin or your hands. Then do the same with the rest.
  10. I like using my cast iron pizza pan for this type of bread and I always pre heat it. using a rolling pin, roll up the dough and carefully roll out to the heated pizza pan. Drizzle more oil on it.
  11. Bake on the middle rack of your oven. Sawsan cautions to watch it carefully as it will burn very quickly.

Thanks again, Sawsan, this one will have a repeat performance in our repertoire, it is indeed a very easy flat bread to make. Next time, I shall substitute some of the white flour for whole wheat, just because 😉

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HAPPY ST PATRICK’s DAY. I have NOTHING green for you, other than this, hope you enjoy it.

I had my hair appointment this week. I book it as early as I can in the afternoon, without having to leave work early. I got 6pm. I had a couple of things done (I won’t divulge my secrets ;-)!) and although I do love my stylist, Jordan, he does have the gift of the gab. A simple cut can take over an hour. I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth, and then some. I wish they served wine, just saying. The appointment this week would be at least two hours long. Good old JT figured I’d be starving by then, so he whipped up an old favourite for cocktails (yes, we had cocktails before my appointment even though it was Thursday. We had time for cocktails but not for dinner. So, what of it?). This recipe is quite forgiving so the quantities are not exact. I urge you to try it to your taste. It is one yummy combo, that’s for sure!

We had this appetizer quite a few years ago, in a place that no longer exists; we up’d the anti, of course!

Sizzling Mushrooms

Serves 2-4

Careful, they are called sizzling for a reason

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced coarsely (we had white ones that needed to be used, but forest or wild would be incredible as well)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced onions
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled sheeps milk feta
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • a few slices of French stick, or crackers

Delicious lightly buttery shrooms, sweet onion, tangy garlic and sheeps milk feta...oh wait, there is a splash of cognac in that too!

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a cast iron pan (cast is best as it holds the heat longer, after all, it is called SIZZLING!)
  2. Add the onions and sauté until slightly translucent, add the mushrooms and sauté until they have a bit of colour. Add the garlic and sauté just until you can smell its delicious aroma.
  3. Pour the cognac in all at once, you may flambé at this point or not.
  4. Sprinkle the feta into the mushrooms and give it a stir. You can add a bit of Thyme into it at this point, we didn’t, we forgot (having got into the martinis already ;)!)
  5. Serve immediately with Vodka Martinis (I don’t care if you shake or stir, just do it!).

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This past weekend we had our good friends Barb and Kevin over and we thought what better way to give them a taste of our Moroccan experience than to serve a variety of Moroccan delicacy’s that we learned how to make in our cooking classes. The hors d’œuvres for our Moroccan meal comes from our very first class in our Ryad Dar Les Cignones (The Storks – we had an old dilapidated palace across from the hotel where actual enormous storks made their nests!).

This is our lovely Chef at Dar Les Cignones

Our beautiful Chef (sadly, I cannot recall her name) at our Ryad showed us how to make these delicious pillows of Phyllo Pastry (which she actually made herself, although I won’t!) stuffed with a richly spiced shrimp mix. She did not give us a little printout like Maison MK did, so I had to go by memory and find a similar recipe on line and made some minor alterations. The photo below is the one taken with the iPhone4 with the flash at the Ryad. I tried to fix it a bit in Photoshop so it doesn’t look as cold and harsh. The funny story around the briouats is that the Chef specifically asked me if I wanted them deep fried or baked, and I opted for baked ‘pour la santé’ I said. And low and behold, we are served deep fried briouats! They were very tasty non-the-less!

Our baked Briouat with Dar Les Cignones Fried Briouat in the background

Baked Shrimp Briouats

Makes 26 5 cm (2 inch) triangles

Ingredients:

  • 300 g shrimp, peel on
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Large pinch of saffron threads, revived in a little water
  • 1/4 cup fresh panko (or bread crumbs, I had panko)
  • 5 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Chop the shrimp into 1/2 cm bits, doesn’t have to be even or pretty.
  2. Heat a splash of oil in a pan and sauté the onions, add the shrimp and cook through.
  3. Add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and stir until you can smell the aroma.
  4. Remove from heat and add the panko, mix well.
  5. Allow to cool completely and add the fresh parsley and cilantro leaves. Mix well.
  6. Take 1 sheet of phyllo at a time, cut into 4-5cm strips. Drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Add about 1 tsp of the cooled filling to one end and fold tightly as shown in the diagram.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 350 ° F. Bake triangles for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately or allow to cool and freeze.

Folding takes practice, make sure you have lots of phyllo on hand!

Baked Shrimp Briouat

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Each day our tomato plants are simply overflowing with fruit! We were at the cottage this weekend so yesterday there were three days of tomatoes to be harvested. Our home grown garlic has finally cured and the basil was looking pretty sweet as well. What to do? Bruschetta, of course! Using the different coloured tomatoes makes me think of jewels!

1 cup cherry tomatoes in various colours cut into eighths.
4-6 basil leaves, chiffonad
1-2 tsp finely minced garlic (I use my micro-plainer for this)
3-4 tbsp EVOO
Salt
6, thinly sliced whole wheat French stick
3-4 tbsp EVOO

Lightly brush EVOO on each side of the French stick. Toast each side gently in your broiler.
Mix the cut tomatoes, garlic, basil and EVOO, salt to taste.
Gently spoon the tomato mix over each toast, drizzling with the extra juices.
Serve immediately.

20110802-064722.jpg

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