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Posts Tagged ‘Appetizer/Hors d’oeuvres’

I love to cook Asian flavours, particularly in the warmer weather, it just feels right. One such warm and balmy evening I came up with this interesting twist on an old favourite: Thai Green Curry “Risotto“! It’s definitely not traditional so I’ve omitted the cheese because I didn’t like the flavour combination but I have an alt in the notes if you still want cheese in it. It’s creamy, even though I used Jasmine rice and I kept it monochromatic adding only green veggies. It was a definitely a winner!

Thai Green Curry “Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 dinner-sized servings or 4 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small shallot (about 25 g)
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 60 mL Green Curry Paste
  • 160 g jasmine rice, rinsed well
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 300 mL chicken stock
  • 100 mL coconut milk
  • 50 g green beans (cut into 1 cm pieces)
  • 150 g bay scallops
  • 50 g frozen peas
  • 2.5 mL lime juice

Directions:

  1. In a small Dutch oven, heat the oil and add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Add the rice and toast for a minute or so. Add the green curry paste and cook until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock about one-third at a time, stirring occasionally, cooking the rice until all’onda. Add the scallops and cook until they are 125-130F or you can panfry them like I did.
  4. Turn down the element and stir in the coconut milk, add the vegetables and heat through.
  5. Add the lime juice to taste. Remove the kaffir lime leaves to serve.

Deliciously creamy “risotto” with the flavours of Thailand.

Notes:

  • I add the lime juice to brighten the flavours without salt.
  • This is neither an authentic Thai nor Italian recipe. I just thought the green curry and jasmine rice lent itself to the traditional dish. This green curry does not have cheese in it but if you want it creamier, try a little cream cheese stirred into the curry right at the end.
  • Use any protein you wish, chicken or shrimp would be great too.

Bay scallops add the perfect amount of sweetness to this flavourful dish.

Note:

  • Rice portion was updated July 17 to reflect two servings.

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Way back in April we had an outdoor Indian evening with a single neighbour and for hors d’œuvres I served Pork Samosas. They were delicious and so moreish. They are not the traditional deep-fried samosa, but they are baked phyllo pastry versions. I can tell you that they didn’t last long.

Photo of baked pork samosas

A delicously flavourful, crispy triangle.

Baked Pork Samosas

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 16 two-bite samosas

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL vegetable oil
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 200 g ground pork
  • 5 g garam masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 10 g cumin
  • 5 g grated ginger
  • 10 g roasted puréed garlic 
  • 200 g mix vegetables
  • 50 g frozen peas, thawed
  • 10 g cilantro leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 pack phyllo pastry
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and sweat the shallot until translucent.
  2. Add the pork and cook until no longer pink, mix in the ginger and garlic and stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the garam masala, curry powder and cumin over the cooked pork and stir until fragrant. Remove from heat and mix in the vegetables and cilantro. Allow to cool completely.
  4. Cut each phyllo sheet into 5 cm widths and brush with melted butter.
  5. Starting at one end, dollop a tablespoon of the pork mixture and begin folding in a triangle pattern like illustrated below.
  6. Brush the tops with more melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and heated through. Serve with peach chutney.

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Warm Spanakopita Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL garlic-infused EVOO
  • 30 g shallots, small dice
  • 160 g zucchini, grated
  • 70 g spinach, finely chopped
  • 0.5 g dill weed
  • 50 g cream cheese
  • 70 g Greek feta, crumbled, divided
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan and sweat the shallots until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook until softened. Add the spinach and wilt completely. Season with the dill and stir well.
  2. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted into the vegetables.
  3. Add about three-quarters of the feta and stir well into the warm dip. Reserve one-quarter of the feta for garnish.
  4. Reheat the dip and serve with pita bread.

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I am constantly on the lookout for new hors d’oeuvres/finger food that I can insert into my cocktail repertoire. I came across this tasty recipe in early April when I was looking around for something to make with polenta. I loved the crackers because I’ve already made Polenta Fries, Polenta Crisps, and Polenta Choux Pastry. Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe includes a beautiful tapenade but I didn’t have parsley and I wasn’t going to go out for just one ingredient as we had just stepped into our THIRD State of Emergency Lockdown, so I improvised with baby arugula, and I must say, it’s darn tasty, I may even substitute the parsley with arugula going forward.

Don’t let the dark edges fool you, they are the best part!!!

Polenta Bites with Mediterranean Tapenade

Recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes about 35 little crackers and enough tapenade for about 6 or 8 crackers.

Ingredients for the Polenta Bites:

  • 350 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 15  EVOO
  • 2.5 g sea salt
  • 75 g fine cornmeal
  • 40 g finely grated parmesan
  • 5 g chopped chives

Directions for the Polenta Bites:

  1. Prepare a large sheet of parchment paper by spraying it with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat the chicken stock with the roasted garlic purée, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt until a slow boil.
  3. Slowly pour in the cornmeal and stir vigorously until all has been incorporated into the water and it is beginning to thicken, add the grated parmesan and chives and cook, stirring constantly until very thick.
  4. Pour the hot mixture onto one half of the prepared parchment and fold the other half over it. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 2mm thick. Even out the edges (cooks treat) and cut into 3 cm squares. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425° F (I used convection) and bake the polenta bites for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and flip the crackers over so that the top is the bottom and the bottom is the top and try to separate the crackers and move them around on the parchment so they bake evenly. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Green olives, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and peppery arugula make a very tasty tapenade.

Ingredients for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  • 5 Green olives (with pimento)
  • 6 Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 4 quarters Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • 2 small handfuls of baby arugula
  • 1 green onion about 15 cm long, roughly chopped
  • 30 mL EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  1. Add everything into a small food processor and process until you have achieved the desired consistency.
  2. Serve as a dip or portioned onto each cracker like a canape.

 

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These are super quick and easy to make. They don’t keep well, particularly if your house is a bit humid so plan to bake them just before you want to eat them or if they get a bit soggy, just pop them into the oven to dry them out a bit.

Deliciously crunchy and cheesy crisps.

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 12-15 crisps

Ingredients:

  • 400 g old cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone matt.
  2. Spread the cheese out on the matt as thinly as possible so that the grated pieces are interlaced.
  3. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until the cheese has entirely rendered and is starting to become golden but not burned.
  4. Carefully remove from the oven and pull the parchment onto a cutting board. With a pizza cutter, cut into wedges. Allow to cool completely. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • I use a rimmed baking sheet because the oils from the cheese may slide onto the oven and burn.
  • Parchment may burn so a silicon matt is preferred.

 

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Several years ago, I replicated some French Onion Soup Pillows from a long-gone, favourite restaurant. They somehow managed to get the delicious French onion soup into a dumpling that exploded when you bit into it. It was unexpected and wonderful. I was thinking about making them again when I discovered some cooked beef gyoza filling in the freezer and I was inspired to make a Japanese version of our beloved French Onion Soup Pillows, and Self-Saucing Gyoza were born. They’re a little more fiddly than normal gyoza because you have to make the sauce and allow it to set overnight, but it’s totally worth it. Now I wish we could have friends over so I could serve them these delightfully explosive bites, damn you Covid.

Self-Saucing Gyoza

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes enough Sauce for about 25 gyoza

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 gelatine leaf (agar agar will not work)
  • 100 mL miso broth
  • 20 mL soy sauce
  • 5 mL Hoisin Sauce
  • 30 ml mirin
  • A batch of homemade gyoza, like these

Directions:

  1. Soak the gelatin leaf in cold water until soft. Wring out the water and add it to a small saucepan.
  2. In the same saucepan, combine the broth, soy sauce, hoisin Sauce and Mirin and whisk over low heat until the gelatine has melted. Cool and pour into a small rectangular plastic container (container should allow sauce to be a minimum of 70 mm deep). Refrigerate overnight until set. Cut into 25 cubes.
  3. Make up the gyoza as per recipe and add one gelatine cube per gyoza. Freeze gyoza on parchment paper individually, add to a ziplock bag for future use. Cook gyoza as per recipe.

The gelatin melts into a delicious sauce within the gyoza.

Notes:

  • You may wish to make your gyoza wraps a bit thicker than normal so the sauce doesn’t leak out while cooking.

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Over the holidays, I received some lovely sourdough starter and I made sourdough bread (as though we needed it!). I’m always a little distraught discarding some of it so I adapted an old recipe I brought back from Hungary to utilize the discard and a little of the fed starter, it worked out very well. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for future baking.

Sourdough Cheese Sticks

Makes 1 30 cm x 42 cm sheet, cut to whatever size you desire.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g discard sourdough starter plus 30 g fed starter
  • 125 g Greek Yogurt
  • 100 g shredded cheese (sharp cheddar works well, freshly grated Parmesan is best)
  • 5 g Salt
  • 20g shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. In the large mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the scraper attachment, blend flour, butter, starters, 100 g cheese and salt until incorporated, then switch to a dough hook and add the Greek yogurt and knead until smooth ball forms.
  2. Allow to rest in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F
  4. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out dough to about 1/2 cm thickness.
  5. Cut into 7-10 cm x 2 cm sticks.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Slide cheese sticks on the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden and melted.
  8. Re-cut sticks, if necessary, while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

These are very tasty served warm.

Notes:

  • Use a flavourful, hard cheese (like cheddar, gruyere or Jarlsberg) is best for this treat.
  • I use a pizza cutter with a kitchen ruler to cut the sticks, it makes it very easy. If you cut the sticks after you sprinkle with cheese, your cutter will take up most of the cheese!
  • In the original recipe, there is an egg wash on the top, I omitted this time because I figured the cheese would stick regardless, but it does add a lovely sheen which I will not omit next time.
  • These cheese sticks freeze well. To reheat, spread in a single layer, cheese side up on a baking sheet and bake at a low 200° F for 10-15 minutes or until defrosted and slightly warm.

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In mid-July, we were one of five couples invited to a socially responsible BBQ at a friend’s house. They put three tables together outside giving us ample space to distance ourselves. Each couple was asked to bring something and this marvellously flavourful side was one of the dishes someone brought. Everyone asked for the recipe, including me! I chose to make it as a dip for a summer evening cocktail party, socially responsibly distanced, of course. Each couple had their own plate!

The beans and lentils are packed with flavour, the salsa and lime yoghurt just up the ante.

Baja Mexican Beans and Lentil Dip with Lime Sauce and Salsa

From Bowls of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full of Nourishment By Nina Olsson

For the original recipe please click here

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until needed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 200 g dried navy beans (400 g cooked)
  • 100 g dried lentils du puy (200 g cooked)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 avocado, finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  1. Cook the beans and lentil until softened, rinse.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the shallots until caramelized, add the garlic and cooked beans and cook until they can easily be mashed about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Serve in a bowl or on a plate drizzled with the Baja Sauce and Salsa with baked tortilla chips

I chose blue tortilla chips because they were gluten-free and organic.

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We enjoyed a lot of seafood in Spain. But this recipe did not come from our time there, it graced our cocktail table soon after we moved back into our newly renovated bedroom. We were watching a little Jamie Oliver before turning out the lights and the recipe that night was this gem: Crispy Squid and Smashed Avocado. It was a hit the first time I made it, and soon after, I was getting requests to make it again. It is a deep-fried recipe, and you all know how much I love deep-frying, but it is quickly fried and on my first measure of the oil used, I was able to get most of it back after it cooled which means the calamari did not absorb much. Cutting the calamari length-wise instead of in rounds will allow the calamari to curl up like a spring which looks super cool. I paired this tapa with Romesco Sauce and Avocado Cream, and they were both awesome!

Calamares Fritos

To see the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 1-2 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 calamari tube, cleaned and sliced lengthwise to open up
  • 65 g all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 L vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Avocado Cream:

  • 1 Avocado
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 lime, juiced

Ingredients for Serving:

Directions:

  1. Cut the calamari into strips lengthwise (not rings). Add the flour and sea salt to a bowl and toss the calamari strips until well coated.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil to 375° F. Fry the calamari strips 5 at a time until golden. Drain excess oil on kitchen paper.
  3. Meanwhile, mash or cream the avocado with cumin, sea salt and lime juice.
  4. Serve calamari hot with the sauces.

Notes:

  • Cut the calamari into thin strips length-wise so that it will curl into a spring shape as it fries. Shorter ones will curl less.
  • This dish is equally as good with either sauce so if you don’t want two sauces, just go with one.
  • To scale up the dish, just add another calamari tube for each additional person. More than 4 people, double the avocado cream recipe.

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Our time in Spain seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the short time of our return. In Canada, everything seemed to come to a head the day after we got home!

To put your minds at ease, we were in the province of Almería in my cousin’s little village of San José, some 573 km (356 miles) from Madrid. Our stay took place during low season, many (probably more than half) restaurants and shops were closed for the season and there were very few tourists. My cousin’s flat is in a complex of 14 and the busiest weekend had maybe 5 flats inhabited; during week days there were usually only two inhabited flats and we were one of them! The province of Almería has only 46 confirmed cases to date (March 20 when I wrote this post), we were fortunate. We are into our second week of isolation with no symptoms (I am so relieved). But it’s a moving target and we need to be diligent. Having been away for 40 days we haven’t seen any of our friends so coming home to isolation is emotionally challenging. A big thank you to you, our blogging community, you’re never too far away with a kind word. As we are learning to be virtual with our local friends, it’s comforting to know that our virtual friendships are tried and true.

We had lunch at La Tagliatella in their CC Torrecárdenas, Almería City location just prior to skipping over to Northern Europe. It gets 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor reviewers. The food was excellent and service was good too. Our Spanish is pretty sad so the young woman serving us brought English menus to the rescue, we didn’t even ask.

The restaurant is tastefully decorated in a contemporary Italian style and unless you look out the interior window, you wouldn’t know you are in a mall. There were very few patrons when we dined (at one point it may have been just us!).

We began with a little amuse-bouche that was a cracker topped with fresh cream cheese (sorry, forgot to take a photo).

I had the Carpaccio al Tartufo Bianco (paper-thin slices of veal, with white truffle ice cream and white truffle pearls)(~16 €), it was excellent. It was accompanied by a very large but very thin, grilled bread/cracker with a drizzle of olive oil. It was a little difficult to eat but it was delicious (later during our sojourn in Northern Europe, I discovered that it should have been saturated in olive oil). The carpaccio was doused generously in olive oil and a little too generously peppered; the truffle flavour was mild but enough to enjoy (sometimes it can be too strong). The white truffle ice cream was sweet, which was a bit of a surprise but there was so little of it, it did not impact the enjoyment of the dish.

JT had the Scaloppine (slices of Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, fries and vegetables)(~15 €). It didn’t look like much but it was quite delicious. The fries were a nice portion too (quite the opposite of what we became used to in America!).

JT felt like a little sweet after lunch and I felt like an espresso so we ordered the Caffè Gustoso (Coffee with chocolate truffles and a mini tiramisu)(~6 €) which was perfect for sharing (I forgot to take a photo so I took one from their website). The tiramisu was a take on the classic dessert but the pudding itself was quite tasty. The truffles were exceptional.

If you’re looking for a nice Italian meal in Almeria, check out La Tagliatella. They have two locations.

Overall rating of La Tagliatella, Almeria (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Miss you Dad. March 23, 1923 – July 16, 1981

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Our little village in Spain has an awesome Indian restaurant at the far end. We ate there once and even though everything was great (food, service), we decided that going forward it’s a better take-out place because it just didn’t have a cool vibe (overly lit); and a bonus is that it’s far better value as take away, if you don’t order way too much rice, like I inadvertently did!

Even though the rice wasn’t expensive, I really hate throwing away good food so I kept it for something in the future. The future arrived in the form of a tapa! I made a spin on the famous Spanish Tortilla de Patatas but used rice, cauliflower purée and cheese instead of potatoes. It made a very tasty tapa which we later used as breakfast.

The measurements are approximate because I used leftovers.

Tortilla de Arroz, Coliflor y Queso

Makes 1 omelette about 20 cm in diameter (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 250 g cooked rice
  • 125 mL cauliflower purée
  • 125 mL milk
  • 50 g cheese, finely grated
  • 30 mL pesto

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  3. Heat a small 20 cm frying pan on the stove on medium heat and brush generously with olive oil.
  4. Pour the contents of the omelette into the hot frying pan and press evenly in the pan.
  5. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Place pan into the oven and finish cooking until a toothpick tester come out clean.
  7. Serve warm with a roasted garlic aioli.

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During our time in Spain, we ate a lot of delicious tapas. One such tapa was the Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún, a simple yet spell-binding combination of tuna, avocado, lemon juice and olive oil. Using the very best of all four ingredients allows each one to shine individually and together they melt into the most magical concerto. We just couldn’t get enough of it. It was, however, not easy to find in our little town so I decided to make it part of our weekly meal plan. I made this one for our Valentine’s Day lunch.

Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g canned tuna in oil
  • 200 g ripe avocado, cubed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • A good drizzle of olive oil
  • Arugula

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and combine it with the cubed avocado and lemon juice.
  2. Spoon evenly onto a bed of arugula. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

Notes:

  • For presentation purposes, I layered the ingredients over the arugula. In reality, it is served well combined.
  • The arugula was my addition, the true dish is served on its own.

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Happy Birthday, Mom. She would have been 84 today. She’s been gone 15 years and I still miss her.

It’s easy to come up with easy, healthy recipes when this is the view from your flat.

This is the view from our flat.

Although the kitchen is at the back, with no view, I strategically place my computer so that it faces the view. I pop out to the computer every few minutes to jot down the recipe as I come up with it. This view makes me edit a lot. It’ll get posted or nixed based on the JT review. This one was pretty good. Many vegan ‘cheese’ dip recipes use nutritional yeast to make it taste cheesy, so I thought this would taste cheesier, but it didn’t so the name was modified from Tangy Butternut Squash “cheese” dip to Tangy Butternut Squash dip.

The dip can be enjoyed with inferior views.

Tangy Butternut Squash “Cheese” Dip

Makes 500 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 885 g Butternut Squash (about 1/2 a large squash)
  • 50 g roasted red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 26 g roasted garlic
  • 5 g cumin, toasted
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 59 mL Vegetable Stock
  • 15 g nutritional yeast
  • 15 mL white vinegar
  • Chopped Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Brush the cut side of the butternut squash with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up and bake until soft, roughly 45 minutes. Scoop out the soft flesh into the heat-proof container of the immersion blender.
  3. Toast the cumin until you can smell it. Add it to the immersion blender container with the cooked squash. Add the toasted cumin, vegetable stock, nutritional yeast and lemon juice and blend until very smooth.
  4. Press through a fine sieve to achieve a super velvety texture. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve warm with toasted tortilla chips.

 

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I have wanted a Tamagoyaki pan for the longest time. There are several cheap and cheerful ones on the market but they are all non-stick and to be honest, I just don’t care for the non-stick coating. This past Christmas, JT got me a cast iron Tamagoyaki pan and I love it! Tamagoyaki is described as a sweet yet savoury rolled omelette and it is ever-so moreish! I’ve made quite a few since the day I received this lovely gift and they have all been well received. I used Nami’s recipe over at Just One Cookbook and it’s a keeper. I generally make them for hors d’œuvres but you can easily make a lunch out of them. For Hors D’œuvres, estimate 2-3 pieces per person or about one half of a roll.

Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette)

Makes one rolled omelette about 5 cm in diameter and 20 cm long (or the width of your pan).

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 30 mL neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
  • 45 mL dashi
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 5 mL mirin
  • slice of cheese

Directions:

  1. Combine the eggs, dashi, sugar (if using) soy sauce and mirin and whisk well.
  2. Bring the Tamagoyaki pan to medium heat. Brush the entire surface with oil. Pour about 30 mLs of the egg mixture into the pan and tilt to spread the egg mixture evenly. Lay a single slice of cheese onto the omelette allow it to melt.
  3. Using a heat resistant spatula, begin rolling the thin layer of egg starting from the sloped end of the Tamagoyaki pan and move it back to the sloped end. Brush the entire Tamagoyaki surface with oil again and repeat pouring and rolling until all of the egg mixture has been used.
  4. Roll the Tamagoyaki in a parchment-line bamboo or plastic sushi mat and hold with elastics for about 5 minutes. Slice into six even slices. Serve warm.

Notes:

  • Nami has a great video to show how to accomplish this task; it’s not difficult at all and it doesn’t take long to become quite expert at achieving the perfect Tamagoyaki!
  • Nami adds about 2 teaspoons of sugar to her recipe but I reduced it to one, then one time, I totally forgot and didn’t miss it. The mirin is sweet enough.
  • To get the cool texture, roll the Tamagoyaki in a bamboo or plastic sushi mat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. I line my bamboo sushi mat with parchment to protect it.
  • Serve with finely shredded daikon radish seasoned with a little rice vinegar.

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Canadian Thanksgiving was at my SIL’s place in Peterborough. She asked that we bring hors d’œuvres so I made three dips. This one was blog-worthy.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 160 g roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • 1 g salt
  • 10 mL red wine vinegar
  • 20 g almond flour

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in your food processor and process until smooth.
  1. Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread.

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I am always inspired by my favourite blogs, and this recipe is no different. My gourmet chef blogger-friend Stefan, made this wonderful hors d ‘œuvres a few weeks ago and I just had to try them. I made only eight halves because it was just the two of us, so I adjusted the recipe while maintaining the proportions he suggested. I also changed up the bread crumbs with whole wheat panko because that is what I have at home. They were delicious and quite impressive looking! Definitely will make them again soon. They are so easy to make for a large group because you can stuff the shells and hold them in the refrigerator and bake them when required. Thank you Stefan for another tasty treat!

These are tasty, bite-sized morsels.

Stuffed Clams

Makes 8 halves. Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 8 large clams (about 60 g clam meat)
  • 100 mL dry white wine
  • 10 g butter
  • splash of garlic oil
  • 50 g green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 25 g minced onion
  • 40 g dry chorizo, finely diced
  • 20 g whole wheat panko
  • minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • grated cheese

Directions:

  1. Place the cleaned clams in a large pan with a lid and pour the wine over them. Heat covered, until boiling and cook the clams until they have all opened.  Remove the clams as they open and set aside. Pour off the liquid and reserve.
  2. Remove the clams from the shells (reserve the shells) and chop finely.
  3. Add the butter and splash of garlic oil and sauté the bell pepper and onion. Add the chorizo and cook for a minute or until the chorizo renders and colours the onion.
  4. Add the panko and the parsley and stir well. Add a little of the reserved wine and clam juice liquid until the mixture is slightly damp but not soaking wet. Add the clams.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  6. Stuff each shell with the clam mixture and top with grated cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately with slices of lemon and a sprinkle of parsley.

These worked very well with our favourite Italian Pinot Grigio.

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Over the summer we don’t watch a lot of television, instead, we enjoy sitting outdoors on our patio and chatting about the day’s events. But since the renovation has finished, we cannot help but want to retire early to our fancy room and enjoy a television show or two before bed. On such an occasion, we were watching America’s Test Kitchen and they made this wonderful dish. Both JT and I were drooling by the end of the show and if it weren’t 10pm, we would have jumped out of bed to make the dish right away. The very next day, I shopped for the ingredients and made a large batch. This makes a lovely light meal or a slightly heavier appetizer or hors d’œuvres. It brings all of the usual flavours of Vietnamese cuisine and it’s so satisfying. The raw patties freeze well and can be grilled frozen because they are small, just make sure the internal temperature reads 155° F (Canada) 160° F (US). Don’t skip marinating the grilled burgers in the sauce, it adds a rich meaty flavour to the sauce and the sauce flavours the meat beautifully.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties

Makes about 20 small slider-sized patties

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 10 mL chili paste
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 10 g sugar
  • 15 mL fish sauce (see notes)
  • 45 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 175 mL hot water

Ingredients for the pork patties:

  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 15 mL fish sauce (see notes)
  • 2.5 mL baking soda
  • 2.5 mL white pepper
  • 454 g pound ground pork

Ingredients for the salad for 2-4 people:

  • 250 g rice vermicelli
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • a generous handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stems, cut thinly
  • a generous handful of fresh mint leaves, cut thinly
  • a handful of peanuts, sesame seeds or finely sliced green onions for garnish

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce first because it is best if it stands for a few hours. Add all of the ingredients to a heatproof container and combine well until the sugar has entirely dissolved. Set aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Combine the ground pork with all of the ingredients and mix well. Measure out small portions (we wanted them for hors d’œuvres and appetizers, so we did slider-sized patties) and form into firm patties.
  3. Grill each patty on a hot grill until sides have caramelized and the centre is 155° F (Canada) or 160° F (US). Directly from the grill, add the patties to the sauce and allow to sit in the sauce for 5-10 minutes turning a few times if they are not entirely immersed.
  4. Meanwhile, boil enough water to cover the rice vermicelli and allow to soften to al dente! Strain.
  5. To serve, lay the torn Boston lettuce on each plate or a serving platter, scatter the cucumber, cilantro and mint over the leaves. Top the greens with the softened noodles and add the pork patties. Garnish with peanuts, sesame seeds or finely sliced green onions or all of the above! Drizzle with the sauce and serve remaining sauce on the table.

One of the last meals we had outdoors before September kicked in.

Notes:

  • The sauce needs to mellow because it is very limey at the beginning. The meat juices help the sauce mellow out.
  • We have reduced the sugar in this recipe by eliminating it from the patties, we found it balanced enough.
  • Check the saltiness of your fish sauce, you may need to reduce the quantity so the patties aren’t too salty.

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We entertain a lot. I usually like to have a variety of small bites in the freezer to draw upon so I don’t have to think about one course. These shrimp cakes freeze beautifully and reheat very well, the perfect hors d’œuvres for a dinner party.

Vietnamese Seafood Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 40 bite-size cakes

Ingredients:

  • 140 g “00” flour
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 20 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 20 g sesame seeds, toasted
  • 350 g Raw Shrimp, scallops and clams chopped roughly in larger chunks
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, baking powder and sea salt and mix well.
  2. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste (about the consistency of pancake batter).
  4. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, sesame seeds and chopped seafood and mix well.
  5. Heat about 1 cm grapeseed oil in a pan. Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  6. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce) and a splash of honey.

 

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A similar, unbelievably moreish dish was the first course that Dave (Fine Dining at Home) served us at his beautiful home in Manchester. It was creamy, full of flavour, and so delicious that my mouth is watering as I think of his dish. You can see his version here.

I really didn’t have a high-brow enough opportunity to serve this dish before our reno started, so I made a version that I used as a dip for a more casual starter. This was the basis of my recipe. Dave generously gifted me with several truffle-y food items and one was a beautiful bottle of truffled olive oil. I used his olive oil for the dip. If you are not a fan of truffle flavour, simply use a good quality olive oil instead.

Deliciously light and dreamy.

Truffled Parmesan Mousse

Makes about 125 mL mousse

Ingredients:

  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 25 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 30 mL cognac
  • 125 mL whipping cream
  • 125  g parmesan rinds
  • pinch of rosemary
  • 15 mL white truffle olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and sweat the onion until translucent. Add the cognac and cook until it has almost evaporated.
  2. To the onion, add the whipping cream, parmesan rinds and rosemary and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes stirring often.
  3. Taste and season with salt.
  4. Strain to remove the rinds, onions and rosemary. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
  5. Add the white truffle olive oil and mix well. Whip with a hand mixer until it is somewhere between soft and stiff peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

 

Notes:

  • This is a very rich dish, so if you serve this as individual appetizers, I would choose smaller glass vessels. Garnish as Dave did with a demiglace and steamed asparagus spears with a parmesan tuile.

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We are heading into another renovation. Why, you might ask? Well, it’s been 12 years since the last one and things need to get done. Obviously, we’ve chosen another contractor, with whom we shall have a better relationship, hopefully. It really doesn’t take much: honesty and communication. That’s all we ask. Don’t leave us hanging and for damn sure, don’t lie to us. We have been hung out and lied to and to be honest, it’s difficult to get over. But I’m going in with a positive attitude.

We are adding a master ensuite and walk in closet to our bedroom, and we are updating the main bathroom. We will move into the basement guest suite to remain in the house while the work is getting done. The dreaded demolition starts April 9.

I tell you this because we have been entertaining like mad, knowing that the next few months will be chaos and dust. So I’ve been cooking like crazy and gearing up blog posts so I don’t skip a beat. My best friend and her picky-eater- hubby came by for brunch so I made these tasty crackers. Needless to say, hubby passed on them.

Gluten-free, Low Carb, Herbed, Olive Oil Crackers

Makes about 33 crackers

Ingredients:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 20 g psyllium husk
  • 5 g salt
  • 30 mL Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 egg
  • A good pinch of thyme leaves
  • A good pinch of rosemary
  • A good pinch of dehydrated onion and garlic, ground into a powder

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175° C).
  2. Using the metal blades in your food processor, add all the ingredients and pulse until entirely combined and resemble small peas.
  3. Pour onto a large sheet of parchment paper and push toward the centre. Lay another piece of parchment on top. Roll out between two pieces of parchment to about 0.5 mm (1/16″) thick.
  4. Cut into shapes using a pizza wheel and a kitchen ruler. (I cut small triangles that were about the size of chips).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they begin to get a golden tone. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They will firm up as they cool.
  6. Store in an airtight container.
  7. Serve with your favourite dip or cheese.

Notes:

  • This is a modification of this earlier recipe.
  • The crackers have good body and are sturdy enough to hold dip or cheese.
  • I used dried herbs because it’s still winter here and my herb garden is still hibernating!
  • We were just in Spain and of course, I purchased some wonderful olive oil. This is the one I used for this recipe.

 

  • Feel free to flavour with your favourite herbs or spices.

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

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

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

Thai Inspired Lentil Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.25 L soup

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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You may recall that I made a version of this recipe in November 2012 but had an unfortunate accident when the entire omelette slid out of the pan and onto the floor! No “three-second rule”, that baby was toast!

Preparing for a recent trip to Spain, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to repost the recipe in its full glory. These creamy little potatoes are the perfect ingredient for this simple but tasty dish. And it’s perfect if you have leftover potatoes. But don’t stop there, even though the potatoes and onion are the traditional tapa, the flavour combos are endless. In fact, I cheated and added a little crispy pancetta for additional flavour.

Spanish Potato Omelette

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one loaf pan, about 10 cm x 21 cm (4″ x 8.25″), 16 slices

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 200 g potatoes
  • 60 g onion, finely sliced
  • 30 mL roasted garlic
  • 30 g pancetta, finely diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a loaf pan, set aside.
  2. Boil the potatoes until soft. Strain and layout on a cool baking sheet and smash with a fork. Allow to cool completely.
  3. In a small frying pan, over medium heat, sauté the pancetta until crispy, remove and set aside.
  4. Whisk the eggs together, add the roasted garlic and whisk well. Mix in the smashed potatoes, pancetta and raw onions.
  5. Pour into the prepared loaf pan, making sure the inclusions are evenly distributed.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until egg is completely set. Cool slightly, run a sharp knife around the perimeter and turn out of the pan. Flip over and slice into even, bite-sized rectangles.
  7. You may serve immediately or cool completely, refrigerate and gently reheat the prior to serving.

Notes:

  • I did not bother to peel the potatoes, I just smashed the little buggers skin and all after boiling.
  • The original Spanish recipe called for the onions to be sweated out beforehand, you can do this, but I found no alteration in the flavour of the omelette so why waste the extra time?
  • You may also serve these with a dollop of sriracha mayo.

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Updated March 30, 2019: added Oretta’s Burrata Truffle Egg photo

Over the last few years, I have worked (prepping and cooking) many times with David Rocco, author, chef, and producer. About a year ago, I decided to follow him on Instagram and I have not regretted it. He doesn’t post too often and he posts about his family as well as the standard self-promotion that celebrities post about. I love the posts about his family. He has three kids and an absolutely gorgeous wife. The first time I heard of Oretta, an authentic Italian restaurant in the Entertainment district on King West in Toronto, was on David’s Instagram (apparently, he goes quite often)! The food looked beautiful and delicious so I immediately put it on my restaurant bucket list. If you’re looking for American-Italian-family-style gluttony, this is not your place, but if you’re looking for authentic Italian cooking in a tastefully decorated Italian-style space, this place might be for you! This is the type of restaurant that all the beautiful people frequent, particularly during TIFF.

The first time I stepped into Oretta was last summer, for dinner, it was like stepping into a high-end restaurant in Florence, Italy, it literally took me back to 1989, when we last visited that special place. High, vaulted ceilings, geometric wall art, interesting tiles and spectacular food. We have eaten several times since, and I have wanted to post a review but have always forgotten to take photos (story of my life). The food is authentic Italian and it’s delicious! They even have Neapolitan pizza (in a wood-fired oven, no less).

Everything is wonderful at Oretta, but each and every time we have been there with reservations, we have ALWAYS been seated beside a table of infants. Literally, babies. And each time I have to ask to be moved, which they do quite happily (but why on earth do I need to ask?). I must have a sign on my forehead that says, “seat me beside the noisiest, fussiest table, please!” It won’t stop me from going but I know that I will need to ask to be moved. Every. Single. Time.

Their menu has the usual suspects (arancini, burrata, polipo, polpette, foccacia, pizza, pasta to name a few) but it’s their brunch menu that is truly special. Sadly, it was one of those times that I forgot to photograph it but I can certainly speak to it. I had ordered the Uova Burrata E Tartufo (truffled eggs with burrata). It was to-die-for! The truffle added the perfect earthiness and the burrata, portioned in every bite, gave the dish the richness that made the brunch extra special. It was so good that I actually dream about it, it was the type of dish you wish would not end. My only regret was that I gave JT a bite to taste and he wasn’t thrilled but he doesn’t like truffle so it was wasted on him!!

The last time we were there was at the end of January. I was obsessing about the egg dish and so looking forward to having it again, but sadly Winterlicious had just begun and they didn’t have their brunch menu. No worries, though, all the food is great.

I ordered the Polipo ($20.00), charred octopus, chickpea puree, red pepper jam, olives, pancetta, crostini. The octopus was perfectly cooked and not overly ‘charred’. The creamy chickpea puree and subtly sweet red pepper jam was the perfect canvas to showcase the polipo. The briny umami of the olives balanced everything perfectly.

JT ordered Manzo ($22.00) 6oz seared flat iron, caponata, tomato emulsion which was also quite tasty. Although the steak was perfectly cooked, it was a tiny bit chewy which made me think it might not have been brought up to room temperature before cooking. The dish was meaty and the soft sweet vegetables made for a lovely contrast. Both meals were worth ordering again, so we will definitely be back. But those eggs…

We were recently in Cancun, Mexico for a destination wedding (don’t get me started) for my Goddaughter/niece. They literally picked the most expensive place in Cancun (don’t get me started). We haven’t been to an all-inclusive for 25 years and this 2-day experience reminded me why, it’s just not our thing!  What was most disappointing is that not one room had an ocean view, not one. I cannot imagine why you would go to the Carribean and not want to see the Ocean from your room. Anyway, now I can put my focus on our next trip, Spain.

Here are a few pics. Click on any one for a gallery view.

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My facebook feed knows l like to cook/bake. Almost every video that comes up is a recipe video. A few weeks ago, I had woken up in the middle of the night and was having trouble falling back to sleep so I pulled out my phone to see what was happening in cyberspace. A really cool low carb cauliflower recipe video showed up. I thought I had saved it but I didn’t and after scouring the internet for the recipe, I gave up and created my own. We had quite a bit of cheese left over from our New Year’s Day lunch so this recipe was perfect timing.

This was a great success. The bites are soft, flavourful and have great texture from the crispy melted cheese. And the bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon?

Ladies will need two bites, JT needed one!

Low Carb Cheesy Cheddar, Bacon Cauliflower Bites

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 35 bites.

Ingredients:

  • 250 g cauliflower, riced
  • 120 g of sharp cheddar, grated and divided
  • 20 g shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 40 g coconut flour
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
  • 3 g, each salt and pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a mini-muffin cup pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Cook the cauliflower in the microwave for 4-6 minutes and remove as much water as possible by squeezing it in a cheesecloth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the cooled cauliflower, 80 g cheddar, shallots, garlic, coconut flour, bacon and eggs and mix well. Spoon 15 mL (1 tbsp) each into the prepared pans. Top with remaining cheddar.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and cheddar on top has melted. Gently loosen sides and remove from the pan. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • This would be a great recipe to use with flavoured cheddar. The recipe above was made with Peppercorn Cheddar and topped with orange old sharp cheddar.
  • This freezes very well. To reheat, just pop some on a baking sheet and heat at 300° F until defrosted and warm on the inside, about xx minutes.

Nutritional Breakdown:

Per 1 piece

  • Calories: 34
  • Net Carbs: 1 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Fat: 3 g

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We had a little break from the Christmas rush on boxing day and we made our pilgrimage to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We love to stay at Harbour House because the rooms are nice, the people are wonderful and they have a few perks that we like to take advantage of: a lovely breakfast spread in the morning room, wine and cheese in the lobby between 4-5 every night, free shuttle service to any restaurant within NOTL! During our last night, we dined at The Cannery and I noticed they had a twice-baked soufflé on the menu so I immediately amended our NYE menu to include a twice-baked soufflé.

We had some friends over for New Year’s Eve and I decided to make a tapas evening. We had six courses but were too full so we only had five of them. I spread the evening out as much as possible so we ate from 7:30-10:30. The courses were:

  • Zucchini Fritters with Sriracha Aioli
  • Twice Baked Mushroom Soufflé
  • Coconut Shrimp with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
  • Crab Gyoza with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce
  • Mussels in a White Wine Broth and Baguette
  • Cheese Course (this is the one we saved for the following day).

It was a nice way to spend the evening, just noshing and chatting away. We hadn’t seen these friends since mid-November so we had a lot to catch up on. But there wasn’t a lot of talking during this course. Just eating!

Twice Baked Mushroom Soufflé

Original recipe by Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella.

Makes about 500 mL (~15 oz)

Ingredients:

  • 15 g butter, plus additional for buttering ramekins
  • 15 g plain all purpose flour
  • 80 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced medium thickly
  • 40 g chestnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 125 mL milk, heated
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 40 g goats cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Butter the ramekins well, all the way up the sides. Boil some water.
  3. Dry roast the mushroom slices in a non-stick pan so that they colour a little on both sides and much of their moisture has evaporated. Set aside.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the flour all at once. Cook the flour for a minute without burning it. Add the milk and whisk until smooth, it will be very thick.
  5. Chop the slightly cooled mushrooms and add them with the roasted, chopped chestnuts and roasted garlic purée to the roux and whisk well.
  6. Add the egg yolk and stir well to combine. Set aside to cool.
  7. Meanwhile, beat the egg white until stiff but not dry. Take about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites and stir it into the roux mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites until well incorporated but not deflated.
  8. Divide the mixture into the prepared ramekins and bake in a bain-marie (this is why you were boiling the water) for 35-40 minutes or until tops are lightly golden (remember, they will be baked again).
  9. Allow to cool in the ramekins for about 5 minutes (they will deflate a bit), then gently loosen sides with a sharp knife and turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature.
  10. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator until needed. If you are not going to use it for a few days, wrap each soufflé individually in plastic wrap and then bag in a large ziplock freezer bag. Freeze until required.
  11. To defrost, remove from the freezer the night before it is required and defrost in the refrigerator. The microwave is not suitable for this step.
  12. Lay the soufflés into individual ovenproof dishes and prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.

Ingredients for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  • 5 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g all-purpose flour
  • 250 mL milk
  • Pinch of thyme leaves
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • season to taste.

Directions for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook the roux without burning for about 1 minute.
  2. Slowly add the milk while whisking to create a smooth sauce, cook until thickened.
  3. Flavour with the thyme leaves and nutmeg.
  4. Pour over the defrosted soufflés in an oven-proof bakeware and bake about 25 minutes in a preheated 350° F (180° C), to heat it through.

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Happy New Year! These shrimp cakes are chuck-full of shrimp, in fact, they are more shrimp than cake! And they are packed with the fresh flavours of ginger, cilantro and green onions which work incredibly well with the sweet succulent shrimp! I had intended on freezing them, but they disappeared too quickly so unfortunately I have no idea how they would perform after being frozen. They really don’t take long to put together and they pan fry so quickly, you could make them up in the morning and hold them in the refrigerator until needed, then reheat them at 250F for about 30 minutes. These luscious babies are definitely going on my New Years Eve tapas menu.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 30 g coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 30 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 100 g celeriac, finely grated
  • 454 g Raw Shrimp, chopped roughly
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  2. In another bowl, combine baking powder, coconut flour and sea salt and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, celeriac and chopped shrimp and mix well.
  4. Heat grape seed oil in pan (about 1 cm deep). Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  5. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce).

Notes:

  • You may use a blended gluten-free flour mix instead of just plain coconut flour, but I found the coconut flour flavour works really well here.
  • Don’t like frying? Try baking them in a 350F

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We are knee deep in cocktail party season and I’m going to post a recipe that will keep you on budget! Do you love Boursin? Are you appalled at the price? In Toronto, a little 150 g (a touch more than 1/2 cup) pot could cost $6.00+++!!! So I improvised and created this herb-infused cream cheese spread, it’s equally as good and costs a lot less! Make this a couple of days in advance so the flavours have time to meld, you won’t be sorry.

Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

Makes about 250 mL or 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • dry or fresh herbs, to taste
  • garlic, minced finely
  • 70 g butter, softened
  • 100 g cream cheese, softened
  • 100 g ricotta
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Chives or green onions, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil over low heat with the fresh herbs and garlic, simmer for 10 minutes to infuse. Allow the infused oil to cool completely.
  2. Pour infused oil through a fine sieve and reserve, discard herbs and garlic.
  3. In a small processor, pulse the cheeses and butter together until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the cooled olive oil and continue to pulse until it has been entirely incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve at room temperature and watch it disappear.

Notes:

  • The first time, I used a combo of fresh lemon thyme, rosemary, tarragon and Greek oregano. This time, I used finely grated Herbes de Provence.
  • I had homemade ricotta, but if you do not, just double the cream cheese, it’s still delicious!
  • Use whipped cream cheese for a similar texture to the actual Boursin.
  • I like to serve this spread in a small glass pot but any container will do. To serve similar to the actual Boursin, line a ramekin with plastic wrap and pack the spread into the plastic wrap and freeze. To serve, Remove from the freezer and invert on a platter and remove plastic wrap. Allow the dome to come to room temperature.
  • Serve with bread, crackers or crudité.

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Way back in later September, JT and I rented our neighbours’ cottage in Muskoka. Its vista reminds me of our beloved cabin that we no longer visit. But that’s a whole other story for some other time. Right now, I’d like to focus on the cottage we rented, and its beautiful views. Click on the images below to view the gallery.

We invited some dear vegetarian friends up for a couple of days and one of the days we had a grazing dinner of tapas and cheeses. One dish that was very successful was the mushroom and chestnut paté with cognac. You would be hardpressed to guess this does not have any meat. The texture is creamy and smooth with great depth of flavour.

Mushroom and Chestnut Paté with Cognac

Makes 125 mL Paté

Ingredients:

    • 100 g roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (I used this one)
    • Handful of raw cremini mushrooms
    • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
    • 2-3 cloves roasted garlic
    • 80 g butter, room temperature
    • 15 mL EVOO
    • 30 mL cognac
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • pinch of allspice
    • pinch of salt and black pepper
    • ~20 g butter, to top off paté

Directions:

  1. Melt 20 g butter with the olive oil in a pan. Sauté the shallots until caramelized, add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the chestnuts and sauté lightly until softened. Deglaze the pan with the cognac.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. When cool, add the cooked ingredients to a food processor or jar of the immersion blender. Add remaining softened butter (not the melted butter at the end of the list), roasted garlic and spices and pulse until very smooth.
  4. Add the paté to a plastic-lined pan and press into the corners or into a shallow mason jar, as pictured, and smooth the top over. Pour melted butter over the top and allow to harden.
  5. Allow this paté to come to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

  • You may substitute the butter with vegan butter should you desire, however I am unsure of the impact it would have on the overall flavour.
  • You may use any type of mushroom, I love cremini’s earthy sweetness.

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We are knee-deep in entertaining season so I thought I’d share some easy recipes for entertaining. Homemade dips are simple to make and are a million-times better than store-bought dips. I’ve suggested grilling the eggplant for a smoky flavour in my recipe but if your grill is tucked away for the long winter, you can broil them for a similar effect.

Speaking of entertaining, do you own a wood-burning fireplace or know someone who does? Do you struggle to bring wood in from your wood pile when you have friends over? The sawdust and bits of wood alway stick to your clothes and the number of trips in and out is tiring! I have a solution! I’ve created a handy log carrier, hand made by yours truly in Canada! This is the perfect gift for the wood burning fireplace owner! Made of heavy duty denim, with a copper handles, these carriers can hold 12-14 kg (25-30 lbs) of wood, the perfect amount for a roaring fire without breaking your back! They are $60 (Canadian) each or two for $100 (Canadian). Shipping within Canada and to the US is available but you’ll need to contact me before November 23 to make sure you get it by Christmas. Now let’s get busy and make some baba!

Baba Ganoush

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 400 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 8 small Thai aubergines, halved and seeded
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 15 mL tahini
  • 6 g cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill aubergines on very hot BBQ, until skin is charred and the flesh is soft (we did ours mostly on the skin side on the BGE).
  1. Roast the garlic in a parchment pouch wrapped in foil. Cool.
  2. Peel the charred skin and away from the aubergine and discard, peel roasted garlic and discard skins.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, add all of the ingredients and purée until smooth, season to taste.

Notes:

  • I like to toast my cumin for big flavour.
  • Use raw garlic if you wish, we have developed a bit of an aversion to raw garlic so I roast it whenever possible.
  • Use as much olive oil to give you a smooth dip.
  • I would not substitute peanut butter for the tahini in this case.
  • If you like a tarter dip, add more lemon juice.
  • Seeds of the eggplant tend to be bitter, so I’d remove them.

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Late in the summer, I got together with a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in quite some time. We had a long lunch chatting about what’s going on in each of our lives and ended up reminiscing about wonderful vacations we have each had in Spain. Of course, my head goes directly to food and I had couldn’t stop thinking about a spectacular dish we had during one of our first meals in Almaria: a scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion! It was out of this world. The delicate flavours worked so well together. I thought this dish could make a lovely starter or a beautiful amuse bouche, appetizer or light main course for the holidays; of course, I put my own little spin on it and it is equally as compelling. In the Notes area, I have made suggestions on how to make this dish vegetarian or vegan.

This scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion is the artistic creation of Joseba Anorga Taberna, a contemporary restaurant rated as one of the top ten in Almeria.

Seared Scallops in Creamy Grilled Corn Velouté

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main

Ingredients:

  • 300 g grilled corn (or frozen corn)
  • ~200 mL chicken stock
  • 20 g roasted almonds (with or without skins)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 20 g pancetta, cut into small bits
  • 15 mL grapeseed oil
  • 4-6 large scallops
  • butter
  • 45 mL white wine vinegar
  • Splash of water

Directions:

  1. Rince frozen corn, if using, to defrost. Purée the corn with almonds and the chicken stock until desired consistency is achieved (I used 200 mL for a thicker velouté). Press through a fine sieve to catch all of the corn skins, discard skins. Reserve the creamed corn at room temperature until required.
  2. In a small pan, fry the pancetta in the grapeseed oil until crisp; set on paper towel to remove excess oil. Reserve the pancetta fat (there isn’t much).
  3. Add the butter and reserved pancetta fat to a large cast iron frying pan. Dry the scallops well. When the oil is smoking hot, add the scallops and sear each side without turning or moving. The scallops will release from the pan when they are ready. Flip each scallop only once.
  4. Remove the scallops and cover to keep warm.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine vinegar and splash of water, if using and reserve for drizzle (I did not need to add water).
  6. To serve, spoon the corn velouté into shallow bowls (I like a rimmed soup bowl for a main or a small shell dish as an appetizer. Add the hot scallops, sprinkle on the crispy pancetta and drizzle with the deglazing liquid. Serve immediately garnished with shallot curls.

The subtly sweet corn compliments the delicate sweetness of the scallop, and then there is the salty bacon and the acidity of the pan juices. Heaven!

Notes:

  • This dish can easily be made into a vegetarian or vegan by using King Mushrooms instead of scallops as I have done here (they have a similar texture to scallops and will sear just like scallops). Substitute a robust olive oil for the butter and vegetable stock for chicken stock. Obviously, omit the pancetta but sprinkle the finished dish generously with sea salt for balance.
  • Searing is possible only when the scallop or King Mushrooms are perfectly dry, so pat them dry before you cook them.
  • If you are using frozen corn, add a pinch of sweet smoked paprika to emulate the smokey flavour of grilled corn.

This was our actual dinner, it was very tasty indeed.

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I’ve been following “Memorie di Angelina“, an Italian blog by Frank. I like this blog because (like my other favourite Italian blog “from the Bartolini kitchens“), Frank documents authentic Italian recipes with easy instructions and mouthwatering photos. I have been drooling over his recipes all year and during this last summer, I was overwhelmingly inspired to recreate his Frittelle di pasta cresciuta con zucchine (Zucchini Fritters)! Those of you who have been following me for years know that I am not a fan of deep fried food, but once in a while a recipe calls out to me and I am compelled to make it: this is one of them.

These fritters are unlike any fritter that I’ve had; they are soft, pillowy, and slightly chewy, yeasted bread dough balls with delicate shavings of zucchini and thinly sliced shallots (I added the shallots, they were not in the original recipe). They are fried at a slightly lower temperature so they don’t brown quickly and get dark and crusty. The trick is to fry them through without getting them golden like most deep-fried fritters would be. The flavour is a little taste of heaven and if you feel decadent, serve them with a romesco sauce or an aioli (as Frank kindly suggested). I made the recipe as Frank outlined on his beautiful blog and yielded about 41 (may have been 42 — quality control, of course 😉) tasty morsels. I served them 4 per person but you may want to serve the entire batch if your crowd is hungry enough. They freeze beautifully and reheat in a 300° F oven in less than 10 minutes.

The dough is rather shaggy when raw, but using two spoons to portion the little balls (one to portion, the other to push off into the oil), it’s easy and not as messy as I had envisioned. I was quite surprised that I yielded back almost the same amount of oil as before frying, which means the little balls did not soak up much at all — it makes total sense as they didn’t taste oily or deep fried. Each ball swells as it fries and turns into about 1-manly bite or two-lady-like bites, perfect for cocktails. It’ll be some time ’till we drag out the outdoor cushions again but I thought I’d share the recipe for the Holiday season.

Neapolitan Zucchini Fritters

Makes about 40-42 little balls

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g “00” flour
  • 250 mL warm water
  • 5 g Instant dry yeast
  • 300 g zucchini, shredded
  • 25 g shallot, thinly sliced
  • 5 g salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yeast with the water and mix well. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover, set aside for 2-4 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the shredded zucchini with a generous amount of salt and set aside for the duration of the proofing of the dough.
  3. Scrape out the zucchini into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. Place the rinsed zucchini into a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the water from it as possible. Sprinkle into the prooved dough and mix well. Add the salt and the shallots and mix well.
  4. Preheat oil to 350° F.
  5. Using two spoons, scoop out a small amount (about a generous teaspoon) and gently push the dough into hot oil, being careful not to splash. Add only a few at a time so the oil doesn’t lose its temperature. Lay the fried balls onto a clean paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve immediately or set aside/freeze and reheat at 300° F for 4-8 minutes.

These are light and flavourful Italian fritters. Do you like my new outdoor cushions and pillows? I made them using my new heavy duty sewing machine!

 

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We are fast approaching the holiday entertaining season and what better way to kick-start the party-fun than with some tasty cornmeal tuiles! I first saw these beauties on lovely Lorraine’s beautiful blog in early spring, and I knew at first sight that they would be making an appearance on my blog. The yield is amazing, I got about 50 tuiles from one batch! Now that is economical. And they are tasty too. I will definitely make these tuiles again, thank you dear Lorraine.

It’s best not to make these in the middle of the summer heat, like I did. What was I thinking?!?!?!?

Baked Cornmeal Tuiles

For the original recipe, please click here.

This recipe makes 50 chips about 9 cm x 7 cm (3 1/2″ x 2 3/8″)

Ingredients:

  • 215 g plain fine cornmeal, not flour
  • 40 g gruyère, finely grated
  • 5 g salt
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 250-500 mL water, boiling
  • 2 g Herbs en Provence
  • oil or non-stick spray for brushing baking sheets

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Put a Silpat mat on the baking sheet. Add the tuile template, if using. Brush or spray the Silpat liberally with a high flash point oil, like grapeseed.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, gruyère, salt and butter, mix well. Pour the boiling water into the cornmeal mixture and mix to a cream of wheat consistency. See notes.
  3. Spoon 8 mL (a heaped teaspoon) into the centre of each tuile template and spread out to the edges using an offset spatula. Bake for 8-10 minutes, then carefully flip over and continue to bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until edges have gently browned and they are crisp.

Notes:

  • Lorraine specifically indicates not to put them on a parchment-lined sheet because that is what the original author suggested, but I like to live dangerously and tried it anyway—it didn’t worked out; I found that crisping took a lot longer because the parchment held onto the moisture. I found a happy medium by baking them on a Silpat matt brushed or sprayed with oil.
  • I mixed everything together with my immersion blender because I wanted a slightly finer texture to the cornmeal and I wanted to break up the herbs a bit more.
  • Confession: My chips were not curling beautifully so when I flipped them, I snuck a cannoli roll underneath each chip to give it curl.
  • An Australian cup is slightly less than a North American cup, but I found the recipe worked out anyway. for the pictured recipe, I used 400 mL water.
  • I reduced the salt by half and it was salty enough, but keep in mind that Gruyère is also very salty.
  • Consider adding some other flavourings, such as granulated garlic or onion powder. I would add 5 g at a time and taste to make sure it’s not overpowering.
  • I found that my tuiles shrank about 30% while baking so I increased the spoon drop to 8 mL (a heaped teaspoon) from 5 mL (a level teaspoon).
  • I tried to make lovely, even ovals but was not able to get it right no matter how hard I tried, so I created a tuile template using a silicon matt (that I bought at the Dollar Store for $4) and an Exacto-knife and oval cookie cutter. It literally took me 10 minutes! Or you may buy a tuile template here. Make the template about 20-30% larger than you want your chip to be because they shrink that much!
  • These make lovely little snacks when serving cocktails. These chips are deceptively sturdy and will hold up to any dip.

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This is not your ordinary pancake. The mung beans add a certain richness and denseness to the pancake. It’s almost like an overmixed North American pancake! Having said that, it still has nice fresh flavour and can be quite addictive. Some recipes have you remove the skins and split the mung beans, I had neither the patience nor the time, so this recipe is a little green/greyer than most. I figured the skins had vitamins or at the very least, fibre. Use whatever veggies make you happy. Next time, I’ll add green onions because the chives had very little flavour.

Korean-Style Mung Bean Pancakes

This recipe makes about 20 appetizer portion pancakes.

To see the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 95 g mung beans, soaked in warm water for at least 2 hours
  • 250 mL water
  • 15 mL miso paste
  • 10 g coconut sugar
  • 65 g rice flour
  • 5 g ginger, grated
  • 45 g coconut, soaked in water then drained
  • 60 g each, frozen peas and corn
  • a handful of pea shoots
  • Chives
  • Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the peas, corn, pea shoots and herbs in the jar of a blender and blend until very smooth.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and spray lightly with oil. Drop 15 to 30 mL batter onto the pan a good distance apart from each other (so you can easily flip them) and top with a sprinkling of the peas and corn, pea shoots and herbs. Cook until golden on one side, then flip and finish cooking for a very short time so that the herbs don’t burn.
  3. Serve warm with dipping sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for the dipping sauce:

  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • 2.5 mL sesame oil
  • pinch of coconut sugar
  • pinch of toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Serve with mung bean pancakes.

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One of the main differences between blog food and food styled food is that blog food is edible. You wouldn’t want to eat food styled food because it’s likely sat on set for hours and at the least been handled to death or at the very worst, there have been additions which make the food last longer on set! Meat is regularly oiled up to look juicy, sauces and stews get a dash of white corn syrup to look glossy and delicious, etc. The gummy-bear pancakes on my website were generously coated with silicon spray so they wouldn’t absorb the syrup too readily! Wraps are most often superglued together, and their stuffing is generally only 1/3 deep (the rest is crumpled up paper towel!). Coffee, tea or bevy’s in general are usually not even real, kitchen bouquet parades as a variety of liquids! So there is a HUGE difference between blog food (which we usually eat, moments after it’s shot) and food styled food! But you needn’t worry about these gyozas, not only are they pretty enough to eat, they were eagerly consumed directly after the shoot, and they were so yummy!

Turkey Gyoza

For original gyoza wrapper recipe, please click here.

Makes 24 gyoza

Ingredients:

  • 120 g AP unbleached flour
  • 67 mL water, boiling
  • pinch of salt
  • cornstarch for dusting
  • 150 g lean ground turkey
  • 5 mL sesame oil
  • 40 g shallots (1 large)
  • 3 g garlic scapes, finely minced
  • 10 g ginger, finely grated
  • 15 g carrot, finely grated
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • 3 g coconut sugar
  • Butter or grapeseed oil to brown gyoza

Directions:

  1. Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add boiling water to the flour and salt mixture slowly to make a dough, turn out to a surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. Cut dough into two and roll into a sausage-like roll. Wrap in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and sweat out the onions, add the scapes and cook for a minute. Add the ground turkey and cook through. Stir in the ginger, carrot, soy sauce and coconut sugar and cook for a minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly.
  3. To make the wrappers, roll each sausage out to a manageable thickness and run it through the KitchenAid pasta roller from #1 to #5.
  4. Cut into 7.5 cm (3 inch) rounds. Wet the edges of each round, spoon 5 mL (1 tsp) of meat filling into the centre and fold in half and seal the edges. I used a handy pleater like this one to get perfect pleats.
  5. Steam each one for 3-5 minutes. When cooked, melt butter or grapeseed oil in a cast iron pan. Pan fry each one on one side only so it is golden and crispy. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.
  6. Freeze uncooked gyoza on a piece of parchment and once frozen add to a ziplock bag for future use. Frozen gyoza will cook in 3-5 minutes!

One side is crunchy while the other side is soft. They are sooo good!

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

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

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

Spring Green Gazpacho

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 600 mL

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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I have been thinking about hacking a spring roll recipe to avoid deep frying and I believe I have found the answer. If you like crispy spring rolls with a flavourful filling and a delicious peanut dipping sauce, then you will like this recipe. JT is all about the deep fried spring roll and I adore fresh rolls (rice paper rolls that are not cooked). It’s easy to accommodate when we go out because we order what we want (and usually have leftovers for another day!) but at home, I prefer not to make two separate dishes so poor JT has to endure the fresh rolls (I also don’t like deep frying). It was the middle of the night when I came up with this idea: to use phyllo pastry as the roll paper! The idea festered in my brain for some time, I even bought the phyllo pastry and had it in the fridge for a week before I carved out some time to make them. To be honest, the first attempt was a bit soggy, the phyllo absorbed all of the liquid from the filling and didn’t crisp up and that’s when I put my thinking cap on and came up with this winner! The first set was made with half a phyllo sheet, this time, I used an entire sheet for one roll. I also brushed each sheet with sesame oil and sprinkled coconut flour over each sheet (coconut flour absorbs liquid quite effectively without much taste). The result was outstanding, JT approved with gusto. I will definitely make these again.

So crispy, you will never guess that they were not deep fried!

Crispy Baked Spring Rolls

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 6 x 20 cm rolls

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g protein, your choice, finely minced
  • 5 mL each, soy sauce and hoisin sauce
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 30 mL sesame oil, divided
  • 45 mL grape seed oil
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 6 sheets phyllo pastry
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 mini cucumber, finely sliced
  • 42 g glass noodles, cooked

Directions:

  1. Heat 15 mL sesame oil in a small frying pan, add the garlic and shallot and cook until softened. Add the protein and cook through. Season with soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Cool completely.
  2. Combine the remaining 15 mL sesame oil and grape seed oil in a small container.
  3. Take one phyllo sheet and brush with combined oils. Sprinkle a small amount of coconut flour on the oiled sheet (I find using a small sieve makes this very easy).
  4. In the centre of one short end, spread some grated carrot, sliced cucumber and glass noodles. Add about 1 tbsp meat mixture and spread. Fold the bottom and top sides into the roll (about 1/3:1/3:1/3) and brush with a little of the oil mixture, sprinkle with coconut flour and begin rolling tightly from the filled end. The first layer of the pastry will crack, but don’t worry, it will be covered with several layers. Repeat until you have 6 finished rolls.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  6. Brush the finished roll with the remaining oil mixture and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden, turning occasionally. Serve with peanut dipping sauce, recipe below.

Ingredients for the peanut dipping sauce:

  • 60 mL chunky peanut butter
  • 45 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • dash of honey
  • lime juice

Directions for the peanut dipping sauce:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until well combined. Taste, adding sweetness or salt as needed.

May I offer you a couple of these tasty spring rolls?

Notes:

  • Protein choices: ground beef, pork or chicken. For vegetarian, try crumbled tofu or even tempeh.
  • The pastry thickness is essential to make a crispy spring roll, otherwise, the filling moisture overwhelms the pastry and it becomes soggy.

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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.

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In mid-March JT and I went to the large National Home Show at the Enercare Centre. I found discounted tickets on Groupon AND I also found a Groupon discount code, which made the two tickets $17.80; that was an awesome deal because the regular price of the tickets are $20 each! These shows are getting more and more expensive and I really don’t understand why, the vendors pay through the nose to exhibit, AND the public pays a hefty entrance fee. The kicker was parking at $21! The Enercare Centre is not located downtown, it is slightly west but still within the city, but there is not much else around it — total money grab! And that completes my rant.

While at the show, there are always a few food vendors exhibiting and one of my favourites is a shortbread company who generously hands out samples. JT and I sampled one of their savoury shortbread cookies and I knew I had to make a batch. On the drive home, we brain-stormed the possible flavours and I knew the moment JT said caramelized onion that it had to be the one. We bought a very special sharp cheddar to accompany the sweet flavour of the caramelized onion, they were absolutely perfect!

Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Shortbread Cookies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 cookies that are about 3 cm in diameter.

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 114 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 80 mL caramelized onions, slightly dried out, see notes
  • 120 g sharp cheddar, grated
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 120 g “00” flour
  • 90 g cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter, caramelized onions and grated cheddar until light and fluffy (about 5-8 minutes).
  3. Sift the salt, flour and cornstarch into the creamed butter mixture and mix until well combined but do not overmix.
  4. Create two disks and wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and roll about 4 mm thick.
  6. Cut with 3 cm round cookie cutter. Continue until the dough has been used up. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Serve with wine or your favourite cocktail.

Notes:

  • We used the KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater, it creams the cheese, butter and onion beautifully.
  • We always keep caramelized onions in the freezer in ziplock baggies for such uses. I use this recipe.
  • Spread the caramelized onion on a piece of parchment and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, this allows some of the moisture to wick out and will allow the shortbread its melt-in-the-mouthfeel.
  • The cheddar we used today was a Welsh cheddar.
  • The “00” flour we used was an imported Italian flour.
  • The rolling pin we used was this one. To be honest, I don’t love it, it’s a pain to unscrew the disks that are not required but it does roll the dough out evenly.

The flavour of the caramelized onion shines in this delicate little savoury cookie.

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

Lentil Hummus Soup

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

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

To print recipe, please click here..

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

A deliciously velvety hummus-style soup.

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I created this recipe in 2012, modeled after an appetizer at an old favourite restaurant which sadly closed down many years prior to 2012. Like many of my old posts, the photos are dark and dreary and deserve an update so here it is. I also threw in a sourdough baguette, the recipe can be found here. I used this starter which, frankly took a long time and was not as sour-doughy as I had hoped but I found the liquid ingredient intriguing so I gave it a go. I will try this starter used in the recipe next time.

It’s still a winter picture, so give me a break!

Sizzling Mushrooms

Serves 2-4 as an hors d’œuvres (about 112 g of cooked mushrooms and onions, without the feta)

Ingredients:

  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g mushrooms, stems removed and sliced medium thinly
  • 60 g sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 g garlic, finely minced
  • 30-60 g sheep and goats milk feta, crumbled (see notes)
  • 30 mL cognac (optional)
  • 2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and add the onions, cook until caramelized (about 10-15 minutes).
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are no longer wet (about 5-10 minutes) and have also caramelized. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Season with sea salt if using, but remember the feta is also salty so season sparingly.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the cognac, stirring to loosen any of the bits stuck to the pan. Remove from heat and add the fresh thyme and stir. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the hot mushrooms and serve immediately with thinly sliced sourdough baguette (fresh out of the oven, no less!)

Notes:

  • I used a 50/50 combo of shitake and cremini mushrooms, but feel free to use whatever mushrooms you desire.
  • We prefer actual Greek Feta made in Greece of Sheep and Goats milk, here in Toronto there are many imposters so try to find this one.
  • We typically don’t use pepper, but if you like it, use white pepper to avoid the harsh dark specs on the feta.
  • This recipe cooks beautifully in a cast iron pan, if you have a small one, use it. My small one was a bit too big for this amount.

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