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Posts Tagged ‘Appetizer/Hors d’oeuvres’

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
  • 45 mL fish sauce
  • 45 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 160 mL hot water

Ingredients for the pork patties:

  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 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.

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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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