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This past July, we traveled to Wisconsin to visit friends at their gorgeous lake house; it was bittersweet because they were selling it to move down to Arizona for good. The weather wasn’t great so we only got in one very short boat ride but we enjoyed every last minute. We shall miss visiting this little gem in Wisconsin. But that just means we’ll be visiting Arizona even more!

While we were in Wisconsin, our dear friends introduced us to an incredible product: Rick Bayless’ Fonterra Grill salsa! It was to die for! The layered flavours of grilled vegetables and fresh cilantro created a complex salsa that was totally unexpected, so of course, I had to try to recreate it upon our return. I used our Big Green Egg which is the ultimate charcoal barbecue! It imparts the most incredible smoky flavours but if you have gas or propane, just fire up some wood chips on the side for a similar experience.

Grilled Vegetable and Cilantro Salsa

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Yields about 1 Litre of salsa (about 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg tomatoes, seeded (reserve seeds and pulp for tomato jam)
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 4 jalopeño peppers, seeded and veins removed or to taste
  • 2 nora peppers, rehydrated in warm water, skins and seeds removed (yields about 15 mL flesh), optional
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, skin on
  • 2.5 mL smoked sweet paprika
  • Salt
  • Cilantro leaves, good handful or to taste
  • juice of 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Remove seeds and pulp from the tomatoes and set cut-side down on a cooling rack lined with parchment paper. Overnight is best, you want to dry out the tomatoes as much as possible.
  2. Roast the tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños and onion on an open flame (I used our Big Green Egg) until softened and slightly charred. Wrap the garlic in parchment and then foil and roast over the open flame until soft.
  3. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, peppers and garlic, discard skins. Add roasted veggies and cilantro leaves to a food processor and chop to desired consistency. Add salt and lime juice and pulse to combine.
  4. Add the scraped flesh from the Nora peppers to the processor and pulse a few more times.
  5. Fill sterilized jars with the salsa. If you are not using right away, you will want to process the jars in the typical canning methods. I processed my salsa for 15 minutes.

Tomato Jam

Yields a scant 250 mL (1 cup) tomato jam

Ingredients:

  • 370 g tomato pulp (all the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes that you plan to roast for the above recipe)
  • 100 g shallots, minced finely
  • 10 g garlic, minced finely
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 mL cooking sherry
  • 15 mL white balsamic vinegar
  • 1.25 mL baking soda
  • basil, chiffonade
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the onions and garlic until caramelized, deglaze the pan with cooking sherry. Add the tomato pulp, basil, season with salt and then add the baking soda, being careful because the baking soda will foam up.
  2. Cook for about an hour until most of the water has cooked off. About half-way through the cooking, add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well.

Notes:

  • I used a combination of vine-ripened tomatoes and Roma because that is what looked the best to me.
  • I have mentioned this before, baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the tomato and therefore there is NO NEED TO ADD SUGAR (yes, I yelled that!).
  • You could do whatever you wish with the pulp, I just don’t like throwing away food!
  • Since this post was written, I’ve made two additional batches of this salsa and the last batch was rush so I used the entire tomato instead of seeding it, it made for a wetter salsa so I strained it before canning. The seeds added a bit more texture that wasn’t unpleasant. But, I’d still go the extra mile and seed the tomatoes if I have the time.

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One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat a more vegetable-based diet. I have no intention on going vegetarian but I would like to limit my intake of meat a bit more; currently, we don’t eat a lot of beef, but we do eat pork, chicken and lamb (we will continue to eat fish). In this effort, I searched out a meatless chickpea recipe with turmeric. Turmeric has gained some notoriety for its medicinal properties that I wanted to take advantage of. If you wish to read more about it, read this article. Turmeric is also quite beautiful and tasty too! I altered a Guy Fieri recipe to our taste.

Be careful as the turmeric discolours everything, even nailpolish!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Raisins and Turmeric

This recipe makes 4 medium servings.

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • zest of one orange, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Pour the oil into a large mixing bowl, and then add the spices, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, chickpeas and onions, and toss to coat everything evenly. Toss in the raisins and zest and mix in evenly. Place on a sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven until lightly browned and the cauliflower is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach or baby kale, dressed with a light vinaigrette.

Notes:

  • I always used dried chickpeas, about 140 g dried chickpeas will yield the cooked amount required for this recipe.
  • If you have leftovers, simply warm up with some vegetable stock and purée into a smooth, velvety soup.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil seems like a lot, but it really just covers the cauliflower and chickpeas.

The turmeric shaded the cauliflower in a beautiful yellow colour.

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On May 5, we hosted a Cinco de Mayo dinner party with a few friends. I’m not sure what I was thinking because I had already a very busy week planned, then my dear Mom’s widow became ill and had to be hospitalized so we were running up to the hospital he was in (about 45 minutes away) every few days (he is doing better but still in the hospital). I only had 3 days to prepare!!! I chose the menu based on foods that I can make ahead of time, knowing that they would only get better! In case you wondered, I made a variation of this dip as hors d’œuvres, this salad and for the main, this pulled chicken molé AND a Dolce de Leche tiramisu (recipe to come) for dessert. It was a bit decadent, but sometimes I really need to play in the kitchen!

This lasagna is a delicious combination of flavours and it’s worth making each layer yourself, if you must, choose canned beans to save a little time.

It’s a flavour sensation! I put a poached egg on top the next day for a very tasty brunch!

Mexican Lasagna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients for the Pulled Pork:

  • 250 g pork tenderloin
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) stock (I used beef)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) passata (tomato sauce)
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cumin
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) coriander
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) Hungarian paprika
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) smoked paprika
  • 2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) pepper

Directions for the Pulled Pork:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker or crock pot and mix well.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or until pork is easily pulled using two forks.

Ingredients for the Lasagna:

  • 6 corn tortillas, cut in half
  • 250 mL (about 1 cup) shredded pork (recipe above)
  • 85 g (1/2 cup) dried black beans, cooked and either puréed or mashed with a fork
  • 80 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) grilled corn
  • a handful (~1/4 cup) of cilantro
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Salsa
  • 150 g (about 1 cup) Mexican cheese or mozzarella
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)
  • sriracha sauce mixed with loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)

Directions for the Lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. In a non-stick skillet, caramelize the onions, add the beans, mushing some of the beans (add some stock if necessary). Set aside.
  3. Spray a pate terrine with non-stick spray.
  4. Layer 2 half corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, cover with 1/3 of the shredded pork, 1/3 of the mashed beans, 1/3 of the corn, 1/3 of the cilantro, 1/2 of the salsa and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat for two more layers, leaving out the salsa on the last layer. Cover with a non-stick sprayed piece of foil or the top of the pan, if you have one.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and lightly golden. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve garnished with a drizzle of loosened greek yogurt and sriracha sauce and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Notes:

  • I was unable to find Mexican cheese so I used Manchego and Mozzarella.
  • If you cannot grill fresh corn, frozen is acceptable but you will miss the grilled flavour.

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Mediterranean Sriracha Fish

Recently, I worked on an on-location two-day motion shoot. I was one of four food stylist employed for the two days. We worked from the compact, professional, mobile kitchen called Maindish, it was rather cosy! They were 15 hour days with few opportunities to sit down (who said food styling was glamorous?). I’m always amazed at the shear number of people it takes to make a commercial happen, 60, in this case! By the way, on location also means cramped, because you’re having to squeeze in everyone and everything into relatively small spaces, it really is quite the orchestration! 

I found this recipe on Epicurious; I chose it because I had most of the ingredients at home (along with an inordinate amount of sun-dried tomatoes). It was absolutely delicious, so I decided to document it for the future, plus, I made a few changes.

Mediterranean Fish in a Tomato Sriracha Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • splash of EVOO
  • 70 g (1/2 medium) sweet onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 90 g (~1/2 medium) fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (add more if you like heat)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) tomato purée from fresh or canned tomatoes (I used homemade)
  • 30 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2oo g white fish fillets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • Black olives (I used Niçoisse)

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • Small handful of spinach
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized, frying pan (I used cast iron), heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion, fennel and sun-dried tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato purée with the sriracha sauce and stir well. Add the tomato purée to the frying pan and simmer for 4 to 5 additional minutes. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Place the fish on top of the tomato mixture, spooning a little of the sauce over the fish. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in the small bowl of a food processor combine the parsley, spinach, sundried tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest and juice and process until chopped and well mixed. Set aside.
  5. When the fish is completely cooked, carefully stir in the olives (putted and sliced, if you’re using larger olives) and baby spinach and warm through (spinach should wilt).
  6. To serve, place the fish on a spoonful or two of cauliflower mash or polenta and dollop the tomato sauce over the hot fish. Dot the herb topping over the fish and sauce to finish.

Notes:

  • This combination of vegetables and tomatoes would work very well with chicken, but you’ll need to increase your cooking time.
  • I used Tilapia for this particular recipe, but haddock, cod, sea bass or monkfish would also work well.
  • The first time I made this recipe, I did not have fennel so I substituted 2 stalks of celery, it was equally as delicious.
  • I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, you may use dry but you might need to soak them in water so they are not chewy.
  • To reduce calories, omit the olives and use non-stick spray instead of olive oil.
  • If you use ordinary black olives, pit them and cut them into thirds.
  • The weights I suggest in the recipe are not carved in stone, just gives you an idea of proportions for two.

 

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vegetarianbutternutsquashchili_first

We had a bunch of dear friends for Superbowl a few weeks ago and I made this vegetarian chili. I know I’m a little late, but I wanted to capture the recipe for next year. It was delicious and it makes a huge amount (1 L or 8 cups). It has a lot of great flavours and textures, I’ll definitely add it to my repertoire for future Superbowl parties.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L (8 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 180 g (1 cup) dried red kidney beans (soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 small onion, diced (100 g)
  • 1 small carrot, diced (100 g)
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced (150 g)
  • 2 celery ribs, diced (100 g)
  • 250 mL puréed tomatoes (200 g)
  • vegetable stock or water, to cover
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, toasted
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup Pearl Barley, cooked
  • 1 avocado, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put the beans in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine beans with everything but the frozen corn, cooked barley and the garnishes in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add enough water to cover. Cook for 8 hours on low or until beans are tender. Add frozen corn and cooked barley about 30 minutes before serving to allow to heat through.
  3. Serve with garnishes or plain.

vegetarianbutternutsquashchili

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gazpachogelato_first

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

gazpachosorbet_alejandro

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

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

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

gazpachogelato_2Authentic Spanish Gazpacho

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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CheeseOnionSconeFirst

I celebrated a birthday a few months ago. It wasn’t a particularly special birthday other than the many wonderful birthday wishes that my many social media friends bestowed. JT took me to my favourite French restaurant, Le Select Bistro where we are treated like VIPs since we dined there with our good friends and neighbours Tom & Iona (Tom is an architect and designed the interior of the restaurant). 

Several months back, my trusty old food processor’s plastic top broke. It didn’t entirely break, just the little, wee bit broke off that clicks into the special spot to allow the thing to be turned on. I get that it’s a safety feature so that you can’t turn it on without the top clicking in, but honestly, such a crappy little piece of plastic breaks off and my food processor is rendered useless?! Well, kind of useless, because I figured out that I can jam a chopstick into the spot and I had it working for a few additional months. It was all fine and dandy until I had to take it to a photo shoot and we were all jamming the chopstick into the top to get it to work, how embarrassing was that?!?!? So when my birthday rolled along, I decided I wanted a real, grown-up food processor and JT got me the Cuisinart 12-cup!

The 12-Cup version had a little 4-cup insert so you can make small amounts of stuff.

The 12-Cup version has a little 4-cup insert so you can make small amounts of stuff.

It’s been brutally hot and humid in Toronto so even though I had a brand new food processor, I just couldn’t bring myself to make anything, particularly something that required the oven! I broke down and baked these delightful cheese and onion scones for a little dinner we had; fortunately, the oven was only on for 15 minutes including the pre-heat time and I had the hood fan on full blast, sucking out the hot air so it didn’t heat up the kitchen too badly. The food processor worked like a dream, I can’t wait to use the little 4-cup bowl insert.

Cheese and Onion Scones

Original recipe from Jean Paré’s Company’s Coming Muffins and More cookbook

Makes 12-16 5 cm (2 inch) scones)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g All Purpose Flour
  • 12 g granulated sugar
  • 16 g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 150 g grated cheese (we used Gouda)
  • 57 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 158 mL milk (and extra milk for brushing tops)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, shallot and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add cubed butter and pulse until crumbly.
  3. Combine, milk and egg and whisk until frothy. Pour into food processor while pulsing to combine well. Turn dough out to a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice. Roll out to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) circles. Brush tops with milk.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with butter.
CheeseOnionScone_2

Perfect for a light snack or with soup.

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