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Posts Tagged ‘tasty’

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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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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Spring came early to Toronto, with warm, sunny days as early as the first week of April! Buds burst on trees and shrubs and we waited with bated breath for the blooms in hopes that we wouldn’t get a spring frost. A good spring always has rain and we’re OK with that as long as we get some sunny days interspersed to keep our mood elevated and this spring was perfect. The rainy days were a touch cooler (still above freezing) but cool enough to crave soup. JT has been a real trouper this winter, eating without complaint, my favourite brothy soups but his true love are creamed soups so I thought I’d create this creamy, tasty soup on a rainy mid-April day. I served this with Cheesy Onion Scones!

Cream of Celery Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 400 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 g sweet onion
  • 300 g celery hearts, tender leaves included, roughly chopped
  • 50 g cauliflower florets (as a thickener)
  • 400 mL vegetable stock
  • 7.5 mL lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 30 mL table cream

Directions:

  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a soup pan and sweat out the onions until translucent, add the celery and cook on medium/low for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower florets and vegetable stock and simmer until all of the vegetables are soft.
  3. Purée until smooth and taste for acidity and salt, add as required. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. Just prior to serving, add 30 millilitres of table cream, stir well.

Celery in North America doesn’t have a strong anise flavour, it’s very mild.

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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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I used to reserve Thai Green Curry for the times we go out for lunch, but nowadays there is no going out so we’ve had to improvise and make these tasty dishes at home. I’ve tried many a-green curry pastes and some were so hot, I just couldn’t tollerate them. I’ve tried making my own too, but have not found a recipe that reminds me of the restaurant style that I long for. That is until I combined two lovely green curry pastes! This is not a traditional Thai Green curry recipe, but it’s one that works for me and JT is always requesting it.

Thai Green Curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 15-30 mL green curry paste (see notes)
  • 200 g protein of your choice (I used chicken)
  • 15 g corn starch
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) chicken stock
  • 5 mL fresh lime juice
  • 5-15 g brown sugar
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 200 mL coconut milk
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 200g frozen green beans, French style
  • 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
  • Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into thin-ish, bite-sized pieces. Coat with the corn starch.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a small Dutch oven and cook off the green curry paste until fragrant and has become somewhat dry. Add the chicken and cook until it is golden.
  3. Add the chicken stock, lime juice, fish stock and brown sugar and stir until it heats through and the sugar has begun to melt.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stir until smooth and creamy. Do not boil because the coconut milk can separate and it won’t look as good. Add the kaffir lime leaves and simmer until the chicken has cooked entirely through.
  5. Add the frozen green beans (see notes) and stir until heated through. Remove the kaffir lime leaves.
  6. Serve over an inverted bowl of rice, garnish with Thai basil or kaffir lime leaves.

It’s super creamy with a hint of heat. The chicken is velvety soft and delicious in this dish.

Notes:

  • I usually find green curry paste too hot at full strength so I’ve had difficulty finding one I can tolerate. We have an incredible Asian grocer near us with an unusally large compliment of sauces and pastes and I’ve found this one isn’t too hot but I add a little of this one which is super hot. The combination makes a wonderful restaurant-style green curry sauce.
  • I didn’t have green beans so I just added some peas.
  • Thai green curry is traditionally made with Chicken but you can use any protein.
  • The traditional vegetables are eggplant and sugar snap peas but you can use whatever you have on hand. Bamboo shoots would add a lovely crunch to this dish. I prefer to keep my vegetables on the green side because I love it in monochrome.
  • I usually start with a 5 grams of sugar and work my way up to 15 grams, if necessary. Some green curry pastes are already sweet so you’ll need to taste as you go along.

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I have been making this fabulous butter chicken recipe since I first found it in 2009. I love it because it is the closest to our favourite Bombay Palace’s Murgh Makhani. It is a rich, tangy tomato-based sauce that is completely moreish. I made it in mid-March when our weather suddenly turned into spring with temperatures of 14° C to 20° C (57° F to 68° F) and we had friends over two days after we were released for our latest 100-day lockdown. If it weren’t for our cosy heated patio, I would have surely gone mad.

You can easily make this vegetarian by substituting firm tofu for the chicken but I wouldn’t skip the spice rub and marinade, grilling also adds a level of flavour but not absolutely necessary.

Butter Chicken-Murgh Makhani

Serving Size: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1.6 L stewed tomatoes
  • 43 g roasted garlic
  • 7 g ginger, grated on a Microplane
  • 3.5 g Meat Masala (see recipe below)
  • 3.5 g Garam Masala (see recipe below)
  • 35 mL lemon juice (about half a lemon)
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • Salt to taste
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 100 mL cream
  • Cilantro to garnish

Directions for the gravy:

  • In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until golden. Add the stewed tomatoes and simmer until it has reduced to two-thirds of the original volume.
  • Add the roasted garlic, ginger, both masalas, lemon juice and stir well to combine. Add a pinch of baking soda and stir until it has stopped bubbling. Blend this gravy with an emersion blender and run it through a fine sieve (I prefer a smooth, creamy gravy). Add salt to taste. You can hold the gravy overnight in the refrigerator.
  • If you are serving immediately, add the butter and stir so that it melts into the gravy. Add the cream and stir well. Hold the gravy on very low heat (be careful, it bubbles quite furiously) and add the chicken just before serving.

This recipe is restaurant quality without the salt and extra calories!

Tandoori Marinades

  • 1 kg chicken, skinned, deboned, trimmed (I used chicken thighs)

Ingredients for the spice rub:

  • 6 g red chili powder (I used mild)
  • 3 g turmeric
  • pinch of baking soda
  • salt to taste
  • 30 mL lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub and rub well into the chicken (I would use gloves). Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 100 g Greek yogurt
  • 6 g red chili powder (I used mild)
  • 7 g ginger, grated on a Microplane
  • 30 g roasted garlic
  • 5 g coriander
  • 5 g cumin
  • 5 g garam masala
  • 15 mL lemon juice
  • 30 mL olive oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and spread evenly onto the chicken pieces. Refrigerate overnight or for a few hours.
  2. When ready to grill, heat the grill to 350° F.
  3. Brush off a lot of the marinade.
  4. Grill the chicken, basting with the marinade once or twice at the beginning until cooked through, about 165° F.

I always double the batch so that I can freeze leftovers for a quick and delicious meal.

Garam Masala

(recipes for the masalas are from HeartSmart flavours of India by Krishna Jamal, 1998)

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground mace

Directions for the Garam Masala:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into a heavy bottom pan and toast until fragrant.

Meat Masala

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 black cardamom pods
  • 1/4 star anise
  • 3 cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp red chili

Directions:

  1. In a small pan, toast the coriander, cumin, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves and toast until fragrant. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Add toasted spices to a spice grinder with the remainder of the spices and grind until it is a fine powder. Store in an air-tight container in a cool dark place.

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This winter we ate a lot. I mean, we ate a lot of soup. Who am I kidding, we did eat a lot, but we also ate a lot of soup. I became quite proficient at some of our ethnic favourites, this Thai Lemongrass Shrimp soup being one of them. I reverted back to an old favourite recipe from an Australian cookbook a friend gave me years ago, Bay Books Cookery Collection, Thai Cooking Class, written by Somi Anuntra Miller and Patricia Lake. It is a well-illustrated cookbook with some great background, techniques and lists of ingredients for successful Thai cooking. In fact, it is my GoTo Thai cookbook. I have tweaked the recipe to resemble that of a favourite Thai restaurant.

Shrimp Lemongrass Soup (Tom Yam Goong)

Makes about 500 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL chicken stock
  • 8 pieces fresh galangal
  • 8-12 Fresh Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 pieces of 2 cm lemongrass, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 60 mL lime juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 2.5 mL chilli paste
  • 5-10 g of cane sugar
  • 8 fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (skins reserved)
  • 10 fresh cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 80 g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 Campari tomatoes, cut into 6ths
  • Chiffonade of Cilantro leaves, Thai basil and thinly sliced green onions to garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken stock, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass along with the shrimp skin to a slow boil and then simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Strain out the stock so that it is clear and without any bits.
  2. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, chilli paste and cane sugar and continue to simmer until sugar has completely dissolved. Taste for balance and add a bit of lime juice or sugar to balance if required.
  3. Boil water for the noodles, completely cover noodles in the hot water and allow to soak until al dente. Rinse in cold water to stop from cooking further.
  4. Bring the soup to a slow boil and add the mushrooms and shrimp and cook until the internal temperature of the shrimp is 120° F.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the bowls (it’s winter and they cool down incredibly quickly). Reheat the noodles by running them under super hot water.
  6. Assemble the soup: add half of the heated noodles to each bowl, top with 4 shrimp in each bowl and spoon the hot liquid over the noodles and shrimp, dividing the mushrooms equally between the two. Add a cut tomato into each bowl and garnish with the chiffonade of cilantro and Thai basil and green onions.

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This recipe made its first appearance on the blog in 2012. I thought it was time for an update.

This is a surprising recipe that uses pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder which is the traditional cut for pulled pork. The tenderloin is significantly less fatty than the shoulder so it makes a healthier dish. I’ve reduced the sugar considerably in the Barbeque sauce which is traditionally made with ketchup (about 90% sugar) and includes 110 g of brown sugar; I’ve used passata with a dash of balsamic and only 45 g of sugar. It’s still sweet but not sickly sweet. The baking soda helps reduce the acidity in the passata which in turn makes the tomato sauce taste sweeter. It was well balanced. JT couldn’t stop eating it. I’ve served this dish at parties and die-hard pulled pork aficionados couldn’t tell it was tenderloin!

This is the pork pulled after I removed it from the sauce. It moistens up considerably after it is re-entered into the sauce.

Ingredients for the Barbeque Sauce:

  • 250 mL San Marzano passata
  • 60 mL balsamic vinegar
  • 45 g erythritol or sugar
  • 125 g finely chopped onion
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • 15 mL Worcestershire sauce
  • 15 mL prepared mustard
  • 15 mL roasted puréed garlic
  • 8 g espresso coffee powder
  • 2.5 mL baking soda

Pulled Pork Ingredients:

  • 600 g pork loin or tenderloin with silver skin and excess fat removed and cut into manageable chunks.
  • 1-2 tbsp canola oil (or an oil with a high flash point)
  • About 350 mL BBQ sauce from above
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Sear the pork on all sides in a heavy cast iron pan. Add the pork to the slow cooker set on high.
  2. In the same cast iron pan with a splash of oil, caramelize the onions. Add the remaining BBQ sauce ingredients with the exception of the baking soda and cook until the sugar has melted and everything is hot. Add the water and mix well, then add the baking soda and stir until the fizzing has subsided.
  3. Add the sauce and water to the slow cooker and set the timer for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 6 hours or until pork can be pulled apart with a fork.
  4. Remove the pork from the sauce and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Pull the pork apart with a fork.
  5. Serve on slider buns, topped with your favourite coleslaw.

We had the pulled pork on homemade tangzhong brioche buns that were slightly toasted and topped with a lovely vinegary coleslaw. It was pretty good even though the lighting sucked.

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As I previously mentioned, we had a lovely virtual Christmas Eve with my cousin and her family but I still wanted to see them during the holidays, socially distanced, of course. So we had my cousin and her hubby over for an afternoon lunch on the 27th (we just didn’t have enough room for 4 guests); we selected the warmest time of the day without wind or rain. It was a bit of a challenge keeping the outdoor area clear of snow and wet because it had snowed about 10 cm (4 inches) on Christmas Eve, fortunately we had covered the seating area in a tarp; we still had to shovel a lot of snow off the deck and shovel ice and snow off the awning. Everyone who comes over is well aware of the outdoor situation and most people are excited to experience it. The day was warm so the snow was melting around and above us but not enough to break up the party.

The snow fell Christmas Eve and then even more snow fell on Christmas Day and Boxing Day!

We all had heated throws on our laps but JT said he didn’t want one, so I got him a heated vest for Christmas.

I welcomed the family with a cup of hot Miso Broth that was well received. We started with a wonderful Warm Artichoke and Spinach Dip and then served JT’s famous Bœuff Bourguignon with a Creamy Polenta, Homemade Sourdough Bread with the grand finale of the Sticky Dulce de Leche Cakes.

Although the food was served family-style, I always provide separate serving utensils to each couple to help keep us safe. That hot plate, a gift from our wedding sure has come in handy during these outdoor meals.

In addition to having the food sit on a hotplate, we heated the cast iron pots in advance (the lids were not heated so they are easy to lift) and we had a heating disk under the bread to keep it warm on such a chilly day.

Sticky Dulce de Leches Cakes

Makes 4 servings about 80 mL each.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients

Filling

  • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
  • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature

Cakes and Assembly

  • 80 g all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 90 g unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins, room temperature
  • 35 g sugar, plus more for ramekins
  • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
  • Additional Dulce de Leche to drizzle

Directions:

Filling

  1. The night before you make the cake, combine the Dulce de Leche and butter divide into 6 equal parts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for a minimum of 12 hours (the dulce de leche will prevent it from freezing solid).

Cakes and Assembly

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Prepare four 250 mL ramekins by coating with a thin, even layer of butter on bottom and sides. Dust with sugar and discard excess.
  3. In the small bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat 35 g of sugar and 90 g of butter together until light and fluffy (approx. 4 minutes).
  4. Add dulce de leche and beat until entirely incorporated (about 1 minute). Beat in eggs one at a time (note that this might look like it’s separated) then reduce the speed and add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the four prepared ramekins, about 80 mL each. Create a small divot in the centre of each top and add the semi-frozen Dulce de Leche sauce (it will sink to the bottom during baking).
  6. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden or until a wooden tester comes out clean (try to avoid the centre as the dulce de leche might be hot).
  7. Invert the cakes onto individual plates and decorate with a little extra dulce de leche sauce.

The sauce placed into the divot before baking actually melts into the cake so I added a bit extra, just because.

Notes:

  • This is an extremely sweet and rich little cakes, the smaller the better.
  • The original recipe was called molten Dulce de Leche cakes but because the Dulce de Leche melts into the cake, I found it to resemble a sticky toffee cake more than molten so I modified the name.
  • Of course, you can make your own Dulce de Leche sauce, but I needed a quick solution so I bought some. Homemade will taste much better.

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Happy New Year! We, at Kitcheninspirations hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas and New Year. It’s been challenging to say the least, but we’ve made the best of it.

On Christmas Eve, we usually go to my brother’s for some Christmas Cheer and then we spend the evening with my Cousin and her family. This year, my brother escaped to the Cayman Islands because they have better control over the virus there (or maybe their citizens are better behaved) and we did virtual Christmas Eve, opening presents with my cousin’s family. It was absolutely lovely. I often find myself lost in the video and forget that we aren’t in the same room. Although, I do miss hugging them.

This is our virtual Christmas Eve 2020.

This year has pretty much sucked but in a stroke of luck, we awoke to a winter wonderland on Christmas Morning.

Needless to say, Christmas dinner was just JT and I but we still managed to make a decent spread and enjoy the evening. In recent years, I have taken to brining the turkey and it makes it incredibly moist and flavoursome, but the best part is that it seems to remove that gamey flavour that leftover turkey has. I know many of you love leftover turkey but sadly it’s never been JT nor my favourite; brining is a game changer! My dear friend Lorraine posted her recipe of Turkey Porchetta and Christmas dinner was immediately decided. I went a step further and brined the breast and then I stuffed it. This post is really just to remind me how good it was.

Stuffed Turkey Breast Porchetta Roll

Please click here for the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg turkey breast, skin and bones removed
  • cold water to cover
  • 72 g salt
  • 50 g sugar
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Stuffing
  • 6-8 slices of Proscuitto

Directions:

  1. Combine the water, salt and sugar in a blender and blend until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add the Herbes de Provence and pour over the breast to cover. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 hours.
  2. Remove breast from brine and dry with paper towel. Set the breast on a cooling rack with a baking sheet below and refrigerate while you make your favourite stuffing. Cool the stuffing completely before adding to the breast.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Butterfly the breast to an even layer, pounding to even out the thickness of the meat. Lay the stuffing in the centre and roll up, using a metal skewer to secure.
  5. Lay the Proscuitto overlapping the roll and secure with kitchen string (I used three rows). Remove the metal skewer.
  6. Bake the turkey roll covered for 1.5-2 hours (depending on how thick it is) or until the internal temperature of the meat is 165° F. I removed the lid at about 20 minutes left to allow the Proscuitto to crisp. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice in 2 cm thick slices and serve with homemade gravy.

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At the beginning of December, we had close friends come over for a lunch outside, it was still pretty warm with the heater and electric blankets plus we lucked into a super warm December afternoon. JT made his famous Bœuf Bourguignon and I made these Low Carb Icy Squares; they literally melt in your mouth. My friend recently lost 50 lbs on a keto diet and she wanted a little treat but didn’t want to overindulge and these fit the bill perfectly.

The paper cups are necessary because without them these little flavour bombs will melt all over your hands

Low Carb Icy Squares

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes 36 little squares (each square is about 5 grams of net carbs)

Ingredients:

  • 480 ml heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90 g butter
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • 90 g dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, chopped
  • 25 g milk chocolate, chopped
  • Gold sea salt

Directions:

  1. Boil the whipping cream and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed saucepan for one minute and then reduce the temperature to a simmer until the cream is reduced to about half of the amount (about 20-30 minutes). Stir occasionally.
  2. Reduce the heat even further and add the espresso powder, erythritol and butter and stir until smooth (make sure the erythritol melts completely).
  3. Place both chocolates into a bowl and pour the reduced cream over it and stir until melted.
  4. Pour the chocolate cream into a parchment-lined 20 cm square (8 inch square) baking pan (squared-off sides is preferred) and allow to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle with gold sea salt and cut into 36 equal squares. Serve in tiny paper muffin cups.
  5. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks.

Notes:

  • The original recipe did not call for the erythritol but because I added the espresso powder, it made it a bit bitter so I had to add it along with the milk chocolate, you could try omitting them both for a  2 g net carb dessert.
  • The better quality ingredients you use, the better the taste and in this recipe, it is worth it to splurge.

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Thai Basil Eggplant

Mid last month, I made a batch of Mulligatawny Soup and had some leftover eggplant, so I searched for a recipe for Thai Basil Eggplant that reminded me of a delicious dish served by a hole in the wall Ma and Pa shop when I worked in the corporate world. This one fits the bill.

Thai Basil Eggplant

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Japanese or Chinese eggplants
  • 45 mL toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 5 g roasted garlic puréed
  • 5 g toasted sesame seeds
  • Good handful of basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 30 mL unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 10 mL soy sauce
  • 15 mL Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Directions:

  1. Chop the eggplant into eighths. Heat 30 mL sesame oil in a large pan and cook the eggplant chunks until slightly golden and somewhat soft in the centre, about 6-8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic purée and sesame seeds and toss to coat well. Add the basil leaves and cook until wilted.
  3. Stir the vinegar, remaining sesame oil and soy sauce into the sweet Thai chili sauce and mix well. Drizzle half of the sauce into the eggplant and cook stirring often until the eggplant has entirely softened.
  4. Serve hot with the remaining sauce drizzled over it and additional Thai Basil leaves as garnish.

I never said it was authentic Thai.

 

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Some time ago, the wee menu on Facebook on my iPhone changed to include videos and a whole bunch of other garbage I wasn’t interested in. I figured out a way to customize it but I left in the videos because it made me look at suggested videos on my feed which was advantageous because I would have never come across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Kedgeree. The ingredients and origin of the dish enticed me.

“According to “Larousse Gastronomique”, what we call kedgeree originated from a concoction of spiced lentils, rice, fried onions and ginger known as khichiri dating back to the 14th century and eaten across India. The early colonists developed a taste for it, as it reminded them of nursery food” (from The Economist, please click here for the link).

Nigella’s version was made with rice and some simple spices such as curry. On perusing the internet, I discovered that many recipes did not include curry powder but a variety of spices to make the flavours more interesting. We love cumin, coriander and turmeric so those were my spices of choice. I also found a few recipes to include raisins which brought me right back to Morocco. I thought I’d give the dish a go and it was very successful with the exception that it was a bit dry. I have amended my ingredients to include a little extra chicken stock to give it a bit more wetness, not quite like risotto but just this side of it.

The recipe is full of flavour and works well as a quick weeknight meal.

Kedgeree

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g hot smoked salmon
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • 100 g sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 30 g butter
  • 5 g cumin
  • 5 g coriander
  • 5 g turmeric
  • 130 g basmati rice, rinsed
  • 300 mL chicken stock, plus more for wetness
  • 8 g puréed roasted garlic
  • 10 mL fish sauce
  • 25 g sultana raisins
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. In a medium sauce-pan, sauté the onions in the butter until translucent, add the spices and cook until fragrant. Rinse the rice and strain. Toast the rice with the onions and spices until it’s fairly dry.
  2. Combine the chicken stock with the roasted garlic and fish sauce and add it to the rice cooker, mix in the sautéed onions, rice and raisins and cook as directed by the manufacturer. When cooked, stir in a little additional chicken stock to achieve the desired wetness in the rice.
  3. Flake the salmon and toss it with the cooked rice on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the cilantro and lime zest and juice. Garnish with the hard-boiled eggs. Serve at any temperature you wish.

Notes:

  • This is not an authentic kedgeree recipe, it is my version of several recipes after I discovered this dish on the web.
  • Most recipes use curry powder but I prefer the flavours of cumin, coriander and turmeric in this recipe.
  • As with many Indian foods, this is likely an English bastardization.
  • To make this dish vegetarian, or vegan, use coconut oil instead of butter, vegetable stock instead of chicken and tofu or beans instead of salmon.
  • We grilled our Pacific Salmon on the Big Green Egg which provided enough smoky flavour to the dish. If it’s not enough, add a little smoked paprika to achieve a slightly smokier flavour.
  • It seems that this dish can be eaten at any time at any temperature but we prefer it warm for lunch or dinner.

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Recently, we have fallen in love with Cholula Green Pepper Hot sauce but it is very difficult to find in Toronto. Sure, everyone carries the original red version, but we can never seem to find the green one. It’s not quite as hot as the red one but it really livens up flavours, like our Huevos Rancheros! I decided I would try and make my own and so I shall share it with you.

Green Pepper Jalopeño Hot Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 400-500 mL hot sauce

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 440 g green peppers (about 355 g cored and seeded)
  • 320 g jalapenos (about 235 g cored and seeded)
  • 1 large shallot (about 65 g)
  • 15 mL puréed garlic
  • 300 mL water
  • 75 mL cider vinegar
  • splash of agave syrup
  • Salt and white pepper

Directions:

  1. Core, seed and remove veins of the peppers (to your taste) and toss with the olive oil.
  2. Roast the peppers until their skin blisters. Peel off the skin as best as you could. Roast the shallot so that it’s almost soft.
  3. Add everything but the agave syrup to a pan and cover with the water and vinegar. Simmer until everything is super soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Purée the pepper mixture until smooth and press through a fine sieve. Add in a splash of the agave syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer to sterilized jars and refrigerate. Will last a few months in the fridge.

Notes:

  • The quantity will depend on how fine a sieve you have. I generally run it through a fine metal sieve to catch larger bits, then I press it through a very fine, reusable coffee filter. It makes a beautiful, silky sauce.
  • If you prefer a hotter sauce, leave more of the ribs on the Jalopeños. I can’t tolerate the extreme heat so my sauce is only mildly hot.

 

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Way back in 2009, I blogged about this recipe from the LCBO magazine, Leek and Mushroom tart but I didn’t have a photo of it. It’s quite a tasty tart, particularly if you use puff pastry as the base. It’s definitely not something we eat often so I thought I’d splurge and reblog about it. It makes a lovely brunch dish.

LCBO’s Leek and Mushroom Tart

Makes one tart 35.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 2.5 cm (14″ x 4.5″ x1″)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 375 mL Evaporated Milk or heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 250 g mixed mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, cremini, oyster etc.), stems removed where necessary and thickly sliced
  • 1 medium wild leek cleaned well and cut into thin slices
  • 30 mL white wine
  • 2.5 mL chopped fresh thyme
  • One 35.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 2.5 cm tart shell, partially baked
  • 2 long slices of prosciutto, or 4 small rounds, cut or torn into smaller bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Place Evaporated Milk or heavy cream and garlic cloves in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until milk is flavoured with the garlic and reduced to 250 mL and garlic is very soft. Set aside to cool. Remove garlic cloves, mash with a fork and return to cream. When cool add egg and beat until uniform. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 15 g butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste and scrape into a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining 15 g of butter to pan and heat over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 1 minute or until they are softened. Add wine and thyme to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more or until leeks are limp and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  5. Arrange mushrooms and leeks in the tart shell and pour milk over top (making sure that mushrooms and leeks peep through the cream.
  6. Top with prosciutto (this will get very crispy).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

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

Pickled Daikon

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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It’s been brutally hot in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because -20° C with windchill will be here soon enough, so I look for cooling and comforting dishes to help manage the heat. We’ve been entertaining a lot but only outside. Most of our friends are uncomfortable about being indoors at the moment (as am I) and then you layer having to wear masks on top of the anxiety of being indoors and it’s no longer fun. But outside is much easier to transition to (from Zoom) so, we’ve been entertaining outside a lot. At the time of writing this post (July 21) Toronto was only in stage 2 of opening and looking at the poor example some of our cousins in the south have set, our government is being extremely conservative in getting back to “normal”. So we are entertaining a lot, outside. (Repetition was intentional 🤪)

This delicious gelato recipe was created for dessert for dear friends, served in homemade waffle cones, which didn’t turn out as successfully as I had hoped so they are not being blogged about! I had asked JT what flavour of gelato he wanted and he immediately said Pistachio, oh good, not too difficult, right? I decided on David Lebovitz’s recipe with a few minor alterations. The result was exceptional. I was not able to find his preferred pistachio paste in the timeframe I needed it so I improvised and made my own. I had not made a gelato using cornstarch as a thickener before but I must say, it did work out very well. I added the skim milk powder to make it even creamier and it did not disappoint. Skim milk powder absorbs excess water and gives the gelato a creamier flavour.

Fortunately, my pistachios were a lovely green so I didn’t need to add any food colouring. It’s all-natural!

Super creamy and full of pistachio flavour.

Pistachio Gelato

Makes about 750 mL gelato

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL 2% milk
  • 250 mL 35% cream
  • 65 g sugar
  • 16 g cornstarch
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • ~200 g pistachio butter (see Notes)
  • a few drops of orange extract

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. The day you wish to make the gelato, beat in the pistachio butter and a few drops of the orange extract.
  6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

Notes:

  1. David Lebovitz suggests using Bronte Crema di Pistacchio which is made in Sicily. I was not able to source it so I made my own pistachio butter with 200 g of shelled pistachios with small amounts of water, a small dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, puréed until smooth using my Magic Bullet. You will need to scrape down the sides many times through the process.
  2. Next time I make this recipe, I will lightly toast the pistachios.

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Several of our friends have July birthdays, as do I. We were invited to brunch (outdoors, of course) in early July and I offered to bake the birthday cake. This particular friend is not a traditional cake lover, no super-sweet icing or frosting for this guy, so I decided to find a nice European cake recipe with fruit, because they are always a hit!

This French Apple cake is made with rum and butter and is so delectable and moist, even though it has only 1 apple! I will definitely make this cake again for the non-cake lovers!

Super moist cake with little bits of apple and the lovely flavour of buttered rum.

French Apple Cake

For the original recipe, please click here. Note that I converted the recipe to metric measures and modified it a bit.

Makes 1 23 cm (9-inch) cake

Ingredients:

  • 114 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 130 g granulated sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 45 mL dark rum
  • 15 mL milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 140 g AP flour
  • 3 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 150 g baking apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 cm cubes
  • Sanding sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan by lining the bottom with parchment and buttering the sides.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla, rum and milk and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.
  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the butter batter and mix until combined.
  5. Fold in the apples.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and dust with the sanding sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake on a wire rack. When cool, run a thin knife along the sides to loosen and turn onto a plate. Flip right side up (sugar-side up).
  8. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature sprinkled with powdered sugar with whipped cream or Crême Fraiche.

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When I was first dating JT, back in the eighties, his dear Mom would make a version of this salad for lunch. She wasn’t into cooking so this type of dish was perfect, few ingredients and easy to assemble. She would poach the chicken where I prefer to use leftover BBQ’d chicken because of the additional flavours the smoke of a charcoal BBQ adds, but leftover rotisserie chicken works wonderfully as well. The original recipe was heavy in mayonnaise, I like to lighten it up with a little yoghurt and a splash of lemon juice. The flavours and textures really hit the spot.

Waldorf Salad was created by Oscar Tschirky, in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City in 1896. The original Waldorf was made with only apples, celery, and mayonnaise, it did not contain a protein or nuts. The latter two were additions made in the 20th century. I like to make this salad with chicken or canned tuna, both are equally satisfying.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 portions for lunch or a light dinner

Ingredients:

  • 100 g BBQ’d or rotisserie chicken, cubed or 1 tin albacore chunk tuna in water or stock 
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (dice all items similar size)
  • 1/2 green onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 apple, diced 
  • 2 tbsp walnuts pieces, toasted
  • squirt of lemon juice, more for taste 
  • 15 mL mayo (I used full strength)
  • 15 mL yoghurt (I used an Icelandic style)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and set aside, if using.
  2. Add the apple to a small bowl and squirt a bit of lemon juice on it to prevent it from oxidizing.
  3. Add the celery, green onion, walnuts and apple to a bowl and combine well.
  4. Combine the mayo and yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Add it to the vegetable fruit mix and coat evenly.
  5. Add the cubed chicken or chunk tuna and stir until equally distributed.
  6. Serve on a bed of salad greens, butter lettuce is particularly nice.

 

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My friend David of Fine Dining at Home (blog on hiatus) put me onto this recipe on his instagram; it looked absolutely delicious, so, then and there, I decided I wanted to make it. I renamed the recipe mille-feuille lasagna because the number of layers reminded me of one of my favourite pastries. I won’t lie, this is a labour-intensive recipe, but then again, what lasagna recipe isn’t? I will say that it is well worth the effort. The homemade pasta is so delicious, light and somewhat crispy. The spinach and basil layers against the creamy béchamel and the stringy mozzarella are divine! Don’t skip the resting and searing step, it really makes the recipe.

Mille-Feuille Lasagna

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Spinach, blanched
  • ~50 g basil, blanched
  • 125 mL passata
  • 15 mL tomato paste
  • 15 mL roasted garlic, puréed (fresh is fine too)
  • 300 g mozzarella, ground

Directions:

  1. Combine the spinach and basil and wring out the water well. Set aside.
  2. Combine the passata, tomato paste and garlic and mix well. Set aside.

Ingredients for the Béchamel:

  • 30 g butter
  • 40 g flour
  • 500 mL milk, warmed

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottom pan. Whisk in the flour and mix well. Cook on medium-heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the warm milk and whisk. Whisk the sauce until smooth and creamy. Cool completely.

Ingredients for the Pasta:

  • 1 large egg
  • 125 g Flour (“00”)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Add the egg to the small bowl of a food processor and whisk. Add the flour and salt and pulse until it forms into a soft dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead gently a few times until it comes together into a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a pasta maker, create 12 sheets that are #8 thickness on the kitchenaid pasta maker. Cook the sheets in salted boiling water for 1 minute or less. Cool in an ice bath, remove and dry off.

Ingredients for the Spinach Pesto Sauce:

  • 150 g spinach and arugula
  • 30 g ricotta or cream cheese
  • 30 g pesto
  • 200 mL milk or cream
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Blanch the spinach and arugula, immerse in ice water to stop the cooking. Wring out as much water as possible.
  2. Place spinach, arugula, cheese, pesto and milk into a bullet and purée until smooth. Season to taste.
  3. Press through a fine sieve into a heatproof container, set aside.

Final Assembly:

1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, it will make it easier to pull out.

2. Add one pasta sheet to the base, follow with

    • A thin layer of spinach,
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of passata
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of béchamel
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of cheese
    • Another pasta sheet

3. Repeat until all the ingredients have been exhausted ending with a pasta sheet and cheese on the top.

4. Bake in a 350° F preheated oven for 50 minutes or until cheese has entirely melted and béchamel is bubbling.

5. Allow to cool completely. When cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.

6. To serve, cut into 5-6 slices and reheat in the oven. Then sear one side on a non-stick frying pan.

7. Serve on a bed of warmed spinach pesto sauce (recipe above) with a little crème fraiche.

The pasta crisps up on the seared side to give you a wonderful crunch against the creamy textures of the cheese and spinach and basil layers. 

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During the lockdown, a dear friend and neighbour made this awesome banana bread and brought us a slice! We toasted it and added a wee dollop of butter and OMG! It was so good!

It’s difficult to believe that there is no flour in this quick bread.

Low Carb Banana Bread

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large very ripe bananas, well mashed (375 mL)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • 230 g blanched finely ground almond flour (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, carefully lift out of the pan and cool on a rack.

Notes:

  • I use Kirkland blanched finely ground almond flour

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How are you? It’s a question that has gained more substance than it garnered in the past. We used to ask it in passing, often not even thinking about the answer, which was usually, “fine”. Our answers have become more thoughtful because now we are genuinely asking. Making sure everyone is “fine” is the only way of taking care of one another at this time.

I honestly miss cooking for my friends and family. Oh sure, I’ve baked a few care-packages, but it’s not the same as sharing a meal you’ve laboured over with love. Sharing your home, a meal, or a drink with people you love. This blog also allows me to share, I thank you for kind words and support during this unparalleled time. So how are you?

I’ve been cooking a lot. It makes my day more interesting and we really look forward to the meals which have become more of a focus these days. It also makes me think of all the wonderful times we’ve shared meals with friends and family.

Several years ago we met up with friends in Almeria, we were staying one night and then driving to my cousin’s flat in San José. We stumbled upon Joseba Anorga Taberna quite by accident and had one of many memorable meals that time in Spain. One of the tapas we ordered was a seared scallop in a creamy corn velouté and it was incredibly delicious. The unexpected combination of sweet corn and sweet scallops hit our tastes perfectly. I filed it in my recipe vault in my head and in 2018, I recreated the dish and it did not disappoint.

Scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion

Fast forward to our 2020 Spanish adventure to one of our favourite tapas tabernas in Almeria where we had a marvellous creamy rice dish with mushrooms. It was delicious, creamy, cheesy and absolutely more-ish. Upon our return to Toronto, I wanted to recreate the dish but I had scallops and corn on my mind, so I reinvented it.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto from Casa Paquita in Almeria.

I had also filed a wonderful cauliflower risotto recipe that my friend David (Fine Dining at Home) posted in 2012. He recreated a Heston Blumenthal recipe where Heston made a really flavourful stock using the cauliflower end cuts and I wondered if corn-stock would have a similar effect on the risotto. It sure did! Of course, because my dish had scallops in it, I skipped the cheese and used the creamed corn velouté from the stock to add more creaminess to the disk. You could also add a splash of cream or butter.

Creamy Corn Risotto with Bay Scallops

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 for a main course or 4 for an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g frozen corn see notes)
  • ~250 mL water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ~250 mL chicken bone broth (or the amount that would yield 500 mL corn broth in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 120 g La Bomba Rice
  • 30 g clarified butter
  • 200 g bay scallops

Directions:

  1. To make the corn broth, bring the frozen corn, water and salt to a simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve both the corn and broth separately. Reserve 70 g corn kernals, set aside.
  2. Add the chicken bone broth to the corn broth to make 500 mL stock and heat to a simmer.
  3. Purée the cooked corn (minus the 70 g) from the corn broth and press through a fine sieve. Reserve.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic. Add the dry rice and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the warm broth 125 mL at a time, stirring constantly, adding additional broth as the rice absorbs it. The rice should be tender with a small bite to it and it should be creamy but not soupy. This process will take about 25 minutes. Add the puréed corn and stir well. Turn the heat off, cover and set aside.
  6. Dry the bay scallops well. Heat the butter in a cast-iron frying pan, add the scallops to the pan but do not crowd, we want seared scallops not steamed!
  7. When the scallops have cooked fully, add to the risotto and stir. Plate.

Notes:

  • Grilled corn would have been better but we were still on lock-down when I made this dish. Grilled corn cobs would have made excellent stock.
  • Bacon would have been a nice addition, I had actually forgotten I had some in the freezer, next time.

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We ate lunch at 4 Nudos at the Port in San José, Spain. You may see a trend here of luncheon restaurants in Spain, it is because we eat too early and nothing is ever open at 7:30 (17:30) in the evening for dinner (they open at 9-9:30 which is far too late for us to eat). We have eaten at 4 Nudos many times and it’s always busy because it is a local favourite and it’s a destination restaurant.

4 Nudos is known for its seafood; they don’t serve meat, period. The port side restaurant is tastefully decorated with a seaside theme but the main focus is the view of the port through the open wall, the inside just flows outside seamlessly. We have dined on their delightful Paella (takes about 20 minutes to make) and other seafood delicacies but for our most recent lunch, we ate Tuna Tartare and the Tuna Tataki.

They began our meal with a lovely amuse bouche of phyllo-wrapped torpedo shrimp with a creamy fresh cheese sauce (sorry, forgot to snap a pic) and some wonderful warm bread.

I ordered the Tuna Tartare (~20 €) which was beautifully presented and delicious. It was lightly dressed in a creamy mayo and tossed with avocado, celery and red onions, wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber. This one is a keeper!

A delicious combination of fresh tuna, perfectly ripe avocado, crunchy celery and crisp red onions; thinly sliced white onions cascade from the tower like a waterfall.

JT ordered the Tuna Tataki. To say this was a generous portion would be an understatement. It was at least 250 g or more! There were perfectly roasted vegetables served alongside with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. The lemon wedge brightened everything up. The tuna had the best sear I have ever seen, still leaving a good part of the insides rare. It was a perfectly executed dish.

The portion size of this dish was huge. I think we may share this next time. The photo is a bit misleading as the lemon wedge is huge too!

We also ordered a little dessert of Almond Flan (~6 €). It was my least favourite of the meal and didn’t have much almond flavour but perhaps it was my misunderstanding, it might have been only almond topped! But the presentation was lovely and I love how the plate reminds me of the Azur colour of the Mediterranean Sea that this lovely restaurant sits near.

I would definitely recommend 4 Nudos in San José, the servers speak just enough English that they understand what we are ordering (although, I do try to pronounce the Spanish menu items). But beware, they have an English menu but it is not up to date and they warn you that things on it may be different or unavailable. It’s best to pull out your phone and Google translate with the picture feature.

Overall rating of 4 Nudos, San José (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, 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.

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During our first major grocery shopping when we arrived in Spain, JT bought some frozen ready-made Tuna Empanadas. I was excited because we love tuna and we love empanadas and we had never had tuna empanadas. Sadly, we were extremely disappointed, the quality just wasn’t there. The filling was mainly tomato sauce with nary a taste of tuna. But I got the taste of empanada in my head and I knew eventually, I would need to make some.

I made most of our meals during our time in Spain. And when I did, I made double or triple batches so that we could have a quick lunch or dinner after a tiring day of exploring. The European refrigerator in our flat has three good-size freeezer drawers to store home-made meals. At home in Toronto, I make these traditional Chilean empanada made with beef and pork; years ago a friend and neighbour kindly showed my Mom how to make and it’s been family favourite ever since. But in Spain, beef is not as common so I decided to use Chicken. I didn’t grind the chicken (no meat grinder) but I roughly chopped it into smallish chunks so that you can still get a chicken texture as you eat the empanada. Another option would be to roast it and shred it.

The winds on the Med had increased to about 45 km per hour, which made sitting outside nearly impossible. In fact, I was worried the wind would pick up the empanada and steal it away!

Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanada)

Makes 6 large empanadas

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 90 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 12 g roasted puréed garlic
  • 433 – 450 g skinless chicken breast, roughly chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 10 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200 g frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 3 g cumin
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 3 sheets puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
  • 1 egg, whisked with 30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. 
  2. Add the chicken and stir to cook evenly. Cook all the way through.
  3. Add the roasted garlic, cumin and cook stirring until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the drained frozen vegetables, black olives and dates. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each puff pastry sheet to 20 cm x 40 cm and cut in half, then cut each half into a 20 cm circle, reserve pastry ends for the fancy finish.
  5. Brush all around the edges with the egg wash. Fill one half of the round with 1/6th of the cooked, cooled chicken mixture leaving about 2 cm all the way around the edge and then fold half to create a crescent, pressing down the edges to seal.
  6. Brush the top of the empanada with the egg wash. Finish edges into a fancy design (I used the left-over pastry and made it into a rope design). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
  7. Continue with remaining ingredients until you have 6 meal-sized empanadas. 
  8. Freeze for future use or bake at 400° F until pastry is golden.
  9. Serve with a lightly dressed salad.
The vegetables are also unusual for empanadas, but we like veggies so I added them!

Notes:

  • Traditional Chilean Empanadas are made with golden raisins but believe it or not, I was not able to find any type of raisins in our little village so I used dates. This is not a sweet dish, the dates or raisins just add a bit of sweetness so taste your dates or raisins and determine how many you will use depending on how sweet they are. The dates I used were not the same sweetness that the dates I buy in North America, so I used ten, but you may need to reduce it if you use the super sweet kind. 
  • I used puff pastry because my little kitchen in Spain is ill-equipped and very small. You can use this recipe for pastry but I am unsure of how well-fitting the proportions of filling to pastry will be. You can always freeze extra pastry in a ziplock bag.

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As our time in Spain was sadly coming to an end, I had developed a menu plan that utilizes the food we had in our pantry/refrigerator so that there was little to no waste (I didn’t have a group of friends here to have a pantry clean out party with). This was one of those meals.

As most recipes, this one evolved to the posted rendition. We’ve enjoyed this meal a few times in Spain and again during the weeks of isolation upon our return. Now my focus is rationing pantry items and getting a tasty, healthy meal out of a recipe. A few friends have kindly offered to grocery shop for us, for which we have been grateful because the online shopping/delivery services all seem to be a week out! But I don’t want to push their generosity, so I’m rationing the staples. Plus, this is a fantastic opportunity to clean out my Toronto pantry!!!

Mediteranean Tuna Casserole

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dry Romano Beans, cooked
  • 125 mL greek yogurt
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • Sea salt
  • 100 g celery, sliced thinly
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped (no pits)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 50 g green onion, thinly sliced
  • 45 g Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 85 g canned tuna, drained
  • Butter, for greasing casserole pan
  • 50 g cheese, grated
  • 50 g bread crumbs, toasted
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • EVOO

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk the greek yogurt with the roasted garlic and salt. Combine the beans with the celery, black olives, red peppers, green onions, feta and tuna, mix well. Add the yogurt and mix well.
  3. Grease a small casserole with a bit of butter. Pour the tuna mixture into the casserole and spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Combine the grated cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. Spread evenly over the tuna mixture. Drizzle with a little EVOO.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or everything is heated through. Tent with foil if the breadcrumbs are toasting too quickly.
  6. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This is a meal that I was trying to use up ingredients, if it strikes your fancy, throw caution to the wind and improvise with whatever you have in the fridge/pantry!
  • The first version had rotini pasta which was lovely but I prefer the beans.

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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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This is one of the last recipes I developed in Spain, before we returned to reality on March 12. We’re already talking about two months next year, provided things settle down and the world becomes safe again. JT and I left on the second last plane to Gatwick from Almeria, they cancelled the flights the next day! We are so fortunate in so many ways. We hope everyone is doing well under the circumstances.

I was inspired by Chef David Rocco’s Instagram post but didn’t have some of the spices he used so I improvised, in addition , this was the culmination of my kitchen clean-out. It turned out exceptionally well and can be eaten as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, you can even have it for dinner. It’s quite easy to prep and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, perfect for veg that may not be at their best.

Eggs in Purgatory Indian-style

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 90 g onions, diced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 2 g garam masala
  • 2.5 g cumin
  • 1.5 g meat masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 250 mL passata
  • 125 mL water
  • 3 g freshly grated ginger
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • 230 g frozen vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 50 g grilled peppers, diced
  • 2 g fresh Cilantro, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and sauté onions until golden. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Add the passata and water and mix well. Add the vegetables and cilantro and mix until combined.
  2. Prepare an oven proof dish by rubbing with olive oil or butter. Pour in the vegetables and spread out evenly. Make two large divets in the vegetables and crack on egg into each one.
  3. Bake in a 200C preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your taste.

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Mesón El Pescador, San José

I am uncertain if it’s just us, but travel seems to get easier as we get older. I seem to recall that the transatlantic flights used to bag us completely, but now it hardly bothers us at all. And I used to be able to sleep on the plane, now I just binge-watch a series that I’ve downloaded. We generally land in the UK in the morning and stay one night; JT and I drop our luggage off at a hotel and take the train into town. Last year, we even saw Come from Away in the evening and we were still OK around midnight!

First things first, we ordered our adult beverages.

For our 2020 trip, we flew into Gatwick, spent the night and then the early the following morning we flew into Almeria and picked up our car. We like to feel at home as soon as possible so we unpacked our luggage and drove into town for lunch. February and March are definitely low season in San José and many of the retailers and restaurants are closed. We don’t mind because we don’t like crowds or the heat of the summer when everything is open. Unfortunately, Mesón Il Pescador was one of the few restaurants open when we went hunting for lunch. We just dived in without reading reviews which is totally out of character for me, but it turned out well and I’m glad we went. Sadly, it doesn’t get good reviews but it was relatively busy with the locals when we stumbled in, so we took a chance that it was good and it didn’t disappoint.

We sat outside along the beach and were lucky to get a table. There were mostly locals dining that day; I could tell because they were all sporting winter jackets while the tourists are wearing T-Shirts and Shorts!

Steamed Mussels € 10. ($14.50 Canadian)

JT ordered a ham and cheese sandwich that wasn’t available and then the chicken cutlet of which they also ran out. The steamed mussels (10 €) were his third choice. The dish would have been nice with some crusty bread alongside, we asked but it never showed up. The mussels were relatively large, fresh and tasty. I ordered the grilled octopus (20 €) (incidentally, it was my only choice) which was grilled to perfection, tender and nicely flavoured by the grill. The octopus was drizzled with a good, spicey olive oil which made for a nice sauce to dip the fries into. Although it was delicious, I found the 20 € pricey.

We enjoyed the meal and if I crave grilled octopus again, we will definitely go back. But read the reviews and be your own judge. We may have been lucky that day.

Pulpo a la Plancha 20 € ($29 Canadian)

Overall rating of Mesón Il Pescador (in my opinion): Decor n/a, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: n/a (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.

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

It’s similar to Spanakopita but not really.

Spinach, Feta and Manchego Pie

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

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Note:

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I made this simple breakfast dish for overnight guests in early February. Unfortunately, they had to leave before they could be oven-ready so I popped them into the nuker and presto, done in three minutes! They are super easy to put together the morning of, but I wanted even less kitchen time so I assembled them the night before. To bake quickly, allow them to come to room temperature for an hour before you bake them.

Ham and Cheese Egg Cups

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 200 g of cooked ham
  • 200 g of grated cheese, divided
  • 50 g of tiny broccoli florets

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Spray each ramekin with non-stick spray.
  3. Break the eggs into a medium bowl snd whisk well to break the yolks and combine with the whites.
  4. Add the ham and broccoli florets and mix well. Add the cheese, reserving a small amount to garnish the tops.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the four prepped ramekins. Garnish with reserved cheese.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Or you can nuke them for 3 minutes on high.
  7. Allow ramekins to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Option to serve: Carefully turn out each egg cup onto a warm plate and turn right-side-up. Serve warm.

Winter has come. But the weather has been really strange because as soon as we have any snow accumulation, it warms up, the rains come and the snow melts.

Notes:

Inclusions are limitless:

  • Smoked salmon, capers, red onion slices, cream cheese.
  • Cooked shredded chicken, roasted red pepper cubes, avocado cubes, sliced onions, roasted corn, shredded jalapeño jack cheese, served with salsa.
  • Roast pork tenderloin, sluced red onions, sliced black olives, roasted red pepper and greek feta served with Tzatziki sauce.

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Way back in late October, we went over to a friend’s house for dinner, outdoors of course. We’ve all been scrambling to make the outdoors as warm and cosy as possible not feeling comfortable enough to entertain inside. My friend went all out with a brand new gazebo (which we helped erect), heaters and electric blankets (even some for sharing). It was easy to enjoy this flavourful soup in large mugs, under infrared heaters, cosying up with electric blankets while gazing at a romantic wood fire. The soup was warming and soothing on a particularly chilly evening. I hacked the recipe because we liked it so much.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL cauliflower purée
  • 400 mL coconut milk
  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 5 cm lengths
  • 1 nub of fresh galangal
  • 15 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 10-20 mL green curry paste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • leftover cooked chicken or turkey
  • 150 g diced frozen vegetables
  • 1 green onion, sliced into 3 cm lengths
  • handful of finely chopped cilantro
  • Vegetable or Chicken stock (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the baking soda, chicken or turkey, frozen vegetables, green onion and cilantro and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the broth is flavoured with the aromatics.
  2. Scoop out the aromatics (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal) and discard. Add the baking soda and mix it in well (it will bubble up for a minute or so).
  3. Add the turkey and frozen vegetables and stir to warm. Add vegetable or chicken stock if you find the soup too thick. Serve piping hot.

Notes:

  • Frozen vegetables, like this, are a staple in my freezer, they are perfect for quick soups!
  • I keep kaffir lime leaves in the freezer, they are so flavourful.
  • I prefer to keep the soup on the thicker side, particularly if you’re eating it outdoors, it tends to stay warm longer.

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Happy New Year! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, spoiling your loved ones! Wishing you a new year filled with joy, good health, good friends and good food! Love from Éva

I do apologize for not being more present with my blogging buddies, but we’ve only just returned from our month-long sojourn in Arizona. We had three sets of dear friends visit us for 5-6 days each during our stay; it was a fun-packed time away, also enjoying our dear friends who currently live in Arizona.

I made this delicious winter stew for friends just before we left for Arizona. It was a perfect way to begin winter. The stew was filled with succulent seafood drenched in a creamy béchamel. And if you’re super hungry, you can eat the bowl, or part of it!

Seafood Stew in Sourdough Bread Bowls

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 4-6 depending on size of bowls.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 8 mini potatoes
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 500 g mixed firm seafood — peeled shrimp, scallops, lobster meat, mussels, calamari or white fish (cubbed)
  • 1 cup shredded flavourful white cheese, like Gruyère and Asiago
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 4 sourdough bread bowls

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onions until translucent.
  2. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté until about half-cooked. Add the celery and sauté for about 2-4 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and add the butter and allow it to melt. Sprinkle the flour into the vegetables and mix well. Cook for a minute or so. Add the dried herbs. Slowly add the milk, stirring to mix into the floured vegetables and bring to a slow simmer, stirring and allowing the mixture to thicken. You may bring this to room temperature and refrigerate until required.
  4. If you have refrigerated the vegetable mixture, simmer on low until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked through. Add the seafood with the longest cooking first (shrimp, scallops, calamari and lastly, mussels). Cook the seafood through.
  5. Add the shredded cheese, mix well and taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot in hollowed out sourdough bread bowls.

Here is that gorgeous winter light again.

Notes:

  • I like to spend as much time with our guests instead of stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner so I try to make as much of the dishes in advance as possible so that my time spent in the kitchen is minimal while we have guests. Because I cooked most of the stew earlier that day, I was able to reheat it and cook the raw seafood quickly without missing too much of the evening.
  • I gently warmed the sourdough bread bowls so that they kept the stew warm a little longer, things cool down so quickly in the winter.
  • I used a mixture of Wild Argentinian Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, and Chopped Calamari for this dish but white fish would also work beautifully.
  • If the thought of adding cheese to a fish dish offends you, please omit it. The original recipe called for cheddar but I did not wish to add red cheese to discolour the sauce. The cheese adds a nice background flavour with a little body, it’s really not enough to make it stringy.
  • The smooth béchamel flavoured with the tarragon and thyme made a lovely background for the seafood. Our guests loved it, the homemade sourdough bread bowls helped! 😉
  • It’s a really heavy meal, I hollowed out the bread bowls so that there was only about 1 cm of the bowl all around, even so, most of us couldn’t finish it!

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This is an old recipe that I’ve made on the blog before, I just wanted to update it using weight measures instead of imperial volume and I also wanted to use fresh ginger instead of the dried powder. If you like the bite of ginger, this one is for you. This day I made them in late October was actually quite lovely and I braved the chill to take this photo on our back deck. Winter is coming!

It has that delicious chewy texture that some ginger snaps might have if they don’t dry out.

Ginger Snaps Revisited

Makes about 36 to 46 cookies, depending on how large you make them\

Ingredients:

  • 75 g butter
  • 115 g brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup black molasses
  • 30 g fresh ginger
  • 280 g you all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 2 g ground allspice

Directions:

  1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and molasses and heat gently until melted. Set aside.
  2. Grate the fresh ginger and stir into the melted butter mixture.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk or sift to stir. Make a well in the centre and pour the melted butter mixture into it and mix until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Drop the cookie dough by even spoonfuls (I used a large melon baller) onto the lined cookie sheet. Roll each ball in the palm of your hand to create a smooth ball, then press down to flatten with a flour cookie press to about half a centimetre.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes (I baked mine for 10) and cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container but don’t worry, you won’t have to store them for long.

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Like many blogs have already declared, it is officially soup season in this part of the world. I often use lentils to “beef” up soups because they are super filling. JT loves creamed soups and I love brothy soups, so to be fair, I try to make a variety of each type to keep us both happy. That way he doesn’t complain when I make Phố or chicken soup at least once a month (read: week). This was a spur of the moment creation that was so tasty, that I wanted to make sure that I remembered what I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Creamed Cauliflower, Lentil and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 750 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250-400 mL vegetable or chicken stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • 15 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the cauliflower and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 250 mL chicken stock and lentils and cook until everything is soft. Blitz with an immersion blender slowly adding coconut milk, blending until smooth. Add more chicken stock to achieve your desired thickness, if necessary.
  3. Serve piping hot.

 

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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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Fig Tarte Tatin

The green grocers in my neighbourhood have fresh figs and they don’t cost and arm and a leg! I love to buy them for this little hors d’œuvres but even when I make a bunch, I have leftover figs! I served the tasty hors d’oœuvres for a friend who came over for a glass of wine. The figs made a lovely snack but 3 days later, I still had 7 leftover! So I decided to make a tarte tatin using a different pastry.

My new friend Stefan of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog recently brought to my attention that the original Tarte Tatin did not incorporate a puff pastry crust! The original pastry is more of a short-crust pastry. Who doesn’t love pastry? And this tart is definitely about the pastry! Stefan developed a short-cut for the short-crust that makes it even flakier (don’t take my word for it, check out the last photo!). And it’s so easy. Just a few steps in the refrigerator and Bob’s your uncle. Check out Stefan’s blog to see his step by step technique.

Figs and walnuts make a great pair.

Fig Tarte Tatin

Click here for the original recipe. Makes 1 tarte about 20 cm in diameter.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 200 grams pastry flour, divided
  • 25 g sugar
  • 1 g salt
  • 100 g cold butter, in cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten well, divided

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Combine 130 g of the flour, the sugar, and the salt in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse. Add the cold butter and pulse until it comes together.
  2. Flatten the dough with your hand (make sure the safety is on) and sprinkle the remaining 70 g on top and pulse until it crumbles (should not come together). Transfer the crumbly dough into a bowl.
  3. Pour most of the beaten egg over top of the crumbly mixture and cover; reserve the leftover egg. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  4. With a wooden spoon (not your hands), mix the egg into the dough to form a soft ball (add cold water if necessary, I did not); wrap the ball with plastic wrap, flatten and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 7-10 small figs
  • 40 g walnut halves
  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 40 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 g salt

Directions for the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Cut the stems off the figs and cut them in half. Set aside.
  3. Combine the sugar and water in a small cast iron pan. Without stirring, cook the sugar until it is amber in colour. Don’t leave its side!
  4. When the sugar has caramelized to a gorgeous amber colour, turn the heat down to low and add the salt, swirling it around to mix. Add the walnuts and coat with the caramel and cook for about one minute. Tuck the figs into the caramel cut-side down in the midst of the walnuts and cook for another minute. Remove the cast iron pan from the heat.
  5. Roll out the cold dough into a slightly larger circle than the pan. Lay the pastry over the top and tuck the edges into the pan. Brush the top of the pastry with the reserved egg.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden on top. Allow the tarte to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn it carefully onto a plate, the caramel will be scorching hot. If the figs don’t settle into the pastry as pretty as they could, move them around until you are satisfied.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The pastry is meant for a larger pan but I didn’t have enough figs so I had a slightly thicker edge than normal, who’s complaining?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Lemon Miso Sauce

Many of our dear friends have dietary restrictions, be it taste, choice or health restrictions, which makes having a dinner party quite challenging. We had such friends over last month and I decided that I wanted to remake the wonderful dinner we made in Lyon; halibut wrapped in prosciutto with an olive sauce. The problem was that said friends are 1. vegetarian and dairy-free and 2. hate olives (go figure, he is Greek!!!)! Yes, I could have chosen another dish but we really had the taste for the prosciutto-wrapped halibut. So I checked with our guests and the fish could be cooked with the prosciutto but served without and I had to re-invent the sauce.

Many years ago we celebrated New Year at home with a lovely seafood dinner consisting of lobster and I had wanted a garlic butter sauce that wasn’t as rich because the lobster was rich enough without adding the butter. I tested a miso broth with garlic and it was a hit. The miso gave the same creamy mouth-feel that melted butter did and the saltiness mimicked the salted butter flavour. I drew from that experience to create a creamy, briny butterless sauce to go with the fish.

Lemon Miso Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 300 mL sauce

Ingredients:

  • 300 mL water
  • 30 g garlic confit, puréed
  • 30 g white miso
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Combine water and miso and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and add garlic confit purée and the lemon slices. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve lemon slices for the fish garnish.
  3. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Peach Tarte Tatin

You know you have a winning dessert when the same friends ask you to bring the same dessert you brought to their home the last time. This is that dessert. It really ticks all of the boxes, local, delicious, fresh peaches, crispy and chewy puff pastry and last but not least, smooth sweet caramel. You just can’t go wrong!

Peach Tarte Tatin

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 large, firm-fleshed peaches, we used Ontario Peaches
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 75 grams butter, cubed
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 30 mL cognac
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, about 250 g (store-bought is fine), defrosted in the refrigerator 

Directions:

  1. A day or so before you wish to serve this dessert, peel the peaches and remove the stone and cut them in half. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice and place on a paper-lined cooling rack, cover with a clean kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to allow to dehydrate a bit.
  2. In a cast iron or non-stick pan, add the sugar and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized. DO NOT STIR but you may swish the sugar in the pan as it begins to turn golden to cook more evenly.
  3. Add the butter and swirl until melted and combined with the sugar, add the pinch of cinnamon salt and the cognac and continue to swirl to combine.
  4. Turn the heat to low and add the apples in a circular pattern keeping in mind that the part you can see is actually the bottom of the tarte.
  5. Cook the apples for about 8 minutes on medium-low. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  6. While the apples are cooking stove-top, untouched, cut the defrosted pastry in a slightly larger circle than the pan and put into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan with the apples from the heat, and top with the pastry, tucking in the sides all the way around.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Turn out, upside-down onto a serving platter and serve warm.

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