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Monday, September 15, 2014

Flattened Chicken with Linguine with Grilled Mushrooms, Lemon and Thyme




Travelling really helps you put things in perspective. Having recently returned from an amazing week visiting friends in Switzerland and then touring around the beautiful Tuscan countryside, we were nonetheless happy to be home! The food in Switzerland was amazing as always, especially the wonderful dairy products. In Tuscany, we were buffeted with a sensory overload from the sight and smells and tastes of the olive groves, lemon trees, vineyards and fields of fresh herbs. Upon reflection on our favorite dining experiences, we agreed that our favorite meals were the simplest ones- those that highlighted the best of the ingredients that were used to prepare the meals. Of course, we have to admit that the scenery adds a lot to the dining experience as well.
Our reward after a 4 hour hike

Everything served at this mountain top family home is grown on their farm. All of the cream, cheese, ice cream etc. is thanks to their cow, "Gloria."


We prepared this meal this weekend to celebrate our homecoming with some of our kids. Grilling the chicken, pears and mushrooms really intensified their flavours. Using lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs in the dished helped to remind us of some of the wonderful meals that we enjoyed in Tuscany, and also to brighten the flavours and take the simple ingredients up a notch. Enjoy!

Flattened Chicken Marinated with Chipotle Pepper Paste

1 4-5 lb chicken
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
 Chipotle Paste:
1/3 cup smoked chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1 tsp honey

To prepare the Chipotle Pepper Paste: It is important to use the garlic press when mincing the garlic in this recipe, since you want the garlic to contribute to the texture of the marinade paste. Combine chopped smoked chipotle peppers, pressed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and honey in a small bowl.

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 10 minutes, then reduce to MEDIUM-LOW, by turning off the middle burner(s).

To prepare the chicken, cut out the back and neck of the chicken using kitchen shears. Open up the chickens legs and flatten the chicken, skin side up, in a large baking sheet. Season it inside and out with salt and pepper. Press down firmly on the breast bones to flatten it. Massage the skin to loosen it from the flesh, then pour the paste under the skin and rub to apply paste all over the chicken.
Place the flattened chicken directly onto the grids, over the unlit burners, leaving the outside burners lit at MEDIUM setting.  Close the lid and cook for approximately 40-45 minutes, checking occasionally. Use the meat thermometer to determine when the chicken is finished. The temperature should read 165-170°F (77°C) at the breast. Remove the chicken and let rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes.


Linguine with Grilled Mushrooms, Lemon and Thyme Sauce

1    lb cremini mushrooms
1        tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3        sprigs fresh thyme
½   tsp sea salt

1         tbsp olive oil
1        clove garlic, minced
1           1    lemon, zested and juiced
4        sprigs fresh thyme
1    tsp dried red chili flakes
½   cup dry white wine

1 pound linguine
          To finish: 
3       tbsp parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated
          2    tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
          2    tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, then reduce to MEDIUM.  Toss cleaned mushrooms with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh thyme and salt, to coat. Spread mushrooms out on a grill topper, then  place on grids of barbecue. Close lid and cook for 5 minutes, open lid and turn the mushrooms. Close lid and grill for 3-4 more minutes, until nicely browned. Remove and set aside for later.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to instructions on the package.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and add chopped garlic, thyme, lemon zest and dried chili flakes.  Saute for 3 minutes, until garlic is translucent, then add white wine, lemon juice and grilled mushrooms. Reduce by half, then add ½ cup of cooking liquid from the pasta and reduce by half again.
Dump strained pasta into the sauté pan, with the mushroom mixture. Toss with parmigiano reggiano, chopped parsley and basil and freshly ground black pepper.Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  
Arugula Salad with Grilled Pears and Feta Cheese

2 large pears, cut into quarters
1 lemon
6 cups baby arugula
½ cup greek feta cheese
½ pecans, toasted

Vinaigrette:
2/3  cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt

Clean barbecue grids thoroughly, then brush with vegetable oil. Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to MEDIUM.
Cut and core pears and brush liberally with lemon juice. Place pear quarters on barbecue, close lid and grill for 5 minutes. Open lid, turn pears and grill for an additional 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine ingredients for the vinaigrette in a glass bottle and shake vigourously. Assemble salad by tossing arugula and feta cheese in a salad bowl with the vinaigrette. Plate, then top with grilled pear segments and toasted pecans.
 
Dining under a full moon in Chianti



Monday, September 8, 2014

Ted's 60th Birthday Dinner



It was FINALLY Ted’s big 60th birthday on Sunday, and we celebrated with a very small gathering of new, younger friends who came to join us from Germany.  On our plates was everything in the garden:  beans, potatoes, red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs, and some succulent lamb racks from our cottage butchers,  Morley and Richard Stephen.  



Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Reduction

4 racks of lamb, trimmed and frenched
French’s mustard
 
For the Rub:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
zest of 1 lemon

Blitz all ingredients in a blender or spice grinder.  Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
¼ cup brandy
1 cup red wine
1 cup veal demi glace
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon za’tar
1 teaspoon sumac

Brush the lamb racks with mustard, then massage in the rub.   
Refrigerate for 1-4 hours, and bring to room temperature before grilling. 

Preheat the barbecue on MEDIUM HIGH for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to MEDIUM and brush the grids lightly with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.  Cook the lamb for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes for perfect grill marks.  Let rest, tented with foil for 5 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over MEDIUM LOW heat.  Add the minced shallots and cook until very tender and translucent, and just beginning to turn golden.  Add the brandy, and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until reduced by half and quite syrupy. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper if desired. 

Grilled Vegetable Salad

2 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise ¼” thick
1 eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise ¼” thick
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
mixed greens
crumbled feta

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
handful each fresh basil, parsley and mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 ½ teaspoons sumac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toss the prepared vegetables with olive oil, and grill until just tender.  Let cool, then chop into bite-sized pieces. 

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large salad bowl.  Toss the greens with the dressing, then arrange the grilled vegetables and feta over top.  We also topped our salads with PancettaWrapped Shrimp.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer’s Bounty




With Eric’s family at our cottage we enjoyed the last long weekend of the summer doing yoga, windsurfing and kayaking.  Eric taught his little brother Evan the finer points of cooking and carving rotisserie chicken, while his Dad whipped up a batch of his world famous scalloped potatoes.  This was the first time a guest arrived with a mandolin in his bag, and we were glad he did!

Budding surgeons at work!

 At this point in the season, it is hard to beat Ontario’s produce, and it seems one of the benefits of our long cool summer has been a crop of outstanding peaches.  Grilling peaches further coaxes out their sweet juicy flavour, and makes this summertime salsa a delicious accompaniment to grilled pork tenderloin.  With Rainier cherries you get the sweet-tart cherry flavour without the red juices dominating the mixture. 








Grilled Peach Salsa


1 or 2 red bell peppers, roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped
6 just-ripe peaches, (preferably freestone) halved and skinned
2 tablespoons olive oil
I pint Rainier cherries
½ cup wild blueberries
1 shallot, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the barbecue on MEDIUM HIGH and toss the red peppers on the grill while it preheats.  Turn the peppers until they are charred on all sides, then set let cool before peeling.  Chop coarsely and set aside.

Reduce the temperature to MEDIUM LOW.  Toss the prepared peach halves in olive oil, and lay them on the grill.  Cook, turning every 2 minutes until heated through and slightly softened with some caramelized grill marks, 8 minutes in total.  Meanwhile, place the cherries on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and juicy.  Remove all the fruit to a cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces, being careful to remove all cherry pits.  Place the prepared peppers and fruit in a medium bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Let stand, covered, at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavours to develop. 

Pork Tenderloin

With such a flavourful salsa on the side, just a very simple marinade is needed.  Even salt, pepper and a little oil would work, but we whipped together this easy combination:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup vegetable oil

Toss together in a flat glass dish and add the pork tenderloin, turning to coat.  Let stand for up to 12 hours in the refrigerator, or for up to ½ hour on the counter.  Either way, let the meat come up to room temperature before grilling.

Preheat the barbecue and set to MEDIUM LOW.  Understanding that the pork filets have 3 sides around the perimetre, lay the pork tenderloins on a 45 ° angle and cook for 3 minutes per side, turning twice on the same 45°, then flip to the opposite 45° angle and continue cooking 3 minutes per side turning 2 more times for a total of 18 minutes.  Move the meat to a carving board, cover with aluminum foil and a tea towel, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.  Pork can be cooked to much lower temperatures than previously recommended, with pink meat being not only acceptable, but much more tender and juicy. 

Carve into thick slices and serve with the peach salsa on the side.  


Monday, August 25, 2014

BABY SHOWER TREATS


Is there anything more joyous than a baby shower?  Of course the best thing about them is being introduced to a beautiful new person who has recently entered your world. After that, everything is a bonus – getting together with family and friends, giving support to new parents and the icing on the cake is the food that is guaranteed to be delicious-especially in our family! The recent arrival of twins to our family was certainly cause for celebration, and celebrate we did, with a shower menu that was super fun and tasty. As always, being organized is the key to being able to enjoy your party, so there was advanced preparation for most dishes, as well as some easy finger foods, fresh off the grill!


 Asian Deli Noodle Salad with Sweet Chili and Tahini Dressing

We have created this noodle salad for our families and friends who deal with a variety  of food sensitivities and allergies. The rice noodles, peanut- free dressing, absence of dairy etc. all add up to a terrific salad that everyone can enjoy. We even made the dressing using soy-free, gluten-free soy sauce! The packaged broccoli slaw is a time saver and adds some terrific crunch and nutrients to this salad. 

Asian Deli Noodle Salad:
200 g package of rice noodle, cooked as instructed, rinsed and cooled
1 red pepper, seeded and julienned
1 english cucumber, seeded and julienned
1 package broccoli slaw
2 cobs of corn, grilled and niblets removed from the husk
4 green onions, chopped
¼ cup mint, chopped
¼ cup thai basil, chopped
 ¼ cup sesame oil, to coat noodles after they have been cooked , rinsed and cooled
Combine prepared cooled noodles, vegetables and chopped mint and thai basil in a very large bowl and toss with sesame oil. This will help to prevent the noodles from absorbing too much of the dressing. Then, toss noodles and vegetables with Sweet Chili and Tahini Dressing.
 
Garnish:
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
¼ fresh pea shoots

Sweet Chili and Tahini Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
2 green onions, chopped
¼ cup fresh coriander, chopped
¾ cup Thai sweet chili sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed, plus the zest of the lime
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tahini (or seed butter)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp srihachi sauce
¼ cup water or lime juice , to adjust consistency
Place chopped ginger, garlic, green onions and coriander in a blender or food processor and process for 15-20 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and process for 15 more seconds.

Hostess with the mostest!!
 
Coconut/Lime Chicken Skewers with Peanut Dip and Fresh Crudite
This is a guaranteed success for all occasions. We make it every chance that we get, since it is healthy and delicious. Everyone loves the cocunut/lime flavours of the marinated chicken and the spicy dipping sauce! 

Coconut/Peanut Dip with Red Curry
  1   tsp olive oil
  4   cloves  garlic – finely minced
  2   tsps  red curry paste
*3   tbsps peanut butter (substitute tahini or nut spread)(50 ml)
  1   can  coconut milk
 *1   tbsp soy sauce(soy free seasoning sauce-coconut based)
  1   tsp brown sugar
  1 1/2 tbsps rice vinegar (25 ml)
  juice of 1/2  lime
   salt and pepper, to taste
 
*substitutions for special needs diets
 
Cook garlic and red curry paste in olive oil. Add rice vinegar, brown sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Add peanut butter and whisk gently. Reduce over low heat until thick. Watch carefully, as this sauce burns easily. Add lime juice and salt & pepper.
For the chicken skewers:                                 
1       can  coconut milk
2       fresh limes -- juice and zest
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breasts -- sliced  into ½-inch thick strips
24   bamboo skewers
Prepare chicken by cutting into 1/2 inch strips.    
 Crudite:                 
2   red peppers, cut into julienne  
3   carrots 
 3 celery stalks
1 cup grape tomatoes

                                                          

 
In a large glass bowl, combine coconut milk, lime juice and lime zest and add chicken strips.
Allow to chicken to marinate, covered, in the refrigerator  for 2 hours, or overnight. Meanwhile,  soak bamboo skewers in water, so they will not char while grilling.

Preheat the barbecue on HIGH, and brush grids with oil to prevent sticking.  Thread chicken strips onto skewers.  Place the the skewers on the hot grids and reduce heat to MEDIUM. Grill approx 2 minutes per side, turning once.
Serve chicken skewers with dip and crudite.  ENJOY!
Classic shower delicacies 
 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Indian Chutneys to Accompany Grilled Dishes




Mandel's secret spice blend
For the past few weeks we have been returning to traditional Sunday dinners of rotisserie chickens.  It is so easy, and comforting, and yields great leftovers to set you up for a week of healthy soups and salads.  One of our weekend guests, Mandel,  brought the most wonderful gift of his own special Chinese spice mix….so far we know it contains Sichuan pepper, aged tangerine zest, cinnamon, ground coriander and cloves, but we have yet to wrestle the complete recipe from him….and we have been using it as a rub for our chicken.  

My cousin Jannaca also came for a little visit, and spent an afternoon teaching me how to make some Indian chutneys that compliment any grilled meats, vegetables, or pappadums.  Having lived and cooked in India for 25 years, she has honed her skills with these fragrant spices and wonderful flavours.

South Indian Coconut and Cilantro Chutney

½ cup shredded coconut
4 teaspoons split chana dal (split chickpea dal), dry roasted
2” piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 thai green chilies, minced or ½ teaspoon crushed red chilies
coconut milk
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons split urad dal ( Indian split black dal that is actually white!)
2 tablespoons curry leaves
pinch of asafetida powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil
lemon juice and salt, to taste

Dry roast the chana dal in a small pan until it starts to turn brown, then remove from heat.  Let cool slightly, then finely grind in a spice grinder.  Set aside.
Chana Dal

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the coconut, chilies, cilantro and ginger, adding a little coconut milk until it comes together in a smooth paste. Add the ground chana dal and pulse together once more.

Heat the coconut oil in the same small pan until it is hot.  Add the mustard seeds and urad dal.  Cook until they splutter and the dal begins to turn brown.  Then add the asafetida powder and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds.  If you are using red chili flakes, add at the same
Urad Dal
time as the asafetida powder and curry leaves.

Pour these fried spices into the coconut-cilantro mixture and combine.

Add salt and the juice of half a lemon and mix.

Serve at room temperature as the coconut oil congeals in the refrigerator.  This chutney may be frozen and eaten later.  





South Indian Tomato Chutney

1 medium red onion, diced
1 “ piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
a pinch of asafetida
1 or 2 Thai green cilies, minced, or ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
5 ripe tomatoes, or 5 canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split urad dal (Indian split black dal that is actually white)
1 tablespoon curry leaves, crushed
salt, to taste

Peel and chop the tomatoes into pieces.  Prepare the onion, ginger and chilies.  Measure the spices and have them ready.

Heat half the oil in a small frying pan.  Add the asafetida first and fry for a few seconds.  Add the onions and fry until golden, adding the ginger and chilies shortly before the onions are brown.  Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool, then grind this mixture in a blender or food processor.

In a separate small frying pan heat the remainder of the oil and heat.  Add the mustard seeds and dal and cook until the seeds start spluttering and the dal turns brown.  Then add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds.  Remove from the heat and add to the tomato mixture.  Add salt to taste.

Peach Chutney

6 peaches, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil
1 small red onion, diced
1” piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3-4 cloves, ground 
1 black cardamom, ground
2" piece cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar

Prepare the peaches and set aside.  Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion.  Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the ginger and mustard seeds and cook until mustard seeds begin to pop.  Add the cinnamon stick, chili flackes, cloves and cardamom and stir for 30 seconds, or until very fragrant.  Add and stir in the prepared peaches, vinegar and salt.   Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes, until slightly thickened.   Add the brown sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Let cool before serving.  Can also be put into sterilized jars and stored as jam.