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Monday, November 17, 2014

Luke's Birthday


We had a lovely surprise this weekend when we heard that Luke was going to be able to join us for dinner on Saturday night. Our quiet evening with friends was to become a birthday celebration,  which grew to include Georgina, Andy and Leslie, and her friend Andrew. Plus, Andrea and Ted were returning from a business trip and were also able to join us. Our idea of a perfect night!(except that we were missing Ben and Elaine). 
We had some chicken breasts marinating in the refrigerator already and Bev had already offered to prepare some vegetables, so to round out the meal, we developed a recipe for a couscous pilaf, featuring slow-roasted cherry tomatoes. Couscous is super quick, and you can add just about anything that you have in your pantry to it! Finally, we put together a salad of all the super foods that were in the refrigerator- spinach, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, avocado, toasted almonds, and more...... We topped the dinner off with the birthday cake (Carrot!!) that we bought at Pan Chancho, as we were leaving Kingston on Saturday morning. THank goodness for our favorite bakery.



Israeli Couscous Pilaf with Shallots and Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

2 cups cherry tomatoes, slow roasted
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Israeli couscous
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 green onions, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

To slow roast the cherry tomatoes: Set the barbecue on HIGH, then reduce to LOW. Spread the cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place over an unlit burner, close the lid, and let them roast slowly for 1 ½  hours. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté gently until they become translucent. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the couscous and stir to separate the grains. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Add the slow-roasted tomatoes, parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.


Roasted Beets, with Yogurt and Preserved Lemon Relish  
- adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty for the barbecue.

2 pounds large beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped dill
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2/3 cup Greek yogurt

for the relish:
2 yellow bell peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
2 tablespoons each chopped parsley and cilantro

Scrub the beets and chop them into wedges.  Lay them on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap them tightly and place on the top rack of a preheated barbecue on LOW for 1 hour, turning halfway through.  Carefully open and check for doneness with a sharp knife.  Set aside.

To make the relish, increase the barbecue temperature to MEDIUM HIGH and place the whole peppers on the grill.  Char the peppers on all sides, turning as necessary.  Let cool, then peel, seed and cut into strips.

Pour the remaining olive oil into a medium saucepan and heat to MEDIUM HIGH.  Fry the coriander seeds for 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes, garlic, sugar salt and pepper.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the preserved lemon and continue simmering for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs and pepper strips.  Cool completely.

Just before serving, transfer the cooled beet wedges to a mixing bowl and add the relish, dill, red onion and some salt and pepper.  Stir well, then taste for seasoning.    Add the yogurt and swirl it through gently to give a white and red marbled effect.

Grilled Chicken Supremes Marinated in Moroccan Flavours

10 plump chicken breasts, wing attached, skin-on
For the marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1tsp coriander
1 tsp saffron
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large, heavy resealable zip-bag. Add chicken breasts and massage the bag to coat the chicken thouroughly with the marinade.  Place the bag in a large mixing bowl and marinate chicken in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat the barbecue on HIGH for 10 minutes.  Lightly brush the grids with vegetable oil, to prevent sticking. Place the chicken breast, bone side down, over indirect heat, then reduce heat to MEDIUM. Grill the chicken for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue grilling over direct heat until skin is golden and crispy, approximately 6-8 more minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check that it is done(165°F).

Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside!


A happy birthday gathering!



Monday, November 10, 2014

Dinner for one



Let’s face it. Life is not a long string of parties!  We love our gatherings with families and friends, but with our kids growing up and moving away, we have noticed lately that quiet evenings at home alone are becoming a more common occurrence!
Always trying to look on the bright side, we haved found a few benefits to this trend.  Surprisingly, these quiet evenings lend themselves well to recipe development.  What better time to clean out your refrigerator and combine ingredients in new and unexpected ways?  Since there is no one there to judge you and no one to impress, you can let your imagination soar.  For this dish, the salmon was picked up at the fish market, while all of the other ingredients came tumbling out of the refrigerator, begging to be used!
 

Grilled Salmon and Mango skewers with Sriracha- cherry Glaze
For the glaze:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp cherry jam
juice of 1 orange
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
1 tsp sea salt 
1/2 tsp ground ginger
 
Combine ingredients for the glaze in a wide mouthed bowl and whisk until combined.

1 red onion, cut into 3/4 chunks
1 mango, cut into 3/4" chunks
1 red pepper, cut into 3/4" chunks
1 salmon fillet
salt & freshly ground black pepper

bamboo skewers

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to MEDIUM. Using a silicone brush, coat the clean grids with vegetable oil, to prevent sticking.  Soak bamboo skewers in a flat dish filled with cold water for 30 minutes. Thread the chunks of red pepper, mango and red onion alternately onto the skewers and brush with Sriracha-cherry glaze. Grill over MEDIUM heat, turning and basting with glaze as required, for about 12-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pat salmon dry and season with salt & pepper. Place on grids, skin-side down, and brush with glaze. Grill for approximately 8-9 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.  Serve salmon and mango skewers with fresh greens.
 
Dinner for one?!!!
No dishes to clean up!


 Also,  luckily when cooking for one, the barbecue is a great asset- simple meals with little clean up being the most important when looking forward to a long evening of knitting, or yoga, or whatever you like to do when you have the house to yourself! So, here is what I had last night- Simple grilled sirloin steak and salad topped with a lovely piece of Cambozola Cheese. I had enough left over for a steak and avocado sandwich for tomorrows lunch! Perfect- no recipe required!




Monday, November 3, 2014

Hallowe'en Tricks and Treats




Maybe it was the spooky Hallowe’en atmosphere, but this was just one of those weekends that I (Andrea) just shouldn’t have been allowed in the kitchen.  I worried that, like Tita in Like Water for Chocolate, all my anxiety was flowing through my cooking and would affect everyone around the table.  In spite of having lovely ingredients from the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market and Herrles, I was out of sorts and ruined everything in my path.  Fortunately there were other hands in the kitchen, and at the end of the day there were plenty of delicious dishes to go around so my dried-out-duck, burnt potatoes, and undercooked brisket could lurk in the background.  And as my my friend Robert once said, “it’s not what’s on the table but who’s in the chairs.”  We still had a lot of fun together, and the entertainment continued through the weekend with Night\Shift 2014,  downtown Kitchener's Nuit Blanche style festival of art, culture and nocturnal adventure.


Creature of the Gyre, by graduate students from U of W's Water Institute



Not to let the less than stellar efforts go to waste,  the next day we transformed the duck leftovers into appetizers by mincing the smoked meat and combining it with some grated onion, mayonnaise and herbs served on a corn chip with cranberry sauce and it wasn’t too bad.  And as is our tradition, the failed brisket was turned into a mean pot of chili. 

Bev and Tim combined forces on Friday to make Mark McEvan’s succulent Five-Spice Bison Tenderloin Steaks with Spiced Apple.  Both the braised apples and the sauce were a great accompaniment to the tender bison, and rescued the dry duck to make it palatable.  Bev served it over creamy mashed potatoes with a side of braised swiss chard.

Five-Spice Bison with Spiced Apple and Frothed Butter Sauce

8  1”- thick bison tenderloin steaks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons five-spice powder
kosher salt
Spiced Apples (recipe follows)
Frothed Butter Sauce (recipe follows)

Pat the bison steaks dry with a paper towel, then rub lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle on all sides with five-spice powder and season with kosher salt.  Let rest at room temperature while barbecue preheats on MEDIUM-HIGH. 

Brush the grids clean with a wire brush, then oil the grids to prevent sticking.  Cook the steaks for a total of 8 minutes for medium rare, turning every 2 minutes for Perfect Grill Marks. 

Spiced Apples
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 braising apples such as Fuji, peeled and cut into ¼ “dice
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
½ stick cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup Riesling wine

Heat a small saucepan on MEDIUM HIGH and add the oil, apple, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  Stir frequently to avoid excessive browning.  As soon as the apples begin to take on colour, add the sugar and half the Riesling.  Reduce to a thick syrup and repeat.  Remove from the heat. 

Frothed Butter Sauce
½ cup white wine
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ medium Spanish onion, sliced
½ teaspoon minced jalapeno
4 slices Japanese-style pickled ginger + 1 tablespoon of its juice
3 tablespoons whipping cream
½ pound butter, cubed
Salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, vinegar, lemon juice, onion, jalapeno, ginger and ginger juice.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the cream and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Whisk in butter piece by piece.  Whiz with a hand wand or in a blender, pass through a strainer in to the top of a double boiler or a clean pot, and salt to taste.  Can be kept warm in a double boiler.  Froth with an immersion blender is desired. 


Kris produced a beautiful and very healthy kale and beet salad that combined the best flavours of fall.

Autumn Salad of Beets and Apple, with Kale and Crispy Leeks



5 beets, roasted,  ½ inch cubes
1 sprig of thyme
2 ribs celery, diced
2 red apples, skin-on, ½ inch cubes
1 lemon
½ red onion, diced
½ bunch red kale, finely chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 leek, 2 inch lengths, julienned
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup pumpkinseeds, roasted

Vinaigrette:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
6  tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp honey
½ tsp salt

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes and reduce heat to MEDIUM.  Scrub the beets, wrap them in foil with a sprig of thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook on MEDIUM for 1 hour, on upper rack, until tender. Allow to cool and peel. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
Chop kale, mint and parsley and set aside in a large salad bowl.  Dice the celery and red onion and core the apples, leaving the skin on and cut them into ½ inch cubes-toss in a medium glass bowl with the juice of the lemon.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a deep skillet to Medium and fry the julienned leek pieces in small patches until golden and crispy. Each batch should take approximately 90 seconds - 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spatula and lay out on paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool.
For the vinaigrette: Combine ingredients in a mason jar, seal lid tightly and shake vigorously until well mixed.
Assemble salad: Pour  half of the vinaigrette over the kale and herbs half an hour before serving. Toss well and set aside. Then, add the beets, apples, celery, red onion and the rest of the vinaigrette and toss gently.  Arrange on salad plates and top with roasted pumpkin seeds and crispy julienned leeks. 

Charlie was getting into the Hallowe'en spirit in a big way!



Monday, October 27, 2014

Roasted Squash Mac & Cheese with Crispy Sage

Another fabulous urban market!! This week, we spent some time combing through the stalls of the wonderful Jean Talon Market in Montreal.  Who knew that we grew so many different varieties of squash in Canada?? It should be no surprise, since they are a native species to the Americas!


This weeks mac & cheese recipe hits all of the buttons for the cool weather that has been teasing us lately. It is comforting and familiar, while at the same time surprising you with the rich and creamy maple-roasted squash and a savoury sage garnish. When prepared this way, you are basically substituting half of the pasta in traditional Mac & Cheese with the roasted squash, thereby replacing the simple carbohydrates in the noodles with complex carbohydrates, fibre and nutrients!


Mac & Cheese with Roasted Acorn Squash and Sage


Roasted Maple Squash:
1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/3  cup maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to MEDIUM. Clean and seed the squash,sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour the maple syrup into the centre of each piece, as shown.  Arrange the  squash on the upper rack and grill for 30 minutes.When cool to the touch, cut into cubes.

Cheese Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp white flour
½ yellow onion, finely diced
1 cup 2% milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 cup old white cheddar cheese, grated

Melt butter over low heat. Add diced onions and sauté until onions are translucent.  Add flour and blend over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir milk in slowly. Cook and stir with a whisk until thickened and smooth. Add worchestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, cayenne and white pepper. Reduce the heat and add grated cheddar cheese.


Pasta:
200 gram dried fusilli
Cook pasta according to the manufacturers instructions. Drain.
 



Crispy Sage:

We seem to be having a great season for the fresh herbs that are growing in pots on the patio.  This is a good thing, since we will continue to use them to flavour a variety of dishes until a hard frost hits. At that point, we will dry the sage, thyme and oregano. Until then, we love gently frying the sage leaves and using them in all sorts of recipes - soups, salads, eggs and here, in this mac & cheese dish.
In a shallow saute pan, heat 1/2 cup of canola oil over MEDIUM heat, until it starts to bubble.  Add the sage leaves and watch them as they gently crisp up and turn a golden colour- approximately 60-90 seconds. Remove with tongs and place on a paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt.


To assemble: Place a layer of cubed squash in the bottom of a buttered baking dish. Layer drained pasta over squash, then top with another layer of cubed squash. Pour the cheese sauce over top of this. Place in a 350 C oven and bake for 30 minutes. Garnish with Crispy Sage and serve with a refreshing green salad.