We had been planning a little retreat to work on some recipes, knitting and Christmas projects, and on Thursday we packed up the car to head to Ellicottville. Toward the end of a blizzardy six-hour drive , we stopped at the grocery store with absolutely nothing planned. We just grabbed a few things that looked fresh and healthy. When it came time to make dinner we started grouping ingredients into piles and this is menu that came together:
Grouper with Citrus Tarragon Glaze
Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Cashews
Kasha with Hen of the Woods mushrooms
Grouper with Citrus Tarragon Glaze
Grouper filets, about 1” thick
Juice of ½ pink grapefruit
Juice and zest of 2 clementines
Juice and zest of ½ lime
Zest of one orange
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon tarragon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon infused olive oil
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a shallow glass dish and marinate the fish for 15 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the barbecue on MEDIUM-HIGH for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW and brush the grids thoroughly with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Place the fish on the grill, and pour the marinade into a shallow saucepan. Cook the fish for a total of 10 minutes, turning every 2 ½ minutes for perfect grill marks. Meanwhile, bring the reserved marinade to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until very syrupy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in a tablespoon of butter. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.
Kasha with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
We just had to try this unusual mushroom variety that was described as “dense with intense mushroom flavour”.
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped Hen of the Woods mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
I clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan set over MEDIUM-LOW heat. Sauté the peppers, onions, and mushrooms until very soft. Stir in the thyme and garlic, and then the kasha. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to LOW, cover tightly and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
Kale Salad with Cashews and Dried Cherries
5 cups kale, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 orange, zest for the salad and juice for the dressing
½ cup cashews, chopped
½ cup dried cherries, chopped
For the dressing:
¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup lemon flavoured olive oil
1 tsp srirachi or sweet chile sauce
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the kale by washing and drying it in a salad spinner. Cut off the tough spines, and chop the kale very finely. Toss into a large salad bowl. Chop the green onions and zest the orange. Add to the kale in the salad bowl. Toss with dressing half an hour before serving. Garnish with cashews and dried cherries.
To prepare the dressing, combine orange juice, lemon-flavoured olive oil, srirachi sauce, salt and ground pepper in a mason jar and shake.
Thanks to Mother Nature, we were able to use up a lot of energy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the deep snow. Once we recovered from the activity, we decided that we deserved to satisfy our sweet-tooths. We got a little got carried away with experimenting with some white and bittersweet chocolate, but the results were fantastic. We came up with 3 awesome snacks: Gingerbread Popcorn with Cashews and White Chocolate, Peppermint Bark and Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Dried Cherries and Toasted Almonds. No surprise that we are smiling!!!
Festive Peppermint Bark
500 grams good quality white chocolate(we use Callebault)
200 grams bittersweet chocolate(60-70% cocoa solids)
6 tbsp heavy cream(35%)
¾ tsp peppermint extract
1 large red and white candy cane, crushed
Set 2 double boilers or saucepans with metal bowls sitting upon them on the stove top, each containing 1 ½ cups of water in the lower unit. There are a few tips that you need to know when melting chocolate. First, just bring the water in the lower saucepan to a gentle simmer, so that the chocolate melts slowly. You do not want it to get too hot. Secondly, be sure that the top unit sits closely on the lower unit, so that steam does not escape. You do not want any water to get mixed into the chocolate, as this could cause it to seize, or turn grainy.
Using a large knife, cut the bittersweet and white chocolate chunks into smaller pieces for easy melting. Place the chocolate pieces into the top of the separate double boilers until the chocolates are melted and smooth. Turn off the heat under the water boilers, and let the chocolate sit until you are ready for them.
The peppermint bark is made of 3 layers of chocolate, and each layer must chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before proceeding to the next layer. Prepare 2 flat baking sheets by turning them upside down and covering them with foil. Pour 2/3 of the slightly cooled, but still runny white chocolate onto the foil lined baking sheet, and spread it by tilting the baking sheet back and forth until the white chocolate covers a rectangular area of approximately 12” x 8”. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the bittersweet chocolate from the double boiler and stir in the heavy cream and peppermint extract until smooth and silky. Allow it to cool for 5 -8 minutes. Working very quickly, spread this chocolate mixture over the chilled layers of white chocolate, using an icing spatula. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy and return to the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.
For the final layer, slowly drizzle the remaining melted white chocolate over the chilled chocolate, using a tablespoon or rubber spatula. Return to the refrigerator and chill for another 20-25 minutes. Cut or break the peppermint bark into bite size pieces and enjoy. We store it in the refrigerator in paper lined tins. A tin of these makes a great hostess gift.