Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Food for Thought: Canada Living's Top 10 Foodie Crimes

Whether or not you even believe that there is such a thing as culinary or "foodie" crimes, I bet you are curious about which ones they chose for the list.

The article argues that in a food lovers "zeal for the latest and greatest in food, it's easy to skip over food fundamentals. "

Give it a read and let us know what you think. Do you find the list full of helpful hints or foodie snobbery?


Fresh Strawberry Muffins

These muffins are pretty much like cake. So they work as a treat for breakfast or as a dessert. I ate them with my Sour Strawberry Icecream and they were delish. There are two tricks. One is folding the batter so the muffins get a nice rise and look pretty. The second is placing the strawberries individually in the muffin pan. A little more time but the results are no pink batter and a really good looking muffin...

Almond or Pecan Topping

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup slivered almonds or pecans (optional)

1-2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (quartered is best)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup 1 or 2% milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Servings: 12 muffins

For the topping: Stir together sugar, brown sugar, salt, and flour in small bowl until combined. Drizzle with warm butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened and you have small sized balls. Add slivered almonds or chopped pecans.

Preheat oven to 425

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and well combined. About a 30 seconds to a minute. Slowly whisk in butter and oil. Whisk in milk and yogurt and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

Spray a 12 serving muffin pan with non-stick spray. Take 1 tablespoon of batter and drop in each. Place 3 to 4 slices of strawberries in each muffin batter. Top with batter until strawberries are covered. Place one strawberry slice on top along with the 2 tablespoons of topping.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sour Strawberry Icecream

Ok. I didn't know what to call this and my creative juices were not flowing. So if you have any suggestions that are better than that---bring em on! This recipe just came from me improvising with what was in the fridge. A quarter of a container of sour cream, some vanilla icecream...but best of all was the fresh, local strawberries. The flavour of this will not happen if you don't have in season, plump, ripe, juicy, DARK red, strawberries. Essential.

1 1/2 cups fresh local strawberries plus 1/2 cup sliced and reserved
3 tablespoons sour cream (light is fine)
3/4 cup of vanilla icecream
1 tablespoon sugar or agave

Servings: 6
Place all of the above ingredients minus the 1/2 cup reserved strawberries in a blender and puree until blended. Pour into a square baking sheet or bowl and top with the 1/2 cup of strawberries.

Place in freezer for approximately 4 hours or until just frozen. Serve on top of angel food cake, pound cake or just on its own. I had mine on half of one of my strawberry muffins.

Strawberry Season!!!

That is right! And when strawberries are in season and are LOCAL, I am a very happy woman. For the next few weeks my body composition will consist of 85% percent strawberry. They are so delicious and so sweet. They make those strawberries you buy from California in January look like a bad impersonation of a fruit. I will be making all things strawberry so go get some and eat up!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tuna with Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

This is a great starter in place of a salad. I love Tuna and I love olives and am always trying to find new ways of combining the two. This is a great make-ahead appie as all you need to do is assemble.

8 pieces of good quality sashimi grade tuna
4 tablespoons homemade Pesto Vinaigrette (don't bother with any store bought as the flavour will be compromised BIG TIME, see my recipe)
4 teaspoons red pepper tapenade
12 cerignola or your favourite green olive
8 roasted tomatoes

Servings: 4 as an appetizer

On a plate place one tablespoon pesto in the middle and lay down 2 pieces of tuna. Top with one teaspoon red pepper tapenade.
Arrange 2 olives and 4 tomatoes around plate and serve.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tomato Sauce....the REAL deal

This is THE quintessential classic Italian tomato sauce. Taught to me by a chef who is Italian!
Simple is best when it comes to this recipe and that is hard for me to do. I always want to add flavours I love and pile them high and in excess. With ethnic cooking that can work okay but with this you don't want to mess with the best. And this was pure, divine, tomato goodness.

28 oz can of whole tomatoes run through a food mill, de-seeded
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Quality tomato paste (one from Italy)
2 large basil leaves torn
1 small onion, finely diced (about 1/2 a cup)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Pasta - Barilla is a great Italian brand and found almost everywhere

There are some major elements that can make or break this sauce.

1) You need whole tomatoes and make sure you check the label to make sure there is no salt or citric acid. That means the tomatoes were picked before they were ripe and you are not compromising flavour.
2) The tomatoes need to be run through a sieve or food mill which is the best method as you still get chunks of tomato then. You need to remove the seeds. The seeds become bitter once cooked and you don't want that!
3) Make sure you take your time sauteing the onion and garlic as you don't want them to burn--another bitter taste you don't want any of.

Saute onions in olive oil in a medium saucepan until golden. Add garlic and saute until soft. Do not brown or burn. Add tomato paste and saute gently for 4 minutes.

Add tomato puree and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season and stir in basil and fresh olive oil.

I added some chili's and prawns and roasted tomatoes because I just couldn't stop myself. A glass of Pinot Noir went exceptionally well with the light, tart and sweet tomatoes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food For Thought: Yes… We Can!

The world of “preserving” has experienced a recent surge in popularity and canning is taking the center stage.

While the activity never died out completely, it now perfectly compliments the movement concerning eating locally and seasonally. More and more people are wanting to know that is in their food and are taking the time either make it themselves or support a small company to do it for them.

Does this revival mean the beginning of the end of the industrial giants?

Is home preserving here to stay or fleeting foodie fad?

"Preserving Time in a Bottle (or a Jar)" believes that “preserving is an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmers’ market in the first place,”. Since it is no easy task the resurgence is finding its greatest successes in the communal realm.

Community preserving has picked up such steam in certain cities that it is shining spotlights on websites like Yes We Can Food. I was unable to find anything like this in Vancouver. Let us know if you do!

The article also argues that outside of the artisan appeal of it, canning may also have risen out of a believed necessity. It states that “people are looking for thrifty, crafty ways to eat well. In a time of high food prices, job losses and food safety scares, home canning is booming, with sales of equipment already up almost 50 percent over last year, according to the Jarden company, which makes both Ball and Kerr canning supplies.”

Click below for more information.

The National Centre For Home Food Preservation


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recipe: Endive, Asparagus and Parmesan

I cannot stop with the asparagus. Obsessed.
I played with this recipe a bit. First I tasted it without the Parmesan, then with...then I added the pinenuts...then the shallots...my conclusion was....
Keep parmesan. Keep shallots. But no need for the pinenuts. I dunno. You try it. Sometimes I go into a frenzy of ingredients and cannot stop myself from adding more and more.

1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 endives
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms or 1 cup cooked fresh
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

4-6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 shallot thinly sliced

Servings: 4 as a first course

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Snap off ends of asparagus where they naturally break. Toss with olive oil and dijon. Place in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until tender with a slight resistance/crunch.

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl with whisk or food processor.

Soak porcini mushrooms in a bowl with boiled water and let sit approximately 30 minutes or until tender and soft. Remove and finely dice.

On medium heat in a small frying pan heat up butter and garlic. Add porcini's and saute 3-5 minutes.

Break apart endive leaves. Place 4-6 on a plate.

Toss asparagus with dressing. Place inside endive leaves and drizzle dressing on top along with 1 tablespoon parmesan, shallot slices and salt and pepper.

Take a evenly divided portion of the porcini's and place to the side of the salad.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Recipe: Crab & Avocado Salad

You don't have to use the mold to make these but I love the aesthetics of it.
This is more of a little hors d'oeuvres but if you wanted it as a first course meal I would double it. It is lovely with nice salty (and good quality) tortilla chips. I think if you wanted to make these bite size appies you could easily serve them on top of a chip. Another option would be served on a bed of butter lettuce. Play around...I do!

1 ripe avocado
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 green onion, green part only
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
salt and pepper to taste
Mold (optional)
1 cup fresh dungeness crab

Servings: 4 as a first course, 6 as an hors d'oeuvres

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon zest, mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Add minced shallot and crab and mix well.
In a separate bowl dice avocado and add to a bowl with remaining lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble take the mold and place in the middle of a plate. Scoop approximately 2 tablespoons of crab mixture and press to bottom of mold. Top with 1 to 2 tablespoons of avocado and a couple of green onions.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fathers Day!

This Sunday is the day when you get to celebrate your father.

What will you do?

I celebrated last weekend as I am unable to be with him on the actual day. You can easily go for brunch and pay three times the amount as you would on another day of the week. Or make it for your dad. Show your love!

I came up with the Lentil, Leek and Mushroom salad as those are some of his favorite foods. Well along with cheese, bread and wine and there was some of that too!

After brunch go out and do something that he wants to do. A walk, a bike ride…his choice.

Warm Lentil Salad with Mushrooms and Leeks

I made this for Fathers Day Brunch. It makes a great filling mid-day meal and tastes delicious with homemade bread and a cheese plate. Mmmmm….

2 16 oz cans of lentils or --- cups of cooked
1/2 cup of feta
2 small leeks, green part removed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of butter
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups mixed mushrooms (porcini, chanterelle, morels) sliced
Mixed greens (optional)
Poached eggs (optional)
2 heads roasted garlic

1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 garlic cloves minced
2 shallots diced
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

6 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped

Servings: 6

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Wrap 2 heads of garlic in aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes

Make dressing and set aside.

Cook lentils or rinse cans. Combine dressing and lentils in a medium bowl.

Over medium heat add olive oil to a medium frying pan and sauté leeks for approximately 10 minutes or until cooked throughout and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Keep on warm.

On medium heat in a large frying pan heat butter until melted. Add chopped mushrooms. Cook 5-10 minutes or until soft. Try to refrain from stirring too much as they tend to get watery if you do. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large frying pan on medium heat add lentil salad and heat throughout (2 minutes) until lentils are just warm.

Place lentils on a bed of mixed greens (optional) and divide evenly on 6 plates. Place leeks and 4-6 cloves roasted garlic around each plate. Top lentil salad with mushrooms, feta and chives. If you like poached eggs I highly recommend cooking them and placing on top.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spinach, Garlic & Basil Spaghetti

Al dente people. No other way. Over cooked pasta has it's place...in prison and lunch school cafeterias. If you like it like that then by all means....but if you want to do it the Italian way (and who doesn't???) then you want it with a slight resistance before consumption.
This recipe is simple, fast, easy, tasty. Enough said.

Good quality dry spaghetti, like Barilla. Enough for 4 portions. About the size of a dime when held together
6 large handfuls of spinach leaves
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 basil leaves torn
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Servings: 4

Bring a large pot of boiling water to boil (at least 4-6 litres) with 1 tablespoon of salt. When boiling add spaghetti.

In a medium frying pan on low heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and saute until opaque, careful not to burn. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add basil and remove from heat.

Once spaghetti is cooked return spinach mixture to heat and add spaghetti and toss until coated. Add remaining olive oil if needed and season with salt and pepper. Plate and top with a tablespoon of Parmesan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Food For Thought: Wine Popularity Soars in Canada

It appears that wine is quickly becoming Canada's "every man" drink. Please excuse me while I do a less than subtle dance of victory as I feel I may have contributed greatly to these rising numbers!

While beer is still the top choice, wine has been throwing elbows and gaining ground.
"Canadians Quench Growing Thirst For Wine" partially credits the "millennials" (19-30 year olds) for embracing the beverage.

“Young drinkers are moving to wine sooner than ever in their drinking evolution, and not necessarily through the 'training wheel' phase with soft, fruity wines, but heading for more robust, slightly more expensive wines sooner."

The article also believes that the development of Canada's own growing wine industry has played a large part. A summer weekend getaway for many residents of BC includes the words “winery” and “Okanagan”.

The BC wine industry is accessible, unpretentious, intriguing, and affordable for every generation. And the Canadian fascination with our own industry spreads across to the east effortlessly.

It goes on to list several reasons for the growing trend…all of them nod worthy. http://www.windsorstar.com/

However, it is the end that wins me over. In a year when it is hard not to be consistently saddened by the amount of bad news regarding Canada and job loss, economy, recession, etc… this quote made me smile.

"Wine is one of the greatest pleasures in life and judging by our consumption and appreciation of it, Canadians are living better than ever."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recipe: Japanese Eggplant & Tofu

So eggplant is up there with Brussel sprouts, cilantro and olives with foods people love or hate. Personally I think the eggplant gets a bad rap because people don't cook or flavour it properly. It needs a fair bit of oil and cooking time. This is not something you want to eat rare…it's texture is reminiscent of a chewy tire. Because I like a challenge I decided to combine it with tofu as that is another food that people turn their nose up at.
I dare you not to like this dish.

2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I prefer these to the regular ones but if you cannot find them use the regular)
4-6 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 4 tablespoons reserved for garnish
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 green onions (green and white parts), 1 reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons of grated ginger
1 cup of diced tofu
1/2 cup toasted peanuts
1 avocado, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

In a large saucepan over low-medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Add minced garlic and green onions and saute a minute or two. Do not burn or toast. Add chili oil. Add eggplant and another tablespoon of sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Cook for approx. 10-15 minutes, adding sesame oil when needed.

Once the eggplant begins to soften add ginger, more sesame oil, remaining soy sauce and tofu. Continue to cook another 10-15 minutes until eggplant is totally soft, almost near mushy-ness. Okay bad word but you get what I mean). Remove from heat and add remaining green onion and cilantro. Serve on a bed of your favorite rice, pad thai noodles or inside a lettuce cup. Top each portion with a couple of tablespoons of peanuts and avocado.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recipe: The Good Brownie

Ok. So this brownie is more like "not-so-naughty" brownie. It's made with black beans. It isn't my recipe but I have tweaked it in some ways. First off, no you cannot taste the black beans. Two, it is not as sweet but it is yummy, dense and fudgy. And full of protein.

1 box store bought brownie mix or your favorite homemade recipe
1 14oz can black beans and juice, pureed (blender or food processor)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the black beans, egg, oil and vanilla. Add to brownie mix and bake according to directions on box.
If you are making it from your own homemade brownie recipe instead of the box, cut down on the oil and eggs used. This recipe is not very finicky as far as baking goes so if you add a little more or less it shouldn't effect the outcome.

HINT: If you want it a little bit more dessert-ish, combine 3/4 cup of light creamcheese, 1 1/2 cups icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder and beat until smooth. Spread over brownies.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recipe: Coconut Tuna Lettuce Cups

These really can be lettuce cups or tartar or without any foliage. Whatever you want...

1 cup of coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 lime zested and juice
1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
5 drops of chili oil
salt to taste

1 pound fresh ahi tuna steak cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 a ripe mango cut into 1/4 inch cubes (1/2 cup)
1 avocado diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions chopped (green part only)
4 iceberg lettuce cups (leaves)

Servings: 4 as a first course or appetizer

Combine coconut milk through fish sauce in a medium saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Once half has evaporated, remove from heat and cool.

Once sauce has cooled add chili oil. Cut tuna and avocado and place in a medium bowl and pour sauce overtop and toss. Add cilantro and green onions. Place on lettuce cup and top with mango.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Recipe: Stuffed Portabellos, Goat cheese & Pistachios

I think this is one of those recipes that can easily take substitutions. Most of mine do. No goat cheese? Use feta.
No pistachios? Go for walnuts.
This recipe is also great for people with gluten allergies as there are no breadcrumbs which traditionally go on top of stuffed mushrooms.

4 portabello mushrooms
1 head spinach steamed and moisture squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
1/2 cup sliced porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup toasted chopped pistachios
1/4 cup herbed creamcheese (plain will work too)

Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Using sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch deep slits, spaced 1/2 inch apart, in crosshatch pattern on surface (non-gill side) of 8 mushrooms. Dice mushroom stems and set aside.

Brush both sides of caps with 1/1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle evenly a dash of salt. Carefully place caps, gill side up, on preheated baking sheet. Roast until mushrooms have released some of their juices and begin to brown around edges, 8 minutes. Flip caps over and continue to roast until liquid has completely evaporated and caps are golden brown, 8 minutes longer. Remove mushrooms from oven and heat broiler.

HINT: This is a tip I learnt from Cooks Illustrated for releasing the water from the mushrooms so they are not as rubbery/watery.

In a medium frying pan heat butter on medium-low heat. Add garlic and shallots. Saute 2-3 minutes. Add porcini mushrooms and reserved mushrooms stems from portabello. Add parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute an additional 3 minutes. Add spinach to mixture to combine and remove from heat.
Take one portabello at a time and spread gill side with a tablespoon of creamcheese, top with spinach mixture, 1 tablespoon of pistachios and 2 tablespoons of goat cheese. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes. Serve with a side salad or potatoes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recipe: Asian Asparagus

This is week 3 of my asparagus consumption and I still am not sick of it. They are so cheap and so good right now. And I have yet to run out of ideas on how to eat them...
My latest concoction is this easy, easy recipe. And it is a FLAVOUR BURST!

My friend Sam showed her appreciation for it below...

2 pounds asparagus
Juice from one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 drops of Sriracha chili sauce (this stuff is HOT!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Black sesame seeds (optional)

Servings: 6 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a medium bowl whisk together sesame oil, soy sauce, chili and cilantro. .
Snap off ends of asparagus where they naturally break. Toss with olive oil and lime juice. Place in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until tender with a slight resistance/crunch.
Remove from oven and cut into 2 inch slices and toss with marinade. Serve immediately with or without black sesame seeds on top.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Recipe: Blue Cheese Stuffed Celery & Walnuts

Who did not love celery with cream cheese as a kid? Well, these are the grown-up version. Super easy and great if you have a last minute party or shindig to attend. I toasted some walnuts and sprinkled them on top but if you aren't a nut fan then you can omit.

10 celery stalks cut in half (total 20)
1/3 cup of blue cheese
2/3 cup of light or regular cream cheese
¼ cup of toasted walnuts (or 10 whole)

Yield: 20 stuffed celery halves

In a food processor blend blue cheese and cream cheese until blended.
HINT: You might want to add a teaspoon of milk to soften up the mixture.
Take a knife and spread into celery halves. Top each celery with a couple of walnuts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Watch it: Spain on the Road Again


Who watched this? Me! I did! Anyone else? I loved it. I am sure there are those that are not fans but I am all amour for Gwyneth Paltrow and now I am also crushing Mario Batali. Seriously. Albeit the orange crocs. But I know that maybe not everyone will be as crazy about the show as I was.
I adored and envied watching them on this culinary road trip around Spain. The countryside, banter and the passion they have for the food is inspirational and transpiring.
It will make you want to take Spanish lessons and move to Catalonia. And eat tapas till you cannot move.
Claudia Bassols (Spanish actress) and Mark Bitman (NY Times food columnist and writer) are also lovely in it but Gwyneth and 'Batals' (as she calls him) steal the show. Love, love, love.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Recipe: Lemon, Blueberry & Almond Cake

You can easily substitute any berry or fruit for this recipe. I really like apples with it. Quite easy and quite yummy. It is a great brunch item in the summer when blueberries are in season.

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt or milk
2 tablespoons lemon rind
4 cups blueberries or other fruit of your choice

2/3 cup of flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Servings 20 squares

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl beat the butter, sugar until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla.

In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. And half to the butter mixture alternating with the milk.

Pour batter into a 8 by 14 inch pan (like a lasagna pan) coated with non-stick spray. Arrange berries or fruit on top.

In a medium bowl mix together topping ingredients until well blended. Sprinkle over the top of the fruit.

Bake 30 to 45 minutes until a knife emerges clean.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Recipe: Watermelon & Cucumber Salad

This salad is the best thing ever on a hot summer day. Actually it is pretty damn tasty any day. Super-refreshing. Major FLAVOUR BURST.

1 ¼ lbs field cucumbers
3 cups watermelon cubes 3/4 of an inch think
½ c loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
¼ c loosely packed shredded fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp soft brown sugar
1 large garlic clove, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon of diced jalapeno pepper (2 if you like it a bit spicier)

Servings: 4-6

Peel cucumbers, discarding the seed core. Cut the cucumber into 1/4 inch slices and then chop in half again. Mix cucumbers and watermelon in a large bowl. Add cilantro and basil.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime or lemon juice, sugar, garlic, and jalapeno.

Pour over watermelon and cucumber mix. Toss.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Perfect Salad Nicoise

I am on a constant search for the perfect Salad Nicoise. So far my top 3 are:

Pastis in New York
9 9th Ave
New York, NY
United States
Tel: 212 929 4844

Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar
1079 Mainland Street
Vancouver BC
604 602 0835‎


Well, that may sound boastful or cocky but I just know what I like and which flavours I want enhanced more. It may not be the best but I sure do enjoy it. However, it often changes and I cannot say that I have my own exact recipe as each time it is different. Depending on my mood and appetite sometimes I add green beans or don't add any capers. Yes to egg one day, no to tuna the next. The mainstay is the vinaigrette is always a French one (red wine vinegar, mustard) and there is always potatoes and olives.
That is why the recipe below is called Potato Salad a La Nicoise. As I cannot really say it is a Nicoise but it definitely has a few of the main stars.

Where have you had your favourite Salad Nicoise?

Recipe: Potato Salad a La Nicoise

You know those potato salads you see in almost every grocery store deli? Covered in a vat of mayonnaise? Do you like? Well, apparently someone does because they always seem to be readily available at any time of the year, no matter where you are. If this has kept you away from potato salad I hope to get your love for this "French" take on the salad. If you are not a fan of eggs or olives, no worries. It is pretty damn tasty with or without. And you can always substitute with green beans or corn off the cob.

2 pounds of baby nugget potatoes
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
3/4 to 1 cup mixed olives
4 poached eggs (optional) See poached eggs recipe
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon dijon mustard, grainy or smooth
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves
5 fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Servings: 4

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook 10-15 minutes or until done.
Remove and drain in a colander. Put in a large salad bowl with tomatoes.
Add all dressing ingredients into a food processor. Blend well.
Pour dressing over warm potatoes and tomatoes. Plate and top with olives, chives and shallots.

Optional: Place poached egg on top so yolk acts like a gooey warm sauce on top of potatoes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Recipe: Strawberry, Almond and Feta Salad

People love this salad. It is a crowd pleaser. I got it a few years ago from a friend who got it off some website. I have tweaked it over the years a bit so I am not sure what the exact original is.
The sweet fruit, the sharp feta, the tangy balsamic…it is almost like a dessert salad.
I make it at least a couple of times every summer when strawberries are in season.

1 head romaine lettuce
1 pint of strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
3/4 cup feta
1 garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons raspberry balsamic (regular will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Optional: Balsamic Reduction

Serves: 8

In a medium bowl whisk the ingredients garlic through pepper.
In a large salad bowl, rip romaine lettuce into bite size pieces. Add sliced strawberries. Pour dressing over top and toss with hands. Add feta and almonds. Plate. If you are using the balsamic reduction pour about a tablespoon on each salad before serving.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recipe: Best Homemade Bread....Ever.

Okay so this recipe is from the NY times. And it has a cult following. Because once you have had this bread you will do nothing but talk about it or want to eat it. Or maybe that is just me. I figure I have played with it in so many ways that I can almost call it my own now. Hee, hee.
I know the idea of making your own bread sounds like something you do when you live on a farm in 1820. Who has the time??? Patience??? More importantly who wants to spend even one minute kneading?

That is what is the brilliance of this recipe. No kneading. Does it take a long time to make? Well, yes and no. It takes around 16-18 hours to complete but actual "manual labor" time is around 7 minutes. I don't lie.

The hardest part is just the timing. But the payoff is great, amazing rustic, blow your mind, how-can-I-ever-go-back bread.

Homemade bread with a soft delicious, chewy warm centre and crusty exterior is what I would consider the equivalent to a food orgasm. Pair it with some St André or another rich creamy fromage and a bottle of rich red. Umm..that is my death bed meal. HEAVEN!!!! Once you make this you will never want to buy a store bought again.

You can make the full loaf or two baguettes. Just follow the instructions and during step 3 (or when it comes time to let the dough rise for another 2 hours) cut in two and form into a baguette shape and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Don't worry about pre-heating the pan. Just put into the 450 degree oven and let cook for around 45 minutes, uncovered.

3 cups flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.
Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Here is a link to a video to help you out, if needed.

These are a few of my favorite flavour versions, but get creative!

As for the flour if you want a hearty, rich loaf I love doing a combo of:
1 cup Kamut flour
1 cup Spelt Flour
1 cup Whole wheat flour

Then add the following
1 cup diced dried figs
1 teaspoon dried anise
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried raisins
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup pecans
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds

For the classic white loaf I like it plain or either of these flavors:

1/2 cup chopped olives
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
3/4 cup shredded cheddar or asiago cheese
Note: add these ingredients in the 2 hour rise stage just before cooking

1 bulb of roasted garlic, heads removed
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Note: add these ingredients in the 2 hour rise stage just before cooking

Monday, June 1, 2009

Top Ten Kitchen Staples

There are certain ingredients/food items I use all the time. To a point of trying to include them in everything. " Too much of a good thing" is most definitely NOT my mantra. If it tastes good and enhances flavour I will try to use it over and over again.
These are not in any particular order. I love them all equally.

1) Chipotle. This adds instant kick to anything. I know it has been used and abused but call me a chipotle-beater as I still haven't had enough and will put it in everything. Check out my chipotle mayo. This is a serious staple in my fridge as it will save anything from being boring.
2) Cilantro. Some people are not fans. Those people are not going to like a lot of my recipes. Sorry!
3) Cheese. Specifically, goat, feta and gorgonzola or any type of blue. Cheese is why I could never go vegan.
4) Balsamic Reduction. You can make your own but I buy this stuff by the case. They sell it in Whistler at the Farmers' Market and at the Whole Foods in West Vancouver. Check out their website as it has a list of the stores you can get it at. You can drink this stuff it is so good. It's like a syrup but better.
Easiest salad in the world: Mixed Greens, chunk of goat cheese, some toasted or caramelized pecans and this stuff drizzled on top. 3 minutes tops.
5) Nuts. Pecans and walnuts rate tops with me but I love pine and peanut too. Really any will do. The crunch, flavour and texture flavour up any dish.
6) Pesto. I like to make my own variations. Classic basil is always good but try doing a mix of basil, mint, cilantro. See my pesto recipe.
7) Sesame Oil. Essential to most Asian style dishes. Love it.
8) Wine. Amazing to cook with but even better on its own. A meal without a glass for me is isn't a meal.
9) Avocado. Just one of those "fruits" that adds such richness to its accompaniments. Honestly, it is like butter. It has the ability to take a dish to the next level.
10) Olives. Not everyone likes them, I know. They are an acquired taste. But once you acquire it you will never give it up!