Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pasta Aglio e Olio

Don't let this not so fab picture deceive you! This pasta is killer! 

I used to avoid pasta for a long period in my life as the insecurities of fitting a cookie-cutter image got the best of me and I avoided my now starchy favourites like the plague! Oh how silly I was! The wisdom of womanhood finally slapped me around a bit and taught me that anything in moderation is perfectly fine. The less you stress about the delicious food you eat, the less you calorie count, the less you feel guilty about food- the happier and healthier and lovelier you are in life! That's my pithy piece of advice for the day;)

This dish is so so so so so so so so so so GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! I saute lots of garlic in lots of extra virgin olive oil and throw in some wine, let the baby reduce, add my chicken and presto! You are left with the most delicious sauce to lace your chewy al dente pieces of pasta.. I love food!

1 pound chicken cut into cubes, sprinkled with salt and pepper
5 cloves garlic smashed and finely chopped
10 leaves of basil finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 package mixed mushrooms (crimini, oyster etc)
1/2 a head of broccoli rabe cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated parm cheese
any pasta of your choice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms and cook on med-high until they sweat and brown. Reserve.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta (stirring occasionally) about one minute before your pasta is finished add the broccoli rabe. Place the oil, garlic and chilis in a large saute pan. Cook on medium-low heat until the garlic softens. Add the basil and wine. Cook on med-high heat for about one minute. Return heat to medium and add the chicken and reserved mushrooms. Add a ladle full of pasta water (before you add the broccoli to the water as it will make it taste more bitter). Saute until the chicken is cooked. Add the pasta, broccoli rabe and grated parm. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Polenta and Stacked Veggies

With the holidays in full swing I haven't been cooking as much as I'd like to(gasp). As much as I love to cook a delicious meal at home, I find dining out with friends and family terribly hard to resist. I was all by my lonesome this evening as my husband had more holiday parties to attend so I decided to indulge in something he doesn't particularly like...polenta! "What, why doesn't your husband like creamy smooth, parmigiano laced, milky polenta", you ask. The answer is "I also have no clue"! But that's okay, polenta for one is just as delicious! I whipped up a big batch and ate it with crunchy char grilled veggies that tasted of garlic and aged balsamic.. Oh goodness, this dish is HEAVENLY!

2 cups polenta
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated parm cheese
1 tablespoon basil chiffonade (fancy term for thinly sliced)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon aged balsamic
1 Italian eggplant cut in 1 inch rounds
1 large yellow and green zucchini cut in a 1/2 inch thick bias
1 red and green bell pepper cut into 2 inch lengthwise strips
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a grill pan on your oven. In the meantime sprinkle the eggplant with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let the stand. Toss zucchini in 1-2 tablespoons of oil or until lightly coated. Place on the hot grill and turn over after the bottom side has grill marks (about1-2 minutes). Repeat. Place cooked zucchini in a large bowl with the smashed pieces of garlic. Toss the peppers in oil until both sides are lightly coated and cook about 5 minutes or so on each side (they take a lot longer). Add cooked peppers to the large bowl.
Rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry. Rub the eggplant with olive oil, it absorbs it very quickly so just ensure that both sides have a light coating. Place on the grill and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add cooked eggplant to the rest of the veggies and toss in a good amount of salt (about1-2 teaspoons) and pepper as well as the balsamic.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a med-large saucepan.  Reduce the heat to low, add the polenta and whisk for about 5 minutes or until it has come together in a porridge like consistency. Add the parm cheese, basil, milk and a dash of salt. Whisk until the cheese has melted.

Plate by spooning a good amount of polenta on a bowl, top with some veggies, top with more polenta and a dash of grated parm cheese...yum!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby Greens

There's nothing special to report apart from the fact that I absolutely adore baby greens. They're so enchanting and look like art on your plate as micro pieces of endive, lola rose, radicchio etc complement one another in size, colour and texture! I simply peel the leaves off as each piece is perfectly tiny, wash them under cold water and pat dry. This is perfect when paired with a lovely dressing like my aged balsamic vinaigrette!

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons good balsamic (I use a medium aged one- not the ones that costs LOADS and are meant to be used as a finishing element!!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Place all the ingredients and a jar and close lid. Shake well and toss over the salad leaves!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Linguini with Asparagus, Buffalo Mozzarella and Poached Eggs

I was pressed for time and needed to make a hearty lunch and presto- I made this. It's surprisingly easy and ridiculously delicious! The sauce gets cooked in the time it takes you to boil your pasta! When you mix all the components together and the golden yolk spills from its casing into the basil garlic sauce- it creates a beautifully rich pasta that's cut with my favourite jarred Italian peppers and fresh bite of asparagus! You must try this at home!

1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 a pack of linguine
1/2teaspoon red chili flakes
2 eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
5 cloves of garlic pounded in a mortar and pestle
10 leafs of basil pounded in a mortar and pestle
1/2 tablespoon of your favourite Italian jarred peppers
1 large bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella ball
salt and pepper to taste

bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and throw in your pasta. In the meantime heat oil and butter in a saucepan, add garlic and chili flakes and cook on low heat. Cook until the garlic softens and turns golden add the basil and cook for one minute then turn off the heat.

When the pasta is 2 minutes from being ready, throw in the asparagus. Remove the asparagus and pasta from the water and place in the garlic basil sauce and toss in a ladle of pasta water. Let this simmer on medium heat for 1 minute- making sure to toss everything together. Turn off the heat and place pieces of mozzarella on top of the pasta..

Meanwhile add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the pasta water and reduce to a very soft simmer. Crack the egg into a ramekin- make sure there are no shells. Create a whirlpool effect in the simmer water by stirring your slotted spoon in a circular motion and add the egg in the middle of the whirlpool. Repeat. Cook on a gentle simmer for about 2-3 minutes or until the egg whites cover and become slightly firm. If you're not used to this make three eggs and use one as a tester before serving the others. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place on top of the pasta and crack some fresh ground pepper. Place the hot peppers on top and call it a day!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

French Onion Soup

Wow. This soup is extremely delicious but very rich! Be sure to eat this when you're 100% certain that a beach holiday is months away. It's so beautifully luxurious and fatty and topped with ooey gooey cheese. I bet there are enough calories in one cup to suffice your daily caloric intake but guess what people- Life Is Short and to maximize its pleasure you must love, laugh and indulge in good food!

7 large onions, thinly sliced
4 beef bones with marrow
5 sprigs of thyme
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken or beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
1 french baguette
1/4 cup grated parm
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Line a baking tray with tinfoil, place the bones on top and heat in a 425 degree oven until both sides are brow (30 min). Reserve the bones. Place the cut pieces of baguette on the fat that the bones released and coat both sides as much as possible. Return to the oven and cook until lightly toasted. Reserve.

In a large dutch oven  heat butter and olive oil. Add the onions, cooked bones and thyme. Cook on medium heat, stirring often until the onions become nice and brown (30 minutes). Add a good dash of salt and pepper. When the onions have reduced and are a rich dark brown add the flour. Mix well until it completely combines.  Remove 1/4 of  the onions and add the wine. Bring to a boil and reduce by  3/4. Add the stock and cook on a simmer for 1 hour. Return the reserved onions to the pot and fish out the bones. Taste it- does it lack flavour? If so add salt..

Fill 4-5 oven proof bowls 3/4 of the way up and top with toasted baguette and a good amount of parm and gruyere. Place on a baking tray lined with tin foil and put it in the oven with the broiler on high until the cheese bubbles and melts!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eggs in Tomato Sauce and Garlic Bread

Mom and dad came to visit this weekend and I was so excited to show them that their little girl is all grown up!! I didn't let them lift a finger, had the bedsheets in my guest bedroom freshly pressed, made some flower arrangements and WOWED them (and myself) with my eggs baked in tomato sauce.

I had this in a restaurant on a previous occasion but did not like the way the egg yolk mixed with my tomato sauce. I intentionally cooked them just until their centers set into soft balls of yolk that warmed our plates like a lovely little sunrise!

The deliciously rich sauce, perfectly tender eggs and melted parm cheese tasted unbelievable when scooped up on a toasted garlicky baguette...yum yum yum!

This dish is ideal if you have house guests as you can make your tomato sauce ahead of time and bake it with the eggs in the morning! Everyone will wake up to the most delicious smells and you can pretend like you've been up for hours preparing it to make them feel extra special;)

1 can san marzano tomatoes from Italy (the quality makes all the difference)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (use less if you're sensitive to heat)
4 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 cup cannellini beans
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon tomato paste
7 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated parm cheese
1 parmigiano reggiano rind

Add olive oil, rosemary, chili flakes and garlic to a large ovenproof pan. Cook on med-low heat until the garlic softens. Remove the rosemary and add the tomatoes and water (you can break them up with your hands careful because they SQUIRT!).

Add the parm rind, cannellini beans and tomato paste. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer on low. Add salt and sugar. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for with the lid slightly open for 1-2 hours (the longer it simmers the deeper the flavours will taste). Taste it- if it still has that metallic acidic taste from the can add a bit more sugar. If it needs more umph add some salt.

Preheat oven to 350. Crack each egg individually into a ramekin (it's easier to remove shells this way). Spoon a little hole into the sauce and place the egg. Carry on in a clockwise motion with each egg 1.5 inches apart. Place the final egg in the center and top with cracked pepper and grated parm cheese.

Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and see if the eggs have firmed. Is it all white or are there still some gloppy uncooked bits? If gloppy and uncooked, return to the oven and bake some more. Keep an eye on these guys as they can overcook in seconds! You'll know they're ready when all the whites have cooked and have a little give to the touch. This took me about 22 minutes but each oven is different!

Garlic Bread Ingredients:
1 french baguette cut lengthwise
1 clove garlic pounded in a mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Dip a basting brush into oil mixture and brush over bread. You can top with parm cheese but I didn't because there's a lot in the eggs. Bake in the oven until golden brown!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

My mom is a gifted lady. She's charming, filled with laughter and love, principled, caring, smart and boy can she cook!

When we came to Canada she really took an interest in embracing other cuisines. Even though Filipino food was a given, we would always have something different each week from angel hair pasta with baby scallops, to chicken curry to sheppherd's pie! It was our way of getting to explore different cuisines and cultures and is something I truly value and continue to do with my husband. It was definitely a childhood favourite amongst my siblings- the hearty meat center, sweet burst in your mouth peas, silky mash and ooey gooey cheese totally danced on our palates! I've added pearl onions to the recipe because I feel it gives it an extra bite but it's still mom's in every way! It's pretty simple to make and is a wonderful winter warmer!

1 lb ground beef
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic thinly diced
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon maggi seasoning
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon ketchup...I know...I know!
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
3 Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup..or more grated cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like)
1/2 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons butter

Heat olive oil in a oven-proof skillet and add the onions. Cook on low for about 7 minutes until they're soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the ground beef and brown well. Add the maggi seasoning, tomato paste, water, ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes of low heat. If it gets dry add more water. you don't want it dry, you want there to be a bit of sauce! Add the pearl onions and green peas, mix well and reserve. You can top the skillet with the potatoes or transfer it to a smaller baking dish..

Preheat oven to 350.

Put potatoes in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender. Remove from water and mash with butter and warm milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread them evenly over the minced meat and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet, top with cheese and cook 10 minutes more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pasta e Favagioli!

On a scale of 0 - Sad I'm Sad:(

You see, all week I've been looking forward to going to Dons Bogam but my dinner date couldn't make it.. Dons is my FAVOURITE Korean bbq restaurant and the thought of missing it makes me pine... and how I pine for you my sweet, salty delicious umami defining bbq!

So I'm at home surfing through and nothing cuts it. No I don't want Thai, No thanks on the Chinese (had dim sum this weekend), kebabs...Nah.... Had curry on Sunday....Although I'd love some Italian I don't know if I can deal with a massive bowl of pasta that I won't have the restraint to I've been doing Insanity and fear I'll let down Shaun T!

But now I kind of do feel like pasta...So I turn to my kitchen thinking I'll make pasta e fagioli but see some fava beans I bought from the market... Eureka! Pasta e Favagioli was born.

This is MmmmMmmmMmmmMmmmm delicious...yes that many Mmmmms!

This soup is warming, rich and totally erased my pining for Dons;)

2 lb shelled fava beens
1 white onion finely diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cups chicken stock (please make sure it's homemade or fresh from the store)
1 parm rind
1/4 cup parm cheese (for serving)
3/4 cup ditalini pasta
1 rib celery finely sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes or 2 roma tomatoes quartered
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add beans.  Cook for 3 minutes and drain. Remove the light green skins from the beans and reserve.

Heat a pot and add oil. Add the onions and celery, a good pinch of salt, pepper and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the sugars to release. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they collapse from their skins. Add the parm rind and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add the pasta and cook until they're soft and chewy. Al dente isn't what you're looking for here. Serve with lots of freshly grated parm cheese!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kale Chips

I can say no to sweets but I'm incapable of saying no to chips. There's something about their crispy crunch that I find irresistible. Once I get going I can't stop and I feel rather pathetic as I find myself elbow deep in a bag of Salt and Vinegar -trying to fish out crumbs.

In efforts to find a healthier snacking alternative I make Kale chips! You won't bother with store bought after you make these! They are quick, effortless AND incredibly delicious.

1 bunch kale (I like Tuscan Kale)
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 and line two baking trays with tinfoil. 
Remove the kale leaves from its stalk and wash. Pat dry- you don't want them to be wet as they won't crisp in the oven. Toss the leaves in oil, salt and pepper. You want the leaves lightly coated but not drenched! Lay flat on a baking tray (you'll need two or you can do them in batches) and bake for 10 minutes or until you taste one and the leaves are crispy and chip-like!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas in a Cup

This recipe is really quite simple. I named it Christmas in a cup because upon eating it, I felt like it was Christmas morning. The warm creamy milk sweetened by brown cinnamon sugar and plump raisins made me feel warm, hopeful and happy- totally enveloping me with the feeling Christmas!

I'm a bit embrassed to admit that I never wanted to share this recipe. It's so dear to me and is something my little brother Tristan and elder sister Patricia always ask me to make when I visit home. I secretly enjoy the fact that no one can make it quite like me because it's such a joy to prepare it and watch with delight as they enjoy every bite of Christmas in their cup! But Christmas is all about the gift of giving right?! So my gift this Christmas season is my most treasured little recipe, one that I concoted in my early teens and have kept a secret till now...

Ingredients (1 serving):
1.5 cups whole milk (don't bother with skim, 1 or 2%)
1/2 cup quaker oats
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon raisins
1/8th teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Bring the milk, sugar, raisins, salt and cinnamon to a boil. Immediately add the oats and reduce the heat to low and stir. Simmer gently on low heat for 5 minutes. Cover with a lid for 2 minutes and serve. I use more milk because I like it to taste like porridge.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Braised Chicken

Imagine looking out at a Manhattan snow storm from your 16th floor apartment. You watch in delight as swirls of magical snow softly dance around high rises that seem to stretch out to the sunny sky. A smile warms your face as you get comfy in your blanket and dig into the most delicious braised chicken stew that has notes of thyme and white wine in a deeply rich broth. You tear up some rustic french baguette, drown it in sauce and greedily scoop it with bits of tenderly cooked chicken into your mouth for that perfect perfect perfect bite. That was the experience I had  a couple weeks back when a snowstorm hit the city in mid October.

This braised chicken is magic. It's the absolutely perfect dish for cold winter days. It's filling, hearty and very healthy. Apart from some initial browning of the chicken, the dish uses very little fat and has loads of protein from the meat and cannellini beans!

1 whole chicken cut into eighths
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large onion thinly diced
1 stock celery cut into thin slices
1 bouquet garni ( a bundle comprised of 5 sprigs of thyme, a handful of parsley and its stems, 2 bay leafs and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns wrapped in a cheesecloth and tied with butchers string)
5 roma tomatoes, quartered
1 can drained and washed cannellini beans
1 quart chicken stock (please use homemade or FRESH store made)
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup flour

Rub a good amount of salt (at least 1.5 teaspoons), pepper, oregano and herbs de provence into the chicken. Sprinkle with flour and reserve.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven and brown chicken (make sure to shake off any excess flour before placing in the pot). You may need to do this in batches to prevent over crowding. Don't touch the chicken. Don't move it, don't poke at it. Let it chill on medium-low heat for at least five minutes before you think of moving it... (of course, if you smell it burning move it, but it shouldn't if you follow my directions).
Turn it over. Is it brown? And not light it a beautiful deep dark rich brown? If the answer is yes, that's great! let the other side brown and develop in flavour as well. Once both sides have browned, remove and reserve.

Add onions to the pot and scrape up all the beautiful brown bits. Let the onions cook until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and  celery and cook for 4 minutes more. If it's getting dry, add some more butter or oil. Add the tomatoes and and cook them until they start to soften and relax a bit.
Add a pinch of salt and wine. Bring it to a boil and let the wine reduce to 1/4 of its 1 cup. Add the chicken and mix well. Add the chicken stock and bouquet garni cook covered on low heat for 1 hour. Add the beans and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. The chicken should be super soft, the broth should thicken to a nice thick soup consistency. If it's still then, you can mash up a spoonful of beans and mix them back into the sauce. Taste it. If it's too salty add more stock and reduce. If it's bland, add more soft. Remember, you're the chef and when it comes to cooking rules are meant for mending and adjusting to how you like them...not like baking! Serve with a fresh rustic baguette and call it a day:)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Picnic at Bryant Park

Beautiful crisp fall days where the sun and temperature simultaneously warm and cool you are hard to come by. To make the most of it I met my hubby at Bryant park for a picnic. I brought homemade crisps/chips (he's British and I'm Canadian so my double naming acts as a sort of conflict resolution), roasted chicken sandwiches, some yummy Sanpell, a pickle for me and two lindt chocolates!

It was lovely. I find it's hard to slow your pace in this big bustling city where everyones footsteps are fueled by an alarming sense of urgency. The energy at times overwhelms me so retreats like this are more than necessary! Needless to say,  it was nice to sit in a park with homemade goodies as I watched the hustling world go by- completely withdrawn.

Homemade Chips Ingredients:
2 sweet potoatoes
2 red beets
(you can use carrots, potatoes, turnips etc)
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves smashed garlic
a handful of thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Use a mandellin to cut the potatoes 1/4 inch thick. Mix the veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper. Do them separately if using beets as they bleed). Top with garlic and thyme. Bake for 10 minutes, turn over and bake at least another 10 or 15minutes or until they start to brown on the edges. The beets are a bit deceptive as they don't brown, when they do it means they're burnt. The beets have no visual indicators of being done. The best way to test it is to remove one chip and leave in room temperature for 3 minutes. If it stiffens and gets crisp they're ready!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Moroccan Carrot and Lentil Salad

Yum. Not only is this a very pretty salad with lots of beautiful colours- it also tastes pretty incredible. It's loaded with contrasting textures and flavours and I couldn't possibly be happier with its outcome.

I wasn't supposed to make this for dinner, but I didn't have time to buy groceries and had to make something with the ingredients I had at home. I found some french green lentils, carrots, one shallot, garlic, yogurt, lemon and some cilantro on its deathbed and thought....Moroccan Salad!

So this was born out of scraps, but one would never tell... if you take the time to plate it properly it will look too good to eat!

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch sticks
6 cloves garlic, lightly pressed (want to keep it pretty much in tact)
1 shallot cut in half
1/4 cup full fat greek yogurt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
1/2 teaspoon coriander, cumin and garam masala powder
a couple sprigs of coriander
salt and pepper to taste

cook 1/4 cup lentils and 2 cloves garlic in lots of salted boiling water and cook until desired tenderness is reached. I cook it for about 25 minutes. I like a bit of bite. Drain and reserve

In the meantime heat oven to 400. Line a baking tray with tinfoil and toss carrots, garlic and shallots in 1 tablespoon olive oil, ras el hanout, cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender and have charred a little.

When cooked, remove the shallot and garlic from their skins (reserve two garlic cloves) and place them in a bowl with the carrots and lentils. Place the reserved cloves and coriander in a mortar and pestle and pound till it forms a paste. Add the yogurt, lemon, 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil,  juice and a good pinch of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) into the mortar and pestle and blend. You can add chili flakes to it for heat if you like. Spoon over the salad and toss just before serving!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yet Another Leg of Lamb....

Yes I know I love leg of lamb...what's a girl to do?!

This time I attempted something slightly different by removing the bone, stuffing it with garlic then rolling it back together as it once was- sans bone of course!

I roasted it until medium rare, let it rest for 10 minutes and ate it alongside these lovely baby tomato and rosemary spears...yumyumyum!

1 4lb leg of lamb- ask your butcher to debone to make your life easier!
10 cloves of peeled garlic- go through the effort of peeling it please! Pre-peeled garlic may be a time saver but it's a flavour assassin!
1/4 cup red wine
1.5 tablespoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Rub salt pepper and dijon over the front and backside of the lamb. Place the cloves of garlic all over the front side and then roll it back up and tie with butcher string. Marinade in red wine for 12-24 hours. Remove from marinade, bring to room temperature and place on a baking rack on top of a large ovenproof pan (put the bone in the will brown and add flavour to the drippings) so that it catches the delicious juices! Place in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 and cook until it's just under medium rare (135) and let rest for 10 minutes. The temperature will carry on cooking the meat and it will be perfectly pink! If you want more juice, deglaze the pan where the drippings are with 1/2 cup of red wine until it thickens and finish with 1 teaspoon of butter to make it shiny and velvety!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pasta Tuna

I grew up on pasta tuna. And as much as I love the mayonaisse laced original, my hips prevent me from grabbing the jar of Hellmans. Instead, I created a healthier and surprisingly, MUCH MORE DELICIOUS alternative!

I needed a hearty lunch for my post-gym workout and thought why not make some tuna pasta. I had some steamed french beans from the other day, a can of cannellini beans for extra protein, tuna in oil, garlic, baby tomatoes and of course, elbow pasta!

One thing led to another and healthier pasta tuna was born... only problem is- I didn't end up going to the was way too delicious! I had a bit to taste which turned into two bowls...oops.
I guess it's my pre gym lunch;)

12 baby tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans
1 can good quality tuna and oil (don't substitute with tuna in water, it won't taste as good)
1 cup blanched green beans cut into fourths
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 shallot thinly sliced
1 cup pasta elbows
1 cup parmesan cheese
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. In the meantime, saute the garlic and shallot in olive oil on med-low heat. Once they soften add the thyme, cannellini beans and tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes until they collapse and soften completely. Add a ladle of pasta water and green beans. Add the green beans, cooked pasta and parm- toss till melted and serve.

Friday, October 21, 2011

White Bean Soup. Poached Quail Eggs. Truffles...Need I say more?

Today I felt fancy. So fancy that I marched over to Whole Foods and picked me up some quail eggs. You see, I had a mind blowing quail egg experience in Spain. We were given this creamy soup containing three perfectly poached quail eggs which bursts in your mouth- releasing this gorgeous golden cascade of yolky goodness.

I wanted to recreate this sensual experience and felt that today was the day I get my faaancy on... you poach these tiny beauties using the same method as you would an egg. However, they require a lot more intensive care. You have to gently run a paring knife around it WITHOUT penetrating the yolk, then gently place it in a tiny ramekin or saucer before you gently put it in simmering water...I was intentionally hyperbolic with my use of gently....

Why all the trouble, you ask? I'll tell you's heaven. Yes, silky, rich heaven in your mouth and for that reason makes it worth all of the effort!

Intensifying the deliciousness to this dreamy egg is the soup in which in bathes. The cannellini bean soup is creamy, rich and super flavourful. And if that's not fancy enough for about the fresh truffle shavings I topped it all with?! Ridicuolously delish.

8 quail eggs
1 small truffle (can use truffle oil)
1 small onion
6 cloves garlic
1 sage leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon distilled vinegar
Carefully remove quail eggs from their shells and place in individual saucers.
Bring a small pot of water to a simmer (it should stay between at 170-180). With a spoon gently swirl it creating a whirlpool and place the egg in the center and leave it for a minute or so. With a slotted spoon and gently place into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Repeat until you're finished and keep the eggs in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onions, sage and thyme. Cook on med-low heat for 8-10 minutes until it really starts to soften. Add the beans and garlic and cook for two minutes longer to infuse the flavours. Add the stock and cook on med-low heat until for about 10 minutes.

Pour the soup into a large bowl and then blend it in batches. Puree until smooth and return to the pan. Bring the soup back to a simmer, add cream and taste for salt and pepper. If it's too creamy add some more stock to loosen and if it's too loose (it shouldn't be) reduce it by bringing it to a gentle boil until it's the right consistency.

Remove the eggs from the ice water, pat gently with a paper towel and place two on each bowl as well as some truffle shavings. Pour the hot soup at the table for the fancy factor;)

Thursday, October 20, 2011


There's something magical about Italy. Everywhere you turn you're surrounded by beauty- architecture, fashion, weather, people... the list goes on... But in Italy, there are few moments more beautiful than my bi or tri-daily stop at one of the many gelaterias....MmmmMmmmMmmmm...

I had the most blog-worthy gelato experience a few weeks back.. You see I'm the type of person who is set in their ways. So when it comes to my beloved gelato, I'm faithful to four flavours: Nocciola, Cafe, Bacio and Pistachio. But I was unfaithful in Rome... I had Caramel and get this-  caramelized fig and mascarpone! C'MON!

Those two flavours rocked my world. First of all, caramel was not just any plain old caramel..NuhUh... there were bits of gooey caramel and then some nuts that almost had a bitter burnt caramel edging to cut the sweetness! Then the sweet mascarpone and caramelized fig..Wowowowowow! The mascarpone was a heavenly backdrop to the sweet, fruity, mind blowing fig!

I LOVE Italy. I love gelato... When I grow up I want to live in Italy and eat gelato everyday. Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Deep Dish Roots

It's Fall in Manhattan. The leaves are in transition, the weather is cool and windy, the layers are coming on and so are the calories! I crave warming food in the winter; big meaty roasts, stews, mashed potatoes, heavy pastas- you know, things that you can put in a bowl and tuck into whilst curled up by the fire....

I made a lovely leg of lamb yesterday and served it alongside this showstopper.. It was one of the few times where the veggies received more attention than the meat! This is a perfect dish to eat alongside meat, poultry or fish. It can also act as a meal but if that were the case I'd add some kale for greens and cannellini beans for protein.. You can play around with it and add or take away whatever you please!

7 baby potatoes, parboiled and quartered
1 red beet, parboiled and quartered
2 yellow beets, parboiled trimmed and quartered
2 yellow onions, skin on and quartered
3 carrots, cut lengthwise and then quartered
2 parsnips, cut lengthwise and then quartered
1 head of garlic, skin on and cut in half
5 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 fresh ground pepper
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 425.

Toss all the ingredients together apart from the onions, garlic thyme and 1/2 cup of broth. Once everything's mingled, arrange them as flat as possible in a large ovenproof pan. Add the garlic an onion pieces and drizzle them with a bit more oil, salt and pepper (I don't like to toss them because they're more delicate and can fall apart). Ladle 1/2 cup of broth around the edges of the pan and lay the thyme leaves over the veggies. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes then reduce the heat to 400, ladle the other 1/2 cup of broth and cook 30 minutes more. Check every 15 minutes or so to see if they've browned to your liking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apple Pie

I decided to make  apple pie for two reasons. Reason #1: we have company and there are few things that give me more pleasure than creating a meal from start to finish without using shortcuts! Reason #2: I LOVE APPLE PIE!

This pie is off the charts delicious... so delicious that I did something really naughty...I had a piece before my guests came! I sheepishly brought it to the table explaining that it was in their best interest that I tasted the pie.. had it not been delicious, I would have made them something it was in fact an act of selflessness.....

Be warned: make this pie as close to your guests arrival or else you will be bad like me!

For the pastry
2.5 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold butter (grated)
6.5 tablespoons vegetable shortening (refrigerated)
5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon vinegar

Apple filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 pounds Granny smith and mcintosh apple cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 tablespoons butter cut into pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Attach dough blade to food processor and pulse the flour and salt. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until it starts to look like breadcrumbs. Add the water and vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing the dough after each addition. Blend dough until it just comes together, it's fine if it's not all one ball.
Transfer to a clean, floured work surface and knead several times until the dough comes together nicely. Cut into 2 balls, making sure one is slightly larger than the other. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare apple filling by mixing all of the ingredients together. Reserve.

Remove the dough from the fridge and its plastic wrap and place on a cleaned floured work surface. While the dough is still cold pound it down (LIGHTLY) with your rolling pin (preferably a long wooden one that's been dusted with flour to prevent the dough from sticking). Once it's spread out a bit flatter, begin rolling the dough from the center out, center back, center left side and center right side to create a circle. Once it's large enough to fit over your baking dish poke holes in it with a fork. Gently place into baking dish making sure press along the bottom edge so it fits.

Repeat the same steps for the second piece of dough but stop at the point of rolling it out perfectly.
Fill the pie dish with the apples and cover the apples with the reserved pastry top. Cut off any excess, making sure to leave at least an inch of dough overhanging. Press the top and bottom pieces of dough together and tuck into the dish to give it a big flaky crust!
Cut four slits down from the center, brush with egg wash and bake on a baking dish at 400 degrees for 1hour and 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rustic Chicken

Beware if you make this you may die and go to poultry heaven!...figuratively of course! I'm so very proud of this dish. It's easy, effortless, DELICIOUS and makes you look like a kitchen wizard/goddess... You won't look disheveled when your guests or that special someone comes to eat- it's so hands free you have all the time in the world to look fab while preparing an equally fab meal.

Hands down this is the most delicious chicken I've made to date...and I've had many delicious chickens cooked in a wonderful array of ways. Yet there's something about its crispy skin, succulent meat and bold flavours that makes this extra special.

1 broiler chicken
1 head of garlic cut in half
5 sprigs of thyme
2 carrots cut in fourths
1 large celery stick, cut in fourths
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450.

In the meantime, cut your chicken with kitchen knives all the way through its backside (not the side with  the breasts). Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, herbs de provence, oregano, mustard, butter and vinegar. Toss in the veggies and pour olive oil over the bird and veg so that everything is coated. Top with sprigs of thyme.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350. Bake until the thermometer reads 140. Increase heat to 400 and bake till it's just under fully cooked at 160. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to circulate which results in a moister bird!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Turkey Meatball Soup

This soup is fab! It's my take on Italian wedding soup. There are big juicy meatballs, loads of silky smooth spinach leaves that embrace your tongue with a velvety hug, carrots, cannellini beans and rice!
This is a great alternative to rich, cream infused soups that fill you up and weigh you down with fatty goodness. My turkey meatball extravaganza will leave you just as full while imparting way more nutrition! I made a massive batch of it and froze them in portion sized ziplock bags. That way, when I'm pressed for time all I do is reach into my freezer and defrost one of these delicious bundles!

Meatball Ingredients:
1 lb ground turkey
1 large clove of garlic, grated in a microplane
1/2 cup grated parm
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried oregano, parsley and basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
a handful of fresh Italian parsley
1 egg

Broth Ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 quart chicken stock
1 rind of parmesan
2 carrots
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 5oz bag of fresh spinach..or more.. they wilt
2 celery stalks
1 can cannellini beans
1/2 cup rice (any variety..wild is nice)

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs except the turkey and breadcrumbs until well incorporated. Add the turkey and mix well with your hands. Add the breadcrumbs until combined. Using two spoons, scoop out even sized amounts (it's OKAY if their not perfect:) and roll into balls. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment. When completed, place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile saute the onions in olive oil on low heat. You want them to really wilt and melt. After ten minutes add the garlic and cook on low for another 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add your carrots and celery. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook for three minutes. Add more olive oil if necessary. Add the broth, 1/2 quart water, bay leaf and parm rind. Cook for 40 minutes on low heat. Add the cannellini beans, meatballs and fresh parsley. Cook for 10 minutes. Finish with spinach and cook until it wilts into the soup. Serve with freshly cracked pepper and grated parm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mom's Pinoy Chicken

If you've not heard of the term Pinoy, it's an informal way of referring to Philippino's. In a way this recipe is very typical of the Philippines as its marinade is a typical "sawsawan" which is a sauce or dip that we eat alongside fried fish. You may find it strange to marinate chicken in fish sauce and lemon juice, but I promise you it's delicious. There's a sour tang to it that's brought to life by the depth of the fish sauce. Plus, it's just a faint hint of the intense flavours as the chicken is either dredged with flour and fried or breaded in panko and baked. Mom fries her's and it's hard to beat, but for a cleaner/healthier version I bake them with's just as crispy which is nice.. But on days where I'm feeling naughty, I'll fry!

1 whole chicken cut into eighths (you can remove the skin if you're baking but why?! Crispy skin is SO DELICIOUS!)
2 lemons juiced
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs or flour
1 tablespoon melted butter (if baking) or enough canola oil to shallow fry

Mix the fish sauce and lemon juice together and coat chicken. Cover with plastic wrap overnight or at least 6 hours. Dredge in flour and fry OR mix melted butter with panko and dredge the chicken. Place on a baking rack on top of a sheet tray (so everything crisps up) and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Dreamy Feast on an Argentine Ranch

I just returned from a trip to Argentina and Brazil. There were many delicious eats but this was by far my most treasured. My husband and I went to an Argentinian ranch that had been passed down along generations. The experience commenced on horseback as we rode along the vast flatlands, happily following the scent of burning wood and smoking meat.

As we approached there was the most enchanting setup of red plaid tablecloths under an enormous tree. We sat and feasted for what seemed like hours as wooden planks spilling with meat were served to us- one cut and variety after the next. It was one of the most memorable culinary experiences I've ever had.

Argentinian meat is arguably the very best in the world. This has to do with the fact that the cattle eats freely and easily on high quality grass and are raised without antibiotics. They are very proud of their beef. It's almost a religion and the sacred meat is treated purely- just salt...that's it. They don't marinate it with any garlic, wine, spices or herbs. The meat is so good, so fresh, so wonderful that it's not disrespected with flavourings to camouflage the taste. The salt simply works to enhance what comes naturally.

I visited the cook and was in awe of the traditional cooking method he employed. Big pieces of wood are heated in a large oven. When they start to break down, he shovels heaping amounts under a grill. I watched salivating as the beautiful embers cooked the meat to such heavenly perfection. Once ready, they were brought to our table and we ate them with a selection of salads and chimichurri! I've never had a meal so close to its source. The beef was fresh from the ranch and the vegetables in the salads were plucked from their gardens.

We concluded the meal with a stunning dessert of homemade ice cream that sat keenly on a bed dulce de leche, drizzled with a perfectly tart berry coulis. The somewhat sour fruit, cold cream and sweet dulce de leche was a brilliant combination.

I will never forget this day. It was magic.