Monday, March 28, 2011

Chicken Tagine and Couscous

I was watching Jamie's travels and literally had to wipe the drool from my mouth. He went to Morocco and made the most delicious tagines. Chicken, lamb, name it he made it! I watched as he teased us, breaking the soft tender chicken between his fingers, scooping up the gravy with fresh pita... I was hungry and bothered. I hate watching any celebrity chef cook when I'm hungry- it's just excruciating. I couldn't take it, I marched to my freezer, defrosted a broiler chicken cut into eights and dreamt of tomorrow.

It's tomorrow and I've made an incredible Jamie inspired chicken tagine. It's subtle yet so flavourful. Tender onions, garlic and fennel have been cooked to a sweet pulp, theres the soft spice blend and the most juicy, insanely soft and succulent chicken...amazing!

1 whole chicken cut into eighths
1 quart chicken broth
1 or 2 zucchini's cut into coins
1 handful of cilantro stems plus 1/4 cup fresh cilantro for garnishing
2 cups butternut squash cut into cubes
2 large onions thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb cut into eight wedges
7 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup green and black olives
a pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon ginger root powder
2 tablespoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
Salt and pepper to your liking
1 can chickpeas
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil for chicken marinade + some for frying

Rub chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, ras el hanout, cumin, coriander, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup sliced onion and ginger powder. Let it sit for a couple hours or ideally overnight.

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the chicken pieces (you may need to do this in batches) and cook until lovely and golden brown. Remove the chicken and add the fennel, onion, four cloves of garlic. Let this cook for about 5 minutes, make sure to scrape all the bits off from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken along with all it's juices and contents from marinating, cook for 10 minutes. Add the olives, coriander stems, saffron and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover and carefully place in the oven.

Let this cook for 1 hour. Remove and check how tender the chicken is. It should be close to falling apart or coming loose with your touch. Add the zucchini, chickpeas and squash. Cover and return to the oven. Cook for another 30 minutes. Remove the chicken, squash and zuchini once everything is tender and cooked. 
We want to reduce the sauce. If needed add more salt to heighten the flavours. Add some sugar if it tastes a bit bitter from the olives. Reduce until you get a thicker consistency. It won't ever get very thick but you just want the liquid to reduce and the flavours to become more prominent. 

Garnish with coriander and serve with couscous.

Couscous Ingredients: 
1.5 cups couscous
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups cooking liquid from the tagine or chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter

Bring the liquid, milk, butter and salt to a boil. Once the boil is rolling add the couscous, turn off the heat, stir it together and cover for ten minutes.  Fluff with a fork, transfer to a bowl and garnish with some coriander.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stacked Veggies, Egg and Sausage

My husband and I went to a really lovely Inn this weekend. The food was absolutely phenomenal, everything was fresh and bought from local farms and purveyors. I left feeling inspired and ready to cook! On our way back we stopped off at a roadside market and picked up some fresh farm eggs, bell peppers and spinach. I entered my kitchen without a plan and this is where my imaginations took me...

I made a three stacked parcel of caramelized onions with bell peppers, sauteed spinach and a fresh egg straight from the farm! For a bit of bite I added some turkey sausage. The sweet peppers and onions, earthy spinach and velvety egg yolk, when eaten alongside a perfectly browned sausage is such a delight!

4 sausages
2 red bell peppers, sliced into thick strips
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1 bag of spinach, thoroughly washed
2 teaspoons garlic, roughly chopped
1 sprig of thyme
4 eggs
1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (roughly)
2 tablespoons chicken stock or water

In a large saute pan heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onions and cook on medium until they are translucent and soft (about 10 minutes). Add 1 teaspoon garlic and cook a minute longer. Add  the peppers, thyme and increase the heat to med-high, stirring often. Add a tablespoon of chicken stock and cook on low until it reduces. Repeat. By now the peppers should be quite soft. Season with salt and pepper. Cook them to your desired tenderness, I like them to break apart easily and have more of a soft roasted pepper texture than be crunchy.  Reserve.

In a large saute pan heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until soft and translucent. Add the spinach and let them wilt.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper. They will reduce drastically. Turn of the heat once they have all wilted. I hate soggy spinach. Once cooked transfer the contents to a strainer and gently push down. Return to the pan and reheat when necessary.

Cook your sausage as you normally do. I like to finish them in the broiler for that extra crisp skin! Once they're cooked, keep them covered with tinfoil whilst you prepare your eggs.

In a large skillet (nonstick is easier) add 1 teaspoon butter and 1 teaspoon oil. When hot, add your eggs. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid that's slightly ajar. This will help insulate the egg with heat and cook off all the gloppy whites while letting any condensation escape. It will take about 3-4 minutes to cook. For the finish, sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper and spoon some of the oil on top.

Now plate and enjoy! I have plating molds that keep everything in place, this will still look and taste delicious without the unnecessary apparatus!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mom's Stew

My mother has been a major source of inspiration both in life and kitchen. She's given me so much- morals, values, support and an amazing set of recipes I'd be lost without.

Whenever I had leftover stew packed for lunch in elementary school, even in its less desirable rather cold and gloppy state, my classmates would come round and ask for bites- volunteering to dip some of their sandwich bread into my sauce...yes, it's that good!

Now to derail from the above narrative- if you've been reading my posts you'd probably think I contradict myself as my last entry was dedicated to light cooking for the summer months...but if you know me well, you'd realize I'm incapable of dieting. I must eat whatever I want whenever I want and now since the weather has to my misfortune, dropped from 70 degrees to a pathetic 28 with snow- I laugh at eating light and want nothing more than the comforts of my mother's stew!

*I've tweaked the recipe a bit, but it is for the most part exactly how mom makes it!


2 lb stewing beef cubes
2 onions, large dice
2 big carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch round
3 baby potatoes, quartered
Mushrooms as much as you like (i use about 2 cups quartered because I'm obsessed)
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon maggi
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup soy sauce + 1tablespoon for marinade
1/2 cup red wine
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle meat with 1 tbsp soy sauce, maggi and paprika. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Toss the meat in 1/4 cup flour. Mix well to make sure it's well coated.

Heat a large pot with olive oil and butter. Brown the meat on all sides. You may need to do this in batches as the meat won't brown if it's overcrowded. When the meat is cooked put it back in the dish it was marinating in. Cook the onions for 5 minutes on medium high heat, making sure to stir it every so often and collect all the delicious bits from the browning process. Deglaze the pan with wine, cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Make sure to stir after 2 minutes to ensure it's not burning or sticking.

Add the meat, bay leaf, thyme and all it's juices as well as 1/4 cup soy sauce. Mix well and cover for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour and mix so it's all encorporated. Bring to a simmer and cover for 5 minutes. At this point cover the meat with water so that there's about an inch of water above the contents. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium-low. Add the mushrooms and cook covered on low for about 1 hour, stirring every so often.

Add the carrots, potatoes and pearl onions. Cook on a simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the tomato paste, sugar as well as a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until it has the perfect thick consistency. If you find it's too thick, then add a bit more water to loosen it up!

I like to serve it with a dash of freshly chopped parsley or cilantro to freshen up the earthy flavours.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whole Branzino with Muddled Vinaigrette

Summer is coming and we'll all be showing off a little more skin. We don't have fashionable oversized sweaters to give the beautiful optical illusion of svelte figures. So what better way to prepare for the warmer months than to eat foods that will help us shed some of the comfort-food pounds we may have gained during winter?!

This dish is perfect. It's light, only has good fat and is super easy to make. I love the sweet taste of the branzino. When a fish is cooked whole, it's even better than a fillet. The bone really flavours it and the skin is like a protective seal that keeps all the juices circulating within! It's delicious as is but what takes it to another level is the delicious muddled herb dressing that is bright and bursting with lemon, garlic, mint, cilantro, parsley and the welcome kick of chili!... literally salivating!

1 whole branzino
a bunch of parsley parsley
2 stems oregano
1 lemon, sliced 
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic smashed
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 F. Have your fish monger scale and gut the fish. Wash it and pat dry. Slit the fish on a diagonal deep enough so it just hits the bone. You want to do it 2-3 times per side depending on how big the fish it. Rub with one teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Insert lemon slices into the slits. Turn over and insert oregano, parsley and lemon slices into the incisions. Stuff the cavity with lemon, the remaining parsley and garlic. Place parchment paper on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes or until the flesh is opaque and soft. Remove from the oven and spread the herb butter (recipe to follow) and return to the oven. Place broiler on high and cook for 1 minute.

De-bone and serve with vinaigrette and capers.

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup mint
1/2 teaspoon grated or pounded garlic
1 green chili thinly sliced (less or none if you intolerant to heat)
1 lemon juiced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers

In a mortar and pestle pound the garlic until it has a paste-like consistency. If you don't have a mortar and pestle use a micro plane, grater or knife. Rinse herbs and pound  with the garlic in the mortar and pestle for about 1 minute. You still want some chunks of herb but the idea is to release it's natural flavours and oils. You want it to look like the mint in your mojito. Again, if you don't have a mortar and pestle use your knife and roughly chop. Add lemon juice, chili, olive oil and salt. It's best to let it sit for 5 minutes or so.

* Tip: you can make it with just one herb or different combinations of herbs so long as it's a cup.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lentil, Ginger and Carrot Soup

This soup has a decadently velvety texture, the kind that you feel guilty about having because it's been invaded with delicious fatty cream. The brilliant thing about this is that it tastes richer than it actually is! It has a lot of subtle flavours from the carrot, ginger, lentils and aromatic seasonings that work to give a strong impact. Since it is quite rich tasting and on the thick side, I added a pick-me-up topping with lots of bright ingredients like avocado, red onion, cilantro and tomato. The combination of these things when contrasted with the deep, earthy and rich flavour of the soup is really something special.

I/2 cup red lentils
1/2 cup yellow lentils
3/4 cup diced onions
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup carrots cut into coins
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup large diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice
about 4 cups of water

1 avocado finely diced
1 tomato seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion finely chopped
1.5 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Rinse the lentils and set aside.
In a medium sized saucepan heat the olive oil and add the onions. Cook on medium-low heat until soft and translucent. Add the carrots and celery cook for another two minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for one minute or until the garlic is nice and golden.  Add the tomatoes and cook for one minute and try to press them down with your cooking utensils to get the juices going. Stir in the lentils so that everything gets incorporated. Add a bay leaf and enough water to completely cover the lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for about 50 minutes or until soft and mushy. Make sure you check to see if the lentils have absorbed all the water. If so, add more.

Now we season. Add the cumin, tumeric, coriander, garam masala, cayenne and tomato paste. Stir until everything is incorporated. If it's thick and not runny, add about 1/2 cup- 1 cup of water. Discard the bay leaf and transfer the contents to a blender or food processor. You may need to do it in batches. Puree the soup until it's smooth. Don't go overboard- once it's all smooth and velvety it's good! Transfer the pureed soup back into the saucepan and taste it. Ask yourself, "is this too thick, too smooth?" "Is there enough salt?" etc.  And don't be afraid to experiment! Add more water if it's too thick, turn on the heat and simmer the soup if it's too runny (it will condense this way). When it's at your desired consistency add the lime juice and stir.

Combine the avocado, diced tomato, cilantro and red onion.

Serve hot and top each bowl with the avocado mixture!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Charred Carrots and Cabbage with Muddled Dressing

If cabbage had feelings it would be really insecure. In the world of vegetables cabbage is the equivalent to the boy who gets picked last for the soccer team, the girl who doesn't get asked to prom and so on. Fast forward 10 years the boy owns some ridiculous fortune 500 company and the  lanky girl with braces is Queen of the catwalk.... this is what cabbage is when it's cooked properly. It moves out of the shadows and has character, depth, style. It's literally transformed from something primarily julienned in coleslaw's to a shining side dish!

I cooked the carrots and cabbage in the same way. They were drizzled with oil, salt, pepper and cumin and broiled on high for 10-15 minutes until they crisped and charred perfectly. Because both veggies taste quite earthy I brightened everything up with a muddled vinaigrette of mint, parsley, cilantro, garlic, chili and lemon... to die for! I also made a whole branzino fillet that I bathed in this dressing. Everything went together so harmoniously.. amazing!

4 carrots
1 small cabbage or 1/2 of a large cabbage
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Set broiler on high. Wash the carrots and  cabbage. Cut the stem off the carrot and slice in half lengthwise. Don't peel the skin as it charrs better with it on. Reserve.
Cut the cabbage  1 inch thick lengthwise and keep the stalk on so it will hold the leaves together. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and drizzle the veggies wtih oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper an cumin seeds. You will probably need to do this in batches. Lay the cabbage so it doesn't overlap. Place under the broiler  and cook for about ten minutes or until it charrs nicely. Remove and do the same with the carrots. Top with sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 cup parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup mint
1/2 teaspoon grated or pounded garlic
1 green chili thinly sliced (less or none if you intolerant to heat)
1 lemon juiced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sauce method:
In a mortar and pestle pound the garlic until it has a paste-like consistency. If you don't have a mortar and pestle use a micro plane, grater or knife. Rinse herbs and pound  with the garlic in the mortar and pestle for about 1 minute. You still want some chunks of herb but the idea is to release it's natural flavours and oils. You want it to look like the mint in your mojito. Again, if you don't have a mortar and pestle use your knife and roughly chop. Add lemon juice, chili, olive oil and salt. It's best to let it sit for 5 minutes or so.

* Tip: you can make it with just one herb or different combinations of herbs so long as it's a cup.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


There are few bites I crave more than a tortilla chip laden with guacamole! I adore guac. I love the velvety yet chunky texture, the vibrant tastes of lime, onion and coriander as well as the heat of chili. The only problem I have with this is that once I start I really can't stop!

2 avocados
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup finely chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt (at can add more if you like)
the juice of 2 limes or 1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon Sambal Oelek Chili paste(my Chilean friend's mother revealed this secret ingredient!)

Combine all the ingredients and mix together until you get a consistency you like...Whether you prefer it smooth or chunky I promise you'll love it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Indian String Beans and Cabbage

This is a really delicious vegetarian dish that can be eaten as a main or a side. I love the crunchy textures of the string beans and cabbage followed by the smooth tomato sauce. It's vibrant in taste and texture, goes perfectly with rice and you won't feel bad for having seconds!

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup thickly sliced cabbage
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup green beans cut in three pieces
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon dried chili or freshly chopped chili (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup fresh tomato chopped in large pieces (1-2 tomatoes depending on the size)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
squeeze of a lime or lemon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4-1/2 cup water (depending on how dry it gets)

Heat canola oil in a large saute or saucepan. Add the mustard seeds. Once they start popping add the onion. Cook until it softens and sweats. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for one minute. Add the chili, cumin, coriander powder and tomatoes and cook on med-low. The juices from the tomato will be released after a couple of minutes. Increase the heat to med-high and add the cabbage. Toss everything together and add the green beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add 3 tablespoons water or more if it's too dry. You want to make a thick gravy by reducing the liquid so don't be worried if it seems runny at this point. Add the tomato paste, salt, sugar and some pepper. Bring it to a boil and reduce. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. If it's too runny carry on cooking uncovered until it thickens. If it's too dry add more water and cook until everything is coated with a thick tomato gravy. Squirt some fresh lemon or lime juice, toss gently and garnish with fresh coriander.

*Tip- if you don't like cabbage you can make this with just string beans!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mommy's Pound Cake

Nostalgia at its best... my mother's pound cake is the greatest ever. Perhaps I'm biased, perhaps I'm not... judge for yourselves. It bakes so perfectly and results in a pleasantly crisp top crust which gives way to a light, dense and moist centre. The cake is infused with the most delicious lemon and vanilla extract which makes you feel so wonderful and warm when you eat it. I remember nagging my mom, begging her to make it until she would made me so happy. I always feel like a kid when I eat this. It's amazing how this cake envelopes me with some of my fondest memories... It won't do that for you surely, but it will tastes pretty fantastic!

1 cup room temperature butter
1.5 cups sugar (make sure you put it through a sieve first so it's fine and not lumpy)
1/5 teaspoon baking powder
1/5 teaspoon baking soda
1/5 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup milk + 1/2 cup full fat plain yogurt combined
3 cups flour

Butter and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Attach the paddle device on your mixer and mix the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon and vanilla extract. Alternate the flour and yogurt milk mixture until everything is combined. You don't want to mix too much. You just want it mixed until just combined. Once all the flour and milk mixture has been used divide the batter into the two loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out completely clean and the top of the cake has been browned nicely.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Salad Nicoise

I've had salad nicoise in many restaurants as it's my favourite salad, however I've never had a better one than I did tonight. Maybe it's because I chose the freshest ingredients and cooked everything to my liking, maybe I removed and substitute some ingredients with others- whatever it may be, I made the best salad of my life this evening. I want it again tomorrow!

I love how simple yet complex this salad is. There's a bit of everything- starchy potatoes, protein from your fish, eggs and beans, vitamins, minerals and fibre from your greens good fat from the olive oil and yolks.. It is a perfectly balanced meal. It's also satisfying as it eats as a meal!

I did not go the conventional route tonight. Instead of simply boiling my potatoes I took it further and broiled them on high until they crisped. I also broiled baby tomatoes to sweeten them and add depth as opposed to serving them raw. Instead of having two salty components (olives + sardines) I tossed the sardines entirely. A new and very welcome addition is the cannellini beans. Every single bite was a symphony of sweets and salty, soft and crunchy...heaven!

1 pound sushi quality tuna
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound haircot vertes
1 pint baby tomatoes
2 potatoes
1 can cannellini beans
3 eggs
2 cups mixed salad
2-3 tablespoon black olives
1 teaspoon finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes 1/2 inch thick and boil in salted water (you can boil your egg with the potato to save time). When you can easily pierce the potato with a fork, remove them and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and broil on high for about 5 minutes or until they've browned. Reserve. Keep cooking the egg until it's hardboiled (about 15 min). Peel the egg and reserve.

Place tomatoes on a baking tray lined with tinfoil and broil on high for 5-10 minutes or until they've browned and the skin crackles. Reserve.

Blanch the haricot vertes in boiling salted water and cook for three minutes or until just tender. Drain and reserve.

Drain and wash cannellini beans. Mix in a bowl with red onions. Mix well and reserve.

whisk 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon canola oil, dijon and powdered mustard in a bowl. Add a good pinch of salt and some pepper. Set aside.

On a clean cutting board, mix the 1 tablespoon of pepper and salt. Pat the tuna down on all sides so it's coated with the pepper (this may seem like a lot but it's will provide the most delicious crust!).

Heat a pan (preferably NOT a nonstick as they don't sear well) and add enough canola oil to ensure the pan is coated (about 1 teaspoon). Gently place the fish down. Do not touch it for 1 minute. Flip it on it's other side and cook for another minute. Now place it on its sides so the sides get seared (briefly, about 5 seconds. Turn the heat off and cover the pan for one minute. Remove the tuna and slice thinly on a bias, it should be nice and rare in the centre.

In a large bowl separately toss the cannellini beans, tomatoes, haricot vertes and salad so they are well coated. Drizzle dressing on the potatoes, slice the eggs on a bias and assemble however you like. It's always good to serve it with some dressing on the side so people can add more if they like! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Asparagus and Mustard Vinaigrette

Easy. Delicious. Fresh. Exciting. This is such a simple way to eat asparagus but tastes and looks sophisticated. The crunchy perfectly boiled asparagus dressed in the most flavourful vinaigrette is hard to beat...It's just sensational!

1 bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon full parsley leaves
1 teaspoon fresh chervil leaves
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
as many fresh parm shavings as you like

Whisk the mustard, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil together. Add salt, pepper fresh herbs and whisk again. Reserve.

Break inedible asparagus ends off from the bottom. Cook in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until it reaches desired tenderness (Tip- take it out just before it's perfectly cooked since the heat will carryover  cook the asparagus when removed from the water). While hot, immediately toss with the dressing and top with shavings of parm cheese.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Maple Baked Sweet Potato and Gorgonzola

So delicious! I've been sick the last couple days and my good friend Erin insisted I buy sweet potato as they're apparently loaded with vitamin C and nutrients. I'm not a huge sweet potato fan, but this dish has converted me! I baked the potato on high heat and drizzled maple syrup over them on the last five minutes of cooking. The sticky syrup caramelized the potatoes so nicely. Cutting the sweetness and adding balance to the dish is the tangy, cheesy salty bite of Gorgonzola!

2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoon maple syrup
as much Gorgonzola cheese as you like!

Heat oven to 420. Wash and cut the sweet potato into even pieces- cubes or wedges. I like to leave the skin on as it has more nutrients and is more tasty because it crisps up! 

Toss the potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on a baking rack that rests on a baking dish and cook for 30 minutes or fork tender. Once it's fork tender remove from the oven and drizzle with maple syrup. Do it from a high distance so all the potatoes get some syrup. Place the broiler on high and broil until it gets some char marks and colouring. Plate and sprinkle Gorgonzola :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bibb Lettuce and Gorgonzola Salad

It seems like there's a big craze for bibb salad in the culinary scene. About 5 of the last 7 restaurants I've recently been to had a bibb salad on the menu. This is great because I love bibb lettuce. It's really light and carries flavours well. It's also the perfect appetizer salad as it doesn't fill you up before your main. 

That said, one pet peeve I have with these salads is that they're often under-dressed. I don't like my salad drenched in dressing but I don't want it dry either. Which leads me to another criticism- why do so many restaurants pay such little attention to their salad?? If I'm spending good money on my salad I don't want it wilted, under-dressed, overdressed or bland. I feel like salads are often shunned when they should be treated with as much care as the tuna tartar! 

I ordered a bibb salad on Wednesday and only the top layer was dressed... Annoyed, I went to the grocery store and corrected their wrong. Because bibb salad's are stacked, it's important to drizzle dressing on each leaf.. I made my own and was in bibb heaven!

7 leaves of bibb 
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon dijon mustard 
1 teaspoon finely diced shallot...very finely diced..
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
Gorgonzola cheese (however much you like)
1/4 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper

Wash each leaf of lettuce and pat dry with a paper towel. Whisk all the remaining ingredients apart from the cheese together. Lay the largest leaf on a plate and conservatively drizzle some dressing- don't cover it with dressing, just a little will do. Keep on stacking and drizzling until you get to your smallest piece of lettuce. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola or just have a chunk of it on the side...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brisket with Pea Puree

First things first- you have to make this. The effort is so minimal and the results are far too fantastic.. Everyone will sing your praises and tell you how wonderful this meal was- your kitchen ego will be brushed as you bask in glorious compliments!

This is super duper easy. Any kitchen novice can master this..I promise.

The pea puree is so beautifully vibrant and is the perfect backdrop to the tender slow-cooked brisket..  each bite is like a domino effect of heightening flavours- the sweet carrot, followed by the caramelised onions, falls into the flavourful soft puree and then you get hit with tender beef that's been bathing in the most delicious gravy! YUM!

1 brisket (I use mini brisket- it's about 1.5 pounds, so double the quantity of this marinade if you're using a big piece)
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1teaspoon bottled horseraddish
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon for searing
1 garlic clove pounded or grated to a paste
3 carrots (5 if making a large brisket), cut in half lengthwise
1 large onion (two if making a large brisket) cut in thick slices
1 cup white wine or veal stock
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon butter

Salt and pepper your brisket and set aside. Mix the mustards, horseraddish, olive oil and garlic to make a paste. Rub it all over the beef. Let it marinate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. In a large dutch oven or pan, heat the teaspoon of olive oil and butter. Brown the beef on both sides and reserve. Add the onions and stir up all the bits. Deglaze the pan with the wine or veal stock bring to a simmer and add the carrots and beef with all its juices from the resting plate. If using a dutch oven place a large sheet of tinfoil on top of the brisket so it stays well insulated. Place in the oven and cook for 2 hours or until very tender. Larger pieces will need to cook for 3+ hours. After 30 minutes, remove the carrots and half of the onions. You don't want the carrots to turn to mush. Reserve the carrots for serving.

When the brisket is tender, remove from the pan and let rest for 5 minutes. There should be a lovely gravy from the soft onions and juices. If it's dried out or you need more, add another cup of wine or veal stock and simmer until it is the right consistency. It won't be thick, just a deep brown jus.

Place the reserved carrots and onions on a baking tray and broil on high just until the carrot and onions brown a little.

Serve with Pea Puree.

Pea Puree Ingredients (for two):
1 large clove garlic
2 cups frozen
1 cup reserved cooking liquid (you'll probably only need 1/4 cup but always save more!)
1/2 tablespoon butter

Bring water to a boil and salt it as you would pasta water. Add the clove of garlic and peas. Boil for 2-3 minutes or until it's thoroughly cooked and heated all the way through.
Strain the peas and reserve the cooking liquid. Put all the peas and the clove of garlic in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid at a time and pulse until smooth or has some chunks... I like mine with a bit more texture. If it seems to thick add more cooking liquid. Salt and pepper to taste. Fold in butter while hot.

I won't say my husband licked the plate clean, but I'll let the evidence speak for itself....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I love the name really rolls of the tongue.. but the fun doesn't end there as this dish is hearty, has so much depth and colour and is an excuse to eat a lot of bread! The  fire roasted bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini all bathing in a sweet onion, garlic and tomato sauce.. off the charts delicious. This does take some time to make but if you do it in big batches it really keeps for a couple days and is superb when hot, cold or room temperature. Serve with crostini or on a large piece of fresh baguette and you're good to go!

1 medium sized eggplant
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 onion thinly sliced
5 roma tomatoes cut in thin wedges
1 tablespoon garlic finely minced
2 zucchini's- yellow or green
salt and pepper to taste
several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Slice eggplant 3/4 of an inch thick and lay flat. Sprinkle some salt to let it sweat. Leave this alone for 15 minutes. When ready, wash well with water and pat dry.

Put your broiler on high and cook the bell peppers for about 20 minutes until the skin has charred. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap- the skin will peel easily after it rests this way for about 5 minutes. Peel skin, discard seeds and julienne. Place in a large bowl.

Heat oven to 425. Cut the zucchini 1/2 inch thick and lay on a baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake until soft (about 10 minutes) and transfer to the large bowl.
Layer the eggplant on a baking dish, drizzle with about a spoonful of oil and a sprinkle of salt and bake for 10-15 minutes. When cooked, add it to the peppers and zucchini.

In a large saute pan heat about a spoon of extra virgin olive oil and cook onions until soft. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juices. This will result in a thick sauce. Add salt and pepper. If it's runny, carry on cooking on a medium-high heat until it thickens. If it's too dry, add some hot water. When it's at the right consistency add it to the vegetables. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil if you like..I know I do!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

I love cold cuts, but I try to avoid them as they have a lot of additives that I'd rather not consume. Instead  I buy a turkey breast on the bone and baste it every 15 minutes. I baste it with a number of different sauces and rubs from barbecue sauce, balsamic reduction, sun dried tomato paste..the possibilities are endless. Today I made it with a honey mustard sauce, it was superb! The sweetness of the honey really came through and caramelized the skin which contrasts nicely with the bite from the dijon mustard. My alternative may have a shorter shelf life but is far more delicious!

1 turkey breast on the bone
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise (full fat)
1 tablespoon honey
1 pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375. Place a baking rack on top of a baking tray and set aside. Whisk all the wet ingredients and salt together. Rub a spoonful all over the breast. Place the breast on top of the baking rack and pop into the oven, baste every 15 minutes until an instant read thermometer reaches 165 when inserted in the thickest part of the breast. Remove from oven, tent with tin foil for 15 minutes before carving.

*Tip: if the breast gets too dark cover it with tin foil

Monday, March 7, 2011

Potato, Caramelized Onion and Steak... Terrible name I know...

My friend Valentina has the most sophisticated pallette I've come across and by the sounds of it, it seems like she has her mom to thank!

The other day, Vally described a childhood dish her mom would make that was comprised of several layers- the bottom were potatoes, above were caramelized onions and the last layer was thinly pounded beef (ideally sirloin). Everything worked harmoniously as the juices from the steak dripped down to the onions and these collective juices coating the potatoes. I went home and had to make it... unfortunately I didn't have sirloin and used skirt steak, it was still delicious but you really want to use a marbled and tender cut of meat. That said, I knew it would taste quite rich so I finished it with a chimichuri sauce... ridiculous.

1 pound sirloin tip (I used skirt steak because I was desperate for it but it's not as good quality)
2 yukon gold potatoes
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken or veal stock
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 tablespoon canola oil

Cut potatoes in 1 inch slices so they remain round. Cook until almost done in boiling salted water. Drain and reserve.

In a saute pan heat olive oil and butter. Add the onions and cook on medium-low heat for about ten minutes. They should shrink and start to brown. Increase heat to medium-high and add one fourth of stock at a time. The stock with boil and reduce and help with the caramelization. Carry on doing so until you've run out of stock. The onions will be done when they've turned a lovely caramel brown and are soft..almost gummy.

Pound the steak to tenderize and thin out. The best cut of meat is one that's marbled like a sirloin tip (a cheaper alternative to sirloin). I didn't have this so I used a skirt steak. It was still delicious but a fattier meat is ideal!

Salt and pepper your steak and heat a saute pan large enough to fit all the contents with canola oil. Fry the steak very quickly (about 45 seconds on each side) - just so it browns on both sides. Drain excess oil and carefully align the potatoes so it makes one layer (they can overlap a bit). Sprinkle thyme over the potatoes. Now layer the onions on top- spreading it out so it makes a thin layer. Place the steak above the onions and cook in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the steak is to your liking.

Chimichurri Ingredients:
2 cups fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sambal (spicy chili sauce)
1-1.5 teaspoon salt

In a food processor blend all the ingredients together until it they're all evenly combined and make lightly chunky sauce.. If it's too thick add more extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

Now that the weather's starting to warm up, I'm trying to eat as much comfort food as possible. I often use any excuse to indulge my culinary wants. So I made a childhood favourite of stuff bell peppers.

Stuffed bell peppers are like little contained presents that unwrap and give way to the most delicious filling! I love the sweet tender pepper that is packed with the a meaty rice filling. I also roast a whole garlic and add a sweet clove to each pepper. I reserve the garlic olive oil for a final drizzle before serving.. so comforting. I don't use green peppers for this as they're not as sweet but feel free to use it if you like them! 

6 bell peppers
1/2 cup onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic minced
1 whole head of garlic
1 lb ground beef
1.5 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups spinach
2 cups cooked long grain rice or any rice you like 
1 can whole tomatoes 
1 cup grated parm cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cut the tops off the pepper and discard the seeds, set aside.
Preheat oven to 375. Cut a half inch from the top of a whole garlic and place in a sheet of tinfoil large enough to completely envelope the garlic. Pour extra virgin olive oil on top of the garlic and seal tightly. Pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove, let cool and pop each clove out. Reserve the oil.

In a large saucepan heat vegetable oil and add the onions. Cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until soft. Add the beef and increase the heat to medium high. Break the beef apart with a cooking spoon so there aren't huge chunks. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning.  Carry on cooking until the meat is nice and dark brown.
Carefully discard as much of the excess oil from the meat as possible.

Add the whole tomatoes- breaking them apart with your hands and add their juices. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer for about ten minutes.  If it starts getting dry add some water about 1/4 cup. Add the rice, spinach and parm cheese. Combine all the ingredients so that they're well incorporated. 

Stuff the peppers half way and place a clove in the center. Finish stuffing. Place the peppers in a pan or baking dish that will hold them nicely and bake covered in tinfoil for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the pepper is soft and tender (can be easily pierced with a knife). Serve 1 per person and drizzle with reserved garlic oil!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Greek Salad

Jamie Oliver, if you ever read this (not that you ever will) know that I love you.. NOT in a way that would make my husband or your wife nervous but I have so much respect for the way you cook and watching your shows inspire me.

Ok, now that that's out of the way let's talk Greek Salad... I was watching Jaime's travels the other night. He was in the most idyllic Grecian setting with a backdrop of Indigo waters and alarmingly white stucco homes.. I was jealous. Then he starts making this insane greek salad with juicy tomatoes the size of baby pumpkins, cucumber, green peppers, olive oil... My husband and I were watching, opened mouthed and drooled just a little... Inspired and hungry, I ran to the grocery store today and made the most delicious salad ever. Please try this at home!

2 large tomatoes
1 green bellpepper cut into medium rings
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cucumber sliced
1 block feta (or however much you like)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Gently toss the tomatoes, cucumber, onions, peppers and olives with olive oil, lemon, vinegar and a touch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the oregano and top with a block of cheese and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil!