Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (without pectin)
(youtube link)

I had extra strawberries and rhubarb from a crumble I made the other day and thought why not make some jam?!...

3 cups hulled strawberries
3 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups sugar (use one cup first, taste it and see if it needs more)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pour one cup of sugar on the strawberries and mash them until the berries start to break down a little. Add the rhubarb and place on a burner. Bring to a boil and stir every couple of minutes, making sure to get any bits that stick to the bottom. After about 45 minutes, add the lemon juice and reduce for another ten minutes. Taste it.. if it's too tart add more sugar. You can tell if the jam is ready if you place it on a cold plate and then hold the plate up vertically. If it stays put or sluggishly goes when you touch it it's good!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eggplant Parcel

I was really inspired with the fresh tomato sauce I had on hand yesterday and decided to make a little treat. Eggplant is my favourite 'fruit'.. it's actually classified as a fruit but eats like a veggie. There's something so wonderfully rich and velvety about it. I love the way it takes on flavours and enhances them by adding a soft pillowy cushion of texture. It collapses to your bite and embraces your mouth with a smoky goodness that's impossible to beat. I've stuffed them with mozzarella and fresh basil for even more sinful goodness!

1 Italian eggplant cut into thin lengthwise slices (about 4-5 per ramekin)
2 cups FRESH tomato sauce (see my tomato sauce recipe)
4 tablespoons buffalo mozzarella
four fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a nonstick pan heat half the olive oil and add the eggplant slices in one single layer. Fry on medium-low heat until golden on both sides (about 3-5 minutes). Place on a paper-towel lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat until you've finished frying all the eggplant (you may need more oil).

Place ramekins on a baking tray and rub with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Place one end of the eggplant in the center of the ramekin and gently press it along the bowl so it adheres to its structure. There will be extra eggplant hanging over which is important. Repeat this until the ramekin is covered with eggplant and has an open center. Place a tablespoon of tomato sauce on top of the eggplant, then a tablespoon of mozzarella, a basil leaf and one more tablespoon of tomato sauce. Fold the hanging pieces over so that the filling is covered. Top with a small amount of sauce (about 1 teaspoon). Repeat until you've finished all your ramekins and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let it cool slightly and then flip it onto a plate. Finish with a light drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homemade Tomato Sauce
(link to youtube video)

I love homemade tomato sauce! It's quite a production to make in bulk but totally worth it. I made close to 40 pounds of tomatoes which yielded 21 jars of tomatoes.  I resort to my precious stash when I'm craving a very simple, perfectly fresh pasta pomodoro. Even though it takes several hours to make, it saves me a lot of time preparing dinner throughout the year!

40 pounds of tomatoes (or more!)
1 bushel of basil, cleaned and patted dry
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons vinegar

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core and place an "x" on the bottom of your tomatoes. Immerse in water for about one minute or until skin becomes loose enough to peal. Remove the tomatoes, peel, quarter and add to the blender with half the skins (skin makes it thicker). Once it's blended to the consistency you like place it in a large pot. Repeat.

Bring the tomatoes to a boil. The scum/foam will rise to the top. Keep on removing it until there's little if any left. There will be a large amount, about 2 cups or more! Add salt and vinegar. Simmer on low for 2 hours. You want it to be bland enough that you'll still need to add salt to the final product but still seasoned.

Place about 2-5 leaves of basil in your sterilized jars. Using a funnel and ladle, pour sauce into jars. Look for air bubbles and pop them with a knife. Wipe the sides of the jar of any sauce. Place the lid and rims and then immerse in a canning pot to seal.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Parmesan Lima Beans and Grilled Cod

Even though I crave lighter foods during the summer, I still want to eat something that makes me feel content.. If I don't, I'll just end up snacking on rubbish later!

This dish is simple, clean and elegant. You can literally make it in minutes!

1/2 pound lima beans (preferably fresh)
4 cod fillets
2 tablespoons parm cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot finely sliced
1/2 small leek finely sliced
2 cloves garlic smashed
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
1/2 lemon squeezed

If you're using fresh beans take them from their pod and blanch them until they're almost cooked. If you're using frozen beans thaw them and pat dry.
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a skillet and add shallots and leeks. Cook on low heat until their tender and softens. Add the garlic and cook a couple minutes longer. Add the beans and wine or chicken stock. Let it reduce. Once it's thickened, add the parm cheese and cook until it's well combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve promptly.

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on the fish and rub well with salt, pepper and smashed garlic. Drizzle with lemon juice and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place on a grill and cook for about 4 minutes on each side or to your desired level of doneness. Serve on a bed of lima beans and some charred tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Refried Beans

I take hosting taco night very seriously and ensure I have all the fixings from homemade salsa, guacamole and the often overlooked but crucially important refried beans.

To call them refried is misleading as you just bring them to a boil and pound away with some cheese and my added ingredient of jarred jalapeno liquid for a bit of umph! There's nothing better than slathering this dip over a warm tortilla and topping it with lettuce, sour cream, salsa, and meat....yum yum yum!

2 cans pinto beans
1 cup..or more grated montery jack cheese (or cheddar)
1 tablespoon jarred jalapeno liquid
1 tablespoon chopped jarred jalapeno (optional if you want a good kick!)

Place all the beans and half their liquid in a nonstick pan. Reserve the rest of the liquid as you may need more of it. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. After it simmers for 3 minutes start mashing the beans with a potato mashed. The consistency is up to you, you can make them chunkier which requires less smashing or velvety smooth which requires more or something in between- just eyeball it. Once it's at a consistency you're happy with add the jalapeno liquid, cheese and chopped jalapeno (option). Mix with a  spoon until everything is incorporated. Serve immediately!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chicken Paillard

 I love it when diet food tastes delicious! Chicken paillard has very little fat and is usually served on a bed of mixed  greens. The idea is to pound the chicken breast quite thinly so it cooks in no time and is tender to the bite. I like serving it with a salad that boosts the flavour of this rather bland cut of meat. Today I served it with a red wine vinegar and Parmesan dressing that was divine.

4 chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs thyme

Salad Dressing Ingredients:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1.5 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1.5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tablespoon canola oil
1 clove of garlic, grated on am microplane
1 tablespoon parm cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil and garlic to a large bowl and reserve.

Place plastic wrap on a work surface, you want it to have the dimension of a large cutting board. Place your chicken in the middle of the plastic section and lightly pound with a food tenderizer until it is about 3/4 of an inch thick or almost double in surface area. Make sure to pound both sides lightly, don't hit it too hard or there will be a hole in the fillet. Salt and pepper both sides and place in the large bowl. Repeat process for the other breasts. Toss them gently in the garlic oil mixture and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to 5 hours.

Prepare salad dressing by mixing the garlic, Dijon and vinegar together. Whisk in the two oils and finish by whisking in the parm cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss into a bowl of mixed greens. Reserve.

Remove the chicken from the fridge while you heat a grill pan on high. Add the chicken and leave it untouched until the bottom bit goes from pink to white, at this point gently lift  it with tongs and place on a diagonal to create hatch marks. Cook another minute longer and flip over. Cook for two minutes and lift the chicken, place it on a diagonal again to get hatch marks. Once the chicken is cooked, lay on a bed of greens and place a sprig of thyme on it....or lay it on the plate and place the salad on top..whatever tickles your fancy..

Monday, July 18, 2011

Banana Bread

I love cooking with my Goddaughter Talina! She's eager to learn, helps put things away, understands that knives are sharp and not for her to touch and loves to eat as much as me! She is precious and I can't say 'No' to her, so it's obvious that I'd accommodate her request to make banana bread 20 minutes before her bed time!

I love this banana bread because there's so much going on. We have blueberries that moisten the bread, chocolate chips for the extra rich sweetness and bits of pecan for the extra crunch! It's amazing fresh from the oven with a nice piece of butter and a tall glass of ice cold milk!

2 bananas
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups AP flour
1/2 cup melted butter 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

Mash banana to a pulp with your fork. Add the butter and egg and beat until well incorporated. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the blueberries, chocolate chips and pecans. Mix with a spatula until everything JUST comes together (don't overwork it). Place in a buttered bread loaf tin and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clear when inserted.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


My sister, brother in law and kids have been over and the cooking has been nonstop! I was two seconds from running out to the gym when my niece Talina creeps out of the door grabs my hand and asks me to make pancakes.... how could I resist? We made the fluffiest chocolate chip pancakes and ate them greedily with loads of maple syrup...Delicious!

3.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 cups flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons sour cream
3.5 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
as many chocolate chips as you like!

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Make a well in the center and add the milk, sour cream and eggs. Whisk. Add the butter and whisk until encorporated. Put a nonstick pan on the burner on medium heat, add a bit of butter making sure to spread it around and place a 1/4 cup  or a ladle of batter on the pan.
Delicately place the chocolate chips on the batter. Don't touch the pancake. Wait for it to show little holes and then flip over. cook abother minute and repeat.
(see the small bubbles..this is ready to flip!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Honey Garlic Ginger Chicken

Love love love this recipe. Yes, I love it this much! Let's start off with a very important fact- it's easy. Just a couple simple steps and you have something that's so delightfully spicy, sweet, garlicky and tangy. Also, I don't like white meat. It's boring. There's very little fat and it's dry. I like that this recipe discriminates against the "vogue" breast meat and instead embraces the "lesser" thigh and drumstick.. I've always been a fan of the underdog..

5 drumsticks, skin removed or 6 boneless +skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2.5 tablespoons honey
1 inch piece of ginger grated
10 cloves of garlic finely chopped (you can use less but no less than 7!)
1 tablespoon canola, vegetable or grape seed oil
2 dried chili's
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the wet ingredients and reserve.Rub some salt and pepper on the chicken. In a large saute pan (large enough to fit all the meat without any overlap) heat the oil and lightly fry the chicken. You want it to be golden and almost cooked. Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate. If the pan needs oil add enough to saute the ginger, garlic and chili's. Fry until the garlic is golden and starts to brown just slightly. Return the chicken and cook one minute more. Add the wet ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low-heat simmer and cover for 30 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through. Remove the lid and reduce the sauce until it thickens and coats the chicken. You still want it to be a bit runny. Be careful not to overcook your sauce as it will be bitter otherwise. Serve on a bed of piping hot rice!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baked Tilapia

When I make something that  is as insanely good as it is easy, I take a moment to rejoice.  "Finally, I have another quick and delicious recipe in my culinary arsenal", I happily think to myself.

You can make this with any white fish. I particularly like tilapia because it has a very subtle flavour that carries this sauce so well. The sauce is a butter olive oil sauce that's infused with softly poached garlic and the welcome bite of ginger and lemongrass. It is divine.

4 tilapia filets
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon juiced
1 small shallot medium slice
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 inch piece of ginger peeled
1 lemongrass stalk cut into large pieces


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, combine the garlic, shallot, olive oil, ginger, lemongrass, butter, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until the garlic softens. Reserve.

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Salt and pepper the tilapia and rub some olive oil on them (enough so that their well lubricated). You also want enough pepper so that it looks "peppered". Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just cooked through. Broil on high until it gets a nice brown colouring. Plate and serve with warm butter sauce. Spoon the garlic, shallots and lemongrass over the fish. You don't have to use it all, you can save this sauce for grilled chicken, shrimp, lobster or as a spread for garlic bread (if you mash the softened garlic).

Thai Green Curry

There's such a beautiful art to Asian cooking. I remember eagerly watching my grandma prepare our meals as it it was such a ritual. She always served vegetables with meat and rice. These came in forms of soups and stir fry's where the meat and vegetables were in one dish and the balance of everything came through in each bite. She would cut all of her vegetables with such ease and precision and reserve them for later, she did the same with her meats and sauces. It was enchanting, I would look on fascinated as if watching a wizard prepare a secret potion. Little did I know that there's a culinary term for assembling all your ingredients called "mis en place". She is a very sophisticated cook and a lot of her methods were given terms when I trained professionally. It dawned on me then that my grandmother was my first culinary instructor.

Today I really felt her presence in my kitchen. I made Thai green curry and felt like a little girl again as I prepared my mis en place before I started cooking. I don't like buying pastes from bottles if it can be avoided and this recipe is a perfect way to enjoy it from scratch!

Green Curry Ingredients:
2 cans full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
3 garlic cloves smashed
1 inch piece of ginger roughly chopped
2 cups fresh coriander (stems and leaves)
1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or 1 birds eye chili
1 lime zested and juiced
1 stalk lemon grass (peel away the outer layer and use the softer inside)
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 Japanese eggplant
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 green bell pepper
1 cup cut green beans
1 lb boneless chicken meat cut into cubes
1 zucchini sliced in large pieces

In a food processor, combine lemon grass, ginger, garlic, sambal, coriander, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest, juice and oil. Blend until it's a smooth paste. Mix chicken with 1.2 teaspoon of salt. In a wok or sauce pan, heat the paste and add chicken. Cook until it's translucent. Add the coconut mill and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered on low heat for 30 minutes- making sure to stir every couple minutes. Add  the vegetables making sure to add the harder veggies first followed by  the softer ones as they have different cooking times. Check for taste and modify seasonings if needed. Add Basil leaves and serve on a bed of rice.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Growing up I never made the cut for any club or team. Was it because I was a bit of a nerd or recluse?..I guess I'll never know. However, what I do know is that we all want to feel like we're part of something special and the more exclusive it is the better...

Bohemian is a very hushush gem in the New York culinary scene. Tucked behind an unassuming butcher shop on the lower east side is a restaurant that looks like someones living room. I walk in the narrow hallway, careful of each step and ring a bell. The door opens and our waiter greets me with "Hello Sara, you're table is waiting". Stunned, I walk into a tiny space that can seat no more than 30 people. It is arranged in little sections comprised of proper dining tables and coffee tables with low reclined chairs where dinner is also served.

The meal was sensational. I went with my culinary BFF's and we all agreed that everything was outstanding. If beef tartars had a sommelier it would be Leeana! She has ordered beef tartar in every restaurant in Manhattan that features it and insists it's the best ever.. delicately diced beef tossed in a vinaigrette of paper thin shallots and bold capers is served alongside perfect little grilled cheese triangles and a dollop of mustard. The crispy chicken sat on a bed of truffle mashed potatoes that had perfectly cooked oyster mushrooms tossed into it which added the most divine layer of earthiness to the dish. The raw vegetables were served with a warm anchovy sauce was as dramatic as it was divine.

The experience was memorable. I've never been to a more intimate restaurant in the city and I love the fact that it's a well kept secret amongst serious foodies!