Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thai Chicken Curry Soup

This is quite simple to make; everything cooks in one pot, even! It's tasty as a soup, or add just a bit less chicken broth, and it's great over rice (omitting the vermicelli noodles).

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 package rice vermicelli, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt
  1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and the curry paste. Cook until the onions have softened and the mixture is fragrant.
  2. Add in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce by 1/2.
  3. Add the coconut milk, chicken, bell pepper and the remainder of the chicken broth. Cook until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Add the rice vermicelli; cook until softened. Add the basil and juice from 1/2 a lime. Season with salt.
  5. Taste it!! Too thick? Add more chicken stock. Not enough curry flavour? Add more curry paste! And then ... enjoy! :)

Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto and Citrus Cream Sauce

This is one I make fairly regularly ... it's FAST, it's EASY, and it's TASTY!! I do find the sauce is a bit thin in the beginning, but it will thicken as it cools. Plus, I add a good amount of cheese to thicken it more (and add more flavour!).

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed (I ran out of peas so chopped asparagus to pea-sized pieces and mixed both in)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 box fusilli or penne pasta
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto, torn
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add broth. Simmer over medium-high heat until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Add cream, lemon peel, orange peel, and cayenne. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add peas; simmer just until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in prosciutto and lemon juice, and about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return pasta to pot. Toss pasta with sauce to coat. Serve with additional Parmesan to top. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Eggs and Fontina Artichoke Toast with Frisee Salad and Asparagus

I do love a good breakfast ... who doesn't?! While there are favourites that please just about everyone, this morning I thought I'd treat it a bit like dinner, and have proper vegetable sides to go with my protein and starch. And, cooking the eggs in brown butter makes for such nutty, flavourful eggs. I promise you'll love them!

Ham & Pork Meatloaf

Alright so there's no way around this one .... it doesn't look all that pretty. In fact, it kinda looks like Clik or Spam. Like, really. BUT ... it's actually very tasty (not just my opinion), it's cheap to make, I would argue it's rather healthy and it'll serve a family of 4 (or, in my case, a family of 1, co-workers, and leftovers!).

The Easiest Skillet Mac & Cheese

I came up with this one after watching an episode of 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' where the restauranteur just made the sauce in one skillet, without first making a roux. It looked so easy, I thought I'd give it a whirl. And guess what?! It worked!

Ingredients (serves 4):


  • 3/4 package macaroni or other tubed pasta
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped taleggio (or fontina or another soft, sweeter cheese would work)
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere
  • 1/4 cup frehsly grated parmesan
  • additional cheese to top (use whatever cheese you want; I used parmesan)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken breast (optional)
  • 4 slices prosciutto, torn (optional)
  • truffle oil (optional, but I recommend you add it!!)
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Heat medium-sized oven-proof skillet on the stovetop. Add the cream and bring to a light rolling boil. Let thicken slightly. Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil and add pasta.
  2. Add the cheese to the cream; stir to melt completely. Add chicken and prosciutto (optional). Season with salt & pepper. Your sauce will still be a bit runny. If it's overly runny, just add more cheese or cook the cream down a bit more.
  3. Once the pasta is just under-cooked (it will cook up in the sauce; the pasta will also soak up some of the liquid of the sauce), drain and add to the cheese sauce. Top with more cheese. Place in the oven and cook until the cheese is bubbly and the top is just slightly golden.
  4. Drizzle with truffle oil & serve!

Taleggio-Stuffed, Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken

This chicken dish is quite easy to make (though you'll find the cheese, because it's soft, sticky and a bit cumbersome to stuff the chicken with - it's worth it).  The added bonus is you can make it ahead of time.  And, of course, it looks beautiful and tastes just lovely. And, your dinner guests will be impressed.


The two side dishes with this are potato pavé and roasted asparagus ... email me if you want the potato recipe. Or, just Google one. It's pretty easy to make, but you must start at the beginning of the day to allow it all the proper stages of cooking, cooling, cutting and then crisping. 

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips

This one is such a pretty presentation (if only I had enough of a different colour of bowl to show this off better!). It's a great contrast of colours with the beet chips, and they and the croutons make for a lovely crunch to compliment the smooth soup. I opted to drizzle truffle oil at the end, but this is optional.

Ingredients (serves 6; makes about 2 cups):

  • 1 large head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped leeks, white and pale green part only (note: be sure to wash these well after you've chopped them; leeks carry a lot of sand in their layers)
  • 1/4 tsp yellow curry powder
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (18%)
  • 2 cups water
  • Peanut or canola oil for deep frying
  • 1 medium red beet, peeled
  • 1 cup torn baguette
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • truffle oil (optional)

For Soup:
  1. Melt 3 tbsp butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion, cauliflower, curry and a generous pinch of salt (about 2 tsp). Cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the milk, cream and water to the vegetables. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Skim off the foam from time to time.
  3. Remove soup from heat. If you have an immersion blender, use that to blend the soup into a smooth puree. If not, working in batches, blend in a blender. Put soup back in the saucepan and keep warm (note: it may require stirring and skimming of the foam from time to time; be careful not to heat it too high).

For Croutons:
  1. Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil on medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Toss croutons in the oil and season with 1 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. At this point, you can choose to toast the croutons in the pan, or in the oven. Either way, you just want them to be golden and crunchy.

For the Beet Chips:
  1. Slice the beet paper thin, preferably using a mandoline. Place oil into a medium saucepan so it's about 1" deep. Heat to 300 degrees or when you drop a tiny amount of water in it bubbles and evaporates immediately.
  2. Working in small batches, carefully drop the beet chips, one by one, into the hot oil. I did about 4 beet chips at time. They will bubble quite aggressively when you first put them in; be careful not to stand straight over the pot. Allow them to cook until the bubbling has just subsided and remove (because they're thin, there is a fine line on how much time they can stay in before they burn). Using a sieve or slotted spoon, remove the chips and place them on a paper towel. Season with salt.

Pour the soup into bowls. Mound a small amount of croutons into the middle of the bowl. Top with some beet chips. Drizzle with truffle oil and enjoy!

Ricotta Stuffed Tomato salad with Olive Vinaigrette

This is from one of my newer favourite cookbooks, Stir. It does require some patience (hollowing a tomato requires some delicate work), and it's best if you have a good mandoline to slice the radishes (I got a new one - Benriner brand from Japan). But, it's such a beautiful presentation and the taste is delightful. So go ahead and try it!

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 6 ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom yellow or green, peeled (see below)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh ricotta (not the stuff you get at Loblaws - go to a cheese monger or make it yourself)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 small radishes, sliced paper thin
  • 1/4 cup celery heart leaves
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves (try to use the smallest leaves first to leave them intact)
For the croutons:
  • 1 cup small cubes of good bread (I used baguette, but brioche would be good, too)
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
For the vinaigrette:
  • 2 tbsp golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise or other good black olives, pitted and chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or mild olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar as a substitute) 
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

For Vinaigrette:
Soak the raisins in hot water for 15minutes to plump them, then drain. In a small bowl, combine the all ingredients and whisk with a fork. This can be made a couple days ahead; just cover and refrigerate; bring to room temp before using.

For Croutons:
  1. Heat oven to 325F. Heat the olive oil over low heat; add the saffron and gently cook for about 1 minute to infuse the oil. Add the croutons and salt and toss to coat.
  2. Spread out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until golden and crunchy (about 10-15 minutes)

To peel the Tomatoes:
  1. Cut a small X in the bottom of the tomato, just through the skin (not the meat of the tomato). Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Have a large bowl of icewater (it's important you actually put ice in the water) beside.
  2. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds or until the skin starts to buckle. With a sieve or slotted spoon, transfer to the ice bath. The skin will then easily peel off.

For the salad:
  1. With a sharp knife, hollow out each tomato. Start by cutting a hole about the size of a quarter at its stem end and removing the core. Next, use a knife to cut out the membranes on the wall and discard those. Seed the tomato by using the handle of a spoon to flick out the seeds. Note: you don't need it to be PERFECTLY hollow ... I had some core left; you should try to remove all seeds, though.
  2. Season the ricotta with salt and pepper, and put the cheese into a piping bag or use a ziploc bag and cut the corner tip off. Pipe the cheese into the tomatoes. Place cut side down onto the serving plate.
  3. Ring each tomato with the remaining ingredients (radish, celery leaves, basil, scallion and croutons). Take your time to distribute the ingredients evenly; think of the plate like a canvas you want to have various colours around to make it pleasing to the eye. Drizzle the vinaigrette around when just ready to serve. Sprinkle some sea salt or fleur de sel on the tomato and serve!

Individual Chicken Potpies

I made this for a luncheon for me and a guest ... quite simple, and so tasty! Not to mention well balanced, with a good mix of veggies and protein. Yum! Oh, this is also a Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry) recipe ... who is just about the most famous American chef. So yeah, it's good. I should also point out the recipe he provides is for one pot pie ... I chose to make them into individual pies. So, you may have to tweak this by having more or less veg & chicken to suit the size of your dishes.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 1 cup 1/2" pieces red-skinned potatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups 1/2" pieces carrots, cut on the diagonal
  • 12 white pearl onions, peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 24 black peppercorns
  • 1-1/4 cups 1/2" pieces celery, cut on the diagonal
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I just bought a rotisserie chicken from Loblaws)
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups whole milk (3%)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 egg, beaten

Make the filling:
  1. Put the carrots, potatoes and onions in small separate saucepans. Fill with enough water to just cover. Add 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig and 8 peppercorns to each pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook the veg until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Drain the vegetables, discard the thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns and spread on a plate to cool. Cut the onions in quarters, leaving the stem end intact so they hold together.
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the celery and cook until just crisp-tender, about 1-1.5 minutes. Drain and run under very cold water to stop the cooking (or put into an ice bath). Add to the other vegetables.
  4. Add the shredded cooked chicken to the vegetable mixture. Season with salt and pepper. 

Make the bechamel sauce:
  1. Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking. You want to be careful not to brown the mixture.
  2. Whisk in the milk gradually, and heat to a gentle simmer, whisking often, until the consistency is like barely runny yogurt and coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, parsley and cayenne. 

Assemble the pies:
  1. Heat oven to 375F. Divide the veg/chicken mixture evenly into individual oven-proof dishes so they're about 3/4 full (you'll need room for the bechamel sauce and the puff pastry on top. 
  2. Add even amounts of bechamel sauce to each pie and stir to integrate. You want it to be saucy and a little wet but not swimming in the bechamel.
  3. Roll out the pastry dough and cut into sizes to fit over the tops of your individual dishes, with enough to just overhang (the pastry will seal the dishes). Cover each dish. Cut a small V into the middle of each pastry to let the steam vent. Brush lightly with the egg wash.
  4. Place in the oven and bake until the pastry is golden, about 40 minutes. Allow to sit for a couple minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Cheddar, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Biscuits

The brilliant thing about this recipe is you can make it just about any filling you want. The original recipe called for bacon, cheddar & chive. You could do almost any cheese (parmesan or gouda would be good substitutes), and the herb or 'filler' variations are endless. Mix it up!

Poutine!

This is one of my all-time favourite fast foods.  Having grown up in Timmins, Ontario, I have tasted my fair share of poutine and can safely call myself a connoisseur.  You can dress it up with things like braised beef or foie gras or peppercorn gravy, but to me, nothing beats the classic.


Ingredients (serves 4):


  • 6 large russet potatoes
  • 2 cups fresh cheese curds
  • 3 cups homemade beef stock
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt & pepper

For the gravy:
  1. Melt 1tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and thyme (full sprigs). Sauté until the shallots are just golden.
  2. Add the wine, and turn up the heat to a boil. Reduce wine by 1/2. Discard the thyme and turn the heat down until you're ready for the next step.
  3. In a separate saucepan, melt 3 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, constantly stirring, until it smells a slightly nutty and no longer tastes floury (about 5-8 minutes). This is your roux.
  4. Slowly add about 1 cup beef stock to the roux, whisking constantly so you have no lumps. Add mixture to wine/shallot saucepan, and add in the rest of the stock, whisking to incorporate. Bring to a boil and reduce until it's the consistency you want - my gravy is a bit thinner than some gravies (about the consistency of slightly warm yogurt), so it's up to you how thick you want it. Note: you may need to add more flour to make it less runny ... if this is the case, mix flour, a pinch of salt, and water in a small bowl to make a thin paste ... add that to your gravy to thicken.
  5. Taste it!! It will likely need salt. If it's not the depth of flavour you want, reduce it more to concentrate the flavours. Also, if you happen to have veal or beef demiglace handy, you can add that to increase body. Finish the gravy with the last nob of butter. This will give it a nice sheen and a more velvety texture.

Note: gravy can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Just re-heat in a saucepan at medium-low heat.

For the fries:
  1. Peel and wash the potatoes. Cut into equal-sized matchsticks (mine were about 1/2" thick). Immerse them in cold water until you're ready to cook them.
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes until they are just barely UNDER-done. Drain and let cool slightly. They can hang out for a couple hours like this. The drier they are, the better.
  3. In a large pot, fill us 1/3 (no more than 1/2 full or the oil will boil over and you'll burn yourself) with vegetable oil. Heat oil to 375 (use a candy thermometer to check the temp). Working in small batches, carefully lower potatoes into the hot oil with a sieve and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are golden brown. 

Note: if your oil is too hot, you'll just burn the potatoes and they may not finish cooking through. If the oil isn't hot enough, they will be soggy and oily. Feel free to use a deep fryer if you have one. You will also need to be sure to let the oil return to 375 between batches.

To assemble poutine, put a layer of fries in a bowl. Add a handful of cheese curds. Repeat layers (I usually just do 2 layers). Top with hot gravy and enjoy!!

Pizze di Polpettini e Sage

So, I frequent a local pizza place, Lil' Baci. On their menu is a "polpettino" pizza that I enjoy. Polpettini are essentially mini meatballs. Soooo ... I decided to recreate it (with my own twist). The sausage came from Sanagan's in Kensinton market. Totally worth the trek. Also, this is a recipe for fresh pizza dough, but you can always use a pre-made crust if you don't have time (but try to make the time - makes a BIG difference!)

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 150ml tepid water (luke warm) 
  • 1 tsp sugar 
  • 2 level tsp dried yeast (the 8gm package, if you buy it that way)
  • 225g plain flour (plus extra for working) 
  • 1½ tsp salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for the toppings:
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (good quality stuff!)
  • 1 mild Italian pork sausage, removed from its casing & formed into small balls (haha - I said balls) ... you don't need to pre-cook it.
  • 4-5 sage leaves, roughly torn
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • pizza sauce (you can make your own very easily from some diced tomatoes, garlic, onion and salt; just cook it down until the liquid is mostly evaporated.  This time, I used some prepared tomato sauce)
  • cornmeal (to put on the pizza stone - helps the pizza dough from sticking)

MAKE THE DOUGH (makes enough for 2 pizzas):
  1. Measure the water into a bowl. Add the sugar and yeast into the liquid, then swirl the liquid until sugar and yeast are dissolved. Allow the mixture to stand for 10-15 minutes in a warm place until froth develops on the surface.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour the yeast liquid in. Lightly oil or flour your hands and gradually incorporate the flour and liquid until they bind together.
  3. Sprinkle your work surface generously with flour. Place the dough onto your work surface. Begin kneading and after about 5-10 minutes the doughball should become smooth and silky, soft and supple.
  4. Leave the dough to rise, then ‘knock it back’ (this releases large air bubbles which otherwise make the pizza uneven). Rub a little oil or flour on your fingers and slide them down the side of the bowl, reaching down and underneath the dough. Gently lift up the dough and punch it down again. Divide the dough into two equal sections. If you aren't using the dough for the second pizza, wrap it in plastic wrap & freeze it.
  5. Pre-heat the pizza stone (if you have one) in the oven at 500F.
  6. Sprinkle your work surface with some additional flour. Roll out the dough until it's quite thin (or to however you like your crust to be).

MAKE THE PIZZA:
  1. Dress the pizza with a scant amount of pizza sauce. Top with cheese, then onion, then sage. Finish with the polpettini (mini meatballs).
  2. Scatter cornmeal onto the pizza stone.  Place in the oven on the stone for about 7-8 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown, and the crust is golden underneath.
  3. Slice and EAT IT!!

Pasta with Olive and Pine Nut Salsa


This is a SUPER easy and fast dish ... the only thing that requires cooking is the pasta. I traditionally make it with spaghetti or capellini for dinner, but this one was for a pasta salad for a group, so went for the smaller tubes.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup chopped black olives, pitted (don't go for the canned ones - they lack the flavour)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped capers
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I usually add more since I like the heat!)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large handful of spaghetti (or whatever pasta you want to use to serve about 4 people
  1. Combine the first six ingredients in the dish you'll use to serve.
  2. Cook the pasta to al dente (or however you like it done ... I'm accused of under-cooking it by some)
  3. Toss and serve! I sometimes grate some fresh parmesan on top, but go with whatever you like. Bon appetito!

Poached egg with ham on English muffin with basil oil and sauteed mushrooms

A super-simple breakfast dish; the real stars of this are the basil oil and the shaved parmesan. Now you're ready to start your day!!

Ingredients (for 2):

  • 4 eggs (or 2, if you only want 1 per person)
  • 4 pieces country ham or peameal bacon
  • small bunch of fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly
  • 8-10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 english muffins
  • fresh parmesan
  • coarse sea salt, and pepper
  • olive oil
  • splash of white vinegar
  1.  Preheat oven to 150 (to keep things heated if you're not working quickly enough). Toast the English muffins and keep warm in the oven. 
  2. Heat a small skillet on medium-high. Add a drizzle of oil. Cook the ham until just browned on each side. Place on top of English muffin.
  3. In the same skillet on high heat, cook the mushrooms in a bit of olive oil and butter until browned.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a medium or large sized pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a splash of vinegar. Stir the water in a circular motion and carefully crack the eggs and drop into the middle of the swirling water (this will help the whites keep shape). Cook until the whites are just set and the yolk is still runny; about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. and place atop the ham on the muffin.
  5. Place chopped basil in a mortar and pestle. Add a good glug of olive oil and some coarse sea salt. Mash until well incorporated. 
  6. Time to plate! Place the mushrooms on the plate any way you like. Top the egg with basil oil and shaved parmesan. Season with salt & pepper. Enjoy!

Cheeseburger Pie

Ok parents, this one's for you. My mom used to make it for my brother and I, and I STILL love it. The recipe makes 2 pies, so you can eat one now and freeze the other (the one shown in the picture here was frozen) for later. There's nothing fancy about it, but paired with a salad, makes for a super yummy (and economical) meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb extra lean hamburger meat (you can use the fattier stuff, you'll just need to drain more fat)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup, though I like it with a bit more ... good news is you can taste the cooked mixture before you put it in the pie, so decide for yourself!
  • 2 tsp dried minced onion (or about 1/2 a small white onion, minced)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil (about double if it's fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram (same note as above)
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (again, I usually add more, but up to you! ... and I use extra old cheddar for a sharper flavour)
  • frozen pie shells
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fully browned. Drain any fat. 
  2. Mix in all other ingredients (don't do egg first or it'll just cook). Mix well and taste it! Now's the time to add more cheese or ketchup or seasoning :)
  3. Put the mixture into the pie shells (there will be 2 in each package). Place in the over, uncovered, until the pie shell is golden brown - about 25 minutes.
Note: if you don't need to cook both pies at once, don't put the second one in the oven. Just wait for it to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and then with foil and put it in the freezer. Reheat with the foil on (not the plastic wrap!) at 425 degrees for about an hour or until heated through. Remove the foil for the last 20 minutes to brown the shell.

Spaghetti with Pesto, Goat Cheese, Asparagus and Artichokes

This one was just made up on the spot ... I had some fresh pasta ... I had some asparagus ... I love artichoke, and I bought some goat cheese! I also added some dill to this, which I quite enjoyed but it's totally up to you.

Ingredients:

  • 3 artichoke hearts, chopped to bite-size
  • 8-10 asparagus, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp fresh pesto (I had basil pesto)
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 package fresh spaghetti (or whatever pasta you want)
  • reserve some of the pasta water
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Put the oil in a large saucepan (for this recipe, I used the oil from the freshly marinated artichoke hearts ... if you buy canned ones, just use regular olive oil). Heat on medium low and add the asparagus, artichoke hearts, dill and pesto. Note: because the asparagus is so thin, you really just need to heat it up, not cook it for a long time.
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water. When cooked, transfer with tongs to the saucepan. Add the goat cheese and enough of the pasta water to create a sauce.
  3. Serve with parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Note: to make the little "roll" of pasta you see here, I simply rolled the pasta around a large carving fork. Kinda like a giant dinner fork, but it makes for pretty plating

Chicken Marsala with Mushy Peas

I loooooove mushrooms. And booze. And chicken. And cream. The solution? Chicken Marsala!! Marsala is an Italian fortified wine you can find at the liquor store. As for the mushy peas? Well, I like peas ... and for these, I added a few twists: asparagus and pesto. The result? Delish!!

For the Chicken Marsala:

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used Oyster, Cremini and Shitake ... with Oyster mushrooms, you can just tear them ... it's kind of fun to do)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves; I used the filets or butterflied ones - they're already thin and cook quickly
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (whipping cream, but you could use 18%)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F.
  2. Bring broth to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, then boil, uncovered, until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes.
  3. Cook shallot in 3 tablespoons butter in an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Put flour in a wide shallow bowl. Gently pound chicken to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin (only do this step if you didn't buy the butterflied breasts).
  5. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, 1 piece at a time, shaking off excess. 
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon each of oil and butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté half of chicken, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer cooked chicken to a large heatproof platter, arranging in 1 layer, then put platter in oven to keep warm. If the leftover oil & butter is burnt, wipe out skillet with paper towels and cook remaining chicken in same manner, then transfer to oven, arranging in 1 layer.
  7. To the skillet you just used, add 1/2 cup wine to skillet and boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 30 seconds. Add reduced broth, cream, and mushrooms, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons wine and 1/2 teaspoon sage.
  8. Serve chicken with sauce.

For the peas:

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp pesto (can be store-bought or home made ... this ingredient is also optional, but I really liked the flavour complexity it added)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6-8 spears of asparagus, chopped about 1/4" thick (around the size of a pea)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • squeeze of a fresh lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Boil water in a small saucepan; add the peas and cook until just heated through - about 1 minute. Drain the peas and set aside about a handful of them. 
  2. Return the rest of the peas to the pot. Add butter and cream and puree with a hand blender or mixer until smooth (small chunks are OK). Add the remaining whole peas back in, along with the pesto.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and asparagus. Season with salt. Cook until just al dente. Add asparagus to the pea mixture.
  4. Squeeze lemon juice in to taste.
Plate and serve!!

Welsh Rarebit


This is a traditional British dish ... I'd had it once before in Toronto at Madeline's, served as an appetizer with a duxelle. The dish (normally minus the duxelle) is really just a cheese sauce on toast. It's very quick and easy to make. It might not look the prettiest, but damn is it a cheesy, savoury delight!

The Freshest Veggie Salad

This is one my friend Brooke made once at the cottage, and has since become my staple veggie salad to feed a group. You can make it almost any size and with just about any vegetable you like. From Brooke's original version, I've made a few modifications ... feel free to make your own, too :)

Ingredients

  • 4 Roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1/2 a cucumber
  • 2 avocados
  • 8-12 spears of asparagus
  • 3/4 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
  • about 1-1/2 tsp salt
  1. Chop all the vegetables into similar bit sizes. For the tomatoes and cucumber, I remove the seeds because they can be a bit bitter, but also because they add too much water (which is why roma tomatoes are best ... they have the least amount of seeds)
  2. Bring salted water to a boil.  Add the chopped asparagus and blanch for about 30 seconds.  Drain & put into an icebath or run immediately under very cold water to stop the cooking.  The should be just softened but still with a good crunch.
  3. Combine all ingredients, toss and season with salt to taste. Enjoy!

Blackened Steak Salad with Sautéed Mushrooms

This is so quick and easy ... promise. It's flavourful and a really great salad-meal. Plus, you could swap out the beef for chicken or pork, and mix and match just about any veggies you want.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large striploin (to serve 2)
  • baby arugula (or any lettuce you have handy)
  • tomatoes, sliced
  • ripe avocado, sliced
  • blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • butter
  • 3 parts olive oil
  • 1 part good balsamic
  • about 1 tsp dijon mustard
  1. Combine the first 7 ingredients, and then coat the steak in the rub. Melt about 2 tbsp butter, and pour it over the steak to coat.
  2. Heat a skillet on high; add the steak. Cook until blackened on each side (about 2 minutes per side), and until cooked to desired doneness. Remember to let your meat rest after you've done cooking it - it'll cook up a bit during this process.
  3. Wipe the skillet clean; add about 1 tbsp butter and the mushrooms and shallot on high heat. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms are browned and have released their water (note: mushrooms like high heat!!). Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Combine the vinegar and dijon in a small bowl (for 2 people, I'd use 1-1/2 tbsp vinegar, and about 1 tsp dijon). Slowly add in the olive oil, whisking. If you add in the olive oil last and in a slow stream, constantly whisking, you'll emulsify the dressing (i.e. it won't separate to oil & vinegar). Taste it. Too vinegary? Add more oil. Not enough bite? Add more dijon. Play around with it. Then, dress the arugula with the dressing (lightly).
  5. Now, it's time to arrange the salad. Put the arugula on the plate, add tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese. Then, thinly slice the steak and place on top. Top with mushrooms and enjoy!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers, Watercress and Coconut Rice


This is one I had at a restaurant years ago, and loved it so much I recreated it at home. This time I added two things: my own basil oil, and coconut cubes (basically coconut jello ... the coconut milk with gelatin). The basil part is a must, the coconut gelatin squares are entirely optional ;)

Ingredients:
  • 2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 cups of watercress
  • 1-1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 bunch of basil, thoroughly washed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing the chicken
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, crushed (not ground to a pulp, though - a few chunks is nice)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 egg white (optional - I used it to coat the nuts so they made a paste to stick to the chicken better, but you can go without ... I've done it both ways)

There are a few things you can make ahead: the basil oil and the roasted red peppers. You certainly don't have to, though. Here are those two steps first:
  1. Place basil leaves in boiling, salted water. Blanch for 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and squeeze out as much water as possible. Put into blender with olive oil. Blend until the basil is fully incorporated. You can choose to put this through a sieve to remove some of the little chunks, but I didn't. Totally up to you how clear you want the oil to be. This can be refrigerated for up to a few days.
  2. Put your oven on broil (500 degrees). Put the pepper on the top rack under the broiler and let the skin burn, turning to burn on all sides. Remove from oven and put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (this sweats the pepper to easily remove the skin). Once it's cool enough to handle, remove the skin and core/seeds. Cut into thin strips. You can make this up to 2 days ahead - keep refrigerated.

Okay, now for the other parts ...
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Heat a large oven-proof skillet on high heat with about 2 tbsp of olive oil until hot but not smoking. Put chicken in skillet, skin side down. Leave it there until you can easily turn it over and the skin is a deep golden brown (but not burnt!). If you can't easily turn the chicken over, it's not ready to be turned. Once you turn it over, let it cook on the bone side for about 2-3 more minutes. Then, put the skillet in the oven to cook the chicken through (about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts). About 8 minutes before they're done, take them out of the oven and top with the macadamia nuts (which can be previously coated in egg white or not). Put back in the oven to finish cooking. If when the chicken is done you find the nuts are not a little golden, turn your broiler on and toast them up that way.
  2. Put the jasmine rice and coconut milk in a saucepan. You'll need double the liquid to the amount of rice (3 cups in this case), so if you don't have enough coconut milk, add water. It doesn't really matter if you use all coconut milk or a blend, but just make sure if you are using water that there's at least 1/2 of the liquid as the coconut milk. Bring to a boil (uncovered). Once it boils, turn the heat to low, put a lid on it, and simmer until cooked through (about 10-15 minutes). The rice will be a bit gluey, but super tasty. I add in some salt & butter to finish it, but totally your call to add this or not.
  3. Put the watercress in a saucepan or skillet with a touch of olive oil. Heat on medium until wilted. At this point, you want to make sure your basil oil and red peppers are out. Heat the red peppers in the microwave or on medium-low heat in a skillet.
  4. To plate, put the rice on the dish, top with watercress and then roasted red pepper. Top with the chicken and drizzle the plate in basil oil. Enjoy!!

p.s. - if you want to make the coconut cubes, just get plain gelatin and follow the package instructions. I think I used 1/2 cup of coconut milk and 1/2tsp of gelatin, and left it overnight to firm up. I then cut it into cubes in the tray and lifted it out with a small spatula. Don't take them out of the fridge too early or they'll melt :)

Tagliolini with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Pine Nuts

I do love a good, creamy pasta dish. This one isn't too heavy, and comes with some of my favourite vegetables (not to mention the cheese and just a hint of heat). For the pasta, I used PC brand, but you can use any long pasta like pappardelle or linguine. They key with any pasta dish is to match the size and shape of the pasta to the type of sauce and weight of other ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package fresh tagliolini pasta (you can use dry pasta, too)
  • 7-8 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off and cut thinly on the bias (diagonally)
  • 15 or so cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, small dice
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust as you like)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (I used 18%, but 35% is fine, too)
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter (unsalted is best)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Put a large pot on the stove, filled with hot water. Heat on high and bring to a boil. While the water is heating up ...
  2. Put olive oil in large skillet and heat on medium-high. Once hot, add the onion and red pepper flakes. Stir so you don't scortch the onion. Once the onion has softened, add the mushroom. Turn up to high and cook until mushrooms have released their liquid and have just started to brown.
  3. Add in chicken broth and asparagus. Boil until the broth is slightly reduced. Add in cream and turn down to medium so you don't burn it. Bring to a slow boil and let thicken slightly. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Cook the pasta - if it's fresh, it'll only need a minute or so. Otherwise, cook according to instructions or 'till it's done to your liking (I prefer it a tad al dente).
  5. Add pine nuts, basil and parmesan to sauce. Toss with pasta and serve immediately with more parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste. Delish!

Pickerel with Fried Chickpeas, Spinach and Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce

I'd been cottaging all weekend (read: eating and drinking in excess), so felt inspired to make something healthy and tasty. Pickerel happens to be my favourite fish, but you could substitue for just about any mild whitefish (e.g. tilapia or cod or haddock).

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 large fillet of fresh pickerel, skin on, cut into single-sized portions
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 large bunch of spinach (remember it MAJORLY reduces when it's cooked)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • juice from one lemon (freshly squeezed!)
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  1. Put cream, lemon juice and wine into a small saucepan on high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce by 1/2. Turn heat down to low. Melt 4 tbsp butter and add to cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Sauce: done. Set aside on low heat to keep warm.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in medium oven-proof saucepan on medium-high heat. Season fish. Once butter has melted, add fish in, skin side down. Cook until skin is crispy and golden brown (about 3 minutes). Pop into oven while you do the rest (but keep an eye so as not to overcook). Note: you don't need to flip the fish over - just cook on skin side.
  3. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil on high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chickpeas and cook, turning once or twice, until just golden. Season with salt and set aside.
  4. Wilt spinach with a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat.
  5. Place spinach, then chickpeas onto a plate. Top with pickerel and drizzle with lemon beurre blanc. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Risotto with Spinach and Pine Nuts

In one word: comfort food. Risotto is so versatile and although it does require near-constant stirring, is actually incredibly easy to make. This one is perfect for one of fall's favourite vegetables: the squash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (seeds discarded)
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup good dry white wine
  • about 6 cups of low-sodium chicken stock, heated in a saucepan
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 3-4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp pine nuts
  • parmesan cheese (none of the pre-grated stuff!)
  • olive oil
  • butter (about 2 tbsp)
  • salt & pepper
  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat until golden (careful not to burn these puppies - they're expensive!). Set aside.
  2. Place a large pan on medium-high heat and add about 2tbsp olive oil. Heat until hot but not smoking. Add in the butternut squash and cook until just browned on both sides. Be careful not to overcook - you don't want them mushy. Season with salt & pepper and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter with about 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the rice and cook, stirring until the rice sounds like glass beads (about a minute or so).
  4. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine has almost evaporated. Then, add the heated chicken stock a couple ladlefuls at a time. This is where the stirring comes in (or you'll end up with rice instead of creamy risotto). Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated but you're not scraping the rice off the bottom of the pan. Continue to add in stock a bit at a time. Just keep adding and stirring until the rice is almost cooked through - you want it a bit al dente. You should have a slighly creamy liquid around the risotto (that's the starch it's released). Note: if you run out of stock before the rice is done, just use water. I promise it won't change a thing.
  5. Once the rice is done - just barely al dente - add in a pat of butter (adds a nice sheen), and toss in the pine nuts, squash and spinach. Cook until spinach has wilted and everything is heated through. 
  6. Stir in about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan. Serve immediately (or it will be a gluey mess) with additional parmesan to add as desired. Enjoy!

Roasted Pesto Cauliflower

This one is stolen from a dish at Momofuku in NYC. It was served there with boquerones (Spanish word for anchovy, which in this case was cured in vinegar), but boquerones are very hard to find in Toronto ... at least as far as I can tell. Nonetheless, this is a delish way to serve up cauliflower.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • chili oil
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 package fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parmesan, chopped roughly
  • 2 medium-sized cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • red chili pepper flakes
  1. Toss cauliflower lightly in olive oil and chili oil (about 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp chili oil). Season with salt & pepper. You now have 3 choices: cook on the BBQ (as was done here), cook in a skillet, or cook in the oven. Either way, the temperature needs to be relatively hot so you can get some colour on the cauliflower without cooking the crap out of it ... you want to retain some crunch!
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Tear up the basil leaves and place into a small chopper. Add pine nuts, about 1/2 tsp of salt, parmesan, garlic and about 2tbsp olive oil. Pulse until chopped finely and fully combined.
  3. Once cauliflower is done, transfer to a skillet (unless you opted to cook in a skillet), and add the pesto. Toss until combined & heated through. Add chili pepper flakes. Serve & enjoy!

Super Tasty One-Hour Ribs

I'm always on a quest for a better rib recipe. Some call for marinating overnight, others call for looooong slow cooking. But these? Ready in an hour, complete with homemade BBQ sauce. Lip-smakin' goodness. That is all.

Free-Form Onion Tart

So, it started like this: I have a lot of onions. And, I need to eat. I have been watching a fair number of French food-related things on TV, so felt compelled to try this tart. It's savoury and fills the house with the most manificent smell of fresh pastry and sweet, carmelized onion. This would be great as a light dinner paired with a salad, or cut it up into small wedges as an appetizer. Note: I didn't carmelize my onions quite enough ... they should be darker than this. Still delish!

Grilled Maréchal & Roast Beef Sandwich with Carmelized Onions, Sauteed Mushrooms and Thyme

On my most recent visit to Leslieville Cheese, owner Michael introduced me to Maréchal cheese. It's a raw cow's milk cheese whose rind is rubbed in herbs during the ripening process. It's just delicious, and so I was inspired to make something with it. Rowe Farms roast beef made a perfect accompaniment!

Ingredients (makes 1 sandwich):

  • Maréchal cheese (you could substitute for aged cheddar or appenzeller if you can't find maréchal)
  • 4-5 slices of good roast beef (I used Rowe Farms)
  • 2 slices of ciabatta bread
  • 1/4 white onion, sliced
  • 5-6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • grainy dijon mustard
  • mayonnaise
  • butter, olive oil, salt & pepper
  1. Heat a pat of butter & about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until butter has melted. Add in onion and sugar. Let cook until onions are golden & soft (will take about 20 minutes). Don't rush the onion or let burn - you may have to turn your burner down to medium-low.
  2. Once onion is done, transfer to plate. In the same skillet, add another small pat of butter & mushrooms. Cook on medium-high until mushrooms are browned. Near the end, add the leaves from the thyme sprig.
  3. Meanwhile, start assembling the sandwich! Place slices of cheese on either side of the sandwich (helps keep it together when melted). Spread dijon and mayonnaise on lightly or as you like it. Add roast beef slices and carmelized onion. Season with salt & pepper. Top with mushrooms when done. Butter both sides of the sandwich lightly.
  4. Place sandwich in the same skillet over medium heat. Let get golden-brown on each side, turning once (you may need to turn your burner down slightly). 
Serve and enjoy!