Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Pinwheels

Another little 'something different' to serve with drinks before dinner.  Light and fresh.

½ c flour
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
½ c milk
10 or so chives, finely sliced
1 T melted butter, for greasing fry pan

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
Zest of half a lemon
1 t capers, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of salt
100 g smoked salmon or gravlax
6 asparagus spears, blanched in boiling water for 1-1/2 minutes and cooled

In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt.  Whisk through to combine.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs well, then add the milk.  Add roughly half of the egg/milk mixture to the flour.  Whisk until lump-free and thick.  Gradually add the remaining, whisking after each addition.  Add the chives and stir to combine.

Preheat a (preferably non-stick) medium-sized fry pan (base approximately 17 cm wide) over medium heat.  Once hot, dip a pastry brush into the melted butter and apply a thin coating to the fry pan.  Tilting the pan away from you, add ¼ c of the batter, and immediately begin tilting the pan in a circular motion, moving the batter in the pan to cover the bottom.  Place back on the heat, and flip once the edges begin to release themselves from the sides of the pan (this will take approximately 30 seconds, depending how hot your stove is).  Cook on the second side for ten seconds or so; remove to a plate to cool.  Repeat until all the batter has been used.

Combine the filling ingredients (excluding salmon & asparagus), and mix well with a fork to combine.

Spread one-sixth of the mixture over each cooled crepe, going almost to the edge.  Place roughly one-sixth of the smoked salmon in the lower third of each crepe, and place an asparagus spear on top of the salmon.  Starting at the bottom edge, roll each crepe up tightly to enclose its ingredients.

Wrap each snugly in a piece of cling film, and refrigerate until well-chilled.  Remove cling film, cut a centimeter or so off each end (cook’s treat), and slice the remaining into five pieces, either straight across or on the bias.     

Can be made the day ahead; makes 30 pieces.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Perfect Poached Chicken

King Henry IV of France famously stated, ‘I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday’. Okay, that may be somewhat paraphrased, but you see where I am going.

For a lot of people, roast chicken is their ultimate Sunday dinner.  Personally, I’ve never been partial to roast chicken.  Sure, I often roast chicken legs or thighs, and they turn out wonderfully, but when it comes to a whole bird though, there’s something about roasting that disagrees with me.  It always seems too rich and greasy, no matter how it’s cooked or by whom.  

Taking King Henry up on his thought of chicken in a pot, I began experimenting with poaching chicken a while back; it’s now my favourite way of dealing with a whole bird.  This method produces chicken which is unbelievably moist and flavourful.  I can honestly say I’ve never had such delicious chicken; I think the quick cooling method is the secret.

We eat this year-round, but it's particularly nice in the heat of the summer.

1 3 lb / 1.5 kg (+/-) chicken
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
1 stalk celery
1 carrot, peeled and cut in chunks
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove string from chicken, if tied.  Place chicken in Dutch oven, followed by remaining ingredients.  Add enough water to cover (or as much as will fit comfortably).

Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to simmer and cook for forty minutes.  Remove from heat and set timer for two hours. 

At the end of the two hours, place the covered pot in a sink.  Add a tray of ice cubes to the sink, and fill up the sink with cold water until it’s roughly the same level as the liquid in the pot.  Allow to sit for at least half an hour, or until liquid surrounding chicken is cooled to roughly body temperature.

Take the chicken out of the liquid, and remove the meat from it's bones (I just use my hands). Eat as is, use in recipes calling for cooked chicken, or make the best chicken sandwiches ever.

Radicchio Salad with Chick Peas

This hearty, flavourful salad pairs well with Italian entrees; it was an excellent side to eggplant Parmigiana.    

¾ head radicchio, cut into 1 cm dice
2 green onions, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tomato, de-seeded and diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 can 19 oz / 540 ml chick peas, drained and rinsed
Small handful parsley, finely chopped (optional)

½ c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1 t salt
1 t sugar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine salad ingredients in medium bowl and toss.  Mix dressing ingredients together in a jar, and shake well to combine.  Toss salad with dressing (you may not need it all).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Indian-Style Carrot Salad

This goes very well as a side to curries.  The yogurt in the dressing provides cooling properties, and the light, fresh flavours pair nicely, even if your curry is quite aggressive.

2 c shredded carrots (lightly packed)
1 green onion, sliced
¼ c chopped cilantro
3 T raisins
1 t cumin seeds
1 t black mustard seeds
2 T slivered blanched almonds

½ c plain yogurt
½ t turmeric
Juice of ½ lime
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ t sugar
Pinch salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put carrots in medium bowl; toss with green onion and cilantro.

Pour boiling water over the raisins, and let rehydrate for 20 minutes.

In a small fry pan, toast the cumin and mustard seeds over medium heat until fragrant; sprinkle over carrots.  Toast the almonds in the same fry pan over medium heat until lightly browned; set aside to cool.

Once 20 minutes has elapsed, drain the raisins and pat dry with a paper towel.  Add to carrot mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, turmeric, lime juice, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine.

Pour over carrot mixture and stir well to combine.  Sprinkle with almonds and additional cilantro, if desired.

Serves four as a side.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Baked Salami Cups with Antipasto Salad

I'm always looking for different appetizer ideas to accompany cocktails when we're entertaining. These take a little time, but they're sure to impress.  

The salami cups can be made early the day of, provided they're left out at room temperature. Don't fill them until right before you're ready to serve.

1 Roma tomato, seeded & diced
¼ c marinated artichoke hearts, diced
¼ c roasted red pepper, diced
8 or so oil-cured black olives, diced
¼ c finely diced Parmesan cheese
1 T olive oil
1 t dried oregano (or 1 T fresh)
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
2 T chopped parsley (optional)
24 salami slices (approx 8 cm diameter)
Basil leaves for garnish (optional)

An hour or two before serving, combine tomato, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, black olives, Parmesan, olive oil, oregano, garlic and parsley in a small bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Cover and leave at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350o.

Line each section of a mini muffin tin with a slice of salami, gently pressing to form it to the shape of the cup.  Roll up enough small balls of tin foil (about the size of a ping-pong ball) to put into each cup (this will help hold the shape of the salami as it bakes).

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until crisp; drain on paper towels and cool to room temperature. 

Fill each cup with the antipasto mixture, and garnish with a basil leaf, if using.  Serve immediately.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Big Pot of Deliciousness: Cabbage Soup

On a recent trip to Cuba, one of the topics we often discussed was food.  Not surprising, seeing that one of our travel companions is a chef, and we're equally obsessed with food.

Oddly enough, it was cold-weather food we talked about most; those hearty, rib-sticking foods that are the equivalent of a warm hug. We both had lists in our minds of foods we wanted to cook once we got back home; this is one which was on both of ours.      

2 t vegetable oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 medium cabbage, thinly sliced
3/4 t dried thyme
1 t paprika
1 t caraway seeds
1 large bay leaf
1 t sugar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 398 ml can diced tomatoes*
900 ml low-sodium chicken stock
900 ml low-sodium beef stock
1 T lemon juice

In a Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add oil, celery, carrots & onion.  Saute for a few minutes to soften. Add cabbage and continue to saute until cabbage is wilted.

Add the thyme, paprika, caraway, bay leaf, sugar and salt & pepper.  Stir will to combine.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for an hour.

Like most soups & stews, this is best made the day before if time permits.

*If your tomatoes are in juice as opposed to puree, add 2 T tomato paste

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lazy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Have a craving for cabbage rolls, but the thought of making them puts you off?.  This casserole provides all the flavour, for a fraction of the effort.

1 lb lean ground beef, turkey, pork or sausage meat
1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 398 ml can diced tomatoes*
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 soup can water
½ medium head cabbage, cut in 1 cm slices
½ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 t caraway seeds (optional)
3 T lemon juice
½ cup long grain rice

Preheat oven to 300o.

In ovenproof Dutch oven over medium heat, brown meat.

Add remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine.

Cover and bake for 1-1/2 hours, stirring twice during the cooking process.

*If your tomatoes are in juice as opposed to puree, add 2 T tomato paste