Friday, July 29, 2016

Ina's Tarragon Potato Salad: How Easy is That?

A welcome addition to any barbecue, lunch, or picnic, Potato Salad is a classic summer time favourite and considered by many to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. However Ina Garten's sensational Tarragon Potato Salad takes this humble side dish to another level. Fresh dill, tarragon, scallions, red onion, white wine vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon juice and homemade mayonnaise seasoned with fresh ground white pepper provide the creamy catalyst for cool firm Yukon Gold potatoes. Developed in Canada, Yukon Golds are a cross between a North American white potato and a wild South American yellow-fleshed one. Their golden flesh is richly flavoured and fairly firm and moist, with medium starch content. A perfect compromise between dry, fluffy russet potatoes and moist, waxy varieties, Yukon Golds are incredibly versatile and perfect in Potato Salads.

Par-boiled Yukon Gold potatoes

Tarragon Potato Salad

Serves 12
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

4 lb medium Yukon Gold potatoes

Maldon salt
2 cups good store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tarragon white wine vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
6 tbsp chopped scallions, white and green parts
6 tbsp minced red onion
1/4 cup minced tarragon
1/4 cup minced fresh dill

Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes, just until tender when pierced with a small knife or skewer. Drain in a colander. Put a kitchen towel over the colander and allow the potatoes to steam for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes or leave the skins on if you prefer. Slice into 1/2-inch thick coins and place in a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and two teaspoons of Maldon salt and white pepper. While the potatoes are still warm, pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss well. Add the scallions, red onion, tarragon and dill, and toss gently. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to develop. Sprinkle with salt and serve at room temperature. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak with Grilled Corn Salsa

This sweet and spicy seasoning blend adds layers of fragrant flavour onto grilled flank steak which is crowned with a colourful medley of grilled corn, red onion, cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro, finely chopped jalapeño and fresh squeezed lime juice, for a sensational summer lunch. Making the most of the local fresh corn and plump red tomatoes so readily available in farmer's markets during the hot humid summer months, this Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak with Grilled Corn Salsa is a light, healthy and delicious savoury salute to carefree al fresco dining.

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak with Grilled Corn Salsa
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit Magazine

Dry Rub:
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp ancho chile powder
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp English mustard powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Steak And Salsa:
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for grill
3 ears of corn, shucked
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak

Create the dry rub by combining the brown sugar, chile powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic, mustard powder, coriander, and cumin in a small bowl, and set aside.

Prepare a grill for medium-high heat and oil the grate. Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until lightly browned all over, about 8–10 minutes, then let cool. Cut the kernels from cobs and place in a medium bowl. Add the onion, jalapeño, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice to the 
corn and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper then set the salsa aside.

Meanwhile, coat the steak with all of dry rub, adding more if needed, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil to help the rub adhere. Grill the steak, turning occasionally and moving to a cooler spot on grill as needed to control flare-ups, until nicely browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 130°F, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. 
Return the steak to the grill just to re-crisp exterior, about 1 minute per side. Transfer back to a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Arrange the steak on a decorative platter and top with the salsa.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Roquefort Dressing

Celebrating simple and flavourful ingredients is what summer is all about. Red, purple, yellow or green, our abundant sweet and succulent local tomatoes and popular Heirloom varieties are among the most sought after throughout southern Ontario. There are over a hundred kinds of Heirloom tomatoes growing on vines these days, with names as unique as their looks: Sun Golds, German Stripe, Green Zebras and Black Krims. So named because the seeds have been handed down over generations, Heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. Whichever variety catches your eye, celebrate summer with this sensational fresh-off-the-vine Heirloom and Mixed Tomato Salad recipe in honour of the year's juiciest season. Topped with a rich creamy Roquefort Blue Cheese Dressing and garnished with extra tangy crumbled blue cheese, this recipe is the epitome of summer dining.

Suzanne's Heirloom Tomatoes with Blue Cheese Dressing

Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

3 lb heirloom tomatoes, mixed colours and sizes 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 pound Roquefort cheese, divided 
1 cup good mayonnaise 
1/3 cup heavy cream 
2 tsp tarragon wine vinegar 
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, optional

Core the tomatoes and cut the larger ones into thick slices; halve or quarter the small ones. Arrange artfully on a platter and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. For the dressing, place half the Roquefort cheese, the mayonnaise, heavy cream, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until combined but still chunky. Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes and crumble the remaining blue cheese overtop. Sprinkle with parsley if using, and serve at room temperature. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Suzanne's Grilled Potato Salad with Arugula & Chèvre

One of the wonderful treats of being invited to spend a weekend up north with good friends is the great company, gorgeous lakefront surroundings and the outstanding meals that everyone contributes to make the time together a joyous as well as culinary event. This tangy full-flavoured Grilled Potato Salad with Arugula, Goat Cheese and Lemon Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette was yet another fabulous dish made by my friend Suzanne, who always seems to surprise us with healthy and delicious recipes, that we all want to copy once we get home. 

Suzanne's Grilled Potato Salad with Arugula, Goat Cheese & Lemon Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay

Potato Salad:
2 lb baby red potatoes
Canola oil, for tossing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz baby arugula
4 oz soft goat cheese, pulled into small pieces

Lemon-Mustard-Tarragon Vinaigrette:
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp clover honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, mustard, tarragon, honey, and a little salt and pepper for the vinaigrette. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified, then cover and set aside until needed.

Put the potatoes in a pot of generously salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and cool slightly, then cut the potatoes into quarters. Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Toss the potatoes with a little canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the potatoes in a grill basket and grill, covered, tossing and turning occasionally, until lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer the potatoes to a decorative bowl or platter and immediately add half of the vinaigrette. Place the arugula on top and scatter the goat cheese over top. Season with salt and pepper, then gently fold the mixture once or twice to combine, adding additional vinaigrette if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Pudding: The Ultimate Summer Dessert

One of the quintessential English desserts, Summer Pudding is a triumphal end to many summer lunches and dinners that I've hosted over the years. Packed with fresh summer strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, the fruit is simply simmered with brown sugar and framboise, until the fruit softens and releases its juice, then is poured into a bread lined bowl and chilled overnight. The pectin in the berries react with the sugar in the bread, and as the pudding chills, it firms up into a fabulous crimson coloured berry laden pudding. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche, 'Summer Pud' is my absolute favourite dessert to make during the hit days of summer, and when berries are at their best.

Summer Pudding
Serves 10

1 lb strawberries
1 lb raspberries
1 lb blueberries
1 lb blackberries
1 package frozen mixed berries
1 cup light brown sugar
1 loaf white bread
1/2 cup framboise
2 cups crème fraîche and fresh mint, for garnish

Remove the crusts from the bread. Wash and trim all the fresh berries, and add them to a large saucepan with the frozen berries, framboise, brown sugar and 1/2 cup of water, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the berries have released their juices, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then remove 1 cup of the juice and set aside.

Lightly grease a medium sized bowl with some vegetable oil, then line the bowl with the slices of bread, covering the bottom and the sides. Using a large spoon, ladle the berry mixture into the bread lined bowl, then top with the remaining slices of bread. Lay a flat plate on top with a heavy weight to squash the fruit down, and chill 12-24 hours.

When ready to serve, place a large serving plate on top of the bowl and gently invert. Shake gently to release the pudding onto the plate and spoon the reserved juice over the top, garnishing with some sprigs of fresh mint. Serve with a big spoon and a bowl of thick crème fraîche on the table. Heaven!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Grilled Coriander & Fennel Seed Crusted Salmon

An aromatic mixture of toasted coriander and fennel seeds become the fragrant foundation for a wonderfully flavourful dry rub for salmon. Coarsely ground with white peppercorns and seasoned with a little kosher salt, the mixture is pressed into the fish, and grilled over medium-high heat for a delicious light and crispy coating, with scents redolent of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. A great source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, this Coriander & Fennel Seed Crusted Salmon is sensational served on a bed of grilled asparagus and garnished simply with a slice or orange and drizzle of balsamic fig glaze. 

Coriander & Fennel Seed Crusted Salmon with Grilled Asparagus 
Serves 2

2 tbsp coriander seed
2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 salmon filets, about 6-8 oz each
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil, for brushing
Fresh thyme, mint and sliced orange, for garnish
Balsamic and fig glaze, for drizzling 

Place the coriander seeds, fennel seeds and white peppercorns in a small pan over medium high heat. Toast the mixture, shaking the pan frequently, until they become fragrant and begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Let the mixture cool a few minutes and then transfer to a spice grinder or small food processor, and coarsley grind. Spread on a small plate with the salt and mix well.

Brush the salmon filets with some olive oil then dip the top side of each filet into the spices, pressing well to adhere. Transfer the fish to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Place the asparagus in a small dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to coat. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate along with the salmon.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high. Place the salmon, coriander side down for 3-4 minutes, until a nice brown crust forms. Flip the filets and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes, until the fish flakes easily and the center is almost opaque. Just before the salmon is done, add the asparagus and grill, turning frequently until the asparagus is well grill-marked and cooked to your preference. To serve, divide the asparagus between two plates and top with the salmon filets and some sprigs of fresh thyme. Drizzle with the balsamic and fig glaze, and garnish with a slice of orange, mint and chive blossom.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leith's Stilton & Celery Soup: Simply The Best

When we lived in England in the 1970s, my favourite restaurant in London was Leith's in Notting Hill Gate, considered to be one of the top restaurants in the city at the time and a Michelin star to prove it. My favourite dish was Leith's Stilton Soup, an unbelievably silky smooth and creamy celery-based soup simmered with a big lump of Stilton cheese, puréed until smooth then pushed through a sieve for good measure. Prue Leith started out in 1960 as an event and party caterer with Leith's Good Food, followed by Leith's School of Food and Wine in 1975. In addition to being an accomplished food writer, television cook and columnist in her spare time! She also wrote a series of cookbooks that came out in 1980, an offshoot of her articles which appeared every weekend in the Sunday Express. Not only did I religiously collect those recipes, I am also the proud owner of her original three-volume set, Leith's Cookery Course: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Apart from Graham Kerr - The Galloping Gourmet - Prue Leith was one of my early role models, and her cookbooks a culinary inspiration as I was growing up. Even to this day her writing continues to inspire me. Passionate about food, Prue Leith believed that food should be fresh and uncomplicated, prepared with only the finest ingredients to the highest of standards — and quite reflective of her motto, 'Simply Better' — just like her.

The always and forever fabulous Prue Leith

"I have always been addicted to cookbooks, tending to read them in bed in preference to novels or poetry. A lot of the books I accumulated when I was a food writer for, variously, the Daily Mail, Guardian, Sunday Express and Mirror, and subsequently I could not bare to part with them. I used the books in my collection as all writers do, for inspiration! I sometimes think there are no new recipes, only new versions of old ones. I once thought I had invented a Stilton Soup, because I went to Denmark, ate a Samsoe soup, thought 'This would be even better with Stilton', came home and made a celery soup heavily enriched with Stilton Cheese. It became famous in my restaurant, Leith's, and was copied by chefs all over London. And then one day, flipping through a 19th Century English cookbook I had just bought in Hay on Wye, I found a near-identical 'Derbyshire Cheese Soup' — So much for originality!"

Leith's Stilton Soup
Serves 4

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 oz butter
1 1/2 oz flour
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup light cream
1/2 lb stilton cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives, for garnish

Soften the onion and celery in butter over low heat, about 8-10 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the wine and stock. Return to the heat and bring slowly to the boil, stirring continuously until the soup thickens. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Add the milk and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the stilton until it has melted. Using a hand blender, liquidize the soup, then push it through a sieve, discarding all solids. Add the cream, and season with salt and white pepper. Gently reheat the soup, taking care not to let it boil or else it will curdle. Stilton Soup can also be served chilled, garnished with chopped chives.