Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Salt Grass Point Oysters with Muscadet & Peonies

A perfect summer aperitif: fresh shucked oysters on ice with lemon, horseradish and mignonette sauce served with ice cold Muscadet and vase of fresh picked peonies — beautiful. A weekend tradition, we're always keen on trying any new oysters from Diana's Seafood, like these lovely Salt Grass Point oysters from Malpeque Bay in Prince Edward Island: salty up front with a very clean, crisp finish. If there’s one food that pairs impressively with French Muscadet, it’s oysters — they go together like Bogie and Bacall. Light-bodied and mineral-edged, made with the white Melon de Bourgogne grape from in the western Loire Valley near the city of Nantes, next to the sea, the Atlantic climate influences Muscadet. The wines acidity, minerality, and briny quality complement the same flavours in the oysters, and not only holds up to the intensity of flavour of the mollusk, but matches it sip for sip. A marriage made in heaven.

Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
Serves 2

6 oysters, shucked
1 lemon, sliced for garnish
2-inch piece fresh horseradish, grated
Crushed ice

Mignonette Sauce:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp minced shallot

Stir the vinegar and shallots in a small bowl and set aside. Set the shucked oysters over a bed of crushed ice and place an empty oyster shell top in the middle garnished with a tablespoon of grated horseradish. Arrange some sliced lemon around the oysters and serve with a small bowl of mignonette sauce.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Indian Spice-Crusted Grilled Sturgeon

Moderately high in fat content, Sturgeon has a mild, delicate flavour with lean flesh that is firm and meaty, similar in texture to chicken breast or veal. It takes well to marinades and dry rubs, like this delicious recipe for Indian Spice-Crusted Grilled Sturgeon. Coated in an aromatic mixture of coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon and fresh thyme, the filets are then sautéed quickly in a a little olive oil then roasted in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The rich succulent flesh turns white when cooked, becoming wonderfully crunchy on the surface and deliciously moist in the centre.   

Spice Crusted Grilled Sturgeon
Serves 2

3/4lb sturgeon fillet, cut into two pieces
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
2 cloves
2 green cardamon pods, seeds removed and kept, pods discarded
5 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 bunch of rapini, trimmed and washed
olive oil
1 lemon
fresh dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place the spices in a small food processor or spice grinder, and pulse until the mixture becomes a coarse powder, then pour onto a large plate. Brush the sturgeon filets in a little olive oil, then dredge the sturgeon, flesh side down, in the spices.

In a non-stick pan over a medium heat, add a little olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, place the sturgeon, spice side down and sear until the spices are golden, about 5 minutes. Flip the fish over, and place the pan into the oven. Turn the oven down to 350°F, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until the sturgeon is cooked all the way through.

While the sturgeon is cooking, steam the rapini over high heat until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are al dente, about 10 minutes. Once cooked, squeeze a little lemon juice over top and toss to combine.

To plate, place the rapini on a platter and top with sturgeon fillet, spice side up. Garnish with a little fresh dill and slices of fresh lemon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraîche

Light and creamy, this delicious Chilled Asparagus Soup 'shooter' is the perfect appetizer to start a summer meal. The intense flavour and vibrant green hue of fresh Ontario asparagus and fragrant leeks smells heavenly as they're sautéed in butter then simmered in an aromatic broth until tender. The soup is then puréed in a blender until it's silky smooth, then passed through a sieve for a more refined texture. Thick crème fraîche or heavy cream is then added to the soup, creating a delightfully rich and satisfying appetizer that can be showcased in shot glasses or small demi-tasse cups, garnished with a swirl of crème fraîche as a final flourish.

Chilled Asparagus Soup (Crème d'asperges)
Serves 8 as amuse-bouche

2 pounds green asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large leeks, white part only, sliced
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cook the leeks in 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring until softened. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper to taste, and cook stirring for 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Purée the soup in a blender, in batches until smooth, then return to the pan using a sieve, to ensure all solids are removed. Stir in the crème fraîche, adding more broth to thin soup if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter. To serve, pour the soup into small cups or shooter glasses, garnishing with the lemon juice and a swirl of crème fraîche or heavy cream. The soup can be made ahead and keeps, covered and chilled, for up to 2 days. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Seafood Salad with Celeriac Remoulade & Dill Sauce

A lovely light salad to make during the warm summer months is this easy and delicious poached seafood salad made with large shrimp, scallops, squid and a handful of salad shrimp for good luck. The large shrimp are shelled and deveined; the squid are cut into rings; and the scallops are cut in half, then all poached for a few minutes in a shallow pan of simmering water until just done; allow to cool about 10 minutes. The seafood is then tossed in a light lemon dill sauce and served with a wedge of fresh lemon. I served this seafood salad over a small bed of homemade celeriac remoulade for a light crunchy surprise at the bottom. Wonderfully light and delicate, this mixed seafood salad makes a lovely appetizer or a delicious entrée.

Mixed Seafood Salad with Celeriac Remoulade
Serves 2

10 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 large scallops
2 cleaned squid with tentacles
1 cup small salad shrimp
2 tbsp capers
1 lemon, for garnish

1 celeriac root
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp caraway seeds 
salt and white pepper to taste

Lemon Dill Cream Sauce:
1 cup sour cream
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp salt

Whisk the sour cream, lemon juice and chopped dill together in a small bowl. Season with salt and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Slice the squid into rings and cut tentacles in half. Slice the scallops in half. Set a medium size pan of water over med-high heat and once a few bubbles start to appear, lightly poach the shrimp, scallops and squid, one type at a time and set in a colander once done. Let cool for a few minutes then toss with 1/2 cup of lemon dill sauce and some capers.

For the remoulade, pare away the outer skin of the celeriac root with a vegetable peeler, then slice into thin matchsticks using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Half of the celeriac root should make about 1 cup of remoulade. Toss the 'matchsticks' in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to preserve the colour and prevent it from going brown. Then add some mayonnaise and toss to combine. Season with a few caraway seeds and some salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon some of the celeriac remoulade in the bottom of each serving bowl and top with some of the mixed seafood salad, and garnish with a lemon wedge. Easy and delicious!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tabbouleh Salad: An Eastern Mediterranean Meze

Healthy, delicious and low in carbs, Tabbouleh is an Eastern Mediterranean dish that's traditionally enjoyed as part of mezze, or appetizers, eaten before a meal. Originally from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, tabbouleh is one of the most popular salads in the Middle East, and comes from the Arabic word 'mtabeleh', which means ‘seasoned’, implying that the dish comes alive with the salad's flavourful seasonings. In Lebanon, regional and family recipes vary widely, but the consensus remains the same: if the salad isn't heavy on parsley, it's not tabbouleh. Characterized by the colours of the Lebanese flag – green, white and red — tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur, ripe tomatoes, zesty parsley and fresh mint, with a simply dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Low in fat and high in fibre, tabbouleh's primary ingredient is bulgur, which are wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed, and are available in various grinds: coarse, medium and fine. Like hummus, baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves and other delicious mezze of Arab cuisine.

Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 8

1 cup medium bulgar wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 cup scallions, with green ends, finely chopped
1 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 english cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgar wheat in a large bowl and add boiling water, lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature. Once the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, remainder of salt and the pepper. Season to taste, and serve at room temperature or chill for at least 1 hour then serve cold.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Caldeirada de Peixe: Portuguese Fish Stew

Portuguese Fish Stew, also known as Caldeirada de Peixe, is a rustic medley of magnificent mixed seafood, fish and fresh vegetables bathed in a luscious aromatic herb-infused tomato broth. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I first tried this fabulous low-fat recipe from The South Beach Diet Cookbook, an indispensable dietary bible penned by cardiologist Arthur Agatston and dietician Marie Almon, when I first tried to shed some unwanted pound a number of years ago. The South Beach Diet is relatively simple in principle. It replaces 'bad carbs' and 'bad fats' with 'good carbs and 'good fats. This delicious Seafood stew is an absolutely delicious recipe, whether you want to shed pounds or not!

Caldeirada de Peixe
Serves 6 

1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 bay leaves
8 canned and filleted anchovies
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp tobasco
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed, or 1 tsp Pernod
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
2 6.5 oz cans of clams, with juices
1 lb mussels
1/2 lb calamari, cleaned and cut into 1/8-inch rings
1 lb cod or halibut, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups whole fresh basil
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add anchovies, onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and tabasco; cook until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and cook a minute more.  Whisk together wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and add to onion mixture. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, fennel seeds, worcestershire and vinegar and let simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the clams and their juices; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mussels, cover the pan and let simmer 5 minutes. Add the fish, calamari and shrimp and simmer until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Discard any unopened mussels. Stir in the basil leaves just before serving.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Asian Inspired Chilled Sesame Spinach

Inspired by the delicious Chilled Sesame Spinach that we used to enjoy at Izakaya on Front Street, before it closed five years ago, this was one of the popular dishes that kept regulars coming back time after time. A quick and easy recipe that brings together the tangy flavours of soy sauce and rice vinegar along with nutty sesame seeds and vibrant steamed spinach, this chilled dish is highly nutritious, low-fat and extremely rich in antioxidant. At only 150 calories per serving, this elegant chilled salad makes a healthy, tasty and refreshing addition to any Asian-inspired summer menu.

Chilled Sesame Spinach
Serves 4

2 lb spinach stems trimmed, washed
1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp mirin rice wine
3 tbsp sesame seeds

Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain immediately in a colander and then plunge into the prepared ice bath. Let the spinach cool completely, about 30 seconds and drain again. Using your hands, squeeze the excess water out of the spinach, and transfer to a work surface. Coarsely chop the spinach, and place in a medium bowl then set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and mirin. Add the dressing and sesame seeds to the spinach and mix to combine. The spinach may be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.