Friday, August 26, 2016

Spaghettini Marinara with Mussels, Scallops & Shrimp





There is no better pasta for shellfish lovers than a sublime Seafood Pasta, a pescatorian feast of mixed 'frutti di mare' gently sauteéd with homemade tomato sauce, some red wine and a dash of Pernod. Use only the freshest seafood to make this dish, because the sweet juices they render as they cook are key to the unmistakable flavour and heavenly aroma of this Mediterranean classic. Even Neptune weeps. 



Spaghettini with Mussels, Scallops, Shrimp & Squid
Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
20 mussels, de-bearded and soaked in water until needed
20 shrimp, shelled and deveined
6 large scallops, cut into halves or quarters
3 whole calamari, cleaned, bodies cut into rings; tentacles halved
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp Pernod
4 cups tomato sauce (preferably homemade, like Mamma Styles)
3-4 tbsp tomato paste
1 package dried pasta such as spaghettini or linguine
1/4 cup fresh italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper


Start to boil water in a large pot. Place the tomato sauce, tomato paste and wine in a small saucepan over medium heat, and gently simmer until warmed through. Cover and keep warm. 

Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallops and shrimp and gently sauté until they just start to turn opaque, about 6-8 minutes depending on their size. Half way during the cooking, add one cup of warmed tomato sauce and season with some herbes de Provence. Then add the calamari and stir in some more warmed tomato sauce; season to taste with pernod, salt and pepper. Turn the seafood down to low and continue to cook on a gentle simmer stirring frequently, being careful not to overcook.

Meanwhile, place the mussels in a large pot with a modest 1/2 cup of water or white wine and set over medium-high heat. Cover and steam the mussels about 5-8 minutes, until they've opened. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the water and any unopened shells, and cover until needed.

Add the dried pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain into a colander, return the pasta to the pot and toss with the remaining tomato sauce. 

To serve, add the spaghettini to a large decorative bowl and pour the seafood and sauce over top. Using a large spoon, gently combine the sauce with the pasta, leaving the seafood undisturbed on top as much as you can. Arrange the mussels decoratively in the pasta, hinge side down, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. A bowl for empty shells would be a thoughtful touch, as well as a nice bottle of Chianti and some warm fragrant garlic bread.















Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grilled Shrimp & Calamari Salad with Avocado





One of my favourite summer salads is a fresh and fabulous Grilled Shrimp, and Calamari Salad combined with grilled zucchini, fresh sliced avocado, hot house or home grown tomatoes, heirloom carrots and hard boiled eggs. Tossed with a tangy marinade, the seafood can be cleaned and prepped well in advance and pulled together at the last minute. As with any summer salad, improvisation is key, adding whatever ingredients are readily available. The idea is to compose a fresh and flavourful hastle-free salad with a treasure trove of grilled seafood and a riot of your favourite seasonal veggies nestled on top, for an easy evening meal on a lazy summer night. 




Grilled Shrimp & Calamari Salad with Avocado
Serves 2

8 large Florida shrimp
3 whole squid with heads, cleaned
1 yellow zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
3 baby heirloom carrots, yellow, purple and orange, finely sliced
1 head red oak leaf lettuce, cleaned, washed and torn into bite size pieces
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 scallion, finely chopped for garnish
3 hot house tomatoes, quartered
2 eggs, hard boiled and halved
1 tbsp pure sesame oil, divided
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and fresh ground black or white pepper

Salad dressing:
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact: Gently run a small knife down the centre of the backs to butterfly the shrimp, and remove the intestinal tract. Drizzle with oat with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and sesame oil, season with salt and pepper then set aside allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Place the squid on a cutting board and slice each tube in half lengthwise. Lay each of the pieces of squid flat. Score the squid with diagonal slices, cutting through half the thickness, scoring first one way, then the other to create diamond-shaped cuts. Then trim the heads, removing and discarding the beak of the squid. Drizzle with oat with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and sesame oil, season with salt and pepper then set aside allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Brush the zucchini with a little olive oil and set aside.

For the salad dressing, place the garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times until minced. Add the other ingredients and pulse until emulsified. Cover and set aside. 

To grill the seafood, place the shrimp, squid and zucchini on a preheated BBQ and cook until the seafood is opaque and nicely grill marked, and the zucchini is cooked through. The squid and heads should curl up nicely. Once cooked, slice the squid into bite size pieces.

To prepare the salad, place the lettuce, cucumber, carrots and salad dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine. To serve, place the dressed salad on a large platter, then on top, decoratively arrange the hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado then top with the grilled zucchini and seafood. Garnish with the chopped scallions and dig in.















Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara on the Lake





Located in the heart of the Niagara Peninsula, Two Sisters Vineyards is one of the newest wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake having just opened two summers ago. A labour of love from the Marotta family, whose fortune derives from real estate development, the winery is run by sisters Angela Marotta and Melissa Paolicelli who stylishly front the operations. Inspired by the flavours of the season and the bounty of Niagara produce, the menu of Kitchen76 echoes the owner's Italian heritage and was created to complement the vineyard's wines. In the kitchen is chef Jason Letto, who has created a straightforward collection of simple Italian dishes made with a keen attention to detail including a selection of Italian antipasti from Arancini, Carpaccio and artfully presented Salumi e Formaggi board served on long wooden planks; housemade pasta such as Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and pecorino and tomato sauce, and Strozzapreti with basil pesto, grilled zucchini and pecorino; as well as delicious gas fired pizzas including Fungi with oyster mushrooms, pancetta, asiago, spinach and mozzarella, Dolce e Solato with mozzarella, gorgonzola, pear, Prosciutto di Parma, toasted walnuts, arugula and honey to the classic Margherita with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil. The wines, which are also available in the adjacent tasting room, are impressive. We enjoyed two glasses of Two Sisters Vineyards Lush Sparkling Rosé to start, and were very surprised at the wine's depth and flavour. The service is friendly and professional, the food very good and the views from the outside terrace of the restaurant are glorious. Rich in history, culture and natural beauty, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a magical destination to enjoy a leisurely summer weekend and explore the local wineries. 



The grassy entrance to Two Sisters Vineyard 

Grapes hanging from the vine at Two Sisters

The luncheon menu of Kitchen76 at Two Sisters Vineyard in Niagara on the Lake

Two Sisters Vineyards Lush Sparkling Rose 2010, an elegant Rosé sparkling wine is made in the Méthode Traditionelle from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Leek and Potato Soup with spinach and house cured pork sausage

Barbabietole Salad with heirloom beets with goat cheese, hazelnuts, fresh orange, watercress and lemon

The gas-fired pizza oven with fresh basil ready to garnish the Pizza Margherita

Margherita Pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil  

 Grilled octopus with shaved fennel, radish, celery, lemon and parsley

The Dessert Menu

Warm and squishy Cinnamon Sugar Beignets with salted caramel sauce, whipped vanilla cream and chocolate hazelnut sauce

Sisters Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli and Angela Marotta of Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara on the Lake

Chef Jason Lesso























Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Treadwell: The Finest Farm-to-Table Cuisine in Niagara






Stephen Treadwell is one of Ontario’s food stars. Formerly the head chef at Queen's Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Auberge du Pommier in Toronto, Treadwell brought the European concept of 'farm-to-table' dining to Southern Ontario almost a decade ago, sourcing regional suppliers such as Cumbrae Farms and Best Baa Dairy within an easy transportation distance to the restaurant. The father and son team are vocal and passionate about emphasizing the best artisan producers of Southwestern Ontario, and their restaurant is a showcase of local farmers, producers and vintners. It's simple, perfect food, and allows the ingredients to speak for themselves. Whether it’s 'Mario Pingue’s' 24 Month Aged Prosciutto with shaved Ontario Pecorino and some peppery field-grown Arugula, 'Marc's Wild Mushrooms, Bertha's Bounty Eggs or 'Cumbrae Farms' Confit Shoulder of Lamb with ratatouille of local Niagara summer vegetables and feta vinaigrette, the food has provenance, is perfectly prepared, beautifully presented, and absolutely delicious. Combined with Sommelier James Treadwell's spot on wine recommendations and a staff that is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine is undoubtedly the finest place to dine in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but with the Shaw Festival venues a short walk away, reservations during the theatre months are essential.




Treadwell's wine and dinner menu

'Riddled' Sparkling Wine from Flat Rock Cellers in Twenty Mile Bench

The delicate balance sweetness and crisp acidity makes this sparkling wine devilishly 'more-ish'

Housemade Rosemary Focaccia with olive oil and blueberry balsamic 

Bench Trial Cabernet Franc from Twenty Mile Bench

The sommelier pouring the Bench Trial Cabernet Franc, 
having already poured the 2014 Domaine Clavel Rosé

Seared BC Albacore Tuna Tartare with Kohlrabi Slaw, Wasabi Mayonnaise and Crispy Nori

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Lime Fromage Sorbet and Togarashi Straw

Heirloom Tomato Salad with 'Epp Farms' Peaches, customized without focaccia croutons and Monforte Pecorino Fresca with oil and vinegar for a carb free and lactose free appetizer

Pingue’s Aged 24 Month Prosciutto with Monforte Toscano Preserved Lemon with Niagara Balsamic Reduction

Wild BC Sockeye Salmon with Curried Squash Purée, Grilled Zucchini and Pattypan Squash with Poached Free Range Egg

Duck Confit with Potato Rösti and Duck Croquette with Tarragon Wine Jus and Summer Vegetables

Pan Seared Filet of Lake Huron Pickerel with Sautéed 'Marc's' Wild Mushrooms and Summer Squash

Confit Shoulder of “Cumbrae Farms” Lamb with Ratatouille of Local Summer vegetables and Feta Vinaigrette















Pan-Seared Whitefish with Sweet Pea and Corn Risotto
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Stephen Treadwell

6 whitefish, perch or snapper filets
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground white peppercorns, to taste

Corn Stock:
4 smoked husks of corn 
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup chopped leek, green outer leaves removed
4 lime leaves
5 white peppercorns
1 serrano pepper

Sweet Pea and Corn Risotto:
2 ears corn
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups Arborio risotto rice 
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups corn stock
1 cup sweet peas, blanched
2 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp preserved lemon, chopped
Watercress and pea shoots, to dress
Toscano cheese, or similar, to taste


Cover all of the corn stock ingredients with water. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat. Remove lime leaves and serrano pepper. Cover and leave to cool for 24 hours before straining.

Grill corn ears to colour on barbecue, then cut the niblets from the cob and reserve.

Sweat the shallot in olive oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the rice and salt and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Start adding hot corn stock a little bit at a time, adding more as it evaporates, and continue until the rice becomes al dente.

Add the grilled corn kernels, sweet peas, and one tablespoon of the diced butter; continue cooking, adding more stock as needed. Finish by adding the remaining butter, parsley, chives, and chopped preserved lemon. Garnish with watercress, pea shoots, and shaved Toscano cheese.

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of olive oil to pan and immediately add fish skin-side down to cook for no more than 2 minutes. Turn and finish for another minute. Remove and plate fish atop risotto.

























Monday, August 22, 2016

Clafouti with Yellow and Purple Ontario Plums





Clafoutis are a classic French dessert from the Limousin region of France and while black cherries are typically used, other fruits such as plums, peaches or apricots are also equally delicious. However, when other kinds of fruit other than cherries are used, the dish is called a Flaugnarde. Clafouti or flaugnarde, whatever you wish to call it, this delicate, buttery, moist soufflé-like dessert is sensational with just about any stonefruit that happens to be in season. I also like to add a dash of liqueur to the batter to bring out the flavour of the fruit, and in this recipe, a little armagnac. Resembling a large fluffy pancake, the clafouti is simply prepared with sliced fruit arranged in a buttered baking dish covered with a thick flavoured custard-like batter. Baked for about an hour, the smells permeate the kitchen with a intoxicating aroma of sweet plums, lemon, sugar and vanilla. Dusted with a final flourish of confectioner's sugar, this gorgeous rustic French dessert is best served while it's still warm.




Plum Clafouti
Serves 6-8

7 firm ripe Ontario yellow and purple plums, halved and pitted
3 tbsp melted butter
6 tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups light cream
1 tsp Armagnac
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp icing sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-10 inch pie pan, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the bottom. Arrange the plum halves cut side down until they cover the entire bottom of the pan, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over top.

In a food processor, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, eggs, butter, milk, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, armagnac and salt, and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture evenly over the plums.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the clafouti is firm, puffed and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, and allow the clafouti to cool for 15 minutes or so, during which time it will deflate somewhat. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream.
















Friday, August 19, 2016

Grilled Pickerel with Spicy Mayo & Jicama Slaw





A delicious, white and succulent freshwater fish, Pickerel is great for the barbecue as it doesn't stick to the grill and is easy to turn over for even cooking. Having purchased a lovely thick tail end piece of fresh Ontario pickerel, I was inspired by this healthy, low fat and carb-free recipe by Lucy Waverman of Grilled Pickerel with Spicy Mayo & Jicama Slaw. I had heard of jicama before, but had never used it before in a recipe. Crisp and juicy with a thin brown skin that can be easily removed with a vegetable peeler, Jicama is ideal to use in salads as it doesn't turn brown once cut. Combined with julienned Napa cabbage, red pepper, green onions and tossed with a light citrus vinaigrette, it's a tasty and attractive bed for plump warm fillets of grilled pickerel. Topped with a spoonful of low fat Spicy Mayo and garnished with fresh herbs, this is a dish that's both healthy, delicious and perfect for outdoor summer dining.




Grilled Pickerel with Spicy Mayo & Jicama Slaw
Serves 4

4 pickerel fillets, skin on, cut in 1/2
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh mint or thyme, for garnish

Slaw & Citrus Vinaigrette:
1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
6 green onions, slivered on the diagonal
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
2 cups peeled and julienned jicama
2 tbsp orange juice plus 1 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Spicy Mayonnaise:
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tbsp pickled ginger, minced
1/4 tsp pickled ginger juice
1/4 cup chopped mint
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Toss the red pepper, green onions, cabbage and jicama together in a large bowl. Whisk the orange and lemon juice with olive oil in a bowl, then add the chives, orange zest and season with salt and pepper. Toss with the jicama and julienned vegetable slaw and set aside.

Combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, hoisin, Sriracha, ginger and mint for the sauce, and season with salt and pepper. 

Brush the pickerel with vegetable oil on both the skin and flesh sides, and season with salt and pepper. Preheat an outdoor grill to high. Grill skin-side down for about  6-8 minutes, then turn over and grill flesh-side down for another 2 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through and still moist. 

To serve, divide the slaw among 4 plates, top with a fillet of grilled pickerel and garnish with fresh mint or thyme, and a bowl of spicy mayonnaise on the side.












Thursday, August 18, 2016

Leek, Squash & Goat Cheese Frittata with Tarragon






A well-made frittata is one of the world's most perfect foods: equally good for breakfast or dinner, simple to make, and satisfying to eat. Take advantage of summer’s vibrant bounty from farmers' markets, local farm stands, or even your own backyard with this light and delicious Leek, Squash & Goat Cheese Frittata with Tarragon. The high ratio of leeks to eggs in this frittata brings the leeks’ sweet flavour and meltingly tender texture to the forefront, combined with the luscious goat cheese and sweet roasted butternut squash that abound in every bite. Quick and easy, a frittata is also ideal for using up leftovers. And when you have a lot of eggs, there's nothing better.




Leek, Squash & Goat Cheese Frittata with Tarragon
Serves 2

4 large eggs
1/8 cup light cream 
1 leek, washed and finely sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 cup butternut squash, cubed and roasted
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
Kosher salt and pepper


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt the butter in a 8-inch, ovenproof nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the leeks are soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Then add the roasted squash and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until warmed through. Whisk the eggs and light cream together in a small bowl, then add to the pan and give a gentle stir. 

Next add in dollops of goat cheese around the pan followed by the fresh tarragon leaves, salt and pepper. Allow the frittata cook for 6-8 minutes without stirring to set the bottom of the eggs. As the outer edges of the eggs begin to cook and firm up a bit, the centre will still appear runny. Transfer the pan to the oven and continue to cook until the frittata is set in the centre, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 2 minutes. Carefully slide the frittata onto a serving plate, cut into wedges, and serve immediately with a light green salad.