Friday, June 14, 2019

Il Postino: Italian-Inspired Cuisine in Historic Unionville

Tucked away in a heritage building on historic Main Street in downtown Unionville, Il Postino captures the essence of Italian warmth and hospitality. Passionate restaurateurs, Melanie and Dominic Sala have been serving fine Italian and Mediterranean cuisine since opening the doors of their family-owned ristorante over ten years ago, still greeting every guest personally and ensuring that they're having a good time. Nestled within a picturesque courtyard setting on the site of the town's original Post Office, Il Postino offers inspired Italian cuisine, artfully presented and bursting with fresh innovative flavours that make the most of local, seasonal and artisanal DOP ingredients, with a sensibility that is distinctly Italian. The menu created by Chef Sala, the talented son of Melanie and Dominic, features savoury pastas, lovely seafood, and gourmet thin crust pizzas, as well as an extensive menu that offers new selections added every day. Celebrating the best of true Italian hospitality with wonderful food, exceptional service in a warm and inviting setting, Il Postino is 'delizioso' anytime of the year, especially enjoying an al fresco lunch in the pretty outdoor garden courtyard.

Il Postino in historic Unionville

Entering the outdoor garden courtyard with menus

Lush hanging baskets line the outdoor garden

Lanterns are scattered throughout the courtyard for nighttime dining

Calamari Fritti, lightly battered with tzatiki and fresh lemon

Beef tenderloin carpaccio with arugula, shaved parmesan and olive oil

Cacio e Pepe with parmesan, pecorino romano and black pepper 

The popular Italian film from 1994 after which the restaurant was named

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Caprese Salad with Mini Bocconcini & Fresh Basil

A colourful combination of red and yellow vine ripened tomatoes and fragrant homegrown basil tossed with olive oil and seasoned with Maldon salt and fresh ground white and black pepper have all of the signs of a classic Caprese, but tossed with a handful of bite size bocconcini, this simple summer salad becomes an easy dish to serve with a larger gathering.  

Vine Ripened Caprese with Bocconcini & Basil
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups mini Bocconcini
12-16 mixed vine ripened red and yellow tomatoes
Fresh basil, julienned for garnish
Olive Oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Toss the bocconcini, tomatoes and some julienned basil in a large bowl and season with olive oil, sea salt and some fresh cracked black and white pepper. Serve in a decorative bowl and garnish with basil tops.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Summer Pudding: The Ultimate Dessert

A triumphal end to many summer lunches and dinners I've hosted over the years, my Summer Pudding is as easy to make as it is outstandingly delicious. One of the quintessential English desserts, Summer Pudding is packed full of fresh summer strawberries, raspberries and blueberries that have been simmered with brown sugar and framboise, then 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 crème fraîche, 'Summer Pud' is heaven on earth.

Summer Pudding
Serves 12

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 cut into wedges, with a bowl of thick crème fraîche on the table. Heaven!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Like so many of Italy’s best dishes, bruschetta owes its origins to la cucina povera, a marriage of frugality and ingenuity among Italy’s rural communities who dictated that nothing edible ever be tossed out. The simple act of toasting and topping the bread with quality ingredients such as sun-ripened, organic tomatoes and an impeccable extra virgin olive oil topped with Maldon salt and fresh chopped basil, positively shouts summer.

Basic bruschetta is remarkably simple, comprised of a toasted or grilled slice of bread – preferably a rustic, hardy kind such as Tuscan or Pugliese – rubbed with fresh garlic while still warm, then drizzled with olive oil and dusted with salt and pepper. In many places, the custom is to brush these ingredients on both sides of the toasted bread, making for a marvelously heady flavour experience and gloriously messy fingers.

Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 2

4 large slices of bread, such as rustic
20 baby cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced lengthwise in half
4 basil leaves, plus more to garnish
Sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the tomatoes together in a small bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in one layer on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes (45 minutes if using larger Campari tomatoes) until the tomatoes are soft, slightly shrunken and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool. 

Grill or toast the bread slices until golden on both sides. Rub each piece with the cut sides of garlic (or rub both sides for more zing). Spoon the roasted tomato mixture on top of each slice and top with a drizzle of olive oil, to taste. Season with Maldon salt and garnish with sliced fresh basil leaves.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Poached Salmon with Homemade Mayonnaise

One of the most perfect summer dishes and in my mind the most elegant, is a succulent Poached Salmon garnished with sliced lemon, cucumber, fresh dill and served with a heaping bowl of homemade mayonnaise. Ideal for the hot days of summer, the salmon can be poached and decorated first thing in the morning and served later in the day with buttery new potatoes, steamed french green beans and a colourful tomato and basil salad with mini bocconcini. Whether you're entertaining a crowd or making a simple Sunday lunch, there’s nothing more easy, healthy, and delicious than a moist and flaky coral pink Poached Salmon, and enjoyed with a chilled Rosé or Côtes de Provence, this recipe is a gem.

Poached Salmon with Homemade Mayonnaise
Serves 4

2-3 lb organic Salmon filet
1/2 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, quartered
sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 Lebanese or English cucumber, thinly sliced
4-6 sprigs of fresh dill

Homemade Mayonnaise:
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 tsp store-bought Mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and fresh cracked black or white pepper 
Chopped chives, for garnish 

Whisk the mayonnaise and egg yolks in a small mixing bowl until combined. Pour both of the oils together in a cup and very slowly trickle them in a very slow thin stream over the egg yolks, whisking them constantly. Once the mayonnaise begins to thicken, the remaining oils can be added gradually until the mixture thickens and emulsifies. Then add the lemon juice and white wine wine vinegar, and season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use. 

Place the salmon in a fish poacher or large roasting pan. Add enough cold water to cover the fish then add the onion, bay leaves, vinegar, lemon and a good pinch of salt and a little black pepper. Bring the pan to the boil on the stove and once it's boiling, turn off the heat and allow the fish to stand in the water until cool. Carefully remove the salmon and place onto a board. Carefully scrape off the skin and the white fatty albumin layer that often coagulates on the surface, and place on a large flat serving dish. Decorate with sliced lemon, cucumber and dill and serve with a bowl of hollandaise.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Cold Sesame Noodles with Thai Red Curry Sauce

A simple dish with complex flavours, this Thai-inspired Cold Noodles with Spicy Red Curry & Peanut Sauce is the perfect thing for a hot summer evening. Cold noodles are unique to Asian cooking, and the mouth watering combination of peanut butter, red curry paste, rice vinegar, lime juice, cilantro and chopped scallions come together to create a thick and velvety spicy sauce. Topped with sesame seeds and chopped cilantro, these noodles are a flexible dish that can be eaten either warm or cold, and can also be adapted to your favourite noodle, from Japanese buckwheat soba noodles, Thai rice noodles or Chinese egg noodles to even fettuccine, linguine or spaghettini. The sauce is so delicious, it could even be used as a marinade or dipping sauce for grilled chicken, pork, fish or seafood.

Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles with Spicy Thai Red Curry Sauce
Serves 4-6

12 oz fettuccine, Chinese egg noodles, or rice or soba noodles
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp red curry paste
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until chilled. Shake out the excess water and blot dry. Meanwhile, purée the peanut butter, curry paste, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, salt and red pepper flakes and water in a food processor or blender until smooth. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the peanut sauce and sliced green onions and mix well, until the noodles are well coated. Season to taste with salt and stir in some of the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta to loosen the sauce, if necessary. Serve the noodles in a decorative bowl or platter, and garnish with sesame seeds and more cilantro.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Wild Rice & Barley Salad with Dried Cranberries

With its delicate nutty flavour and sturdy texture, wild rice makes a delicious basis for this healthy high-fibre Wild Rice & Barley Salad. The addition of chickpeas, sliced green onions and toasted pine nuts tossed together with a tangy vinaigrette makes this salad a nutritional powerhouse. Mixed-grain salads deliver a great combination of flavours and textures as well as folate and vitamin E for a strong and healthy heart — very important for those cardio workouts. Adding beans to grains also creates the key combination of protein and carbs that helps muscles repair and refuel themselves, which makes this Wild Rice & Barley Salad with chickpeas and dried cranberries a nutritional powerhouse with heart-healthy goodness that's also rich with great flavour.

Wild Rice, Barley & Dried Cranberry Salad
Serves 6-8

1 3/4 cups chicken broth 
1/2 cup uncooked brown and wild rice mix
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
1/3 cup golden raisins 
1/4 cup sliced green onions 
2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Place the chicken broth, rice and barley in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Spoon rice mixture into a medium bowl. Add the chickpeas, raisins, green onions and cranberries. Combine the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Pour over barley mixture and toss well. Cover and chill for two. Stir in the basil and pine nuts and serve at room temperature.