Friday, July 31, 2015

Gazpacho: A Classic Spanish Summer Soup

Gazpacho is the perfect soup for serving ice cold during the hottest days of the summer. A classic Spanish dish, Gazpacho is both simple and delicious. Full of ripe summer garden vegetables, this chilled tomato-based soup is an ideal choice for a simple lunch or light starter on a warm summer evening. Just be sure to make it a little ahead of time so that the flavors have time to mingle and develop. Best of all — it doesn't require any cooking!

Serves 6-8

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 32-oz bottle V8 juice
2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 1/4 cups finely chopped Vidalia onion 
1 cup fresh basil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco to taste
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a food processor, purée half the above vegetables and about 1-2 cups of the V8 juice. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the rest of the chopped vegetables and V8 juice. Add 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper to taste, plus Tabasco Sauce to your liking. Mix well and chill for one to two hours before serving. Serve with some homemade croutons and a dollop of sour cream. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quinoa with Cucumber & Carrot with Peanut Dressing

Low in fat and a good gluten-free source of protein, iron, fibre and vitamins, Quinoa is easy to prepare and tastes terrific, especially when combined with a colourful and crunchy selection of diced cucumber, shaved carrots, fresh cilantro and for an exotic touch — a delicious Indonesian-inspired Peanut Dressing. Rich and creamy with a touch of heat, this simple sauce of peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and Thai red curry paste can be whisked together in minutes and would be equally sensational over cold noodles or as quick dipping sauce for Vietnamese-style summer spring rolls.

Quinoa with Cucumber & Carrot with Peanut Dressing 
Serve 4

2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup shredded carrot
2 cups English cucumber cut into slices then quartered
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Peanut dressing:
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp Thai red curry paste
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper

Cook the quinoa according to package directions and place in a large mixing bowl to cool. Once the quinoa is cool, add the carrot, sprouts, red pepper, cucumber and cilantro. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small mixing bowl then pour over the salad ingredients and mix well to combine.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Eastern Mediterranen Tabbouleh Salad

Healthy, delicious and low carb, 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 fiber, essential nutrients and complex carbohydrates, 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, Tabbouleh Salad is firmly entrenched as a popular and healthy addition to North American cuisine. 

Eastern Mediterranen 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 (about 1 bunch), 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. Serve at room temperature or chill for at least 1 hour to serve cold.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Orange & Lemon Poppyseed Bread with Citrus Glaze

Bursting with flavour, and infused with the sweet, slightly tart flavour of fragrant orange and lemon peel, melted butter and studded with poppy seeds, this classic Orange & Lemon Poppyseed Bread recipe is a tea time favourite. Fresh coarsely grated lemon and orange zest looks like confetti sprinkled throughout the loaf, and as the bread bakes, permeates the kitchen with an intoxicating aroma of warm butter and fragrant citrus scent, making it pretty hard to resist. The crowning glory is the sweet sugary orange-lemon glaze that's brushed over the cake while it's still warm, infusing the bread with a sweet and tangy citrus flavour that will keep it moist and delicious for days. So if you're needing a little taste of summer, this light and luscious Orange & Lemon Poppyseed Bread will definitely add some sunshine to your day.

Orange & Lemon Poppyseed Loaf with Citrus Glaze
Makes 1 loaf

3 large eggs
2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp coarsely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp coarsely grated orange zest
3 tbsp poppyseeds
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Orange-Lemon Syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk, then set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, orange zest and poppy seeds until well combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture and beat well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55-65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When the bread is done, remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

To make the lemon orange syrup, place the sugar, and fresh squeezed lemon and orange juice to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.  

Pierce the warm loaf all over with a toothpick, then brush the top of the loaf with about half of the hot lemon syrup. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf. Let the lemon loaf cool before wrapping and storing overnight, to allow the lemon syrup to penetrate the loaf.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Watermelon & Feta Skewers with Fresh Basil

Light, fresh and colourful, this pretty appetizer is a bite-size adaptation of the summertime classic. As improbable as it might sound, the combination of watermelon, feta and basil is utterly fantastic, both savoury and refreshing at the same time. Equally fragrant topped with fresh basil or mint, these skewers are bright and healthy hors' d'oeuvre for any warm weather gathering.

Watermelon & Feta Skewers with Basil
Makes 20 appetizers

1/4 small seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
20 fresh basil or mint leaves
6 oz feta cheese, sliced into 1″ x 1″ x 1/4″ squares
1/8 cup Balsamic Glaze

Place each cube of watermelon on a clean surface and top with a piece of feta followed by a basil leaf and skewer each stack with a decorative toothpick. To serve, arrange all of the skewers on a platter and drizzle with a little Balsamic Glaze, to taste.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Spring Pea & Asparagus Salad with Shrimp & Chioggia

Fresh green peas plucked from the pod, plump sugar snap peas and tender spears of local Ontario grown asparagus tossed together with a little butter and chopped homegrown mint come together beautifully in this healthy, vibrant and verdant warm salad. Topped with juicy grilled tiger shrimp and sliced raw Chioggia "candy cane" beets, the flavours positively shout summer!

Spring Pea & Asparagus Salad with Shrimp & Raw Chioggia Beets
Serves 2

1 1/2 cups fresh peas from the pod
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
12 asparagus spears, trimmed
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
1/4 Chioggia beet, thinly sliced and julienned
1 tsp hot chilli or sesame oil
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

In a medium bowl, marinate the cleaned shrimp with a teaspoon of hot chilli or sesame oil and toss well to coat. in another bowl, toss with asparagus with a little oil olive to coat, and set aside.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high. Place the shrimp and asparagus on the BBQ and grill until the shrimp are opaque and the asparagus is lightly charred. 

Meanwhile, using a small pot with fitted steamer basket, pour enough water into the pot to cover the peas and fill the steamer basket with the sugar snap peas. Bring the water to a boil and place the peas in the boiling water, and set the steamer basket with the sugar snap peas on top. Cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes. When done, pour all of the the peas into a colander to drain, then return to the pot with some butter and chopped mint. Cover and set aside. 

To serve, place the peas and asparagus on a decorative platter and top with the grilled shrimp. Garnish with the sliced raw Chioggia beets and finely chopped chives.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Silver Palate: Linguine with Basil & Walnut Pesto

Italians have long used walnuts for pesto, as they lend a rich earthiness to the sauce. This foolproof recipe from my treasured dogeared copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, quips that this sauce is "more Mastroianni than DeNiro: suave, mellow, even elegant. Walnuts and heavy cream add sophistication to the basil-garlic duo — a pesto that is equally at home on pasta, fluffed into hot rice or stirred into homemade mayonnaise  as a sauce for cold poached fish or crudités". This Basil & Walnut Pesto is simply sensational with linguine as a satisfying entrée or small first course portion to begin an Italian themed dinner.

Basil & Walnut Pesto Linguine
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 pound linguine or fettucine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup pesto
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese, optional

Pesto: (makes 2 cups)
2 cups fresh basil leaves thoroughly washed and patted dry
4 good-size garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup best-quality olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmigiano 
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Romano
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in the bowl of food processor and chop. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Shut the motor off, add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, then scrape out into a bowl and cover with a thin film of olive oil on top, until ready to use; freezes well.

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the linguine and boil until tender but firm. Stir in 2 tablespoons of hot pasta water and heavy cream into 1 cup of the pesto. Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the hot pot. Stir in the pesto and toss well to combine. Serve immediately in warm pasta bowls and garnish with additional pepper or cheese, if desired.