Friday, August 31, 2012

Stracciatella Soup with Spinach, Chicken & Rice

This hearty Stracciatella-style soup is more substantial than the traditional Italian egg drop soup, with the addition of chicken, leeks, spinach and rice. I've also made this soup with tiny chicken meatballs and orzo, which is completely addictive. The perfect antidote to a cool Autumn day, this robust and delicious soup is a wonderful meal on its own with a loaf of warm crusty bread and simple green salad.

Stracciatella Soup with Spinach, Chicken & Rice
Makes 8 cups

1 tbsp olive oil
2 large bone-in chicken breasts, with skin removed
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, both white and light green parts
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup cooked fresh spinach
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup raw long grain rice or orzo
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sprinkle chicken breasts with a pinch of salt and ground pepper. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the chicken, breast side down, and sauté until browned, about five minutes. 
Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, about another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate, leaving the oil in the pot.

Add the chopped leeks, parsley, thawed spinach and nutmeg and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until the leeks begin to soften, about three minutes. Pour in 6 cups of the chicken stock, reserving the last 1/4 cup for the eggs, and add the rice. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 25 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, add two eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock and parmesan, in a small bowl and beat until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

After 25 minutes, remove the chicken breasts from the soup. Using two forks, pull the meat off the bone. Discard the bones and tear the chicken meat into bite sized pieces and add to the soup. Then pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup, and whisk vigorously. Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer, whisking occasionally for five minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the soup begins to look curdled, that’s how it’s supposed to look as the eggs cook.

Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with grated parmesan and chopped Italian parsley.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

French Quarter 75: A Cocktail for Labour Day

Popularized in New Orleans by the legendary restaurateur Arnaud Cazenave, and the French artillery gun used in World War I, the French 75 is an extremely potent combination of champagne and gin that will definitely make an impact at your upcoming Labour Day party. Any drink that has its origins in gunpowder and a classic French Quarter restaurant like Arnaud’s, will provide the perfect accompaniment to whatever fireworks may arise on the long weekend.

Labour Day French 75
Serves 2

4 oz London dry gin
2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 tsp superfine sugar
1 oz lemon or lime juice
10 oz champagne or prosecco
Raspberries and lemon curls, for garnish

Shake all the ingredients together well with cracked ice in a chilled cocktail shaker, then strain into champagne flutes and top off with a raspberry and lemon twist.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Roasted Squash, Blue Cheese & Radicchio Salad

A glorious salad with all of the colours of Autumn. Any mixed vareity of your favourite squash can be used in this salad, such as muchiki kuri, kabocha, acorn or butternut. I've also added dried cranberries and sweet candied pecans before, which add a sweet note to the Roasted Squash, Blue Cheese & Radicchio Salad, but in fact any warm nuts would be fine too, such as pine nuts, walnuts, cashews or even macadamia nuts. The savoury-sweet combination of the roasted squash, bitter leaves, tangy blue cheese, crunchy nuts and fragrant flash-fried sage makes this a delicious and spectacular salad, perfect anytime of the year. To save time, the squash can be roasted ahead of time, and left at room temperature until the dish is ready to be composed later in the day.

Roasted Squash, Blue Cheese & Radicchio Salad

Serves 4
Recipe and photo: hardboiledchef

1 butternut squash, peeled, cored and diced
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbsp good quality Canadian maple syrup
1 cup good quality blue cheese, St Agur or Gorgonzola
12 radicchio or red endive leaves
4 cups mesclun or mixed lettuce
2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
12 sage leaves, fried in sunflower oil until crisp

Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper

1/2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 475°F. Toss the squash slices with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of nutmeg, sea salt flakes, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of good quality maple syrup. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. While the squash are cooking, combine the balsamic, olive oil and Dijon to make a quick dressing. When the squash is cooked, remove from the oven and let cool briefly before serving.

When ready, crumble the blue cheese into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, combine the squash, radicchio and mixed lettuce leaf tops of your choice, with the dressing. To serve, divide the dressed squash and mixed lettuce leaves evenly between four plates. Garnish with the blue cheese, sage leaves, a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and finish with a pinch of Maldon salt and some fresh ground pepper.

Candied Pecans
Makes 1/2 cup 

1/2 cup pecans
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp warm water
2-3 pinches salt
2-3 pinches ground cinnamon

Transfer the pecans to a skillet which has been heated over medium heat, and heat the pecans, shaking the pan from time to time, until the pecans become fragrant. Combine the sugar, water, salt and cinnamon, in a small glass, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the pecans in the skillet and cook stirring until the water has evaporated and the pecans are covered in a glaze. Empty the pecans onto parchment paper, trying to keep them in a single layer. Allow them to cool.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guy's Famous Barbecue Sauce

This is absolutely the best Barbecue Sauce — we'd tried lots of bottled brands before and always found the flavour lacking. Inspired with the promise of making Barbecued Baby Back Ribs for the Labour Day long weekend, my husband researched a number of recipes for homemade sauce and came up with this heavenly elixir. Sweet and spicy with sensational smokey undertones, this full-flavoured thick and tangy sauce is so easy to make, you'll never buy another bottle of store-bought barbecue sauce ever again. 

From these humble ingredients comes unparalleled greatness

The secret is to make this sauce one day ahead, to allow the flavours to blend together and become more complex as the sauce is simmered over low heat for an hour, then cooled and refrigerated overnight. For the best flavour, my husband uses Heinz ketchup, French's classic yellow 'ballpark' mustard and a few teaspoons of liquid smoke for a deep and rich tomato-based sauce with intense layers of sweetness, tartness and heat, with an extra boost of flavour from Worcestershire sauce, garlic, brown sugar and red wine vinegar. Delicious served with baby back ribs, chicken or even pulled pork, my husband's fabulous recipe is the ultimate Barbecue Sauce, guaranteed to tantalize the taste-buds of even the most passionate rib connoisseurs.

Guy's Famous Barbecue Sauce
Makes 5 cups

2 medium onions, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
10 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups Heinz ketchup
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup prepared French's yellow mustard
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
6 tsp liquid smoke

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper, and stir for one minute. Then add all the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. When done, cool the sauce to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The River Room Café at Museum London

With one of the most beautiful views in the city overlooking the Thames River, the appropriately named River Room Café at Museum London, stands at the top the city's restaurant scene, with an inspiring menu and warm attentive service that create a long lasting and satisfying impression. Crisp white linens and contemporary black wood trim accent the stunning modern interior that is both sophisticated, relaxing and comfortable. 

A refined and sophisticated interior

The open concept room, set on a prime corner of the Museum, is brightly lit from two banks of panoramic windows that are complemented by a similarly dazzling streamlined menu of sandwiches, crepes, omelettes and pastas. Featuring fresh local ingredients, from in-house baked breads, muffins and scones to delicious wines, micro beers and spectacular views, the River Room Café is one of the better restaurants open in London on Sundays, and features a wonderful Brunch menu for just over $20 per person.

The River Room Café menu

Arriving for a leisurely meal on a sunny Sunday summer afternoon, we were offered a choice of complimentary aperitifs with our meal, including such luscious libations as a Mimosa with prosecco and fresh squeezed orange juice, Screwdriver, Bloody Mary, Caesar or choice of wines, beer and soda. Our delightful server Sandy warned us that the Bloody Marys were explosive, made with both horseradish and serano chili, for a potent and delicious combination. As we looked over the menu, a warm basket of fresh baked muffins, scones and pot of butter arrive to tempt us into submission.

The River Room Bloody Mary with enormous Pzaaazz'

Homemade muffins and scones, complimentary with all brunch dishes

With over a dozen dishes featured on The River Room Brunch menu, there's something for everyone, including Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken, Bacon, Bleu Cheese, Egg, Tomato and Cucumbers, Brioche French Toast of the Day, Prime Rib Beef Hash with Peppers, Onions, Potatoes & Prime Rib, served with Two Eggs and Greens to The River Room's signature Grilled 6 oz Sirloin Burger. However, we decided on three of their featured egg dishes — a Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Omelette served with Roasted Potatoes and Greens, Huevos Rancheros with two Fried Eggs on top of Crispy Corn Tortillas with Black Beans and Pico de Gallo, and Creole Scrambled Eggs with Chicken, Andouille Sausage, Spanish Onions, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes and Monterey Jack Cheese served with Roasted Potatoes and Greens.

Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Omelette served with Greens

Huevos Rancheros with two Fried Eggs on top of Crispy Corn Tortillas 
with Black Beans and Pico de Gallo

Creole Scrambled Eggs with Chicken, Andouille Sausage, Spanish Onions, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes and Monterey Jack Cheese served with Roasted Potatoes and Greens

Our warm, friendly and effervescent server Sandy

Thoroughly impressed with the simple yet delicious cuisine, spectacular views, elegant surroundings and excellent service, we vowed to return to this delightful restaurant, tucked away in Museum London, whenever we're back in the city — it's a triumph.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Diana's Oyster Bar & Grill

One of the best sources for the freshest and widest selection of fish and seafood in Toronto, is Diana's Seafood, located at 2101 Lawrence Avenue East. Serving many of the city's better hotels and restaurants, Diana's also has a dedicated retail clientele of rapacious regulars, who trek up to Warden and Lawrence for Diana's enviable selection of oysters, fresh whole fish as well as octopus, lobsters, clams and winkles to wild scallops, organic Irish salmon and sushi grade tuna — all at a fraction of the cost of what one would pay elsewhere. I go there at least twice a week for my fish and oyster-fix. Earlier this year they opened their first restaurant, Diana's Oyster Bar & Grill, which sits on the same property as Diana's Seafood.

Diana's Oyster Bar & Grill menu

Taking advantage of their superlative produce from next door, Diana's Oyster Bar & Grill offers a sleek indoor oyster bar to slurp up the freshest oysters from both coasts of Canada and the U.S., and again, at a fraction of the cost of downtown oyster bars. "There are no transportation costs. We just walk five steps across the parking lot to get more oysters," says manager Philip Ho, who used to be at Starfish as well as Rodney’s. Jason Kennedy parachuted in from Pusateri’s and is now ensconced as executive chef. His food is fresh, fun and above all, good looking. We stopped by for a quick lunch before heading into Diana's Seafood, and enjoyed a wonderfully fresh Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled Octopus and outstanding Fish & Chips.

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail served with classic cocktail sauce and lemon

Diana's Fish & Chips with crispy beer battered fish chosen daily 
served with homemade fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce

Grilled Octopus marinated in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon zest & fresh herbs, 
served with a warm tomato caper and kalamata olive salsa, charred lemon and sliced baguette

There was a large table beside ours feasting on platters of Oysters, Littleneck Clams steamed in a roasted garlic fennel cream sauce, Fried Calamari, Steamed Whole Lobster and Sashimi-Grade Yellow Fin Tuna Carpaccio. Yet another table were enjoying Beer Battered Fried Fanny Bay Oysters and Diana's Lobster Club Sandwich, which led me to only one possible conclusion — we had to come back again very soon. There are just too many temptations to succumb to in one afternoon!

Diana's Beer Battered Fried Fanny Bay Oysters

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

A riff on the traditional Italian antipasto of Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus, this ultra simple and delicious recipe is an easy and impressive way to serve these tiny bundles as an elegant side dish of an outdoor summer meal. The prosciutto adds just the right amount of saltiness to the spears, making for a superbly savoury and flavour-packed combination. Grilling the asparagus over low heat help to render most of the fat out of the prosciutto, causing it to shrink and tighten around the bundles for a lovely presentation. Wrap each individual spear for easy party appetizer, and serve with a tangy citron vinaigrette.

Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
Serves 6 as a side dish

1 lb asparagus (18 spears)
6 slices prosciutto or pancetta, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

1 lemon, sliced, for garnish

Wash the asparagus spears and trim off the woody bottoms. Toss the asparagus in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a little salt and pepper to coat all of the pieces. Tightly wrap three pieces of asparagus in each slice of prosciutto and lay seam side down on a tray. Light an outdoor grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the asparagus over moderate heat, turning often, until the bundles are just tender and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5-7 minutes total, depending on the size of the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to a platter and drizzle 
with a little olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and a pinch of Maldon salt. Garnish with sliced lemon and serve immediately.

Citron Vinaigrette:
1 orange, zest and juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, stir the orange zest and juice with the mustard and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve with individual spears of Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus as an antipasto.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Asian-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Asian-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps are a delicious low-carb and gluten-free dish full of fabulous flavours and fresh Asian-inspired ingredients. Also known as Chopped Rainbow in Crystal Fold, it was one of the house specialties at the Pink Pearl on Avenue Road, before it closed its doors a number of years ago — crystal fold is the poetic Chinese term for lettuce, and chopped rainbow is the term for a colourful meat mixture. Designed to be enjoyed taco-style, minced chicken, pork or beef are stir-fried with diced water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions and garlic, then cooked in a fragrant soy, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar sauce. Served on a large platter with crisp iceberg lettuce leaves and an aromatic Asian pouring sauce on the side, Chopped Rainbow in Crystal Fold is as healthy and delicious to feast on as it is fun to eat.

Asian-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

Asian pouring sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 tbsp tamari or regular soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp hot water
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced

Stir-fry sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

Chicken stir-fry:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb ground chicken, turkey, beef, pork or even Peking Duck
1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, minced to the size of corn kernals
1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, minced to the size of corn kernals
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 scallions, cleaned and chopped finely for garnish
6 large leaves of iceberg lettuce

For the pouring sauce, dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl, then add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Just before serving, combine 1 teaspoons hot water with dijon mustard and garlic and mix in a small bowl. Add to the pouring sauce, 1/2 a teaspoon at time to taste.

Prep the stir fry sauce by mixing soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Then begin the stir-fry by combining the oils in a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it glistens, about one minute. Add the ground meat and sauté until it's mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-high. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, wait one minute, and then add garlic, onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and the stir-fry sauce that was prepared earlier. Stir-fry everything until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 4 minutes, and then place in a serving dish. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve with iceberg lettuce leaf wraps and bowl of pouring sauce on the side. This makes a great appetizer or first course for an Asian inspired dinner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crispy Cheesy Cauliflower Fritters

Cheesy, crispy, salty puffs of pure heaven, Cauliflower Fritters are so easy to make and divine to devour. Delicious on their own as an appetizer or served as an elegant garnish on creamy Cauliflower Soup, these magnificent little morsels are inspired by an old English classic — Cauliflower Cheese. Simple, comforting and unbelievably delicious, Cauliflower Fritters are inexpensive to make and can also be prepared in a little more than half an hour.  

Cauliflower fritters and chives on Cauliflower Soup

Simply break a cauliflower into small florets and steam until tender. Then mix with two eggs, a little flour, some lemon juice, a few spices, fresh garlic and a handful of flavourful Gruyère cheese. Chilling the mixture for about 30 minutes helps firm up the batter, ensuring that the fritters hold their shape as they're flash fried in a shallow bath of hot vegetable oil, until they become crisp and golden brown. Sprinkled with a dash of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a garnish of fresh watercress, these Cheesy Cauliflower Fritters are quite simply, 'bloody mah-velous!'

Crispy Cheesy Cauliflower Fritters
Makes 12-16

1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 oz all purpose flour
2 large eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch chili powder
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
4 oz Gruyère cheese, grated
4 cups canola or vegetable oil
Maldon or Kosher salt

1 bunch watercress and lemon wedges, for garnish

Steam the cauliflower florets over a pot of boiling water and cook until fork tender, about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, lemon juice, eggs and spices. Once cooked, roughly chop the cauliflower into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Add the grated cheese and mix together. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes, so that it cools sufficiently to hold its shape while frying.

When you're ready to cook the fritters, fill a saucepan 1/3 full with canola oil and heat to 350°F. To cook the fritters, use 2 spoons to shape the cauliflower mixture into egg-shaped fritters and drop into the hot oil. Fry for about 4-5 minutes until the fritters are golden brown, turning as necessary to get even colouring. Once done, remove the fritters from the oil using a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towel. Then place the fritters on a warmed serving platter, season with Maldon salt and serve immediately with a garnish of baby watercress and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

COOK'S NOTE: These fritters make an excellent garnish with creamy Cauliflower Soup. Simple prepare the soup ahead of time, and make the fritters just before serving. Set a few fritters in the centre of each soup bowl and garnish with fresh chives, for an elegant and delicious soup course.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Old Country Inn Restaurant in Historic Unionville

Located in a charming 140-year old Victorian stone house on Unionville's picturesque Main Street, The Old Country Inn specializes in Austrian and German food such as Schnitzel, Bratwurst, Rostbraten and traditional Viennese pastries like Sacher Torte, the famous Austrian style chocolate cake. Built in 1872 by Dr. R.P. Eckardt, who was the grandson of the original settlers of Unionville, the restaurant was known as "The Doctors house", having been the home to a succession of medical practitioners for many years.

Main Street Unionville

Renowned for its heritage buildings, art galleries, charming restaurants, quaint shops and boutiques, Main Street remains virtually unchanged since it was founded over 200 years ago in 1794. Home to many festivals throughout the year, Unionville draws millions of tourists each year, especially during the popular Markham Jazz Festival which was held the August 17-19 weekend. Taking advantage of a warm sunny weekend, we headed up to Unionville to have lunch at the Old Country Inn, checkout the Jazz Festival and indulge in a little retail therapy at Pretty Thingz.

Markham Jazz Festival held every August

Main Street is open to cars during the day, but closed to vehicular traffic 
by early evening when the Jazz Festival gets into full swing

A cool shady garden patio, nestled along the side of the Old Country Inn, is a popular spot for those wanting to enjoy traditional Viennese cooking while listening to the dulcet sounds of Swing and Jazz coming from the street. For those wanting a more quiet lunch, there are also a series of quaint rooms inside the house, along with a new bright sunny addition at the back called the Winter Garden.

Lush, green and verdant, the outdoor patio is popular during the summer months

The quiet outdoor patio, looking onto Main Street

The Winter Garden Room with french doors and views of the garden

Although the Inn specializes in traditional Viennese cuisine, the kitchen also features lighter fare such as Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Consommé, Gazpacho and a selection of light salads, but judging by the girth of some of the diners, many come for the heartier fare of Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerbraten with Red Cabbage and Dumplings, Kartoffel (Potato) Suppe, Bratwurst and Krainer Sausages with Potato Salad and Sautéed Pork with onions and mushrooms served in a white wine sauce with homemade spätzle. And of course, no Austrian meal would be complete without an enormous glass of cold beer.

An enormous glass of Austrian beer

'Hering in Rahm', soused herring served with sour cream salad 
with sliced apples and celeriac

Shrimp Cocktail with six extra-large black tiger shrimp, 
served with Asbach brandy spiked cocktail sauce

'Kartoffel Suppe', a chunky Viennese potato soup

'Holstein Schnitzel' with fried egg, anchovies, home fries and 
broccoli with a cheese sauce

Traditional 'Wiener Schnitzel' with home fries and broccoli in a cheese sauce

Traditional Greek Salad with fresh cucumber, tomato, onion, Kalamata olives, red & green peppers topped with Feta Cheese and a warm corn and cheese scone

Apple Fritters with vanilla sauce 

'Palatschinken', crepes filled with apricot jam 

Apple Strudel with ice cream

Just a short drive from Toronto, Unionville is full of old world charm, with its beautiful heritage buildings, flower lined pedestrian-friendly streets, lovely restaurants, tempting shops and plenty of free parking, Main Street a delightful destination for enjoying a leisurely afternoon any time of the year. And if you find yourself craving some Schnitzel, homemade dumplings and a taste of Bavaria, you know where to go...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grilled Jamaican 'Jump-Up' Jerk Chicken

Guaranteed to get a chuckle around the barbecue, Jerk Chicken is up there with Spotted Dick as a conversation starter. Full of fiery chiles and warm spices, this all-purpose Jamaican seasoning can be used as a rub on pork, goat, fish, and vegetables, as well as chicken — breasts, thighs or drumsticks — even a whole bird butterflied and flattened. Bold and spicy, this Jump-Up Jerk Marinade uses an aromatic blend of garlic, onion, chiles, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon which lend fragrance to the complex paste in which the meat marinates before it's cooked; soy sauce and citrus give it sharpness and tang; and plenty of black pepper and Scotch bonnet chile add heat.

Although recipes vary from island to island, Jerk definitely isn’t jerk unless it’s barbecued, ideally over wood, and in a perfect world over the wood of the allspice tree. In Jamaica, oil drums serve as makeshift barbecues, but any barbecue, makeshift or otherwise, will do just fine. Just keep in mind that jerk marinade can burn easily, so the chicken requires slow cooking on the grill, which also helps keep the meat moist and tender. As Bob Marley said — "I´m doing my thing and I´m doing it slow..."

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Serves 8

4 lb chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks, with skin bone-in

Jerk marinade:
3 green onions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded (use gloves!)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped scallions and lime wedges, for garnish

Add all of the marinade ingredients together in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place the chicken and marinade in large resealable bags — dividing into two batches if necessary — squeeze out excess air, and seal.  Refrigerate overnight, or 3 hours minimum, turning several times for even marination. Bring chicken to room temperature for one hour before grilling.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken.

Preheat an outdoor grill on high, then adjust heat to moderate. Cook chicken until well browned on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to low and cook chicken, covered with lid, until cooked through, about 25 minutes more. To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter and garnish with chopped scallions and limes. Jerk Chicken is delicious served with grilled Sweet Potato Wedges, and Black Bean & Rice Salad.

Black Bean & Rice Salad
Serves 4

1 14 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
8 oz Jasmine Rice
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce cans black beans, drained, rinsed
1 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 medium bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (I use 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Bring chicken broth and water to boil in heavy large saucepan. Add rice and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer rice to large bowl and fluff with fork. Mix in black beans, bell peppers, red onion, chopped cilantro, oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin and chili powder. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and serve.

Creamy Cucumber Sauce

2-1/4 cups cucumber, finely diced
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic

Peel and seed cucumbers and roughly chop. Place in a medium size bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shaved Zucchini with Almond Salsa Verde

In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it's usually cooked and presented as a savoury dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower! Amazingly versatile, zucchini yield countless fabulous recipes perfect for summer, like this cool and refreshing Shaved Green and Yellow Zucchini with Almond Salsa Verde, which are simply shaved ribbons of raw zucchini tossed in an aromatic mixture of cilantro, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, shallots and garlic. Combined with chopped almonds, which are a great source of vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and niacin, almonds are the 'Queen of Nuts' with more nutrients and health benefits than any other nut. Simple, healthy and delicious, this quick and easy salad is just one more way to take advantage of this summer's bounty.

Shaved Zucchini with Almond Salsa Verde
Serves 6

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped capers
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz yellow squash 

8 oz green zucchini 

In a large bowl, combine almonds, cilantro, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, shallots, garlic, salt and mix thoroughly.

Trim the ends from the yellow squash and green zucchini and cut in half crosswise. Shave into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Toss with the salsa verde and flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil and serve. Garnish with some additional nuts and cilantro if desired.