Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ma Gosnell's Buttermilk Scones with Raisins

Recipes that have been passed down from one generation to another are ones that have stood the test of time. And for good reason. They're fool-proof and fabulous, like this warm and delicious Buttermilk Scone recipe from my friend Cory, who's Mom has been making them for her family on their southern Ontario country farm for years. The epitome of efficient baking, 'Ma' Gosnell's secret is making up a batch of 'master mix' ahead of time, and using it as the base for her Buttermilk Scones, Pancakes and Tea Biscuits. Cory made these light, warm and delicious scones this past weekend, with a bowl of butter and homemade Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote, for the ultimate morning treat!

Ma Gosnell's Buttermilk Scones with Raisins
Makes 16 scones

Master Mix:
10 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup baking powder
1 tbsp salt
1 lb (2 1/3 cups) Crisco shortening, cut into small cubes

2 1/2 cups master mix, loosely packed
1/3 cup white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 egg yolk

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl or standing mixer. Gradually add the shortening until the mixture looks like coarse meal. This can be stored in a closed container at room temperature for a couple of weeks.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and raisins with 2 1/2 cups of master mix. Add the eggs and milk, and mix until it all becomes well incorporated and moistened. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead 20 times. Divide the mixture in half and place each portion into a 1/2-inch thick circles and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut each circle into eighths, but do not separate.

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 tsp of sugar and whisk briefly. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg-sugar mixture, and bake in the oven until the top are slightly golden and the scones are cooked, about 12-15 minutes. To serve, break the scones apart into wedges where they were scored, and slather generously with butter and fresh preserves. Yum!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chez Piggy: Kingston's Historic Culinary Landmark

Located in the heart of Kingston's historic downtown, the whimsically named Chez Piggy is the culinary offspring of Rose Richardson and Zal Yanovsky. Nearly 20 years ago, the couple renovated an abandoned limestone stable and launched a dining experience that helped make Kingston a destination for food lovers from all over the province. Both Zal, who was the co-founder and lead guitarist for The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Rose are now gone, but the Kingston institution, known locally as 'The Pig' lives on, continuing to attract both newcomers from far and wide, as well as a longstanding, faithful clientele.

Chez Piggy's sun-dappled courtyard on a balmy October afternoon

The last of the season's blooms were still making a show

Local art is on display throughout the restaurant

Vicki Newbury, Head Chef of Chez Piggy, who was born in Newfoundland, has worked at the restaurant since the day it opened in 1979. Committed to bringing locally sourced seasonal produce to Chez Piggy's culinary creations, Chef Newbury shops for much the restaurant's fresh produce at Patchwork Gardens and the nearby Kingston Public Market. She also works with local farmers, getting chicken and turkey from Lyon’s Family Farms and beef strip loins from the Enright Cattle Company. Even the wild smoked salmon Chez Piggy serves is local, coming from near Perth. With a broad and inspired international menu, Chez Piggy offers everything from Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Spanish Gambas al Ajillo and Memphis Pork back Ribs to Mediterranean Shaved Lamb Sandwich with Olive Lemon Salsa & Tzatziki on Fattoush, Classic Steak Frites and their famous Stilton Paté.

Orange Ginger Glazed Sea Scallops with Beet Carpaccio 
& Microgreens on a bed of Boston Lettuce

The Daily Half Sandwich Special: Ham & Cheese Sandwich on Olive Bread 
with Leek & Stilton Soup and Calico Cabbage Salad

Chez Piggy's Shoestring Frites & Mayonnaise

The longstanding success of Chez Piggy brought about the inevitable publication of The Chez Piggy Cookbook in 1998, which is still available for sale at the restaurant or online through Amazon. After Zal and Rose passed away, his daughter Zoe Yanovsky with actress Jackie Burroughs, took over the ownership of both restaurants, and launched The Pan Chancho Cookbook, with recipes from her popular Kingston Bakery, Café. Serving gourmet foods prepared daily to-go, Artisan breads and a popular catering arm, Panchancho is located just around the corner from Chez Piggy. For anyone visiting the Kingston, Ontario area, a trip to Chez Piggy or Panchancho are both 'pigs with a peel.'

Panchancho Cookbook

Chez Piggy Chocolate Raspberry Torte
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Chez Piggy Cookbook

1 lb unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups fresh raspberries, reserve 1 cup
2 tbsp framboise liqueur
1 cup hot coffee
12 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
6 eggs, room temperature
6 egg yolks, room temperature

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar. Remove from the heat, and add 1 cup raspberries, liqueur, coffee and melted chocolate, and stir until mixture has a smooth consistency.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks until frothy. Then lightly whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture until it thickens.

Preheat over to 325°F. Line the sides and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Pour in the batter and place pan on baking sheet, in case there are any leaks. Bake for 1 hour.

The torte will be cooked, but not set in centre, so let cool for 20 minutes before springing the pan and removing the parchment paper from sides. Refrigerate until completely chilled.

Purée the reserved 1 cup of fresh raspberries, and sweeten with sugar to taste. To serve, slice the torte and top with raspberry purée.

Chez Piggy Stilton Paté
Serves 8-10 as an appetizer
Recipe courtesy Chez Piggy Cookbook

1 lb Stilton, at room temperature
10 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Blend the stilton, cream cheese and butter in a food processor until smooth and well combined. Gradually add the brandy and some fresh ground black pepper to taste. Serve the paté with warm crusty baguette or artisanal crackers.

Moroccan Chickpea Salad with Mint
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy Panchancho

1 3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp crushed dried chilies
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 19oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

In a large cast-iron pan over medium heat, cook the onion in olive oil with sea salt, paprika, dried chilies, cumin and cinnamon, until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the tomato paste, mix well and cook for another 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the onion mixture, parsley, mint and drained chickpeas. Season to taste and add some more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature with a garnish of chopped cilantro.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Braised Monkfish Medallions in Marinara Sauce

A lovely firm textured and meaty white fish, Monkfish is absolutely delicious marinated and grilled on the barbecue then braised in a rich and aromatic marinara sauce. Not the most attractive of fish, it has an enormous flattened head with a tapered body, of which only the tail is used. With a wonderfully delicate flavour and gorgeous meaty texture, Monkfish stands up well when cut into generous 1 1/2-inch thick medallions, marinated in olive oil, lemon zest, fresh thyme and seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. 

Grilled on the barbecue for about 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat, the medallions are then slowly braised in a rich and spicy Marinara sauce, until they become lovely, soft and tender. Delicious on its own with a simple green salad, this healthy low fat Braised Monkfish Medallions in Marinara Sauce can also be served over rice or pasta for a simple, easy and satisfying pescatorian feast.

Braised Monkfish Medallions in Marinara Sauce
Serves 2

1 Monkfish tail
1 lemon, zested
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups Marinara Sauce, homemade or store-bought
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped 

Place the monkfish tail on cutting board and cut into generous 1 1/2-inch thick medallions. Combine the olive oil, lemon zest and fresh thyme in a large bowl with the medallions and season with salt and fresh ground pepper, tossing to coat. 

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high. Place the monkfish on the grill and roast until cooked though, turning once, about 8-10 minutes each side depending on the side of the medallions.

Warm the marinara sauce in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once simmering, add the medallions and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.

To serve the monkfish, place the medallions in a pre-warmed dinner bowl, spooning the Marinara sauce generously over top and garnish with a flurry of chopped fresh parsley.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spaghettini with Turkey Meatballs & Arrabbiata Sauce

Light and delicious, these succulent Turkey Meatballs are made with a combination of ground turkey and turkey sausage for a leaner twist on the traditional Italian favourite. The addition of garlic, grated parmesan cheese, fresh bread crumbs, egg and chopped Italian parsley take these little golden gems to another savoury level. Rolled into small bite size or golfball size balls, the easiest way to make them is to pinch out the desired amount and roll it into a ball between the palms of your hands. The meatballs are then paced on a parchment lined baking sheets and baked in the oven for about half an hour.

In the meantime, a quick Arrabbiata Sauce can be prepared with sautéed onion, garlic, red wine, tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and a few teaspoons of dried chili flakes or Sriracha Sauce, for a little heat. Arrabbiato means angry in Italian, due to the heat of the chili peppers, so it's up to you how 'angry' you like your sugo, or sauce. You can always say, "The devil made you do it!"

Assemble the turkey meatballs into 1-2" balls or as you prefer

Golden brown and cooked through, the turkey meatballs smell heavenly

Spaghettini with Turkey Meatballs
Serves 6-8

Turkey meatballs:
3/4 lb ground turkey

1/2 lb turkey sausage, casings removed

2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs

2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 tbsp milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Spicy Arrabiata sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 small can tomato paste
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more if you like
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 large cans crushed tomatoes, drained, but save the juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish 

Pasta & Garnish:
1 500g box spaghettini or spaghetti
1 cup grated good quality Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the ground turkey and sausage meat, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a medium spoon, drop 1 to 2-inch size meatballs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and lightly browned. You should get about 24 to 30 meatballs, depending how big you want to make them. Once done, drain on paper towel and set aside.

While the meatballs are baking, begin to make Arrabiata sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, sugar, basil, red pepper flakes, tomato paste and black pepper, stirring to combine. Mix in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes. If you like a slightly runnier sauce, add some of the reserved tomato juice, and season to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a full rolling boil, then cook the pasta as per  the directions on the box. While the pasta is cooking, gently combine the turkey meatballs with the Arrabiata sauce, stirring to combine. Let simmer over a low heat until ready to serve.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain and pour into a large warmed serving bowl or platter. Pour the Arrabiata and meatballs sauce over the noodles, and garnish with chopped parsley and grated fresh parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Miller Tavern in Hogg's Hollow

Originally known as the York Mills Hotel, The Miller Tavern dates back to the 1860s, when it used to be a resting spot for horses and carriages on their journey through Hogg's Hollow, a popular stopover for travellers looking for a drink. Like other 19th century inns and taverns, the hotel went through a succession of owners and periods of changing fortunes. During Prohibition in the 20th century, the Inn became a gambling den that was eventually closed down following several police raids. It was renamed The Jolly Miller, and became a hotel and tavern until 1964.

The Jolly Miller Hotel in 1945

The historical landmark was updated and renovated in 2003 and after a 10-month $3 million makeover became the Miller Tavern, complete with an oyster lounge, one of the city's largest outdoor patios and a lovely glass-enclosed, heated veranda, which is particularly popular in the cold winter months. The new modern interior has retained some of the original brick walls, and features cozy fireplaces, rough-hewn pine detailing, comfortable bankette seating and modern lighting and decorative features.

Foyer of the Miller Tavern

The upper level of the 2-storey dining room

The outdoor patio, a popular destination in the summer 
but chilly on an October afternoon

Offering casual dining to the North York business and residential crowd, the Miller Tavern caters to all tastes, from a selection of salads, starters ad lounge snacks to burgers and quesadillas, to fresh fish, seafood and steaks. Downstairs on the lower level, the Miller's Oyster Lounge, with more casual dining, large screen TVs and long road-house bar, also features a raw bar with a selection of fresh shucked oysters, popular with the after-work crowd.

Miller Caesar Salad with romaine, tortilla-style croutons and pancetta

Goat Cheese & Beet Salad with mixed greens, black lentils and pine nuts 
with a cider vinaigrette

Shrimp Cocktail

Lamb Bolognese with shaved parmesan, toasted pine nuts 
on fusilli pasta with truffle oil

Nova Scotia Lobster Quesadilla filled with meat from a 1-pound lobster, boursin cheese, 
chopped tomato and bell peppers all wrapped and grilled in a flour tortilla

There are definitely hits and misses on the menu, but the Miller offers an eclectic if not pricey menu, with courteous staff in a casually elegant uptown setting. The upstairs dining room was full on an October Wednesday afternoon, so they must be doing something right.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Herb & Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb

One of my favourite ways of cooking a Boneless Leg of Lamb is this absolutely delicious and easy recipe that I discovered in the South Beach Diet: Parties & Holidays Cookbook. The savoury Dijon and rosemary marinade is just as wonderful on pork loin as well. The key is infusing the meat with a fragrant mixture of chopped rosemary, thyme, parsley and garlic, which is inserted into deep slits that are cut into the meat before searing the lamb on all sides to seal in the juices. The leg is then coated with a generous 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard and roasted for about an hour. The aroma is intoxicating, but not as wonderful as this Herb & Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb tastes as it's carved before guests. Just don't tell them it's from a diet cookbook — they'll never believe it!

Herb & Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of South Beach Diet: Parties & Holidays Cookbook

1 3lb boneless leg of lamb, tied
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the lamb lightly on all sides with salt and pepper. Combine the chopped herbs and garlic in a small bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch slits into the thickest part of the leg and fill the cuts with the herb and garlic mixture, pressing the mixture deep into the meat with your finger.

Lightly coat a large skillet with vegetable oil and heat over a medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all four sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the lamb from the skillet and transfer to a roasting pan. Coat with mustard on all sides and then roast until the lamb reaches 135° for medium rare on a meat thermometer, about 60-70 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and loosely cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Snip the string before carving the lamb across the grain, in generous slices. Serve the sliced lamb warm with the delicious juices, and perhaps some steamed rapini and new potatoes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nami Japanese Restaurant: Downtown Toronto

For over two decades, Nami has been a quiet escape in the heart of downtown Toronto, for the finest sushi, sashimi, made-to-order grilled meat, fish and seafood at the Robata Grill, and Sukiyaki — Japanese hot pot. Considered to be one of the city's finest authentic Japanese restaurants, Nami is a hidden gem. One of my favourite sushi restaurants for years, Kimono-clad servers wait on guests in the main dining area, in private booths as well as the private rice paper screened Tatami rooms, which can be reserved for groups of eight people or more — a real treat.

Grilled sardines, zucchini ad asparagus at Nami's robata grill

Nami's succulent black cod in a miso glaze

Peter is Majordomo at the Robata Bar and serves the most sublime fish, seafood and succulent steamed mixed mushrooms. Alternatively, you can sit at the Sushi Bar for a traditional and unique dining experience — just remember to say "Gochisosama Deshita!", as you leave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake

This delectably moist gingerbread-spiced caramelized apple upside-down cake is the perfect dessert for the chilly autumn and winter months. Dark, coppery and intensely flavoured, this delicious cake is made with dark molasses, honey, buttermilk and a trio of fragrant spices, and goes perfectly with a dollop of pillowy soft Calvados Whipped Cream or tangy creme fraiche. As tempting as it may be, don't use a springform pan with a removable bottom, as the syrup will leak out and that would be very messy as well as being enormously tragic.

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake
Serves 12

4 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Calvados whipped cream:
1/2 cup whipping cream, chilled
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp Calvados

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan. To make the topping, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring for 5 minutes, then swirl in the salt. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture into the cake pan, spreading with a spatula to distribute evenly. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the brown sugar. Chop any remaining slices and place them in the gaps.

For the batter, blend 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a standing mixer set on medium-low, then increase the speed to high and cream until the batter becomes light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, honey, buttermilk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Alternate adding the egg mixture and the flour mixture to the creamed butter-sugar mixture, then pour the batter into the cake pan.

Bake at least 45-50 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of pan to loosen the cake, then place a serving platter over the cake and invert onto the platter.

Serve warm or at room temperature with very softly whipped Calvados Whipped Cream, made by whisking the cream with the syrup and Calvados in an electric mixer until cream holds soft peaks.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pan Seared Sea Scallops & Minted Pea Purée Crostini

This spectacular Seared Sea Scallop & Minted Pea Purée Crostini elevates a simple dish into something truly memorable. You can serve these canapé as a starter, main course or even as an eloquent appetizer by using smaller slices of bread. I love the notion of a canapé — all the fla­vours of a delicious meal, heaped extra­vag­antly into one per­fect mouth­ful. The word canapé was coined in 18th cen­tury France and means 'sofa', drawing on the analogy that the garnish sits on top of the bread similar to invited guests reclining on a love seat — the per­fect romantic descrip­tion! 

An extremely elegant appetizer, pan-seared sea scallops are nestled on a pillow of sweet minted pea purée and served on warm garlic and olive oil rubbed slices of baguette, then topped with shaved shallots, aged sherry vinegar aioli and a flurry of baby cress. Not light on the pocketbook, but extremely impressive on the plate, this is the perfect canapé for an hors d’oeuvres party or special dinner.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops & Minted Pea Purée Crostini
Serves 12 as an appetizer
photo courtesy Derek's Restaurant/Sarasota

1 baguette
3 cloves garlic
, peeled and cut in half length-wise
1/4 cup good olive oil

Minted Pea purée:
6 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 tbsp garlic
2 shallots 

1 cup fresh mint, washed, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 /2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

Sherry aioli:
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tbsp shallots, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white sugar
1 lemon, juiced
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

6 large sea scallops, patted dry
2 tbsp clarified butter or ghee
1 shallot, shaved for garnish
1 bunch baby watercress or sprouts, for garnish

Purée all the ingredients for the pea purée in a food processor and reserve for later. Slice the scallops in half lengthwise, pat dry and season with salt and white pepper. For the sherry aioli, purée all but the oil in food processor. Slowly add oil with food processor running until it emulsifies. Cover and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the clarified butter over high heat and once the butter is hot, add the scallops and cook for 2 minutes each side, then set aside.

For the crostini, cut the baguette into diagonal slices about 3/8-inch thick, place on a baking sheet and set in a preheated 475°F oven. Bake until just golden, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the tartine from the oven, and using the fresh cloves of raw garlic, rub one side of each of the toasts, then brush a little olive oil. Set aside.

To compose the tartine, spread the pea purée over the toasted slices of baguette. Slice the seared scallops and lay on top of the pea purée. Top the scallops with the aioli and shaved shallots and garnish with young cress or sprouts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chana Masala: A Delicious Indian Chickpea Curry

A classic Indian dish of chickpeas slow-simmered with onions, tomatoes and spices, Chana Masala is a delicious spicy, fragrant and comforting dish with a delicate sour citrus note that comes from amchoor powder, a dried unripe mango powder that's readily available in Indian shops, however an extra squeeze of lemon juice can be used if you can't find amchoor. Adapted from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey, this is delicately spiced bright orange Chana Masala  is delicious topped with cooling yogurt or Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche and a drizzle of sweet-tart pomegranate molasses. Spooned over steamed rice or scooped up with naan, Chana Masala, also known as Chole Masala or Channay is one of the most popular Punjabi dishes in Pakistani and Indian cuisine.

Chana Masala
Serves 8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 fresh hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp amchoor powder
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
15-ounce can whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, juiced
6-8 kari leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchoor, paprika and garam masala. Cook the onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice. Cover and keep on low heat until ready to serve with a garnish of fresh kari leavs.

Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Makes 1 cup

1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 cup Greek yogurt or crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the cumin in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown. Place in spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until coarse. Stir it into the yogurt and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup with Sweet Potato Croûtes

A fabulous Mexican-style soup that features one of the healthiest foods you can eat — cholesterol-lowering, high-fibre and heart-healthy black beans. This south of the border sensation features a winning combination of black beans, onions, tomatoes and smokey chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, simmered to perfection and infused with spices to create an exquisite soup that’s got just the right kick. This soup is loud, beefy, spicy, smoky, textured and complex and has no cream — thickened only by coarsely-puréed black beans. 

Pumpkin purée is yet another star in this ensemble cast, but the prima donna — potassium-rich sweet potato cubes that are pan-roasted to form crisp little 'croutons'. Joined by omega-3 packed creamy avocado, tangy fat-free Greek yogurt and a drizzle of Chipotle hot sauce, this soup is an award-winning combination of healthy heart-smart foods in one dish. Served with a salad and crusty piece of bread, it's substantial enough to be a meal in itself. 

Spicy Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Sweet Potato Croûtes
Serves 8
photo courtesy Lauren/Healthy Food for Living

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
2 tsp adobo sauce
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
3 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained

1 16 oz can pumpkin purée, about 1 1/2 cups
4 cups beef broth

1/2 cup dry sherry
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, for garnish
Chipotle hot sauce

Sweet Potato Croûtes: 
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic cloves, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, cumin, cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add in the drained beans, tomatoes, pumpkin purée, dry sherry and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. 

Meanwhile, while the soup is simmering, start to prepare the sweet potato croutons. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the cubes of sweet potato, a generous pinch of kosher salt and the chile powder. Stir to coat the sweet potato and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisp and browned on the bottom. Stir the potatoes and brown the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat until all sides of the sweet potato cubes are crisp and browned, then drain on paper towel, season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Once the soup is cooked through, purée the mixture using an immersion blender or by transferring the soup into a blender, and process in batches. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the Spicy Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup in warmed bowls and garnish with Sweet Potato Croutons, diced avocado, yogurt and a drizzle of chipotle hot sauce. Hay Caramba!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jean's Famous Coleslaw

One of the quintessential North American salads, Coleslaw has many variations, but the core ingredient is shredded cabbage which is dressed with buttermilk and mayonnaise, or with vinegar and seasonings for a lighter 'slaw'. Sometimes even cream or sour cream are used with a little mustard or vinegar, and a variety of vegetables such as shredded carrots, onions, radishes, peppers, horseradish, seeds or even broccoli slaw, which uses shredded raw broccoli in place of the cabbage.

The perfect side dish with a hamburger or hot dog, coleslaw is a natural. The best recipes are generally family favourites, passed down from generation to generation, and this recipe is no different. This recipe came from my dear friend Jean White, who passed away 2 years ago at 91. She made the best coleslaw — not to creamy, not too vinegary, but just right. Her secret ingredient: pickle juice. Inspired. Just like Jean, bless her soul.

Jean's Coleslaw Dressing
Makes 1 cup

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup or less of pickle juice
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp celery seeds, crushed
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, crushed
pinch of garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into a jar and store until needed. Add to shredded cabbage with shredded carrots and finely chopped celery and onion to taste.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Gratin

It's autumn, the season of change. One of the quintessential fall vegetable casseroles made with half and half cream or crème fraîche, is this smooth, rich and creamy Butternut Squash Gratin. Perfect seasonal autumn or winter fare, the bright orange hue of the squash peeking out from beneath a blanket of melted cheese is enough to make you want to delve into this golden baked heartwarming dish. Simple and delicious, this quick, easy and flavourful gratin makes most of the the season's harvest. October is prime time for a multitude of delicious and versatile gourds — everyone seems to have their favourite — this luscious recipe is wonderfully delicious with either spaghetti, acorn, zucchini or butternut squash — just be sure you make enough, it goes fast!

Butternut Squash Gratin
Serves 6
Recipe & photo courtesy of Paragary’s Bar and Oven

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 cups heavy cream or crème fraîche
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper
2 Bay leaves
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère cheese
4 sprigs of sage for garnish

Combine cream, garlic, herbs, and onions in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue to cook until the garlic and onion are very soft, about 30-40 minutes. Place a sieve over a large bowl and strain the mixture and season with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.

Arrange the slices of squash in a 9”x13” baking dish, seasoning each layer with a little Parmigiano cheese. Pour the infused cream over the layered squash and season the top with more cheese. Allow the ingredients to settle for several minutes, then bake the gratin at 350°F until the squash is very tender and cream has been absorbed. Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving with a few sprigs of garnish.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Turkey Lasagna with Ricotta, Mushrooms & Spinach

One of the ultimate comfort foods, this light, creamy and über cheesy Turkey Lasagna with Ricotta, Mushrooms & Spinach is a luscious lower fat version of the classic Italian favourite. Extra lean ground turkey keeps things light, but seasoning it with sweet Italian sausage and crushed fennel seeds gives this dish a boost of extra flavour. The addition of fresh spinach, cremini mushrooms and a generous blend of four cheeses — creamy ricotta, mozzarella cheese, tangy goat cheese and piquant Parmigiano-Reggiano — all topped with a hearty Marinara sauce, makes this a rich and satisfying lasagna. Layers of delicious turkey meat sauce, creamy cheeses and tender pasta topped with a layer of golden melted cheese, is comfort food at its best.

Turkey Lasagna with Ricotta, Mushrooms & Spinach
Serves 6-8

Recipe and photo courtesy of 'get-me-cooking'

2 tbsp olive oil
1lb lean ground turkey
1/2 lb sweet Italian turkey sausages, casings removed
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
2 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups fresh mozzarella, grated
4 oz goat cheese
2 cups ricotta
5 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
1 large egg, slightly beaten
16 plain, whole wheat or spinach no-boil lasagna noodles
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

In a large skillet, add olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until translucent. Add the ground turkey, turkey sausage, mushrooms, spinach, oregano, crushed fennel seeds, salt and pepper and cook until the meat is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Once cooked, set the turkey mixture aside and turn off the heat.

 In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, egg, 1 tablespoon of parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Ladle a layer of marinara along the bottom of a 9x12-inch rectangle baking dish. Add a single layer of lasagna noodles overtop, overlapping the pasta sheets slightly, so the lasagna will not fall apart when served. Layer a thin layer of ricotta over the pasta sheets, then sprinkle a single layer of the turkey meat. Layer a quarter of the mozzarella over the turkey meat, then repeat starting with the marinara sauce, the noodles and so forth until your baking dish is full. Layer the last bit of parmesan cheese on top so it creates a crust for the top of the lasagna.

Put aluminum foil over the top of the baking dish and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Serve warm with an extra dollop of marinara sauce on top right before serving with the parsley to decorate.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Roast Squash with Sausage, Farro & Spinach

Acorn squash is absolutely delicious when roasted and topped with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, but when filled with a hearty stuffing of fennel sausage, baby spinach, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, nutty farro and delicate goat cheese, it’s a meal in itself. Bursting with lots of comforting fall flavours and perfumed with fresh thyme, cinnamon and cumin, this fabulous Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Sausage, Farro & Spinach brings the spirit of autumn home in this hearty and nutritious one 'bowl' dish.

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Sausage, Farro & Spinach
Serves 2 as a main course

photo:courtesy Matthew Mead

1 acorn squash
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup farro
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
8 oz mixed mushrooms, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped with fronds reserved
1 cup fennel sausage, casings removed
2 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
2 oz crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in the centre. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out all of the seeds with a spoon. Rub the inside and outside with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until fork tender. Turn off the oven and let the squash remain warm inside.

While the squash is roasting, rinse the farro in a strainer under cold running water. Have 4 cups of salted water boiling in a large pot, drop in the farro, stir and get water to a steady, lively simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain the farro in a sieve and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the fennel sausage in a medium sauté pan until cooked through, about 10 minutes. In a large saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the garlic, shallots, fennel and spices for about 8 minutes. Add the sausage meat, dried cranberries, mushrooms and pecans and cook for a few more minutes. Mix in the farro and cook for another minute or two. Sprinkle half of the cheese into the mixture and stir until melted, then add the spinach, mixing until it becomes wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the acorn squash from the oven and the mound the farro mixture inside each of the halves. Sprinkle the remainder of the goat cheese, a few fennel fronds and serve immediately.