Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hot Artichoke Parmesan Spread Campbell

Often the most memorable recipes are those inspired by friends who share their delectable offerings at casual get-togethers or leisurely weekend pot luck feasts. My friend Suzanne served this delicious low fat Artichoke Parmesan Spread as an appetizer during cocktail hour at a friend's annual Bridge cottage weekend in Muskoka this summer. A heart-smart update of the holiday entertaining classic, this Hot Artichoke & Parmesan Spread delivers all of the rich flavour with far less of the usual fat, for a tangy and delicious hors d'oeuvre that tastes naughty but it's not!

Hot Artichoke Parmesan Spread
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup plus 1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
4 tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
dash of cayenne pepper
salt & freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat the artichoke hearts dry in paper towel. In a food processor or blender, combine the artichoke hearts and remainder of ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture in an even layer in a small ovenproof baking dish, and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of parmesan. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot with low fat crackers or thin slices of toasted pita or baguette.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Steamed New Zealand Cockles: A Kiwi Classic

Small and succulent, New Zealand cockles, or tuangi in Maori, are a Kiwi classic. Steamed in wine, tossed in lemon butter and parsley and served with crusty white baguette, this light and delicious appetizer is a sumptuous south pacific treat for any shellfish lovers.

Steamed Cockles in White Wine
Serves 2 as an appetizer

1/4 cup of white wine or fish stock
1 bay leaf
30 cockles
1/4 cups freshly chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Let cockles soak in cold water for about 30-60 minutes so they release any sand trapped inside. In a large pot, heat the butter or olive oil and sliced garlic over high heat, and while stirring constantly, cook for one minute. Add the cockles, wine and half of the parsley, then cover, shaking the pan occasionally, until all of the shells have opened. To serve, pour the cockles and sauce onto a high rimmed serving platter and drizzle with lemon juice and the remaining parsley for garnish. Eat immediately and sop up the delicious juices with your favourite crusty white bread.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grilled Pickerel with Spicy Mayo & Jicama Slaw

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

Jicama has a thin brown skin and crisp, juicy, white flesh that’s mild in flavour, like a cross between a water chestnut and a pear — it's simple peeled and chopped

Julienned jicama

A Napa cabbage cut in half

How to julienne Napa cabbage

Julienned jicama, Napa cabbage, red pepper, green onions, fresh mint and diced orange zest

The Jicama Slaw dressed with citrus vinaigrette

Spicy mayonnaise sauce

Grilled pickerel and sliced orange garnished with fresh chives and mint

Grilled Pickerel with Spicy Mayo & Jicama Slaw
Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Grilled Tandoori-Style Salmon Steaks

While the tandoor clay oven, which originated in the old northwest frontier of India, is the traditional method for cooking tandoori dishes, these delicious Grilled Salmon Steaks work perfectly well on an outdoor barbecue also. The robust spice rub of cumin, paprika, garam masala, turmeric and red chilli powder teams with fresh ginger, garlic and lime juice, emulsified with five tablespoons of vegetable oil, to create a wonderfully fragrant and aromatic marinade, inspired by a recipe from Chef Mehermosh Mody's 'La Porte des Indes' cookbook.

Grilled Tandoori-Style Salmon Steak
Serves 2

2 salmon steaks, at least 1-inch thick
Lime wedges for garnish

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Juice of 1/2 lime
5 tbsp vegetable oil

Use a food processor to blend together the ginger, garlic and a little water, then add the remaining ingredients, mixing well to make a paste. Marinate the salmon in the mixture for 1-2 hours.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat and cook the salmon steaks about 10-15 minutes, turning them over half way during the cooking time. Garnish with the lime wedges and serve with some lime pickle.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuna Salad Plate with Avocado, Eggs & Sprouts

Low calorie, low carb and a great source of Omega-3, this simple, light and delicious Tuna Salad recipe makes an easy weekday dinner paired with sliced avocado, hard boiled eggs and some fresh tomatoes. Topped with a mound of flavourful onion sprouts and dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, outdoor summer dining doesn't get any easier, healthier or more satisfying.

Tuna Salad with Avocado, Hard Boiled Eggs & Sprouts
Serves 2

10 oz canned tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 cup diced English cucumber
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 oz mixed greens
2 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled and halved
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
6 grape tomatoes, halved
1 package onion sprouts, for garnish
Maldon salt and fresh cracked black pepper

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
Fresh cracked black pepper and salt, to taste

Add the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon and minced garlic together in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Season with fresh cracked black pepper and salt to taste. Combine tuna, diced cucumber, green onions, lemon juice, zest, dill, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir well. Toss the mixed greens with some vinaigrette to taste, then arrange on 2 plates and top with a generous scoop of the tuna mixture. Top with a handful of onion sprouts and garnish with sliced avocado, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. Season with Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and drizzle with more vinaigrette if need. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grilled Vegetables with Olive Oil, Oregano & Feta

A medley of the summer's freshest and most colourful seasonal vegetables are the centrepiece in this easy and delicious Grilled Vegetable Salad. Chopped and tossed with olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper, any selection of mixed vegetables can be cooked simply on the barbecue by using a teflon grill basket, preventing any of the little gems being lost though the grates. Finished with a crown of crumbled feta and selection of fresh herbs from the garden, this recipe is one of the easiest and most flavourful salads for the ultimate in care-free summer dining.

Grilled Vegetables with Olive Oil, Oregano & Feta
Serves 4

1 yellow zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces 
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 small red onion, cut into bite-size pieces
8 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried Greek oregano, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish

Toss the chopped vegetables in a large bowl with olive oil, dried oregano and season with salt and pepper. Preheat an outdoor barbecue to medium and grill the sliced zucchini until tender and slightly charred on the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. 

Meanwhile, place the remaining vegetables in a teflon grilling basket and using a pair of long stainless steel tongs, gently toss the vegetables every few minutes until they are cooked through. 

To serve, place the grilled vegetables on a decorative platter and garnish with the feta, some additional oregano and finish with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Indonesian Grilled Swordfish with Cucumber Raita

There's no other fish quite like swordfish, with its rich meaty texture, and full flavour, it's firm flesh makes it perfect for summertime grilling on the barbecue. An elegant and easy grilled entrée bursting with Asian-inspired flavours, this simple and delicious recipe was adapted from Ina Garten's Grilled Indonesian Swordfish from her celebrated 'Back to Basics' cookbook. Served with steamed rice and braised bok choy or crunchy asian slaw, this marinade works equally well with salmon, halibut or any other succulent firm fleshed fish. Topped with a spoonful of cool and crunchy homemade Cucumber Dill & Yogurt Raita, and garnished with grilled lemon, fresh mint and flowering dill, this low-carb high protein dish is as simple to prepare as it is delicate and delicious.

Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa 'Back to Basics' cookbook

 The swordfish marinating in soy sauce, oil, ginger, lemon, garlic and Dijon mustard 

Indonesian Grilled Swordfish
Serves 4

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 8-oz swordfish steaks, about 1-inch thick
1 lemon, cut into 4 thick slices, for grilling
Kosher salt

Cucumber Dill Raita:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp cucumbers, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1 pinch of cayenne
2 tsp minced fresh chives

Combine the soy sauce, canola oil, sesame oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, garlic and mustard in a bowl. Pour half the sauce in a low flat dish that's just large enough to hold the swordfish in one layer. Place the swordfish on top of the sauce and spread the remaining sauce on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high and brush the cooking grate with oil to prevent the fish from sticking. Remove the fish from the marinade, allowing some of the ginger to cling to the fish, and discard the marinade. Sprinkle the fish generously on both sides with salt and place it on the grill along with the slices of lemon. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, just until they're no longer pink in the middle. Place on a platter, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine the sour cream, cucumber, dill, chives, cayenne, salt and pepper. Serve the swordfish on a platter topped with dill sauce and a garnish of grilled lemon, mint and flowering dill.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Zucchini & Ricotta Fritters with Feta, Dill and Lemon

These delicious savoury Zucchini & Ricotta Fritters with Feta and Dill are absolutely addictive. Low fat and low cal, it seems impossible that anything so healthy could taste so great. Topped with a dollop of tzatziki, these fabulous fritters make an easy summertime hors d'oeuvre or side dish served with some grilled fish or chicken. Tweak the recipe with some smoked mozzarella or pecorino cheese instead of the feta or some chopped spinach, sweet corn or fresh cilantro for more savoury twists on this true Italian classic.

Zucchini & Ricotta Fritters with Feta and Dill
Makes about 20 fritters

2 medium zucchini, coarsely shredded
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp feta, crumbled
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 large scallions, very thinly sliced
1/4 cups fresh dill, chopped
2 large eggs
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive or vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Lemon wedges and tzatiki, for serving

In a strainer, toss the shredded zucchini with the salt and let sit for ten minutes. Then thoroughly squeeze out as much moisture as you can. 

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, ricotta, yogurt, feta, garlic, scallions, dill, eggs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir well, then stir in the flour just until incorporated.

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Working in batches, add 2-tablespoon mounds of the zucchini batter to the hot oil, spreading them to form 3-inch fritters. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain the fritters on the paper towels and serve right away, with lemon wedges and a little tzatziki.

Monday, July 21, 2014

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 lemon-orange 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 Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 large eggs
2 tsp 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 poppy seeds
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Lemon Orange 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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Warm Mixed Olives with Rosemary & Lemon Zest

Plump, glossy and gorgeous, these Warm Mixed Olives with Rosemary and Lemon Zest are a wonderful hors d'oeuvre with a glass of wine, a lump of cheese and warm crusty baguette. Heating your favourite combination of mixed olives with a tablespoon or two of olive oil enhances the flavour and the unexpected warmth is a mouth-watering surprise. Sauté the olives with some garlic, hot red pepper, lemon zest and rosemary, and the infused olive oil catapults this simple fare to another level — fast, easy and quite delicious.

Warm Olives with Rosemary and Lemon Zest
Makes 2 cups

3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups mixed olives with pits: nicoise, cerignola, kalamata, picholine
1 clove of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 hot red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
Garnishes: rosemary sprig, lemon rind strips

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sliced pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the mixed olives and lemon zest and cook, stirring frequently, until warmed though and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 10-15 minutes. Garnish with some lemon curls and fresh rosemary sprigs. Serve warm with some crusty bread and your favourite cheeses.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Moules Marinière with Leeks, Cream, Wine & Thyme

Wine, cream, and butter — the holy trinity of any devout epicurean. Together they produce a powerful potion rich enough to enhance any dish. One of my favourites is Moules Marinière, a classic dish found in brasseries throughout the world. The essentials are simple: cook chopped leeks in an abundance of butter, add a dollop or two of white wine, lashings of thyme and a final flourish of light cream. Difficult? Hardly. Expensive? Not at all. Mussels are just relatively inexpensive, but you'll need a reasonably good bottle of white wine, both for the broth and for quaffing afterwards. An easy dish that can be prepared in no time at all, moules are low fat, low cal and absolutely delicious, especially with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the silky sauce. If you're feel sufficiently motivated, you can also make your own french fries for a traditional "moules-frites." Mon Dieu.

Moules Marinière
Serves 2

1 lb mussels
1 leek, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 handful of fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
kosher salt and white pepper
1 baguette, for serving

In a large heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the leeks, season with salt and white pepper and sauté until translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Then add the wine and fresh thyme, and stir to combine. Once the wine is bubbling, add the mussels and give them a stir to coat. Cover and turn the heat up to medium-high, and continue cooking 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened up. Those that haven't, you should discard. Add the cream and give it all a good stir. Pour the moules in one large serving bowl or portion into two individual warmed dinner bowls. Ladle the sauce overtop and garnish with some additional chopped thyme. Be sure to mop up the sauce with a loaf of warm crusty bread — delicious!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraîche

Inspired by a Chilled Asparagus Soup amuse-bouche we were served in Niagara-on-the-Lake last summer, this light, creamy and delicious appetizer 'shooter' is the perfect way to start any summer meal. The intense flavour and vibrant colour of fresh green Ontario asparagus and fragrant leeks smells heavenly as they're sautéed in butter then simmered in an aromatic broth until tender. The soup is puréed in a blender until it's silky smooth, then passed through a sieve for a more refined texture. Thick crème fraîche or heavy cream is then added to the soup, creating a delightfully rich and satisfying appetizer that can be showcased in small demi-tasse cups, garnished with a swirl of crème fraîche as a final flourish.

Chilled Asparagus Soup (Crème d'asperges)
Serves 8 as appetizer

2 pounds green asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large leeks, white part only, sliced
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cook the leeks in 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring until softened. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper to taste, and cook stirring for 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Purée the soup in a blender, in batches until smooth, then return to the pan using a sieve, to ensure all solids are removed. Stir in the crème fraîche, adding more broth to thin soup if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter. To serve, pour the soup into small cups or shooter glasses, garnishing with the lemon juice and a swirl of crème fraîche or heavy cream. The soup can be made ahead and keeps, covered and chilled, for up to 2 days. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grilled Seafood Salad

One of my favourite salads to make as summer rolls around is my fabulous Grilled Seafood Salad with tiger shrimp, jumbo scallops and calamari together with grilled asparagus, fresh avocado and small new potatoes. Tossed with a couple of simple marinades, the seafood can be cleaned and prepped well in advance and pulled together at the last minute. As with any summer salad, improvisation is key, adding whatever you have readily available. The idea is to compose a fresh and flavourful hastle-free salad with a treasure trove of grilled seafood and a riot of your favourite veggies nestled on top, for an easy evening meal once the warm weather finally arrives for good.

Grilled Seafood Salad
Serves 4

10 large tiger shrimp
4 large scallops
4 whole squid with heads, cleaned
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
8 baby potatoes, boiled until just done, and halved
1 lb asparagus, with ends trimmed
1 head red oak leaf lettuce, cleaned, washed and torn into bite size pieces
1/4 english cucumber, thinly sliced
2 marinated roasted red peppers, julienned
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp pure sesame oil
1 tsp hot chili oil
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh basil pesto 
Parmesan-Reggiano, shaved as garnish, optional

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

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact. Gently run a small knife down the centre of the backs to butterfly the shrimp. Coat with 2 tablespoons of basil pesto and allow to marinate, covered in a small bowl or plastic bag, for at least an hour.

Place the squid on a cutting board and slice each tube in half lengthwise. Lay each of the pieces of squid flat. Score the squid with diagonal slices, cutting through half the thickness, scoring first one way, then the other to create diamond-shaped cuts. Then trim the heads, removing and discarding the beak of the squid. Coat with 1 tsp of hot chili oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

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

Place the scallops and asparagus in two separate bowls, brush the scallops with sesame oil and the asparagus with the olive oil, cover and set aside.

To grill the seafood, place the shrimp, squid, scallops and asparagus on a preheated BBQ and cook until the seafood is opaque and nicely grill marked, and the asparagus is cooked through. The squid and heads should curl up nicely.

To prepare the salad, place the lettuce, cucumber and salad dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine. To serve, place the dressed salad on a large platter, then on top, decoratively arrange the boiled new potatoes, marinated red peppers and tomatoes, then top with the grilled asparagus and seafood. Using a vegetable peeler, garnish with some shaved Parmesan-Reggiano if desired.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Caprese Salad with Basil: The Flavour of Summer

One of the simplest and tastiest summer salads, Insalata Caprese is sometimes called Insalata Tricolore — a playful reference to the colours of the Italian flag. Very often this delicious salad is served as thick slices of perfectly ripe tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella garnished with fresh basil leaves, but for a personal touch, I sometimes like to serve them as individual ramekins with bite size bocconcini and small red and yellow cherry tomatoes tossed with some olive oil and sea salt. They can also be threaded onto bamboo skewers for a fresh and colourful appetizer. Any way you slice it, the flavours shout summer. Viva Italia!

Mini Insalata Caprese
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups mini Bocconcini
1 1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, red and orange, whole
Basil Leaves, julienned and whole, 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 black pepper. Serve immediately in four small individual ramekins for personalized servings, or serve in a large decorative bowl and let guests serve themselves. Garnish with basil tops.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Black Quinoa with Mushrooms & Red Peppers

They don’t call it an ancient grain for nothing. Quinoa is a flavourful, wholesome grain-like seed that was first cultivated in the Andean highlands of South America over 7000 years ago. Pronounced “keen-wa”, quinoa comes from the Quechua language spoken by many indigenous people in South America, and was one of the most sacred foods of the ancient Incas, a plant so nourishing, delicious and vital, that they called it 'chesiya mama' — the ‘mother grain’. However it's not actually a grain — it's a seed. One of the world's healthiest foods, quinoa contains a perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, and is a great source of protein, making it an increasingly popular food choice for those looking to incorporate superfoods into their everyday diets.

Gluten-free, wheat-free, and nutrient-packed, quinoa is ideal for those who are health-conscious, vegetarian, and/or physically active, as well as for those with gluten intolerance, wheat allergies, and other digestive disorders. But that's not all, it can be enjoyed guiltlessly knowing it's free of cholesterol and trans fats. Quinoa grows in a rainbow of colours, but the most commonly available are red quinoa, black quinoa and white quinoa. Taste and nutrition are similar among the colours. Quinoa is easy to prepare and its fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavour make it an excellent alternative to white rice or couscous. When cooked, its grains quadruple in size and become almost translucent. White quinoa tends to cook up fluffier, while red quinoa and black quinoa have a crunchier texture and the grains don’t stick together as much. This recipe for Black Quinoa with Sautéed Mushrooms & Red Peppers doesn't get any easier or more delicious.

Black Quinoa with Sautéed Mushrooms & Red Peppers
Serves 2

1/2 cup black quinoa
1 cup water
4 large cremini mushrooms, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and white pepper 
Mint sprig, for garnish

Rinse quinoa under cold water in a fine mesh strainer then place in a pot with 1 cup cold water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high then add the diced mushrooms and red peppers and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables with the oil to the quinoa and stir to combine. Season with salt and ground white pepper to taste, and set aside.

Spoon the quinoa into a decorative bowl and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Roast Chicken Breasts with Lemon, Olives & Oregano

Redolent of the fresh fabulous flavours of Greek cuisine, this Roast Chicken recipe is a savoury celebration of Mediterranean ingredients. Bathed in an Aegean inspired lemony oregano and dijon vinaigrette, plump chicken breasts are marinated for half an hour then seasoned with chopped red onion, green scallions and tangy Kalamata olives. Finished with a flurry of dried Greek oregano, fresh ground black pepper and healthy sprinkling of kosher salt before being roasted in the oven for about and hour, the chicken breasts suffuse the kitchen with intoxicating aromas as they caramelize with the pan juices, becoming crisp and golden brown while remaining succulent and juicy on the inside. Bright and citrusy with deep concentrated flavours of roasted olives and fragrant oregano, this sensational dish is delicious served with a tangy Greek Salad and chilled white wine. Kalí óreksi!

The chicken breasts are marinated in oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, dried oregano, 
chopped red onion and scallions 

Finished with chopped Kalamata olives, salt, pepper and final flurry of dried Greek oregano, 
the breasts are roasted at 425°F for about an hour until crisp and golden brown 

Roast Lemon & Oregano Chicken Breasts with Olives and Scallions
Serves 2

2 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon, and quarter the remaining half
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped scallions
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
6 black Kalamata olives, halved

In a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken breasts, whisk the oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons of the Greek oregano until well mixed. Using a fork, puncture the chicken breasts a few times to allow the marinade to permeate the meat, then place the breasts in the marinade and gently massage to coat. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes, breast down.  

Preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange the chicken in the baking dish, breast-side up, and season with the red onion, scallions, black olives, sliced lemon and fresh ground black pepper. Finish with the remaining oregano and teaspoon of coarse salt over the breasts and roast for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve the chicken breasts with the roast lemons accompanied with a Greek Salad and side of roast potatoes or lemon orzo if desired.

Greek-Style Salad
Serves 2

1 iceberg lettuce
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/8 red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup Greek feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your chef's knife
1 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the 'dressing' ingredients in a resealable container and shake vigorously. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and then bring to room temperature before tossing the salad. 

To assemble the salad, tear the lettuce into bite size pieces and place in a bowl that is large enough to hold all the salad ingredients comfortably. Scatter the cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and feta over the top. Toss with dressing just before serving with the Roast Lemon & Oregano Chicken.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sautéed Scallops with Lemon Hummus & Diced Olives

There are few main courses as elegant or as simple as a dish of sautéed sea scallops. Sweet and tender, the best way to cook these plump, meaty scallops is to sear them quickly in a hot pan so that the outside get a lovely crisp, brown crust and the inside remain succulent and moist. The crowning glory of this dish is nestling the little darlings on a creamy pillow of homemade Lemon Hummus, which compliments the subtle sweet richness of the golden scallops perfectly. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have the ability to carry the simple, bold flavours of the lemon, garlic and olive oil effortlessly. A garnish of chopped olives add a rich fruity note to the dish, and although pitted olives are often easier to use, I prefer using unpitted olives in this recipe, as they have more flavour and texture. For such simple ingredients, the flavours of this dish mingle incredibly well, with a bright and assertive character that makes this recipe a true modern classic.

Sautéed Scallops with Lemon Hummus & Olives
Serves 4 as a light main course

For the Hummus: Makes about 2 cups
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt 

For the Vinaigrette:
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp light olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

For the Scallops:
12 fresh jumbo dry sea scallops
2 tsp unsalted butter2 tsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp green or black olives, with pits, sliced thin
mixed greens

For the hummus, place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until either chunky or silky smooth, depending on your preference. If you wish to use less oil but still want a smooth texture, replace some of the oil with the cooking liquid from the peas. I like to make the hummus shortly before grilling the scallops, so the hummus is still slightly warm from the food processor. However, the hummus should be refrigerated if it's made ahead of time, and returned to room temperature prior to serving. 

For the vinaigrette, whisk together all of the ingredients until lightly emulsified, then cover until ready to use.

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the foam subsides, then sear the scallops, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, while still being translucent in the centre, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and keep warm until all of the scallops have been cooked. Serve the scallops immediately, three per guest, nestled on a puddle of hummus. Garnish with sliced olives and mixed greens, tossed in a light vinaigrette.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Homemade Blueberry Ice Cream

Summer is berry season, and when there are berries, there's the promise of fabulous desserts — Summer Pudding, Fruit Crisps and homemade Ice Cream. Inspired with the bounty of blueberries in the market this week, we decided to try the Blueberry Ice Cream recipe from the 'Chelsea Market Cookbook' which I purchased on our trip to NYC earlier this year. According to the recipe, puréeing and cooking the blueberries concentrates their flavour to make an especially rich ice cream. To start, milk, cream and sugar are brought to a simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Egg yolks and sugar are whisked together in another bowl then added to the warm cream mixture and cooked over medium low to produce a thick rich custard — this becomes the base for the ice cream. 

The Chelsea Market Cookbook

The puréed blueberries are then added to the custard and strained to get rid of any undesirable solids. The whole mixture is then poured into a large bowl and set over an ice bath to chill for 30 minutes, then processed in an ice cream or gelato machine until the Blueberry Ice Cream is set. The end result is delicious — a gorgeous lavender coloured ice cream with a rich and creamy texture — the perfect dessert for a hot summer afternoon.

Blueberry Ice Cream
Makes 1 Quart

18 oz fresh blueberries
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/3 cups white sugar
8 large egg yolks

Purée the blueberries in a food processor or blender. This will produce 3 cups of purée. Transfer it to a medium heavy-bottomed sauce­pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the purée is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Set it aside.

Combine the milk, cream, and 2/3 cup of the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat.

Set a wire sieve over a medium heatproof bowl near the stove. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 2/3 cup sugar until it's thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook it over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the spoon and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the custard reads 180°F, about 3 minutes. Immediately whisk in the blueberry purée. Strain the mixture through the sieve into the bowl. Discard any solids in the sieve. Put the bowl of custard into a larger bowl of iced water and let stand, stirring occasionally, until it's cold, changing the ice as needed, about 30 minutes. The mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe covered container and freeze until it is firm, at least 4 hours. Scoop the ice cream into serving bowls and dig in!