Friday, November 28, 2014

Asian Sesame Ginger Salmon with Scallions

Simple and delicious, this sensational recipe for Asian Sesame Ginger Salmon is sweet, fragrant, and full of fabulous flavour. Low-cal and carb-free, the salmon is marinated in an aromatic mixture of sesame oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, then chilled for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to work their magic. While the salmon is marinating, a simple sauce of honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, minced ginger and sesame seeds can be whisked together and gently warmed on low heat, ready to be served over the cooked salmon with a final garnish of sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

Asian Sesame Ginger Salmon
Serves 4

4 organic salmon filets, about 2-pounds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp sesame seeds
4 green onions, finely sliced for garnish

Honey, Ginger & Sesame Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar and whisk well until combined. Add the salmon, cover and refrigerate to marinate, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining each of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. 

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the salmon on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the centre is just done. If you like your salmon more well done, simply bake as long as you wish. To serve, spoon some of the sauce over top of the salmon and garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and flurry of sliced green onions.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Kerala-Style King Prawn & Monkfish Curry

Rich, warm, fragrant and flavourful, this luscious Kerala-style curry made with plump juicy prawns and meaty monkfish, is cooked in a creamy coconut milk sauce and aromatic blend of Indian spices sautéed with onions, tomatoes and fresh kari leaves, for an elegant and delicious dish easy to prepare anytime of the year. Typical of the coconut-based curries found on the beautiful Kerala coast of Southern India, this King Prawn & Monkfish Curry is perfect served with a bowl of steamed basmati rice and ice cold Kingfisher beer.

Eight large 10/15 count prawns to be shelled and deveined

1/2-pound monkfish cut into 2-inch pieces 

Oil and spices sautéed over medium-high heat for 10 seconds

Finely diced onions are added and sautéed for 10-15 minutes until soft and fragrant

Minced ginger and garlic are then added...

...followed by diced tomato, which are sautéed until cooked through

Prawns and monkfish are added to the spice mixture

The fish is stir-fried until just cooked through

Coconut milk and cilantro are added

Cooked for 15-20 minutes over low heat, the curry can be covered and set over low heat until the rice is ready to be served

Basmati rice cooked for 12 minutes with ghee and garnished with lemon zest and cilantro

Kerala-Style King Prawn & Monkfish Curry
Serves 2

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
15-20 kari leaves
1/2 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce 
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 ripe tomato, chopped into 1/8-inch dice
1/2 lb monkfish tail, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 raw king prawns, peeled and deveined, keeping tails on
1 cup coconut milk
1 bunch of fresh coriander, washed and leaves picked
1/2 lime, juiced

Basmati Rice:
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1 tsp ghee
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy pan or wok over medium-high and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and curry leaves, and fry covered for 10-15 seconds. Add the finely chopped onions and sauté stirring frequently until they become soft, about 10-15 minutes. Then stir in the ginger, garlic and diced tomato and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the prawns and monkfish and cook until opaque and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Finally, reduce the heat to low, add the coconut milk, chopped cilantro and squeeze of lime juice, cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil for the basmati rice and cook according to the package instructions. Stir in the ghee and chopped cilantro once done and serve the rice garnished with lemon zest. Serve the curry in a warm serving bowl, garnish with chopped cilantro, along with the basmati rice.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: An Italian Classic

Luscious and wonderfully indulgent, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish based on eggs, pecorino romano, guanciale and black pepper. The key is to toss and thoroughly mix the cooked pasta off the heat with the cheese, eggs, pepper and pasta water, to create a creamy yet not overly thick sauce. A true carbonara has no cream, but although purists may shudder, I do sometimes add a little cream depending how I'm feeling. Like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure but there are many legends. As 'carbonara' literally means 'coal miner's wife', some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian coal miners. Romans use guanciale — cured pig's jowl — which is more delicate than pancetta — unsmoked Italian bacon — and also leaner. If you can find it, by all means use guanciale, otherwise pancetta or bacon work just as well. For the sheer wow-factor, I do like to drop an egg yolk into each nest of pasta, which guests stir to form an even creamier sauce. Garnished at the end with a flurry of coarsely grated Parmigiano, "Coal Miner's Spaghetti" must be one of the great pastas dishes of all time.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb guanciale or pancetta 
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup fresh coarsely grated Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta and cut the pancetta into 1/2 x 1/4 inch lardons. Combine the olive oil and pancetta in a large sauté pan set over medium heat, and cook until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is crisp and golden. Remove from the heat and set aside, being careful not to drain the fat. 

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until just al dente. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta. 

Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the pancetta, then toss in the pasta and heat, shaking the pan, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and add 1 cup of the Parmigiano, the egg whites, thyme, pepper to taste, and the cream, if you're using it. Toss until thoroughly mixed and serve with a little extra grated cheese on the side. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey, Mushroom, Leek & Spinach Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of the quintessential comfort foods. An inextricable part of childhood, we all grew up with a family version of 'the perfect meatloaf' — each with it's own unique flavour, texture and aroma — bringing back memories from the halcyon days of youth. There are as many interpretations of this humble dish as there are Moms and Grandmas, each guardians of their own special recipe. Naturally, some get passed down, generation to generation, and acquire the special moniker of authorship, like Nana's Banana Cream Pie or Mom's Classic Meatloaf. My Mom's Classic Meatloaf is the best, but sometimes it's good to shake the culinary tree a little and try out new things, like my Turkey, Mushroom and Spinach Meatloaf. A lighter, luscious, low fat and low carb version of the comfort food classic, my recipe is made with ground turkey, sautéed mushrooms, chopped spinach, diced onions and minced garlic for a healthy and delicious alternative for those who love 'meatloaf' but with a few less calories. You can always make up for it with rich and creamy Scallion Mashed Potatoes with Butter.

Chopped leek sautéed in oil until soft

Diced mushrooms and minced garlic added

The mixture is cooked about 5-6 minutes

Ground turkey is mixed with whole milk, fresh breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, tomato paste, chopped spinach, worcestershire sauce, dried thyme, oregano and the mushroom-leeks

The ingredients are thoroughly combined by hand...

..and pressed into a meatloaf pan

A spoonful of ketchup is spread on top as a sweet glaze for the final baked meatloaf

Baked at 350°F for 80 minutes, the meatloaf is cooked through and beautifully hot, juicy and delicious

Mashed potatoes with butter, milk and sautéed scallions

The Scallion Mashed Potatoes ready to be served 

Turkey, Mushroom, Leek & Spinach Meatloaf
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large leek
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz cremini or white mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
2 1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1 small can tomato paste - 5.5 oz
1 package frozen spinach, thawed, drained and chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp each dried thyme and oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash the leek and trim away the root end, then slice in half length-wise, and in half again to produce four long pieces, then finely slice. In a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and sliced leek, and sauté until soft and lightly golden, about 6-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and chopped mushrooms and continue to sauté until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are soft, about 5-6 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the ground turkey, milk, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, tomato paste, chopped spinach, worcestershire sauce, thyme, oregano and leek-mushroom mixture. Season well with salt and pepper, then combine well using your hands. Press the mixture into a loaf pan and spoon the ketchup over top. 

Bake until lightly browned on top and firm to the touch, about 65-80 minutes, or when a thermometer reads 165° in the thickest part. As with any comfort food, meatloaf is delicious served with mashed potatoes and a small mixed green salad.

Mashed Potatoes with Scallions, Butter & Cream
Serves 8
6 large russet potatoes
8 whole scallions, both white and green parts, finely sliced
6 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp fresh ground black or white pepper
6 tbsp whole milk or light cream
2 tsp salt

Peel and chop the potatoes into 2 to 3-inch pieces. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain in a colander once cooked, cover with a tea towel and set aside. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan and cook the chopped scallions over low heat until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Return the cooked potatoes to the pot over medium low heat and mash with milk or cream, then stir in the scallions and season with salt and pepper. Cover and rewarm over low heat until ready to serve, adding a wee bit of extra milk if the mash gets a bit firm.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Rebel House: The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

Nestled along Yonge Street just south of Roxborough, The Rebel House has been a treasured Rosedale institution for over 20 years now, ever since owners Bruce Roberts and Dave Logan opened this popular gastropub in 1994. With a name referring to the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, The Rebel House is comfortable and inviting with a dark, wooden, rustic charm and walls lined with quirky Canadiana such as a wooden mountie, deer antlers, a stuffed beaver behind the bar and an antique rifle, purportedly used in the rebellion itself. With a solid menu of comfort food classics and 19 excellent Canadian craft beers on tap, The Rebel House has been attracting a dedicated following ever since it opened. With limited seating upstairs and down, and a lovely outdoor patio in the summer, the restaurant is jam packed almost every day, but especially on weekends, so it's important to arrive early. And many do, lining up to enjoy Chef Karen Vaz's seasonal menu of comforting Canadian classics such as The Rebel House Classic Grilled Cheese made with two aged Cheddars and peameal bacon on French bread grilled to golden brown with shallot butter and served with kettle fries — quite possibly the best grilled cheese sandwich in the city!

The cozy wooden bar on the main floor of The Rebel House

Co-owner Bruce Roberts of The Rebel House

Flying Monkey’s Anti-Gravity Light Ale from Barrie

Guinness Stout

The Rebel Reuben with Montreal smoked meat, homemade sauerkraut, 
melted swiss and mustard dressing on grilled rye bread with kettle fries

Quite possibly the best grilled cheese in Toronto — The Rebel House Classic Grilled Cheese made with two aged Cheddars and grilled peameal bacon on French bread and served with kettle fries

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lentil Salad with Roast Tomato, Red Onion & Cilantro

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Castelluccio Lentils with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola from his award-winning cookbook 'Plenty,' I created this modified version of his inspired masterpiece, while still retaining the spirit and exceptional flavour of the original dish, but eliminating some of the needless extra calories. Instead of adding soft and sinful morsels of high-fat Italian gorgonzola cheese, a generous dollop of thick and creamy low-fat plain Greek yogurt crowns the salad in its place. Still, flavour still reigns supreme with a magnificent marriage of sweet oven roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated sliced red onions, fresh chopped cilantro and heart-healthy low-cal lentils, all dressed with a fragrant vinaigrette of garlic, cumin, olive oil and both lemon and lime juice. Simple and delicious, this dish tastes as sensational as it looks.

Finely sliced red onions and marinated with white wine vinegar and lemon and lime juice until the onions turn quite pinkish

Olive oil, cumin, minced garlic and cilantro are added to the onion mixture

A can of lentils is added and the mixture can be left to marinate for an hour or so

A day before, cherry tomatoes were halved, tossed with olive oil and roasted at 425°F for 45 minutes, until they became sweet and caramelized

Lentil Salad with Roast Tomato, Red Onion & Cilantro

Serves 6

1 19 oz can lentils, rinsed
Juice of 1/2 lime and 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
12-16 cherry tomatoes, halved and roasted
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, as garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the tomatoes together in a large bowl with 1/8 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in one layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and lightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. This can be done a day before. 

Mix the lemon and lime juice, vinegar and a pinch of salt in a small bowl, then add the sliced onion rings and toss to coat. After 10-15 minutes the onions will soften and turn pinkish. Whisk in the oil, cumin and garlic to the onions, then add the lentils, cilantro and roasted tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Leek, Sausage & Mushroom Frittata with Taleggio

Light, healthy and delicious, this easy Leek, Sausage & Mushroom Frittata with Taleggio is simple to prepare and makes an easy brunch or supper dish anytime of the year. Italy's version of the Spanish 'tortilla', the frittata is a thick, hearty open-faced omelette with an egg base, that can be filled with any variety of herbs, vegetables, cheeses, meat, seafood or even leftover cooked pasta — the beautiful thing about frittatas is that they're wonderfully versatile with endless flavour possibilities. Frittatas are cooked either over very low heat on a stove, or in an oven, until the underside is set and the top becomes beautifully puffed up and golden brown. Unlike an omelette, a frittata is never folded to enclose its contents, but rather is divided into slices or cut into little wedges and served with cocktails as an hors d'oeuvre or tapas-style appetizer.

One leek finely sliced and sautéed in butter until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes

Small broccoli florets and sliced mushrooms are added and cooked for 4-5 minutes

The sliced cooked sausages are added to the vegetables just before the eggs are added, 
just to warm them up a bit

The whisked eggs and cheese mixture is poured into the pan,then covered and cooked for 15-20 minutes until set; a few minutes uncovered in the oven after firms and browns the top

Leek, Sausage & Mushroom Frittata with Taleggio
Serves 4

8 large eggs, beaten
1 large leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 sausages, cooked and sliced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and finely sliced
1/4 head broccoli, stalks removed and cut into small florets
3 oz Taleggio
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
1 tsp herbes de Provence
2 tbsp fresh dill or fennel fronds
3 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped dill, and set aside. In a large non-stick sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-high and cook the leeks until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and sliced mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Sauté stirring frequently until the vegetables have softened, about 4-5 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the vegetables and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle with a little more dill, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the frittata has set around the edges and the middle is cooked through. If the top is still runny, place the sauté pan in the oven uncovered for 2-3 minutes, until the surface is set. To serve, slide the frittata onto a warm platter or slice into wedges, with a final garnish of dill.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pizza e Pazzi: Authentic Neapolitan Pizza on St Clair

Pizza e Pazzi is an authentic Neapolitan Pizzeria located in the heart of Toronto's Wychwood neighbourhood on St. Clair Avenue West, and one of a handful of pizzerias in the city that can claim VPN certification from the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana. With two locations, this family-run Italian Trattoria from husband and wife team Danilo and Sandrelle Scimo, will taste familiar to fans of Queen Margherita and Pizzeria Libretto, but it has so much more to offer with an inspired menu that sets it a world apart from the others, with appetizers such as Arancini, Frittura Mista, and Polpette della Nonna to heavenly Bufala e Parma which comes as a whole ball of fresh creamy Buffalo Mozzarella nestled on a mountain of thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma — heaven!

Then there are is the pizza, loyal to what real pizza is, that truly captures the spirit of Naples. The restaurant uses only San Marzano tomatoes and fresh Fiore di Latte Mozzarella brought in fresh daily. The dough is made with naturally leavened Italian Caputo dopio zero flour, then Pizza e Pazzi's 
Neapolitan pizzaiolo Lorenzo, slides each dressed pizza into the wood-fired oven and cooks it over extremely high heat to achieve a perfect charred and blistered, soft and crispy crust, fragrant with natural woodsmoke. It’s the passion behind the pizza, and the ingredients that are laid on top, that makes all of the difference. Simple, honest, and natural. Just the way it’s supposed to be.

Pizza e Pazzi Pizzaiolo Lorenzo busy creating some of the best pizzas in the city 

The warm and inviting interior with weathered wood finishes, white tile walls and quirky black and white framed food-themed photographs 

Exposed bulb lighting and exposed brick walls add an industrial chic ambiance to the space 

The Italian-inspired menu at Pizza e Pazzi

A glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Frittura Mista with deep fried calamari, shrimp and sole with fresh lemon

Insalata di Rucola: Arugula dressed wirth olive oi, balsamic vinegar and halved grape tomatoes

Braised Chicory with Italian Mozzarella di Bufala Campana dressed with extra virgin olive oil 
— an outstanding dish!

Insalata di Tonno with mixed greens topped with tuna, boiled eggs, capers 
and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Pizza Boscaiola with extra virgin olive oil, fresh fior di latte, ham, mushrooms and basil

Pizza Napoletana with anchovies, black olives, fresh fior di latte and basil

Pizza Margherita Verace with extra virgin olive oil, Mozzarella di Bufala D.O.P. and basil

Cannoli — a sweet finish to a great lunch