Friday, July 31, 2015

Gazpacho: A Classic Spanish Summer Soup

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

Serves 6-8

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

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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quinoa with Cucumber & Carrot with Peanut Dressing

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

Quinoa with Cucumber & Carrot with Peanut Dressing 
Serve 4

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Eastern Mediterranen Tabbouleh Salad

Healthy, delicious and low carb, Tabbouleh is an Eastern Mediterranean dish that's traditionally enjoyed as part of mezze, or appetizers, eaten before a meal. Originally from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, tabbouleh is one of the most popular salads in the Middle East, and comes from the Arabic word 'mtabeleh', which means ‘seasoned’, implying that the dish comes alive with the salad's flavourful seasonings. In Lebanon, regional and family recipes vary widely, but the consensus remains the same: if the salad isn't heavy on parsley, it's not tabbouleh. 

Characterized by the colours of the Lebanese flag – green, white and red — tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur, ripe tomatoes, zesty parsley and fresh mint, with a simply dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Low in fat and high in fiber, essential nutrients and complex carbohydrates, tabbouleh's primary ingredient is bulgur, which are wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed, and are available in various grinds: coarse, medium and fine. Like hummus, baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves and other delicious mezze of Arab cuisine, Tabbouleh Salad is firmly entrenched as a popular and healthy addition to North American cuisine. 

Eastern Mediterranen Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 8

1 cup medium bulgar wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 cup scallions, with green ends, finely chopped
1 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley (about 1 bunch), finely chopped
1 english cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgar wheat in a large bowl and add boiling water, lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature. Once the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, remainder of salt and the pepper. Season to taste. Serve at room temperature or chill for at least 1 hour to serve cold.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Orange & Lemon Poppyseed Bread with Citrus Glaze

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

Orange & Lemon Poppyseed Loaf with Citrus Glaze
Makes 1 loaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Watermelon & Feta Skewers with Fresh Basil

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

Watermelon & Feta Skewers with Basil
Makes 20 appetizers

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

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

Friday, July 24, 2015

Spring Pea & Asparagus Salad with Shrimp & Chioggia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Silver Palate: Linguine with Basil & Walnut Pesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Roasted Beet & Arugula Salad with Nuts and Berries

I am hopelessly addicted to roasted beets. Added to a summer salad or served over a bed of homemade hummus and a dollop of Greek yogurt, these jewel-toned wonders are as healthy as they are beautiful and delicious. Roasting the beets intensifies their natural sweetness, and become the perfect foil with spicy peppery arugula. Taking advantage of our crop of homegrown arugula this summer as well as fresh ontario wild blueberries, this colourful summer salad is delicious on it's own or as part of an al fresco lunch.

Roasted Yellow and Red Beet Arugula Salad with Walnuts & Blueberries
Serves 8-10

3 red beets
3 yellow beets
6 cups of arugula
1/2 cups shelled walnuts
1/2 cup wild blueberries
2 tbsp chopped chives

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Maldon salt, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Wrap each of the beets in aluminum foil and bake for at least an hour, or until a knife passes easily through the centre. Allow them to cool, then using plastic gloves, peel the skins off. Cut the beets into small wedges and place the red and yellow beets in 2 separate bowls. 

To make the vinaigrette, 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 to taste. To serve, toss the arugula with some vinaigrette then place on a large decorative platter then arrange the beets overtop and garnish with walnuts, blueberries and chopped chives. Drizzle with a little more vinaigrette before serving and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt for extra zing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Yotam Ottolenghi's Sensational Cauliflower Cake

One of my favourite vegetarian entrées inspired by a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook 'Plenty More', this spectacular dish is part of his ongoing campaign to give cauliflower some well-earned glory. Ottolenghi's light and wonderfully flavourful Cauliflower Cake is similar to a Spanish tortilla, but what makes it unusual is the addition of almost a dozen eggs, baking powder and the quantity of flour. The finished dish is rather like a firm omelet that slices like a cake, but instead of being humdrum, as baked egg dishes can often be, the addition of a whole head of cooked cauliflower, sautéed red onion, grated parmesan cheese, ground turmeric, minced rosemary, fresh basil — and Ottolenghi's ever-so-clever touch of baking it all in a springform pan lined with black sesame seeds — makes this a deliciously unique and completely addictive dish. Kept chilled, Ottolenghi's saffron-hued onion-speckled Cauliflower Cake tastes even better the next day, if you can wait that long!

Ottolenghi's cookbook 'Plenty More'

Cauliflower florets simmered in boiling water for 15 minutes then drained in a colander

Diced red onion, fresh rosemary and olive oil sautéed for 8 minutes then allowed to cool

8 large eggs whisked then chopped basil added to the bowl

Flour, baking powder, ground turmeric, salt, pepper and grated parmesan cheese

The flour and cheese mixture is added to the sautéed onions and mixed to combine

The tender cauliflower florets are then added to the batter

The mixture is gently tossed so that most of the florets remain whole

The batter is poured into a pre-greased springform pan that was coated with black sesame seeds, and patted down so the mixture is well distributed then topped with finely sliced red onions

Baked at 350°F for 45 minutes, the Cauliflower Cake can be enjoyed warm from the oven or at room temperature the following day

Cauliflower Cake Ottolenghi
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi

1 medium cauliflower, about 1.5 lb
1 large red onion, peeled

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary

10 medium or 8 large eggs

2 tbsp chopped basil

3/4 cup plain flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

2 cups grated parmesan or pecorino
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

2 tbsp butter, melted for greasing

2 tbsp black sesame seeds 

Heat the oven to 350°F. Break the cauliflower into medium-sized florets and put them in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes until quite soft. Strain, and leave in the colander for a few minutes to cool and get rid of all the water.

While the cauliflower's cooking, prepare the batter. Halve the red onion and cut a few thin rings off the end of one side and set aside — these will go on top of the cake — coarsely chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a low heat, sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for eight minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down. Once cool, whisk in the eggs then stir in the basil.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, turmeric, cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and many grinds of black pepper, then add it to the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly to remove any lumps. Stir in the cauliflower very gently, so that most pieces remain whole.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper, and brush the sides generously with butter. Pour the sesame seeds into the pan and roll them around so that they stick to the sides, tipping out those that don't adhere. Pour in the cauliflower batter, arranging the reserved onion rings on top, and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

To remove the cake, gently release the springform pan so that the seeded crust remains intact. Serve warm or at room temperature with a lovely lentil salad.

Monday, July 20, 2015

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 calorie lentils, all dressed with a fragrant dressing of garlic, cumin and olive oil. Simple and delicious, this dish tastes as sensational as it looks.

Lentil Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, 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 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, and combine the salad well. Serve in a decorative bowl and top with a crown of plain Greek yogurt and garnish of chopped cilantro.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tomato and Zucchini Tian with Fresh Thyme & Feta

A classic French Provençal dish of baked seasonal vegetables, this Tomato and Zucchini Tian with fresh thyme from the garden, captures all of the colourful flavours of summer. Simple and delicious, this dish is also low in calories. Traditionally, a summer vegetable tian can feature any variety of layered vegetables, herbs and cheeses from bright green and yellow zucchini and small potatoes to plump purple eggplant and plum tomatoes. Layered and baked, this recipe showcases summer's best — fresh zucchini and tomatoes from the St. Lawrence Market with some fresh thyme from our garden. Topped with a little grated Pecorino, this decorative gratin-style tian is one of my favourite summer recipes, and is as healthy and delicious as it looks.

Tomato and Zucchini Tian
Serves 4

3 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
3 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan, Asiago, Feta or Gruyere, grated
4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush a small baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Combine the dried thyme, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Arrange half of the sliced zucchini in the baking dish and sprinkle with about 1/3 of the thyme mixture. Top with the tomatoes and sprinkle with half of the remaining thyme mixture, then top with the remaining zucchini and thyme mixture. Drizzle the composed tian with remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with the cheese. Scatter the fresh thyme over the tian and bake until the vegetable are tender and the cheese has melted, about 30-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Arancini Di Aragosta: Italian Lobster Rice Croquettes

Arancini which resemble 'little oranges' — arancia means 'orange' in Italian and 'arancini' is the diminutive — are a Southern Italian specialty made with risotto that has been formed into little rice balls, coated with an egg wash, dusted in breadcrumbs and finally deep fried to a golden perfection. Aranacini are often filled with little nuggets of mozzarella, so that with the first bite, a gooey melted centre is exposed. A classic Italian snack, I was first introduced to Arancini while in Venice a few years ago. Having made a fabulous Lobster Risotto the other day, I had some leftovers and as they say, "When life throws you Risotto, make Arancini!"

Arancini Di Aragosta (Lobster Arancini)
Makes 12 croquettes

2 cups of leftover Risotto
2 oz mozzarella, cut into 1/8" cubes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, whisked
vegetable oil

Form the risotto into bite size balls and with your little finger, poke a hole into the centre, stuff it with a small cube of mozzarella and reshape. Whisk an egg is a small bowl and set aside. Place the breadcrumbs in another bowl. Coat each risotto ball in the egg wash, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Heat some vegetable oil a saucepan over medium-high heat, and once a leftover piece of breadcrumb sizzles, the Arancini are ready to be fried. Using a small spatula or slotted spoon, roll the Arancini in the oil until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the oil as they're done, and dry on paper towel. Serve immediately with an ombra, or glass of wine, as they do in Venice!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Royal Quinoa with Ginger, Cucumber & Cranberries

High in protein, low in fat and full of vitamins and minerals, Quinoa is easy to cook and tastes great, especially when combined with a colourful and crunchy selection of diced cucumber, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, fresh mint and some surprising Japanese-inspired flavours: pickled ginger and Wafu Light Sesame Vinaigrette. A smooth and creamy sesame dressing, Wafu Light has 43% less fat than Wafu's Original Sesame dressing, at just 40 calories per tablespoon, contains no colours or artificial flavours, is cholesterol-free, is low in sodium and is also peanut-free. More importantly — it's delicious!

Royal Quinoa with Pickled Ginger, Cucumber & Dried Cranberries
Serves 6

1 cup red and white quinoa
1/2 english cucumber, finely diced
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pickled ginger, diced
1/8 cup pickled ginger juice
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup Wafu Sesame Japanese vinaigrette

Add the quinoa and 2 1/2 cups of water to a pot. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. The water will evaporate, much like rice. Let the quinoa cool for 10-15 minutes before scooping into a large bowl. Add the pickled ginger and juice and toss well. Then add the cucumber, almonds, dried cranberries and fresh mint, stirring until well combined. Finally, mix in the Wafu sesame vinaigrette and toss until combined. Adjust seasoning to taste and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Moules Marinière with Leeks, Thyme & Cream

Wine, cream, and butter — the holy trinity of any devout epicurean. Together they produce a mighty potion rich enough to enhance any dish. One of my favourites is Moules Mariniere, 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 parsley and a final flourish of light cream. Difficult? Hardly. Expensive? Not at all. Mussels are only $2.99/lb, but you'll need a reasonably good bottle of white wine, both for the broth and for quaffing afterwards. Moules is an easy dish that can be prepared in no time at all, and it's delicious, especially with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the addictively delicious 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, de-beard and kept chilled until using
2 leeks, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 handful of fresh thyme
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
kosher salt and white pepper
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Crusty French bread, 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 parsley, and give it all a good stir. Serve the moules in one large bowl or portion into two warmed dinner bowls. Ladle the sauce overtop and garnish with some additional chopped parsley. Be sure to mop up the sauce with a loaf of warm crusty bread — delicious!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Smooth & Creamy Salmon Mousse with Dill

This smooth and creamy Salmon Mousse looks especially festive when it's unmolded and garnished with sliced lemon, dill and an olive slice for the eye! Okay, maybe it's a little retro, but fish molds seem to have made a real comeback. And because it's made without whipping cream or mayonnaise, it's low in fat and calories, and the flavour is unbeatable.

Simply mix together some chopped dill, minced onion, lemon juice, yoghurt and sour cream with some dissolved gelatin, and chill until almost set; then combine it with two cans of sockeye salmon and pour into any type of mold you prefer. For a cocktail party, a traditional fish-shaped mold or small terrine works very well, but also small single serving ramekins make an elegant choice for personal Salmon Mousse appetizers, which can be served to guests nestled on a small bed of mixed greens, or served with little toast points. Light and delicious, this is a refreshing low-fat starter that requires little effort, and makes a tasty appetizer for a dinner party or Sunday brunch with friends.

Salmon Mousse with Dill
Serves 10-12

1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup water or clam juice
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
2 tbsp yellow onion, grated
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
dash of Tabasco sauce
3/4 cup plain 2% yoghurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2 8-oz cans sockeye salmon

In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over cold water or clam juice; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Warm over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in dill, onion, lemon juice, salt, Tabasco sauce, sour cream, yogurt and celery. Refrigerate until mixture begins to set. Remove the skin from the salmon, but not the bones. They’re an excellent source of calcium. Mash the salmon with a fork or process in a food processor. Mix into gelatin mixture. Spoon into a 4-cup fish mold, or similar. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. To serve, unmold onto a serving platter and surround with crackers or fresh cut vegetables.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Streusel Tart with Raspberries, Plums & Blueberries

This gorgeous Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Streusel Tart is a cross between a tart and a clafoutis, and is absolutely delicious. The sweet butter crust is made with ground almonds, flour, white and brown sugar, cinnamon, a little salt and 3/4 cups of butter, which are all blended together in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. The resulting crumble is pressed into the base and up the sides of a greased springform pan, then baked for about 20-25 minutes. Once the crust has cooled, chopped pitted plums, raspberries and blueberries are scattered along the bottom, although any combination of stone fruit and berries such as blackberries, strawberries, nectarines, cherries or peaches would be great too! 

Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Tart with Streusel Topping
Serves 6-8

3/4 cup unsalted butter - 1 1/2 sticks - chilled and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup blanched almonds 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided plus 1 tbsp
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
3/4 tsp salt 
4 medium ripe but firm plums
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 large egg yolk 
2/3 cup light cream 
1 tsp grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with room temperature butter or olivina and set aside. Place the ground almonds in a food processor and pulse until medium fine. 

Transfer the nuts to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix until just combined. Add butter, and mix on low speed until the crumble begins to stick together, about 2 to 3 minutes. Press 3 to 3 1/2 cups of the crumble into the bottom of the prepared pan and to about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan to form the crust. Set the remaining crumb mixture aside.

Transfer the crust to the oven and bake until it appears to be set, about 20 to 25 minutes, then set aside. Watch to ensure the crust doesn't burn.

Slice the plums in half, remove pits and slice into eighths. Scatter the raspberries, blueberries and sliced plums onto the cooled crust and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup flour + 1 tablespoon flour, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk in the 2 eggs, egg yolk, cream, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and nutmeg, and mix until blended. Pour the custard over the fruit and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the custard has set and is slightly golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let rest at least 25 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with a bowl of whipped cream, Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream to be completely decadent. Yum-yum.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Grilled Swordfish & Asparagus with Pesto Sauce

Moist, meaty and wonderfully succulent, Grilled Swordfish is one my favourite fish to 'throw on the barbie' — it's absolutely made for the grill. Usually sold as thick steaks, all swordfish needs is a simple marinade of fresh lemon juice, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a few herbs for the natural flavours to sing on the tongue. Cook swordfish like you would a rare steak — use high heat to sear the outside, and let it stay a little rare in the centre. Generally I allow 8 to 10 minutes per inch, rotating the fish 90° every 2-3 minutes, which produces lovely sear marks and ensures the swordfish is perfectly cooked. Low calorie and nutrient rich, Swordfish is a heart-smart choice, and makes a delicious addition to your summertime grilling repertoire.

Grilled Swordfish & Asparagus with Pesto Sauce
Serves 4

4 1-inch thick swordfish steaks
1 lemon, zested, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp Ponzu sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 handful chopped cilantro, plus whole leaves for garnish
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed

Basil Pesto Cream Sauce: - Makes 3 cups
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup pine nuts
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
1 cup low fat greek yogurt, optional

Place the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor to blend. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue mixing until well combined. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and butter over medium-low heat. Once warm, add the pesto and stir to combine. For a lower calorie option, substitute Greek yogurt instead of the cream and butter. It's as delicious and better on the waistline!

Stir together the lemon zest, ponzu sauce, sesame oil and cilantro in a shallow dish. Add the swordfish, turning to coat, and marinate at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. Place the asparagus in a large bowl and drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat an outdoor barbecue to medium-high. Place the swordfish on the grill and cook for two minutes, then turn 90 degrees. Cook two more minutes more, flip the fish, and repeat. Midway, add the asparagus and grill about 5 minutes, turning frequently.

Transfer and arrange the asparagus on four warm dinner plates, top with the grilled swordfish and garnish with a generous spoonful of basil pesto cream sauce. Finish with lemon zest and fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pot de Crème au Chocolat with Grand Marnier

Although this marvelous dessert looks very sophisticated, don’t be fooled by the posh name. It’s nothing more than a custard really, and one of the easiest desserts you can make. Start with small, heatproof cups and good-quality European bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut, Valrhona or Lindt. Then whisk eggs and sugar to warmed cream, melted chocolate, and Grand Marnier, and strain to get rid of any lumps. Baking the filled pots in a water bath provides the gentle, moist heat that the custards need to thicken properly. Luscious, creamy and intensely rich, this sexy chocolate baked custard makes the perfect little decadent dessert. Served in my mother's Royal Worcester Evesham pot de creme cups that she gave me a few years ago, they were the final elegant touch to classic French Pot de Crème au Chocolat.

Pot de Crème au Chocolat à Grand Marnier
Serves 6

3 egg yolks
2 tbsp extra fine fruit sugar
1 1/4 cup light cream
3 oz Lindt Intense Dark 85% Cacao chocolate, chopped
3 oz Lindt Intense Orange chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a standing mixer, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together until the yolks are pale and thick.

In a small saucepan, simmer the cream over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until melted and well blended. Very slowly add the chocolate to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Mix in the Grand Marnier. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout — straining the liquid will remove any lumpy impurities. Blot foam from the top of the chocolate with a paper towel or skim with a spoon.

Place six pot de crème pots with lids or ramekins in a baking pan. Pour the chocolate mixture into the small cups, dividing it evenly, then add boiling water into the baking pan so the cups are half immersed. Cover the pots with their lids or the ramekins with a single sheet of aluminum foil. Bake until the custards are just set at the edges but still a little wobbly in the centre, about 15 to 20 minutes. They'll firm up as they chill.

Once they're cooked, remove the baking pan from the oven and place the cups on a wire rack, removing the lids or aluminum foil to let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days before serving. Serve with whipped cream garnished with orange peel, shaved chocolate or simply sprinkled with some fleur de sel.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuna Salad with Onion Sprouts, Avocado & Tomato

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, summertime dining doesn't get any easier, healthier or more satisfying.

Tuna Salad with Onion Sprouts, Avocado, Tomato & Eggs
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.