Monday, August 31, 2015

Grilled Shawarma-Spiced Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

The best shawarma is a product of patience. The technique, alluded to in the name of the dish itself — 'Shawarma' — derived from a Turkish word meaning 'turning,' is the traditional preparation method where meat, usually lamb or chicken, is built up on a vertical spit, then marinated at length and finally slowly roasted as juices drip down to coat and caramelize its exterior. Whether shawarma is piled high on a platter or wrapped up into a pita or Markouk, a popular Arabian bread, is a question of preference, but it's the succulent meat that's the undeniable star of this dish. Combining the traditional seasonings of this classic roadside 'flavour bomb', the following recipe is an easy and delicious BBQ version of this middle eastern classic.

Shawarma marinade of minced garlic, ground coriander, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, 
paprika, lemon juice and olive oil

Skinless chicken thighs marinating in shawarma mixture

Grilled Chicken Shawarma with Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4

2 lb chicken thighs or breasts, skinless and boneless (optional)
4 pita or naan breads
Cilantro, for garnish

1 large garlic clove, minced 
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground cardamon
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

Yoghurt Sauce:
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and using your hands, massage into the chicken, ensuring each piece is well coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. Combine the Yoghurt Sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix, the cover and frigate until required.

Heat an outdoor grill or BBQ to medium high. Place the chicken on the grill and cook one side for 4 to 5 minutes or until nicely charred, then turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and cover loosely with foil, setting it aside to rest for 5 minutes. While the chicken is resting, brush the pita or naan breads with a little vegetable oil and set on the grill until warmed through and lightly marked, then brush with melted butter or ghee to finish.

To Serve, arrange the chicken thighs sliced or whole on a platter with sliced grilled flatbreads and a bowl of Yoghurt Sauce.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Linguine with Marsala

Rich and aromatic, Mushroom Marsla Cream Sauce is a culinary chameleon. Served over sliced beef tenderloin for Steak Diane or tossed with chicken and pasta for a luscious Mushroom & Chicken Linguine, this silky sauce is among my favourite recipes. Any combination of wild and exotic mushrooms can be used: shiitake, chanterelles, morels, enoki, crimini or even button mushrooms. Sautéed with a tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a large skillet, seasoned with salt and pepper, and finished with a dash of cream, marsala wine and fresh thyme — the sauce is complete. Tossed with sliced chicken, or even served on it's own over pasta, this recipe is an absolute keeper!

Cremini mushrooms and fresh thyme picked from our garden

Red onion and minced garlic sautéed in olive oil and butter

The mushrooms are added and cooked until soft, about 5 minutes

Cream, Marsala and fresh thyme are added and simmered for a few minutes

Shredded chicken added to the sauce and simmered until warmed through, about 10 minutes

The sauce is slightly reduced and the flavours married

Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Linguine with Marsala
Serves 2

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or leftover cooked chicken)
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Marsala, or to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 linguine piccolo
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and fresh ground white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley 
2 tbsp chopped thyme

Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and cook the chicken, turning once until browned on both sides and fully cooked. Transfer to a plate and allow the chicken to cool. Once the chicken has cooled tear into bite-size strips.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and one table spoon of olive oil of butter in a frying pan, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Marsala wine, heavy cream and thyme are then added and cooked over medium heat for 8-10 minutes. The cooked chicken is then added to the sauce, and simmered until the sauce has thickened and the chicken warmed through.

When the noodles are ready, drain and toss back into the pot with 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushroom, chicken, and marsala sauce mixture and 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined. Serve the linguine in 2 warm pasta bowls and garnish with chopped Italian parsley, with a little extra cheese on the side for extra garnish.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs

Spending a few minutes preparing a handful of simple ingredients for an easy and delicious Asian-inspired marinade gives this dish an enormous amount of flavour, plus a built-in sauce after the chicken is cooked. Just combine mirin, sake, soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, garlic, a little brown sugar and one red hot chilli in a large resealable plastic bag, add the chicken, and then let it marinate in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, pour the whole dish into a baking dish, place it in a preheated oven, and in 40 minutes you’ll have crispy, saucy, flavourful chicken with a thick tangy sauce that's gorgeous served with fragrant Jasmin rice or a cold Japanese soba noodle salad.

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs
Serves 6-8

1 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
2-3 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in with skin

1 red chilli, finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

Mix all of ingredients together in a large bowl with the chicken thighs, and toss well to combine to coat all of the meat. Pour everything in a large resealable plastic bag and chill for at least 2 hours or even overnight. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the marinated chicken thighs on a large baking dish or tray and roast for 35-45 minutes, basting and turning them once with tongs. To serve, place the chicken thighs on a large serving platter and garnish with sliced green onion, chilli and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pommes Anna: Simple, Elegant & Delicious

Pommes Anna is a grand name for what is essentially a dish of sliced potatoes baked in a very large amount of melted butter. Four ingredients are all that is required — potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. This very simple classic French recipe is all in the preparation and presentation, and the use of very, very thinly sliced potatoes. And since the dish is inverted, it's important that the first layer of potatoes be attractively arranged.

A simple, elegant, decadent and outrageously delicious side dish, Pommes Anna was created in 19th-century Paris when Adolphe Dugléré, chef of the Café Anglais, created it for his favorite customer, the celebrated courtesan Anna Deslions. The legendary allure of Pommes Anna is a buttery, soft potato cake on the inside, and a crisp, golden buttery crust on the exterior. I find that two simple tricks help to achieve the perfect Pommes Anna — a nonstick ovenproof skillet ensures easy release every time, and a mandoline saves an awful lot of time. This classic French dish is sinfully delicious, quite addictive, and never fails to impress as the buttery golden potato cake literally melts in your mouth. 

Pommes Anna
Serves 8

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled - about 2 3/4 lb
6 tbsp butter or ghee, melted 
Coarse salt and ground pepper
fresh thyme 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice potatoes as thinly as possible. Don't place the sliced potatoes in water, as the starch is needed to bind the layers. 

Brush the bottom of an 8-inch cast-iron, or non-stick oven-proof skillet, with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter. Starting in the centre of the pan, arrange the potato slices in a circular pattern, overlapping the edges and leaving no spaces. Evenly brush with another 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and season well with salt, pepper and fresh thyme if you wish. Repeat the layering process until all the potato slices have been used, then drizzle the remaining butter overtop. Be sure to press down firmly after each layer to pack the layers together.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat until the edges of the potatoes begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the oven, cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 35-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender, and the top is crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven, pour off any excess butter, and let stand for 5 minutes. Using a small spatula, separate the potato edges from sides of pan. Then shake the pan and slide a spatula along the bottom to loosen the potatoes. Carefully invert the Pommes Anna onto a warm flat serving platter, garnish with fresh thyme or chopped parsley, and using a sharp knife, serve sliced into wedges. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Anna's Sweet Potato Salad with Pecans & Ginger

Fat free and cholesterol free, Sweet Potatoes are among the most nutritious foods in the vegetable kingdom. A rich source of dietary fibre, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimal health, this orange skinned tuberous root with starchy sweet flesh becomes the base for a delicious summer salad. Roasted sweet potatoes, still hot from the oven, are mixed with a medley of diced spring onions, parsley, cilantro, chilli flakes and toasted pecans, then tossed with a fragrant vinaigrette of olive oil, maple syrup, sherry wine vinegar, citrus juice, fresh grated ginger and ground cinnamon. Vibrant, tangy and wonderfully full flavoured, Anna — my new sister-in-law — surprised us with this healthy and delicious Ottolenghi-inspired salad this past weekend, and received culinary kudos from the whole family!

Anna's Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Pecans & Ginger
Serves 4
Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi

2 sweet potatoes, about 2-pounds
3 tbsp olive oil
3 oz pecan nuts
4 spring onions, diced
4 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp good quality maple syrup
1 tbsp sherry wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Start with the sweet potatoes. Don’t peel them! Cut them into 1/2-inch cubes, spread them out on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, mix well with your hands and then roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until just tender. Turn them over gently half way through cooking.

In a separate baking tray, toast the pecans for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and chop roughly. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl with some salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

When the potatoes are ready, transfer them to a large bowl while still hot. Add the spring onions, parsley, coriander, chilli and pecans. Pour the vinaigrette over and toss gently to blend, then season to taste. Serve at once or at room temperature.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ahi Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Ginger & Cucumber

The smooth, sensual and delicate texture of sashimi-grade ahi tuna, creamy avocado and crisp cucumber are complimented by a tangy soy-sesame dressing made with fresh picked ginger, which add extra zing to this spectacular Asian-inspired salad. You can also make this dish with fresh cooked swordfish, crab or shrimp for friends who aren't as comfortable with raw fish — they all taste great! Quick and easy to prepare, this is one of the prettiest and most refreshing meals to make during the hot sultry days of summer.

Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Ginger & Cucumber 
Serves 2

1/2 lb sashimi grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1/4 english cucumber, finely sliced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and finely diced
2 tbsp pickled ginger
1 tbsp chopped chives, for garnish

Soy-Sesame Dressing:
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Mirin rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp pickled ginger juice
1 tsp finely chopped green onion

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together; cover and chill until needed. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the cucumber into thin slices. On a large dinner plates, arrange the cucumber in a ring of overlapping slices. Using a 3-inch tartlet ring or mold, spoon in half of the avocado followed by half of the diced tuna, and using a spoon, gently press down on the mixture to compress it slightly. Lift off the ring and drizzle the dressing on top and around the tuna tartare. Top with some slices of pickled ginger and a finish with chopped chives.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Peller Estates Winery Restaurant in Niagara

Set in a lush green landscape with sweeping vineyard views, Peller Estates offers regional wine country cuisine nestled in an elegant chateau-style setting. Steeped in warm wine country ambience and awarded the highest Zagat rating, Peller Estates Winery Restaurant offers sumptuous wine and food pairings created by Chef and CityLine TV personality Jason Parsons. With culinary offerings that evolve with Niagara's changing seasons, the restaurant's menu of beautifully prepared entrées often weaves Peller Estates wine into the Parson's modern Canadian cuisine, such as his Icewine Poached Lobster and Smoked Bacon Linguine with Chardonnay Cream Sauce, and Icewine Chicken Liver Parfait with Blue Ice Cheese, Toasted Red Walnuts and Creamy Yogurt. Dinner and luncheon guests can enjoy the relaxed elegance of Peller's stately Colonial revival dining room which features romantic chandeliers and a huge fireplace with a wall of french glass doors that overlook the large outdoor terrace, where tables are set for elegant summertime dining, complete with spectacular vineyard views. Warm and inviting, the tranquil ambiance and refined cuisine of Peller Estates Winery Restaurant makes it easy to relax and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

Chef Jason Parsons

The Peller Estates Winery Restaurant menu

Peller Estates Ice Cuvée Classic, a sparkling wine enhanced with Ice Wine, makes a lovely aperitif  before dinner while relaxing on the terrace at Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake

One of our most awarded wines at the winery, this traditional ‘méthode’ sparkling wine is made with hand-picked Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes

A trio of linen wrapped house made breads arrive on a silver tray...   

...served with butter garnished with Maldon salt

An amuse-bouche of Bresaola, Celeriac Rémoulade and Watercress

Signature Icewine Chicken Liver Parfait with Blue Ice Cheese, Toasted Red Walnuts and Hung Yogurt

“Signature series” Private Reserve Riesling is paired with the Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Bocconcini Salad 

Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Bocconcini Salad with Fresh Basil Sprouts & Pristine Soya Bean Oil

“Signature series” 2012 Chardonnay Sur Lie wine pairing with the Lobster Linguine

Signature Lobster Linguini – Showcased at “The James Beard House” with Black Truffle Linguini, Icewine Poached Lobster and Smoked Bacon in a Chardonnay Cream Sauce

A small Mint Granita served as a palate cleanser

Rosé "Private Reserve" 2013 and “Private Reserve” 2012 Merlot

Pork Loin  served with Wild Boar Bacon, Goat Cheese Soufflé, Sweet Cherry & Basil Vierge

Wild Salmon & Wasabi Caviar with Lobster Knuckles, Baby Clams, Mussels & Saffron Fennel Bouillabaisse

Chèvre Noir & Pear Parcel
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jason Parsons

Artichoke dressing: 
2 tbsp chopped artichoke bottom
4 cloves roasted garlic
2 tbsp chopped cooked mushrooms
1 tbsp sherry vinegar 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Pear parcel:
6 pieces chevre noir or any aged goat cheese
6 sheets brick or filo pastry 
1 whole Riesling poached forelle pear, cut into 6 thin slices 
3 cups hydroponic watercress
3 cups baby arugula
salt and pepper to taste

To make artichoke dressing, simply whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside. To make parcels, place one piece of chevre noir in the center of the brick pastry. Top with one slice of the poached pear. Brush the pastry around the outside with water and fold into a parcel. Place in a 400°F oven until golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Mix the watercress and arugula with 4 tbsp of artichoke dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salad in the center of the plate and drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp of dressing around the outside of the plate. Top with the warm parcel and serve. 

Seared Scallop & Corn Bacon Chowder
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jason Parsons

1/4 cup finely diced onion
3/4 cup roughly chopped bacon 
1 tsp five spice
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup diced leek, white part only
1/2 cup peeled and diced carrots
1/2 cup peeled and diced potato 
1/2 cup Chardonnay 
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups 35% cream
5 cups corn niblets
2 tbsp grape seed oil
15 small diver scallops
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

In a pan sauté onion, bacon, five spice and butter over medium to high heat for two minutes. Then add the leeks, carrots and potatoes. Sweat for another minute then add the Chardonnay and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream and the corn. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Using the grape seed oil, sear the scallops over high heat until golden brown. Set five cooked scallops aside for garnish, and cut the remaining into quarters and add to the chowder just before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley, salt and pepper. 

Icewine Lobster and Linguine
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jason Parsons

1/2 cup chopped smoked bacon
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup Peller Estates Sur Lie Chardonnay
1/2 cup 35% cream
1/2 cup Peller Estates Oak Aged Vidal Icewine
1 cup chopped lobster meat
4 cups fresh black truffle linguini (see recipe below)
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Dash of Truffle oil and micro greens, for garnish

Black truffle Pasta:
3 1/2 oz flour
3 1/2 oz semolina flour
3 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1 tbsp truffle paste
dash extra virgin olive oil
dash water

Mix the two flours together, then slowly add first the whole egg followed by the egg yolks and then the black truffle paste. Knead the mix together and if dry add a dash of the extra virgin olive oil and water. It is better for the dough to be slightly on the moist side than too dry. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to firm. Once chilled, use a pasta machine to roll out into portions of linguini.

Warm the Icewine in a small pot over medium heat. Add the lobster meat and remove from the stove. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the smoked bacon, shallots and sauté for two minutes. Then add the chardonnay and reduce by half, followed by the 35% cream. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the truffle linguini until al dente and strain, then add the pasta to the sauce. Now remove the lobster from the Icewine and add to the pasta followed by half of the parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and serve. Garnish with a drizzle of truffle oil, the remaining parmesan and a few micro greens for colour.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cucumber Cups with Smoked Salmon & Dill Mousse

This sensational Smoked Salmon & Dill Mousse is incredibly easy to make, and can be prepared well ahead of time and simply piped onto some trimmed cucumber rounds. Smoked salmon, cream cheese, sour cream and dill are placed in a food processor and whizzed into a smooth paste. The mousse is then spooned into a piping bag with an #8 startip nozzle, and chilled until ready to be used. Once you're ready, all you do is carefully pipe the mousse onto the cucumber rounds and garnish with a small sprig of dill. It looks great and tastes fabulous, fresh and positively chocked full of smoked salmony goodness.

Cucumber Cups with Smoked Salmon & Dill Mousse 
Makes 30-40 hors d'oeuvres

8 oz. smoked salmon
8 oz creamed cheese
4 oz sour cream
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
2 english cucumbers
salt and white pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a #8 startip, or even a plastic bag with the corner cropped off, and chill until you're ready to proceed.

Using a vegetable peeler, create long stripes along the length of each cucumber, them slice into 1/2" rounds. Then using a melon baller, scoop out a small bowl in each round and place on a decorative plate. Remove the mousse from the fridge and pipe a small mound into the centre of each cucumber. 
Garnish with a small sprig of dill and serve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Treadwell Farm-to-Table Niagara Cuisine

Stephen Treadwell is one of Ontario’s food stars. Formerly the head chef at Queen's Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Auberge du Pommier in Toronto, Treadwell brought the European concept of 'farm-to-table' dining to Southern Ontario almost a decade ago, sourcing regional suppliers such as Cumbrae Farms and Best Baa Dairy within an easy transportation distance to the restaurant. The father and son team are vocal and passionate about emphasizing the best artisan producers of Southwestern Ontario, and their restaurant is a showcase of local farmers, producers and vintners. It's simple, perfect food, and allows the ingredients to speak for themselves. Whether it’s 'Mario Pingue’s' 24 Month Aged Prosciutto with shaved Ontario Pecorino and some peppery field-grown Arugula, 'Marc's Wild Mushrooms, Bertha's Bounty Eggs or Prosciutto-Wrapped 'Cumbrae Farms' Pork Tenderloin with Honey Glazed Pork Belly, Caramelized Onions and Quinoa with Mustard Jus, the food has provenance, is perfectly prepared, beautifully presented, and absolutely delicious. Combined with Sommelier James Treadwell's spot on wine recommendations and a staff that is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine has undoubtedly become one of the finest place to dine in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but with the Shaw Festival venues a short walk away, reservations during the theatre months are essential.

Chef-Owner Stephen Treadwell

The outdoor terrace of Treadwell on Main Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Treadwell's clean and modern place setting with Schott Zwiesel glassware

Farm-to-Table locally sourced Niagara cuisine is featured on Treadwell's seasonally changing menu

Hot and humid with temperatures hovering around 34°F, a bottle of San Pellegrino on ice with even more ice on the side was heaven

Sommelier James Treadwell pours 13th Street Winery Cuvée 13 Sparkling Brut Rosé

A vibrant blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, with a hint of Gamay Noir, 
this sparking Rosé was dry and full of deep flavour, rather like a sparkling Tavel

Housemade Focaccia with olive oil and Cabernet Franc

Domaine du Poujol 2013 Pico from Languedoc, made from Vermentino and Carignan Blanc grapes

Curry Dusted West Coast Halibut with Potato Rösti, Local Green Beans, 'Marc's' Wild Mushrooms and Bacon Buerre Blanc

Fennel Pollen Dusted Wild B.C. Salmon with Poached 'Bertha's Bounty' Egg, Herb Crushed Fingerling Potatoes and Lemon Mustard Butter

The Dessert & Cheese Menu

Brown Butter Cake with Raspberry Purée and Lemon Curd Ice Cream with Candied Lemon

Cold Spring Pea Soup
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Stephen Treadwell

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
4 cups fresh peas
1 small bag fresh spinach
1 litre vegetable stock
1 oz whipping cream
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground white pepper

Heat a saucepan with a little grapeseed oil and butter. Add the celery and onion, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cover with vegetable stock; season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the peas, bring back to boil, and cook until soft. Add spinach, stir, and then remove from heat. Allow time to cool, then blend until smooth, pass through fine strainer. Heat cream, and add to the soup. Season to taste, place soup on ice and serve when nice and cold.

CHEF'S TIP: Garnish with a butter seared scallop and smoked bacon. Fresh mint can also be added to the soup before blending. Soup can also be served warm.