Friday, February 24, 2017

Tuna Salad with Avocado, Onion Sprouts & Boiled Egg

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 Avocado, Sprouts & Hard Boiled Eggs
Serves 2

10 oz (2 small cans) 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, February 23, 2017

Toasted Coriander & Fennel Seed Crusted Salmon

Toasted coriander and fennel seeds become the fragrant foundation for a wonderfully flavourful dry rub, perfect on swordfish or salmon. Coarsely ground with white peppercorns and seasoned with a little kosher salt, the mixture is pressed into the fish, and grilled over medium-high heat for a delicious light and crispy coating, with scents redolent of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. A great source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, this Coriander & Fennel Crusted Salmon is excellent served on a bed of grilled asparagus and garnished simply with a slice of orange and drizzle of balsamic fig glaze. 

Coriander & Fennel Crusted Salmon with Grilled Asparagus 
Serves 2

2 tbsp coriander seed
2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 organic salmon filets, about 6 oz each
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil, for brushing
Fresh thyme, mint and sliced orange, for garnish
Balsamic and fig glaze, for drizzling such as Kalamata brand

Place the coriander seeds, fennel seeds and white peppercorns in a small pan over medium high heat. Toast the mixture, shaking the pan frequently, until they become fragrant and begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Let the mixture cool a few minutes and then transfer to a spice grinder or small food processor, and coarsley grind. Spread on a small plate with the salt and mix well.

Brush the salmon filets with some olive oil then dip the top side of each filet into the spices, pressing well to adhere. Transfer the fish to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Place the asparagus in a small dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to coat. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate along with the salmon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Maccheroni al Ferro with Ragù alla Bolognese

Inspired by this recipe for handmade Maccheroni al Ferro by Toronto chef Massimo Bruno, I have made this easy and delicious pasta many times after discovering the website of this talented chef and teacher last year. Ferri means 'irons' and refers to the thin metal rod around which small pieces of dough are rolled in order to create this unique shape of pasta. Originating from the southern Calabrian region of Italy, Maccheroni al Ferro is made using semola di grano duro rimaninata, a remilled durum wheat semolina, mixed with a little warm water and olive oil then kneaded until smooth and elastic, a process which takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into five or six smaller pieces, the dough is hand rolled into long snake-like coils then sliced into 1/2 to 1-inch long pieces, then shaped into maccherone using a wooden or metal skewer. One places the skewer on the centre of each piece of dough, and pressing it lightly to make it stable, one then starts rolling the dough to make a cylinder. Removing them carefully, the pasta are laid onto a parchment lined baking sheet until all the maccherone are complete. If one or two don't work out, simply roll them back into a small ball and try again. They don't need to be perfect, just made with love! Served with this classic Ragù alla Bolognese recipe by Mario Batali, the sauce is made with a delicious combination of sautéed vegetables, veal, pork and pancetta which are slow-cooked with milk, white wine and just a hint of tomato paste — a light and delicious sauce for my little pillows of loveliness "e tutto fatto a mano"!

Three simple ingredients: semolina flour, warm water and olive oil

Using a fork, the mixture is blended until it holds together 

The dough is the kneaded for 15-20 minutes until smooth

The dough is cut into six pieces and rolled into long ropes

The dough is cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Using a chopstick, the dough is rolled into 'ferro' and placed on a parchment lined baking sheet

A traditional Ragù alla Bolognese

Maccheroni al Ferro with Ragù alla Bolognese
Serves 2-4

1 cup Semola Di Grano Duro Rimaninata (remilled durum wheat semolina)
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, for adding to boiling the pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 ribs of celery, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
4 oz pancetta, ground or finely diced
6 oz tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup parley leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat to start the ragù. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 60-90 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm until ready to serve. The sauce can also be stored in an airtight container for 1 week in the fridge or frozen for up to 6 months.

Place the flour in a large bowl and make a hole in the centre. Pour in some warm water and olive oil and mix together slowly with a fork until the dough comes together, is no longer sticky and becomes hard to mix with the fork. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a clean surface. Massage the dough by pulling and stretching it out until it becomes soft, smooth and elastic, about 10-20 minutes. 

Slice into 6 pieces and using your hands, roll each piece into long snake-like cylinders about the thickness of a cigarette. Once all the dough has been rolled out, sprinkle some semolina onto a clean surface, and coat all of the pasta so it won't stick together. Slice each roll into 1/2" pieces. Using a 'ferri' or thin wooden skewer, place it in the middle of each small piece of dough, and using a little pressure, roll the rod back and forth until the dough is wrapped completely around the rod, then slide the pasta off and arrange on a parchment lined baking tray in a single layer, and dust with some flour to keep the past from sticking together if necessary. 

The pasta doesn’t need to dry for long and can be thrown into boiling water shortly after being made and will be finished cooking in a few short minutes when they float to the top of the water. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the pasta with any pasta water that's attached, to an appropriate amount of hot Ragù Bolognese, and toss so that the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. Serve garnished with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a sprig or two of fresh thyme for pizzazz.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Indian Monkfish Curry with Tomato & Cilantro

Often compared to Lobster, Monkfish's firm-fleshed and meaty texture is ideally suited for this warm, fragrant and delicious Indian fish curry. Inspired by a recipe from The Cooking of India by Santha Rama Rau, this curry recipe is simple, easy to prepare and absolutely addictive. Onions, garlic, ginger and kari leaves are sautéed in olive oil until golden brown, then an aromatic mixture of cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, cayenne and fennel seed are added, infusing the kitchen with an intoxicating mouth watering aroma. Chopped tomatoes, yogurt and cilantro are mixed into the sauce, producing a rich fragrant gravy into which sautéed monkfish are added, then simmered for a few more minutes. Served with jasmine rice, papadam and a selection of chutneys, this easy Monkfish Curry is a light and flavourful salute to my tattered Time-Life series of cookbooks.

Monkfish Curry
Serves 2

1 lb monkfish tail
2 1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp vegetable oil
6 oz finely chopped onions
2 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
12-16 Kari leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
4 tbsp water
1 lb can tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
6 tbsp plain yogurt

Heat 5 tablespoons of oil over high heat in a large skillet, until water flicked into it splutters instantly. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and kari leaves, and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Reduce the heat to low, add the cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, fennel and one tablespoon of water, and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, the yogurt and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Increase the heat to medium, add the remaining water, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. 

Cut the monkfish tail into 1-inch medallions, pat dry and sprinkle with salt. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat in a small skillet, and sauté the monkfish for 2-3 minutes on each side, until each medallion is opaque.

Place the monkfish medallions side by side in the sauce, and sprinkle with the garam masala and remaining cilantro. Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

To serve, ladle the Monkfish Curry into a warmed bowl, and garnish with some chopped cilantro. This is delicious served with basmati rice, papadums and selection of chutneys.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Broccoli, Onion & Dill Frittata with Gruyère

Among the most classic of brunch offerings, omelettes, quiches, and frittatas are also some of the most versatile. Healthy, light and delicious, this low-carb Broccoli, Onion & Dill Frittata with Gruyère is simple to prepare and delicious to make anytime of the year. Italy's version of the Spanish 'tortilla', the frittata is a thick, hearty open-faced omelette with an egg base, and contains more or less anything you like: herbs, vegetables, cheeses, meat, seafood or even pasta. The beautiful thing about frittatas is that there are endless flavour possibilities. They are cooked over very low heat on a stove, or in an oven, until the underside is set and the frittata is beautifully puffed up. 

Broccoli, Onion & Dill Frittata with Gruyère
Serves 4

8 large eggs
1 cup grated Gruyère
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 head of broccoli, florets only, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt & white pepper

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 medium non-stick sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high and cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets, season with salt, pepper, and 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. Serve while hot with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice with a splash of sparkling wine for a delicious start to a Sunday morning.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Swordfish with Citrus & Cilantro Marinade

I adore swordfish and serve it at least two or three times a month. Ideally, it's best grilled outdoors on a barbecue to create gorgeous grill marks, but when faced with a winter that just won't quit, baking the swordfish in the oven is the next best thing. With a dense, meaty texture and mildly sweet flavour, the key is preparing a marinade that is fragrant enough to enhance the swordfish without overpowering it's delicacy. This fabulous Citrus and Cilantro Marinade of lemon and orange zest, cilantro, sesame oil, olive oil and Ponzu sauce works beautifully on swordfish as well as salmon, tilapia or even seafood. Marinated for at least half an hour, the swordfish is simply baked in a 400°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until it's just cooked through. Served with a light salad and chilled glass of white wine, warmer weather doesn't seem so far away.

Swordfish with Citrus & Cilantro Marinade
Serves 2

1 lb swordfish, cut in two
3 slices of orange and arugula, for garnish

2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Kikkoman Ponzu citrus-seasoned soy sauce

In a small food processor, blend the cilantro, lemon zest, orange zest, olive oil, sesame oil and ponzu sauce until well combined. Place the swordfish in a flat dish and coat with the marinade. Allow the fish to marinate 30-60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake the swordfish in a non reactive dish for 25 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.  To serve, place the swordfish on a warmed serving plate and garnish with sliced orange and arugula, accompanied with the salad and a chilled bottle of white wine.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mulligatawny Soup: An Anglo-Indian Classic

A classic Anglo-Indian soup, the name of which means "pepper water," should be richly endowed with meat and piquantly spiced, Mulligatawny became popular with the British stationed in India during colonial times of the late 18th century and later. When they returned home, they brought the recipe back with them to England and other members of the Commonwealth, especially Australia. The recipe for mulligatawny has varied greatly over the years and there is no single original version, but is usually based on a chicken stock and curry, with cream, chicken, onion, celery, apples and almonds and garnished with rice. This recipe by Sydney Oland starts with toasting mustard, cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan over high heat until the spices become toasted and wonderfully fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transferred to a mortar and pestle and ground until fine, it also features fresh ginger, garlic, sweet potato, tomato and green lentils for a bright, richly flavoured and satisfying soup, perfect on a cold winter day.

Mulligatawny Soup
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Sydney Oland

1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds

1/2 tsp whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb chicken thighs, skinless
1onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1 medium carrot, finely chopped, about 3/4 cup
1 celery rib, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 tbsp curry powder
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 apple, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 plum tomato, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup dry red or green lentils
6 cups homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken broth, or water
Greek yogurt, to garnish
Finely chopped cilantro, to garnish
Red chili flakes, to garnish

Place mustard seed, cumin seed, and coriander seed in a skillet and toast over high heat until spices begin to smell toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and process until fine.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper and roast until cooked through, about 25 minutes, then transfer to a plate and reserve.

Add the vegetable oil to a large pot and once hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring often until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and toasted spices and stir until the vegetables are evenly covered. Add the garlic, ginger, sweet potato, apple and plum tomato and stir to coat. Add the lentils then return the baked chicken thighs to the pot. Add the broth and bring to a simmer, then cover and cook until the potatoes and lentils are soft and soup has thickened, about 1 hour.

Remove thighs from the soup and shred the meat and skin then return to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with yogurt, cilantro, and red pepper flakes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mini Chocolate Pecan Tarts: A Valentine Treat

One of the most irresistible of desserts, nothing beats a sweet and delicious Pecan Pie. This classic recipe is an updated mini bite-size version of the traditional Southern family favourite. With a buttery chocolate tart pastry and rich nutty caramel pecan topping, these mouth wateringly decadent Caramel Pecan Tarts are absolutely divine, completely addictive and the ultimate Valentine Day treat.

Mini Chocolate Pecan Tarts
Makes 4 mini tarts

Chocolate Tart Pastry:

1 cup of very cold butter cut into ½-inch pieces
1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1/3 cup of pastry flour
3/4 cups of icing sugar
2/3 cup of cocoa
1/4 tsp of kosher salt
1/4 cup of water

Chocolate Pecan Tart Filling:
4 large eggs
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
2/3 cup of corn syrup
2/3 cup of whipping cream
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/3 cup of brandy
1/4 cup of butter, melted
1 ½ cup of pecan halves

Chocolate Drizzle:

1/3 cup of whipping cream
4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp of corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Using a food processor, combine the butter, flour, pastry flour, cocoa, icing sugar, and salt and pulse until the texture resembles coarse sand. Add the water and mix until the pastry just comes together, being careful not to over process. Using your fingers, press the dough firmly into four 4-inch mini springform pans with removable bottom and chill for 30 minutes. Line the pans with parchment paper and fill with baking beans and bake for 8-10 minutes or until just firm. Remove from the oven and discard the parchment paper and baking beans.

Reduce the oven to 350°F. Using a standing mixer fitted with flat beater attachment, begin the tart filling by beating the eggs, both the sugars, salt and syrup until just combined but not frothy. Stir in the whipping cream, vanilla, brandy, and melted butter, then fold in the pecans. Pour into the pre-baked tarts and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is set and slightly puffed in the centre. Allow to cool completely before adding the optional drizzle topping.

Coarsely chop the chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. Place a small saucepan on medium heat and cook until the cream just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for a 2-3 minutes and stir until the both the cream and chocolate form a homogeneous mixture. Add the corn syrup and stir again.

Using a teaspoon, dot the topping of each of the cooled tarts and swirl decoratively. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. The tarts can also be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Shrimp Chow Fun: A Cantonese Noodle Classic

Chow Fun is a popular Cantonese dish made with stir-fried wide 'He-Fun' Chinese noodles in a sweet savoury sauce with scallions, ginger, bean sprouts and dark soy. With a wonderful flavour and texture, these silky soft wide rice noodles can be stir-fried with beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or any section of seafood, and often makes an appearance during festive occasions, because they are a symbol of long life in Chinese culture.

Shrimp Chow Fun

Serves 4

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined 

2 tbsp rice wine

2 tsp light soy sauce

1/4 tsp white pepper


2 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp chili in oil
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine
4 tbsp water

Stir Fry:
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 tbsp chopped ginger
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 red chili or 1/4 of red bell pepper, seeded and julienne
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
20 oz chow fun noodles - fresh wide rice noodles
8 green onion, cut in halves lengthwise & cut into 2-inches long pieces
8 oz bean sprouts
2 tsp sesame oil and seeds for garnish

Combine the rice wine, light soy sauce and white pepper to the shrimp in a medium bowl, toss together and set aside. Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl and whisk well until the sugar has dissolved, then set aside.

Heat a wok over hight heat and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the shrimp and cook 1 to 2 minutes each side or until almost cooked through,  then remove from the wok and set aside. In the same wok, add the remaining cooking oil, then add ginger, garlic and red chili. Stir fry for 30 second to 1 minute or until it becomes fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes, adding another teaspoon of oil if needed.

Add the noodles and sauce, and stir fry until noodles soften and absorb the sauce, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the chopped green onion, bean sprouts and shrimp, and stir fry for 30 second to 1 minute. Remove from heat and garnish with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Serve immediately. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Guy's Famous 9-Bean Soup with Pancetta & Chard

My husband has a number of recipes which he loves to make, but his favourite and mine is his famous Bean Soup. He used to make it as a bachelor because the ingredients were relatively inexpensive, was easy to make and tasted great. Although the selection of beans change every time he makes this soup, the onions, garlic, tomatoes and swiss chard remain consistent, as well as his secret ingredient — Patak's curry paste. In fact, for the first few years we were married, he would't even let me in the kitchen when he made his Bean Soup, for fear I'd discover the recipe's elusive flavour and would be able to make the soup without him. No fear of that — this is his 'baby' and I always look forward to him making a big batch to stock our freezer for months to come. Delicious with a little grated pecorino on top for extra zing, this soup is sensational.

Guy's Famous Nine-Bean & Tomato Soup with Pancetta and Swiss Chard
Serves 10-12

1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
3 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp Patak's curry paste
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
2 19 oz can six bean mix, drained
1 19 oz can black beans, drained
1 19 oz can green broad beans, drained
1 19 oz can lentils, drained
12 cups homemade or purchased chicken stock
1 bunch swiss chard, trimmed, stalks removed and chopped

In a large pot, sauté the diced onion, pancetta, garlic, curry paste and chili flakes in olive oil over medium-high until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the juice, and stir to combine with the onion mixture. Cook for 15 minutes, then add all of the beans followed by the chicken stock and swiss chard.  Increase the heat to high until the stock just starts to bubble, then turn it down to low and cover for 20 minutes. "Done...easy-peasy," Guy says. This soup freezes beautifully, and with the quantity it makes, you'll have lovely soup for weeks to come.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Roast Chicken Grand-Mère with Celeriac & Thyme

Roast Chicken Grand-Mère is a classic French fricassée. Warm and filling, this braised chicken casserole is prepared the old-fashioned way: everything is simmered together in one pot. Any dish termed 'Grand-Mère' has the same 4 ingredients: glazed pearl onions, bacon lardons, sautéed mushrooms and small new potatoes. French cuisine is filled with lots of comforting cottage-style gems, known as 'recettes de Grand-Mère', or 'grandmother's recipes'. A classic in French cuisine, Chicken Grand-Mère was a specialty in Chef Daniel Boulud's family too, and a favourite of his Grandmother Francine who cooked at the original Café Boulud outside Lyon. 

"The best thing my grandmother made, appropriately enough, was the French classic Poulet Grand-Mère. You can make it with a whole chicken, but she did it as a fricassée, with the chicken cut into portions. You simply brown the meat in a sauté pan then add shallots, garlic, potatoes, mushrooms and chicken stock and bake it in the oven. We picked the mushrooms, raised the chickens, grew the onions. All of the elements were perfect together because of their freshness, and no time was it better to make this dish than at mushroom harvest time, when my grandmother would add rose des pres, pink field mushrooms, newly dug potatoes, and new garlic." 

Chef Daniel Boulud

Chicken breasts dressed in vegetable oil, seasoned with coarse sea salt, 
fresh ground black pepper and baked at 375°F for about 30-40 minutes

When I make Chicken Grand-Mère, I generally use chicken breasts rather than cutting up a whole chicken, simply because it's easier to control the cooking time of the meat. The breasts are coated in vegetable oil then seasoned with salt and pepper and baked along with some new potatoes for about 30 to 40 minutes. When they're all nice and golden brown, it's time to remove them from the oven and start on the vegetables.

The breasts are nicely browned and cooked through

Lovely and crispy golden brown new potatoes

Pearl onions are blanched, peeled and added to an oven-proof casserole along with 2 tablespoons of butter, 4 chopped shallots and 3 cloves of garlic, and sautéed on the stove top until they become soft and fragrant. Cremini mushrooms, a diced bulb of celeriac and 4 or 5 slices of chopped thick bacon are then added the the mixture and cooked until the bacon starts rendering its fat. The casserole then is covered over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes to stop the ingredients from sticking.

Sliced shallots, garlic and blanched pearl onions sautéed in butter

Cremini mushrooms - large ones are halved and the smaller are left whole

Peeled and diced celeriac

Bacon, celeriac and mushrooms are added to the casserole

The cooked chicken breasts are added with 2 cups of chicken broth

The cooked chicken breasts and 2 cups of chicken broth are added to the cooked vegetables and the casserole is baked uncovered in the oven for about half an hour or so, until all of the lovely flavours have melded and the chicken is cooked through. This dish is wonderfully soothing and satisfying whether you’re making it simply with cremini mushrooms and new potatoes, or dressed up with exotic wild mushrooms or any of the small fingerling or organic potatoes that many local markets now offer. Simple, savoury and delicious, Roast Chicken Grand-Mère is the ultimate classic comfort food on a cold winter day, especially when served with a warm crusty baguette to sop up all of the flavourful juices — bon appetite!

Roast Chicken Grand-Mère
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
12 pearl onions, skin on
4 shallots, peeled and sliced finely
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
6 sprigs thyme
16 small Yukon Gold potatoes
1 celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
6 oz bacon, cut into short thin strips
16 small cremini mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and halved
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 crusty Baguette, to serve with chicken

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Blanch the pearl onions in a small pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, and when they're cool enough to handle, peel off the outer skin, trim off the root end, cover and set aside.

In a large bowl, coat the chicken breasts and small potatoes all over with canola oil, then place the chicken and potatoes in two separate foil-lined baking pans. Season them both generously with salt and pepper and roast together in the oven until the chicken breasts are well browned on top, about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, remember to stir the potatoes every 10-15 minutes to ensure they become golden all over. When the chicken and potatoes are deeply golden, remove them from the oven and transfer to a platter and keep warm while you work on the vegetables.

Pour off 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat from the baking pan and place into an oven-proof casserole over medium heat, on the stove top. Add the butter and sliced shallots and cook, stirring frequently, about 5-6 minutes. Then add the cipollini onions, garlic and thyme and cook just until the vegetables start to take on a little color, about 5 minutes. Add the celery root and bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the bacon starts rendering its fat. Then cover the pan and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and return the chicken to the pan. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and slide the pan into the oven. Bake, uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Spoon everything onto a warm serving platter or serve from the casserole, and garnish with extra sprigs of thyme. To serve, bring the chicken to the table with plenty of crusty baguette to sop up the sauce.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guy's Spaghetti Bolognese: A Comfort Food Classic

Spaghetti Bolognese is the traditional Italian ragu from Bologna, a slowly cooked sauce that characteristically includes a soffritto of onion, celery and carrot, minced or finely chopped beef, pancetta and red wine. A small amount of tomato concentrate or tomatoes are added, and the dish is then gently simmered at length to produce a rich thick sauce. Outside of Italy, "Spag-Bol" as my husband calls it, consists of a meat sauce served on a bed of spaghetti topped with a sprinkling of grated Parmigiana cheese — maybe even with a loaf of warm garlic bread — and although it bears little resemblance to the traditional Italian ragù, few could argue that it isn't molto delizioso, especially with a loaf of Guy's Garlic Ciabatta on the side. 

Spaghetti Bolognese with Beef, Mushrooms & Red Wine
Serves 6

1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oli
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
3 cups homemade tomato sauce, or good quality store-bought
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino 
1 bunch parsley, chopped for garnish

In a large frying pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat and when it starts to sizzle, add the mushrooms and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes, then set aside. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan set on medium-high and add the ground beef, stirring frequently until the meat is no longer pink and is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste, and stir thoroughly to combine. Turn the heat down to low, and add the mushrooms plus their liquid into the bolognese, then pour in the red wine and continue stirring until the mixture is the desired consistency. For a looser sauce, add some water or beef stock as necessary. Cover the sauce and continue cooking on low heat to meld the flavours, about another 30-60 minutes.

Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat, and when it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to the manufacturers instructions. When al dente or to taste, drain in a colander then return to the pot and combine with just enough bolognese sauce just to coat the noodles. To serve, arrange the semi-dressed pasta in warmed dinner bowls and top with a mound of additional sauce, as desired. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and a garnish of chopped parsley and serve immediately, with additional parmigiana on the side for those who wish a little more.

Guy's Garlic Ciabatta
Serves 6

1 fresh ciabatta or baguette
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mash up the butter and minced garlic until it's well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped parsley. Cut the ciabatta in half length wise being careful not o cut all the way through — it should open like a book. Liberally spread the garlic butter on the inside of both 'halves', then wrap snuggly in aluminum foil. Place in a preheated oven set to 375°F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, open the garlic bread up from it's foil package and allow it to cook open to the heat of the oven for another 5 minutes. To serve, close the bread back to it's original loaf shape and slice into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bread basket and serve with the pasta.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Seared Scallops with White Bean Purée & Spinach

There are few main courses as elegant or simple as Seared Sea Scallops. Sweet, tender, mild and delectable, the less you fuss with scallops, the better they taste. The best way to cook these plump, meaty scallops is to sear them quickly in a hot pan so that the outsides get a lovely crisp, brown crust and the insides remain tender and moist. The crowning glory of this dish is nestling the little darlings on a creamy pillow of homemade White Bean Purée, which compliments the subtle richness of the seared scallops perfectly. 

White Italian kidney beans, or cannellini, have the ability to carry the simple, bold flavours of the lemon, garlic and olive oil effortlessly. Whipped into a beautiful silky lemony White Bean Purée, this dish is a wonderful and simple accompaniment to the luscious butteriness of the seared sea scallops. A garnish of chopped olives add a rich fruity note to the dish, and although pitted olives are often easier to use, I recommend 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.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with White Bean Purée & Spinach
Serves 2

6 sea scallops
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 kalamata olives, finely sliced
1 mandarin orange, zested

White Bean Purée:
2 cups canned cannellini beans, drained
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Blanched Spinach:
1 bunch baby spinach, washed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

Place the washed baby spinach in a pot over medium heat and blanch until just wilted, then drain and keep warm.

To serve, pat the 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 2 minutes per side, until they are caramelized and cooked to your desired doneness. 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 white bean purée topped with the blanched spinach and garnished with sliced olives and mandarin zest.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Smoked Mackerel, Salmon, Dill & Potato Chowder

Dill is the perfect partner in this light and delicious Smoked Mackerel, Salmon & Potato Chowder. Chunky and full of flavour, surprisingly this recipe doesn't use cream or butter, so it's lighter in calories than a traditional chowder, yet hearty and robust enough to be a completely satisfying meal in itself. Celery and onion are first sautéed with a little olive oil, then a dash of flour is added to thicken the sauce. Chicken stock and milk provide the light base for the broth, diced potato anchors the chowder, the fresh salmon and smokey mackerel provide the punch, and a handful of dill towards the end 'seals the deal'. Refreshingly light and enormously flavourful, this Smoked Mackerel, Salmon, Dill & Potato Chowder satisfies the tummy while being flattering to the waistline.

Smoked Mackerel, Salmon Dill & Potato Chowder
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
5 oz yellow onion, finely chopped
8 oz potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/4" dice
1 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk or light cream
4 oz salmon filet, skin and bones removed
4 oz smoked mackerel
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
salt and white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery and onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender. Shred the salmon and smoked mackerel quite roughly and add to the soup. Simmer 3-5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Stir in the milk and dill and cook on low until warmed through. Adjust the seasoning and serve.