Friday, November 30, 2018

Roast Chicken Thighs with Lemon-Garlic Marinade

Bursting with fresh fragrant Mediterranean flavours, any cut of chicken can be elevated from sensational to sublime with this easy and delicious Greek-style marinade using olive oil, garlic, dried Greek oregano, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, plus the zest and juice of one large lemon. Gently massaged into bone-in chicken breasts or thighs and roasted in the oven with baby new potatoes, a handful of Kalmata olives and sliced lemon at 425°F for 50-60 minutes, the scent of the chicken as it slowly roasts produces a wonderfully tender and fabulously flavourful Aegean-inspired dinner that is perfect served with a simple Greek Salad studded with barrel-aged Greek feta and dressed in the tangy Lemon-Garlic Marinade that doubles as a tangy salad vinaigrette.

Roast Chicken Thighs with Lemon-Garlic Marinade
Serves 4

2 lb chicken bone-in thighs, with skin optional
16 new potatoes
1/4 cups kalamata olives, pitted
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, divided - 2 chopped and 2 for garnish
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 lemon, sliced

Lemon-Garlic Marinade: Makes 1 cup
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp white sugar
1 tbsp dried Greek Oregano

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Using a small food processor, add the garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add all of the remaining ingredients of the marinade and process until fully blended. Trim of any excess fat from the chicken thighs and set in a large bowl with 1/4 cup of the marinade, tossing to coat well. Set on a foil lined baking tray and season with salt, pepper, a sprinkle more dried oregano and some chopped rosemary. Toss the new potatoes in a tablespoon of olive oil and arrange around the chicken, followed by the olives and half of a sliced lemon. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the chicken is crispy, golden brown and cooked through. To serve, arrange the chicken, potatoes, olives and lemon on a serving platter and spoon a tablespoon of the juices overtop. Garnish with the remaining lemon slices and sprigs of rosemary.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese: An Italian Classic

Ragù served over silken egg tagliatelle is one of the signature dishes of Bologna, the food-loving capital of Emilia-Romagna. In fact, this rich, meaty tomato ragù is so closely associated with Bologna that any dish described as Bolognese will be cloaked in it. This recipe by chef Mario Batali from Babbo Ristorante, his flagship restaurant in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, features an ever so slightly creamy ragù made with ground beef, pork and veal, and is flavoured with tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes."Ragù bolognese is made differently by every mother or grandmother or son who learns it, but all practitioners follow a fairly basic formula, starting with a combination of carrots, celery and onions chopped very finely, and because this recipe originated in Emilia-Romagna, the mixture is heated with equal parts butter and oil: butter being the lipid of choice in the north, olive oil in the south".

"When the butter emulsifies, the combination creates a velvet-like texture. I use three kinds of meat in my ragù: veal, pork and beef, which adds a depth of flavour that I love. I cook the meat with the vegetables until it's brown so as to render the fat completely out. As the water evaporates, the temperature of the pot will increase and the meat will brown in its own uniquely delicious way. The only liquids used are milk and white wine to add richness and layers upon layers of flavour. Ragù bolognese is an essential building block for some of the greatest dishes in the canon of Italian cooking, but few rival the simple preparation of Tagliatelle al Ragù: flat noodles dressed with sauce and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano — Perfection".

Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Mario Batali 

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, very finely chopped, about 1 1/3 cups
4 stalks celery, very finely chopped, about 2 cups
4 small carrots, vey finely chopped, about 1 cup
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 lb ground veal
3/4 lb ground pork
3/4 lb ground beef
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
Maldon salt, to taste
1 lb fresh tagliatelle or 14 oz dried
1 cup grated Parmigianno-Regianno 
Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish 

In a 6 quart heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, season with salt, and cook until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta, increase the heat to high and brown the meat, stirring frequently. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meat is dark brown and the fat has rendered out completely. 

Add the tomato paste and cook it in the fat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the colour is rusty orange. Add the milk and cook until almost completely reduced. Add the wine and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Season the ragu with salt, remove from the heat, and keep warm.

Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water for sauce. In a large sauté pan heat about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sauce over medium heat. Add the cooked pasta and about a 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water, then stir to coat the pasta. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and stir until creamy. Serve and garnish each plate with a flurry of Italian parsley and a generous amount of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Crustless Spinach & Cheese Quiche with Tomato

My friend Chris introduced me to this fabulous Crustless Cheese and Spinach Quiche, which I have since adopted as my own and make a couple of times during the year. It's light, easy to make and is perfect for brunch, lunch or a quick dinner with a simple green salad. The added bonus of course is that it's also low carb and a great recipe for vegetarians. The recipe, made with simple ingredients — eggs, cottage cheese, cheddar, spinach and green onions — can certainly be customized with your favourite greens or cheese, but for hardier vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, they should be steamed before adding them to the quiche to make sure they're fully cooked. Chris served this quiche with a Bloody Mary as we arrived for a cottage weekend, which was a very welcome surprise.

Crustless Cheese & Spinach Quiche
Serves 4

2 10-oz packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups cottage cheese
6 large eggs, beaten
6 tbsp flour - optional 
1 lb cheddar cheese, grated 
4 tbsp green onions, chopped
1 tsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
3 Campari tomatoes, thinly sliced for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9" pie plate or individual ramekins, and set aside. Mix the spinach, cottage cheese, eggs, flour, grated cheddar and green onions in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir well to thoroughly combine. Transfer the mixture into a greased pie plate and top with sliced tomato. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until set and nicely browned. Serve hot with a nice green salad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Apple and Potato Gratin with Gruyere & Sage

This light and delicious Apple and Potato Gratin by Chef Rebecca Boice of San Francisco's celebrated Zuni Café brings the cult classic restaurant’s simple stylings to the Thanksgiving table with a holiday side dish inspired by the season. "In my family, there’s always scalloped potatoes for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to create a similar dish to fill that comfort niche, but do something different. We had some beautiful apples in the walk-in fridge and also I remember my dad always puts cheese on his apple pie  —  so why not put gruyere in the gratin?" Interestingly, chef Boice doesn't use either stock or cream in the dish , but uses olive oil instead and lovely fresh tarragon and thyme. "This gratin is all about letting everything marinate to coax out their flavours". Baked for about 45 minutes until tender and golden brown, this is an easy gratin that would be perfect with roast chicken, pork or lamb or part of a classic turkey dinner. 

Apple and Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Sage & Thyme
Serves 3-4

1 lb small yellow onions
1 tbsp each of chopped fresh sage and thyme leaves
1 lb medium yukon potatoes  
1 lb Braeburn apples 
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 oz Gruyere, about 1 cup grated
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp salt

Preheat oven to 450°F. Peel, halve, and thinly slice the onions into half-moons and add to a large mixing bowl. Roughly chop the sage and thyme leaves and add to the same bowl. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the minced garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil and toss to coat, then set aside.

Thinly slice the potatoes into the bowl with the onions and herbs, and fold everything together. Cut the unpeeled apples in half, and scoop out the cores with a spoon. Slice the apples to roughly the same thickness as the potatoes, and add to the bowl with the potatoes and onions. Give the bowl a few tosses, then let marinate for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a 13-inch (or similar) baking dish. Give the potato mixture one final toss and taste for seasoning. Dump everything into the baking dish, including the juices at the bottom of the bowl, and press the mixture into a single layer. Cover with a layer of parchment and bake for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, grate the Gruyere with a box grater and set aside. After 30 minutes, remove the parchment paper. If the gratin looks dry, add a trickle of water or a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over top of gratin and bake for another 15 minutes. Once tender and golden, remove from the oven, and let the gratin rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Vinegar-Braised Chicken with Leeks, Peas & Tarragon

Inspired by a Food & Wine recipe, this delicious Braised Chicken recipe shouts springtime with a luscious combination of buttery leeks, baby green peas, fresh tarragon and crème fraîche with a splash of white balsamic vinegar that creates a wonderful tangy cream sauce for an easy and elegant entrée. Although the recipe suggests using whole chicken legs, both plump chicken breasts cut in a half or large succulent thighs would work equally well. Served with a heaping mound of creamy mashed potatoes and crisp french green beans, this is a warm and comforting dish anytime of the year.

Vinegar-Braised Chicken with Leeks, Peas & Tarragon
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine

4 whole chicken legs, or 2 large bone-in breasts split into 4 portions
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground pepper 
1 1/2  tbsp unsalted butter 
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
1 1/2 large leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces 
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth 
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar 
5 oz frozen baby peas, thawed 
1 tbsp chopped tarragon, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp chopped parsley 
1/4 cup crème fraîche or full fat sour cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the upper third. Turn the chicken legs skin side down on a work surface and cut halfway through the joint, only if using legs. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In each of 2 large nonstick skillets, heat half of the butter and oil. Add the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for another minute, then place all of the chicken into one skillet.

In the other skillet, cook the leeks over medium-high heat until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, then pour the mixture into a medium roasting or cast-iron pan such as Le Creuset.
Place the chicken on the leeks, skin side up, and roast for about 20-25 minutes, until it's cooked through. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp, then transfer the chicken to a warm platter.

Place the roasting pan over a burner and boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, herbs and crème fraîche, and simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then pour the sauce over the chicken and serve garnished with some fresh herbs.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Giulietta: Inspired Italian Cuisine in Little Italy

It’s the tastiest of all covert missions. Each year, Air Canada sends a critic out on a food crawl in search of the top new dining experiences from coast to coast, and if they are "unforgettable, innovative, and just mind-bogglingly delicious", they get to call themselves one of the 'Top 10 Restaurants in Canada'. One of the top five in 2018 is Chef Rob Rossi's sensational Giulietta on College Street, which is the same location as his meat-centric Bestellen which previously occupied the long, narrow dining room in Little Italy. With the help of design firm Guido Costantino, they redesigned the dark space and found the perfect marriage between elegance and simplicity, just as Rossi has with his menu. Grey Italian wool walls and terrazzo floors frame the interior, while a candlelit amaro cart invites guests in for an aperitif, such as a Giulietta Spritz, made with orange peel scented gin from Quaglia, or the mightly wine list driven by beverage director and sommelier Toni Weber. 
The wine list is Old World-heavy, with emphasis placed on affordable bottles. “We wanted to make it easy for people to have a bottle on the table and not feel priced out of the list – really embracing that Italian hospitality,” Weber says. 

Giulietta’s menu stands in stark contrast to the beefy offerings at Bestellen. “It’s very light on the meat side, on the protein side, and focuses a little more on vegetables and on sharing,” Rossi says. “There’s a lot of small plates. We envisioned it to be like a family-style menu, where everyone’s putting plates everywhere and can just go at it. Obviously the pastas and pizzas are a big part of the menu – you can’t have an Italian restaurant without them.” The menu is inspired and features sweet sausage-wrapped Castelvetrano olives, breaded, deep-fried and dusted with pecorino, are a taste of Ascoli-Piceno's celebrated snack from Italy's Marche region, and the Grilled Moroccan Octopus with cannellini beans and salmorglio is a dish after my own heart. 

In fact, incorporating exceptional, seasonal ingredients into his menu is first and foremost for Rossi. He sources his capon for his Saltimbocca di Cappone from Ferme des Voltigeurs in Québec, brings kampot peppercorns for his cacio e pepe from Cambodia, while his octopus served with heritage cannellini beans is shipped in from Morocco three times a week, fives crates at a time. Even the pizza dough has been taken to an ethereal level, made using a combination of special flour and yeast, and left to proof for at least 5 days, the dough becomes lighter than air. With his father having grown up in Molise, Rob goes back to Italy often and is where he feels most at home. The inspiration for many of the dishes at Giulietta come from this place in his heart that drives the culinary direction of what is most certainly, one of the most authentic Italian experiences in Toronto.

The long narrow interior of Giulietta with terrazzo floors, sleek fluorescent lighting, 
pale grey wool-upholstered accent walls and soft votive candlelight

Seated at the counter overlooking the open kitchen, we were perfectly positioned to watch the chefs weave their culinary magic and eavesdrop on their banter

A mild soft creamy goat cheese with truffle honey served with crisp thin slices of grilled baguette,
was served as a complimentary amuse-bouche

Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Cuvée Brut from Lombardy, is widely regarded as Italy's finest sparkling wine and made very much in the image of Champagne

An elegant dry and delicious Italian sparkling wine made in the méthod champenoise,
was a delicious way to begin the evening  

A family of little handcrafted birds sat perched on the counter as a whimsical touch

With an extensive wine list of sensational Italian wines,
beverage director and sommelier Toni Weber came to help us pick the perfect wine

A rich dark, inky wine with strong tannins, this dense, age worthy Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Reserva from Praesidium comes from a miniscule five-hectare estate that is worked entirely by hand

Bagna Cauda with anchovy and garlic 'condimento’, served with chicory and gem lettuce, Lebanese cucumbers, breakfast radishes, cauliflower and heirloom carrots

Giulietta's outstanding Polpo e Fagioli: the octopus, brought in from Morocco, is poached three hours before being grilled and finished in the wood oven, served with warm cannellini beans and salmorglio 

Making pizza for eight years, Giulietta's pizzaiolo hand makes each pizza and cooks them in the wood fired pizza oven just beside him

The wood fired pizza oven is also used to finish off the grilled octopus, and gives it a lovely crispy texture

La Regina pizza made with crushed tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil

La Capricciosa pizza with tomato, artichokes, black olives, prosciutto cotto, fior di latte and fresh basil

One of the best parts of sitting at Giulietta's kitchen counter was watching the chefs in action,
and seeing how they prepared each dish

Giulietta's popular Cacio e Pepe with housemade Tonnarelli, a traditional long Roman pasta
with kampot pepper from Cambodia and pecorino

Saltimbocca de Cappone in a buttery, sage wine sauce

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with chili, anchovy butter and toasted almonds

This chef was the prince of pasta, cooking each portion of pasta to absolute perfection,
such that my Cacio e Pepe with his Tonnarelli - fatta a mano - was among the best I've ever had

Bistecca alla Fiorentina and a heritage pork chop on the grill

This busy chef was in charge of all the grilled meats, swordfish, octopus and vegetables

The kitchen was bustling all night, with all of the chefs working together in perfect harmony 

Rob insisted that we try his Torta della Nonna and I'm so glad we did, 
this wildflower-honey and pine-nut tart with whipped vanilla mascarpone was absolutely divine

Delicious flakey pastry with a sweet butter tart style filling topped with pine nuts, was good to the last bite

The bar cart at the front of Giulietta with an array of amaro, digestivi and vino dolce

Don Ciccio & Figli barrel aged Amaro delle Sirene is infused with over 30 roots and herbs

Chef and owner Rob Rossi was wonderfully friendly took the time to chat with us 
on and off through the whole evening

Smoky Spanish Style Steak Marinade
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of chef Rob Rossi

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 tsp ground black pepper 
½ tsp ground cumin 
1 tbsp kosher salt 
1 tbsp fresh thyme 
1 ounce olive oil 
½ lemon, juiced

Measure out all of the dry ingredients and place into a medium sized bowl. Using a chef's knife, chop garlic until minced fine, then add to the dry ingredients. Juice the lemon into a bowl. Pick the thyme off the stems, and chop roughly. To finish marinade, drizzle the olive oil into dry ingredients while combining with a whisk. Once the marinade is done, place the meat into a bowl and coat generously with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, before grilling.

Grilled Sweet Peppers
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of chef Rob Rossi

3 sweet red peppers 
2 tbsp sherry vinegar 
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped 
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tbsp maple syrup 
salt and pepper to taste

Place the sweet peppers onto a hot grill and cook until blistered and soft. Set the peppers aside to cool. Once cool, peel and seed the peppers by removing stem and skins. Place the peppers into a medium sized bowl and combine with sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper, and finish with chopped basil.

Wild Mushroom & Chestnut Sourdough Stuffing 
Serves 12-16
Recipe courtesy of Chef Rob Rossi 

1 Whole 15 lbs Butterball turkey — prepare and roast as directed

1 1/4 lb sourdough bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 12 cups
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps roughly chopped
1/2 lb oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2lb dried chanterelle mushrooms reconstituted in warm water.
1/2 lb cooked and peeled chestnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 lb slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 to 5 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer on a large baking sheet and bake, rotate bread a few times, until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool and then transfer to a large bowl. Combine the mushrooms on a baking sheet, toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven, stirring several times, until soft and golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large high-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook. Stir occasionally until the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan and place it back on the stove over high heat. Add the onion and stir for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Deglaze hot pan with 1 cup of white wine, reduce by half and proceed. Add 3 cups chicken stock and the herbs, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the pre-cooked roasted chestnuts.

Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the bread, then add the stock mixture, the bacon and the eggs; season with salt and pepper and gently stir until combined. The mixture should be very wet; add more stock if needed. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the stuffing and cover with foil. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until golden brown, 30 to 40 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Sue's Magnificent Mince Pies: A Wintertime Treat

This traditional British Christmas treat features a sweet mixture of brandied minced fruit — apples, raisins, and candied peel — baked in wonderful flakey pastry. Each year, my mother in law gives us some of her homemade mince tarts, as a special treat for the Christmas season. Made with love, her tarts are simply the best. One tradition says that if you eat a mince pie each day over the twelve days of Christmas it will bring you good luck in the new year, however Sue's mince tarts don't often last that long!

Sue's Mincemeat Pies
Makes 24

1 lb chopped apples
3/4 lb currants
1/2 lb raisins
1/2 lb suet, chopped
1/2 lb sugar
2 oz candied peel
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brandy or sherry

6 cups cake or pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb lard or Crisco, chopped into small pieces
1 egg, mixed well with 1 1/2 cups water and 1 tsp vinegar

Mix all of the mincemeat ingredients together in large bowl, and cover well before use. For the pastry, add the flour, baking powder, and chopped lard together in a large bowl and mix thoroughly, then add the egg mixture. Choose a muffin or tart tin for the size of tarts you want to make, from a standard 12-cup muffin tin, down to small canapé size, keeping in mind that the number of pies will depend on the size of cup you use. 

Dust a work surface lightly with a little flour and roll out 2/3 of the pastry to 1/8-inch thick. Cut circles to line the cups of your tin — don't worry if the pastry doesn't come to the top. Fill the pastry lined tins 2/3 full with mincemeat, then roll out the remaining pastry to the same thickness and cut smaller circles to fit as lids on the tarts or to be decorative, cut stars or other fancy shapes.

Dampen the edges of the tart bases with a little cold water and press the lids on, if doing so, and make a small hole in the surface of each pie with a small sharp knife to allow the steam to escape. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes (15 minutes if canapé sized tarts), until golden brown. Carefully remove them from the muffin or tart tins, transfer them to a wire rack. Frozen in an airtight container, mince tarts freeze very well and will keep up to 3 months.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Baked Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi: Delectable Dumplings

One of my favourite winter dishes is Baked Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, which are delectable little dumplings 'naked' of their pasta wrapper. A kissing cousin to gnocchi, these fluffy pillows of loveliness are made with ricotta rather than potato, which makes them lighter and more delicate in ways gnocchi rarely are. The technique for making these ethereal clouds of ricotta begins with a simple mixture of spinach, ricotta, eggs and parmesan cheese that's shaped into oval egg-size dumplings, then coated with a light dusting of flour. Placed in a baking dish, the gnudi are arranged in neat rows, covered with a rich and creamy béchamel sauce, a splash of sweet tomato sauce and baked in the oven for about an hour. It couldn't be easier. Two or three gnudi make an impressive starter; five to six, a dreamy main course that's pretty damn close to food heaven.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi with Béchamel & Tomato Sauce
Makes about 20 dumplings 

2 10oz/300g packages frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
1 10oz/300g tub fresh ricotta cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil, chopped for garnish
1 tbsp butter, for greasing the baking dish
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups homemade or quality store-bought tomato sauce

Béchamel Sauce:
4 cups whole milk
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Thaw the frozen spinach, then drain and squeeze dry, getting rid of as much extra water as you can. It will make the dumplings hold their shape better.

In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, eggs, half the Parmesan cheese and a generous grating of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

While the oven is preheating, prepare the béchamel sauce by heating the milk in a saucepan. In a separate pan, melt the butter, then add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon and cooking the roux until it becomes lightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add a ladleful of the warm milk at a time, stirring constantly so it doesn't form lumps. Continue until all the milk has been incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, and additional nutmeg to taste. Continue cooking and stirring on low heat for another 10 minutes. The sauce will thicken and become very smooth. Remove from the heat and cover.

Generously butter a large 9"x12" baking dish, and spoon enough béchamel sauce to cover the bottom. Pour the flour onto a flat plate. To make the dumplings, use your hands to form the spinach-ricotta mixture into the shape and size of a small egg, slightly elongated like a quenelle. Dust each dumpling very lightly in the flour and place them over the béchamel in neat rows. Continue until all the mixture is used up. Cover the dumplings with the remaining béchamel, dot the surface with tomato sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake until the top is lightly golden, about 50-60 minutes. Serve piping hot with a good sprinkling of fresh basil on each serving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mom & Gran's Apple Crisp: A Classic Family Recipe

My Mom doesn't bake much anymore, but one of the desserts she does make is her delicious Apple Crisp, which she adapted from a recipe belonging to my Grandma. Mom says Gran used to sprinkle water on top for a crispier topping, but I think Mom's version is excellent just the way it is. I make about a dozen Apple Crisps every year with the apples we grow on our terrace, which makes it a special home grown treat. An easy and delicious dessert anytime of the year, this recipe has truly stood the test of time, having been passed down through three generations: from my Grandma, to my Mom and now to me — confirming it as a Styles family favourite.

Mom & Granma's Apple Crisp
Serves 4-6

5 or 6 golden delicious or Granny Smith apples, depending on the size
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 cup Quaker Oats 
1/2 cup of slivered almonds, optional
2/3 cup melted butter

Peel, core and slice the apples into 3/4-inch pieces. Place them in a bowl and toss well with lemon juice, then add the sugar and ground cinnamon, and gently toss to coat. Pour the apples into an 8-inch square pyrex dish, so that it's almost filled to the top but enough room for about 1/2-inch of crumple topping. 

For the topping, mix the flour and brown sugar in a large bowl, then add the Quaker Oats (and almonds if using) and mix well. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and using your fingers, make sure it's thoroughly combined. Once done, add the topping evenly over the apples, spreading evenly to reach all the corners, then bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry with Coconut Milk

Wam and comforting, this enormously flavourful vegetarian Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry combines all the classic spices and flavours of a traditional Indian curry, but combined with naturally sweet coconut milk, rich San Marzano tomatoes and fresh cilantro, for a thick and delicious curry that's also gluten and dairy free. Nutritionally rich legumes such as peas, lentils and chickpeas, are the cornerstone of healthy eating, and with Indian food being one of the tastiest plant-based cuisines, there is a world of extraordinary vegetarian recipes and wonderful curries to satisfy almost any palate. Served with warm Basmati rice, some crisp papadums and a sprinkle of chopped scallions, this simple and delicious curry is especially nice topped with a dollop of cold thick plain yogurt. 

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of Michelle Alston

1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic minced
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cardamom  
1 head of cauliflower, leaves and stalk removed; cut into medium size florets
1 red bell pepper, pith and seeds removed then roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp sea salt
14 oz can of cooked chickpeas, drained
14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of frozen peas
14 oz can of coconut milk
Fresh cilantro or sliced scallions, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat, using a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and cardamom and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the spices and salt. Stir well and cook for about a minute, until the spices release their flavour.
Then pour in the chopped tomatoes plus about 1/4 cup of water added to the empty can. Stir well, then add in the chickpeas, cauliflower, peas and pepper. Cover the pan, reduce the heat then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. This will also steam the cauliflower.

After 10 minutes, pour in the coconut milk and stir well, then simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste. Finally, stir in the chopped coriander and serve hot with aged basmati or short grain white rice, more cilantro and warm naan.