Monday, July 15, 2019

Linguine with White Clam & Anchovy Sauce

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best. Full of fresh simple flavours of the sea, nothing beats a seductive bowl of Linguine alle Vongole Bianco. The classic combination of clams and pasta is traditionally a Neapolitan dish but is also popular throughout Italy, where this fragrant dish can be prepared two ways: rosso, with tomatoes and basil, or bianco, without. In this easy recipe, the linguine is cooked until just al dente — in salty water, of course — then tossed with the sautéed garlic and anchovies, clams, broth, and a handful of fresh herbs until the linguine absorbs the sauce. Add a flurry of chopped parsley at the very end to add a little colour, and serve with a cold glass of white wine for a traditional Neapolitan dish that is simple, delicious, and just about perfect.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce
Serves 4

1 lb linguini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 fillets flat anchovies, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
15-oz can whole baby clams, with their juice
Malson salt, to taste
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and set aside. The linguini will continue to cook in sauce, later. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, then add anchovies, garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes, and cook until the anchovies unit dissolved. Stir in the wine, then add the clams and their juice, mixing well to combine the flavours. Add the pasta to the sauce, and toss well to combine with a pat of butter. Once warmed through, remove from heat and season with Maldon salt, fresh chopped parsley, and serve with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Grilled Rosemary, Mint & Garlic Rack of Lamb

Fresh and fragrant with bright robust flavours, this lovely marinade of fresh garlic, rosemary, mint and olive oil must be one of the perfect partners with grilled lamb chops. Carving a rack of lamb into individual or double chops, then allowing the meat to marinate for a while before grilling, lets the flavours develop to produce a tender, juicy and robust summertime feast. Set on the grill for only 3-4 minutes per side for single chops, and 6-8 minutes for double, the lamb is pink and juicy perfection. Served on a platter garnished with fresh garden herbs, sliced lemon and a bowl of homemade tzatziki, these plump lamb chops are positively easy and delicious on a hot summer evening.

Marinated lamb chops cooking on the grill

Grilled Rosemary, Mint & Garlic Rack of Lamb
Serves 2

1 1/2-pound Ontario rack of lamb, trimmed and sliced into double chops
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Maldon salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp minced fresh mint

In a food processor, blitz all of the ingredients for the marinade to form a thick paste, then pour into a baking dish large enough to fit all the chops in a single layer. Turn each of the chops in the marinade until well coated, and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.  

Preheat the outdoor grill on high. Place the lamb on the grill fat side down first to sear the meat, about 5 minutes, then turn the lamb over and continue to roast on each side an additional 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 120° for medium rare. To serve, arrange the lamb on a platter with a garnish of fresh herbs and a bowl of homemade tzatziki. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Treadwell: Delicious Farm-to-Table Cuisine in Niagara

An absolute gem of the Niagara farm-to-table fine dining culinary scene, every local gourmand knows and loves Treadwell Cuisine. Stephen Treadwell is one of Ontario’s food stars. Together with his owner-partner son/sommelier James Treadwell, they have won rave reviews from The Toronto Star, Toronto Life, enRoute, Wine Spectator, the list goes on, and with good reason. The elegant menu evolves with the harvest and ingredients are sourced from local farmers from Cumbrae Farms in Smithville, to ‘Mr. Storosko’ who grows raspberries and wild garlic in his backyard. 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 more than a decade ago, sourcing regional suppliers 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 locally grown and organic 'Harvest 365' Heirloom Tomatoes with 'Monforte' water buffalo fresco focaccia croutons, 'Marc's' Wild Mushrooms, 'Pingue’s' 24 month aged prosciutto or 'Cumbrae Farms' Pork Tenderloin with pork belly, crispy pancetta, creamy polenta, pink peppercorns and charred radicchio, the food has provenance, is perfectly prepared, beautifully presented, and absolutely delicious. “When you have control over the creative aspects of a restaurant, you have control over the source of your ingredients,” said Treadwell. “Even cooking in this region for as long as I have, I have been wonderfully surprised by all the incredible ingredients we have found for the menu.” Combined with Sommelier James Treadwell's spot on wine recommendations and a staff that is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine is undoubtedly the finest place to dine in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but with the Shaw Festival venues a short walk away, reservations are essential.

Chef Stephen Treadwell

The lovely outdoor patio at Treadwell

Kew Vineyards Organic Sparkling Riesling

A lovely sparkling wine from this Beamsville Bench winery

Housemade Potato Gnocchi with “Marc’s” Spring Mushrooms Roasted Sunchokes 
and Crumbled Blue Cheese

Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad with Whipped “Monforte” Chèvre Citrus Poached Ontario Rhubarb, Toasted Hazelnuts and Rhubarb Vinaigrette

2018 Organized Crime Rosé, a small boutique winery located on the renowned 
Beamsville Bench of the Niagara Peninsula

2017 Etna Rosso by Tornatore, founded in 1865 and is still run by the third generation 
of the same family in Sicily 

Roasted “VG Meats” Beef Striploin with Local Asparagus with Spring Mushrooms and Fresh Cut Frites with Rosemary Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar Mayonnaise

Pan Roasted Halibut with Spring Peas
“Cumbrae Farms” Smoked Bacon, Poached Egg, Lemon & Thyme Butter

Treadwell's Red Pepper Soup
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of chef Stephen Treadwell 

1/2 cup lime sorbet
2 tbsp chopped mint or basil
1 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 cups vegetable stock
6 red peppers charred, skinned and seeded
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few sprigs of thyme
4 cheese straws
Chili oil for garnish

For his colourful, summery soup Treadwell makes a rich sorbet with fromage frais and a lot of lime to top it. I found it easier to buy a lime sorbet and mix in a couple of tablespoons of chopped basil or mint. The soup is hot, the sorbet cold and the touch of chili oil brings it all together. Stir chopped herbs into lime sorbet. Keep frozen.

Heat butter and oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add vegetable stock, red peppers and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft. Stir in milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle one cup liquid into a bowl and reserve. Remove thyme sprigs from soup. Blend soup, adding reserved cooking liquid as need to get the desired consistency. Pass mixture through a strainer and re-season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup hot with a last minute addition of lime sorbet and a few drops of chili oil. Add a cheese straw across the top.

Pan-Seared Whitefish with Lobster Kabocha Squash
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Stephen Treadwell

1/2 vanilla bean pod
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small Kabocha or Hubbard squash, peeled and cleaned
4 oz cooked, diced lobster meat
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Tempura Garnish:
Canola oil for frying
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup  ice water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Four 5 oz whitefish filets
1/4 cup truffle or all-purpose flour for dusting fish
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp capers
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 cups packed baby spinach
4 sprigs of chervil

Split open vanilla bean and use the point of a knife to scrape out seeds, reserving the pod. Mix seeds with butter and set aside. Cut 4 thin slices of squash to use as garnish and reserve to make squash tempura. Cut remaining squash into 1-inch pieces. Place cubed squash in salted water with vanilla bean pod and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until squash is tender. Drain water and discard vanilla bean pod. Return squash to pot and cook over low heat for 1 minute, shaking pot to dry squash. Mash squash to a smooth consistency. Mix in lobster meat and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Heat 1-inch canola oil in a small wok or deep skillet over high heat to make squash tempura. Combine 1/4 cup flour and ice water to make a thin batter. Season with salt and pepper. Add reserved slices of squash to batter to coat. When oil is hot add squash slices and cook until just golden, about 30 seconds per side.

Season fish with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sear whitefish, skin down, until skin is crisp, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn fish over and cook for another minute or until fish is medium rare. Cook fish in batches adding more oil to pan as needed. Remove fish from pan and keep warm.

Return pan to heat. Add reserved vanilla butter and cook until butter is browned and smells nutty, about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and capers. Pour into a small bowl and stir in parsley.

Return pan to heat. Add spinach and cook for 30 seconds or until wilted. Divide spinach between 4 plates. Place a piece of whitefish on top and spoon over lemon vanilla butter. Top with a spoonful of lobster squash and garnish with a piece of crispy squash and a sprig of chervil.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Niagara on the Lake: Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Winery

Located in the heart of the Niagara Peninsula, Two Sisters Vineyards is one of the newer wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake having opened in 2014. A labour of love from the Marotta family, whose fortune derives from real estate development, the winery is run by sisters Angela Marotta and Melissa Paolicelli who stylishly front the operations. Inspired by the flavours of the season and the bounty of Niagara produce, the menu of Kitchen76 echoes the owner's Italian heritage and was created to complement the vineyard's wines. In the kitchen is chef Jason Letto, who has created a straightforward collection of simple Italian dishes from Arancini, Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio and selection of housemade pasta such as Farfalle with Sicilian-style braised lamb, ricotta, baby spinach, saffron raisins and fresh mint, as well as delicious gas fired pizzas including Fungi with oyster mushrooms, pancetta, asiago, spinach and mozzarella, to the classic Margherita with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil. The wines, which are also available in the adjacent tasting room, are impressive. We enjoyed the Two Sisters Vineyards Rosé which was lovely option for a hot summer afternoon. The service is friendly and professional, the food very good and the views from the outside terrace are beautiful. Rich in history, culture and natural beauty, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a magical destination to enjoy a leisurely summer weekend, take in some theatre at the Shaw Festival and explore the local wineries. 

A called glass of Two Sister Rosé

Deep purple petunias on the outdoor terrace with wine glasses and cold water

Mushroom Soup with truffle oil and estate grown chives

Farfalle with Sicilian-style braised lamb, ricotta, baby spinach, saffron raisins and fresh mint

Pan roasted sea bass fillet, roasted cherry tomatoes, capers, Calabrian olives and crispy potatoes 

Charred Asparagus & Pecorino Salad with Red Pepper Sauce & Croutons
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of chef Justin Lesso

2 bunches of Ontario asparagus, woody ends removed
4 oz Pecorino Romano cheese
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 sprig rosemary chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 day old baguette torn into small pieces by hand
Olive oil to coat
Salt and pepper

Red Pepper Sauce:
3 red bell peppers, charred and then peeled and seeded
1/4 white onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 whole bay leaf
20 oz canned San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sweat the onion and chopped garlic in olive oil until very soft, then add the white wine and cook for one minute to cook out the alcohol. Then add the cleaned roasted peppers and tomatoes with a whole bay leaf and smoked paprika and cook on medium heat stirring to make sure nothing sticks. Add all of the ingredients to a blender with the vinegar and blend until completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and adjust vinegar to your preference if needed.

Toss the bread and olive oil with seasoning to coat and place on a sheet pan evenly spread out. Bake at 325°F tossing frequently until golden brown and crispy. Toss the cleaned asparagus in the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a hot grill for about one to two minutes and flip for the same amount of time. 

Plate the asparagus which ever way your mind seems to take you and garnish with red pepper sauce, crispy croutons and Pecorino Romano shavings. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Tart with Streusel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

French Breakfast Radishes: Home Grown Goodness

It's enormously gratifying to grow herbs and vegetables in the garden over the summer monthes, especially so when they look as handsome as these French Breakfast Radishes which we harvested over the weekend. Taking just a month from the time we popped the seeds into the ground, these plump beauties are ready to eat within 30 days. Served with a bowl of Maldon salt and soft butter, a half-cup serving contains only about 12 calories and virtually no fat, so they won't sabotage your healthy diet.

French Breakfast Radishes
Serves 4

12-16 radishes
1 tbsp Maldon salt
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature

Wash the radishes to cleanse them of any residual dirt, then serve with some butter and Maldon salt for an elegant appetizer.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Prawns, Calamari & Tomato

The culinary planets were aligned. With fresh Argentinian sweet prawns and calamari from Diana's Seafood, a crop of fresh arugula and chives from our garden, hot house tomatoes from the St Lawrence Market and Spaghetti al Nero di Sepia from Italy, our dinner was shaping up to be 'delizioso!' Having shelled the prawns and not wanting to waste their hidden goodness, I decided to sauté them in olive oil to gently to coax out all the lovely shellfish flavours and create an intense prawn oil that accentuated the sweetness of the prawns and infused the dish with exceptional flavour. In this recipe, the oil is sautéed with crushed red pepper flakes, minced garlic, green onions and chopped capers, and seasoned with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Cooked in salted water until al dente, the squid ink pasta is added to the fragrant garlic-onion mixture and tossed with a little white wine, fresh arugula, basil, and a cup of pasta water. Finished with grilled prawns and calamari, the seafood is added to the pasta and gently rewarmed in the sauce. Garnished with roasted tomatoes, chopped chives, a drizzle of olive oil, and finished with lovely garden fresh chive blossoms, this Squid Ink Spaghetti with Prawns, Calamari & Roast Tomatoes was sweet, delicate and full of fabulous flavours of the sea — and garden!

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Prawns, Calamari & Tomato
Serves 4

1 lb calamari with heads, cleaned
20 large Argentinian prawns, shelled and deveined (reserve the shells)
4 small hot house or Roma tomatoes, halved
8 oz Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia or other squid ink pasta
1/2 cup Extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp capers, minced
1 cup fresh wild arugula
1 handful fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup pasta water
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the tomatoes in a bowl with 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and lightly caramelized. 

Place the peeled and de-veined prawns in a small bowl and toss with a glug of olive oil to coat. In another bowl, place the whole calamari with heads cut off below the beak, and toss with a little olive oil. Cover both bowls with cling film and set aide until ready for grilling on an outdoor BBQ.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Sauté the prawn shells until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5-6 minutes, then remove and discard. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for a minute, then add the garlic, spring onions and minced capers to the infused oil and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the onions translucent, about 5-6 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place the prawns and calamari on a preheated outdoor grill and cook until they are just cooked through. On a cutting board, slice the calamari into 1/4-inch rings, then cover the seafood to keep warm.

Cook the linguine in lightly salted boiling water for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Stir the the arugula, basil, wine and a splash of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to the pasta. Add the grilled prawns and calamari and toss gently to rewarm the seafood. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then divide the pasta between 4 warm serving bowls. Garnish with the roasted tomatoes, chopped chives and a drizzle of olive oil. I finished the dish with a garnish of fresh chive blossoms, as they were readily available from our garden.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Pork Souvlaki with Tangy Homemade Tzatziki

From grilled fish and dolmades to skordalia and spanakopita, Greek cuisine is a divine marriage of bold flavours, simple ingredients and time-honoured traditions. Many dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece and Byzantium, whereas others were influenced by Ottoman cuisine with names that reveal their Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots: moussaka, tzatziki, yuvarlakia, keftethes and boureki. However, among the icons of modern Greek food culture, one of the most popular must be souvlaki. Infused with the intoxicating scents of oregano, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, these Pork Kebabs owe their tenderness to a tangy marinade that helps break down even the toughest cuts of meat. Traditionally served wrapped in pita bread and topped with a variety of condiments such as lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki, Souvlaki are also quite delicious all on their own with a great dollop of tzatziki and a lovely fresh Greek Salad. I have also recently discovered Feta and Spinach Twisters by Krinos, which are baked from frozen and absolutely delicious, especially when served with grilled Pork Souvlaki and my sensational homemade tzatziki. 

Pork Souvlaki  
Serves 4

1 1/2 lb pork shoulder or loin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

In large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the pork and toss to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes. Evenly thread the marinated pork onto 4 skewers and grill on a preheated barbecue, turning halfway through, until just a hint of pink remains inside, about 8 minutes per side. Garnish with sliced lemon and fresh oregano, and bowl of tzatziki.

Homemade Tzatziki
Makes 2 1/2 cups

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated with skin on
1 cup plain strained Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed 
1/4 tsp Maldon salt

Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Grate the remaining cucumber, spread it out over a large tea towel and wrap it tight, leaving it at least 30 minutes until the grated cucumber is quite dry. In the meantime, peel and finely crush the garlic, then combine with the oil in a small bowl and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Combine the cucumber with the garlic mixture, then stir through the yoghurt until evenly distributed along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. 

Spinach and Feta Filo Spirals
Serves 8

1lb/500g frozen spinach
9 oz/250 g feta cheese
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
16 sheets of film pastry

Defrost and drain out all the excess moisture from the spinach and and chop. Crumble the feta using a fork and mix in with the spinach, and season with pepper. Lay the filo pastry on a clean surface and place a damp tea towel overtop to prevent from drying out. Brush each sheet with olive oil, and layer one of top of the other. Spread the spinach and feta mix in a cylindrical shape along one width of the pastry, and then roll into a tube. Brush oil over the pastry tube on all sides and then twirl the tube into a spiral shape. Cover the pastry swirls in cling film or a damp tea towel until ready to bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 minutes or until brown.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Marsala Cream Sauce

Any recipe that features wild mushrooms gets my attention, and especially if they're combined with cream and a little cognac or Marsala, it becomes a rich and powerful flavour combination that can be the foundation for a host of fabulous dishes. Delicious served over any grilled meat or tossed with pasta, a fine Wild Mushroom & Marsala Cream Sauce is an indispensable part of many cooks culinary arsenal. An earthy combination of assorted wild mushrooms makes the sauce richer and more flavourful - varieties like shiitake, morelles, cremini, oyster, chanterelles, enoki, beech and even a dollop of truffle sauce for extra zing.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Marsala Cream Sauce
Serves 2

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 french shallot, peeled and minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 oz oyster mushroom, thinly sliced
8 oz beech mushrooms, ends trimmed
2 tbsp Salsa Tartufata (Italian truffle sauce), optional
1/2 cup 10% cream
1/4 cup Marsala, or to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 lb dried pasta, such as linguine, tagliatelle or spaghetti
Maldon salt for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the shallot and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and tender. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté 3-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add a glug of marsala and cook for 3-4 minutes allowing the mixture to reduce. Then stir in the heavy cream, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mushroom sauce for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and once bubbling, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package. Once done, add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat with a tablespoon or two of truffle sauce, if desired. Add a handful of Parmigiano to the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add some hot pasta water. Serve in warmed dinner bowls and garnish with some sprig of fresh thyme, a grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Gobi Matar: Cauliflower with Peas & Kari Leaves

A classic Punjabi dish, Aloo Gobi, or cauliflower with potatoes and peas, is a simple and delicious southern Indian vegetarian curry, shining through with rich textures, complex flavours and intoxicating aromas. A staple in most Indian restaurants, Aloo Gobi can also be adapted without potatoes for a sensational Gobi Matar, an equally delicious yet low-fat carb-free version of the original. Served with succulent Chicken Tikka, the balance of flavours are a winning combination. 

Gobi Matar | Indian Cauliflower & Peas
Serves 2-4 

1/2 cauliflower 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1/8 tsp asafoetida 
1 tbsp black mustard seeds 
1 tbsp kari leaves 
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen 
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste 
1 tbsp chopped herbs for garnish, optional

Separate the cauliflower into small florets, about 1 to 2-inches. Warm the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafoetida, then a second later, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the kari leaves and stir to combine. Then add the cauliflower, turmeric and some salt to taste. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the cauliflower is well coated with the spices and begins to brown slightly. Add 1/2 cup of water, and as soon as it starts to bubble, add the peas, cover the pan and turn down the heat to med-low. Cook 10-15 minutes more until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through. Sprinkle with some chives or cilantro leaves and serve. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Oven Roasted Tandoori Chicken Tikka

Tandoori Chicken, or Tandoori Murghi, is a classic Indian dish made with a vibrant and spicy marinade of yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, vegetable oil and a handful of warm fragrant spices including powdered cardamom, chill powder, turmeric, garam masala and my secret ingredient — Tandoori masala — which gives the marinade it's bright orange-red lustre. Combined into a loose paste and liberally coated over pieces of lightly scored bone-in chicken breasts, thighs or legs, the marinade works its magic over a couple of hours or overnight in the refrigerator, allowing the flavours to fully develop. The rich blend of spices gives the Tandoori Chicken its unique flavour, but more importantly, it's the yogurt that helps to penetrate the spices into the meat while tenderizing at the same time. This is also the basic marinade that is often used to cook the chicken before making Butter Chicken. Grilled on an outdoor barbecue over medium-high heat, the thick consistency of the yogurt keeps the seasonings on the meat and seals in the robust flavours, for a tender, moist and succulent dish that's simply the best.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Tikka
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, boneless and cut in half
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tbsp Tandoori masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee, melted

Pat dry the chicken breasts and score the tops with 3 or 4 cuts. In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, ginger, garlic, cardamom, chili powder, garam masala, oil, lemon juice, Tandoori masala, salt and mix well to form a loose paste. Add the chicken breasts to the mixture, tossing thoroughly to ensure they're well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or even overnight, to allow the chicken to marinate.

To grill, place the chicken breasts on a pre-heated outdoor barbecue and cook 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn them over and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is evenly cooked and has nice grill marks. 

To oven roast, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Transfer the chicken from the marinade to the baking sheet, spacing the pieces evenly, and discard any remaining marinade. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the breasts are just cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oven, and baste with the melted ghee. Allow the chicken to cook another 5 minutes, and let the ghee brown the breasts slightly. Serve with Gobi Matar and pappadams for a delicious low fat meal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Linguine with Homemade Basil & Walnut Pesto

Originating in the Ligurian region of northern Italy, Pesto alla Genovese traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fiore Sardo, an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. The name comes from the Italian 'pestare', which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparing pesto with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. Italians also use walnuts for pesto, as they lend a rich earthiness to the pesto sauce, and are much more affordable than pine nuts. This foolproof recipe from my dogeared copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso quip that this sauce is "more Mastroianni than DeNiro: suave, mellow, even elegant. Walnuts and heavy cream add sophistication to the basil garlic duo — a pesto that is equally at home on pasta, fluffed into hot rice or stirred into homemade mayonnaise as a sauce for cold poached fish or crudités".

Linguine with Basil & Walnut Pesto
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 lb linguine 
1 1/2 tbsp salt
4 quarts water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup homemade Basil & Walnut pesto
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated imported Parmigiano or Romano cheese

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

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

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and when the water starts to boil again, add the pasta. Use a wooden spoon to stir the pasta until all the strands are under the water. Boil rapidly until done to taste. To test, occasionally  lift and bite a strand. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and the heavy cream into the pesto, then drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the pesto and toss well to combine. Serve immediately into warm pasta bowls, with a sprig of basil and additional cheese on the side if desired.