a place to share recipes, photos & our love of cheese

Monday, May 31, 2010

Our new home

I thought I would post a few before / after pictures of our new place so far.  There's still lots to do but we have come along way since we've moved in 3 months ago.  I will continue to share the progress as we go.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

It's pretty amazing what changing all of the fixtures, lighting & some paint can do.  Slowly but surely this place is coming together and feeling like our home more & more each day.  As any home-owner knows, the to-do list never gets any shorter but once I sit back and look at these before and after photos I do realize just how much we've managed to do in just a few short months.

That's all for now....   :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Grilled Avocado Caesar Salad with Bacon & Asiago

Well, the wedding was a big success.  The weather couldn't have been any better and Eva looked absolutely beautiful.  As much fun as I've had over the past few days, I have to say that I was really looking forward to a nice home-cooked Sunday supper.  I first came across this recipe on the RR site and thought it was brilliant.  I love making a good ceasar salad when we have company but I often forget that my friend Adele can't eat the raw egg in caesar dressing so she can never have any.  I now have a recipe that I can make for her so she can enjoy a really delicious caesar salad.  I can promise you that not only will you not miss the egg, you will fall in love with this even creamier avocado dressing.  The combination of the smokey, grilled romaine, the bacon, avocado, fresh lemon & cheese is outrageous.  

The perfect Sunday supper for a hot night like tonight.

Grilled Avocado Caesar Salad with Bacon & Asiago

You'll need: (serves 4)
2 heads of romaine lettuce (washed & sliced down the middle lengthwise)
4 slices of bacon
asiago cheese
1 small ripe avocado
2 lemons (juiced with seeds removed)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
salt & lots of pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the bacon on a sheet pan until crispy, set aside on a paper towel to drain the excess fat.  Spray each cut side of the romaine bunches, lightly season with s&p and grill on a high-heat grill or barbecue just for a minute or so until there are some nice grill marks.
In a food processor mix, the avocado, lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, worcestershire sauce, about 1/4 c grated asiago cheese, s&p and pulse until everything has been chopped.  Stream in about 1/4 c olive oil until a thick dressing forms.  Serve the salad as a 'knife & fork' salad with the romaine halves in tact, topped with dressing, bacon & shaved asiago.  You can give another nice squeeze of fresh lemon before serving.

We also each made veggie burgers tonight (no, not from scratch...) but I did make a pretty tasty burger topping I thought I'd share.

Spicy Mesquite Sauce

You'll need:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons mesquite barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Mix all ingredients together and season to taste with s&p.  You could also add in some fresh herbs or sliced green onions if you have them on hand.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wedding Weekend

This week might be a little slow in posts because my friend Eva's wedding is finally here!  I'm a bridesmaid and that means that there is a lot to do this weekend!  Last night was the rehearsal dinner at Iron Chef where we had a great Teppanyaki meal with some extremely talented hibachi chefs.  Good thing I didn't have any hairspray in last night or there would have been some really close calls with all of the sake flames!  
Tonight all of the girls are spending the night in Mississauga and the wedding is Saturday.  Needless to say, I won't be doing much cooking over the next few days so I thought I'd post a photo of the lovely ladies instead.

Here's to a nice & sunny weekend filled with great friends and a beautiful wedding!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chicken Quesadillas with Charred Corn, Red Onion & Peppers

I've already done a posting on these quesadillas but Luke was craving them tonight and believe it or not sometimes we actually eat the same thing twice around here!  I like these quesadillas best with chicken, charred corn, red onion, peppers and monterey jack cheese but you could put almost anything you like inside.

Chicken Quesadillas with Charred Corn, Red Onion & Peppers

You'll need:  (for two, 4 triangles each)
4 small tortillas
1 chicken breast
1 cob of corn (kernels cut off)
1/4 c red pepper (chopped)
1/4 c yellow pepper (chopped)
1/4 c red onion (chopped)
2 green onions (chopped)
1 c grated monterey jack cheese
olive oil
sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a saucepan over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil, sear the chicken breast on both sides and transfer to the oven to finish cooking.  Let the chicken rest then slice.  In a small pan over medium heat, cook the red & yellow peppers, red onion & corn with a bit of olive oil until soft and lightly charred.  Warm the tortillas in the microwave so that they are very pliable.  Work on half of the tortilla only and begin with a layer of cheese, then pepper/onion/corn mixture, chicken, sliced green onion and a final layer of cheese (this way, when folded each side has a bit of cheese on it to help keep the quesadilla together and each piece has a folded side to keep the filling from oozing out).  Fold the tortilla in half and press into pre-heated pan with a bit of olive oil.  Once the quesadilla has become golden and crispy, flip and when the other side looks the same way you're ready to serve.  Serve with salsa & sour cream for dipping.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sesame Chicken & Rice Noodle Salad

If you live in southern Ontario, you know just how hot it was here today.  The perfect dinner on such a beautiful day has got to be a nice & cool salad.  I made this recipe a few times last summer and it's always a crowd pleaser.  I made a few changes to the original recipe like adding sweet peppers, carrots, honey and lime juice.  This salad is great for leftover grilled chicken and tastes even better the next day.
My wonderful sister-in-law who lives in Singapore sent us these adorable noodle bowls, plates and chopsticks and I was obviously dying to use them (considering I just got them last night!).  Luke's mom (who just visited Singapore) also got brought us back some beautiful chopstick rests but there was no need for them in tonight's meal because these awesome bowls hold the sticks for you!

Sesame Chicken & Rice Noodle Salad

You'll need:  (for two)
enough rice pasta for two (I used King Soba noodles but you can use regular pasta too)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 red bell pepper (finely sliced)
1/4 yellow bell pepper (finely sliced)
1 carrot (peeled & finely sliced)
2 green onions (sliced thin on the bias)
1/4 c fresh cilantro (chopped)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 inch piece of freshly grated ginger
pinch of pepper
1/2 lime

In a small pan over medium heat, lightly toast the sesame seeds & set aside.  In a medium saucepan, cook the seasoned (s&p) chicken breast in a drizzle of olive oil until it has cooked through & set aside to rest.  Cook the pasta to al dente & set aside.  In a small jar, mix the vegetable oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, grated ginger, pepper & toasted sesame seeds.  Toss the chicken, green onions, bell peppers, carrots, cilantro & the dressing in a large bowl and allow it to chill in the fridge for at least one hour.  Squeeze the juice of the lime over the salad and toss before serving.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Roasted Garlic Wild Rice with Golden Beets, Basil & Parmesan

This past weekend Luke and I made our first trip of the season to the Burlington Farmer's Market.  Even though it was sort of cold outside and there weren't many vendors out yet, it was still great.  We picked up some golden beets that I have been wanting to use.   I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the beets tonight but I figured a good start would be to roast them up in the oven.  Roasted beets are delicious in just about anything including salad, risotto or even cake!

Roasted Garlic Wild Rice with Golden Beets, Basil & Parmesan

You'll need:
wild rice for two
chicken stock
1 bulb of garlic
2 golden beets
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
small handful of basil leaves
olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the top of the entire bulb of garlic so the tips of the cloves are exposed.  Place on a small sheet of tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil, s&p and wrap up the tinfoil.  Cut off the tops and bottoms of the golden beets (don't take the skin off yet), cover with olive oil, s&p and wrap in foil as well.  Bake the garlic and beets until the garlic is soft and golden and the beets can be easily pierced with a fork (the times will vary depending on the oven and beet/garlic size).  Once cooked, remove to cool.  Once you can handle the beets remove the skins by rubbing them with a sheet of paper towel.  Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the paper skins and place in a pot over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil.  Add the rice and toast for several minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the recommended amount of stock to cook the rice (replace water with stock, it adds much more flavour) and cook the rice to al dente and set aside.  In a saucepan over medium-low heat, dissolve the sugar with 2 tablespoons chicken stock and dijon mustard.  Once dissolved, add the red wine vinegar and reduce.  Toss the cooked, sliced beets & basil in the dressing and serve on top of the rice.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

So delicious.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Roasted Corn-on-the-Cob with Jalapeno, Mint & Lime Butter

There is absolutely nothing better than a fresh cob of sweet & juicy Ontario corn in the summertime.  Although the corn we had tonight was certainly not as good, it was pretty decent compared to some of the cobs I have spotted popping up at the markets lately.  Even though I know what I'm getting into when I buy out-of-season corn grown miles & miles away, I couldn't help but crave it since I've been seeing it everywhere these days.  It was good (mainly because of the jalapeno butter!) but now that I have satisfied my craving I think I'll wait until the real corn comes.

Roasted Corn-on-the-Cob with Jalapeno, Mint & Lime Butter

You'll need:
jalapenos (seeded and finely diced)
fresh mint

Soften the butter in the microwave until it is easy to mash.  Add as much jalapeno as you can handle (I used about 1/4 c butter and 2 small jalapenos), a pinch of chopped fresh mint (about a tablespoon) and a squeeze of lime (about a teaspoon) and pepper (lightly salt as well if you use unsalted butter).  Lay the butter in the center of a sheet of plastic wrap.  Wrap the butter, forming either a sausage shape or a rectangle, seal the ends and pop back in the fridge (or freezer for several minutes) so it can harden up again.  I boiled the corn before Luke grilled it on the egg and topped each piece with a slice of the jalapeno butter, s&p.

I also served it with a barbecue chicken salad consisting of:  romaine, carrots, celery, cucumber, red onion & barbecued chicken with a barbecue ranch dressing.

Heston's Feasts Season Two

Tonight, I was beyond excited when Luke told me that there is a new season of Heston's Feasts.  I absolutely loved the first season where he re-created four different historical feasts in an insanely innovative and creative way.  I've watched every episode of the first season more than a few times so you can imagine my excitement to learn that there were more to see!  This season is sure to impress with feasts including:  Gothic Horror, Fairytale, Titanic and even The Chocolate Factory feast!

We watched the first episode tonight where Heston creates his version of the Wonka experience with lick-able wallpaper and all.  Needless to say, Heston looks at food in a completely different way than most of us and always leaves me in complete awe.

You can check out the first seven episodes online here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Mac 'n Cheese with Veggies

Well, we all knew that this post would be coming soon.  Last week when I made the buffalo & blue cheese scalloped potatoes, they were inspired by a recipe I came across on foodnetwork.com for a buffalo chicken mac 'n cheese.  The scalloped potatoes were delicious but I was still wanting to try the mac.  I took a look through the recipe and realized that it was an extremely heavy meal (obvious, I know) but that much butter, fried chicken, bacon AND panko crumbs?  Since I was using last nights barbecued chicken left-overs it was clear that this recipe could easily be lightened up.  I mean, it's still mac 'n cheese but you'd be surprised how much you can really lighten this dish - so you can have a little more without the guilt ;)

Buffalo Chicken Mac 'n Cheese with Veggies

You'll need:
pasta for two (I used Lumache because I love the shape but a whole wheat macaroni would be even healthier)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium sweet onion (diced)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 c skim milk
1 c mozzarella
hot sauce to taste (I used almost 1/3c which seems like a tonne but gave just the right amount of bite)
1/4 c blue cheese crumbles
1 c cooked chicken (cubed)
3 scallions (chopped)
olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cook the pasta to al dente and set aside.  In a saucepan over medium-low, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter.  Cook the onions until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for several minutes before adding the flour.  Allow the flour to cook out for a minute or so before whisking in the milk.  Allow the sauce to bubble and thicken and stir in the hot sauce, mozzarella cheese, chicken & blue cheese crumbles.  Toss in the cooked pasta & scallions and pour into a casserole dish.  Top with a sprinkle of mozzarella and bake until brown and bubbly.  Serve with carrots, celery & blue cheese dip.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Roasted Barbecue Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes, Fiddleheads & Lemons

Tonight's Sunday Supper was seriously off the charts!  Luke roasted up this simple whole chicken on the egg along with some fingerling potatoes.  He used a simple rub of poultry seasoning, s&p and rubbed butter under the chicken skin to help it crisp up beautifully. 
You may have noticed fiddleheads have been popping up in the markets these days.  Well, they're in season right now and are so fresh & so delicious.  You can treat them just like asparagus or broccoli and they go nicely with tomatoes, cheese and even cream sauces.   This meal is best served family-style, showcasing the entire bird in all it's glory with the sides piled high.

Roasted Barbecue Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes, Fiddleheads & Lemons

Remove any paper skin gently with you fingers and wash the fiddleheads in several ice cold baths of water, draining in between to remove all dirt and grit.  Trim the stems to 2" or less from the beginning of the swirly part.  Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet.  Saute the fiddleheads with 2 bay leaves and coarse salt & pepper.  Give the fiddleheads a heavy squeeze of lemon both during the cooking process and when you pull them from the stove before serving.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fish & Chips Part Two

Since the first time we did a post on fish & chips, Luke's grandmother has been wanting some.  It's a treat she usually only has once a year or so & we were happy to fry her up a big batch tonight for dinner.  Fish & chips and all the fixings including homemade tartar sauce and mom's coleslaw.  Every time Luke does the beer-battered fish it gets better and better.  Tonight was the best-to-date with the crispiest coating, moist halibut inside & really tasty french fries.

Fish & Chips Part Two

1 piece of Halibut per person
1c flour
1c dark ale
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon baking soda
frying oil

Pre-heat the fryer to 375 degrees.  Mix the flour, paprika, baking soda and s&p together in a bowl.  Add the beer, stirring constantly until the batter forms a nice consistency for coating the fish.  Coat the fish generously and fry in the pre-heated oil until golden.  If you need to keep the fish warm while you fry other batches, place on a wire baking rack in a 200 degree oven.  The wire rack allows air to circulate around the fish so that the batter remains really crispy.

French Fries
1 russet potato per person
frying oil
sea salt

Peel all of the potatoes and cut them into even french fries (I find thinner fries tend to work a bit better in a small deep fryer).  Soak the cut fries in cold water for a few minutes to remove some starch and drain.  Fry the potatoes in batches first at 260 degrees for 8 minutes or so just to blanch them.  Set aside on kitchen towel between batches.  Once all the fries have been blanched, turn the fryer up to 360 degrees and cook the fries a second time in batches again until golden and crispy.  Lightly salt as you remove the finished fries and keep warm in a 200 degree oven on a wire rack.

 Tartar Sauce
1/2 c mayonnaise
tablespoons finely chopped sweet pickles or relish
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and chill until ready to serve.

Mom's Coleslaw
1/4 head of cabbage (chopped)
2 carrots (peeled and chopped)
1/3 c mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons white sugar
pinch of salt

Mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl and toss with the chopped cabbage and carrots. Cover, chill & serve.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Bacon & Smoked Paprika

I have made many soups over the past few months (see here, here, here & here.  Oh yeah, and here, here, here and here too.  Whoah, that's A LOT of soup!) but never a cauliflower and cheese or broccoli and cheese believe it or not.  This seems kind of insane considering I reeeally like both of these soups.  Although, I'm not sure you could put a soup infront of me that I wouldn't like.  I also really like the flatbread crackers from Marilu's and think that they make the best crackers.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Bacon & Smoked Paprika

You'll need: (serves 4)
1 head of cauliflower (broken into smaller bunches)
1 medium onion (diced)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 c chicken or vegetable stock (divided)
2 c milk (we used skim milk and the soup is still really creamy but you could use 2% or even heavy cream)
1 c 1 year aged white cheddar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
smoked paprika for garnish
4 slices of bacon
olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cook the bacon on a baking sheet until crispy and set aside.  In a dutch oven or baking dish, add the butter, cauliflower, a drizzle of olive oil, 1/2 c stock, s&p. Cover and bake until the cauliflower is soft and beginning to caramelize.  In a large pot over medium heat, cook the onions with a bit of olive oil until they become soft and translucent.  Add in the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or two.  Add in the remaining 3 cups of stock and the roasted cauliflower and puree with a hand blender until smooth.  Add the milk and bring to a light boil.  Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheese until it's melted, season to taste with s&p.  Garnish the soup with bacon and a pinch of smoked paprika.  I served this soup with the cheddar flatbread from Marilu's as crackers.

Curried-Honey Chicken Kabobs with Rice Pilaf

Last night Erica came over to watch the ANTM season finale and Luke fired us up some chicken kabobs on the grill.  Luke can't stand Tyra (I mean, who can really?) so he kept himself busy in the kitchen most of the time.  I used to make this dish as a roast chicken but I'm always looking for a good excuse to use these amazing cast iron kabob sticks Luke bought me (aaand everything tastes better on the egg).  My friend Eva (who's upcoming wedding I am in) is giving away local organic honey as her favors and I was lucky enough to get one early as a tester and boy is it delicious honey.  I've been wanting to use it in a meal and this dish was the perfect way to showcase it.

Curried-Honey Chicken Kabobs with Rice Pilaf

You'll need:
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c butter
1/2 c honey
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used my curry powder sent from India by my lovely sister-in-law!)
pinch of cayenne
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cubed)
rice for two
chicken stock

In a saucepan over medium low heat melt the butter and add the olive oil, curry powder and cayenne and stir.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Pour over the cubed chicken and marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Skewer the chicken and cook the the barbecue (brushing on more of the marinade every few minutes) until fully cooked, allow some time to rest.  While the chicken is cooking, cook some rice in chicken stock with your favorite chopped veggies.  I used carrots and frozen peas because it was all we had on hand but you could throw just about anything in there.  I served this with a baby spinach salad with cucumbers and poppy-seed dressing (which I forgot to take a photo of, but meh - it's just a simple salad, I'm sure you get the idea).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sicilian Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

There's this Sicilian pasta salad at Marilu's that I'm a little bit addicted to and I've wanted to try making it ever since I first tried it.  They serve it as a cold pasta salad but I wanted to make it as a warm dish for dinner tonight.  Mine wasn't as good as Marilu's but it was delicious in it's own right.  Just a different kind of delicious, you know?

Sicilian Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

You'll need:
enough pasta for two
1 c tomato sauce
1 c chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 c sundried tomatoes (chopped)
1/4 c black olives (I used spicy sundried olives - pitted and sliced)
1/3 c crumbled feta cheese
handful of baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1/4 c freshly chopped basil
olive oil

In a small pot over medium heat, bring the stock to a boil, reduce to low and simmer the sundried tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes or until they soften up a bit, drain and set aside.  Cook the pasta to package directions until just shy of al dente and set aside.  In a saucepan over medium-low heat and a drizzle of olive oil, cook the garlic until lightly toasted, add the olives and spinach leaves.  Once the spinach has begun to wilt add in the tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, basil and season to taste with s&p.  Toss the pasta in the sauce and cook for a minute or so on low so that the pasta can soak up some flavour.  Garnish with more crumbled feta and chopped basil.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Buffalo & Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon & Scallions

Luke bought himself a rack of lamb for a nice Sunday supper and nothing says Sunday supper to me quite like scalloped potatoes.  We all know that I love any sort of Buffalo chicken / Blue Cheese & Bacon combo and why wouldn't that apply to scalloped potatoes?  I came across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Macaroni 'n Cheese that I have been wanting to make and that is what inspired me for tonight's side.  These potatoes were reeeally tasty but I'll still be making this mac 'n cheese sometime soon too.

Buffalo & Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon & Scallions

You'll need: (for two)
2 yukon gold potatoes (washed & sliced thin with skins on)
1 shallot (thinly sliced)
4 slices of bacon (cut into 1 inch strips on an angle)
4 scallions (greens sliced - divided)
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese
2 1/2 c milk
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon strips until crispy and set aside to drain on paper towel.  Reserve about a tablespoon of the bacon grease, add butter & olive oil and cook the shallots until slightly soft and fragrant, season with s&p.  Add the flour and cook for a few minutes before whisking in the milk a little bit at a time.  Allow the sauce to bubble and thicken, stirring in the crumbled blue cheese & allowing it to melt.  Season to taste if necessary with s&p.  Spread a bit of sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish.  Add a layer of sliced potatoes, some bacon pieces, scallions (use 3 of the scallions) and another layer of the cheese sauce.  Alternate this layering process, ending with a layer of potatoes on top. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  In a small bowl, mix the panko crumbs, parmesan, the last sliced green onion, s&p with a drizzle of olive oil.  Top the potatoes with a sprinkle of the bread crumb mixture and bake uncovered for another 10 -15 minutes or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork and the breadcrumbs are golden.  Garnish with some more sliced bacon and chopped green onions.

Wondering how Luke's lamb turned out?

Turned out pretty well I'd say.

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) with Roasted Tomatoes, Charred Red Onion & Blue Cheese

Well, it sure is good to be back home & sleeping in my own bed again.  We've had a pretty relaxing weekend with a few great meals too!  Last night we had a few friends over for a barbecue & some drinks.  I wanted to make a good, filling side to go with the burgers Luke was cooking up so along with some roasted potato wedges, I made a bread salad.  This was my first time making (or eating for that matter) an Italian bread salad and I have to say I liked it a lot.  I mean, it isn't so far off a regular salad - especially if you toss in a bit of baby spinach like I did.  I had Luke grill up the bread & veggies on the egg and then completely forgot to take a photo.  I wanted to post the recipe anyways because it was pretty tasty.  Just picture nice charred bread, torn by hand into bite sized pieces, tossed with charred red onion, roasted tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and fresh baby spinach.  
So good.

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) with Roasted Tomatoes, Charred Red Onion & Blue Cheese

You'll need:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3/4 c crumbled blue cheese
1 loaf of day old bread (we used an olive loaf - sliced)
1 large red onion (cut into thick slices)
handful of baby spinach (washed well)
chopped fresh basil (chopped)
red wine vinegar
olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the tomatoes in a baking dish, drizzle them with olive oil and season with s&p.  Bake until the skins start to burst then remove from the oven.  Slice 1 clove of garlic in half and rub the inside of a large serving bowl and discard the garlic after use.  Add the roasted tomatoes with all of the juices into the serving bowl.  Add a splash (1-2 tablespoons) red wine vinegar and a small drizzle of olive oil.  Grill the sliced bread and red onion (brushed with a little olive oil and s&p) on the barbecue until charred.  Tear the bread into bite sized pieces and cut the red onion slices into quarters.  Add the bread, onions, crumbled blue cheese, spinach and fresh basil to the tomatoes and toss.  Season to taste with s&p and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Applewood Smoked Vegetarian Chili over a Parsnip Puree

Well, we didn't end up going out to the Quatrefoil opening last night, but we did hear really great things about the restaurant's opening and we can't wait to try it out for ourselves sometime soon.  I got an unfortunate call from home saying that my grandmother has passed away so we are heading home to Almonte tomorrow for the services, and then it's straight to Montreal for me for my National Sales meeting.  It will be a crazy week but nice to spend some time with the family, even under the sad circumstances.

Tonight, I wanted to cook up something hearty for our friend Erica who will be watching our wiener dogs while we're away.  This chili sure is a crowd pleaser and the leftovers (if there are any) freeze extremely well.

Applewood Smoked Vegetarian Chili over a Parsnip Puree with Cheesy Yorkshire Puddings

You'll need:
1 large onion (diced)
1 red pepper (diced)
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
1 zucchini (diced)
1 c corn
4 cloves of garlic (smashed, peeled & chopped)
2 cans of tomatoes (1 can drained)
2 cans of mixed beans (1 can drained)
1 can of tomato paste
3 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons cumin
heavy pinch of cayenne pepper
olive oil

I should probably start off by admitting that the chili we made tonight is not exaclty vegetarian.  Luke wanted some hot italian sausage in his, and because I like the flavour of sausage (but not the sausage itself - weird, i know) we added large chunks of sausage (cut on an angle) to the chili.  If you're using meat, I would brown the meat in a little bit of olive oil over medium heat before adding the onions and garlic.  If you're going to make a true veggie chili, just start by sweating the onions and garlic with olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.  Make sure you use a pot that you can put on the barbecue (or you could just simmer this on the stovetop too but you won't get as much of the smokey flavour).  Once the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant, add all of the other ingredients, stir well and bring to a boil.  At this point we moved our pot to the egg to slowly smoke over low heat.  Luke had the egg at around 350 degrees with some soaked applewood smoking chips for extra flavour.  After an hour or so, the chili was reduced slightly and is ready to eat!  Serve over parsnip puree with cheesy yorkshire puddings.

Absolutely amazing.

Parsnip Puree

Cook 2 cubed parsnips with 1 cubed yukon gold potato in chicken stock until tender.  Drain, reserving a small amount of the starchy stock.  Add 1 tablespoon or so butter to the parsnips and lightly puree with a hand blender but be careful not to over-blend because the mixture can become very pasty.  Season with s&p and set aside.

Mini Cheesy Yorkshire Puddings

Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Fill a mini-cupcake tray about 1/4 of the way up each cup with vegetable oil.  Heat the oil in the pre-heated oven until it begins to lightly smoke.  Meanwhile in a mixing bowl, mix 1 c flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 milk, 1/2 buttermilk and pour some batter in each cup, filling them to about 2/3 full.  Bake until lightly browned & crispy.  Add a sprinkle of cheese (any kind you like, we used asiago & parmesan) and a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper and bake the puddings for another 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts.

I have a feeling when this week is over, I'll be seriously needing some nice home-cooked food.  I am pretty excited that while I'm away, the Burlington farmer's market opens right up the street from our new place!  I can't wait to get there early Saturday morning to re-stock the produce around here.  

Until then, I hope you all have a good week filled with an abundance of yummy food.  If you're looking for some new inspiration, why not celebrate cinco de mayo this Wednesday with Mexican night (& a margarita or two)! 

Here's our take on some Mexican recipes:

You can also check here for everything you'd need for a Cinco de Mayo meal.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Warm Asparagus Salad with Spicy Smoked Sea Salt, Lemon & Piave

So, I'm a few days behind on my postings but that certainly doesn't mean that we've been starving around here.  In fact, last night we had some friends over for a barbecue and I whipped up some of mom's coleslaw and some baked beans.  They were really good but I forgot to take a photo (sorry!).  Tonight, Luke and I have been invited to the Quatrefoil opening night party in Dundas, Ontario.  Luke worked on a lot of the kitchen design work for this restaurant and it'll be exciting to see the place (and of course to sample the hors d'oeuvres and cocktails!).

Earlier this week, I bought a really nice bundle of asparagus (by really nice, I mean nice & thin stalks - which are my favorite) and it needed to be eaten.  On Thursday, both Luke and I were not totally starving for dinner so I ended up just cooking up the whole bundle of asparagus as a warm salad to share.  It took no time at all and was super delicious and healthy at the same time.

Warm Asparagus Salad with Spicy Smoked Sea Salt, Lemon & Piave

You'll need:
1 bunch of asparagus (washed)
2 dried bay leaves
1 lemon (sliced)
smoked sea salt
chili flakes
olive oil

Snap each asparagus spear with your fingers, they will always snap at the perfect place so that the asparagus isn't too tough.  Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the asparagus, bay leaves, 3 slices of lemon and season with smoked sea salt, pepper & chili flakes.  I used this "smoke and fire"   sea salt I bought at the Carp Farmer's Market and it was just perfect.  It's a blend of smoked sea salt with chili flakes, parsley, ancho chilies and habaneros.

Continue to stir the asparagus and try to make sure the lemon slices stay on top of the asparagus while it's cooking.  Once cooked, squeeze a little more fresh lemon juice on top and cover with grated cheese.  I used a Piave cheese but parmesan is also extremely delicious.