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Archive for the ‘basil’ Category

tomato-tart-1

Every couple has it’s story; the telling of which makes them look somewhat coyly at each other and smile knowingly and that raise, once again, all those fluttery, buttery feelings of l’amour. The dashing Mr P and I met in a gorgeous little restaurant serving fabulous little meals, and if that wasn’t an omen for a happy future, I couldn’t tell you what would be.  The speciality of that restaurant, the dish we would in the future, on numerous special occasions re-order and be delighted with every time, was, as so many brilliant signature dishes are, a simple, homely affair prepared to simple perfection.  A tomato tart, to tomatoey, so tarty that it seemed, surely, a cinch to whip up at home.  Time and again we’d order that tart, savouring each bite, meditating over each flavour and then I’d go home and try to recreate this seemingly simple delight.  To no avail.  No amount of research, no pugnacious attempt at different ingredients, different temperatures and different seasonings brought that tart out of my oven.  Well, to each chef his secret, and the chef of that lover’s treat will sink his ship with the recipe on board.

However.  That’s not to say I won’t stop trying, and while I’ll have to satisfy myself with the thought that the original tomato tart sits safely in it’s intended home, I’ll keep on whipping up versions of my own.  None of which have come as close, if not in adherence to what the original seemed to be, at least in overall effect to that perfect tomato tart as this one has.  Perhaps it’s the concentrated flavours of the cherry tomatoes, or perhaps it’s the mixture between the sheep’s milk and parmigiana cheeses, which in truth I used simply because I wanted to finish up the last bit of an excellent chunk of sheep’s milk cheese I had lying around in the fridge.  Or perhaps it had to do with the teff flour in the pastry, of which the original surely had none.  Truth is I just don’t know.  I do know, however, that this tomato tart was a dream, a reminiscence, a revival of old memories and caused one or two coy glances on the parts of Mr P and myself.

*note: I made the pastry using teff pastry, which worked brilliantly, but if you want a blander crust use plain flour one to one for the teff.

tomato-tart-combo-1

Super Delicious Tomato Tarts

For the pastry:
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup plain flour

¼ cup teff flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ cup / 1 stick cold butter, unsalted, cubed
¼- ⅓ cup iced water

for the tart:
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 punnet (about 300g) baby cherry tomatoes, halved on the equator
50 grams hard sheep’s milk cheese, like a percorino, finely grated
50 grams parmigiano regano, finely grated
1 cup basil leaves, washed
black pepper

make the pastry:
– combine all the dry ingredients, mixing well.

– rub the cold butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture resembling oats porridge.

– add just enough water so that a dough just starts to form.  As soon as it all starts coming together, stop mixing.  Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it a bit, cover it in cling film and refrigerate for about 40 mins.

– in a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, garlic, shallot, vinegar and oil.  Let mixture rest at room temperature while the pastry chills

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– divide the dough disc into two.  Roll each piece to form a long rectangular shape, about 20cm by 30 cm

– spread half the tomato paste mixture on each rectangle, to withing 1½ inches, 4cm, of the edge

– combine the two cheeses and sprinkle half the mixture over each base on top of the tomato mix.

– now top each base with the basil leaves and then finish off with the tomato halves, skin side down, still keeping that 1½ half edge of raw pastry.  Give each tart a generous grinding of black pepper.

– fold the bare edges of pastry up and over the side of each tart, folding and crimping as you go to secure.  Don’t worry if it looks a little messy, that’s half the charm.

– bake for 25 minutes and then leave to rest outside the oven for about 5 minutes before eating.


tomato-tart-2


tomato-tart-4

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snapper-w-sun-dried-tomato

A nice big fish is something I will eternally associate with Summer chez moi.  I have brilliant, sparkly memories as a child of going on summer holiday to the ocean and over dosing on good sea food.  South Africa has, if you ask me, some of the best sea food in the world and I look forward with glee to a trip back to my birth country and a seat over looking a pounding surf with a plate of fresh fish and chips.

One of my favourite fish to cook at home is a snapper, preferably whole.  Now, bear in mind that this is a bony little sucker, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommended it as a first date type affair. There’ll be plenty of sucking and plucking and chucking with this on the plate.  But a whole fish is still a great way to go for a barbecue, or in the oven, as convenience allows.

Getting your fish from a fish monger is the beat way to go, if you can.  You can pick the best fish and have it cleaned and descaled while you wait.  Fish doesn’t last, even in the fridge, so either freeze the sucker or eat it same day.

snapper-w-sun-dried-tomato-21

Preheat the oven to 400˚F

Start by rinsing the fish, inside and out, and pat dry with a paper towel.  Rub a little olive oil on the skin and season with a bit of salt.

Lay a piece of parchment paper large enough to completely wrap the fish in on the counter.

Slice up a large onion and place half of it on the middle of the parchment.

Chop up 5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes and throw these on top of the onions.

Now grab a handful of fresh herbs, what ever you have.  I used a big bunch of parsley, some basil and tarragon.  Mince a big clove of garlic, chop the herbs up, mix the two and put half of this on the onion tomato base.

Put the snapper on top of this mix and repeat the layer: onion, tomato and herbs. Drizzle the whole shebang with olive oil.

Wrap the fish up in the parchment, securing with some string, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the flesh is just flaky.  Let the fish sit for a couple of minutes before serving with a good garden salad.

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Being a busy and sometimes flustered new puppy owner, ahem, I’ve been limiting my cooking to the realm of Quick and Easy. While juggling work deadlines, puppy feeding and copious sweeping, mopping and tidying of floors and fur I’ve had little energy left for elaborate and fussy dinners and lunches. And while I’m looking forward to the day I’m back at the fuss and elaborations, for the moment I’m quite content to pull a dinner together from that which lurks at the back of the pantry. This tomato soup is a perfect compromise of needing to embrace a fresher palate for the wonderful, warm Spring weather we’ve been having and a no fuss, quick-as-you-like dinner, taking 15 minutes from can opener to toast dunk. This is a perfect amount for two, so double up if you want left overs for lunch or to feed more people.

Tomato Soup with Fennel Seed and Basil

1 Tbsp or so vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds, whole
2 Tbsp tomato paste
½ 28oz can whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, with juice
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
handful fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan or parmigiana shavings

– heat oil in a medium saucepan. Gently saute garlic until fragrant, then add herbs, fennel and tomato paste, saute for about a minute.

– add tomatoes, juice and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 or 6 minutes before seasoning to taste.

– Remove from heat and blend until smooth.

– Just before serving, stir in basil (keeping some for garnish)

– top with parmesan shavings and sere with olive oil coated toast

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Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

We’re having our first snow here in Toronto. Big, fat flakes have been falling all day and the temperatures are just right to allow for picture perfect moments: cold enough that the snow doesn’t instantly turn into boot-eating slush but warm enough to allow a certain amount of frolicking in the streets. A cookie baking kind of day, which is exactly where I tend to go once I’ve finished this post. I’m thinking something spicy-autumny, not quite Christmasy. Too early for that kind of talk. We’ve still some Autumn dishes to get through in my house! Even though one must admit to oneself, even if one thinks one can forestall the moment by buying butternuts and plums at the market, that the Winter is not only on it’s way but parking it’s car in the drive and walking up the path to the front door. And once one has admitted the close proximity of Winter, one can quite gladly take the Canada Goose Coat out of it’s box, fluff it up and actually enjoy the snow outside. The fabulous Mr P and I are so equally and utterly in Smit with our Canada Goose coats, that when we see other “Ducks” on the street we share a little glance of smugness and glee.

And speaking of duck…

Duck still seems like a fairly exotic dish to me. Growing up, poultry consisted of Chicken, Chicken and, um, Chicken. That said, duck isn’t any more difficult to deal with than Ye Olde Chicken and since it’s a readily available thing at the butcher these days I tend to keep a portion or two lying around for sudden inspiration. Like this. Mr P got his hands dirty in on this one, though it was almost a case of Two many cooks spoiled the duck. Do we chop the raw duck first and then fry it, or fry it then chop it. How thick should the slices be? Should we remove the fat before cooking it? After cooking it? At all? In the end, after a small glass of wine and some introspection the following happened.

*note: it’s really worth getting a fresh, egg pasta for this. I’m not patient enough to make my own (yet) but I made sure to get the best I could find. Why waste the duck on industrial spaghetti, is my thinking…

Also, I got the olives from “the olive guy” at the market, but you can really use any olives you prefer.

Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

Duck Breast with Rosemary and Green Olives

2 duck breasts, with fat on
Dried Rosemary, about 1 + ½ tsp
Fleur de sel
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Roasted Green Olives, about
⅓ cup
Good, fresh pasta, enough for 2
2 Tbsp good basil pesto
– Rinse the duck breast and pat dry with paper towel

– with fat side lying up, cut through the fat in gashes about 1 inch apart

-season breast with salt and Rosemary, making sure some rosemary is in the cuts

-fry duck breasts in a non stick, heavy bottomed pan for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side until meat is browned and fat is brown and starting to get crispy. Remove from heat and cool until handle-able. Slice the breast into ½ inch thick slices. They should still be quite raw in the middle.

– put the pasta on to cook

– In the duck fat left in the pan, fry the onion and garlic until caramelised. Add duck breast and olives and cook until meat is cooked, about 5 mins.

– Drain pasta and add to the duck, along with the pesto, mixing well before serving. Add some olive oil if you think it needs it (I found the duck fat more than enough lubrication)

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Mini stuffed peppers 1

The weather is starting to turn now and I’m reminded every week at the Framers Market in the park that the days of fresh, local produce are coming to an end. Which was one of the main factors behind my decision to cook a whole meal with this fresh produce last week for friends, and these little, plump globes of fun colours were just too tempting to ignore. Such a lovely, fun thing to start an evening off with, too. A little plate of amuses bouche over the first bottle of wine while everyone exchanges greetings and catches up on tidbits of news. They went down a treat, still hot from the oven, oozing and juicy and super scrumptious. Don’t expect the the unwritten rule of nobody-eat-the-last-one-on-the-plate to be observed with these tasty morsels.

Mini stuffed peppers 2

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mini Peppers

A dozen or so mini peppers
100g ripened, soft goat cheese
½ cup ripe cherry tomatoes
handful basil leaves
½ Tbsp pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

-preheat oven to 350˚F

– cut the tops off the peppers, de-seed, rinse and dry on paper towel. Reserve tops.

– put basil, pine nuts, garlic and oil in a food processor (or mortar and pestle) and process to form a pesto consistency. Add olive oil and mix well.

– halve the tomatoes and pulse in a processor a few times to pulp some of them. Chop up any big pieces that stand out.

-mix cheese, tomatoes, pesto and salt and pepper to taste.

– fill each pepper, replace top and bake 20 mins. Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Mini stuffed peppers 3

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Pesto Spaghetti with fresh tomato

I smelled them before I saw them. In fact, I smelled them from about 10 yards away, and I immediately switched into hunter mode. I had to find them. Which stall was it? A glint in my eye as I spied them: big wound woven baskets stuffed to bursting with fresh, deep green basil plants. So fragrant that there was a visible mill of people around them and I’m lucky I ended up going to the market an hour earlier than I’d originally planned or I’d have missed out. So fragrant were they, in fact, that when the fabulous Mr P arrived home later in the day he immediately remarked on the smell from the front door, which is as far as you can get from the kitchen in our apartment. “Hmm, Basil!” I heard him mumble as he juggled his usual load of computer bags, keys and shoe-removal. And of course, in my state of grocery fever, I’d bought far more than two people could use. Basil doesn’t really like the fridge, so there was really nothing for it but to use it all up, while it was still so fresh and firm and fragrant. Again I had a mini day dream about having my own little kitchen garden.

I’d never made my own Pesto before.basil
I’m not sure why because I know it’s
not a complicated process and the
ingredients are simple and easy to
come by. Somehow I’ve never even
thought about making Pesto, in the
same way that I’ve never thought
about blending my own mustard or
cooking up my own ketchup. I’ve
upgraded my buying from little jars
of mass produced to hand made
Farmers Wife fare at the St Lawrence,
but further than that crossed my mind. Until last night. And I can tell you: you can taste the difference. Not that the Market stuff is not good, but making it and eating it fresh like that was a special treat. Of course, now I have a whole jar of it and will no doubt have to give it away so that it gets used while still fresh. But what’s better than a gift of food?

I used Elise’s recipe, and doubled it according to the amount of basil I had, but there are other recipe’s here, here and here, so find the one that sounds yummiest to you.

Basil is great on it’s own, but my favourite way to eat it is with a big pile of fresh, ripe tomatoes chopped up on top of it.

Basil Pesto

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Red Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili

This is one of my favourite dishes to make. It’s really easy, involves little actual cooking and is great tasting and healthy too. Also, it’s an impressive and exotic looking dish for a dinner party, if your friends don’t mind the whole fish. Actually, most of the flavour of a fish is in the bones and the skin, so cooking a whole fish makes much more sense. Just mind the bones while eating! I’ve adapted it from a recipe from Australian Women’s Weekly (some of my favourite books are from this range) for an outdoor barbecue dish, where the fish is grilled on a barbecue in banana leaves. A bit difficult to get in Toronto! I added a sliced banana underneath the fish and it absorbs all the flavours and sticky sweet spices from the fish to make a very complimentary chutney. Serve it with a sticky rice such as Thai, to sop up all the juices, a fresh salad (recipe underneath the fish) and edamame, boiled for a few minutes in salty water.

Red Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili 2

Red Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili

1 large, whole Red Snapper, descaled and cleaned by your fishmonger
1 big fresh lemongrass, thinly sliced (to make about ⅓ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh grated gingerRed Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili in parcel
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 banana, quartered length-ways
2 Tbsp chopped Cilantro
– wash the snapper under cold water and pat dry with paper towel

– in a bowl, mix garlic, ginger, lime, soy, chili, fish sauce and sesame oil.

– lay out a piece of baking parchment with a equal size piece of foil on top, large enough to wrap the fish

– lay 3 quarters of the banana in the middle of the foil.

– put the fish on top of the banana, put the remaining quarter banana inside the fish cavity

– cut three slashes into each side of the fish. Top with ginger/lemongrass, rubbing some mixture into each cut. Sprinkle with Cilantro

– wrap the fish in the foil and then in the parchment, tie with string to secure. Rest in Fridge for 20 mins.

– pre-heat oven to 420˚F. Bake fish for 20 – 30 mins until done.

Carrot and Cabbage Salad

3 small carrots, julienned
3 0r 4 outer leaves from a fresh, green cabbage, finely sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
Cilantro,chopped to make ⅓ cup
Basil, chopped to make ⅓ cup
Parsley, chopped to make ⅓ cup

dressing:

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

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