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Archive for the ‘dinner’ Category

springcomb

A client, local to Toronto, once joked with me that spring in Ontario was not so much a soft and gentle, new born lamb frolicking in a pretty green meadow, chasing little yellow butterflies as it is a stripper suddenly removing all her clothes.  I know, the image is rather vivid and lewd, but you get the idea and it’s pretty much spot on.  The end of Winter here is a long, shuffling commute of faceless pedestrians huddled into long, dark grey coats walking down an endless road and boarded by tall, dark buildings under a heavy, humourless sky.  Suddenly, through a little break in the clouds, a single ray of watery sunlight shines down on one of those faceless coats and exposes a slither of pretty ankle escaping out past the hem.  The crowd stops.  The shuffling dwindles and every face in that homogeneous, grey sea lifts from the folds of their coat and turns to look at that bit of humanity exposed in the sun.  Then, without warning, the sky breaks open and the woman of the ankle flings open her coat to reveal a body, young and lithe, wrapped only in shimmering, translucent, fuchsia silk.  The coat falls around her feet like a dust cloth removed from a painting and she steps away from that dead, lifeless garment without looking back, her face in the sun, her limbs exposed and dancing now, in slow fluid movements. As she dances on, moving down the street, her joie de vivre infects those around her like a contagious disease and one by one the coats fall to the floor until the street is alive with dancing and colour and sunshine.

Welcome to Toronto, the Caberet of Spring.

And to celebrate a little Quiche, yes?

quiche-mush-leek-ham-combo

Leek, Mushroom and Ham Quiche

For the Pastry:
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp tarragon
¼ tsp thyme
½ cup cold butter, chopped into 1cm cubes
80ml cold water

for the filling:
1Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 large leak, thinly sliced
1 brown onion, finely chopped
150g mushrooms, sliced (I used shitake and portobello)
3 or 4 slices ham, chopped (I used black forest ham)
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
3 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup Gruyer, grated

– to make the pastry: whisk the dry ingredients together

– rub the butter into the flour until it looks like course oatmeal

– add the cold water and mix just long enough to form a dough

– wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour

– preheat the oven to 350˚F

– roll the dough out on a floured surface to line a 25cm quiche tin

– bake blind for 10 mins

– while the quiche shell is cooling, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and saute the leeks, onions and mushrooms until soft

– Beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper and then add the cream

– fill the quiche shell with the onion-mushroom mixture, the ham and then top up with the eggy cream.

– sprinkle the Gruyere cheese over the top

– bake at 350˚F for about 35 mins, until the cream is just set

– allow to cool for 10 mins before serving, preferably with a light salad

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spanish-stack2

I know that Stacked Food is oh, so very five seasons ago and since then the uber chefs of the world have moved on and through many other fancies and fads.  We’ve had Fusion illusion, Tasting Menus and Tapa’s everything and now we’re looking at 100 mile menu’s and locavore, seasonal, home style cooking.  All of which I’ve loved and lavished my attentions upon in turn in as much as I love food in it’s myriad of forms.  The simple truth is that I  am honestly as happy eating beans on toast in a greasy spoon as I am sampling the delicacies of the best sushi houses with the manicured and be-sequined.  But there’s something about the stack that I keep coming back to.  I think that at the end of the day, for a generally competent home cook, it’s such a simple technique that usually leaves me looking far more accomplished than I ever could be in front of a table of hungry guests.  I love the way it leaves space on the plate for sides and sauces and I love that it’s obvious that the various layers where thought about and meant to be eaten together, to compliment each other; instead of a random selection of cooked things from what I happened to have in the cupboard at the time.

* note: I served this with Polenta at the base of the stack, cooked with water and a teaspoon of rosemary , finished with some Spanish goat cheese for a bit of cheesy zing.  I’m not giving you the recipe for that as it’s pretty straight forward, non? There was a fresh salad of greens on the side and watercress as a garnish.

**you may be tempted to use a nasty wine in the dish; try not to.  Use what ever you’re drinking at the table, you’ll taste the difference.

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Spanish Stack with Chorizo

Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
100 – 150g Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
100ml dry red wine
½ large (or 1 small) red pepper, thickly sliced
1 Chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
pinch nutmeg
½tsp dried Rosemary
salt to taste

1 med head broccoli, florets only
1 medium shallot
2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste

– heat olive oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan or skillet.

– gently cook the mushrooms with the onion and until soft.  Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute to caramalise.

– deglaze with the wine then add the pepper and chorizo, then the spices and herbs.  Simmer until the peppers are soft, about 10 mins.

– in a food processor, process the broccoli florets with the shallot until finely chopped (or chop by hand)

– heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the broccoli/shallot with the sesame seeds for just a few minutes, until tender but still bright green.  Season to taste with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

-Layer your stack starting with the polenta, topped with the chorizo melange and ending with the broccoli.  The watercress garnish worked very well with all those richer flavours.

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chicken-roast-dijon-comb

There’s something special, to me, about a whole roast chicken.  Well, any bird in the oven, really.  I roasted my first turkey last year for Thanksgiving, in a snug little cottage on a windswept and storm battered peninsula in Newfoundland and it was just wonderful.  I mean, the dinner was lovely and all, but the moment, the coup de grace, was bringing that bird, golden brown and steaming hot, to the table.  It’s hard not to smile in anticipation when the bird is brought to the table.  Whole roast birds say Holiday and Celebration to me in a way a frosted martini never could.  A golden bird on the table tells tales of friends and family gathered together to share a meal and be satisfied.  So, every now and then the ever epicurean Mr P and I throw a bird in the oven, regardless of occasion or lack thereof, and have ourselves a little feast for two.  A chicken, I’ve found, is just about the right size for the two of us to have an impressive dinner and leave enough left over meat for at least two pasta sauces and a chicken mayo sandwich or two.

Also, quite frankly, I love a roast because it’s just so easy and so little fuss.  Great for entertaining, one can prep the bird and veg in advance pop it in the oven at the right time and then not only does your house smell simply divine by the time the guests arrive but you don’t have to spend the evening stirring pots and checking the sauce on the stove while missing out on the juicy chit chat over cocktails with the company.

When buying a bird I always buy organic, free range if possible.  I do the same with my eggs.  I don’t want to go into the politics of industrially reared animals and the inhumane conditions they’re kept in.  Other than it being the socially responsible thing to do, organic free range chickens just taste better.  An animal carries it’s lifestyle in it’s flavour at the end of the day, not to mention it’s nutrition.

I only recently started doing a roast with a thermometer (instead of the juice-runs-clear method) and, for me, there’s no other way to go.  It’s not let me down yet!

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Roast Chicken with Garlic and Dijon
and a Sun Dried Tomato Stuffing

1 large, organic chicken
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each)

10 cloves garlic, just peeled

for the stuffing:
¼ cup bread crumbs
6 – 8 sun dried tomatoes, drained (if in oil) and chopped
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
¼ cup white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
black pepper

– take the bird out of the fridge an hour before cooking it, to let it warm up to room temperature.

– preheat your oven to 400˚ F, with the rack in the middle.

– rinse the bird, inside and out, and pat dry.

– mix all the ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl.

– whisk together the Dijon, oil and salt and pepper.  They won’t want to mix very well, that’s okay.

– with your fingers, gently separate the skin on the breast from the meat.  I find it quite easy to start at the neck end and carefully work a couple fingers between the skin and meat.

– stuff 3 of the garlic cloves down each breast, between the skin and the meat.

– at the thickest part of the tight, make a deep slice with a sharp knife, cross ways to the length.  Push 2 garlic cloves into each gash.

– now stuff the cavity of the chicken with the sun dried tomato mix.

Tie the chicken up with kitchen string. instructions here if you need them.

– rub the oil/Dijon mix evenly over the skin of the chicken.

– place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan.  I put my potatoes, if we’re having, in with the chicken, but  I usually roast other veg (like carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and parsnips) in a separate dish.

– roast the chicken this way for 10 or 15 minutes, then take it out the oven, turn it breast side up and roast again for about 30 minutes, checking often, until the juices run clear or a thermometer inserted between the body and thigh is at 165˚ F.

– if you notice that the skin is getting too brown before the bird is cooked, put a loose piece of tin foil over the top of the bird to protect it.

– when the bird is done, remove from oven, place a piece of foil and a tea towl on top of it and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.


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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.


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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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cottage-pie

Ye olde cottage pie is a favourite in our household.  It’s one of the ever culinary Mr P’s signature dishes and as such I usually don’t go near the making of them myself.  I wouldn’t dare.  He has been know to whip up a cottage pie, impromptu, on a chilly autumn evening that makes the child in me weep with joy.  But one evening, with a bumper load of Summer produce in the fridge, a package of minced beef ready to use and Mr P working rather later than usual, I decided to tread on his territory a little and rustly up dinner loving.  He didn’t really seem to mind too much, so I know it’s not half bad.

This is a great dish to make as the weather turns a little nippy and you want to use up some Summer produce still kicking around.

Incidentally, does anyone know the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherds pie?  I’ll give you a hint, the reason is in the name!

cottage-pie-21

Summery Cottage Pie

2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 stick celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb/ 450g minced beef
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 ½tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Patti pan or zucchini, coarsely chopped
6 or 7 chard leaves, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

2 large potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp Olive oil
splash of milk
salt and pepper

– put a pot of water on to boil.  When it’s boiling add the potatoes and lower the heat.  Cook for about 10 or 15 minutes until done (when a fork slides easily into the potato chunks). Drain and reserve.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F

– over a medium heat, saute the celery, carrot, onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes

– add the beef and cook until browned, separating the little clumps with a wooden spoon as you go

– add the tomato paste and balsamic and caramalise for a couple minutes

– add the Patti pan, chard, wine and stock and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the mix is thick and yummy

– mash the potatoes with the oil, salt and pepper to taste and enough milk to give a silky but firm texture

– half fill a casserole with the meat mixture, top with the potato mash and bake for 25 – 30 mins, until the top is browned and crisp.

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As our temperatures here in Toronto start to dip and dive again in the face of Autumn I keep thinking about all the gorgeous food I cooked up over the Summer and never got around to sharing with you.  So, over the next little while, you’ll have to bear with me as I turn an uncharacteristically unseasonable page back to the hotter months and post some of the recipes and cook ups that got lost in the comings and goings of all the travelling I did over that time.  Hopefully I’ll manage to get up to speed with the backlog before the glories of autumn are over with, or I’ll find myself a season behind when spring finally comes around and I’m still stuffing butternuts and mulling apple cider.

A lot of the time in Summer the last thing you want to be doing is keeping an eye on a slow cooking stew or spending hours in the hot, sticky kitchen.  Summer over here at Lick Your Own Bowl is often a casual, quickly thrown together meal of the season’s freshest produce, herbs from the garden and a long, candle-lit evening sitting outside in the garden with the scent of flowers and barbecue in the air.  There’s not much too say about this Summer-Coloured meal.  A quick sticks pasta, with sauteed onions and garlic, sundried tomato, fresh Ontario corn and peas, lightly cooked and deglazed with a dollop of white wine and then plucked up with a bit of white tuna and washed down with an ice cold lager and a side of fresh salad is just heavenly.  Then sit back and listen to the crickets and the laughter of neighbourhood kids still playing street hockey in the road.

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I wasn’t really too sure about posting this post for a couple of reasons.  One, it’s not really anything new or inventive, it’s just a simple spring dinner of lamb, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and fresh Rosemary and  bunch of lightly sauteed pea shoots with onions.  And two, in all honesty, while those pea shoots sound like a crisp and fresh explosion of Spring Green on the tongue the ever tenacious Mr P and I soon found them to be rather stalky and tough.  Lets just stick to the peas and leave the shoots to the garden, okay?  Or perhaps a table arrangement.  All that in consideration, however, at the end of the day the meal was still good, the lamb was fresh, tender and super tasty and where, oh where is the harm in a simple, satisfying dinner?

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The Summer in Toronto is one of the lustiest, I think, in the world.  Those steamy, heat-hazy, lazy-crazy, long-limbed days that wrap their humid, whispering tendrils around your bare throat and exposed shoulders do something inexplicable to this city and the people in it.  The girls, the boys, the dogs, the ducks: no one escapes the sensuality of it, we are all susceptible to Summer’s hot, sticky embrace.  But before we completely lose our heads to this love affair there is, as in any meaningful, dirty little tryst, the courtship; the tease, the tempt, the flirt and the fluster.  A few gorgeous, sunny days sauntering by our Wintery table at the end of April have us shaking out our hair in false hope of an early Summer, only to be firmly reminded that we are the flirtee, not the flirter, by a cold shoulder for half of May as we look longingly at our Summer wardrobes and the pretty, colourful mannequins in store windows.

And then, slowly, almost painfully, just when you think she’ll never notice you, that she has eyes only for the muscular, deep tan muscles of Texas, she.  Stops.  And turns that beautiful, golden head and looks you straight in the eye.  The Glory that radiates from Summer’s eyes envelopes us all, does it not?  But now that she’s seen you, now that you finally have her attention, how can you, such a humble little creature, keep that gorgeous gaze locked firmly with your own.  How to impress such a fickle lover, you ask?  Why, with a barbecue, of course.  If you cook up the coals just right, who knows, she may just stay for dessert.

Just don’t expect it.

I made these eggplants for a dinner party the first time, baked for about 40 minutes at 350˚F and had a bunch left over when we decided to open up the Weber .  Wrapped in foil, they were just so good and the left overs were somehow even better the next day when I removed the skins, spread the pulp and topping on toast and grilled with some gruyere in the oven for a couple of minutes.

* this recipe makes enough for about 5 or 6 baby eggplants.  Adjust accordingly.

Eggplant with Sundried Tomato and Shitake topping

Baby eggplants, halved
salt

⅓ cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
½ red onion, roughly chopped
sprig fresh thyme
small sprig rosemary
1 clove garlic
50g (big handful) shitake mushrooms
¼ tsp dried Italian herb mix

salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (about 60ml/¼ cup)

– cut the eggplants in half and salt generously.  Leave for an hour or so at room temperature.  Rinse and pat dry.

– place all ingredients (except eggplant) in a processor and blitz until finely chopped (or chop it all by hand). Season and add enough olive oil to for a thick, chunky paste close to but drier than a pesto.  Allow it to sit for 45 mins to develop.

– place eggplant halve skin side down on enough foil to fully wrap them ein.  Top with tomato mushroom mix and barbeque for about 30 minutes on the rack.

– serve with a generous amount of sunshine and chilled beverages.

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It always amazes me how quickly us humans adapt to new conditions in our lives (willingly or not) and form new habits to accommodate new problems. It also amazes me just how much of what we do on a day to day basis is, in fact, habit. I woke up a few days ago and realised that I had gotten into the habit, due to our fluffy new circumstances, of waiting until after 8pm to decide what to have for dinner. Not a convenient time to begin experimenting with exciting new ideas, and definitely not a good time to decide to take a duck breast out of the freezer. Looking back, the last while’s dinners have consisted of out-the-can and sauce-in-a-jar kind of dinners, with a fresh salad thrown on the side to ease the guilt of not having enough veg on the plate. Well, I’m trying to put that habit behind me again and take the time to think about what I’m putting onto my plate and down the hatch. We are what we eat, and I don’t feel like being Beans-on-toast any more. Not only did I actually remember to take the duck breast out the freezer the other day, I even had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with it. Something sweet yet sour, something with a big Asian edge, although undefined as to provenance of said “Asian” and something with sweet potatoes. Something a little, well, square for a change.

*apologies for the shoddy photo quality.  Sometimes one is so busy trying to make one’s chopsticks stand still, one forgets to check one’s ISO.

Duck Breast in a sweet/sour sauce
with Broccoli, Water Chestnuts and black sesame
and fried sweet potato

for the marinade/sauce:
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ tsp fresh, grated ginger
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese five spice
¼ cup grated apple (use crisp, green apples like granny smith)
juice from ½ small lime

about 500g duck breast, fat removed, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp oil for frying

for the broccoli:
1 tsp veg oil
3 spring onions, thickly sliced
½ head of broccoli, chopped
1 can (8oz/230ml) water chestnuts, drained
3 tsp black sesame seeds

for the sweet potato:
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp sesame oil
peanut oil (or veg oil) for frying

-first, mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and add the duck breast. Let marinade for as long as you can (I only left mine for 40 mins and it was great)

– par-boil the sweet potato for about 5 minutes until almost cooked, but still very firm

– heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan on medium. Add the duck and it’s marinade and cook gently until done. You should end up with a juicy sauce. Set aside, cover with foil to keep warm.

– meanwhile, heat the sesame and veg oil for frying the sweet potato and fry, turning occasionally until tender and slightly browned.

– stir fry the spring onions, broccoli and water chestnuts in the duck breast pan. Add the sesame seeds after 5 minutes and cook for another minute or so.

– remove sweet potato and drain before serving.

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