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Archive for the ‘olive oil’ Category

salad with hers and fava beens

When it’s hot outside, all I seem to want for lunch is something light and fresh and low in energy-producing carbohydrates. But why stick with ye olde faithful lettuce tomato and Cucumber, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when you can have a mixture of fresh herbs, like Cilantro, fennel, basil, parsley, tarragon, chives and thyme with baby root veg like beets and carrots. Add some freshly steamed fava beans, sprinkle with sesame seeds and, Voila!

ps/ the dressing is a mixtrue of a crushed clove of garlic, a Tbsp on tarragon infused Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon and a good measure of extra virgin olive oil.

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 2

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 3

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Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream

I love a dinner party. We used to host them quite frequently back home and loved getting return invites to others’ houses, whether it was for a long slaved over butternut and sage risotto with home baked bread and butter pudding or a heat and eat from Woolies with Magnum sticks for dessert. We all loved the food, but the evening was made truly special not so much by the cuisine as the friends and the laughs and the celebration of friendships. Isn’t that why we eat in any case? Since moving to these Northern Climes, we’ve not had much opportunity to host our own parties but have, from time to time, enjoyed the hospitality of some wonderful new friends in their homes. We were invited last night to a somewhat unusual dinner party by some good friends, Ms M and her lovely Mr S. The theme? Orange! The meals were split by course over the guests with the only proviso being that the food had to be orange! We all wore orange, drank orange and felt decidedly Sunny the whole evening.

What luck that in season right now are a fabulous selection of orange fruit and veg, or we might all have had to resort to slipping drops of Moir’s food colouring into everything! We started off with an orange salsa made from bright orange tomatoes and a dash of Cilantro, sliced orange peppers and Beamster cheese , a mature, hard cheese with little lumps of salt in it, part of the Gouda family. We drank Tangerine Martini’s, expertly prepared by our host, and less successful cocktails of Malibu with fresh peaches (my decision and one I don’t think I’ll repeat). For the mains our honourable hosts prepared a sunset coloured feast of spicy pepper pasta with orange tomatoes and peppers in a superbly tasty olive oil and garlic, with a side salad of fresh orange tomatoes and Mimolette cheese, which, incidentally, is favoured by Charles de Gualles, and I can see why. Thanks to Ms M and Ms B, our other Orang-er, for introducing us to two fabulous new cheeses! I’m always so excited to meet a new tasty treat!

Dessert was my contribution to the meal. After messing around with a few radical ideas involving all sorts of freezing and moulding, I went with something a bit easier to transport in the summer heat: an open peach tart flavoured with almonds and Saffron. I’m having a little love affair with Saffron, it’s delicate, subtle flavour fills the mouth and transports one to exotic places. Also, it helped turn the dessert a more pleasing shade of orange than the pale almond cream on its own.

For the pastry, I used half vegetable shortening, which I don’t often do (in fact the only time I usually allow hard veg fats is in mince pies at Christmas time) but wanted a pie a little more delicate to suite the saffron. Acidity in the Grapefruit juice also adds to the tender crumble of the crust.

Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 2

Peach Tart with Almond and Saffron Cream

for the pastry:Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 3

1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp Fleur de Sel
small pinch plain salt
½ Tbsp Sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces, chilled
¼ cup vegetable shortening, cut in to small pieces
2 Tbsp Grapefruit juice in about ¼ cup chilled water

for the almond saffron cream:

pinch saffron strands
2 Tbsp just boiled water
⅓ cup ground almonds
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar

2 or 3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced

2 or 3 Tbsp sugar

– preheat your oven to 400˚F

– make the pastry:

– combine all dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and work with your fingers gently until mix resembles oats porridge. OR place dry ingredients ands fats into your food processor and blitz a couple times to form porridge texture.

– add liquid, half at a time, until dough just begins to form. Heap onto a sheet of cling film, cover and form into a disc. Refrigerate, covered in plastic, for about half an hour.

– when dough is chilled, roll out on a floured surface and line a greased and floured pie dish (about 10 – 12 inches). Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 mins.

– blind bake the tart shell for 10 – 15 mins until just firm (to blind bake pastry: cover the raw pastry with a piece of baking parchment, cover with dry beans or rice to weight the paper down and bake for a few minutes. This stops the crust turning soggy once the filling is added)

– make the almond cream:

– in a little bowl (a soy sauce sushi bowl is perfect) soak the saffron strands in the hot water for about 10 mins

– beat together the ground almond, egg and sugar. Add the saffron water and one or two strands. mix well and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm the cream a bit

-pour chilled cream into tart shell, arrange peach slices on top, bake 30 – 35 minutes in your hot oven until the peaches are bubbling slightly and the pastry is a golden brown.

-Allow to cool to room temperature

-Just before serving, sprinkly top with sugar and caramelise using a blow torch or under a hot grill for afew minutes. Be careful not to burn the pastry!

– serve with a little dulce de leche or caramel sauce. We used a Butterscotch sauce with Jamacian Rum for something a bit more sophisticated. 🙂

*thanks to Jane for the use of her camera and some lovely pictures taken by herself

Peaches

Orange Dinner 1

Orange Dinner 2

 

 

Orange Dinner 3

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Chicken with Tarragon and Walnuts

For some reason, I never really discovered tarragon before.  My Mom had a bunch of different herbs growing the in kitchen garden: sage and chives and mint and thyme and rosemary, but never tarragon.  And yet, after doing some reading, it turns out to be a quintessential herb, an old and trusted favourite in many a European and particularly French recipe.  I thought I should give it a go.  After all, there’s French blood in me, isn’t there?

*Note: I had a problem with my oven while cooking the meal, the darn thing decided to go on strike, and so ended up having to have the thing on Grill with a loose sheaf of foil over the meat to protect it from burning.  So I can’t really say for sure just how long you aught to cook this dish, though my gut feeling is for 20 mins at 400˚F and  another 20 – 30 at 350˚F.  Just check it persistantly to make sure you’re not over cooking drying out the flesh.

 

Chicken with Tarragon and Walnuts 2

Chicken with Tarragon and Walnut Crust
with Baby Beet and Herb Salad

for the Chicken:
2 large chicken breasts on the bone, with skin
½ cup loosely packed tarragon leaves
¼ cup thyme leaves
5 cloves garlic
1 shallot
½ cup shelled walnut halves
Fleur de sel
Olive oil
Peel of half a lemon, ½ cut into strips and ½ zested
2 Potatoes
butter (about 1 Tbsp)

for the salad:
3 or 4 baby beets, peeled and finely grated
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped
⅓ cup fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped Chives
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Walnut oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

– If you have the time, prepare the chicken a few hours beforehand so the flavours develop well.
run the tarragon, thyme, garlic, shallot and walnuts in a processor until fine.  Add a pinch of Fleur de sel and mix.

– rinse the chicken and pat dry with some paper towel.  With the skin side up, loosen the skin from the flesh: if you break a small hole in the membrane between the two you should  be able to lift the skin to form a pocket.

– take small amounts of the herb and nut mix at a time and push it under the skin, using about half the mixture.  Put a small dollop of butter and a strip of lemon peel under the skin as well and refrigerate, covered, for as long as you can.

– when ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge, rub with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

– slice the potatoes thinly and arrange on the bottom of a buttered ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle with lemon zest.

– Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the potatoes.  Pack the rest of the herb and nut mix on top.  Bake, see note above*

– For the salad, mix all ingredients and let sit at room temperature for a while, while the chicken cooks.

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Eggplant with Sicilian Salsa

I never new much about eggplants growing up. The reason, I found out when my parents visited us here in Toronto a while ago and I was doing all the cooking, is that my Dad abhors this beautiful, delicately flavoured fruit and so we never had it in the house. Oh, the disappointment of not being able to make my Iranian Eggplant and lentil stew, flavoured with pomegranate and fresh mint for them during their time here.

It was the colour of the skin which first attracted me to the eggplant a few years ago.  That rich, almost black shade of purple, so mysterious and reminiscent of stories of Arabian Nights and Vincent’s Starry Sky. I  tried a bunch of things with the Aubergine, fumbling around for a while not knowing what to do with it.  Do you eat it raw?  Do you put it in a stir fry?  Until I got to know it a bit better, did a bit of reading and discovered a few ways of turning it’s slightly rubbery, raw flesh into the creamy, flavoursome meal it can be.  I still hold hope that one day, perhaps, I’ll be able to twist me ol’ Dad’s arm and make him change his mind about this yummy food.

Eggplant with Sicilian Salsa Sicilian salsa

1 large, firm eggplant, sliced into 1cm slices
Salt
Olive oil for frying

⅓ cup black nicoise, pitted
1½ Tbsp small capers
3 anchovy fillets
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1½ cups bottles tomato pasta sauce, heated

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

goats cheese

Polenta – made as per packet instructions and kept warm

– place slices of eggplant on paper towel and salt. Leave for half an hour to sweat. Dry with paper towel.

– place olives, capers, anchovy, shallot, garlic and thyme in a processor and blitz until finely chopped but not paste. Or chop all ingredients finely by hand and mix. Refrigerate for half and hour to allow flavour to develop.

– fry eggplant in olive oil in batches until lightly browned and tender. Add more oil as needed and drain on paper towel.

– place a serving of polenta on plate. Add a slice of eggplant, top with tomato sauce and repeatto use 3 or 4 slices of eggplant.

– top with about 1½ Tbsp goats cheese. Grill for 6 or 7 minutes under a hot grill, until cheese starts to bubble slightly.

– remove from oven and garnish well with salsa and pinenuts

img_7689.jpg

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