November 21, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Rosemary and Aged Cheddar

Now if you're one of the 80 percent of the world that won't eat Brussels Sprouts, I compel you to take a moment and re-evaluate.

What is it about these tasty little bundles that you hate? They've barely got any flavour, so it can't really be that. They have a similar texture to some household favourites, so it can't be that. Does it stem from the fact that when you're Mom served them up there were, maybe, more interesting items on the plate? Turkey? Roast beef? Mashed potatoes and gravy? Yorkshire puddings?

For whatever reason, the fact that Brussels Sprouts seem to often accompany a special family dinner, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, means something. It means they are a decent side dish. Until now.

I've been wanting to try this recipe since I saw it in my Fine Cooking mag. Last night, I served this showstopper to Nathan, not as a side dish, but as the main meal - the only meal. Do yourself a favour and see why Brussels Sprouts are no longer a decent side dish but rather a wonderful complement that will make anyone come back for seconds.

4 tbsp butter
1 - 1.5 lbs Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 large shallots, halved
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup Aged Cheddar Cheese
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs 
2 tsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1. Heat oven to 375 F, with rack positioned in centre. Using a food processor, slice the shallots and Brussels Sprouts. 

2. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown and starts smelling nutty. Reserve 1 tbsp of melted butter. Add Brussels and shallots to pan and toss while cooking until softened, about 6-8 mins. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, add cream, milk, cheese, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and heat over medium heat until cheese is melted, whisking occasionally, without boiling. 

4. Mix the panko, rosemary and parmesan with the reserved butter. Put brussels mixture in a pie plate, add sauce (gently jiggle it to mix), top with panko mixture. 

5. Bake for 15 or so minutes until breadcrumbs start to brown and edges are bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes before dishing up. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

November 17, 2011

Bistro Steak with Horseradish Dip

Scalloped potatoes. Here, they're called potato bake. If only I grew up here. I spent the first half of my life hating scalloped potatoes. The reason for my hate was obvious to me - I hated, and still hate, seafood. I wouldn't dare touch a dish with scallops or any other fishy grossness. One fateful evening I learned something. My Mom said, "Why do you hate scalloped potatoes?" when she saw me not eating them. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and explained something that I thought was dead obvious, "Mom, I don't like seafood!" Finally it was explained to me that scalloped potatoes didn't actually have scallops in them, they are called that after the cut of the potato! (I know, what?!)

Anyway, other than the fact that this recipe would go great with scalloped potatoes, this is a completely irrelevant story. I simply thought of it when I thought of how much food I used to hate, (or thought I hated), that I now love. Like horseradish.

It all started on a now routine trip to wine country. We were in Langhorne Creek this time headed to lunch and were recommended a winery/horseradish farm (you heard it here first). They had all sorts of amazing horseradish dips and spreads, I fell head over heels right then and there. Now I am likely addicted. I used one of them in this recipe, a horseradish mustard mix. However, I understand not everyone has access to a winery/horseradish farm, but no worries mates, you can just use plain horseradish and wholegrain mustard as I have reflected in the recipe.

2 thick cut rib eye steaks (in Australia: scotch filet)

Marinade - a flavourful but not too overpowering marinade that just brings out the best of a good cut of steak
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a shallow glass dish. Coat steaks in the marinade and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the fridge. (If marinating in the fridge, let sit at room temperature for 30 mins before grilling.)

2. Meanwhile, mix up all the dip ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Grill steaks over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, turning once, until desired doneness. 8-10 minutes for medium rare.

4. Serve steaks with cold dip on the side.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

November 02, 2011

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint

I am pumped up on salads right now. I think it is because it is Spring, and what accompanies bbq food better than a fresh salad made with all the season's best ingredients?

I've made a bunch of salads in the past few weeks and I will try and post them all soon. This particular salad was intriguing to me because I don't often use fruit as a main salad ingredient. I made it twice in the last week...nuff said. Give it a shot - you won't regret.

Juice and seeds of 4-5 roma tomatoes - discard rest (by discard I mean load with pepper and feed to whoever is around)
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
S & P to taste

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1.5 cups watermelon chunks
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped coarsely

1. Place juice, shallot, sugar and vinegar in small saucepan. Simmer until reduced, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Mix salad ingredients together in bowl. Toss gently with dressing.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

October 18, 2011

Simply Spring Spinach Salad

Spring. A season that, in Canada, means sunshine, blooming flowers and snow melt. It is a time where you walk down the street with a big smile on your face, a bounce in your step and no worries about the fact that you probably should have worn shoes instead of your flip flops. I love spring!

In Canada.

In Adelaide, on the other hand, it is probably the worst season! This is not to complain about Adelaide, or spring for that matter - it is simply to state a fact. The summer is a lot too hot, but hard to complain about that (talk to me in a couple months...).  Autumn is absolutely amazing - the absolute best, consistent, sunny weather. And winter, it is great...for winter.

You see, it all comes down to expectations. Coming from Saskatchewan, my expectations for winter are pretty low. But, in the same vein, my expectations for spring are very high! So, although it is starting to get much nicer now, and summer is still 1.5 months away, spring here has been rather unpredictable, windy and rainy.

One thing that doesn't change, no matter how far we are from home, is the seasonal food and recipes. And this salad is SO easy (I cheat and use store-bought dressing) and it tastes more like spring to me than anything else! I've been making this one for a long time, and it never gets old.

1 bag baby spinach
1 pack fresh strawberries, sliced
1 advocado, diced
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese

Toss and dress with whatever dressing you like! Recommendation: Kraft Poppy Seed, which I can't find here so I used Newman's Own  Light Balsamic and it was a lovely combo!

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

October 16, 2011

Roasted Veg Lasagna

Here's a winner for you. This recipe is from Jeanne, my mother in law who is an amazing cook. She made this for me at the farm and we took the leftovers home, which was a really nice treat the next day. 

We decided a chauffeured wine tour was in order to celebrate my 26th. Having been on many wine tours before (umm, we live in Adelaide which has at least 5 world-renowned wine regions within an hour's drive - I've died and gone to heaven) I knew that...well, I might not be the best hostess upon our return.  And since everyone comes over to drink the bottles we bought throughout the day (totally unnecessary) I needed to have something to serve. But, being me, I couldn't order pizza for all. So I spent the night before roasting vegetables like it was my job and put them all together for this fantastic dish that went amazing with a homemade caesar salad (using this recipe for dressing) and bottle of Adelaide Hills shiraz. 
Sorry I don't have the token served up picture, I guess I just wasn't thinking about that when it was served ;)

Roasted Veg Lasagna - you'll never go back to meat

3/4 pound medium fresh mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2 red pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 jar pasta sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
15 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1.  Brush veggies with olive oil and roast in oven heated at 350. (15 minutes, flip over, 15 more minutes, remove mushrooms and roast zucchini and peppers for 5-10 mins more)
  2. Prepare your cheese mix- combine ricotta, parmesan, egg
  3. Prepare your tomato sauce – mix jar of sauce with diced tomatoes including liquid
  4.  Put a ¼ cup sauce in pan
  5. Layer – 5 noodles, half ricotta mix, ½ veggies, 1/3 of sauce, 1/3 of mozza
  6.  Layer once more
  7.  Top with 5 noodles, rest of sauce and rest of cheese
  8. Bake covered at 350 for roughly 45 mins, uncover and bake for 10 mins longer (brown top and bubbly sides)

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

August 16, 2011

Spicy Pecan Blue Bites

Now this is one FABULOUS dish!

Like spice? Like blue cheese? You'll LOVE these. I am not going to lie, I know blue cheese is an acquired taste - one which I've been sooo lucky to acquire - and I also know not everyone likes spicy food. If you don't like either, avoid this bite recipe that is bursting with those flavours. 

This recipe is from my Aunt Gayle. I have one word to describe Gayle: FABULOUS! But, I digress. She, like the rest of my family, is a fantastic cook. If only I lived in Kelowna so I could enjoy more of her awesome dinner parties - which go far, far beyond fine food. 

I would serve this with with another small bites recipe or maybe a dip as an appie before dinner. They are very easy to whip up for guests and in my experience, they disappear fast. 

40 pecan halves - they need to be full halves and if you're like me you will want extra for snacking!
1 tbsp olive oil
A soft blue cheese like Gorganzola
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sugar
Honey to drizzle

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Toss nuts in olive oil. Mix cayenne and sugar in a bowl, adjust by adding more of either one to your taste preference. Toss nuts in spices until nicely coated. 

2. Lay coated pecans on a baking sheet and bake until toasted. The time will vary depending on your oven, and there is a fine line between toasted pecans and burnt pecans, so keep a close eye. Mine took about 10-12 minutes. Cool pecans fully.

At this point you can seal the pecans in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

3. You'll want to leave your blue cheese on the counter for awhile so it is soft. Roll a small ball of blue cheese with your fingers and press it between 2 pecan halves. I make the ball about the size of one pecan half. 

4. Line the "pecanwiches" on a serving tray and drizzle with a very small amount of honey. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

August 03, 2011

Mini Black Bottom Cupcakes

I'm not an avid baker. I may have mentioned before, and I won't hesitate to mention again, cooking is an art, baking is a science. (No, Mom, you did not come up with that quote.)

Where you can mix and match and swap and scratch (no rhyme intended) any ingredients in your cooking, with baking you have to be pretty precise. That is, of course, unless you're Julia Child or the likes of her.

When I do bake, however, I typically have one, Nathan has 2 or 3 and the rest of the treats head to either Nathan's or my own office. Nathan nor I eat much dessert at all, but we just don't want that temptation sitting on our counter. But I do like to dabble in baking here and there, and I do love dishing out treats to happy coworkers.

I was asked to be chairperson of our fortnightly (haha, another Aussie term, which means bi-weekly) staff meeting and I thought what better a time than now to bring in a treat. I immediately thought of these delightful little bites that I've never made myself but my girlfriend, Lara, has mastered.

Of course, although she has more than likely provided me the recipe, I couldn't find it, and the time change here meant I couldn't ask her. So the recipe I used is from America's Test Kitchen but it has been adapted to make mini cupcakes rather than their normal sized counterparts. I think with this recipe, mini is definitely the way to go - and less guilt is associated with your indulgence!

As I am sure you can imagine, the combination of chocolate cake and cheesecake was sure to impress and they disappeared before the clock struck 12 pm!

Makes ~36 cupcakes

1 cup cream cheese (8 oz) softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg white
1 tbsp sour cream

3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup water, room temperature
6 tbsp sour cream at room temperature
4 tbsp (half a stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 

TIP: get your cream cheese and sour cream out before you start prep, and melt butter to sit and cool!

1. Preheat oven to 350F, and adjust oven rack to middle position. Line a mini muffin tin with muffin liners. 

2. For the filling - In a medium bowl beat cream cheese, sugar and salt in bowl on medium speed until smooth, about 45 seconds. Add egg white and sour cream and beat again until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside. 

3. For the cake - In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add in water, sour cream, butter and vanilla and whisk until combined and smooth (don't overdo it). 

4. Fill the muffin tin with batter so each is about half full. Drop about 1/2 tbsp of filling into each cupcake. (You might play around a bit with portions, but you should have them almost full, they rise a bit but then fall in the center as per picture). 

5. Bake for 14-16 minutes, turning the pan half way through baking. The chocolate part will be firm, the filling might be soft. Remove from oven and leave in pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. These are good at room temp or chilled. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

August 01, 2011

Tortilla Soup

One thing I didn't expect when migrating across the world, was a big difference in food. I mean, I'd always heard that Aussies are so similar to Canadians and that the cultural shock is slim to none. This is true on most fronts. I have already gone into details about some of the different words they use, but I haven't noted a food type that is not nearly as prevalent as it is back home - Mexican.

And I LOVE Mexican food. In general, stores in Australia do not carry a large variety of Mexican style food or ingredients. The main brand you see is Old El Paso (of course) but others are hard to find. The lack of Mexican food is also felt in the restaurants. Not sure if you know, but apparently Adelaide has more restaurants per capita than any other city in Australia. I've seen 2 Mexican places, that's it!

Why would I have expected any different though? I mean, Mexico is as far from here as any place! I guess I didn't really think about it at all. And I must say, any lack in Mexican food is more than made up for in the abundance of awesome Asian restaurants. From Thai to Chinese to Indian and everything in between - you can find some amazing Asian dishes in Adelaide.

So, needless to say, I try and make Mexican food at home so we never have to miss it too badly.  This tortilla soup doesn't require anything out of the ordinary (so I can find the fixings at a regular grocery store) and it certainly brings a taste of Mexico to my kitchen which is miles and miles away.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped medium
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 L chicken broth
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (3 cups)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (you can grill, bake or fry, or use a whole chicken from the store)

1 avocado, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup green onions, diced
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos
Tortilla chips, crushed
Lime wedges
1.    Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and toss for about 3 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, coriander, chili and cayenne and stir for another 3 minutes.

2.    Add broth, tomatoes, bay leaves and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Add chicken and simmer for 5 more minutes.

3.    Prepare with toppings, or let people dress their own.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

July 24, 2011

Sarah's Chicken Puttanesca

Puttanesca. Generally meaning a spicy dish of tomatoes, onions, capers, olives and anchovies, and usually served on pasta. Those of you that know me might know now why I added the qualifier “Sarah’s” in the title. There’s no way I am using anchovies in anything. (I don’t care how you feel about that, Dad.)

We had this lovely dish for dinner last night with an Australian Shiraz. It was fantastic yet again. We have this one every once in awhile as it is one of Nathan’s favourites.

When I thought about the blog entry for this dish, I decided to use my handy Food Lover’s Companion, which I’ve mentioned before. Much to my dismay, the definition of Puttanesca in this book was rather off-putting and I didn’t find it appropriate for my blog at all. Let’s just say, it comes from the Italian word Puttana which means, um… a… lady of leisure, if you will. It goes even further about why it is named after that, but that’s where I am stopping. And, let’s just say, the amendment I make to this dish (mentioned above) eliminates the comparison completely…

Anyway, here goes.

1 tbsp olive oil
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion cut into 1 cm rings
12 garlic cloves split lengthwise
1 35 oz can of whole plum tomatoes
½ cup sliced black olives
½ cup sliced green olives (with pimentos)
2 tbsp baby capers
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 pinches red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Heat oil in large frying pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes each. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.     Lower the heat to medium low and add onion and garlic to the same pan. Toss until softened, but careful not to burn, about 8 minutes.

3.     Stir in the tomatoes, followed by the remaining ingredients. Add the chicken back to the pan and coat well with sauce. Cover and simmer until sauce is thickened and chicken tender, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve on pasta and prepare to take your praise!

July 20, 2011

Prosciutto Balls with Bocconcini and Tomatoes

Pu Pus (yes, pronounced "poo poos"). I'm not joking. Hawaiian for snacks, this is the term I grew up using to describe any sort of smaller, nibble-type snack. Basically, appetizers.

So sometimes when my Mom didn't have the usual homemade bread and cold cuts for a sandwich, she would pack our lunches full of pu pus. Pepperoni sticks cut up, cheese bites, etc. Sometimes when she didn't feel like cooking a big dinner, she would creatively decide it was a pu pu night. Gosh I feel embarrassed just thinking about how that sounds...

So, all grown up now, and the primary chef of my own household, I am responsible for coming up with all sorts of snacks, appetizers and nibbles for us, and our guests when we entertain. I like the cheese board, a homemade dip - for which I have many awesome recipes to share, and other bite-sized treats. I also like to serve a variety. This means that I need to have a few go-to pu pus that I can use to jazz up a cheese board, or complement a feta and sundried-tomato torta.

The follwing recipe is from Fine Cooking (I'm their most loyal follower and absolutely love their website and magazines!) and I just love how easy it is to whip them together and how amazing they taste. I have now served them to quite a few different groups and I've never, not once, had leftovers.

Whoever thought pu pus could be so yummy? (Did I take that too far?!)

8 pieces of prosciutto, sliced lengthwise in 2
16 pieces of fresh basil, sliced lengthwise in 2
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 cocktail boccochini cheeses, halved
Your best extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Lay the sliced prosciutto on your chop block. At the bottom of each strip, lay 2 pieces of sliced basil. 

2. Make a ball by pressing the cheese and the cherry tomato together. 

3. Generously salt and lightly pepper the balls before rolling up and finishing with a toothpick.

4. Refrigerate for up to one hour. Let sit on counter and drizzle with oil at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

July 04, 2011

Fresh Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce

Taste of Thailand Part 2

So after the visit to the traditional Thai fresh market, we headed back to Angsana's home to get cooking. After meeting her lovely little daughter who showed us, as she does all the "students," their pets - an iguana and a rodent of some sort! When we got into the kitchen, and our aprons, we were put right to work. We both loved how forward Angsana was, tossing the chicken to Dad and saying "go ahead and rinse this." She had no issues whatsoever in handing out directions.

In the making of three recipes (Tom Kha Gai, Red Curry Duck, and Fresh Rolls) she taught us plenty of tricks and lessons about traditional Thai cooking. Galangal, for example, is like ginger but has a softer taste and shouldn't be substituted. Or, when cutting lemongrass use it until you don't see purple in the slices, throw the rest out as it isn't as flavourful. She taught us that fish sauce is a staple in the Thai kitchen, they put it in everything (much to my dismay!)

We pretty much made everything all simultaneously, and just ate when it was ready. Whatever was leftover was put to good use - her kids gobble it all up when they are home from school! This recipe is for the fresh rolls, which I requested because I absolutely love them. Tha Thai version did not use a rice noodle filling like I've had in so many Vietnamese restaurants - in fact, when I asked if we were putting rice noodles in she laughed and said that we were already using a noodle to wrap them - duh!

These are so tasty and you can really play around with the innards. For example, I don't like cilantro (amongst other things...) and used just mint leaves in my rolls. We made a fresh sweet chilli sauce to go with them (another difference from the satay sauce you get in Vietnamese restaurants) and I must admit, it was far superior to its store-bought counterpart!

Serve these as a meal or an appie for company! You may need to double the sauce recipe depending on how many rolls you make. 

For the sauce: 
3 large thai red chilies, minced 
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt

1. Crush or pound the chilies and garlic together using a mortar and pestle or a meet tenderizer hammer. 
2. Whisk the sugar, vinegar, water and salt together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chilies and garlic, whisk. 
3. Simmer over medium to medium-low heat until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. 
4. Cool and set aside to serve with rolls.

For the rolls:
5-8 sheets of rice paper
1 carrot, peeled and cut into very thin strips
1/2 cucumber, seeded and cut into very thin strips
250 grams ground pork, cooked and drained
Fresh mint 
Optional: cooked shrimp or chicken breast strips, cliantro

1. Prepare all veggies for use. 
2. Soak rice paper in luke warm water in a big bowl for about 1 minute to soften.
3. Gently remove rice paper and place on flat surface. At one end, place a bit of every ingredient (you will play around with how good your rolling skills are versus what you can fit in the roll). Start rolling, pulling the ends in about halfway, before completing the roll. 
4. Cut the roll in half diagonally. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

June 26, 2011

Tom Kha Gai (Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

This is my absolute favourite Thai dish

Taste of Thailand part one. 

Just one of the many counters full of things I didn't recognise!
My Dad at the market
Well hello again! I have survived and returned from my week long holiday in Bangkok. I went there to meet my Dad. Since I've moved to Australia, our annual NYC trip is a bit far for me, so we decided to meet in Bangkok this year instead. What a fantastic trip!

The weather was very hot and humid, which made typical tourist-style activities a little uncomfortable. Patpong night market is hot and obtrusive as it is, who needs to add 35 degree heat and high humidity? So, Dad and I kept ourselves busy with some activities and a lot of wining and dining. We are both foodies, and so the tastes of Thailand were quite important! And we sure got a lot of tastes.

One of the highlights of our trip was a cooking class from *link*. This was such an awesome experience. We met Angsana, our teacher, at a sky train stop in the suburbs. She then took us to a traditional Thai fresh food market. Now that was interesting! From live frogs to eels to chicken feet and mushrooms that looked like human ears, they had it all and then some. Dad and I had previously chosen our three dishes, so Angsana led us through the market like an expert picking up every ingredient we needed.

Ill pause the story there, and continue it with the next recipe. For now, I'll share my absolute favourite Thai dish - Tom Kha Gai soup. Angsana taught us that this soup should go in sour, then taste sweet and finish spicy. That is exactly how it turned out. I add steamed rice to make this a full meal, although Angsana said you never add rice to soup, you can pour soup on rice.

250 ml coconut milk
4 stalks lemongrass, cut 1 inch long
8 pieces sliced galangal, about 1cm thick (this is a type of ginger worth finding)
1 cup water
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup straw mushrooms, quartered (use button if you can't find straw)
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
5-7 small red and green Thai chilies, sliced thin on diagonal
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
½ cup chopped cilantro

1. Add coconut milk, lemongrass and galangal to a medium saucepan and simmer 5 minutes.
2. Add water, chicken and mushrooms and boil until chicken is cooked, about 10 minutes.
3. Add lime leaves, sugar, salt and chillies and simmer for another 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat. Add fish sauce, lime juice and cilantro.

Taste soup. Does it start sour, ease into sweet and end with a spicy kick? If not adjust accordingly (with lime juice, sugar and chillies).

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

June 10, 2011

Gone to Bangkok - Back in 10 days

My Dad and I are headed to Bangkok where, amongst other activities, we will take a cooking class!

Grilled Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisps

You are going to want to try this. I mean it. When I first heard of grilled Caesar salad, I don’t know why I thought twice. But, I certainly did, because… who puts lettuce on a bbq?!  Having said that, now that I know what grilled lettuce is like, I don’t know if normal, non-grilled salad will ever be the same.

If you don’t want to try the grilling and don’t want to make your own crisps, then please do me (and yourself) a favour and use this dressing recipe anyway…You can kaput any Caesar recipe you know and just use this dressing because it is simply fantastic. An alternative salad that I make quite frequently uses this dressing on romaine lettuce, with aged white cheddar pedals, crisped spicy capicollo ham, croutons and fresh lemon.

Since this dressing uses three different vinegars, and quite a few of other ingredients, I think it might be a good time to bring up a common issue I hear from my fellow wanna-be-great cooks…the long list of ingredients is a barrier because you likely don’t have all of them and you end up having to go to the store and hunt for a bunch of things and rack up a big bill.

I know. The only solution I can offer on that is the more recipes you try...the more ingredients you have! Next time you see a recipe that uses three vinegars, no problem! If there is any time to spend a little time in the market and to challenge old favourites, now is that time!

You will love this crowd-pleasing-slash-wowing recipe, adapted form Leslie Stowe.

Parmesan Crisps
6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup olive oil
Baguette (to make as many crisps as you like (I usually serve two per person), sliced very thin (1/2 cm) on the diagonal – easier to slice if it is day old
Parmesan, finely shredded – enough to generously top each crisp

Romaine hearts (with loose outer leaves removed, core attached), halved or quartered depending on the size
Optional - Prosciutto, bacon or other ham – chopped and crisped
Lemon to garnish
Ground black pepper to taste

The Ultimate Caesar Salad Dressing
1/2 tsp hot sauce, like Tobasco or Franks
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 egg
4 cloves or garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil

1. Heat oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let rest for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 250F. Lay the baguette slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with garlic oil. Reserve the remaining oil. Generously top each slice with parmesan cheese and bake until edges are starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

3. In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients except olive oil and pulse to mix. With the blender running, drizzle the oil in slowly to emulsify. Leave dressing in blender until your lettuce comes off the grill. Pulse a few times to remix before drizzling over salad.

4. Heat your bbq to high. Brush each romaine heart with garlic oil. Grill each side of the romaine hearts about 10 seconds. Serve the grilled hearts with 2 Parmesan crisps and drizzle with dressing. Top with fresh ground black pepper and put a lemon wedge on the side.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

June 08, 2011

Tomato Risotto with peas and prosciutto

Soggy rice. That’s what my Dad said to me when I served risotto to the family over the holidays. Insulting? No way. That’s just my Dad. There are a few things he simply does not like, and risotto – much to my dismay – is one of them.

Though it is not one of my Dad’s favourites, there are many of us out here who LOVE risotto. In fact, as someone who likes to dabble in a fair bit of cooking, I think risotto is a very satisfying dish to make. You can get really creative and add pretty much any complementing array of vegetables, herbs and spices. The results are consistently pleasing.

Contrary to popular belief, risotto is NOT hard or complicated to make! I think that the fact you have to be around and pay a little attention to risotto is why a lot of people (including myself) have avoided it.  Well, when I finally tackled it, I found out that it is not hard at all and especially the more you make it – the easier it becomes.

This is the latest risotto that I tried, enjoy!

4 pieces prosciutto
5 cups chicken broth
Pinch of saffron (10 or so threads)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup tomato paste
½ cup frozen peas
¼ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

1. Crisp prosciutto in pan and set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add saffron and turn heat to low to keep warm.

When your spoon leaves a line on the pan's bottom,
that's when you know you should add more broth.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and leek and stir until softened, about 2 minutes. Add rice, and toss until toasted and it starts to make a clicking sound, about 4 minutes.

3. Add wine and tomato paste and stir until reduced, about 3 minutes. Add a ladle’s worth of the warm broth and stir until the liquid is soaked up and you can run the spoon along the bottom of the pan and see the bottom for awhile before the liquid re-immerses (SEE PICTURE). Continue to add the broth at this rate, and stirring continuously until the risotto is tender and all the liquid has been used, about 20 minutes. With the last ladle of broth, add the peas. 

4. Off the heat,  stir in the parmesan and butter. Top with crisp prosciutto and parsley.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

June 05, 2011

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Chewy and delicious!
My husband, Nathan, makes a fantastic waffle. A smart talent to have, I think. Maybe not one of the most important qualifications of a husband, but we can all admit, it's a great perk! Other than the waffles, he can also whip up a French toast like it's no one's business and his bbq skills are second to none. That's about it for his culinary escapades. 

One evening last week, Nathan suggested that we make cookies together. I laughed. Understanding my husband's indirect way of asking for things, I asked him what kind he would like and told him I would make him cookies the next day. That I did. 

His request: oatmeal. Raisins or Chocolate Chip: can he have some of each? No. Raisins. 

They turned out to be really good, and stayed nice and chewy. I don't know how long they stay chewy, however, because Nathan took them to work and none returned. I usually take that as a good sign. 

Serve with a glass of milk!

1.5 cups flour
.5 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp salt
.25 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (don't cheat and use instant)
1.5 cups raisins

1. Adjust oven racks to two middle positions and preheat oven to 325F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the first four ingredients together in a medium bowl. 

2. In a large bowl, using and electric mixer on medium, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined - about 30 seconds. 

3. With the mixer on low, at the flour in bit by bit. Then the oats and the raisins, ensuring the dough is evenly mixed. 
4. Using about 3 tbsp of dough, roll into balls and place on sheet about 2 inches apart. Using a fork or your finger, press down until about 3/4 inches thick. 

5. Bake until beginning to golden on the edges, about 25 minutes, rotating sheets 180 degrees midway through baking. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 10 minutes before serving or transferring to wire rack for cooling. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!