Friday, September 28, 2012

Emeril's Cajun Shrimp Stew

With the crisp fall weather having arrived, so has the desire for warm and hearty dishes like this Cajun Shrimp Stew from Emeril Lagasse's latest cookbook, 'Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders'. In his tribute to single dish recipes, he shows there's nothing more satisfying than a comforting meal prepared in your most cherished pot or pan. And unlike some comfort food, this dish is warming, but not heavy. Lagasse initially gained fame in the culinary world, taking over from Paul Prudhomme as executive chef of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, which is where he began fusing elements of French, Spanish, Caribbean, Asian, and Lagasse’s native Portuguese cuisine. Later of course, he rose to become one of television's most iconic food personalities.

Emeril Lagasse’s tribute to one-pot wonders is available on Amazon

In his recipe for Cajun Shrimp Stew, a rich homemade shrimp stock makes all the difference, and provides a fortified base for the dish. The stock starts with cooking the shells from the shrimp being used for the stew, creating a good quality aromatic fish stock with layered flavours of savoury vegetables and fresh seafood. Left to simmer for about an hour, the stock is done. 

A slow simmered shrimp stock cooks for about 45 minutes

The secret to the recipe though, is getting the roux to the right colour — a little darker than peanut butter. It should take about 10 minutes, but browns quickly, so it's best to take your time. Chopped onion and garlic are then added and cooked for about 5 minutes, at which point the shrimp stock is slowly added to the roux and whisked until smooth.

The secret to the recipe though, is getting the roux to the right colour 
— a little darker than peanut butter

Bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, and salt are then added to the sauce and left to simmer for about 45 minutes. Emeril then suggests adding potatoes, but other root vegetables work well too, such as rutabaga, turnips, carrots or parsnips. Cooked for an additional half an hour, the sauce becomes rich and thick, with the shrimp added just before serving so that they stay nice and tender. Served over a bowl of hot steamed rice, and 'Bam!' as Emeril would say, you have a warm and delicious Cajun one-pot wonder.

Cajun Shrimp Stew
Serves 6-8

1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/4 cup minced garlic, about 12 cloves
10 cups shrimp or fish stock
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp cayenne
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
3 baking potatoes or other root vegetables, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped green onion, green part only
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves 
Steamed long-grain rice, for serving

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the flour. Whisk to combine and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until a medium roux is formed, about 10 minutes. It should look a bit darker than peanut butter. If the roux begins to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and take your time. It's important that the roux not be burned or the stew will have a bitter taste.

As soon as the roux is the right color, add the chopped onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, little by little, and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Add the bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, and 4 teaspoons of the salt and reduce the heat so that the sauce just simmers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the floury taste is gone, 30 to 45 minutes.

Add the potatoes and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender and the sauce is thick and flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Add a bit of water or chicken broth to thin the gravy should the stew get too thick during the cook time. The sauce is meant to be thick and rich but not pasty.

Toss the shrimp with the remaining half teaspoon of salt. Stir the shrimp, green onion, and parsley into the stew and continue to cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning to taste if necessary. Serve in warmed bowls over hot rice.

Rich Shrimp Stock
Makes 12 cups

1 to 1 1/2 lb shrimp shells and heads
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
14 cups water
1 large onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped 
1/2 cup roughly chopped celery
2 small carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black peppercorns
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large sprigs fresh parsley

Rinse the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water and allow to drain. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are pink and toasty-fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes. 

Add the water and all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a slow simmer until the stock is flavourful, 45 to 60 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely. 

Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using. The stock can also be placed in airtight containers and frozen for up to several months.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Louisiana Cajun Shrimp with Chipotle Mayonnaise

While shrimp may be small in size, they're huge in terms of nutritional value. A rich source of lean protein, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, shrimp are low in fat and calories and are also carb-free. A fiery twist on the Creole classic, these Spicy Louisiana Cajun Shrimp with Chipotle Mayonnaise are positively bursting with flavour with a zingy combination of Cajun seasoning, chipotle peppers, a little brown sugar and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Allowed to marinate for at least an hour before either being baked, sautéed or grilled on the barbecue, these Spicy Cajun Shrimp are a quick, easy and delicious appetizer to enjoy anytime with drinks, especially when served with a bowl of rich and creamy Chipotle Mayonnaise.

Spicy Louisiana Cajun Shrimp with Chipotle
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tail shell intact
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning - homemade or store bought
1/2 tbsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped

1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 lemon or lime, sliced in wedges for garnish
Salt and pepper, for seasoning

In a large bowl, toss together the shrimp with the olive oil, Cajun seasoning, brown sugar and chopped chipotles in adobo sauce, and mix well to fully coat the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Baking: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread out the marinated shrimp onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the shrimp curl up and turn pink, about 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a garnish of lemon or lime wedges.

Grilling: Preheat an outdoor grill to medium and barbecue shrimp until they curl up and turn pink.

Sautéeing: Preheat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and once hot add the shrimp, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side.

Cajun Spice Mix
Makes 1 cup 

5 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder

For the Cajun spice mix, stir all ingredients together well in a small bowl to blend. Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag for maximum freshness.

Chipotle Mayonnaise
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup mayonnaise
3 canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tbsp adobo sauce
1/2 lime, juice

Add all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stir Fried Gai Lan with Garlic & Oyster Sauce

Gai lan is commonly referred to as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale, and is classified in the family of vegetables that includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale. Prized for its tender stems and large delicate leaves, gai lan can be eaten fresh, boiled, steamed or stir-fried, although Stir-Fried Gai Lan with Garlic is the popular classic featured in many Chinese restaurants and Dim Sum carts. Simply stir-fried on high heat with a little garlic, chopped ginger, salt, fish sauce and oyster sauce for just a few minutes, the greens cook very quickly, with a slurry of cornstarch and water added at the end to thicken the sauce. Crunchy and flavourful with a delicate scented fragrant broth,
 this is a quick and easy dish that can also be spiffed up with fresh prawns, scallops or mixed mushrooms for a healthy and nutritious entrée anytime of the week.

Stir Fried Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) with Garlic & Oyster Sauce
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 bunch of gai lan
1 1/2 tbsp of canola oil

3 cloves garlic, minced
6 thin slices of ginger

1 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp oyster or hoisin sauce

1 pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon cornflour

Prepare the gai lan by first trimming off the tough ends, then washing and separating the leaves from the stems, and chopping the stems into 2 to 3-inch lengths. Heat up a wok, add some oil and fry the garlic and ginger for about 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Add the gai lan stems, 1/4 a cup of water and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the stems turn a nice dark green colour. Add in the gai lan leaves and stir fry for 20-30 seconds. Then add in a little salt, fish sauce and oyster sauce. Stir-fry everything together, then thicken the sauce with some corn flour mixed with a little water. 
Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Oktoberfest: Biergartens, Bratwurst & Oompah Bands

Oktoberfest has somewhat strayed from its roots. The first festival in 1810 was thrown to celebrate the marriage of German Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, but it's become a decadent celebration of fall flavours and fine beers for Germans and other citizens worldwide. The 16-day festival is held annually in Munich, beginning the third weekend in September and continuing through the first Sunday in October. A celebration of German culture, Oktoberfest is an intoxicating extravaganza of beer, bratwurst and Oompah bands with many embracing the spirit of the festival, donning traditional deerskin lederhosen or embroidered dirndls. 

Hacker-Pschorr Biergarten, just one of the 35 giant beer tents 
stretching over 26 hectares in central Munich

First things first, though: beer. Strong concoctions were brewed for fair Ludwig and Therese back in the day, and this continued every year following for their anniversary. The tradition stuck. To decide which Oktoberfest brews pair best with menus, here's a simple rule of thumb: lighter Wiesen-style Oktoberfest beers with the first course; more traditional, malty Oktoberfest beers with the second; and Pumpkin ales with dessert. 

Bratwurst with braised sauerkraut and German-style fried potatoes

Depending on how much time you want to take away from the more liquid-focused portion of your Oktoberfest celebration, you might want to enjoy some traditional German dishes such as Hendl (chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezeln (Pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and of course, every Wurst (sausage) this side of Munich. Prost!

Potato & Sauerkraut Kartoffelpuffer
Makes about 30

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1-1/2 cups shredded peeled apples
1-1/2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
6 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup canola or peanut oil
Sour cream, cured salmon & chopped green onions, for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, apples, sauerkraut and eggs and mix well. Add the flour, salt and pepper, and stir into potato mixture. Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls into the oil, pressing lightly to flatten. Fry in batches until the latkes are golden brown on both sides, using remaining oil as needed. Drain briefly on paper towels. Serve on a warm platter as an appetizer garnished with sour cream, cured salmon and green onions.

Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 cups cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more if necessary
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
4 tbsp Butter
4 tbsp Flour
3 cups beef broth
Salt and Pepper

To prepare the pork, cut each pork chop in half through the middle to create two thinner pieces out of each chop. Place each pork chop in a ziploc bag, and with a mallet, pound to flatten to about 1/4-inch thick. Season each piece with a bit of salt. Then dredge the pork in the flour, dip in the lightly beaten eggs, and coat in the bread crumbs. Set the breaded chops aside.

In a large pan, over medium heat, cook the bacon until it just begins to get crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Set the bacon aside.

Add the mushrooms to the bacon fat remaining in the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes over medium heat until the mushrooms are tender and lightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms and set aside.

Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the bacon fat remaining in the pan, so that you have a very thin, even layer of bacon fat and oil. Add the breaded pork cutlets and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, over medium heat, until they become lightly browned and cooked through. Cook in batches, adding more oil between each batch, if necessary. Set the cooked pork aside.

If the pan has any burned bits on the bottom, clean the pan before proceeding or use a new pan for the following steps.

Add butter and flour to the pan over medium heat. Whisk to combine. Cook for a minute or two. Then, gradually begin whisking in the beef stock. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking frequently. The sauce will thicken. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the cooked pork cutlets, mushrooms, bacon, and any juices to the sauce. Gently move the pan to coat the pork in the sauce. Cook for a minute or two to reheat all components. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve with warm butter-sautéed spaetzle or German-style fried potatoes.

Serves 4-6

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp minced fresh thyme or chives

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, hold a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spaetzle; tossing to coat. Cook the spaetzle for 1 to 2 minutes to give the noodles some color, and then sprinkle with the chopped chives and season with salt and pepper before serving.

German-Style Fried Potatoes - Bratkartoffeln
Serves 4

1 1/2 lb small potatoes, boiled in their skins, peel, then place the potatoes in the fridge overnight)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 thin slices of bacon or speck, cut into small cubes
2-3 tbsps of olive oil & butter (50/50)
Salt and black pepper to season

Slice the cold potatoes into thin 1/8" slices, then set aside. Add about 1 tbsp of the oil to a large frying pan and heat gently. Fry the onions till soft then add the bacon pieces. Continue frying till the bacon and onions are lightly browned then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside for now. Add the remaining oil and butter to the pan and fry the potato slices over a low/medium heat, turning them occassionally. Allow them to brown lightly on one side before turning, repeating the process till most of the potatoes are golden brown. Once the potatoes are almost done, return the onion and bacon mix to the pan, season with salt and plenty of black pepper, then continue frying over a medium heat till everything is nicely browned.

German Chocolate Brownies
Serves 10-12

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup flaked coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cook the chocolate and butter over low heat until the chocolate has melted, about 6-8 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes, then whisk in the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Gradually add in flour, and stir until just combined.
Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, or line with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Pour in the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing as needed with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Once done, set on a wire cooling rack.

For the Topping:
In a large saucepan combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolk and butter and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Spread the topping over the brownies while still warm. To serve, gently remove the brownies from the pan and cut as desired.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Spicy Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup with Ginger

This rich, creamy and spicy Thai-inspired Butternut Squash Soup features bright orange carrots and luscious butternut squash with a splash of spicy Thai red curry paste, which come together to create a vibrant and delicious autumn soup. Simple and easy to prepare, take full advantage of all of the farm fresh Canadian produce available at the moment, to create this stunning, velvety soup — and the ginger accents the fall flavours beautifully.

Spicy Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup with Ginger
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 onion, coarsely chopped 
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, sliced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 2-3 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for garnish

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté until the onion softens and becomes translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the squash, carrots, red curry paste and chicken broth. Add a little water if needed so that the liquid covers the squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the squash is fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and purée with an immersion blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle with some sour cream or Greek yogurt and finish with a sprig of fresh rosemary, thyme or cilantro.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs

Spending a few minutes preparing a handful of simple ingredients for an easy and delicious Asian-inspired marinade gives this dish an enormous amount of flavour, plus a built-in sauce after the chicken is cooked. Just combine mirin, sake, soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, garlic, a little brown sugar and one red hot chilli in a large resealable plastic bag, add the chicken, and then let it marinate in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, pour the whole dish into a baking dish, place it in a preheated oven, and in 40 minutes you’ll have crispy, saucy, flavourful chicken with a thick tangy sauce that's gorgeous served with fragrant Jasmin rice or a cold Japanese Soba Noodle Salad.

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs
Serves 6-8

1 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
2-3 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in with skin

1 red chilli, finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Mix all of ingredients together in a large bowl with the chicken thighs, and toss well to combine to coat all of the meat. Pour everything in a large resealable plastic bag and chill for at least 2 hours or even overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the marinated chicken thighs on a large baking dish or tray and roast  for 35-45 minutes, basting and turning them once with tongs. To serve, place the chicken thighs on a large serving platter and garnish with sliced green onion, chilli and sesame seeds.

Cold Soba Noodle Salad
Serves 6

6 bundles (10oz) of Japanese buckwheat noodles
2 1/4 tsp sesame oil
6 tbsp rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 limes, zest and juice
1 orange, juiced
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp sriracha chili paste or similar, to taste
3/4 cup scallions, chopped
3 tsp sesame seeds

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook soba noodles for 5-7 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Add all of the ingredients together in a medium size bowl and stir to combine. Add the cold noodles, cover and refrigerate one hour. The flavours will meld and the noodles will absorb the flavourful liquid. Serve with an extra scattering of chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies

What could be more refreshing than a hot cup of Earl Grey tea in the middle of the afternoon to lift ones spirit and rejuvenate the soul? Well, perhaps a buttery shortbread cookie wouldn't go amiss. Bergamot oil, which is extracted from the fragrant skin of the sour bergamot fruit, gives Earl Grey tea its unique citrusy flavour and imparts a bright note to these tiny Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies. Delicately scented with finely grated orange zest and vanilla extract, the Bergamot is subtle surprise to this basic shortbread cookie recipe. I always pick up a tine of Early Grey tea from Fortnum & Mason whenever I'm in London. Light and sweet, these tiny citrusy shortbreads couldn't be simpler to make and are simply delicious — they also freeze well for future decadent afternoons.

I always pick up loose tea from Fortnum & Mason

Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen

2 cups pastry or all-purpose flour
2 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea leaves, finely ground
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest 

Crush the Earl Grey loose tea leaves in a coffee grinder or mini food processor and pulse to a fine powder. In a small bowl mix the tea, flour and salt together, then set aside. Cream the butter, powdered sugar, orange zest and vanilla together using an electric mixer, until the butter is light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

Transfer the dough to a surface dusted with flour. Divide into 4 pieces and roll each to 1-1/4 inch diameter logs and wrap in cling film. Tightly twist each end of wrap and chill in refrigerator for an hour or longer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cut the logs into 1/4 inch slices and place on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges are just golden. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack before serving. They also freeze well in an air tight container. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moroccan Chicken Stew with Vegetable Couscous

Couscous makes a light and fluffy bed for this aromatic Moroccan Chicken Stew inspired by the fabulous flavours of North Africa. Fresh onions, garlic, chickpeas, raisins, cilantro, preserved lemon and a fragrant mixture of exotic spices, combine to create a succulent and tender Marrakesh-inspired dish. Overflowing with sensational flavours, this delicious Moroccan Stew is heavenly spooned over a bowl of hot, cooked Roasted Vegetable Couscous for an exceptional meal infused with the spirit of the Kasbah.

Moroccan Chicken Stew
Serves 6

6 skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 onion peeled and finely sliced
1 1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 preserved lemon, rinsed thoroghly in cold water and quartered
3/4 cup green olives, pitted
1/2 cup drained canned chickpeas
5 tbsp raisins
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1 lemon, sliced

Pat dry the chicken thighs. Combine all the spices in a large bowl, then add the chicken, and toss to coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken marinate for  at least 1 hour.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 7 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Lower the heat to medium low, then add the garlic and onion. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the apple juice, lemons, olives, chickpeas, raisins and stock. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring regularly, until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

Serve the stew in a large serving bowl or platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro, mint and slices of lemon. Serve with Roasted Vegetable Couscous.

Roasted Vegetable Couscous
Serves 6

2 small sweet red and orange peppers, finely diced
1 small courgette, finely diced
1 small onion, sliced
Olive oil, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
2 tbsp roughly chopped cilantro
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, grated zest and juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the cut diced vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in oven and roast for about 10 minutes.

Place the couscous in a heat proof bowl and stir in all the spices. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil and pour over the couscous making sure it covers the couscous mixture completely. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for 5 to 10 minutes, until all the stock is absorbed.

Stir in the herbs, olive oil, grated lemon zest and juice. Fluff the couscous with a fork and toss with roasted vegetables. To serve, coat the inside of a small bowl or cup with some olive oil and using a spoon, fill a portion of the couscous to the top and press down to compress the grains. Invert the cup onto a serving plate until the couscous come loose and forms a small pyramid. Repeat for each plate. Present each plate with the couscous to guests and serve along with the platter of Moroccan Chicken Stew.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Badenjan: Moroccan Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip

Having bought a bushel of 20 large eggplants from Toronto's Little Italy last weekend, I started to explore a number of recipes to take advantage of our abundant harvest, and came across this tantalizing recipe by Nigella for a Persian-Iranian Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip, also known as Badenjan — an elegant, rich and creamy mezze. I've never been fond of baba-ghanoush, but this antipasto had an extraordinary layer of flavour and texture that was
thoroughly addictive. So easy and delicious in fact, we'll be making it every year, for it's now become part of our culinary repertoire. 

Nigella's recipe is a variation on a dish she read about in Najmieh Batmanglij's 'New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking & Ceremonies'. She says that she finds it hard to ascribe the origins of a recipe, or explain how she came to make something the way she does. "Sometimes recipes may be merely suggested by something I've read somewhere, and then I'll diverge from it. I find it impossible to cook without fiddling: which means all my recipes are refracted through the prism of my own tastes and prejudices. I wholly expect you to do the same!"

Borani Badenjan Dip - Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip
10 servings as part of mezze - about 2 1/4 cups
Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

3 small eggplants, about 1 1/4 cups when roasted, pulped and sieved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 fat cloves garlic, minced or grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp saffron threads soaked in 3 tbsp warm water

3 tbsp chopped fresh mint, to garnish or more to taste

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted, to garnish
Dribble extra-virgin olive oil, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Prick the eggplants with a fork and put them on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until soft to the touch. Allow to cool before peeling and mashing them, then leave the pulp in a sieve to drain.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until golden and then add the drained eggplant mush, cooking it with the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes over a gentle heat, stirring frequently. Take off the heat and turn into a bowl to cool and season with salt and pepper.

Add the yogurt to the cooled eggplant mixture together with the saffron in the now golden water, stirring together well. Turn into a bowl and sprinkle over lots of chopped mint, toasted pine nuts and a dribble of oil. Serve with warm pita bread or crisp breads.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Grilled Veal Chops with Lemon & Rosemary

Romagna is famous for its grilled foods, and the aroma of meats sizzling over a wood fire is common in the countryside. This simple and delicious recipe for Grilled Veal Chops with Lemon & Rosemary is at its best best when made with the freshest and thickest veal chops you can find. We stumbled across the most delicious veal chops at Grace Meat Market on College Street in Toronto's Little Italy last weekend. 

Served with a dry red wine such as Sangiovese di Romagna — Magnifico!

Not only has the Bielak family owned and operated Grace Meat Market for the past five decades, but they also run the slaughterhouse that supplies AAA naturally raised, hormone-free beef, veal and lamb, which means that the butcher’s case is always stocked with the best and freshest meat. They can also cut meat to suit the needs of the fussiest chef. For us, it has become 'ground zero' for veal chops. Served with a dry red wine such as Sangiovese di Romagna or Gutturnio, this dish is unbeatable served with a simple wild arugula salad and perhaps a small mound of spaghettini on the side, made with homemade tomato sauce. Magnifico!

Grilled Veal Chops with Lemon & Rosemary
Serves 4

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp fresh rosemary 
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 lemons
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 8-ounce veal rib chops, 1-inch thick

Using a paring knife, carve away the rind of 2 lemons and combine, in a small food processor, with the olive oil oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Purée briefly until it becomes a dense thick mixture, then pour into a large baking dish along with the veal chops. Using your hands, rub the marinade thoroughly into the veal chops, then let stand at room temperature 1 hour or refrigerate up to 4 hours, turning the veal occasionally. Meanwhile, slice the remains of the 2 lemons into thick slices and add to the veal marinade, tossing to coat.

Preheat the barbecue to medium-high heat. Remove the veal and sliced lemons from marinade, season with additional salt and pepper, and grill veal to desired doneness, about 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the veal to a platter, and garnish with the grilled lemon and additional rosemary sprigs. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 14, 2012

St Lawrence Market Chef Series: John Horne

One of the best kept secrets at Toronto's St Lawrence Market is its Executive Chef Series where participants can "eat, mingle and dine with the city's top local chefs" and enjoy a five-course meal complete with wine pairings. The third chef in the Market's 2012 season was Chef John Horne, Chef de Cuisine at Canoe. One of the most respected restaurants and chefs in Toronto, I signed up immediately and was one of the lucky few fortunate enough to get tickets to the coveted event.

Prior to his appointment at Canoe, Chef John Horne was the Senior Sous Chef at Auberge du Pommier for seven years, and had an integral role in the development of the menus and acted as a mentor for many of the staff, while working under the direction of Chef Jason Bangerter, who was the first chef featured in the Market's Executive Chef Series. Graduating from the Culinary Management program at Niagara College before joining Oliver & Bonacini, John spent a significant amount of time in London, England where he worked at Orrey Restaurant under Chef Chris Galvin and as Chef de Partie at Almeida Restaurant under Chef Ian Wood. He also completed stagiaires all over the world including Crillon le Brave in Provence, France in 2008, and Michelin-star restaurants in London including The Square and L'Escargot.

Chef Horne and his staff prep the kitchen before the 'show'

Toronto historian Bruce Bell was on hand to recount 
stories of Toronto and the St Lawrence Market

The menu for the Canoe's five-course dinner under Chef John Horne

Charmed with stories about Toronto and the St Lawrence Market by local historian and personality Bruce Bell, Chef Horne and his sous-chefs prepared the evening's five-course menu, which started with a delicious Maple Torched B.C. Salmon garnished with lemon emulsion, shaved fennel, sea asparagus, Kim Chi radish and a light horseradish cream. Light and delicate, the salmon was perfectly cooked and balanced wonderfully with the pillowy horseradish whipped cream. Each dish that Chef Horne presented during the evening highlighted different areas from around Canada, with the sea asparagus being flown in from B.C. every 2 days. Each course during the evening was paired with a different wine, which for the Maple Torched B.C. Salmon was a Prince Edward County 2011 Hinterland Sauvignon Blanc.

Maple Torched B.C. Salmon garnished with lemon emulsion, shaved fennel, 
sea asparagus, Kim Chi radish and a light horseradish cream

Chef Horne adding horseradish cream to the plates

The second of the five courses was a delicate Ontario Corn Panna Cotta served with truffled saucisson, lightly pickled Saskatchewan chanterelle mushrooms and garnished with a cumin scented yogurt and crushed corn nuts for texture. Chef Horne recounted a story how a truffle supplier who he used when was at Auberge du Pommier, kept approaching him once he became Chef at Canoe, to buy his European truffled saucisson. When Chef Horne told him that he only used Canadian produce, the fellow went away and developed a new truffle infused saucisson using Canadian Berkshire-style ham and his own canola oil infused with truffles. Chef Horne now uses his products exclusively. A deep rich Prince Edward County 2010 Norman Hardie Chardonnay was served with this dish, and is available at the LCBO for about $32 a bottle.

Ontario Corn Panna Cotta served with truffled saucisson, lightly pickled Saskatchewan chanterelle mushrooms, cumin scented yogurt and crushed corn nuts


As an entrée, Chef Horne and his staff created a fabulous Smoked Prairies Venison served with steel cut oats, wild mountain cranberries, seared Holland Marsh leeks and an outrageously delicious tourtière, made with a combination of bison, elk, venison, pork and foie gras. The wild mountain cranberries were rich and full flavoured from having been mulled in wine and spices beforehand. Not being particularly fond of cranberries, these mulled wild berries were exceptional. Interestingly, the venison had also been rubbed with elder berries that Chef Horne hand picks then toasts, grinds and dusts over the meat prior to being smoked. 

Everyone from Canoe worked as a team, ensuring a seamless evening

One of the sous-chef works on preparing some Niagara peaches

The attention to detail was inspiring, the flavours memorable. and his tourtière with wild game has jaded me forever from enjoying the Quebecois classic ever again. A 2010 Syrah from Lailey Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake was nicely paired with the venison — a lovely deep red wine with a rich texture and lingering finish with notes of black pepper, anise and mocha. Canoe's Senior Sommelier, William Predhomme, was in charge of the evenings wine pairings and offered a concise and informative background detail on each of his selections.

Smoked Prairies Venison served with steel cut oats, 
wild mountain cranberries, seared Holland Marsh leeks and mini tourtière boule

Next was the cheese course featuring an Alexis de Portneuf St Honoré mild triple cream brie from Quebec. Soft ripened with an incredibly rich, buttery and smooth texture, it seemed to just melt in the mouth. Served with Chef Horne's buttermilk biscuits, made using his Great Grandmother's recipe, the cheese was garnished with  drunken raisins that had been soaked in white wine, slivered celery, a drizzle of churned Gaspésie honey from Quebec and served with a glass of Quebec Ice Apple Cider.

Alexis de Portneuf St Honoré triple cream brie with churned Gaspésie honey, 
celery and Grandma Horne's buttermilk & raisin biscuits

The cheese course was served with a rich Quebec ice apple cider

The final coup de grace was a Peanut Parfait with Niagara peaches, Canoes peanut brittle and chocolate tuile — a gorgeous peanut butter and chocolate confection. As with all of their dishes, Canoe's ingredients are all 100% Canadian, so I was surprised when Chef Horne said that even the peanuts were local — from Kernels Peanuts in Brantford. Who knew? Canoe makes their own peanut brittle and peanut butter, salt roasting the Kernels peanuts.

Chef Horne putting the finishing touches on the Peanut Parfaits

Peanut Parfait with Niagara peaches, Canoes peanut brittle and chocolate tuile

A great way to explore some of the city's best cuisine by some of the top chef's, is the St Lawrence Market Executive Chef Series, which into it's 4th year, will hopefully be announcing next year's line up before the new year. Let's hope they do, because I'll be one of the first to sign up.