Friday, June 30, 2017

Canada Day Strawberry Gelato: Celebrating 150 Years

Making homemade gelato is enormously gratifying, especially during the hot humid months of summer. This recipe takes full advantage of Ontario's bounty of plump sweet red strawberries, and the results are absolutely delicious — bursting with berry goodness. Just three simple ingredients: strawberries, sugar and cream, a couple of minutes, a good quality Gelato machine, and you're on the way to creating your own personal range of signature desserts. Full of flavour, this easy and delicious gelato recipe is one of my favourites, and makes a cool end to any Canada Day celebrations!

Puréed with water and sugar until smooth 

Mixed with cream and poured into my Nello Gelato machine and turned on for 40 minutes

Strawberry Gelato
Makes 1 quart

1 1/2 lb strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1/2 cup sugar 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Place the strawberries and 1/2 cup sugar into a food processor and blend until they're well combined. Then add the cream and process until well blended, about 2-3 minutes. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a Gelato machine and freeze 35-40 minutes. The gelato can be stored for 2-3 days in the freezer.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Grilled Calamari & Green Lentils: Healthy & Delicious

Lightly smokey and sinfully succulent, this Grilled Calamari with Smoked Paprika and Lime Lentils is a healthy and delicious choice for a light lunch or heart smart summer dinner. Nestled on a bed of tangy green lentils infused with fresh squeezed lime juice, minced shallots and olive oil, the smoked paprika rubbed calamari is quickly grilled on an outdoor barbecue over medium-high heat, until it becomes lightly charred and warmed through. Served with a handful of sautéed cherry tomatoes and garnished with a tumble of baby arugula, this nutritional fibre-rich dish is ideal for svelte summer dining — it fills you up, not out.

Grilled Calamari with Smoked Paprika & Lime Lentils 
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Nigel Didcock

8 whole calamari, tubes and tentacles
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup French green du puy lentils
1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 shallot, minced 
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
12 grape tomatoes
1 bunch baby arugula or mâche, for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste

Place the lentils into a strainer and rinse under cool running water. Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan, then add the lentils. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 18-20 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, drain and cool the lentils, then, finish with freshly squeezed lime juice, minced shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper, and set aside.

Place the cherry tomatoes in a small sauté pan and cover with olive oil. Add a clove of garlic and three basil leaves. Bring the oil to a simmer, then remove the pot from the stove, cool, strain and set aside.

To clean the calamari, pull the tentacles away from the body of the squid, removing the ink sac, beak and cartilage. Cut the tentacles off at the end of the beak, reserving the tentacles and discarding the hard beak. Using your fingers, pull the clear cartilage out of each tube, tear the purple skin from the tubes and remove the wings, rinsing the tubes very well, to ensure the insides are clean. 

To create an accordian-style look, place the handle end of a wooden spoon into each tube. Ensure the dowel is at the top length of the tube, then slice the squid to create an accordion appearance — the portion of the squid where the dowel has been inserted will keep the squid intact. Rinse the calamari body and tentacles under cold water and dry with paper towels, then marinate in the smoked paprika for 45 minutes. To cook the calamari, place the bodies and tentacles on a preheated outdoor grill over medium high heat until tender and lightly charred. Be careful bot too overcook them as the meat will become tough and rubbery — less in more!

To serve, spoon a portion of lentils into the middle of each plate and top with 2 calamari and tentacles. Garnish the dish with a handful of watercress, a drizzle of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and finish with three marinated tomatoes around the edge of each plate.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Historic Old Mill Inn: Lunch Buffet on the Humber

Nestled along the thickly wooded slopes of the Humber River Valley, the historic Old Mill Inn offers a full-service spa and elegant fine dining with Executive Chef Martin Buehner at the helm. The iconic 4-star Tudor-style mill house hotel set amid beautiful gardens and just minutes from downtown Toronto, is famous for its traditional English afternoon tea which has been served since 1914 and features the customary cream, jam and scones. The Old Mill underwent a series of renovations in the early 1970s, with great attention made to authentically restore the original Dining Room, Garret and Humber Rooms. The old Print Room was restored and a new Tea Room added. Present-day proprietor Michael Kalmar took ownership of The Old Mill in 1991, and after significant restoration and reconstruction, The Old Mill reopened in 2001 with over 50 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites. During the week, The Old Mill serves an impressive luncheon buffet in the Inn's historic dining room, with restored flagstone floors and high wood beamed ceiling. With a wide selection of appetizers, salads, hot dishes and desserts, the Old Mill's luncheon buffet has something for everyone, including hot and cold seafood, smoked fish, pasta and carving station featuring a roasted pork loin and handsome prime rib of beef. Also featuring a fine à la carte menu, the prettiest spot to dine is in the bright and sunny Terrace Room overlooking the Inn's picturesque garden patio and gurgling water fountain. 

The Old Mill's outdoor garden patio

The bright and sunny Terrace Room overlooking the Inn's picturesque garden patio

Red Begonia Centrepiece

The Old Mill Grand Luncheon Buffet

Tomato and Bocconcini Salad

Chilled Poached Mussels

Smoked Salmon with capers

Poached Shrimp

Calamari with Asian Slaw

Selection of Fresh Fruit

Cheese Board

Plum and Streusel Tart

Shepherds Pie
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Martin Buehner

1 onion peeled and chopped
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lb minced beef
1 tbsp of bovril, dissolved in a little hot water
3 tbsp of worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs of thyme 
1 tsp tomato purée
3 carrots, peeled and diced
14 fl oz chicken stock
1 handful chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

3 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
7 fl oz single cream
4oz butter
1 large egg yolk 

In a large pan, gently sauté the onion in the vegetable oil for about 10 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the minced beef a little at a time and cook until browned. Then add the Bovril water, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, tomato purée, carrots, stock and season with some salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 50 minutes, then transfer to a pie dish ready for the mashed potato.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, then return to the pan and add the cream, butter, egg yolk and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Mash well, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover the mince mixture with the potato and run a fork over the top for decoration. Place in an oven preheated to 350°F for 20 minutes or until the potato is nicely browned.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve. You can prep this dish in advance, leave to cool and then reheat later, although will need more time in the oven — about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grilled Pork Chops with Rosemary & Lemon Zest

These moist and tender bone-in pork chops marinated in a fragrant mixture of fresh rosemary, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest for at least one hour before being grilled, are a succulent entrée, and delicious served along with grilled zucchini or local Ontario asparagus. Juicy and flavourful, grilled lean pork are relatively low in calories, have far less cholesterol than red meat, and are a rich source of protein, vital for ones overall health.

Grilled Pork Chops with Rosemary and Lemon Zest
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 bone-in pork loin chops, 3/4-inch thick

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, fresh rosemary, lemon zest and season with Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper. Pour the marinade over the pork and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, turning occasionally. Preheat an outdoor BBQ to medium high then grill the chops over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes per side or until a thermometer reads 145°F, then allow the meat to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sushi Kaji: Toronto's Ultimate Omakase

Omakase comes from the Japanese term "to trust", and dining Omakase-style means just that — allowing the chef to present a sampling of their favourite selections. Considered to be one of the top Omakase experiences in Toronto, Sushi Kaji has only 30 seats and reservations are absolutely required, often months in advance, with the best seats being those at the bar facing the open sushi prep area, where chef Mitsuhiro Kaji surgically slices through glistening slabs of fish flown in that morning directly from Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. Reserving a spot at the bar more than two months before, we were front row centre to the cooking theatre of chefs Kaji and Takeshi Okada, to savour Sushi Kaji's $130 12-course Omakase tasting menu which spans several hours and is prepared with only the freshest and highest quality seasonal ingredients — it’s impossible to be disappointed if you’re into the very best sashimi and sushi.

While Kaji is the undisputed maestro of the sushi and sashimi bar, the kitchen is Okada’s domain where he prepares zen-inspired courses which include his sensational Tuna and Avocado Spicy Salad with flash fried lotus root, Fried Chicken Katsutu with sweet onions, Grilled Ocean Trout with Brown Butter Yuzu Sauce and ultra-umami Wagyu Steak from Kagoshima. The fish and seafood are hand sliced by Chef Kaji, and garnished by his 'shefuashisutanto', or trusted chef's assistant, and served with Sushi Kaji's homemade soy sauce, guided by Chef Kaji's directions as to which sushi morsels to dip into the soy, and which not. A selection of sake and plum wines are a delightful accompaniment to the Omakase dining experience, which are only upstaged by Chef Kaji's playful personality, deft knife skills and the most wonderful fresh and flavourful fish — dōmo arigatō.

With an unspectacular exterior on the Queensway, Sushi Kaji is worth the drive 
to Etobicoke for Toronto's most celebrated Omakase

The modern interior with Chef Kaji at the helm

There are two Omakase menus and a succinct selection of Sake

A simple Zen-like place setting with napkin and chopsticks on lacquer tray

Japanese tea is served in handmade cups

Warm Okunhmatsu Sake

Tuna and Avocado Spicy Salad with flash fried lotus root was the first course of the Takumi Omakase

Fried Chicken Katsutu with sweet onions

A mound of steamed edamame is served with the Katsutu

Albacore Tuna Tatami served with grated daikon radish and broth

Sashimi with Moroccan Octopus, Japanese tuna, sea bream and amberjack served with wasabi 
and shiso leaves

Sea Bream with grated miso and micro greens 

Daikon, Carrot and Leaf Salad

Sesame Dressing for salad

Grilled Ocean Trout with Brown Butter Zuzu Sauce and Asparagus

While Chef Kaji slices the fish and prepare the sushi, his assistant is in charge of garnishing each piece, like the Japanese Spot Prawns

Japanese Spot Prawn Sushi

Chef Kaji slicing the fish for our sushi course

Flounder Sushi with julienned Shiso Leaf

Octopus Sushi with Garlic Sauce

Anago - saltwater eel - garnished with grated shiso and yuzu

Scallop Sushi

Chutoro, medium fatty tuna sushi

Mackerel with black garlic sauce

Wagyu Steak from Kagoshima 

Panacotta with Zuzu Sorbet

Iced Cream with red beans and fresh berries