Sunday, August 18, 2013

Spicy Mexican-Inspired Dinner Party

 This dinner party featured lots of chili, cilantro, avocado and lime. A watermelon/tequila fizz was served to guests upon arrival, followed by shrimp appetizers. Th chorizo and shrimp were skewered and drizzled in a sweet chili oil, cilantro and sweet corn. Mains included fish tacos, chicken and veggie tacos stuffed the the brim with refried pinto and black beans, pico de gallo, lettuce and sour cream. Two salads included: black bean and mango salad, as well as a spicy cabbage coleslaw (home-made mayonnaise, of course!). A rich tomato-rice rounded things off. Unfortunately, I didn't have the benefit of fresh tomatilloes from our usual farm CSA this time around. For dessert: home-made vanilla-bean ice cream, dulce de leche and cayenne-chocolate shortbreads.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tomato Basil Tarts

Tomatoes, fresh basil from the garden, free-run organic eggs, sour cream, proper Parmigiano cheese, salt and pepper were poured into a savoury pre-baked crust, then baked once more. This was a perfect, simple recipe considering the heat outside and wanting to spend as little possible time cooking oneself in the kitchen. To achieve a pretty top, lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the egg and tear pieces of basil over. As the tart bakes, parts of the tomatoes will slip underneath the egg mixture and create the look you see in the picture. This dish would also be good using puffed-pastry as the base, or cherry tomatoes in place of the beefsteak tomatoes.  If baked in a pie-dish, wedge-style pieces would be nice to serve. I used a 9/13'' pan and so cut them into rustic squares.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Two Favourite Fall-Back Dishes

These dishes are fantastic for a few reasons. Each is fool-proof to make, fantastically healthy and versatile in serving. The raw kale salad can be dressed up with pine nuts, chopped apples, currents and more.  The hummus is great served as is, but for parties can be dyed red with the addition of roasted red peppers or made into a kind of tapenade by puréeing it less and adding olives and capers.

For the kale: Remove the stems and tear into bite-size pieces. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic salt. Massage the pieces with the dressing to help break down the fibrous leaves. This will make it more palatable as well as aid digestion. In the picture you'll see that I also added some shaved cucumber.  That's it. Super simple and delicious. The garlic salt makes a bowl of this addictive.

For the hummus, combine the following in a food processor and purée until desired consistency is reached: Chickpeas, olive oil, tahini paste, basil/cilantro/or parsely, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, water to thin out viscosity.   The measurements are totally up to you. Do what tastes good. I like my hummus nutty and lemon-y, so I ramp up the amount of tahini normally used and add more lemon juice and zest. Hot-sauce is also a favourite addition. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

3 Summer BBQ Side Dishes

No one has  trouble deciding on the main dish for a summer BBQ (unless you're vegan I suppose...), rather the side dishes always get short-changed. Boiled corn on the cob is delicious and potato salad can be dressed up, but there are so many other options! While most are concentrated on getting the perfect grill marks on their steaks outdoors, the accompanying dishes get ignored and end up lack-lustre. Here are three 2-minute side-dishes that can be prepared in the moments between running inside and outside to prepare your summer feast. Each has just a handful of ingredients, requires minimal to no-cooking and is fool proof to make. They show off farm fresh flavours in the simplest of preparations.

Zucchini & Peppers with Basil Oil: 

- 2 yellow or green zucchinis 
- 2 bell peppers 
- olive oil 
- basil 
Sauté veggies in olive oil, when finished, toss with more olive oil, finely chopped basil, salt and lots of cracked pepper. Easy!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Eggplant Parmesean, Foccacia, Antipasto Platter & Salad


Berry Sangria

There are a lot of sangrias out there, and as my old room-mate Jessica has come to learn, I pride myself in trying every variety, at every restaurant, and making them, on any occasion. Together we've had our fair-share of bad concoctions and have learned that the best sangrias are those which use good ingredients. Trying to hide cheap wine beneath even cheaper orange juice is just plain wrong. Once every so often, I like to think that the former won't repeat itself at yet another sports bar. Disappointment. Okay, so how to do it right: Use a good wine and squeeze the orange juice yourself! Obviously there's more to it than that, but those two things will give you the best possible foundation for add-ons. My favourite wines to use are fruity VQA varieties or full-bodied Spanish reds. Embellish your base formula with berry liqueurs, grenadine, (new favourite -->) lychee juice, and a simple syrup if you still need the sweetness. A bonus to squeezing the fruit juices yourself is that the final drink will remain relatively clear in colour. Store-bought orange juice will turn your drink opaque. Garnish with orange slices, berries and whatever else you fancy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Vegetable Curry over Rice

An afterthought dinner which made use of all the past-prime vegetables from the previous weeks' CSA. It included: onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, lentils, dried spices (curry, chilli peppers, ginger, garahm masala, lemon grass, etc) and a variety of fresh herbs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Watermelon Gin Fizz

This refreshing cocktail has a mere 5 ingredients, so if you have a ripe watermelon kickin' around, you can't go wrong! All of the following measurements are conditional on how sweet the fruit is and how boozy you want your drink to be.
In a blender, purée 1/2 a cut-up watermelon. Strain the juice once through a fine sieve, and again through the same sieve lined with paper-towel or cheesecloth. The idea behind this is to first, get rid of the pulp, and second, make the juice as translucent as possible. Chill in the fridge. While the watermelon juice is getting cold, make a simple syrup: 4 parts water and 1 part sugar and boil on the stove-top until it reduces to a light syrup consistency. (Don't let it turn to a caramel!) Chill the syrup as well. Throw some fluted cocktail glasses in the freezer and when you're ready to serve the drinks, do the following: Lime the edges of the glass and roll on a plate of sugar and lime-zest, fill each glass with 1/2 watermelon juice, the juice of half a lime, a shot and a half of good gin, enough simple-syrup to fix your pucker and top the remainder of the empty glass with seltzer. Voilà.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Steak and Salad


Salad #1: Quinoa, orange zest and juice, black and green olives, capers, sundried tomatoes flat-leaf parsley, salt and pepper. Serve warm and drizzled with olive oil.

Salad #2: Beefstake tomatoes, shaved red onion, fresh corn from the cob, shaved parmigiano cheese (or other strong cow's milk cheese), basil leaves and basil vinaigrette.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Here We Go Again

Finally home for the summer, a year of cooking deprivation is surfacing with much gusto! I'm glad to find that a year of school away from the farms, markets and kitchens of my 2009 "100 Mile Diet" challenge hasn't seen a drop in culinary prowess. (I wish I could say the same for guitar-playing). Reading a variety of cookbooks or novels by "liberal foodie intellectual," Micahel Pollen kept my interest aflame throughout the months, albiet dimmed on the backburner. Military life forces a very different relationship with food than what I was accustomed to, both by Italian heritage and my own love of cooking.