Salmon Platter

I spent last weekend at my friend Victorias place where as I have mentioned we have discussions that try to solve the issues facing the world including economic, political and social affairs. If only we ruled the world – I think it would be a better place ;-).

Kidding aside we also always cook up some wonderful meals which is really what this blog is about. This time we did a salmon platter with some fabulous salmon fillets we got on sale.

Victoria has a great cast iron platter that we roasted some potatoes on (after parboiling them first to soften them), grilled some asparagus – fresh picked (by Victoria) and a lovely salmon tail fillet.

salmon dinner

The salmon turned out super moist and layers just peeled away. It was delicious.  We had marinated it with a bit of dijon mustard and maple syrup (1 tbsp of dijon and 2 tbsp of syrup). The potatoes were parboiled then put on the oiled platter and the asparagus was also done in the oven with everything else.

The potatoes took about ½ hour to roast (although I think in hindsight I would have gone a bit longer – perhaps 45 minutes at 375 degrees C). Everything else was in at 375 for about 15 minutes. The salmon was turned once at about the 10 minute mark.

I think the secret is that you put the cast iron platter in while the oven is heating up so it is hot when everything is placed on it. That seemed to make a difference in the timing as well.

After the 15 minutes we put everything on a platter and sprinkled the asparagus and the potatoes with parmesan peels then squeezed some lemon on top.  The perfect meal in my books.  It was absolutely delicious. I could tell because there was nothing left when we were done.

Shrimp, Quinoa and Asparagus (Risotto?)

So I thought I would try making quinoa like a risotto. In a deep frying pan adding the liquid a bit at a time like you do with a risotto rather than just pouring in the liquid and letting it cook.  My rational was that I wanted to add asparagus and shrimp to the the mix so that all ingredients would be flavoured and I could control the level of cooking more evenly.

The result worked out well and I had a lovely dinner with lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

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Here’s how I made it:

 

Ingredients:

⅛-¼ cup of lemon juice (depending on how lemony you like it)

1.5 tbsp olive oil

1 onion – diced

1 cup of quinoa (I use an organic white)

2 cups of chicken stock (approximately as I added as needed – you can also use vegetable broth)

1 tsp of lemon pepper

5 shrimp per person (more or less depending on size of shrimp)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus – about 15-20 stalks

 

Directions:

Dice the onion and put in pan with the olive oil. Sauté until cooked (almost translucent but not browned). Add quinoa and mix well to coat. Add the lemon juice and let it mix in. Trim asparagus and then cut into 1-2 inch pieces and keep to the side. Once the lemon juice has mixed in, add chicken stock to cover the quinoa and let it cook on medium heat. Keep adding liquid as it gets absorbed and after about 5-7 minutes test the quinoa to see how close it is to being ready. Add asparagus and mix well. Cook for another few minutes and then add the shrimp. I laid the shrimp on top of the mixture and added a last bit of stock which steamed the shrimp. Flip the shrimp over when they are cooked (you can also just put the shrimp in the mixture and stir it and the shrimp will cook in the quinoa). Once the shrimp is cooked the quinoa should be ready too.  If it still needs some time – take out the shrimp to avoid over cooking and making them tough and add a bit more liquid to the quinoa till done.

Plate and serve!  All together this took about ½ hour to make. (NOTE: I put some grated parmesan over top when serving to add a bit of saltiness since I don’t add salt when cooking)

 

Oh I almost forgot – leftovers for lunch the next day with my neighbour Zannat – on a bed of arugula with a light apple cider vinaigrette.

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More Party Food

In a continuation of the party I went to last weekend and catered as well – I am sharing the food that was prepared for 30 people.  First off the party was amazing – my friends Jay and Jonathan live in Cambridge Ontario and have a fabulous historic home on a huge lot so the evening was spent under a pergola on the deck and then on the grounds for a big bonfire as the evening got cooler.  Too much fun was had by all.

Last weekend I posted the stuffed dates and salad (truth be told the salad was for another event but I liked the way it turned out). This week are all of the foods I prepared.  Remember everything was to be finger food style so plates and cutlery were not a necessity.

Here was my thinking behind the choice of dishes I made. I wanted food that could be eaten with fingers (i.e. on skewers) and to cover the basics of salad, main course meat/fish, side dishes and then dessert.

The while I had the above order in mind – we put everything out together as it worked better for people to just come to the table and pick their choices.

The menu and recipes – this is a long list so stay with me on this…

First off salad skewers made with grape tomatoes, bocconcini cheese balls and chunks of baby cucumbers. Just before serving I drizzled some balsamic glaze over these skewers.

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Next on the list was smoked salmon with cream cheese on crackers with some crushed dried nori (seaweed strips) sprinkled over top.

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Then came Korean grilled beef skewers and the honey mustard chicken skewers.  Below is the recipe for the meat – the Korean Beef is now a new favourite – everyone went nuts over it.

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I did the prep work for the meat the day before and marinated for 24 hours in ziplock bags.

Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers

So the honey mustard chicken is simple – just mix about a ¼ cup of honey with about 1/4 cup of olive oil and about 4 tbsp of dijon mustard – adjust to suit your taste.  I also added a few crushed garlic cloves and some ground black pepper. I used 6 chicken breasts cut into thin strips lengthwise so there was enough to put on a skewer.

Korean Beef Skewers – I got this recipe from Food and Wine magazine but adjusted a bit:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons dry white wine – I used the same amount of chicken broth as I didn’t have any white wine handy

2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 2 1/2 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into thin long slices

1/4-inch-thick slices 16 scallions – I didn’t use these

Vegetable oil, for rubbing

Salt – didn’t add this either as the soy sauce had enough salt

1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, white wine, chopped garlic, toasted sesame oil, and crushed red pepper, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced flank steak and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate the steak for at least 4 hours or overnight. 2. Working in batches, grill the steak over high heat (I BBQ’d it) until the slices are richly browned and medium-rare, about 30 seconds per side. Put pieces on a plate and let them cool – then put them on skewers just before serving.

Next was mini turkey meatballs in a sweet chilli sauce – this is my usual baked turkey meatball recipe but just made them smaller and tossed them with a store bought sweet chilli sauce instead of tomato sauce and put some into a cup for dipping as well.

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Next on the menu was my tuna and sweet potato cakes but made mini size and a cup of 1% yogurt for dipping.

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I then thought I needed something else that wasn’t meat and what do people love more than shrimp? Again I had a craving for shrimp and chorizo sausage so that was the next group of skewers.

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These are super simple – I sautéd the sliced chorizo and put aside – next I sautéd the shrimp in some garlic and put them in a dish – then it was just a matter of putting them together on bamboo skewers (they looked better on the shorter skewers than the long ones)

The side dishes were baby stuffed potatoes where you just boil the baby potatoes, then scoop out the centre leaving a bit of potato to hold the shape and then mix crumbled cooked bacon, chives and sour cream with the bits of potato you have scooped out . Once it is all mixed just spoon it back into the potatoes.  This was quite finicky but tasted good in the end so worth while.

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Last of the main course food was grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.  Simple and easy – just toss the asparagus in olive oil, then grill them (I did them on the BBQ) and then wrap a couple of stalks in a piece of prosciutto and you are done.

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Finally dessert – you saw the dates in my last post (I will put in again just so you see them). I put fresh fruit on skewers so they could be taken away from the table and you got several pieces at one without a mess. Each skewer had a slice of pineapple, a green grape, a strawberry, a purple grape and a raspberry.  You can make these with any fruit you like.

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And there you have it the whole party in food.  What I am not showing is the amazing evening we all had.  Great company, kudos to the hosts and all I can say is “when is the next party”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer BBQ Dinner

I know you must be getting tired of my raving about Ted and Judy’s cooking but trust me if you were eating their food you would never tired of it!  Last week I was there for dinner on a lovely cool spring/summer evening and Ted BBQ’d simple chicken breasts and asparagus along with fingerling potatoes. Inside a fabulous lush salad was made by Judy with a dressing made by their son Jonathan (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in that family).

Simple meal but so tasty and cooked to perfection.  Moist chicken (albeit large – which of course just means left overs for me ;-)), Judy found something called seaweed asparagus (think that was what it was called). Tiny little shoots that look like mini asparagus but grown in the sea so quite salty.  She par boiled them and let them soak for awhile and the salt level came right down.  Very much a sea salt flavour as opposed to the stuff you shake on food though – so delicate).

For the potatoes – Ted roasted them on the BBQ then we added the softened garlic that was cooked with them and I mashed it and put it back over the potatoes which Ted then did a light “smash” too to create what you see below.

The sea asparagus was sprinkled over the chicken and the salad provided for a very green and healthy looking delicious dinner.  No surprise there – I figured I have never had a meal there that wasn’t wonderful – okay maybe the company has something to do with it too but truly the food is always amazing – such creative cooks – very inspiring.

 

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Pasta Dinner (with Presidents Choice Pasta)

I don’t normally eat much pasta but Presidents Choice (brand name in Loblaws grocery stores in Ontario) black label pasta has put out a commercial using their mushroom stuffed pasta that is mouthwatering.  I happened to be in Loblaws and saw some of this black label pasta and as I was reaching for a package of it to read the label a woman stepped up and loaded every one of the mushroom stuffed pasta into her cart!.  She left the pumpkin stuffed pasta and a cheese version on the shelf along with the style I bought which was stuffed with asparagus.

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I felt rather creative that night so here is what I did with the pasta…

Using a roasted garlic flavoured olive oil (which I mixed with a bit of lemon flavoured olive oil), I sautéed some finely slivered peppers with some pine nuts till golden brown. I then added a tablespoon of butter to make some brown butter. While the peppers and nuts were sautéing I boiled the water and cooked the pasta (only needs about 4 minutes). Once the nuts and peppers were done and the butter melted I tossed the pasta into the pan and mixed it all together.

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I then divided the pasta into two dishes (one for me and one for my friend Richard – because you can’t just eat this good a meal by yourself ;-). I had crisped some prosciutto in the microwave which I then crumbled over top of the pasta and peppers and then grated some fresh parmesan cheese over top.

Felt like we also needed some greens with dinner so using a Kale Salad mix I buy at Costco which is made up of kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and radicchio I added some crumbled feta cheese, chopped mango and tomatoes.

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All I can say is… Whoa! that was a yummy meal. All ready in less than half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Wrapped Asparagus

The other day I was rummaging around my freezer figuring out what to make for dinner. I found a tray of thin chicken breasts that were like scallopini. I remembered I bought them on sale for less than $4 (when I see sales like that I stock up and vacuum seal them). I also had a fresh bunch of asparagus sitting in the fridge. I knew I wanted to make something that incorporated both ingredients and then I remembered I also had some low fat old cheddar cheese (not old as in time spent in my fridge but old as in flavour 😉 )

I thought “how about wrapping the asparagus in the chicken lined with some cheese for extra flavour!”

Defrosting the chicken didn’t take long and here is how it turned out.  I got 4 wrapped pieces which is 4 meals along with a salad.  Not bad for a total of about $6 -$7 dollars. They looked great and where tasty too.

chicken wrapped asparagus

Ingredients:

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts thinly sliced and pounded (or buy them this way as I did)

½ – 1 lb of asparagus

Old cheddar cheese thinly sliced (or any cheese of your liking – goat cheese would work well too – I just used what I had on hand – use 1-2 slices per roll – it will leak out a bit but who doesn’t like melted cheese?)

Pepper to taste

1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Lay a slice of chicken breast flat on a plate or piece of parchment or any type of sheet/board – I have a bunch of those thin plastic cutting boards. Lay down 1-2 slices of cheese (or spread goat cheese) per piece of chicken. Place about 4-5 stalks of asparagus trimmed (it can stick out the bottom and top) and roll the chicken and cheese around the asparagus. Hold together with a toothpick or two – remember to remove these before serving.

Place roll in heated frying pan with the olive oil an sear all around. Once chicken is lightly browned or cooked outside all around, place pan in oven at 350 degrees (F) for 15 minutes. This will finish the cooking and make sure the asparagus is also cooked nicely. Remember ovens vary so if you need a few minutes longer then leave it in for about 20 minutes – shouldn’t need any longer though.

Remove from the pan and serve.  This whole dish took 30 minutes from start to finish. Now thats what I call “Cheap and Cheerful”!

Asparagus Risotto at Suzanne’s

The other night I was looking through the fridge and realized there was nothing to make for dinner. Coming to the realization that I may be eating a peanut butter sandwich that night, I was contemplating what to do when the phone rang. It was my friend Suzanne asking me if I want to come to an impromptu dinner at her place.  She too said she didn’t have anything to make which leads to her fall back meal of risotto.

I haven’t made risotto in ages but Suzannes is out of this world.  She went out and got some scallops and seared them to serve with the asparagus risotto.  It was a meal fit for a queen, so good with freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and a fabulous baby spinach salad made by another friend Ginny.

There are many variations on risotto but the main thing is to use a starchy rice like arborio and slowly add liquid until absorbed – including a cup of white wine 😉

You can add all kinds of ingredients – salmon, vegetables, mushrooms etc.  Good way to use up ingredients in the fridge…..

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I always forget about making risotto but after this meal trust me when I say it is now at the forefront of my mind.  Thank you my friend for a fabulous evening!

Dinner with Friends

Had dinner with friends of mine the other night on a perfect evening.  The weather was just great for sitting outside in their lovely backyard before going in to eat. The company was great and the food was outstanding!

To start we had this amazing goat cheese appetizer. I must try this recipe which I will show here – not sure which cookbook it comes from but it was a great.  Dinner was yummy BBQ’d steak with roasted tomatoes and asparagus with peppers.  Oh soooooo good.

 

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goat cheese app

 

So the above appetizer was made in muffin tins – much like a small terrine.

The tin is lined with plastic wrap and a layer of goat cheese mixed with some fresh chopped chives is pressed into the bottom. Then a layer of smoked salmon is added.  Next a layer of thinly sliced green apples and then another layer of goat cheese with some chives sprinkled on top. The cheese is put in the fridge and when ready to serve you pop it out and surround the plate with some capers. My friend put it on a bed of lettuce with was perfect as it was a nice texture with the goat cheese.

Below is the BBQ meal with the roasted vegetables – just a great summer meal!

 

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steak and mushrooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilling in the country

Spent a wonderful Canada Day long weekend in around the Lindsay/Peterborough area at my good friend Victorias place.  It was like a spa for the mind and body.  We had planned on experimenting with cooking up new food ideas so I was very excited.  Some worked really well while others not as much.  I decided to blog even the mediocre in hopes perhaps someone could recommend how to make it better.  Here goes several meals so keep reading after the first:

Brown Rice Paella (not your typical version)

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While this looks really good….it was lacking in intensity of flavour. We didn’t do the typical spicing which is probably why it was lacking in flavour.  Instead we opted to try lime and cilantro to flavour it for a lighter tasting paella.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice (we should have used instant rice but used regular brown rice as it was what we had)

10 large raw peeled shrimp

1 lb of mussels

1 cup of frozen green peas

Juice of 1 lime

1 lemon cut in quarters (to sprinkle over dish)

Fresh coriander

Directions

We marinated the shrimp in some lime juice and coriander first.

Cook the rice in chicken or vegetable broth until just about ready then add the frozen peas, shrimp and then the mussels on top.  Cover and steam for about 5 minutes.  Very quick and easy but the thing that made it taste okay was we added hot sauce to it on our plates.

Please feel free to comment any ideas you think would have improved on the flavour (other than the traditional style).

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Tomato and Feta Salad and Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Turkey burger

tomato and feta salad

This was amazing – We made these burgers in a way I had never made burgers before and low and behold they were awesome!!!!

We did not have any bread crumbs so we used large flake oatmeal instead.  Who would have thought!  Okay every gluten intolerant person probably knows this but we didn’t so it was amazing to learn.

No real need for instructions here as you just combine all ingredients which included the following:

1 lb. ground turkey

1 sweet onion – I caramelized the onion but you can just sauté it.

About 1 cup of large flake oatmeal

Dijon mustard – 3 tbsp

2 cloves of garlic minced

A splash of hoisin sauce

A splash of BBQ sauce

(use any condiments you have in your fridge that you think you might like)

A pinch of black pepper

1 egg

The mixture seemed very wet so we made the patties and put them in the fridge and like magic by the time we went to cook them (about an hour or two later) they had firmed right up! – apparently the oatmeal absorbs moisture (I know all you people that knew this are thinking “Well of course it does” but we really didn’t know – I am not an oatmeal eater so I never use it).

The fun part for us both was grilling on a tiny charcoal grill – after several attempts we got it going and that little sucker really got hot (we kind of charred a couple of the burgers in the process but they still tasted amazing).

Burgers on BBQ

Add to this a roasting pan full of baby carrots from the farmers market fresh that morning, japanese eggplant and asparagus topped with a bit of shredded parmesan cheese and you have a fabulous meal.

Grilled veg

What could be better to add to this meal than a salad of fresh tomatoes with feta cheese and basil from the garden fresh picked and you have the perfect summer meal. (oh yeah I also sautéed some mushrooms to put on top of the burgers…)

Lastly – for lunch Victoria made this yummy Niçoise salad with some fresh tomatoes, baby white potatoes, 2 hard boiled eggs, fresh quick cooked asparagus with a dijon dressing that was absolutely delightful!  So fresh and tasty.

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You now know pretty much everything we ate that  weekend 😉

Pretty darn awesome I have to say!

Leftover Chicken and Quinoa

Once again it is a great feeling to use up things in your fridge without throwing them out.  I had company the other night and BBQ’d vegetables (peppers, onions, mushrooms, asparagus and sweet potatoes) along with chicken breasts.  My favourite thing to do with leftover roasted veg is to make a batch of quinoa and mix it all up together and have that for lunches and dinners – I actually make extra vegetables when grilling so I can make this meal. Kind of my style of comfort food.  Below is that creation.  There is no real recipe except for the following:

Take whatever leftover roasted vegetables you have and chop them up. Put them into a pan of quinoa and liquid and mix it all together (yes that is right – I make my quinoa in a large frying pan as opposed to a pot – for some reason it never sticks to the bottom of the pot this way). Bring to a boil, turn heat down to minimum and cover for 15 minutes. That’s it – To be truthful I don’t usually plate it like this – I just put some in a bowl and hunker down with it.  Pure comfort food!

chicken and quinoa BBQ