Dinner at the Neighbours

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to dinner at one of the neighbours whom I had known for years but never really socialized with. Well I was definitely missing out on great people!  Pina and Dan (and another of the neighbours Mireille) put on a great spread of grilled yakitori chicken skewers with steamed vegetables and roasted tri-coloured potatoes.  What a perfect summer meal!!!  We ate outside and enjoyed great company, great food and great wine (Mireille brought a very nice wine that was just perfect with the meal. It was a white with a slight sparkle to it – “Gazela”).

Dan BBQ’d the chicken skewers brilliantly using foil to avoid burning the wooden skewers.  The meal was finished off with delicious cookies homemade by Emily (Pina and Dans daughter).  What a great evening!

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Dinner Club – Korea

The other Saturday it was my turn to host Dinner Club. This is where a group of 8 of us (plus 2 host guests) gather for dinner and it is all about a specific country of choice (the host picks a country). The food is mostly prepared by the host and each guest brings a bottle of something to drink from that area (or surrounding area) and we each give a 2-3 minute presentation on a different topic. These topics range from economics, government, culture, arts and literature, customs etc.  It’s always a fun evening and we all go away learning something about that country.

Last night was my turn to host and I chose Korea as the country for the evening. I must say by the end of the evening I learned a great deal about a country I knew very little about. It was great and kudos to the guests for all their input!

 

Now for the food (which is pretty much what this blog is all about!)

The menu was as follows:

Salad with sesame dressing

Side dishes included – Kimchee (spicy pickled cabbage), edamame, pickled carrots and radish and sesame spinach. (Most of these items I bought – edamame is just steamed and recipe for spinach follows)

Main course – Seared miso salmon on a bed of grilled corn and steamed baby pea sprouts, Korean sizzling beef, jab chae – a sweet potato noodle with spinach and carrots in a soy marinade (a real favourite)

Dessert was fresh fruit – peaches and blueberries, green tea cookies and sesame cookies.

Recipes to follow after the photos.

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Seared Miso Salmon with Corn and pea sprouts (you can use anything as a base veg for this)

 Serves: 4 (I doubled this recipe but had extra left over)

Ingredients:

4 skinless, boneless salmon filets (I didn’t double this portion as I was serving small pieces along with the other food)

1 cup white miso

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup sake (I didn’t have this so left it out)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil plus a few extra drops for sautéing sprouts and corn)

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (I grilled the cobs on the BBQ and then sliced the kernels off (yes I am Type A 😉 )

Toasted sesame seeds to sprinkled over before serving (I also crumbled some roasted nori on top)

 

Directions:

Place salmon in a shallow dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together miso, mirin, sake, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Reserve 5 tablespoons of the mixture, cover, and refrigerate. Pour remaining mixture over salmon, cover, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

In a large nonstick pan, add ½ cup of water and a drop or two of sesame oil. Steam pea sprouts till wilted, about 2 minutes. Take sprouts out and pat dry. Add canola oil and a few drops of sesame oil to the pan. Add corn and pea sprouts and sauté another 4 minutes until flavoured. Toss in scallions and reserved miso sauce. Mix gently to warm through and set aside, keeping warm.

Heat some canola oil in the same pan. Remove salmon from marinade and shake off any excess. Place filets in a single layer in pan and sear until centre is no longer raw. Divide corn and sprout mixture among four plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

 

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Sesame Spinach

Ingredients:

1 lb. spinach, stemmed and washed (16 cups)

2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil

1 Tbs. soy sauce

Toasted white sesame seeds for garnish

1 tsp. plain rice vinegar

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Mix (whisk) all ingredients (except spinach) in a medium bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spinach in the boiling water, stirring, just until bright green and wilted (this doesn’t take long). Transfer the spinach to a colander. Drain well and squeeze or press out excess water. Using your fingers, loosen the spinach slightly as you transfer it to a medium bowl.

Mix the spinach with the ingredients in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld. Return to cool room temperature before serving. (The spinach is best served on the day it’s made). Photo is a bit blurry – my apologies but had to shoot fast as people were going to dig in!

 

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Korean sizzling beef

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1/4  cup soy sauce

2   tablespoons sugar

2   tablespoons dry white wine

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 narrow 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 scallions thinly sliced on an angle

Steamed rice, for serving

 

Directions:

Using a Ziplock bag, add all ingredients without the beef. Mix ingredients in the bag then add the thin slices of beef. Seal bag and marinate overnight turning the bag on occasion to ensure the mixture saturates the beef.

Set the BBQ to med high heat (about 300 F) and grill the beef slices (this sounds tedious but they only take about a minute per side).

Serve beef with some rice on a plate and scatter scallions over top.

Last image is the Jab Chae which I purchased as I really wasn’t sure I could make it.

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Reunion Dinner

I had dinner Friday evening with a friend whom I haven’t really seen in several years. Ginny is an amazing chef so when we ran into each other after all those years and she invited me to dinner Friday evening how could I refuse?

Dinner consisted of veal tenderloin (which I have never before seen), grilled sweet potatoes, grilled corn on the cob (soaked in water for 15 minutes with the husks, then thrown on the grill for 15-20 minutes until cooked and the husked are getting blackened), steamed broccoli and a fabulous salad which included beets, onion, massaged kale (yes you read that correctly – you massage the kale until it breaks down the tough fibres and it becomes easily chewable and soft. Wonderful technique – see I knew I would learn something new having dinner with her ;-). The rest of the salad had walnuts, romaine lettuce, chopped apple and the dressing was made with walnut oil.  The second thing I learned at dinner….Walnut oil is fabulous! I must get some as it has such a lovely nutty flavour that enhances the dressing and salad and I am sure anything else you put it on.

Dinner was really nice and a real catch up on a beautiful evening.  Great way to spend Friday night in my books!  Thanks Ginny!

 

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Grilled Chicken with Goat Cheese and Roasted Peppers

I’m having some friends over on Sunday night for dinner and since our weather has been so wonderful I am planning on eating outside and grilling our dinner. I wanted to try making the dish I was planning on serving first to see how it tasted. It turned out well and I think I will have this on Sunday night.

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To make this chicken dish, I just butterflied the chicken breast and put some goat cheese in the middle along with some roasted sliced red peppers. Fold it over and use toothpicks to hold it tougher so the cheese doesn’t all ooze out while you are cooking.  When it’s on the plate just drizzle some balsamic glaze (buy it in a bottle) over top. Simple.

The sweet potatoes I slice in rounds and put them in a ziplock bag with some olive oil and black pepper. Then put them on the grill and BBQ till each side has grill marks and the potatoes are somewhat soft.

 

I made a similar dish Friday for dinner with my friend Richard – just easy grilling chicken breasts and sweet potatoes.  Nothing fancy but tasted great. I just marinate the chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil, black pepper and garlic. To add a spark of flavour I add a tiny sprinkling of maple sugar on one side just to help it caramelize a bit. I love the flavour BBQ gives to food (and I love the low mess and clean up too!)

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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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Spice Blends from The New York Times

My friend Peter shares a love of cooking and he is always sending me interesting links about food and food blogs.  This time he sent me something that I had to share.  It is a series of instructions on how to make your own spice blends. These come from the New York Times (including the photograph).

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/05/04/magazine/mag-04Eat-Spices.html?_r=2

I have one or two blends that I make for using on a variety of foods – my favourites being a blend of cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, chilli pepper and several other spices like mustard powder and a bit of sea salt.  The beauty of spice blends is that you can make them whatever you like.  I love Middle Eastern flavours so I tend to cook using many of those spices. Others prefer more of a BBQ flavour so they mix that style together.  Find a blend you like and experiment with it.  My only recommendation is that you don’t go overboard with one spice even if it is your favourite – it could wind up overpowering the flavour of the food.  Aim for a balance of flavours and you will be surprised at how much it adds to your cooking.

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Leftover Brisket with Friends

As many of you who read this blog will have figured out by now, I love sharing food with friends.  It is one of my favourite things to do.

This time the sharing took place with my friends and neighbours just a couple of doors over. Zannat (who writes a great blog I follow “food 4 happiness“), made steamed collard greens with garlic – of course anything made with garlic in my books has to be good. I brought over leftover BBQ brisket and sweet potato and cauliflower mash.  The great thing about brisket is, it is always better the next day or even two days after. Below is how I made the potato mash.  See the beef brisket link above for the brisket recipe.

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Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash – perfect comfort food

1 potato per person

1 handful of cauliflower pieces per person

Boil or steam both the above ingredients till soft enough to mash (you may need to drain them well so mash is not too watery)

Combine both in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of yogurt and a handful of grated old cheddar cheese (yes that is the secret ingredient!)

I use a hand mixer to really blend the ingredients well. Mix till fluffy and there are no lumps.

Serve and enjoy!

Dinner Club at Jocelyn and Bills’

Argentina was the country of choice for our dinner club evening at Jocelyn and Bills’.  What a spread!  While there are usually 8 of us plus up to 2 additional guests, there was enough food to feed an army. And what amazing flavours of food!.

We had tomatoes dry grilled till blackened on one side – then sliced cross hatched with black pepper sprinkled over them.  The tomatoes were so juicy drizzled with a bit of olive oil and some fresh oregano leaves sprinkled on top.

tomatoes grilling

There were endives seared in red white vinegar and melted sugar – sounds very sweet but it actually just gave a hint of sweetness as the melted sugar didn’t stick but slightly moistened the endives.  Oh sooo goood!

tomato and leek

Other appetizers included a piece of provolone with cracked pepper and chilli peppers heated in a pan until softened and then cut and spread on small pieces of baguette.  This was outstanding.  Another starter was a platter of soft pears peeled and sliced served with prosciutto and topped with chopped parsley and olive oil (I think that was the herb topping?) There were sliced potatoes (mandolin thinly sliced), empanadas, and chimichurri sauce and other delicacies served as well.

pear and procuitto

Then the main course  – meat – which is what is served in Argentina in abundance.  We had amazing grilled steaks and sausages.  A meal to remember!

stak and sausange

And on top of all this amazing food – we all did a presentation on a slice of Argentina. In the end we walked away stuffed and learned on all things Argentinian.  Fabulous evening.

Summer dinner with Fern and Ian

Fern is my oldest friend – we have known each other since we were 8 years old (just a few years ago really 😉 )

I took a half day off work on a Friday and hung out with Fern in her lovely swimming pool after which we made dinner for her family . It was a lovely day with a perfect ending – good food and good company.

The menu was simple – fresh salad topped with feta, mixed red and white quinoa with grilled onion, red pepper and a bit of parmesan cheese, grilled marinated salmon and fresh corn on the cob just boiled.  While simple, the food was fresh and delicious.  Cooking with friends is a great way to spend time.

summer dinner at Fern and Ians

red & white quinoa and veg

salad with feta