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.

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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.

Cooking with friends

Recently I was visiting my friend Victoria in the Peterborough area and we always get into cooking when I go to spend a couple of days there (We also talk about financial ideas, the economy, the psychology of people – great brain work out). Anyway, we decided to do a combo dinner where I would bring the soup and she would make the salad. I made my homemade vegetable soup with beans sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese- recipe below.

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…and Victoria made a wonderful spinach, pear and caramelized walnut salad.  Perfect dinner. The salad was from the cookbook called “The Pollan Family Table” by none other that Tracey Pollan (remember her – married to Michael J. Fox and starred in Family Ties? – click on link above for recipe).

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Vegetable soup recipe:

Talk about hearty! I used the vegetables that were in the fridge and usually I add some pasta to this soup but thought I would add white beans to give it more protein and fibre.

Ingredients

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 sliced medium sized carrots

2 sliced stalks of celery

2 small onions chopped

1 tetra pak of vegetable broth

1 large can of low sodium diced tomatoes

1 can of navy white beans

1.5 tbsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 handful of chopped kale (I buy a fabulous product called “Chopped Greens” which is a bag of frozen chopped and cooked kale.  I add it to everything and it is wonderful! – use as much as you want)

 

Directions

In a saucepan add the olive oil and the diced onions. Stir till translucent. Add the chopped carrots and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then add the diced tomatoes. Stir well and then add the vegetable stock. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Stir this and let it simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes. Then add the kale (since it is already cooked it doesn’t need as long). Cook for another 15-20 minutes and then add the canned beans. Sprinkle in the brown sugar (takes some of the acidity out of the tomatoes and adds a slightly sweet note to the soup). Let this simmer all together for another 10-15 minutes and you have a wonderful hearty soup.

I served it with some shaved parmesan on top and it was perfectly filling and warming. Just what you need on these cold cold days.

 

Breakfast the next day was one of my favourites.

I have developed a craving for poached eggs. I always loved them but used to make egg whites for breakfast every morning. Now I make a poached egg on a slice of toast with a bit of cheese as my go to brekkie every day.  The whole egg has all kinds of things that are good for you and if cholesterol is not an issue then I say go for it.  Keeps me feeling satiated until lunch. This time we shared an english muffin (whole wheat) and I used some baldersons 4yr old white cheddar cheese with a couple of slices of avocado. YUM!!!

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Braised Chicken Thighs

One of my food clients requested braised chicken thighs for a dinner. I didn’t remember making this dish before but though “how hard can it be?”

It was super simple in actual fact and the result was a very tasty dish layered with flavours.

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Ingredients (feel free to add anything you like to this – I used what was in the fridge)

1 tbsp of olive oil

Sliced mushrooms (1 pint container)

Carrot pieces – cut or slice anyway you like – about 20 small pieces

Rice – enough for 4 people

6 chicken thighs – boneless and skinless

¼ cup of sherry

Salt and pepper to taste

A dash of oregano

A dash of basil

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 onion thinly sliced (cut in half and slice each half)

Sprinkling of brown sugar (about 1-2 tbsp)

¼ cup of chicken stock mixed with a tbsp of flour (stir till combined)

Chicken stock – enough to cover chicken in pan – approx. ½ – 1 cup

 

Directions

Season chicken with a bit of salt and pepper. In a frying pan sauté chicken thighs till lightly browned on each side.  No need to over cook as they will be braising for a while.

Take chicken out of pan and add onions. Sauté them till they start to get a bit brown then add mushrooms, garlic and carrots. Add flour and water mixture and then add the sherry. Stir till mixed and then put the chicken back in the pan. Cover chicken with vegetables and liquid then add chicken stock to just cover the chicken. Add the oregano and basil and brown sugar. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour adding chicken stock if it gets to low. Chicken may start to fall apart but that is even nicer.

Make the rice while the chicken is cooking. You can use either white or brown rice as desired.

A Dinner Fit for a Fancy Restaurant

I’m not going to tell you where I had this superb meal….I want you to guess (okay I’ll tell you at the end of the post). The only hint is that I was dining at the home of my wonderful friends (who cook amazingly – that should give you a hint).

We started the meal with an appetizer that my friend (who shall remain nameless till the end) came up with in the car on her way home. She took meatballs that they made the day before with a rich tomato sauce and put one into a large cremini mushroom cap and topped it with some Jarlsberg cheese (and jalepeno peppers on a couple). Baked them and then served one on a small plate of baby arugula.  Amazing appetizer and not hard to make. I will be doing these at my next dinner party I think.

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Next her husband (who shall also remain nameless till the end) prepared pork chops Milanese (egg wash and bread crumbs with parmesan cheese – no flour). He pounded the chops till half the thickness and then seared them and into the oven. The side dish was roasted jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. Surprisingly you leave the skin on and slice like a potato and wash with a bit of olive oil and a touch of thyme and roast in the oven.

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These had such a delicate flavour. They were delicious.

Along with this we had steamed baby bok choy with a little garlic and olive oil and then broth added to steam them. Yum!

The whole meal put together was once again outstanding. My favourite “restaurant” never ceases to amaze me.

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Did you guess Ted and Judy’s place?  If you did you would be absolutely correct!

Salmon, peppers and arugula

I had one of those evenings where I knew I was going to make some salmon but didn’t know what to have with it. I looked through the fridge and didn’t see much so I went for a walk to the green grocer up the street and picked up some peppers and arugula. Couldn’t resist them – they looked so fresh and colourful.

I came home and thinly sliced up an orange pepper along with a leek. I sautéed them till wilted and then threw in a handful of baby arugula to wilt it.  I turned the burner off so the heat that was left in the pan wilted the arugula nicely.

I did a quick maple and dijon glaze for the salmon and put it in the toaster oven for about 12 minutes then placed the fish over the peppers, arugula and leeks, sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top and dinner was ready in about 20 minutes.  How easy is that!

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I only managed to eat half and shared a small taste with my cat who was quite happy to indulge as well ;-). Now I don’t have to think about lunch tomorrow.

Fabulous Tuna Dinner

Well it was dinner with Ted and Judy again last night – my favourite “restaurant” ;-). I can’t get over the cooking that these friends do! So last night we had a starter of mussels which where so good I totally forgot to photograph them as we just dove into the bowls. Trust me they were delicious.

The rest of the meal was no exception. Actually I have to backtrack….I was starving when I got to T&J’s place as I had forgotten to eat lunch. Judy had some smoked salmon which she artfully put on top of a tiny dollop of hungarian cream cheese (made with paprika – yes it was awesome) on a  thin slice of left over roast potato. Topped with a couple of capers it was an appetizer fit for any restaurant.

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Later we had the mussels followed by a tuna dinner that was out of this world! Ted got some sushi grade tuna from a local fish monger and covered it in sesame seeds with a bit of black pepper ground on top.

 

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He seared it for 3 minutes per side in a hot cast iron frying pan. Prior to cooking, Ted made a small dish of sauce to go with the tuna. Mix the ingredients below and add to taste. It really does take on a different taste though once you drizzle it over the cooked tuna.

1 tbsp sesame oil

3-4 tbsp soy sauce

½ – 1 tsp wasabi paste to taste

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Along with the tuna Judy made her secret mashed potatoes – all I can tell you is there is some butter and her secret weapon is a mix master ;-). They are the smoothest creamiest potatoes ever.

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The salad Judy came up with (so creative) was made with the following ingredients:

Red tipped boston lettuce (beautiful looking)

Cubed field tomatoes (from the farmers market that day)

Cubed bocconcini cheese, 4-5 pieces

1 whole diced/cubed avocado

4-5 sun dried tomatoes chopped with a lime infusion (lime juice squeezed over to moisten)

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients (not the lettuce leaves) and pour the juice of one lime over them and mix/stir. Then put into individual boston lettuce “cups”/leaves

The tuna was timed perfectly for when the salad and potatoes were done. Plated, it looked fit for royalty. What an outstanding meal! I of course got to take home the leftovers. Thanks again to my favourite restaurant!

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“Chicks-in-Charge” Lunch

We had a gathering of our “Chicks-in-Charge” group a bit earlier than usual as one of our long standing members was going away for 8 months and we wanted to have a catch up before she left. (This is our group of about 8-10 women who run their own business) As usual our host Sheryl outdid herself with lunch. She wouldn’t let any of us bring anything other than side items.

Sheryl prepared a lunch fit for a group of special people (which I think everyone in the group is). We had roasted red and yellow pepper shells filled with red quinoa, a lovely salad, roasted potatoes and artichoke hearts (couldn’t stop nibbling at these – oh so good). Dessert was some sweet items one of the “chicks” brought.

It was a perfect lunch on a lovely summer day – who could ask for anything more?

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Breakfast Pizza

Okay so it’s really an omelette but in my mind I was putting it together like a pizza so work with me on this…

I chopped up half a zucchini and a large handful of mushrooms and sautéd them in a small frying pan. Then I poured 2 beaten eggs with a drop of vanilla thrown in (adds a neat very subtle flavour). I then aded a few halved grape tomatoes. I cooked this up like an omelette and covered it. (You can also put the pan in the oven and cook it that way but for a small omelette it seemed like overkill in a big oven. Covering it worked fine).

When the top was pretty much cooked I used two spatulas to flip it and put some grated old cheddar cheese on top and slid it onto a plate. Then I added some slice avocado on top.  The heat from the eggs finished melting the cheese which held the avocado in place and within about 7 minutes I had a delicious breakfast. You could make this for dinner too and add different ingredients like sliced meat, onion, mushroom in larger slices etc – anything that you might put on a pizza could work here. For my meal, I served it with a bit of hot sauce just to kick it up a notch.

This would be fun to make with kids and let them put different toppings on it just like a pizza.  Great way to get kids to eat a good breakfast!

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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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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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