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.

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash for Dinner with a Friend

Went skiing last week for a couple of days and visited with my friend Victoria (you remember her – she’s the one who I talk with about solving all the world’s problems 😉 ). This time we planned out each others complete financial retirement plan.  The good news is neither of us will be eating cat food when we are old!  Yeah!

I was supposed to only be there for 2.5 days but we had a huge snow fall and I didn’t want to drive home till the roads had been cleared so I got to stay an extra day. Was a real bonus day as we got to just hang out and play games, read and talk. Oh yes and the other thing we always do when we get together…..Cook!.

I blogged my friend Zannats spaghetti squash recipe a couple of weeks ago and we thought we would make a version of it for dinner one night. Here’s what we added and how it was prepared (using ingredients already in the fridge) – Healthy, satisfying and tastes great – the trifecta!

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Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash cut in half

1 chicken sausage removed from casing and crumbled (can leave this out to keep vegetarian)

6-8 mushrooms chopped

½ chopped red pepper

1 can of white kidney or navy beans

½ tsp Italian spices

Parmesan cheese grated

Mozzarella shredded

1 tomato diced

Directions:

Trim the ends off the squash first, then cut squash in ½ and take out the stringy centre. Coat lightly with some olive oil and place cut side down on a tray covered with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour till slightly browned and fairly soft.

Using a fork, scoop some of the squash out to make room for the mixture (should scoop out like strands – hence the name “spaghetti” squash). Add the strands of squash to the bean and chicken mixture along with some grated or shredded Parmesan. Mix well and pack into the  semi hollowed out halves of squash shell and top with mozzarella. Put back into a 350 degree (F) oven till cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Enjoy!

Lunch at Good Fork (Toronto)

I have blogged about this restaurant before for breakfast or brunch I believe but I had a perfect lunch there the other day with my friend Kevin.

I was hungry but didn’t want a really heavy lunch so I opted for what is on the menu as “Anatolian delight” (I think that was it). The lunch included a bowl of delicious red lentil soup – thick and creamy and tasting of wonderful middle eastern spices. The bowl comes with a small container of olives, a small tomato and cucumber salad and another small bowl of the creamiest crumbled feta I have ever had.  I put some of the cheese into the soup and mixed it in. The meal also comes with a wonderful long flat piece of bread (actually it comes with two of these but it really only needs one). I put some of the feta on small pieces of the bread and it was out of this world.

Good Fork soup

It was such a good lunch and all for $12. I think that is a pretty good deal.

Good Fork restaurant is located on Bloor Street West just  east of Jane Street).  http://goodfork.ca

It’s a definite recommend!

 

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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Birthday Lunch with my Friend Peter

Awesome lunch with my friend Peter for my birthday at Hanks on Church at Front Street in Toronto.  It was delicious! Normally wouldn’t eat that type of meal but after all it was my special day so I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed it thoroughly. Definite recommend.

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Montreal Smoked Brisket Sandwich – my sandwich

Shaved brisket (also known as smoked meat), dijon mustard, creamy red cabbage coleslaw, swiss cheese on a toasted ciabatta

 

Hank’s Burger – Peters lunch

8 oz of Ontario beef dressed with green onion mayo, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, a crispy onion ring, sautéed mushrooms and swiss cheese on a sesame seed bun.

We ordered half fries and half salad just to be good. Yes I did go to the gym that afternoon!  Nuff said!

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.

Flank Steak

I may have mentioned that I cook for a couple of people once or twice a week (an elderly couple and a hectic younger family). The other night one person requested flank steak. I love this cut of meat – prepared properly it is tender and very flavourful.

I first put on a rub I use for many things (see recipe below) that has a slight smokey but mostly mediterranean style flavour (fabulous on ribs). I rub this onto both sides of the meat and let it sit in the fridge for several hours up to overnight. When getting ready to cook it remember it is important take the meat out at least an hour before cooking so the meat can come to room temperature.  That way the fibres relax and the meat becomes less tough. Last addition is a thin brush of maple syrup over each side before searing. This gives a slightly caramelized outer edge.

I always sear the steak in a cast iron frying pan –  any heavy pan will do though. I sear it until each side is browned and then put it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Once cooked, take the meat out of the pan and put it on a plate or cutting board and let it sit for at about 10 minutes to again relax and re-absorb the juices.

Always cut against the grain and with this cut of meat you should cut thin slices. It makes a great meal or a really good sandwich.

I like to make a thin gravy using the pan I cooked the steak in and adding any kind of broth – for this recipe either beef or vegetable broth works well. I add about 2/3 to 1 cup (depending on how much I want) of broth. 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of butter and about ½ cup of sherry or port.  Whisk all of this together and let it reduce by about half (about 10 – 15 minutes).

Pour some of the gravy over the meat when serving and put the rest in a cup for adding as you go. I served this with boiled baby red potatoes.

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Spice Rub ingredients

2 tbsp group cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp dry mustard

1 tbsp coarse salt

1.5 tsp cayenne pepper

1.5 tsp ground cardamom

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

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!

Shepherds Pie

As I was recovering from being quite ill for a few weeks I started craving shepherds pie – don’t ask me why but it was all I wanted to eat.  Strange but true. Even now as I am pretty much back to normal, I still feel a craving to eat it. Must be a comfort food thing.  Anyway I decided to make a few containers of it so that I could freeze it for when I just had to have it again.

I do put a slight twist on the traditional pie. The secret which makes it very healthy is adding a can of lentils to the ground meat. It adds to the volume and fibre but also the taste. I also added a spice paste called harissa, a middle eastern spice combination that gives a slightly spicy (heat) note to your food. Another addition was about a tablespoon of hoisin for a slight sweet note. Then there is the topping…I added shredded parmesan to the top of the potato before putting in the over to bake.

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Shepherds pie

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1.5 tbsp Harissa paste

1 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1/4 cup low fat yogurt

1 can cooked lentils

Potato – white not yukon – 1 per person

Shredded parmasean cheese

 

Directions

Sauté onion in a large pan till browned (tip – I add a pinch of brown sugar to help it caramelize). Add garlic and sauté till cooked but not burnt.

Add ground beef (or turkey), mix and cook till lightly browned. Add frozen mix veg and cooked lentils, harissa and hoisin. Mix well. Cook on stovetop till well browned and veg is no longer frozen.

Peel potatoes and chop into even pieces. Boil or microwave until soft. Transfer to a large bowl or mixer, add yogurt and mix with a mix master or hand held mixer till light and fluffy and mashed.

Add a punch of salt to taste if you like (I don’t add salt as the cheese on top adds enough salt for my liking).

Put meat mixture into a pan, or glass container (I divided it into four double serving glass containers so I could freeze it). Spread the mash potato on top of each container and sprinkle parmasean over top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes till slightly browned. Serve warm or let cool, cover and freeze.

Quinoa crusted tuna

Forgive my only reblogging the last few weeks.  I caught a virus (flu?) a few weeks ago and am only now getting my full strength back. Haven’t cooked much lately so I am relying on the amazing blogs that are out there with fabulous recipes.

This one is for Quinoa crusted tuna. The recipe sounded great and the pic made me want to make it.  Check it out by clicking on the name of the recipe above or clicking the URL here http://www.azestybite.com/quinoa-crusted-tuna/

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The recipe comes from a blog called a zesty bite which has some really nice recipes in it.

I hope to be back to regular blogging next week.

Cheers

Cindy