Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sumac Buttered Corn

Side dishes, by definition, most often don't get prime attention. Seasonal sweet corn, however, can quickly become the star of the show at this time of year. A little salt and butter usually suffices to dress it up, but this is a really easy to add a little more oomph.

I always have sumac on hand in my pantry. This red-toned Middle Eastern spice adds a good dose of lemony flavour and is now quite readily available. I like to add it to salad dressings, and often sprinkle a generous amount on grilled boneless chicken breast. In this case, I mixed it in with some melted butter. If you haven't cooked with sumac before, this is the perfect recipe to get you started!

Sumac Buttered Corn

4 cobs of corn
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp sumac
Pinch each salt and freshly ground pepper

Steam, or grill corn until tender. In small bowl, whisk together the butter, sumac, salt and pepper. Brush over warm corn. Enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Berries and Cream

The heat has been sweltering for the past few days so heavy meals have been crossed off the list to leave room for light, no-oven-needed meals. I have popsicles in the fridge (peach and mint!) and have been making chilled soup (you might have seen my cucumber, avocodo and chive soup on Instagram!).  A few fresh berries topped with a dollop of cream is a nice alternative as well, and it couldn't be easier to make!

This week, in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen, I've been in holiday paradise -- with dozens upon dozens of cookies, complete with cakes, turkeys and holidays sides. I often get asked what Christmas in July feels like, and to be honest, I quite love it! I won't pretend it's the easiest way to maintain a healthful diet (it's contant temptation!), but it's a fun time to create recipes for. It's all about sharing food, taking the time to make a meal, and indulging. It also makes me than much more excited to come home after a long work day and cook seasonally. I can leave snowy desserts and winter comfort food behind and cook according to the time of year. And, once the actual holidays come around, I've had enough time to recuperate so I can get excited about the festivities, all over again!

Berries and Cream
Serves 2

1/2 whipping cream (35 %)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp Grand Marnier or any other orange liqueur (optional)
2 cups fresh berries

In bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and beat until combined. Fold in vanilla and Grand Marnier. Spoon over berries.Enjoy!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Herbed Chicken with Summer Salad and Buttered Corn

Sometimes, I struggle with the desire for a Sunday-worthy meal on a busy weeknight. A classic roast chicken, for example, is something I crave time and time again. To be honest, what I really crave are the 'rotisseries' I grew up eating in Paris. Chickens are roasted whole on large metal rods, and gently turn as the skin gets crispy and the meat stays nice and juicy, The fat from the chicken drips down and most butchers  cook potatoes -- and sometimes lardons (strips of bacony goodness) -- under the roasting chickens so they get flavoured while they cook. It's making me want a plateful just describing it!

In lieu of a trip back home to Paris, I have a great recipe for a weeknight roasted chicken. I like to cut the chicken into pieces (legs, thighs and breast) so that it cooks faster and is easier to marinate -- I then pop the pieces in a ziploc bag with my marinade ( in this case thyme, garlic, olive oil, lemon and oregano) and let it sit in the fridge all day while I'm at work. This kind of dish hits the spot every time!

In the absence of a barbecue, I make the chicken in an oven, but for all you lucky backyard barbecue owners, grill away!

Herbed Chicken with Summer Salad and Buttered Corn
Serves 4

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Summer Salad
4 1-inch slices of Halloumi cheese
8 asparagus spears, trimmed
3 cups mixed lettuce
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Buttered Corn
4 cobs of corn, steamed
2 tbsp butter to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Add chicken to a ziploc bag. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, thyme, garlic, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pour mixture into bag. Seal and shake to combine. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Lightly grease a roasting rack and evenly lay out chicken pieces. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Bake at 425°F for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through and the juices run clear. The breast should cook quicker than the rest of the pieces, so check on the breast a couple minutes before. Broil for about 2 minutes to get a little extra colour on the skin, if needed. Once out of the oven, tent with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes, so the chicken stays nice and juicy.

While the chicken is cooking, move on to the salad. Add the Halloumi cheese slices to a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Cook, turning once, until Halloumi is golden, about 2 minutes per side. Cut into chunks and set aside. Cook asparagus in a pot of salted boiling water until tender crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and add asparagus to a bowl of ice cold waterto stop the cooking process. Drain, pat dry, and cut into thirds. In a bowl, toss together lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus. In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard and olive oil until the mixture is homogenous. Whisk in red wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad, stirring to coat. Transfer to serving platter, top with Halloumi pieces. Arrange chicken pieces around salad.

Serve with steamed corn and butter. Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Halloumi, Asparagus and Watermelon Salad

Putting together healthy, fast and satisfying weeknight meals may very well be the Achilles heels of most cooks. I spend the better part of my professional days developing recipes and coming up with easy dinner solutions for Canadian Living readers, but I do often come home with the eternal, almost cliche, "what's for dinner?" question. Having a meal plan is one of the ways to make sure I stay on track and plan balanced meals for the week. I'd be lying if I said I always stick to the plan (because what would the fun in that be?) but it does help to have a list and an idea of how to make the week efficient. Sometimes, the unplanned gets in the way (a sudden desire for a night-out or a last minute work event) but having an overarching plan does help.

Halloumi cheese is my current mid-week saviour. If you haven't tried the king of squeaky cheeses yet, I urge you to get some next time you're grocery shopping! It's pleasantly salty, holds its shape when cooked and, with ease, transforms everyday side salads into hearty mains.

I love combining the cheese with chunks of watermelon and seasonal asparagus at this time of year -- it takes minutes to put together and helps welcome summer with open arms.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rhubarb-Ginger Fizz

My second CSA box arrived last week and, with it, came a bounty of  rhubarb.

Well, actually maybe not a bounty, but 5 healthy pink stalks. There's this weird phenomenon with CSA produce where you both get a lot and not very much of one type of vegetable or fruit. Can you CSA endorsers relate?  But that is the challenge, and the fun of taking part in a CSA -- or Community Supported Agriculture -- program. It's a fantastically delicious way to take part in your community and to eat seasonally and locally. It's essentially like buying stocks in a farm, and getting a portion of whatever the farm produces that year as payment. I pick up a box or produce every week from now until the end of the summer, a couple blocks from my apartment. It means there is a lot of fresh cooking going on in my kitchen, but also a bit of a constant "what's for dinner" challenge because you can't fully plan your meals ahead of time!

The rhubarb we received didn't come in sufficient numbers to make a pie or tart as I would have hoped, but I turned into the next best thing I could think of: rhubarb simple syrup! If you haven't made flavoured simple syrup before, this recipe is a great one to start with. Simple syrup -- a, yes simple! -- mixture of sugar and water is great to use in drinks and summer treats, like popsicles. Once the sugar has dissolved in water, it stays at an eternal syrupy stage making it perfect to add to lemonades, ice tea or cocktails of any kind.

This version is simply topped off with carbonated water, but would be delicious as an evening cocktail with a little vodka or other strong liqueur. Even if your rhubarb doesn't seem that pink when you cook it down, rest assured, the end result will take on a lovely pink hue once strained.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Snow Crab Rolls

Ask me any day of the week what I'd like to have for dinner and I'll probably ask for seafood. Whether it's steamed lobster drizzled with olive oil, lemon and salt, seared scallops on top of a velvety potato puree or clams tossed with al dente spaghetti and white wine, properly cooked seafood always makes the top of my list.
This week's recipe features sweet and meaty snow crab - a great alternative to lobster when cut into chunks and tossed with homemade mayo. It happened to be on sale at Whole Foods this weekend and I just couldn't resist coming home with a bagful. If this isn't an invitation to summer, I don't know what is!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Whole Branzino with Roasted Tomatoes

If I could dispel any food myth, it would be that cooking fish is more finicky than cooking chicken breast or steak. I think fish tends to get a bad rep as being 'bland' or difficult to properly cook, and much of that most certainly has to do with the often poor selection of fish at regular grocery stores. Can you relate to buying fish  from the store and it smelling -- well, fishy!

Fresh fish really shouldn't.

It should smell like the salty water it came from. My way around this is to first and foremost to always tell the manager of your local fish department if this happens they are aware of the issue. Forming a relationship with your fishmonger is not only a great way to ensure you'll get the best service, but also a great way to learn about new ways to prepare seafood.

In my home kitchen, I like preparing a whole fish every once and a while. It may seem daunting if you've never tried making this at home before, but I assure you, it's a completely doable task, even on a busy weeknight. When buying a whole fish, make sure the fish doesn't have cloudy eyes (that's the first sign that it isn't fresh) -- its eyes should be clear. The flesh of the fish should look healthy and plump and the fish should smell like the ocean. If you have a little bit of a trek to make with your fish before taking it home, make sure you ask for a bag of ice so the fish stays nice and cool. You can also ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish -- it saves on prep time and means the fish is ready to go. I like to simply bake a whole fish in the oven with a few simple herbs and lemon -- and in this case deliciously sweet roasted tomatoes!

You'll know the fish is ready when it falls off the bone, or, in other words, when it's easy to remove the spine. If the bones are sticking to the flesh, the fish needs a few more minutes in the oven, Once you do this a couple times, you'll quickly get used to the process and be able to tell if the fish is ready. Like so many things in cooking, practice really does make perfect. When the fish is cooked though, you can really easily peel off the skin (with a small pairing knife or by simply pulling it off). With the fish on its side, you can then slice along the backbone with a sharp fileting knife to free the fillet. Once the backbone is removed, the second fillet will almost come off on its own.

These roasted tomatoes might be the star of the show though -- as they bake, they become incredibly sweet and plump -- a real treat, especially when topped with a little fleur de sel. I serve the dish with crisp green beans with a drizzle of olive oil, but a simple salad would be lovely as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

Although it snowed a little in Toronto yesterday (snowed!) I'm in full planning mode to setup my balcony for the warmer months. Last year, we planted tomatoes and a bounty of herbs -- and these will be making a full comeback this year! I'm also thinking of adding an array of succulents and pastel roses to the mix, I couldn't imagine not having this outdoor oasis --- it really adds to the vacation feel of a space.

My indoor hues revolve around greys, yellows and soft whites, but my outdoor decor is where the colours come to play. I'm loving patterned plates for a whimsical outdoor atmosphere, and some pastel-coloured cutlery. Paper straws are also a must for outdoorsy drinks, as is a bright and cherry carafe. Vibrant blues, playful mints and sunshine yellows are on my mind -- here are my favourites so far!

{1} Glazed Terracotta Salad Plate, West Elm {2} Foiled Dot Napkin Set, Anthropologie {3}Striped Paper Straws, Etsy {4} Ice cream Scoop, Ikea {5} Ikat Dot Napkin, West Elm {6}Ostron Flatware, Ikea {7} Melamine Plates, West Elm {8} Green Vintage Carafe, Indigo

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chorizo and Arugula Scrambled Eggs

It you're anything like me, cooking really isn't just about the food. It's a social endeavour of sorts.I'll cook up a storm for friends and family any day of the week, but tend to shy away from elaborate concoctions when I'm cooking for myself.

Don't get me wrong, I'll indulge in a plateful of delicious cheese, cured meat and bread, or a rustic salad with a tangy dressing, but I usually keep it simple -- and quick. This dish is a new favourite I wanted to share. It's barely a recipe but just a pleasant mix of satisfying ingredients. Silky scrambled eggs cooked low and slow (none of those rubbery, overdone eggs here!), crispy chorizo & a handful of fresh arugula served on top of buttery Challah bread. {Toronto folks, the Challah bread from Harbord bakery is divine!}

I've enjoyed this for a lazy breakfast but it also makes a delicious (and easy!) breakfast-for-dinner option.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Potato Salad with Radishes, Asparagus and Capers

To say spring hasn't made its way in yet would be an understatement. But that doesn't mean your kitchen can't be ahead of the game. It's now Thanksgiving time in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen (there has been quite a lot of turkey, sides and desserts to develop and taste!) so I've been that much more eager to cook with fresh sunny products when I get back home.

For me, a vinaigrette-based potato salad loaded with veggies and colour is the best way to lighten up with the season. This one features baby kale leaves. If you haven't had these, I highly recommend them! These are more tender than adult kale leaves and a nice substitute for regular baby spinach or arugula -- they also hold up beautifully to dressing and don't really wilt or loose their shape which is nice for a make-ahead salad.

The real star of this dish, however, are radishes! When in my Parisian hometown, my mom and I often serve radishes as a simple, crunchy appetizer, enjoyed with a touch of butter and a little fleur de sel. I now love adding sliced radishes to salads - there's always something so pretty and quaint about a perfectly pink radish isn't there?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter DIY: Chocolate Mousse-Filled Eggs

Last year, I blogged about a few fun Easter egg DIY decor ideas. This year, it's all about the dinner table! These whimsical little eggs are filled with lusciously airy chocolate mousse and the eggs are simply dyed using pastel food colouring. You can easily store these in the fridge in their original container, which makes it easy to bring them as a hostess gift for any spring celebration. To plate, use a pretty egg holder with a small spoon.

The first step to making these is emptying the eggs. Gently tap the egg around its narrower top with a small pairing knife until the egg starts to crack. Running the knife along the top you want to remove, gently tap to crack the shell. Once you've removed the top piece, smooth the edge to get rid of any small pieces of shell -- and then empty the egg. Remove the membrane and wash the inside of the egg. In a large bowl, add a few drops of food colouring until you've reached your desired colour. Mix in a couple drops of white vinegar. Add your eggs - the longer you keep them in the water, the darker they will become. Let dry completely on a cooling rack.

In the meantime, make your favourite chocolate mousse (or try my Orange and Chocolate Mousse recipe). Fill the eggs with the mousse using a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a snapped off corner. Top with sprinkles -- or candied orange, or chocolate shavings, or all of the above. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pantry Pasta

We all have those nights don't we? The day's been long, it's already dark outside and the fridge has little else in it other than milk, mustard and jam. My solution? Pantry pasta! I love coming up with quick mealtime solutions with what I happen to have on hand -- and it doesn't become much easier than this concotion!

The dish is made using sweet shallots (but you could use onions instead), marinated artichokes and a crumbly breadcrumb topping. Easy weeknight dinners don't get tastier than this!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Deliciously Sweet Day at Hogwarts

I remember reading the first Harry Potter book - I must have been about 11 - while I was, oddly enough, riding the Eurostar to London. I was quickly hooked and fascinated by the world of wonder and whimsy JK Rowling had created. I devoured every book (and movie!) and even wept a few tears when the series ended. There's always a feeling of utter sadness when you finish a book that has transported you elsewhere, isn't there?

But something about the Harry Potter story endlessly lives on. I recently started re-reading the books (now on an e-reader!) and am happily reconnecting with the story -- and the numerous details about the characters I had long forgotten about. The magic of these books, I think, are not so much in the overarching storyline of good versus evil but rather in the creation of a world from the ground up. A world so well described that you understand the way it operates and can imagine what it would be like to live in.

Last week, I made my way to Hogwarts (in Florida that is!) to visit the Harry Potter park I had heard so much about. So many little details made the experience magical - from feather quill pens used to sign receipts in the different stores to being able to taste the array of treats that makeup Harry Potter's world.
Even in the setting of sunny Florida, the shops of Hogsmede seemed wintery and quaint, with storefronts that recreated the magical window displays described in the books and seen in the movies. The best part was seeing dozens of amazed children (and adults) from all around the world tasting butterbeer for the first time with excited grins (it's a frothy mix of gingerbready cream soda and marshmallow-like fluff if you're wondering!). It was a little bit like being allowed into a new world for the very first time.

Entering Honeydukes was by far my favourite part. The candy store is filled to the brim with the candies and sweets from the series -- from chocolate frogs, to every flavour beans (some of the jelly beans were deliciously sweet, others purposely revolting -- like earwax, rotten egg and soap -- so much so that I had to spit a few out!). They were exactly like I pictured them to be when I read about them.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

As I write this, endless cotton balls are falling from the sky, and have been for hours. This is winter at its finest but also the kind of weather that can make you a little lethargic. To beat the winter blues, I opt for slow-cooked, comforting fork-tender meat, like this pulled pork. To be honest, this dish was more of an afterthought this week. After a busy weekend, we only had a few hours to run house errands, including grocery shopping. So easy pulled pork it was going to be. The pork really doesn't need much in terms of flavour when it slowly cooks for so long. I put this together in less than 15 minutes before heading to work -- to develop summer grilling recipes for our Canadian Living summer issues -- and returned to the real taste of winter.

The only thing about cooking with a slow-cooker is that it really is meant for large-family cooking. For the time being, there are only three in our household (with our Persian cat Alaska that is - who we've discovered is a real pulled pork fanatic!). You can easily freeze your slow-cooker concoctions though so it's a great utensil to successfully meal-plan. I easily get bored with leftovers and don't like to eat the same thing two nights in row so I like to transform leftovers into a brand new meal.. which is incredibly easy to do with something as versatile as pulled pork.

On the first night, I shredded some of the pork and tossed it with orecchiette, some fresh parsley and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Then, these pulled pork sandwiches came to life. These are so simple they really don't need a recipe - I used some good pretzel-liked bread, a nice spread of grainy mustard, a heaping pile of pork goodness and some greens. And next on the list? Pulled pork ravioli!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nutella and Toasted Coconut Brownies

There are not many store-bought products I have a never-ending craving for, but Nutella has consistently been my Achilles' heal. If I buy a jar, and there is a spoon somewhere nearby, the velvety, chocolaty hazelnuty spread never stands a chance. If every piece of cutlery in my kitchen disappeared, I would just use my fingers, and if those happened to have disappeared too, I'm pretty sure I would go as low as using my lips alone. Safe to say, I have a little bit of an obsession which is why I stay far, far away from the Nutella shelf when I head to the grocery store.

Exceptions do occur though, and World Nutella Day - on February 5th - is just as good of an excuse as any to indulge. These fudgy brownies use Nutella instead of chocolate, are topped with a thin layer of nutella and sprinkled with toasted coconut. The deliciously toasty smell of shredded coconut is heavenly and as each flake slowly turns golden brown, I always remember how much I enjoy cooking with coconut. And in case you were wondering, my Nutella jar has been licked clean.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Easy Weeknight Paella

Paella is not really one of those dishes you're supposed to be able to whip up in under 30 minutes. When I was at culinary school, my first partner was this amazing classical guitarist who lived in New York but was originally from Spain. When we were assigned to make a large-scale meal to feed a crowd, she offered to make her rendition of paella. I remember how difficult it was to get the dish together as a team. Not only did we have to figure out how to work as a team but we had to put together a dish by following the lead of someone who was not yet a trained chef... and someone who was used to making this dish with her family's very specific traditions, local ingredients and equipment. All to say that the dish didn't really turn out as planned and I remember it being a little bit of a fiasco.

After flipping through one of my Spanish cookbooks that suggested making paella over an open fire using  rabbit, I stared at my non-stick pan and knew I would be going the easy route. My goal wasn't going to be incredible authenticity but rather comfort, fast. Here is my rendition!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bacon and Pea Pasta

If you ask me what I have at all times in my freezer, the answer would definitely be frozen peas. Sure, I'll get my hands on fresh peas if I can, but most of the year, that really isn't a tangible reality. For most quick meals, having a bag of these frozen green jewels helps add vegetables to a simple pasta, or make an easy side dish, simply complemented by a little butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Adding more vegetables to our everyday diets also seems to fit quite nicely with all these new year's resolutions, doesn't it? This pasta dish is garnished with crispy prosciutto and flavoured with Canadian bacon so the healthy points are not entirely there...but the delicious points definitely are.

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