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salsa verde (a classic Italian green sauce)

salsa verde - a delicious green sauceGreen sauce, you make my heart sing!  It has to be one of THE easiest and healthy sauces one can make.  But wait!  What is a green sauce, you ask?   If you have tried chimichurri, pesto, sauce vert or Mexican salsa verde you’ve tasted a green sauce.  Salsa verde is a rustic sauce that can be used on practically everything from vegetables to meat and fish or used as a dip.  Continue Reading →

grilled green onion feta dip (easy to make)

grilled green onion & feta dip -a cinch to makeAutumn is a favourite time of the year for me.  I love all the local produce seen at markets and in food shops.  Canada celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend (Monday was the holiday but most celebrate it on Sunday) and vendors tables at the farmers’ market on Saturday were filled with veggies, fruits and meat waiting for the surge of people preparing for the thankful feast.  Continue Reading →

garlic scapes hummus

garlic scapes hummusGarlic scapes are the flower bud of the garlic plant and are cut to force the garlic bulbs to grow bigger. Some gardeners throw these away! The flavour is less pungent than a garlic clove and has a subtle scallion flavour. How to use? Think of how you would cook a green vegetable (stir-fry, sauté, steam, grill) and go from there.  Hummus is a favourite go-to dip when I want something in a pinch. Continue Reading →

what to do with leftover sour cream

sour cream dressing recipeWhen a recipe calls for a small amount of sour cream I feel my shoulders slump.  For me the thought of having to buy a container of sour cream for 2 tablespoons or even a cup seems like a such a waste; there’s always some leftover.  I could substitute it for yogurt but I would be in the same dilemma.  And then it occurred to me.  Why not make a dressing or dip?  It would also make good use of the coriander (cilantro)  I had in the fridge.  Continue Reading →

Onion Dip – made from scratch

Onion DipAs a youngster and young adult, one of my favorite junk foods was French Onion Dip and a bag of rippled potato chips.  It’s been years since I last snacked on a commercial onion dip but the other day while I was at the grocery store, I really wanted to buy one.  Instead, my inner healthy voice said no and that I could easily make my own (party pooper!)Continue Reading →

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush by The Culinary ChaseBaba Ganoush is a Middle Eastern dip made from eggplants. I’ve made this dip many times over the years and it’s an easy dish to make.  It requires only a few ingredients and the key is to use these to enhance the flavor of the eggplant.  If you are not a fan of eggplant, this dip might be the reason to reconsider.  Commercial versions can be somewhat bland, watery, bitter and, quite frankly, nondescript.   The secret behind an excellent baba ganoush lies in the cooking of the eggplant.  Charring the skin is key as it gives the flesh a smokey taste.  To achieve this you’ll need an intense heat from a broiler or a direct flame (I use the bbq).  Char the eggplant well.  You’ll know it’s done when the skin becomes very tight and will suddenly pop and steam will escape (not explode).  This is your cue to remove and allow to cool down before removing the skin.  Don’t worry if the skin looks really black, the insides will have a wonderful smokey flavor.

Serves 6
2 or 3 medium-sized eggplant (aubergine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons tahini (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
olive oil

eggplantPlace eggplants on the grill of a barbecue over medium-high heat. Char the outside of the eggplant, turning occasionally until charred all over.  Alternatively, use the broiler in your stove and cook, turning occasionally until very soft. Remove from grill or oven and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool to room temperature. Remove wrap, cut ends off and peel eggplant (discard skin) – the skin should come off easily. If not, the flesh of the eggplant won’t be cooked enough and will taste bitter. Once peeled, chop eggplant flesh and place in a bowl. Add tahini, cumin, lemon juice and mash with a fork or a hand blender. Season and adjust according to taste.  Add a splash of olive oil and whip with a fork. Serve with pita bread, crackers, or sliced baguette.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
Baba Ganoush can be stored up to 5 days in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Tzatziki

tzatziki by The Culinary ChaseTzatziki is a thick Greek sauce where it is served with gyros, souvlaki or in a mezze.  But you can use it with just about anything! Try it as an accompaniment to fish, grilled chicken, lamb, pita bread, falafel, grilled vegetables, as a dip – you get the idea. Tzatziki is easy to make and is always served cold.

2 cups Greek yogurt
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated (use the large holes of a box grater)
sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup of fresh dill and mint, chopped

tzatziki with roasted spare ribsMix grated cucumber with a teaspoon of sea salt and place in a fine mesh sieve. Set the sieve over a bowl and let drain for about half an hour. Squeeze cucumber in a tea towel to remove any excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl and mix with garlic, yogurt, herbs, and olive oil. Season to taste.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
The easiest way to deseed a cucumber is to cut it in half lengthways then scoop out the seeds using a spoon. The flavors develop more if you make a day ahead.  Enjoy!

Baked Fontina Dip

baked fontina dip by The Culinary ChaseI was on the train into the city and caught a glimpse into my future.  I spotted an elderly couple who were deep in conversation.  They looked so cute together; her silver hair was a bit disheveled and his white mane slicked back.  Both were in great shape.  He pulled out two books from his bag and gave one to his wife.  She smiled.  As I watched from a distance, it occurred to me that this could be us in a few years.  I wondered if we will be as energetic, outgoing, and loving as we are now?  With a relatively healthy lifestyle, a natural yearning to be active and inquisitive, I have to say yes.  I encourage John to do things that are out of his comfort zone and he does the same for me.  I glanced up and the lady is already out of her seat waiting for the train to pull into Grand Central.  I catch her looking back at her husband…she smiles and he laughs (a private joke no doubt).  Yep, this is exactly where I want to be when I reach their age.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

1 lb. fontina cheese, rind removed and cut into chunks (can also use gruyère, provolone or gouda)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
baguette

fontina cheese melt by The Culinary ChasePreheat broiler and position the oven rack 5″ from the heat. Distribute fontina evenly in a 12-inch stainless steel pan. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbling and starts to brown.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Serve this straight out of the oven and let everyone scoop up the melted cheese with chunks of bread.  If you liked this dish, try spicy baked Greek feta.  Enjoy!