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Quinoa Barley Salad

Quinoa Barley Salad by The Culinary ChaseSpring is such a pretty time of the year with new growth, greenery, flowers and birds singing. Many will embark on a Spring cleaning campaign of their homes, open up cottages, and plant gardens all of which require a well-fueled body. This quinoa barley salad will keep you satiated for hours and give you the energy to fulfill those Spring cleanup chores. Barley has a chewy, pasta-like consistency. It’s a super grain in my books – rich in fiber (helps lower cholesterol and good for intestinal health) and helps curb your appetite for high calorie food. Quinoa, the super seed hailing from South America, is high in protein, good source of riboflavin, and is low glycemic index (won’t spike your blood sugar). This salad is perfect for a pot luck gathering, barbeque or picnic.

Serves 4 to 6
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup red quinoa
1 tablespoon minced garlic
handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
heirloom tomato, roughly chopped
yellow cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Cook barley and quinoa according to package instructions. Allow to cool to room temperature.
lemons zested by The Culinary ChaseIn a large bowl add herbs, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Mix to combine and then add quinoa and barley. Toss and add tomatoes. If the mixture looks dry, add enough olive oil to moisten. Adjust seasoning according to taste. Serve room temperature or cold.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
A vegetarian delight! Add crumbled feta cheese, chopped cucumber for added crunch and fresh dill. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions on Quinoa Polenta

sausage with peppers & onions on quinoa polenta by The Culinary ChaseI bought a bag of sweet baby peppers the other day and knew that if I didn’t use them soon, they would go off. Sausage, peppers and onions are perfect for a sandwich (hoagie) but I was thinking of something more for dinner. I’ve made many versions of polenta over the years but as I was grilling the peppers, it suddenly occurred to me that I could use quinoa, too. Before you go and turn your nose up at the notion that quinoa isn’t a substitute for polenta, let me say this, it can! Especially when you have a sauce like this over it. If you want it to be creamy like porridge, then you’ll need to add mascarpone and more water or chicken stock. I know, if you’re an Italian reading this, I can imagine you gesticulating and horrified that I even made the correlation. That said, confirmation from Mr. S. to make this again is all I needed to hear.

Serves 4
4 bell peppers, roasted or grilled
large onion, sliced
olive oil
450g Italian sausages (casing removed)
1 can Italian cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Quinoa Polenta

1 cup white quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

sweet baby peppersAfter roasting or grilling the peppers, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle, peel skin and remove seeds. Cut peppers into strips and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions with a pinch of sea salt and cook until soft. Remove from pan. In the same pan, add sausage meat. Stir, breaking up chunks of meat and cook until meat is browned. Add tomatoes and stir. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes then add onions and peppers. Simmer until heated through.

For the quinoa polenta, rinse quinoa in cold water, drain and add to saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered 12 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter. Stir and add cheese.

Arrange quinoa on a plate and spoon over the sausage sauce. Top with chopped parsley.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Use bulk Italian sausage meat to save time from having to remove the casings. If you can’t find canned cherry tomatoes, use chopped tomatoes and cook 10 or so minutes longer to allow the juice to reduce. Enjoy!

Minced Duck and Scallops on Pineapple

minced duck on pineapple by The Culinary ChaseThere’s nothing quite like a new recipe to try and plan a dinner menu around. Sometimes we’ll choose a wine and build a meal from that but most times it’s the former. I had originally thought of a Mediterranean-based meal for Saturday’s get together but wondered if this Thai-inspired dish would be out of sync. I pondered, then felt the minced duck and scallops on pineapple would be a cool appetizer to serve and the flavors from this would be a lovely introduction to the main meal.  I love it when things just flow and plates are scraped clean!

Serves 4
adapted from Coast

1 1/2 cups minced duck meat (cooked)
sea scallops, pat dry
peanut oil, for frying
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 coriander roots, finely chopped
red chili, chopped
4 tablespoons palm sugar, dissolved in a bit of warm water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
juice of 2 limes
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
pineapple slices

  • Deep-fry the shallots until light golden, drain on paper towel.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok over medium heat.  Stir-fry garlic, coriander root, chili until fragrant (don’t let garlic burn).  Add duck meat and fry until heated through then add sugar and fish sauce. Stir until combined and sauce has reduced a bit. Add half the coriander leaves and lime juice – mix well and keep warm.
  • Divide pineapple slices among 4 plates and top with a spoonful of duck. In a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add a little oil and sear the scallops (2 minutes each side). This should produce a golden crust about 1/4-inch thick on both sides and the center will be translucent. Remove immediately and place a scallop on top of each pineapple. Garnish with coriander leaves and shallots.

table setting by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  Use pineapple wedges and you can stretch this to feed about 16 people – perfect finger food for your next soirée.  Our friends devoured it…that’s all she wrote! Enjoy!

Crostini with Beetroot Jam and Goat’s Cheese

Crostini with Beetroot Jam and Goat’s Cheese by The Culinary ChaseHoliday parties are in full swing now and we all have our favorite dishes we like to make that tend to be specific for this time of year. I, too, find myself repeating appetizers especially those that are given the two thumbs up by my family. So it can be daunting to want to step out of that culinary comfort zone and spring on a new appetizer to your guests.  The ingredients in this recipe may sound like an odd combination but beetroot jam and goat’s cheese go really well together.   It makes for a lovely presentation and will entice your guests to give it a try.

Makes 24 slices
inspired by Delicious Magazine

Beetroot Jam:
2 large beetroots, peeled, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
sprig of mint

2 baguettes, sliced on an angle and toasted
150g soft goat’s cheese, whipped to a smooth paste with a bit of olive oil (add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, optional)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

To make the beetroot jam, place beetroot in a saucepan with oil, vinegar, sugar, five-spice, mint and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Discard mint and allow to cool slightly.

To assemble, spread goat cheese on the toasted bread slice followed by beetroot jam. Add pine nuts and serve.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  To protect your hands from stains, use gloves when peeling and grating beets. Beetroot jam will last a few days in the refrigerator.  It’s delicious served in a charcuterie platter, with aged cheese, beef sandwich and on crackers.  Enjoy!

Pretzels Dipped in White Chocolate and Crushed Candy Cane

prezels in white chocolate candy cane by The Culinary ChaseI’m in the holiday bake mode!  This is ‘the most wonderful time of the year‘ for me.  I am in my element as I bake, cook, and roast all leading up to the 25th.  Forgive me if I sound mawkish but I love Christmas.  I love how people seem a bit kinder, smile more and generally are in the Christmas spirit of rejoicing.  Out of all the entertaining we do throughout the year, the days leading up to Christmas are the most special for us.  I am always fine tuning the party menu and looking for ways to shorten my time in the kitchen so as to enjoy the company of our guests.  When I saw that Shutterbean posted white chocolate peppermint pretzels I knew this would have to make a debut in The Culinary Chase’s kitchen!  I have to admit I’m not a big fan of pretzels and while they aren’t high on my list of party foods, dressed up like this, how can I resist?

white chocolate, melted
pretzel sticks
candy canes

Use a rolling pin or tin can to gently crush the candy cane in a large zip-lock bag.  Once this is done you’re ready for the assembly line. Dip pretzel stick in melted chocolate and let drip off. You may want to shake gently to remove excess chocolate. Roll in crushed candy cane until coated then lay on top of waxed paper. Repeat process. The chocolate doesn’t take long to harden.

pretzels by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  Make sure the candy cane isn’t crushed too finely as the chunky mint bits are lovely with the chocolate and saltiness from the pretzel. Perfect for a school party, gifts for the person who has everything, or for your paper boy.  Enjoy!

Pepperoni Pesto

pepperoni pesto by The Culinary ChaseWhen I think of pesto my mind immediately sees plump basil leaves, pine nuts, a mound of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and smashed garlic bound together with olive oil.  But when we think ‘outside the box’, a funny thing happens…we tend to experiment.  There are oodles of options out there when rethinking the term pesto.  And to get you thinking along these lines, visit Rachel Sanders 16 Things You Can Turn Into Pesto. She’s right when she says “as long as you have all the basic components that make pesto, the central vegetable can be almost anything you want. And you can even skip the cheese or the nuts if they don’t fit into your personal diet plan”.  As an example, here’s a coriander pesto I served atop sweet potato soup.  Pepperoni pesto is definitely taking old world pesto to new levels of gastronomy.  If you like pepperoni, you’ll find this dish very addictive.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

150g pepperoni, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (more if you like)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

pepperoni pesto ingredients by The Culinary ChaseIn a food processor combine all ingredients until combined. Add olive oil to desired consistency and stir to combine.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Serve this with sliced ciabatta, smear it on chicken, use as a pasta sauce, dip etc.  Increase or decrease the ingredients to suit your palate.  Enjoy!


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 Ricotta Dip

baked ricotta dip by The Culinary ChaseFall might be just around the corner but this is a recipe that knows no seasons.  Ricotta is an Italian cheese that is made from the leftover milk whey from cheese and the name in Italian means recooked.  Ricotta cheese is so versatile. It’s perfect in savoury and sweet dishes. I’ve used it in lasagnas, gnocchi, cheesecake, on a tomato crostini, tossed in pasta, manicotti, ricotta dumplings, frittata, cavatelli with sausage, and made my own ricotta which was fun and delicious.  Baked ricotta dip is super easy to make and is perfect for those who pop by your home unexpectedly.  Want more inspiration? Visit Bon Appétit and learn 12 Ways to Cook with Ricotta Cheese.

Serves 4 to 6
15 oz. ricotta
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper
lemon zest
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of chili pepper flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped (can also use fresh oregano)

ricotta photo by The Culinary ChasePreheat oven to 375f. Combine all ingredients until well incorporated. Place in an ovenproof dish and bake 15 minutes until top is bubbling and starting to brown. You may want to place it under the broiler to brown more but that’s up to you.  Remove from oven and serve with chunks of fresh Italian bread or grilled bread slices (crostini) and tapenade.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: If the ricotta is fresh, you may have to strain off the liquid by using a cheesecloth.  Add grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese if you like.  Enjoy!

Apple Pie in a Jar

apple pie in a jar by The Culinary ChaseApple pie conjures up good, wholesome food made by grandmothers and moms.  There’s something so pleasing to the senses when a pie is baking in the oven.  The aromas immediately say ‘welcome’.  I wonder, though, why the pie is made in a round plate and not a square.  Is it because it’s easier to lift the pie out of a round dish?  Or was it due to the fact that was all that was on hand many years ago?  I am reminded of a story about a young mother who was roasting a chicken in a small pan.  When asked why she used a small pan, too small for the chicken, she had no answer.  She decided to ask her mother who also didn’t know why and decided to ask her mother.  When asked she replied, “that’s the only pan I had”.   Let’s start a new tradition and make apple pie in a jar!   Why not?  It’s easy to make, you don’t have to worry about making the perfect pie crust, it’s gluten-free friendly, kid friendly and I like the aesthetics of a jar.  If you do like this idea, then click on the link where I made a chocolate cake in a jar.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted by Roost

2 cups pecans
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
homemade chunky applesauce
whipped cream


Pecans bathed in melted butter before going into the oven.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. In a bowl add pecans and toss with melted butter. Pour buttered pecans onto the foil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Once you get past the 10 minute mark, keep an eye on them as the pecans can quickly turn too dark which will result in a bitter, burnt taste. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, place into a food processor and process until a course, crumbly meal forms.


Mix the apple varieties for an enhanced flavor.

Make the applesauce and then let it cool slightly before assembling. To assemble, add enough pecan crumbs to cover the bottom of the jar followed by applesauce. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle more pecan crumbs, if you like.

apple peelThe Culinary Chase’s Note: For an exotic flavor, add a teaspoon of ground cardamom to the applesauce. This was so good I made it again the next day.  I did thin layers (parfait style) and liked this look just as much. You decide. Enjoy!

Polenta Sticks with Mozzarella and Salami

polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella wrapped in salami by The Culinary ChaseI love simple ingredients as they tend to work symbiotically to create great flavors. Less is more…I know this sounds cliché but it’s true and not just in the food world. The more ingredients you use the greater the risk of losing the essential flavor of your food. When the ingredients are good, they need minimal help to make them better.  This recipe is easy to make and with only five ingredients, it’s a winner.  These polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella peeking out of the salami will be a hit at your next dinner party.  Cornmeal, the golden-yellow polenta, is a culinary staple in Northern Italy. Polenta is a neutral flavored dish that can be used as a base to carry other flavors. Using a medium grind cornmeal will yield the best results. Look for ‘stone ground’ cornmeal on the label.

Serves 4 as an antipasto

1/2 cup cornmeal (packaging may also say polenta)
2 cups water or chicken stock
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or aged cheddar cheese
smoked mozzarella
fennel salami (or favorite salami), thinly sliced

polentaTo make the polenta sticks, place water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil then slowly add the cornmeal, stirring occasionally. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes (if using instant cornmeal, the time is shortened to about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Stir until butter is melted then add the cheese. On an 8-inch plate, grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil then pour polenta on top. Smooth to edges of plate and allow polenta to cool to temperature. Once cool, cut into strips.

polenta sticks by The Culinary ChasePreheat oven to 400f (200c). To assemble, place a thick slice of mozzarella on top of the polenta and wrap a piece of salami around it. Place on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese has softened. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly…you don’t want these piping hot when you serve them as the flavor intensifies when warm.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  You can make the polenta the night before.  When ready to assemble, remove from fridge and slice into sticks. To keep things looking more uniform, cut the polenta based on the length of the mozzarella slices. If the salami slices are larger than the polenta sticks, fold under (like I did) to make it fit before wrapping. Enjoy!