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Barley and Bacon Risotto

barley and bacon risottoStir. Stir. Stir.

This is my cheats version of risotto and does not require frequent visits to the stove top.  A typical risotto recipe involves going back to the pot to stir in each ladleful of stock when the last one has been absorbed.  Although it doesn’t take long to cook (roughly 30 minutes), you do have to keep a watchful eye on it.  I adore a good risotto and it’s one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.  I, like other semi-decent cooks, can multitask my way around a kitchen but when the lazy side of me takes over, I look for ways to cut corners.  Continue Reading →

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

cranberry & pistachio biscottiBiscotti (twice-baked), is an Italian cookie that is formed into a log shape, baked, sliced and then toasted to a crisp texture.  This has to be one of the easiest desserts to make.  Cranberry and pistachio are a perfect duo for this biscotti recipe by balancing the sweetness of the dough with a bit of sour from the cranberries and salt from the pistachio.  Traditionally biscotti was made with hazelnut and aniseed and recipes date back as far as the 13th century. Continue Reading →

Turkey Stew

30 minute turkey stewEvery Thanksgiving and Christmas we indulge in a massive turkey dinner and each year I say next time I will buy a smaller turkey with enough food for the evening and leftovers for the following day.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we end up having too much turkey leftover and as a result eat our way through turkey fajita wraps, tetrazzini, jambalaya, casseroles, and chili.  Continue Reading →

Fried Cauliflower Rice

fried cauliflower riceCauliflower rice?  Ok, well of course it isn’t rice but for those trying to cut back on carbohydrates, try this recipe.  Local cauliflower is now showing up in the grocery shops and boy do they look good!  Cauliflower rice has been hitting the cyber world for over a year now and all you have to do is google it to see how popular it has become.  Any way you dress it up, cauliflower rice is delicious even with simple ingredients such as butter, salt and pepper.

Continue Reading →

Fish Piccata

fish piccata by The Culinary ChaseAnyone who knows me knows of my phobia of fish bones. As a kid, I choked on one too many and as a result I steer clear of fish that isn’t filleted. And, if I do find a bone in a piece of fish, it’s akin to an appetite suppressant and am turned off by anything left on my plate! When I buy filleted fish I go the extra mile and closely inspect for any bones that were missed. In the past, I’ve found a few in salmon and removed them with tweezers. I now ask the fish monger for a fillet piece from the middle section of the salmon (less chance for bones to be found).

You may have eaten veal piccata, originating in Italy, or chicken piccata (an American favorite) but here’s my spin by introducing fish in lieu of beef or chicken. Because you don’t need to flatten the fish as you would for the original version, this recipe takes less time to make and reduces the cost. This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fish. Lightly flouring the fish gives you a silky finish and a meal ready within 20 minutes!

Serves 2

2 skinless fillets of fish (flounder, sole, cod, catfish, haddock)
1/2 cup flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 – 5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 shallot, minced
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup chopped parsley

fish piccata ingredients by The Culinary ChasePat dry fish fillet with paper towel. On a plate, add flour and season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge fish through flour, shake off any excess flour.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons butter and oil over medium-high heat. Place fish fillets in skillet and fry until golden about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside (keep warm).

Wipe down the same skillet. Over medium heat add 1 tablespoon butter, shallot and lemon juice. Cook shallot until soft. Increase heat and add wine scraping any bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Add remaining butter, capers. Cook until sauce has thickened slightly. Spoon sauce over fish and top with chopped parsley.

easy to make fish piccata by The Culinary Chase
The Culinary Chase’s Note:
Adjust frying time according to thickness of the fish fillet. Enjoy!

Glass Noodle Salad

glass noodle salad by The Culinary ChaseGlass noodle, you ask? Well, it’s a noodle made from mung bean flour and when water is added to reconstitute it, the noodle looks transparent, glass-like. And, because they’re made from mung bean flour, it’s gluten-free (make sure to read the ingredient list as cheaper varieties can be made from wheat). The dressing is the crowning glory to this recipe and it’s one I use as a dipping sauce for spring rolls – just add minced cucumber.

Serves 4
80g (2.5oz) bean thread noodle (cellophane noodle), soaked in hot water until soft (5 minutes), drain
3/4 cup chicken breast, steamed and shredded
10 shrimp, peeled, steamed and sliced in half
4 spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup coriander, roughly chopped
3/4 cup bean sprouts (or red pepper thinly sliced)
firm tofu, cubed and fried (optional)

Dressing –

2 green chillies, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup water

glass noodle salad_by The Culinary ChasePlace all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. For the sauce, combine all ingredients and simmer in a saucepan for 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes. Pour over salad and mix well. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
You can make this salad early in the day allowing all the flavors to develop. I couldn’t find bean thread noodles and used rice vermicelli noodle. If you plan to leave in the fridge longer than 30 minutes before serving, remember to give it a toss. Enjoy!

Inside Out Burger

inside out burger by The Culinary Chase America is considered the true home of the hamburger, but chopped beef had been a staple of Eastern European cuisines for centuries.  German immigrants from Hamburg arrived in America in the 19th century bringing their Hamburg-style beef with them.  Burgers are all about the toppings and this recipe focuses on the topping you can’t see.  The idea behind an inside out burger is to sandwich ingredients within the beef patty and when you take a bite, the stuffing is uncovered.  Talk about a taste sensation!

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. medium ground beef
1 onion, thinly sliced
cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated (or any mixture of hard or semi-hard cheeses)
4 slices bacon, cooked
bread and butter pickles
hamburger buns

Divide beef into 4 even chunks.  Divide those chunks in half and form patties.  Using all fingers, grab a generous pinch of Gruyère cheese and place on one half of the patty. Place the other half on top. Using your fingers, crimp and seal the edges closed – you don’t want the cheese exposed. Repeat for remaining patties.  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.  Keeping the patties cold before cooking helps them to stay together and stay as juicy as possible.

In a frying pan over medium heat add a splash of olive oil and sauté onion until golden brown. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, add a splash more olive oil and add mushrooms. Cook until light brown or to your liking. Remove and set aside.hamburger buns by The Culinary ChaseSeason patties with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and grill over medium-high heat (2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done).  Resist the urge to press the burgers while they cook as this releases their natural juices (making for a drier patty) and the cheese will ooze out. IF USING A GRILL PAN: Heat pan over high heat on top of the stove. Cook the burgers the same as you would for the barbecue. Build the hamburger by placing one patty on the base of a hamburger bun followed by thinly sliced cheese (the heat from the burger will soften the cheese), pickles, bacon, mushrooms and onion.

inside-out hamburger by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: The first time I made an inside out burger was 2 years ago when we lived in NY and I haven’t made a regular burger since!  I like my burgers thick and use a pound of ground beef for the two of us.  Get creative and use other toppings to stuff your burger.  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!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai by The Culinary ChaseLiving overseas provided us with an opportunity for our palates to mature and enjoy food we never would have tried back home either because it wasn’t being offered or the ingredients weren’t available (that was 15 years ago). I was never a big fan of spicy foods but that changed over time and I now seek out foods with heat, not over-the-top fiery heat, but ones that generate a bit of sweat.  Our first real Pad Thai experience was in Singapore in a hawker center.  These centers are typically outdoor food places where you can experience Singapore’s rich heritage of food dishes consisting of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai influences.   Pad Thai originated with street vendors in open air markets.  Thai food has four fundamental taste senses in each dish: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.  Thai dishes are served with a spoon and fork.  The use of fork and spoon were introduced by King Chulalongorn after his return from a tour of Europe in 1897.  The fork, held in the left hand, is used to push food into the spoon. The spoon is then brought to the mouth.  Traditionally Thai people ate with their right hand just like the people of India and therefore chopsticks were never used and still aren’t.  I’ve incorporated spaghetti squash in lieu of rice noodles and this dish is about as close to the real deal as you’ll get.

Serves 2
inspired from Bon Appétit

1 small spaghetti squash, cut in half (seeds removed)
vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
8 medium shrimp, peeled (optional)
small container of pressed or firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 to 2 cups mung bean sprouts
5 tablespoons tamarind water, or tamarind paste mixed with 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1  tablespoons simple syrup (palm sugar or brown sugar)
4 chives, chopped
crushed red chili peppers
chopped roasted cashews (or peanuts)
lime wedges
Pad Thai ingredients by The Culinary Chase

  1. Cook squash in a covered microwavable dish 5 to 8 minutes. Fluff and easily remove the strands with a fork; set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until they turn pink. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add tofu and cook until slightly browned – remove from wok and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil if wok is dry and stir in egg.  Cook until it is the consistency of a wet scrambled egg. Add spaghetti squash strands and cook until heated through. Add sprouts, tamarind water, fish sauce, and simple syrup and stir-fry until sauce is coats the spaghetti squash. Toss in chopped chives, pinch of crushed chili peppers and 1 tablespoon cashews and toss well.
  3. To plate, garnish with crushed red chili peppers, cashews, and lime wedges (squeeze this over the top).  *The traditional way to serve Pad Thai is with all the seasonings ON THE SIDE, together with more fresh bean sprouts and chives.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Use traditional rice noodles (8 oz.) if you’re not a fan of spaghetti squash.   If you can’t find tamarind paste, use lime juice mixed with an equal quantity of brown sugar (omit simple syrup).  Omit the shrimp and it becomes a delicious vegetarian option.  Enjoy!

Shrimp on Polenta Rounds with Sun-Dried Tomato Relish

It was one of those days. I needed some sort of dinner inspiration (read nudge) and feeling too lazy to leave the house (I had already been out), I leaned forward to inspect the contents of the fridge and noticed a jar of sun-dried tomatoes right at the back.  I usually keep these sort of condiments closer to the front…things in the back tend to get lost or worse, have gone past their expiry and start growing some interesting fungus within!   I had shrimp in the freezer and polenta (cornmeal) in the pantry.  These would go perfectly with sun-dried tomatoes but I needed to ‘spice’ up the tomatoes – just a bit.  Sun-dried tomato relish, of sorts, sprang to mind.  After surveying the contents of the refrigerator, I finally felt I had enough ingredients to pull it all together.

shrimp on polenta rounds with sun-dried tomato relish by The Culinary ChaseAs tempting as it might be to pick up store-bought polenta, consider making your own.  It is easily made and takes 20 to 30 minutes to cook.  When its finished, add butter, chopped herbs and cheese for optimum flavoring.  Pour polenta onto a greased plate and let cool.  When it’s cool, it’s ready and can be used as a base for pizza, cut into polenta fries, grilled etc.  Once you make it you’ll find it difficult to go back ready-made.  For more home made polenta recipes, click here.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side

8 to 12 medium-sized  shrimp, peeled and sautéed until pink and golden (keep warm)
firm polenta (already cooked), cut into rounds
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), drained and chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
splash of olive oil
small shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

  1. In a bowl combine relish ingredients. Allow to sit 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  2. Preheat broiler.
  3. Cut polenta into 3-inch rounds using a cookie cutter or the top of a glass. Spray olive oil on the top and bottom of each polenta round. Place on a baking tray and broil until tops are bubbling and starting to brown. Remove from Oven.
  4. Arrange a spoonful or so of sun-dried tomato relish on top of the polenta round topped with shrimp.  Drizzle with juice, if any, from the relish.

shrimp on polenta rounds by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  The relish ingredients are easily tweaked to suit your own palate.   Enjoy!