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Tomatillo Salsa

I’ve been eyeing these tomato-like fruit for quite some time but I never really had a reason to use them until now. Last month I enrolled in a food styling and photo workshop arranged by Sweet Paul Magazine. It was a full-on day with tidbits of information flowing from Paul on how to style food. Paul also enlisted the services of seasoned food photographer, Colin Cooke, to show us things such as lighting (a topic I struggle with), shapes and colors to consider for shooting and more. Even though I was tired towards the end of the day I somehow came away feeling energized. Thank you Paul and  Colin!

Tomatillo (green tomato or tomate verde) is a key ingredient in Latin American green sauces such as salsa verde and Chimichurri. When purchasing tomatillos, the protective paper-like husks should be light brown and fresh looking. Choose smaller sized tomatillos as they tend to be sweeter than the larger ones. They can be eaten raw (they have a tangy, citrus flavor with a hint of spice) or fire roasted to bring out the smokey essence in the fruit.  Cooked tomatillos are sometimes an ingredient in curries, marmalades or soups. You can also fry slices of tomatillo.  They are a good source of vitamin C and A and is low in calories.

Makes 2 cups
adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine


2 lbs. tomatillos, cleaned and coarsely chopped
4 serrano chilies, coarsely chopped (remove seeds to reduce heat – optional)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth salsa forms.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: I couldn’t get serrano chilies and used jalapeño instead.  Enjoy on top of pulled pork with sour cream, tomatillo chicken stew or with meat.  Enjoy!

Fig and Goat’s Cheese Mini Croissants

As I sit here typing this recipe, our guests are on their way to our home for dinner. No, I’m not panicking at all as I have the ingredients ready and will pop them into the oven in a few minutes…just enough time to finish this post!

Makes 16
adapted from Australian Vogue Entertainment & Travel

100g fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
4 ready-soaked or pre-soaked dried figs, stems removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
300g frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 200c (400f). Combine cheese, figs, walnuts a little freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Roll out pastry and trim the a 28cm round. Cut into 16 wedges like the spokes of a wheel. Spread a little cheese mixture evenly on the widest end of each wedge and roll up. Place on a baking sheet and lightly brush each croissant with beaten egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
These were heavenly and the flavors from the cheese, figs and walnuts complimented each other.  I bought puff pastry sheets and didn’t have to worry about rolling out the pastry.  Enjoy!

Peking Turkey

It’s been a hectic (using the term loosely here) four days since we moved into our house last Thursday. I love turkey but oddly enough only around special holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and while I wanted to do something special for the dinner, I was overwhelmed by the amount of cleaning that needed to be done in the house so the usual turkey dinner fixings would have to take a back seat for the first time. Having said that, this recipe shouted out to me as a perfect way to still celebrate the bountiful Fall harvest. While some purists might scoff at this recipe, I think it was perfect for the two of us. I scaled down the turkey portion to 3 pounds which worked perfectly.

Serves 6 to 8
adapted from Globe and Mail

2 whole large turkey breasts, skin on (about 7 pounds)

Brine Bath:
1 white onion, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1½ cups celery, chopped
2 tablespoons Chinese five spice mix
3 tablespoons salt

Mandarin and Cranberry Stuffing:
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely diced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 can mandarin oranges, drained but reserve 2 tablespoons of the juice

2 cups whole-wheat bread cut in small cubes
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper

Hoisin Roasting Sauce:
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

Rinse turkey breast. Add all brine-bath ingredients to bowl and set turkey in it. Cover with cold water. Let rest in brine bath in the fridge for 8 to 10 hours. To make the hoisin roasting sauce, mix ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve until ready to roast turkey.

In a large pan, sauté onion, celery and cranberries in the butter. Cook until cranberries are soft and starting to break down. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool.

Remove turkey breasts from brine bath. Place on a large working surface, skin side down, and butterfly meat. Spread stuffing on top and roll the turkey around the stuffing. Wrap kitchen twine around turkey and tie tightly (please disregard my sloppy attempt…I was getting tired).

Place turkey in a roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 180c (350f) until the internal temperature reaches 165 F or juices run clear, about 30 minutes. Remove and glaze with hoisin roasting sauce. Return to oven and roast for another 30 minutes until golden. Let rest in juices for at least 10 minutes, then snip off kitchen twine. Slice the turkey and arrange on serving platter. Pour hot pan juices over the slices and serve.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
Heaven on a plate and the aromas filled the house making it feel like home!  My husband and I were in a local wine shop, Blue Dog Wine & Spirits on Sunday and was given a couple of recommendations for last night’s meal.  In the end, we decided to go with Magdalene’s first choice; Terredora Diapaolo (Greco Di Tufo) and was a winner with this meal.  I know we will be back for more of her recommendations!  

Pasta with Roasted Peppers and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I enjoy perusing other food sites for inspiration and one in particular is from my friend, Francesca.  I got to know Francesca when we both lived in Singapore.  She offered Italian cooking classes in her kitchen which were hands-on and those who attended learned about the food history and culture of Italy.  Francesca has taught in New York City and currently teaches in London’s Divertimenti cookery school as well as writing her own monthly articles in La Cucina Italiana.  Her style of teaching is relaxed, informative, practical and above all…fun!

Serves 6 to 8
inspired by Erbapape

500g Cencioni pasta (can also use paccheri, orecchiette)
4 red bell peppers
700g cherry tomatoes
500g ripe tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
fresh thyme
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Parmesan (or pecorino) cheese

Heat oven to 200°c (420f). Clean the peppers then roast under the grill, turning until charred. Peel, remove seeds and cut into strips. Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes. Place in a baking dish. Toss with 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Peel the other tomatoes, remove seeds and blend them.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil with the garlic, add the pepper fillets, and cook for a few minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water, drain it, (reserve a glass of the cooking water). Transfer to the pan for a last minute of cooking and if sauce is a bit dry, add some of the cooking water. Combine with the grilled cherry tomatoes and a good amount of thyme leaves. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese (or pecorino), a few leaves of thyme, and serve.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Fresh tomato sauce, baked tomatoes and roasted peppers topped with freshly grated Parmesan…wholesome goodness at its best! Thyme and tomatoes pair wonderfully in this dish!  Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta

Panna cotta (cooked cream) is an Italian dessert and I never knew, until the other day, there were savoury versions out there!  This recipe, which is served at Scaramouche restaurant in Toronto, is not only easy to make but absolutely delectable!  You can also serve it on toasted brioche.  Either way, it’s a perfect starter and sets the tone for the rest of the evening.  

Serves 6
adapted from Keith Froggett

2 cups 35% cream
2 sheets leaf gelatin
4 oz. goat cheese
1 cup goat yogurt
1 garlic clove, finely chopped and made into a paste
vegetable oil

Lightly smear the insides of 6 half-cup (125-ml) ramekins with the vegetable oil. While heating the cream until just boiling, soften the gelatin in cold water. Drain the gelatin and squeeze it quickly in your hands to remove excess water. Stir the gelatin into the cream and remove the pot from the heat. Add the goat cheese and the yogurt. Using a hand-held blender, blend until smooth. Pour into the ramekins and refrigerate until set (at least 4 hours). To remove the panna cotta from the ramekins before serving, run a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin and unmould each onto a serving plate.  You can also set the moulds briefly in hot water if necessary.  Serve on a bed of dressed salad leaves, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and top with freshly ground black pepper.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: A silky-smooth texture and the garlic lightly perfumes the goat cheese. To make the garlic paste, mince garlic then add a pinch of salt and use the side of the blade of a sharp knife and smear the garlic back and forth until it becomes a paste.  You can also use a mini-muffin pan if you don’t have ramekins.  For other recipes, check out Nicky from Delicious Days Asparagus Panna Cotta with Pancetta, or how about Panna Cotta with Fig Salad from Australian Taste magazine?  Try something totally different…Kabocha Squash Panna Cotta.  Enjoy!

Chicken Breasts with Artichoke-Olive Sauce

Pan searing chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil and then popping them into the oven doesn’t excite my taste buds (rather bland if you ask me!) BUT, add a sauce like this and you just might catch me running a finger along the plate to savor the remnants. Oh dear, what would Emily Post have to say about that! Not only is this a lip-smacking meal, dinner is served in 20 minutes.

Serves 4
adapted from Food & Wine

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
10 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts
8 pitted kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 200c (400f). In a bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic and oregano. Fold in the artichokes, olive and feta. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the chicken and cook over moderately high heat until browned, 3 minutes, turn over and transfer skillet to the oven. Roast the chicken for 10 minutes, until meat is white throughout. To plate up, add chicken breasts and spoon the sauce over each piece. Garnish with parsley and serve.  

The Culinary Chase’s Note: If you don’t have fresh oregano, use a teaspoon of dried. I didn’t use salt in the sauce as the feta and olives have their own unique salty taste. Fresh and easy with flavors to satisfy the most discerning palate…my kind of meal.  Enjoy!

Sushi

The first time I ever made sushi rolls was back in 2006. I was excited to make my own back then and that enthusiasm hasn’t faded.  I am also happy to see that sushi is now being made in our local grocery stores, albeit a bit more for a westernized palateThis allows an opportunity for everyone, if you haven’t already done so, to give this Japanese delicacy a try.  Once you get the hang of the steps involved and tips mentioned, the result is something I know you will be proud you made.  According to Masaharu Morimoto, a well-known Japanese chef, making maki rolls requires just three things:  high-quality ingredients, a bamboo mat and practice.

Serves 4 to 6 (as a side)
inspired by Masaharu Morimoto

Japanese rice
wasabi
fillings such as:  crab meat, tuna, salmon, cucumber slices, avocado slices

For the rice:
Rinse 2 cups of short-grain, Japanese rice 5 times, then drain in a colander and let dry for 15 minutes.  Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to manufacturers instructions.  Alternatively, in a medium saucepan, combine the rice with 2 cups of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes longer.  Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes.
 
For the sushi vinegar:
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of saki-mash vinegar (or white wine vinegar), 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons salt.  Warm over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, transfer the cooked rice to a large bowl.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the seasoned vinegar all over the rice.  Drizzle onto a spatula while waving it back and forth.  Using a slicing motion with the spatula, gently separate the rice grains while mixing in the seasoned vinegar.  Fan the rice while mixing it to help it dry.  Cover the rice with a damp towel to keep warm.

To assemble:
Carefully wave a 4 x 7 inch sheet of nori over an open flame until crisp and fragrant, then transfer to a bamboo mat.  Wet your hands in water, then scoop up 1/2 cup of sushi rice.  Gently form the rice into a loosely packed, palm-width log.  Place the log at one edge of the nor and begin spreading it across to the other side.  Continue to spread the rice all over the nori, re-wetting your hands as necessary, until an even layer covers all but 1/4-inch border at the top edge.  Spread about 1/4 teaspoon wasabi lengthwise along the middle of the rice.  Lay about 2 ounces of the filling (either a single ingredient or a combination) along the center of the rice.

Roll the bamboo mat up and away from you, curling the nori and rice around the filling, use your fingers to hold the filling in place as you roll.  Once the roll is sealed, gently squeeze, pressing gently on the top and sides to compress the roll slightly and form a rough square edge.  Press on each side of the roll to make a neat surface.

Cut the maki by lifting off the bamboo mat and transfer to a work surface.  Dip the tip of a long, sharp knife into vinegar water; let the water run down the length of the blade.  Using a long slicing motion, cut the maki in half, then cut each half into thirds.  Make sure the knife is very sharp otherwise you’ll end up tearing the sushi roll.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  It’s important to maintain an even thickness with the rice when spreading over the nori sheets because if it’s too thick, you’ll end up with a gigantic roll!  You’ll note from my photos that I used plastic wrap as I don’t have a bamboo mat which worked out quite nicely but I’m sure the sturdiness of the mat would make an even tighter roll.  Morimoto says that to be eaten safely, sushi-grade fish must be handled correctly:  it should be frozen at least one day to kill any parasites.  Salmon and mackerel have the best flavor and they should be rubbed with fine sea salt, let stand 20 minutes, rinse well, pat dry and sprinkle all over with rice vinegar.  Crisping the nori sheet over an open flame helps to make it easier to cut and eat.  Enjoy!

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

If you search my blog for salad recipes you’ll see there are 33!  Yes, I am a salad queen at heart.  I love how easily a salad can be thrown together as an accompaniment to a main meal and some of the ones I’ve made have been meals by themselves.  I always make my own salad dressings which vary from a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the one below that requires a bit more work but well worth it taste/calorie wise!

The wild beet (the ancestor of the beet we know today) is thought to have originated in prehistoric times in North Africa and grew wild along Asian and European shores. In these earlier times, people ate the beet greens and not the roots. The ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate beets to use their roots as food.  Beets did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s. Beets’ value grew in the 19th century when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar, and the first sugar factory was built in Poland.  Beet powder is used as a coloring agent for many foods. Some frozen pizzas use beet powder to color the tomato sauce.  For more nutritional information on beets, click here.

Serves 6
adapted from Stories restaurant

1 lb small, mixed beets (trimmed)
3 branches of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and ground pepper to taste
aluminum foil

Salad Ingredients:
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
couple of handfuls of young arugula (rocket)
8 oz goat cheese
2 oz pistachios, peeled, roasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 180c (350f).  Roast the beets in a aluminum foil pouch by folding a long piece of foil in half and fold seams along the sides.  Add beets, fresh thyme, red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Fold top and place the foil pouch on a baking tray.  Place in the oven and cook 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature or until you are able to peel the skins.

To make the vinaigrette, start by reducing the orange juice (place juice in a pot over medium heat) until it’s one quarter of its original volume. Remove the orange juice from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the diced shallot and balsamic vinegar.  Slowly whisk in orange zest and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.  Place the arugula in a bowl and dress with the vinaigrette.  Divide the arugula amongst the plates.  Place the roasted beets around the arugula and top each salad with equal amounts of the crumbled goat cheese and pistachios. You may want to cut the beets into quarters if they are bigger than a golf ball (like I did). Drizzle a small amount of the remaining dressing around each plate.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:   Choose beets that are small and firm with deep maroon coloring, unblemished skin, and bright green leaves with no sign of wilting. The root should still be attached.  Avoid large beets which have hairy roots as this is an indication of age and toughness.  Roasted beets become even sweeter in flavor and are a wonderful addition to any salad!  Enjoy!

 

Fresh Peach Tart with a Crumble Topping

Nova Scotia, for its size and short growing season, has a surprising selection of fruit especially stone fruits.  There are a number of u-pick farms around the province that sell apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, grapes.  Local peaches are in abundance and each time I enter a grocery store I find myself picking up a basket.  The peach originated in China and peaches are symbols of immortality and unity. Peach blossoms are carried by Chinese brides.  Peaches are a good source of vitamins A, B and C. A medium peach contains only 37 calories.

Makes 10-inch tart pan

Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Crumble Topping:
105g (3/4 cup) flour
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
115g (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature

4-6 ripe peaches, sliced

To make the pastry, make sure the butter is well chilled.  This is Martha Stewart’s pie dough recipe which I use as my fail-safe recipe.  In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Add butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if needed, add up to 2 more tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Turn out onto a floured work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 190c (375f).  Remove dough from the refrigerator and unwrap dough but leave it on the plastic wrap.  Take another piece of plastic wrap and place on top of the dough.   Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough out to desired size.  The plastic helps to keep the dough from sticking.  Remove plastic wrap from the top and use the bottom wrap to help position the dough over the tart pan.  Lay the dough across the pan and gently push along the bottom and sides of the pan.  Trim the excess dough.  Place peach slices on the pan.

 

To make the crumble topping, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly over the peach slices.  Bake 30-40 minutes until topping is bubbly and pastry is golden.


The Culinary Chase’s Note:  The crumble topping is quite decadent on top of the fresh peaches as is a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

Grilled Zucchini Ribbons and Prosciutto with Mint Dressing

Food on a skewer is always a treat and is a bit of a trend these days. They’re perfect for a gathering where your guests can serve themselves. Arranging the skewers upright in glassware or other entertaining containers make for decorative centerpieces as well as a chance for your guests to ‘ooh and aah‘ at your creativeness. Move over corn dog and say hello to parmesan lollipops, Caesar salad, dumplings, cake pops, cookies, fried cheese and the list goes on. Check out my food blogging friend Matt Armendariz’s book, On A Stick for more recipes and ideas on how to present food on a stick.

Serves 4
adapted from Food & Wine

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped mint
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for brushing)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium zuccini, thinly sliced lengthwise using a mandoline (or vegetable peeler)
2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced lengthwise using a mandoline
6 ounces prosciutto

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the mint, garlic, and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Alternately thread the zucchini, yellow squash and prosciutto onto 4 pairs of 12-inch bamboo skewers. Lightly brush the vegetables and prosciutto with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the skewers over high heat until the zucchini and yellow squash are lightly charred (about 1 1/2 minutes per side). Serve with the mint dressing on the side.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: I used some of the dressing to baste the zucchini skewers for added flavor.  You can use green and yellow zucchini if yellow squash isn’t available as was the case for me.  The mint and lime juice is a perfect combination for the zucchini and highlights the natural saltiness of  prosciutto. If you have any leftover, roughly chop and add to a salad or pasta. Enjoy!