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Salad Niçoise

Salad niçoise has a bit of a Mediterranean flavor with anchovy fillets and black olives. The term Niçoise refers to any of the dishes created by the women of Nice. This salad has many variations in terms of its ingredients and remains a dish that is argued over. Do you add potatoes and green beans or would a purist be horrified with these additions? At any rate, I am pleased to say that I like my version of this classic salad. I have yet to make this with pissala. Pissala is usually found as a topping for pissaladière.

Serves 4
1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and cut into bite size pieces
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup aged cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
1 can tuna fish, drained
4 hard boiled eggs

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

With a whisk, mix the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a salad bowl until the mixture is smooth and silky. Toss in the salad and then add the other ingredients. Serve on a plate & top with the boiled eggs.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Sometimes I buy a tuna steak, grill it on the bbq and add to the salad. When adding fresh tuna, toss ever so gently and then serve. I sprinkled some of my dukkah on the top of the tuna before cooking on the bbq for added flavor. For the dressing you can also substitute Dijon for wholegrain mustard. The measurements for the dressing act as a guideline so change as your taste buds dictate! As an accompaniment, serve with fresh bread.

Warm Brie with Tomato Bruschetta Topping


This is an appetizer with oomph and a great showpiece for any occasion. My husband suggested we have brie and crackers as an appetizer and I said that was a good idea, but decided to dress it up a bit.

Brie or Camembert, about 4 inches (10cm) wide

Tomato Bruschetta Topping:
1/4 cup seeded and finely chopped tomatoes
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped (can use dried)
a dash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180c (350F)
Thinly slice top rind off cheese, leaving sides and bottom intact. Place on foil lined baking sheet for easy handling. Bake cheese in center of oven for 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to serving dish. Top with tomato bruschetta topping and serve immediately with crackers or good Italian bread.


The Culinary Chase’s Note: I used a mini Brie (about 2″ wide) but did not remove the rind. I have found that removing the rind makes it more difficult to transfer the softened cheese to a dish. The rind is edible and not thick enough to make a difference. Bread sticks are very useful as the cheese becomes more like a dip! Enjoy!

Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce with Shrimp and Feta Cheese


Ingredients:
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 (14-16 oz. cans) chopped tomatoes (including juice)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leafed parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
dried hot red pepper flakes (add to taste)
1.5 pounds medium shrimp (about 34) shelled and de-veined
1 pound dried rigatoni or other tubular pasta
1/2 pound Feta, crumbled

Method
Pre-heat oven to 220c (450f).
In a large saucepan cook the onion and garlic in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the wine and boil the mixture for one minute. Stir in the tomatoes (including juice), 1 tablespoon of parsley, the basil, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes. Boil the mixture, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Add the shrimp and cook the mixture over low heat 4-5 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Remove pan from heat.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rigatoni until al dente, drain well and stir it into the shrimp mixture. Stir in 5 oz. of the Feta and transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled 4 quart shallow glass baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining parsley and Feta. Bake pasta in the middle of a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the Feta is bubbling and the top is slightly crusty.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: We love feta cheese so I end up using more than what the recipe calls for. For a lovely taste sensation, substitute the dried herbs with fresh herbs.

Profiteroles


Although I don’t often bake many sweets (partly due to high temperatures and high humidity in Hong Kong), this tiny cream puff gem is definitely a must have in one’s collection of recipes! Profiteroles, one of the smallest members of the cream puff family, are made from a thick batter. A drop of the batter on a baking sheet expands during baking to become a hollow golden ball, perfect for any number of fillings, such as ice cream, pastry cream, or even savory mixtures. The magic ingredient that transforms solid batter into hollow puffs is steam, which is produced by the liquid in the paste during baking.

Serves 4
50g. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
75g. (2 3/4 oz.) plain flour
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
200ml. (7 oz.) whipping cream (whipped enough to fill puff)

Chocolate Topping
100g. (3.5 oz.) semi sweet chocolate (broken into pieces)
25 g. (1 oz.) unsalted butter
50 g. (2 oz.) caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200c (400f). Grease a baking sheet and dust with flour. Pour milk and 5 tablespoons water into a small saucepan, add the butter and bring to the boil over a low heat. To form a smooth paste, add the flour all at once to the boiling water-milk mixture in the saucepan. Stir vigorously and scrape the sides of the pan until a stiff paste comes together in a smooth ball. Transfer the thick shiny paste to a large mixing bowl, separate the paste into a few pieces, and cool them for only 10 minutes before adding the eggs. If the eggs are added when the paste is too hot, they can set the eggs, resulting in a paste that will not puff sufficiently in the oven. Beat in the eggs by hand until fully absorbed.

Spoon mixture into a piping bag and pipe 16 mounds onto the prepared baking sheet making sure they are well spaced apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until the mounds are puffed up and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Do not place close together or the steam may soften the puffs and make them soggy.

Method for Topping
Melt the chocolate with 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir in butter and sugar and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Make a slit in the side of the profiterole and fill with the whipped cream. Top with the chocolate sauce.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Small cream puffs bake at a lower temperature (400 degrees) than large ones (425 degrees). You can also arrange the puffs in a pyramid on a dish and pour the melted chocolate over them. Always choose a high grade of chocolate. I like chocolate when there’s 60% cocoa. Don’t be afraid of it tasting too bitter, the sugar you add will more than compensate as you don’t want the chocolate too sweet. If you don’t have a piping bag, use a large (extra strength) baggie and cut one corner off and use as a piping bag. Enjoy!

Happy Deepavali


Deepavali is the festival of Lights. The word ‘Deepavali’ is made up of two simple words. ‘Deepa’ means light and ‘Avali’ means a row. Hence ‘Deepavali’ means a row of lights. This is perhaps the most well-known of the Indian festivals. It is celebrated throughout India as well as in Indian communities around the world.

This festival usually falls around late October. It is common practice to light small oil lamps (called diyas) and place them around the home, in courtyards, verandahs, and gardens, as well as on roof-tops and outer walls. In urban areas candles are substituted for diyas; and among the nouveau riche, neon lights are made to substitute for candles. The celebration of the festival is invariably accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks.
India is rich in ethnic and cultural backgrounds so it comes as no surprise that Diwali signifies many different things to people across the country. In north India, Diwali celebrates Rama’s homecoming, that is his return to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana and his coronation as king; in Gujarat, the festival honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and in Bengal, it is associated with the goddess Kali. Everywhere, it signifies the renewal of life, and accordingly it is common to wear new clothes on the day of the festival. Fireworks and firecrackers go off during Deepavali and symbolize the use of fiery weapons used during the war that Krishna waged against the demon.


Some of the popular sweets are halwa, burfi and laddu. Hindus love eating spicy food and for non-vegetarians they indulge in favorites like chicken tandoori, prawn sambal and fish head curry. In homes of Hindus who are vegetarians popular dishes like thosais, idlis and naans are prepared. Most devout Hindus tend to be vegetarians.

What I like most about Deepavali is how people put aside their differences for this special occasion and the mood is festive and colorful. I was first introduced to the festival of lights when we lived in Singapore. It’s a national holiday there and Little India is decked out in all its glory with massive displays of lights, colorful stalls and a sense of happiness everywhere you go. As I said in an earlier post Sept.4), Indian’s are very hospitable and they enjoy sharing their food with others.

Quiche


This is a family favorite. It’s my Mom’s recipe and has been a tradition in our family for many years. Quiche is from the Lorraine region of France and is of German origin. The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open pie with a filling consisting of an egg and cream custard with smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added to the quiche Lorraine. Add onions and you have quiche Alsacienne. The bottom crust was originally made from bread dough, but that was a long time ago and is now a short-crust or puff pastry crust.

Serves 6
9″ unbaked pastry shell
6 slices of bacon
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup table cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
ground pepper

Method:
Bake pastry shell 220c (425f) for 5 minutes until set but not brown. Fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain on paper towel and crumble onto bottom of pie crust. Sauté onion in bacon fat until translucent. Remove from pan, add to pie shell and top with the cheeses. Beat together eggs, milk, cream, pepper and pour over bacon-cheese mixture.

Bake 200c (400f) 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of pie comes out clean.


The Culinary Chase’s Note: This time I decided to use puff pastry and cooked the shell for 5 minutes at 200c (400f), remove from oven. Add the ingredients to the partially cooked pie shell and cook at 170c (325f) for 40 minutes or until the center is cooked. My oven is a convection so it cooked in 35 minutes. Serve Quiche as an entrée, for lunch, breakfast or an evening snack.

World Peace Cafe

I’m not called a peripatetic Canadian for nothing! Owning a car in Hong Kong is expensive, however, local transportation on the other hand is easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Where else can one travel 20-30 minutes and only pay HKD$4.50 to HKD$10.50 (USD$00.58 cents to USD$1.35). The tram, which is the world’s only double decker street car is another avenue to get around. Two dollars (USD$0.25) allows passengers to travel from one end of the island to the other which takes approximately 45 minutes. So, yes, I do a lot of walking. Getting around on foot allows you to see so much more of a city and I feel I also get to experience the real Hong Kong. Case in point, the other day I found a neat place hidden away in Wanchai (thankfully, not one of the places due for ‘the urban renewal’ axe).

World Peace Cafe has been open for one year. The restaurant serves organic vegetarian food and fair trade organic coffees, fruit juices and herbal teas. The menu consists of 3 set dishes HKD$58.00 (USD$7.50) per set. What’s interesting about this place is that the staff are volunteers! Upstairs there’s the Vajradhara Buddhist Meditation Centre for those who want to meditate or learn the art of meditation. This type of cafe seems to be sprouting all over the world.

When my girlfriend and I went there, we couldn’t believe how crowded it was at 12:15pm. We lucked out and were able to share a table. I had ‘Set C’ which consisted of Happy Eggs Benedict (happy?) with pak choi risotto on homemade vegetable bolognese sauce (quite delicious!). My girlfriend chose ‘Set B’ Snow Mt. Giant Mushroom stewed with curry pumpkin sauce on green sprouts and noodles. All set lunches come with cappuccino or organic herbal teas. They do offer other drinks (smoothies, juices, herbal teas, organic coffee, soft drinks etc.) for a nominal fee. We both chose the Indian Chai which was lovely. The lunch was flavorful and it’s always a good thing when one is able to taste the different herbs and flavors of the dish.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Pleasantly surprised at how well the restaurant runs (during lunch hour) considering you have a bunch of volunteers doing the work. Well worth the visit but I would recommend making reservations. (2527-5870)

Natural food 天然的美食 – Peaceful place 平靜的空間

Fattoush Salad


There are many versions of this salad but I prefer this one. It’s quite easy to make and because the pita bread is toasted, you can let it sit for half an hour to let the bread soak up the dressing.

Serves 4 to 6
1 Romaine lettuce, washed and cut into 1″ strips
225g (8oz.) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cucumber, deseeded and cut into cubes
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh mint, washed and roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, washed and roughly chopped
3 Pita breads

Dressing:
150ml extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)

Preheat the grill to high and grill the pita breads until crisp. Let cool and cut up into bite size pieces. Place all the vegetables and chopped herbs in a bowl and mix well. In a small container with a lid, add all the dressing ingredients and shake well. Toss in the crisp pita breads and pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.

The Culinary Chase’s note: Feel free to add Kalamata olives (pitted) or feta cheese (both if you like!). If you can’t find sumac or don’t like the idea of adding it to the salad you can always try 3/4 teaspoon of toasted, freshly ground up cumin seed to add to the dressing. If you don’t have a grill, then toast the pita breads in a toaster.

Mango and Brie Quesadilla


This is a crowd pleaser! It’s a simple recipe and with the cheese oozing out the sides, one can only wonder what’s inside. The chilies add just a hint of heat which is quietly soothed by the mango and brie. A very light and refreshing snack!

Ingredients:
4 (8″) flour tortillas
1 serrano chili, or 2 jalapeño chilies, minced
2 green onions, chopped finely
1 ripe mango, peeled, and sliced
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped and discard stems before measuring
8oz. Brie, sliced into long 1/4-inch slices (remove rind)

Method:
Heat a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place 1 tortilla in the dry pan for approximately 1 minute per side, or until it just begins to brown. Remove. Repeat with the second tortilla. (if the tortilla bubbles up, poke it with a fork to release the hot air.)

After the second tortilla has browned, leave it in the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Spread half of the mango evenly over the tortilla, then top with half of the chilies, green onions, coriander and Brie strips. Top with the first tortilla.

Flip the quesadilla with a spatula and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. (Don’t worry if a bit of cheese escapes and begins to sizzle loudly.) Remove the quesadilla from the pan, let sit for 1 minute, then slice into 8 wedges (like a pizza). Serve immediately with the sour cream dipping sauce. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Sour Cream & Lime Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Blend sour cream, lime juice and salt with a fork until the mixture is smooth.
Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: If you don’t fancy mango you can always use pear or papaya. Make sure the brie is left in the fridge until ready to use. It’s easier to slice if used straight from the fridge.

Moroccan Lamb Kebabs with Honey Mustard Potatoes


Moroccan cuisine blends African, Arabian, and European influences to make some of the most exotic food in the world. Moroccan food exudes exotic aromas and full piquant flavors. Herbs and spices are an essential part of Moroccan cooking and most dishes feature cumin, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cloves and cinnamon to bring out the full flavour of meat, vegetables and pastries. The ubiquitous dish, steamed couscous, is often served with tajine, a type of stew made with lamb, chicken or fish that’s cooked in an earthenware dish. Another favourite is skewered lamb which is cooked with onions, parsley, peppers and coated in a variety of aromatic spices.

Serves 8
3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 teaspoons sea salt
4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 pounds well-trimmed boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes

16 12-inch-long metal skewers (I used wooden skewers soaked in water)
32 whole dried apricots soaked in boiling water 5 minutes, drained
4 red onions, each cut into 8 chunks

Preparation
Whisk first 9 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Transfer 1/2 cup marinade to small bowl; cover, chill, and reserve as basting sauce. Add lamb to remaining marinade in medium bowl; toss to coat. Marinate 2 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove lamb from marinade. Thread lamb cubes onto 8 skewers, dividing equally. Thread apricots and onion chunks alternately on remaining 8 skewers. Brush all skewers with some of reserved 1/2 cup marinade. Sprinkle onion-apricot skewers with salt and pepper. Grill onion-apricot skewers until onions soften and begin to brown, occasionally turning and basting with marinade and moving skewers to cooler part of barbecue if necessary to keep apricots from burning, about 10 minutes. Grill lamb to desired doneness, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes for medium-rare.

Honey Mustard Potatoes:
1 lb. new potatoes, washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey (can add a bit more)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly chopped up rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-cook the potatoes until tender and cool 5-10 minutes. Combine all ingredients and add potatoes to dressing. If potatoes are big, cut in half. Let stand at room temperature before roasting on barbecue.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: The lamb can be cooked either outdoors, on the barbecue grill, or indoors under the broiler (I prefer the outdoor cooking). If the apricots are plump, I don’t bother soaking them in water. Enjoy!