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Gruyère-Crusted Leeks and Apples

I love the combination of leeks and apples…they pair well together and top it off with cheese – a match made in foodie heaven!  Leeks are related to garlic and onions and are chock-full of nutrients.  They have a delicate flavor and a sweeter taste than onions.  You may have noticed ‘ramps’ in the produce section of your grocery store.  Ramps are the wild version of leeks (smaller in size) and will have a stronger, garlicky flavor.  You may want to consider experimenting using ramps in this recipe while they are still in season.

Serves 4
adapted from Ripe

4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine
60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 medium Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, cored, halved and thinly sliced
90g (3/4 cup) packed shredded Gruyère cheese

Rinse leeks off under cool running water, spreading the layers to release any grit.  Blanch in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain and then add ice water.  Drain again and squeeze dry between paper towels.

Combine the butter and olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  When the butter melts, add the leeks and nutmeg.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté, turning occasionally with tongs, until the leeks become lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently until very tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the cream, turn up the heat slightly, and let bubble until thickened, about 4 minutes. Tuck the apple slices among the leeks.  Sprinkle with the Gruyère.  Broil until the cheese melts and turns golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes (watch carefully so that it does not burn).  Serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Very addictive!

Thyme-Roasted Parsnips and Pears

Another scrumptious recipe from Ripe.  I have enjoyed this color-drenched cookbook and because it’s that good I have attached a quick video of the book.  Once you view the video you’ll soon see why I love it.  I’m a advocate for mixing things up and combining food groups that perhaps in the past were considered taboo.  Parsnips and pears go well together and are nutritionally good, too. Parsnips provide an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, copper, manganese and are low in calories.  Pears are members of the rose family and related to the apple and the quince.  They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K (helps to protect your bones).  Easy to prepare and the aromas in the kitchen will make your tummy growl!
Serves 4
adapted from Ripe

4 large parsnips, peeled (454g to 680g/1 to 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 medium Bosc pears (454g/1 lb.)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried (more for garnish)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 218c (425f).

Cut parsnips in half crosswise at the point where the thicker top becomes narrow and skinny.  If the tails are thin, toss them on the baking sheet as is.  Otherwise, halve them lengthwise.  Slice the thicker tops in halves, quarters, or eights, depending on their width (aim for pieces to be relatively uniform).  Stand the pears up and slice them.  Add to the parsnips.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.  Rub the seasonings in with your fingers and spread pieces out so they don’t touch.  Roast 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and caramelized all over, turning once with a spatula.  Garnish with thyme.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  I love this combination! I used a mandoline to slice the pears. Fan pears out when roasting with the parsnips and watch to make sure they don’t burn.  Parsnips have a sweet taste and when roasted with the pears, it’s a match made in heaven.  Enjoy!

Roasted Bell Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa

A colorful plate of food usually means it’s a nutritional one and such is the case with this dish.   Bell peppers are the Christmas ornaments of the vegetable world. Beautifully shaped glossy exterior with a wide array of vivid colors ranging from green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown to black. Red peppers are high in vitamin C, vitamin A and are an excellent source of vitamin B6.  If you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines.  It’s also good for cardio health.  The natives of South America, called quinoa “the gold of the Incas,” and recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors.

Serves 6
adapted from Whole Foods

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
1 red onion, chopped
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped carrots
6 bell peppers (tops removed, cored and seeded)

1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 pound baby spinach
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews

Preheat oven to 180c (350f). Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add carrots and chopped peppers, cook until just softened, then add parsley and spinach (in batches, if needed). Let spinach wilt then stir in cinnamon, cumin and cooked quinoa and toss gently to combine. Add salt, pepper and cashews and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Set aside to let filling cool until just warm.

Divide quinoa mixture evenly among the bell peppers, gently packing it down and making sure to fully fill each pepper. Top each pepper with its reserved top then arrange them upright in prepared pan. Cover snugly with foil and bake, checking halfway through, until peppers are tender and juicy and filling is hot throughout, about 1 hour. Transfer to plates and serve.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  So pretty who could resist eating this?  Enjoy!


Butter Tart Squares

I can’t remember when I first ate a butter tart…it’s been a very long time.  This is a recipe I’ve had for a while now and came across it when I was searching for another in my book of recipes I’ve collected over the years.  The butter tart square, I am guessing, hails from the butter tart which finds its roots in pioneer Canadian cooking.  The squares are less fussy to make.  And, if you have had the pleasure of eating these squares or tarts, you’ll know that the recipes vary where the filling can be gooey –drip off your chin–  or more set.  I prefer something in the middle.  I made these for the first time for my husband and daughter last month and both weren’t as excited as I was but that soon changed when they ate their first piece!  The words, ‘can I have another, please?’ quickly followed.  Need I say more?

Listen to CBC radio on what makes a great Canadian butter tart.

Makes 12 – 14 squares (depends on how big you slice it)

1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1//4 cup sugar
1 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180c (350f).   For the base, cream butter and sugar then add flour and combine until crumbly.  Press into an 8″ square pan (greased and floured) and bake 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

To make the topping, combine all ingredients and spread over base.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool in pan.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
  This tart traditionally uses raisins but I love the flavor of naturally dried cranberries.  This is an easy dessert and the next time I will bake for 25 minutes as 30 minutes was a bit too set for my liking.  Enjoy!

Candied Grapefruit Peel

Another candied recipe for you to try!  It’s an easy one as well and the results are delicious!  Candied fruit (aka crystallized fruit or Glacé fruit) has been around since the 14th century.  Back then, using honey (later sugar) was the only way to preserve fruit in the winter months.  Candied fruit at that time was treated like spices – expensive!

Makes 30 pieces
adapted by Martha Stewart

1 medium grapefruit
2 cups sugar, plus more for rolling

Using a paring knife, make 6 slits from top to bottom of grapefruit, cutting through the peel and pith but not into the fruit. Remove peel, and reserve fruit for another use. Cut peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch wide strips. If there is a very thick pith, removed some with the paring knife, leaving 1/4-inch attached to the peel.

Bring sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Wash down side of pot with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add grapefruit peel to boiling syrup, and reduce heat. Cover with parchment paper, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about 1 1/2 hours. Let peels cool in syrup, about 1 hour. If not ready to use or roll in sugar, refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Place sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Use a slotted spoon to transfer peel to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off any excess syrup with paper towels, then roll in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a clean wire rack and let stand until dry (at least 30 minutes). Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: These were absolutely scrumptious! Dip them in 70% chocolate as shown or use on top of pound cake for decoration (recipe to follow).  Enjoy!

Mince Pie Cookies

Mincemeat originally had meat in it  (in Medieval times) along with fruit and beef suet.  The meat was finely minced and was a way of using up leftover meat.  The word may sound like an odd concoction as a dessert and evoke an unpleasant visual, but fondly enough the mince does have a sweet flavor to it.  The English recipes for mincemeat during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries consisted of meat and fruit and by the 20th century, the beef was omitted.   Mincemeat pie was always a regular during the Christmas holidays in our home.  Mom used to make her own mincemeat that included beef and later on she used only the fruit version to make her pies.  It is an acquired taste and you either like it or you don’t!  That said, put away those preconceived notions and try this recipe…you just might be pleasantly surprised.

Makes 20 to 30 cookies (amounts will vary according to size)
adapted from Jamie magazine

250g unsalted butter, softened
140g sugar
1 egg yolk
grated zest of 1 clementine or orange
300g flour
1 x 411g jar fruit mincemeat

Preheat the oven to 180C (350f) and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until creamy. Add the egg yolk and clementine zest and beat again to combine. Sift in the flour then fold through most of the mincemeat and stir until the mixture starts to come together – use your hands to make a dough, if needed.

Pull off little biscuit-sized clumps of dough, space them evenly over the trays and gently press down slightly to shape into cookies. Dot a little of your saved mince on top of each cookie to make them look extra delicious. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes, or till golden but still a bit doughy in the middle. Serve warm, or turn onto a wire rack to cool, then store in an airtight container.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
These cookies are soft and so scrumptious. Depending on the size of the cookie, you may need to bake longer than 10 minutes. I found I needed an extra 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

Cathedral Mountain Lodge – French Onion Soup

As I was flipping through the magazine and spotted this recipe, I was thinking to myself is there another recipe out there that can really improve on French onion soup? Onions, water, broth, bread, cheese,  yada yada yada! Onion soup has been around for centuries (ancient Greek and Roman times) and was seen as food for the poor because onions were easy to grow and inexpensive.  According to French Onion Soup, a typical onion soup recipe from the mid seventeenth century would have involved cutting onions thinly, frying them with butter, and then boiling them in water with bread and capers. This soup would have been served with vinegar. In the nineteenth century, flour, salt, and pepper were added to the recipe and grated cheese featured as a garnish for French onion soup recipes in the early 1900s.  French onion soup became more popular in the US in the 1960’s.

It’s a soup we’ve all grown up with or at least heard about and in my family this soup has been made more than once.  Onions are a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber and evidence showing that sulfur compounds in an onion can lower blood levels of cholesterol.  Happy slurping!

Serves 4
adapted from Cathedral Mountain Lodge

4 large yellow onions
4 strips applewood smoked bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 355 ml cans honey ale
1 cup demi-glace (reduced beef stock)
2 cups (16 oz.) Monterey Jack cheese, grated
sourdough bread, cut into 1″ cubes

Peel onions, cut in half and thinly slice. Cut bacon into small pieces. Place butter and bacon into a large pot over medium heat. Cook bacon slowly until it is almost crispy, stirring as you go so it doesn’t burn. Don’t drain bacon grease. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add beer and cook for 10 more minutes. Add the demi-glace and continue cooking until soup is reduced by one quarter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 3 days if need be). Leave breab cubes sit on counter overnight, uncovered.

The next day, warm up soup. Place 7 bread cubes each in 4 oven-safe soup bowls set on a cookie sheet and pour soup over top (the cubes will float). Add 1/2 cup of cheese to each bowl and broil until cheese starts to brown and soup bubbles up through the cheese.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Ok, so I guess I’m eating my words (literally and figuratively). This soup was scrumptious! Choose your favorite beer to guarantee the best taste. The only thing I would do differently would be to add some fresh thyme and change the cheese to Gruyère.  I used beef consommé in lieu of the demi-glace (too labor-intensive for me!).

Greek Salad Skewers

American Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I am sure there is last minute food shopping going on as I write this post. This appetizer is a fun spin on a classic salad. So fresh and full of flavor who could resist? Cucumbers are the fourth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world and are enjoyed on all continents. Cucumbers provide us with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. Although cucmbers arrived in North America around the 1500’s via European colonists, they are believed to have been around since 2500BC in Iraq and Kuwait.  Feta is a soft cheese, produced by sheep milk or a blend of sheep and goat milk. Look for the PDO (protected designation of origin) label on feta cheese for authenticity.  

Happy Thanksgiving America…gobble gobble!

Serves 4 to 6
adapted from Fine Cooking magazine

1/4 English cucumber
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 lb. feta cheese, cut into 16 small cubes
8 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
8 rip grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
extra-virgin olive oil

For the cucumber, cut four 1/2-inch thick slices (you may need to half if the slices are large). Place cuc slices on a serving platter. Top each with a piece of feta and then an olive half. Slide a toothpick through on the cucumber stacks. Drizzle with olive oil and freshly ground salt and pepper.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
This is super easy and lovely to pop into your mouth! Just make sure serving sizes are small enough to make it easy for your guests to eat in one go.  Keep these at room temperature for up to one hour thus allowing the flavor of the cheese to develop.  Enjoy!

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!