Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Handmade Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Full of all the wonderful flavours from the sea, nothing beats a seductive bowl of Linguine alle Vongole. An essential part of Neapolitan cuisine, this fragrant dish can be prepared two ways: 'rosso', with tomatoes or 'bianco', without. This simple, elegant and tasty recipe pairs fresh clams and a simple sauce with a special secret ingredient — anchovies — which add a hidden depth of flavour to this wonderfully satisfying dish. A classic Italian pasta, this is one of my favourite dishes to make anytime of the year.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce
Serves 6

5 dozen Manila clams
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
3 anchovies, minced
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 small cans of clams, saving the clam juice
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup italian parsley, finely chopped; plus extra for garnish
1 tsp salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound handmade or quality store-bought linguine

Let the clams drain in cold water for at least one hour. In a large pan that will accommodate the cooked pasta, heat olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes and cook until just golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the clam juice, white wine, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, partially covered, for 8-10 minutes. 

Place the hard shell Manila clams in a large pot with 1-inch of water and cover. Set on med-high heat and steam for about 6-10 minutes, or until the clams open. Discard the stubborn ones that remain closed. Shuck half of the cooked clams and place in a small bowl with the 2 cans of canned clams. Set aside. Reserve the remaining clams in their shells in the pot and cover. Meanwhile, reheat the sauce if you have allowed it to cool, adding the shucked and canned clams to the sauce and heat gently.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, and add 1 tsp of salt. Cook the linguine until tender but still firm. Drain the linguine and toss it with the sauce, mixing well to combine. Serve the linguine in individual wide rim bowls, and garnish each with the cooked clam and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve with some lovely crusty garlic bread and a nice chilled bottle of white wine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gingerbread Spiced Apple Upside-Down Cake

This delectably moist gingerbread-spiced caramelized apple upside-down cake is the perfect dessert for the chilly autumn and winter months. Dark, coppery and intensely flavoured, this delicious cake is made with dark molasses, honey, buttermilk and a trio of fragrant spices, and goes perfectly with a dollop of pillowy soft Calvados Whipped Cream or tangy creme fraiche. As tempting as it may be, don't use a springform pan with a removable bottom, as the syrup will leak out and that would be enormously messy.

Gingerbread Spiced Apple Upside-Down Cake
Serves 12

4 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Calvados whipped cream:
1/2 cup whipping cream, chilled
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp Calvados

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan. To make the topping, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring for 5 minutes, then swirl in the salt. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture into the cake pan, spreading with a spatula to distribute evenly. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the brown sugar. Chop any remaining slices and place them in the gaps.

For the batter, blend 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a standing mixer set on medium-low, then increase the speed to high and cream until the batter becomes light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, honey, buttermilk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Alternate adding the egg mixture and the flour mixture to the creamed butter-sugar mixture, then pour the batter into the cake pan. 

Bake at least 45-50 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of pan to loosen the cake, then place a serving platter over the cake and invert onto the platter.

Serve warm or at room temperature with very softly whipped Calvados Whipped Cream, made by whisking the cream with the syrup and Calvados in an electric mixer until cream holds soft peaks. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Asian Sesame Ginger Salmon with Sliced Scallions

Simple and delicious, this sensational recipe for Asian Sesame Ginger Salmon is sweet, fragrant, and full of fabulous flavour. Low-cal and carb-free, the salmon is marinated in an aromatic mixture of sesame oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, then chilled for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to work their magic. While the salmon is marinating, a simple sauce of honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, minced ginger and sesame seeds can be whisked together and gently warmed on low heat, ready to be served over the cooked salmon with a final garnish of sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

Asian Sesame Ginger Salmon
Serves 4

4 organic salmon filets, about 2-pounds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp sesame seeds
4 green onions, finely sliced for garnish

Honey, Ginger & Sesame Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar and whisk well until combined. Add the salmon, cover and refrigerate to marinate, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining each of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. 

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the salmon on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the centre is just done. If you like your salmon more well done, simply bake as long as you wish. To serve, spoon some of the sauce over top of the salmon and garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and flurry of sliced green onions.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Warm Olives with Rosemary, Lemon & Peperoncino

Plump, glossy and gorgeous, these fragrant Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Olives with Peperoncino are a tangy and tasty hors d'oeuvre with a glass of wine, a lump of cheese and a warm crusty foot of baguette. Sauté the olives with some garlic, hot red pepper, lemon zest, rosemary and some infused olive oil catapults this appetizer to another gastronomic level — one that is fast, easy and quite delicious.

Warm Lemon & Rosemary Mixed Olives
Makes 2 cups

3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups mixed olives with pits: nicoise, cerignola, kalamata, picholine
1 clove of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 hot red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
Garnishes: rosemary sprig, lemon rind strips

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sliced pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the mixed olives and lemon zest and cook, stirring frequently, until warmed though and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 10-15 minutes. Garnish with some lemon curls and fresh rosemary sprigs. Serve warm with some crusty bread and your favourite cheeses.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Barley, Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries

With its delicate nutty flavour and sturdy texture, wild rice makes a delicious basis for this healthy high-fibre Barley & Wild Rice Salad. The addition of sliced green onions, chickpeas and toasted pine nuts tossed together with a tangy vinaigrette makes this salad a nutritional powerhouse. Mixed-grain salads deliver a great combination of flavours and textures as well as folate and vitamin E for a strong and healthy heart — very important for those cardio workouts. Adding beans to grains also creates the key combination of protein and carbs that helps muscles repair and refuel themselves, which makes this Barley & Wild Rice Salad with chickpeas and dried cranberries a nutritional powerhouse with heart-healthy goodness that's also rich with great flavour.

Barley, Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad with Dried Cranberries
Serves 6

1 3/4 cups chicken broth 
1/2 cup uncooked brown and wild rice mix
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
1/3 cup golden raisins 
1/4 cup sliced green onions 
2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Place the chicken broth, rice and barley in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Spoon rice mixture into a medium bowl. Add the chickpeas, raisins, green onions and cranberries.

Combine the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Pour over barley mixture and toss well. Cover and chill for two. Stir in the basil and pine nuts and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stracciatella Soup with Spinach, Leeks & Orzo

Nearly every culture has a soup based on chicken and egg. Sometimes it's in the form of egg and flour dumplings such as the Russian-German Knephla Soup, or the Algerian Djari Byad which sees egg yolks and lemon juice being whisked into chicken soup at the last moment. This dish is an example of how the Italians can also take the simplest of ingredients and put them together in a way that looks, smells and tastes absolutely delicious. Stracciatella is a rustic Roman egg-drop soup that's traditionally served with a handful of cheese, but in this modern version, spinach, orzo, chicken and sautéed leeks have also been added for a rich and satisfying twist on the Italian classic.

The name Stracciatella translates as 'torn apart' or 'rags' in Italian, which aptly describes the eggs, which look like tiny torn rags as they cook in the broth. This easy recipe is prepared by simply adding sautéed leeks, shredded chicken, grated pecorino, salt, pepper, parsley, nutmeg, and orzo to boiling chicken broth. Beaten egg is then added in a slow stream to produce the stracciatelle, or little shreds of cooked egg, producing a rich and satisfying dish from the simplest of ingredients. 

Stracciatella with Spinach, Leeks & Orzo
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
2 bone-in chicken breasts with skin on
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 cup cooked or frozen spinach, chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup orzo
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and ground pepper. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the chicken, skin side down, and sauté until browned, about five minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, about another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Do not drain the oil from the pot.

Add the chopped leeks, parsley, spinach and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the leeks begin to soften, about three minutes. Pour in 6 cups of the chicken stock, reserving the last 1/2 cup for the eggs. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, beat two eggs with the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of parmesan until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

After 20 minutes, add the orzo, cover and let cook about 7-8 minutes, until it's almost cooked through. Once the orzo is al dente, remove the chicken breasts from the soup, remove and discard the skin. Using two forks, pull the meat off the bone and shred into bite sized pieces. Return the chopped chicken to the soup and discard the bones.

Pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup, whisking vigorously. Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer, whisking occasionally for five minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the soup begins to look curdled, that’s how it looks as the eggs cook. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into warmed soup bowl and garnish with grated parmesan and chopped Italian parsley.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lemon & Orange Poppyseed Bread with Syrup Glaze

Bursting with flavour, and infused with the sweet, slightly tart flavour of fragrant lemon and orange peel, melted butter and studded with poppy seeds, this delicious Lemon & Orange Poppyseed Bread is perfect for breakfast or with a hot cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon. The crowning glory is the sweet sugary lemon-orange glaze that's brushed over the cake while it's still warm, infusing the bread with a sweet and tangy citrus flavour that will keep it moist and delicious for days. So if you're needing a little taste of summer, this light and luscious Lemon & Orange Poppyseed Bread will definitely add some sunshine to the day.

Lemon & Orange Poppyseed Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 Large Eggs
2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp coarsely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp coarsely grated orage zest
3 tbsp poppy seeds
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Lemon Orange Syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk, then set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, orange zest and poppy seeds until well combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture and beat well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55-65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When the bread is done, remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

To make the lemon orange syrup, place the sugar, and fresh squeezed lemon and orange juice to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.  

Pierce the warm loaf all over with a toothpick, then brush the top of the loaf with about half of the hot lemon syrup. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf. Let the lemon loaf cool before wrapping and storing overnight, to allow the lemon syrup to penetrate the loaf.