Thursday, July 27, 2017

Suzanne's Mini Herbed Pommes Anna with Thyme

Pommes Anna is a grand name for what is essentially a dish of sliced potatoes baked in a very large amount of melted butter. Four ingredients are all that is required — potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. This very simple classic French recipe is all in the preparation and presentation, and the use of very, very thinly sliced potatoes. A simple, elegant and decadently delicious side dish, Pommes Anna was created in 19th-century Paris when chef Adolphe Dugléré created it for his favourite customer, the celebrated courtesan Anna Deslions. The legendary allure of Pommes Anna is a buttery, soft potato cake with a crisp, golden buttery crust. Using muffin cups to make mini versions of this classic recipe, my friend Suzanne created these culinary wonders using a mandolin to slice small Yukon Gold potatoes into very thin rounds, tossed with melted garlic and thyme herbed butter. The potatoes are subsequently layered and overlapped in a circular fashion in each of the muffin cups, then drizzled with additional butter and baked at 350°F until the potatoes can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about half an hour. The mini Pommes Anna are then turned onto a baking sheet and baked for an additional 25-30 minutes until they the edges become crisp and golden brown. Magnifique!

Suzanne's Mini Pommes Anna
Serves 12
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit

1/2 cup unsalted butter

12-24 small tender thyme sprigs plus 2 tsp coarsely chopped leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
1 3/4 lb small Yukon Gold potatoes, each slightly larger than a golf ball
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Brush muffin cups all over with butter and line bottoms with parchment-paper rounds. Arrange 1-2 small thyme sprigs in center of each round. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon butter into bottom of each cup. Add chopped thyme and garlic to remaining butter in saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes crosswise into very thin rounds, less than 1/16-inch thick, placing them in a large bowl as you work. Pour the herb butter over them and season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat well.

Divide the potato slices among each of the muffin cups, layering overlapping slices to create a circular pattern. Lightly press the centre of each to make each stack compact. Drizzle any remaining butter and seasoning from bowl over.
Cover the muffin pan tightly with foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the potatoes can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 35 minutes. 

Remove the foil and invert a rimmed baking sheet over the pan. Turn, lightly tapping on counter, releasing the potatoes onto the sheet, and rearrange any slices that may have fallen out. Using a metal spatula, carefully turn over the cakes, with the thyme sprigs facing down, and discard the parchment. Increase the oven heat to 425°F and bake until the bottoms and edges are crisp and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Carefully turn the cakes with the thyme sprigs facing up and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes & Bocconcini

Insalata Caprese is one of the simplest and tastiest summer salads, but especially so when there's no chopping to be done. A classic Caprese Salad involves slicing hot house tomatoes and layering them between slices of perfectly ripe Buffalo Mozzarella, and garnishing with fresh basil leaves. By using small bite size bocconcini and mini red and yellow cherry tomatoes tossed with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh basil, the classic flavours of the mediterranean can be prepared for serving a large group of friends as quick as you can say 'Molto Buono!".

Insalata Caprese with Cherry Tomatoes, Bocconcini & Basil
Serves 8-10 

200 gram tub of mini Bocconcini, drained
2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes: red, orange and purple
1 handful fresh basil, julienned and left whole, for garnish
1 tbsp olive oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half if desired, or leave whole, and place in a mixing bowl with the drained bocconcini. Season with olive oil, sea salt and some black pepper and toss to coat. To serve, pour the tomato and bocconcini into a decorative bowl and garnish with the julienned basil. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Grilled Zucchini with Shaved Parmigiano & Fresh Mint

Zucchini are one of my favourite vegetables, so imagine my surprise when I found out that it's not really a vegetable. Botanically speaking it's actually a fruit, the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. This remarkable 'fruit' can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed, baked, barbequed, fried, baked into a bread, incorporated in a soufflé, shredded for fritters or battered as tempura. In short, the zucchini (or courgette) is an amazingly versatile little thing, plus it's low in calories. The word zucchini comes from the italian zucchino which means small squash. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the dark green zucchini is probably the best known and most popular of the summer squashes. Zucchini has a natural sweetness when its cooked, making it an obliging ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes, this easy and delicious Grilled Zucchini with Shaved Parmigiano and Fresh Mint is one of my favourite summer recipes.

Grilled Zucchini with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint
Serves 4-6

4 large zucchini, trimmed and sliced diagonally about 1/4-inch thick
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper

Place the zucchini on a large plate and brush with the oil, then lightly season with salt and pepper.  Preheat the BBQ to medium-high and when hot, arrange the zucchini in one layer and grill for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown with nice grill marks. 

To serve, arrange the zucchini on a large platter and top with the shaved parmigiana and sliced or whole mint leaves with a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Breasts

Tender, succulent and full of flavour, these Moroccan-inspired chicken breasts are marinated in a mixture of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic and ginger and an aromatic mixture of fragrant earthy spices including, ground cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric. Whisked together into a loose paste and combined with a bunch of finely chopped fresh cilantro, the breasts are well massaged with the bright earthy marinade until the meat is well coated, then covered and refrigerated for at least 2 hours or up to 8, before grilling on a hot barbecue until cooked through with attractive grill marks, about 6-7 minutes per side. Low calorie and carb-free, this delicious recipe is easy to prepare and would be sensational served with grilled vegetables and Ina's colourful Moroccan Couscous for a Casablanca-inspied evening — here's looking at you kid!

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Breasts
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of 'Cooking Classy'

4 trimmed skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut in a half
3/8 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic 
1 1/2 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1 tsp Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper  and then place the chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and seal the bag while pressing out any excess air. Rub the marinade over chicken breasts then transfer to the refrigerator and allow to marinate at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Preheat a grill over medium-high heat to about 425°F. Grill the chicken until it's cooked through and nicely grill marks, about 6-7 minutes per side. Transfer to a decorative platter and garnish with cilantro and serve warm with a bowl of tzatziki, if desired.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tarragon Potato Salad: A Barefoot Contessa Classic

A welcome addition to any barbecue, lunch, or picnic, Potato Salad is a classic summer time favourite and considered by many to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. However Ina Garten's sensational Tarragon Potato Salad takes this humble side dish to another level. Fresh dill, tarragon, scallions, red onion, white wine vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon juice and homemade mayonnaise seasoned with fresh ground white pepper provide the creamy catalyst for cool firm Yukon Gold potatoes. Developed in Canada, Yukon Golds are a cross between a North American white potato and a wild South American yellow-fleshed one. Their golden flesh is richly flavoured and fairly firm and moist, with medium starch content. A perfect compromise between dry, fluffy russet potatoes and moist, waxy varieties, Yukon Golds are incredibly versatile and perfect in Potato Salad, especially this luscious version by the one and only Ina Garten.

Tarragon Potato Salad
Serves 12
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

4 lb medium Yukon Gold potatoes
Maldon salt
2 cups good store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tarragon white wine vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
6 tbsp chopped scallions, white and green parts
6 tbsp minced red onion
1/4 cup minced tarragon
1/4 cup minced fresh dill

Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes, just until tender when pierced with a small knife or skewer. Drain in a colander. Put a kitchen towel over the colander and allow the potatoes to steam for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes or leave the skins on if you prefer. Slice into 1/2-inch thick coins and place in a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and two teaspoons of Maldon salt and white pepper. While the potatoes are still warm, pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss well. Add the scallions, red onion, tarragon and dill, and toss gently. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to develop. Garnish with a little extra dill before serving at room temperature.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Whole Grilled Branzino with Sliced Zucchini

Branzino is a Mediterranean sea bass, indigenous to the shores of Greece, and is considered a prized fish throughout Europe. In France, they are called Loup or Bar, the Spanish call them Robalo, and in Italy they are known as Spigola or, more commonly as Bronzino. In Greece, they are also known as Lavraki, and are a near mythical fish. In fact, when Greek journalists stumble upon a great story — snag that rare exclusive scoop — they call it a Lavraki. Stuffed with fresh herbs, lemon and sliced ginger this recipe for Whole Grilled Branzino is easy to prepare and makes a gorgeous main dish, especially on a hot summer evening under the stars.   

Whole Grilled Branzino
Serves 2

2 medium Branzino, at room temperature - cleaned and scaled by your fishmonger
1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper
1 handful fresh lemon thyme
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
2 lemons, one finely sliced and the other cut in half for grilling
1 zucchini, thickly sliced on a diagonal and brushed with oil

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Light an outdoor grill or barbecue to high heat. Season the inside of the Branzino with salt and a few grindings of black pepper, and rub the outside with the olive oil and season well with kosher salt which will help ensure a wonderful crispy skin. Stuff with lemon slices, sliced ginger and sprigs of fresh lemon thyme. Place the fish, lemon halves and sliced zucchini on a foil lined baking sheet for easy transport to the barbecue.

Grill the fish over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side, adding the lemon halves cut side down plus the zucchini for the last 3-4 minutes. Serve the grilled Bronzino and zucchini straight away, and garnish with the grilled lemon wedges for squeezing overtop of the fish.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grilled Quail with Smokey BBQ Sauce & Sambal Oelek

These tiny little birds have a lot of flavour for their diminutive size. Marinated in a robust smokey BBQ sauce spiked with generous spoonfuls of Sambal Oelek, a hot chili-based sauce which is popular throughout the Indonesia, these Grilled Quail are an ideal appetizer for a summer cocktail party, Javanese-inspired Tiki party or delicious outdoor dinner. Served spatchcocked or butterflied, by removing the backbone so the quail can be opened up and grilled flat, they can also be split in half for smaller appetizer-friendly portions. Barbecuing the quail brings out the sweetness of the marinade, infusing the meat with bold robust flavour, and becomes lightly charred and deliciously moist and golden brown. Be sure to provide guests with lots of cocktail napkins or finger bowls of warm water and sliced lemon, and watch these succulent little birds disappear!

Grilled Quail 
Serves 2-3 as entrée or 8-10 as appetizer

6 quail
1/2 cup Diana Gourmet Western Smokehouse BBQ Sauce
2 tbsp Sambal Oelek
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Using poultry scissors or a sharp knife, butterfly the quail by cutting down the backbone so that the birds open up like a book. Rinse the quail under cold water to remove any impurities, then dry with paper towel. Place the whole quail in a glass flat bottomed dish, or cut them in half for appetizer portions,  and coat with the BBQ sauce and Sambal Oelek, using your hands to massage the marinade all over. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cover with cling film and chill until needed. The quail can be prepared up to a day in advance, but an hour at the very least. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high then place the quail skin side down and cook about 15-20 minutes, turning once, until the quail is cooked through and has become golden brown and lightly charred. Arrange on a large platter and serve warm or at room temperature.