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May 2014 Dinner Party for 6

Barbecued Salmon on Crostini with Caper & Horseradish Sauce
Mixed Lettuce with Basil Vinaigrette, Avocado & Grilled Oyster Mushrooms
Halibut with Fennel Potato Purée, Citrus Sauce and Green Harissa
Almond Cookie Baskets with Rhubarb Compote, Vanilla Gelato and Fresh Strawberries

This menu celebrates the fish, basil, rhubarb and strawberries that are all fresh and abundant in Vancouver markets right now. Many of the elements of this party menu can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Instructions for this are in italics within each recipe.

Barbecued Salmon on Crostini with Caper & Horseradish Sauce

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8 oz. barbecued salmon (I purchase this at the Granville Island Market, Seafood City)
2 T. red onion, or shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 T. capers, drained and chopped
1 T. prepared horseradish
1/4 C. mayonaise
2 t. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
crostini or crackers

For Sauce: Combine onion, capers, horseradish, mayonnaise, and vinegar in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce can be mixed together up to 3 days before serving.
For Crostini: Slice a baguette or ciabatta bread in 1/2″ slices and brush lightly with olive oil. Grill or broil until browned on both sides. Rub one side with a peeled clove of garlic.
Place the salmon on a platter with the bowl of sauce and crostini or crackers alongside.

Mixed Lettuce with Basil Vinaigrette, Avocado & Grilled Oyster Mushrooms

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1 C. basil leaves
1  1/2 T. balsamic vinegar (red or white)
1  1/2 T. sherry vinegar
2 t. honey
2 cloves garlic
1  1/2 t. Dijon mustard
6 T. oil (3 T. olive oil, 3 T. grape seed oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
5 C. mixed lettuce (combination of red leaf, radicchio, basil, endive, or your choice)
1 green onion, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1-2 avocados (depending on size), peeled and sliced
18 oyster mushrooms
olive oil, salt and pepper

In a blender, combine 1 C. basil, vinegars, honey, garlic, and mustard and whirl to blend. Pour in oil slowly to emulsify vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made several days ahead of time and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Toss mushrooms with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Grill (or sauté) until cooked, and set aside until ready to plate the salad.

In a large bowl, combine lettuces and green onion. Add vinaigrette (you may not need it all), toss, and portion onto 6 salad plates. Top with oyster mushrooms and slices of avocado and drizzle with a little more vinaigrette.

Halibut with Fennel Potato Purée, Citrus Sauce and Green Harissa
This recipe is adapted from the A.O.C Cookbook, by Suzanne Goin. I am a huge fan of this talented chef and have referenced her recipes several times on this site. She and her Los Angeles based kitchen staff are masters of unusual combinations of flavours and textures. The recipes generally have several elements but I have suggested ways here to stage the process to make it more possible for the home cook. The original recipe calls for sea bass, but I have made it with halibut or lingcod.

3 lbs. citrus (grapefruit and oranges)
6 fillets halibut (4-5 oz. each)
1 T. thyme leaves
2 T. chopped Italian parsley
3/4 C. Castelvetrano olives, pitted (available at Granville Market and Whole Foods)
1/2 C. green Harissa (recipe below)
juice of 1/2 lime
2 T. olive oil
1 t. sugar
1/4 – 1/2 t. chile flakes
4 T. unsalted butter
1 recipe Fennel Potato Purée (recipe below)
salt and pepper

Season fish: finely grate 1 T. zest from grapefruit and oranges, mix with thyme and parsley and rub all over fish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

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Citrus
: Cut top and bottom off fruit and place cut side down on a cutting board. Following the contour of the fruit with a sharp knife, remove the peel and pith. Holding each piece of fruit in one hand, carefully slice between the membranes to release the segments in between. Discard any seeds. Reserve the juice in a measuring cup, adding enough more juice to make 1 1/2 C. juice for the sauce. Can be made early in the day. Cover both fruit segments and juice with plastic wrap until ready to make the sauce.

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To make citrus sauce
: Pour citrus juice, sugar and chile flakes into a saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce juice by 2/3, turn the heat down to low and whisk in the butter, 1/4 t. salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Swirl the pan to incorporate the butter as it melts, add the fruit segments and remove from the heat. Taste for seasoning. The sauce can be prepared early in the day, up to the point of reducing the juice. When ready to cook the fish, reheat the juice concentrate, whisk in the butter and season.

To finish the harissa: Toss the pitted olives in 1/2 C. of the green harissa (recipe below) and season with the juice of 1/2 a lime. Set aside at room temperature until ready to plate the fish.

To cook fish: Heat a grill pan to high, brush fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook quickly until well-browned with grill marks on one side, then turn and remove fish from pan as soon as it’s just cooked, with the centre still slightly translucent. If you do not have a grill pan, use a heavy frying pan instead.

To serve: Heat fennel potato purée and place about 1/2 C. on each plate. Put the grilled fish on top, spoon citrus and sauce over and around, and top with green olive harissa.

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Harissa

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Harissa can be made several days ahead of time and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator. This sauce makes more than you need for the fish dish, but is also wonderful on other kinds of fish or chicken .

1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. caraway seeds
1 clove garlic
1 t. Kosher salt
2-3 jalapeños, depending on desired heat
1 1/2 C. cilantro leaves, washed and dried
1/2 C. Italian parsley, washed and dried
2/3 C. olive oil

Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Repeat the same process with the caraway seeds. Pound seeds together coarsely in a mortar. Mash the garlic with the salt to a paste and add to seeds. Place the jalapeños, cilantro, and parsley in a food processor and purée until finely minced. Add the seeds and garlic mixture, and with the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning. Add the 3/4 C. pitted olives to 1/2 C. of the sauce, and reserve the rest of the sauce for another time.

Fennel Potato Purée

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1/2 C. Pernod
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 C. slice fennel
1/2 C. whole milk
3/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
salt and pepper to taste

Put Pernod in a saucepan over low heat and reduce to 1/4 C. Heat a sauté pan over high heat, add olive oil, and fennel, salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fennel softens, stirring often. Add the milk and simmer another few minutes until fennel is very soft and the milk thickens slightly. Transfer to a blender and purée.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and pass through a food mill, or ricer, or mash well. Fold the fennel purée into the potatoes, add the reduced Pernod, and season with salt and pepper. This can be made up to 2 days ahead of time, stored in microwave-safe dish, covered and refrigerated. Re-heat in the microwave while cooking fish.

Almond Cookie Baskets with Rhubarb Compote, Vanilla Gelato and Fresh Strawberries 
This is one of my favourite spring/summer desserts. You can make use of seasonal fruit when it’s at its best, vary the gelato or ice cream flavour, or use different kinds of nuts. In summer, I substitute the rhubarb compote with raspberry sauce, then finish the dish with fresh raspberries and blueberries. The baskets can be made up to one day ahead, then filled just before serving. Make sure to use parchment paper or Silipat sheets so the cookies are easily removed from the cookie sheet.

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1/4 C. unsalted butter
1/4 C. light corn syrup
1/4 C. sugar
4 oz. almonds, chopped
1/4 C. flour
rhubarb compote (recipe follows)
fresh strawberries, halved or sliced
Mario’s vanilla bean gelato (purchased)

Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silipat.  Combine butter, corn syrup and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until blended and warm. Stir in nuts and flour.
Put 1 – 1 1/2  T. batter onto cookie sheet (2 per sheet) and bake at 350° until golden. The batter will spread during baking and you will be able to tell after the first batch how large the baskets will be. In the photograph here I have used 1 T. batter and the baskets are about 4″ in diametre. Let set just until you are able to remove the cookies in one piece (about 1 minute) and quickly form them over a rounded dish or bowl. Let cool, then remove each basket to a tray to make room for forming the next batch.

To serve, place one cookie on each dessert plate, fill with a scoop of gelato and top with a spoonful of rhubarb compote and fresh strawberries.

Rhubarb Compote
2 C. rhubarb, cut into 1″ lengths
2 T. water
1 t. orange zest
2 T. orange juice
2 T. honey (or to taste)
1/2 t. vanilla

Combine rhubarb, water, zest and juice in a medium saucepan and cook gently, stirring, until rhubarb is just tender. Stir in honey to taste and vanilla. Remove to a bowl, cool and refrigerate until ready to assemble desserts.

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Pancakes & Ribs

Ribs and Pancakes

These pancakes make a terrific accompaniment to a meal, whether meat or fish, or vegetarian. They can be made well ahead of time and reheated, or not, to serve. I love the combination of flavours here, and plan to try them with different vegetables. My mother used to make zucchini pancakes and I have tried various versions of those over the years, but this recipe is now going to become the base for shredded zucchini too. Bonus: kids love them!

Both the pancake and rib recipes, with a few adaptations, are from Food52, a website rich with ideas and inspiration.

Cauliflower Pancakes
1 large cauliflower, washed and trimmed into bite-sized pieces
3-4 shallots, peeled and chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 T. olive oil
3-4 large eggs, beaten
3 T. chopped Italian parsley
1/2 – 3/4 C. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C. grated mozzarella
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. whole milk
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil for frying

Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil and add the cauliflower pieces. Cook until tender, but not mushy. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.

Sauté the shallots and garlic in 2 T. olive oil until soft but not brown. Remove and set aside. Using your hands, break cauliflower into very small pieces into large bowl. To this bowl now add the eggs, cooked shallots and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Mix this well, then add the flour and milk to create a batter-like consistency. If the batter looks too thin, add a bit more flour. If too thick, add more milk. Add the grated cheeses and the parsley.

Heat a large non-stick pan to medium-high and add a drizzle of olive oil. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto pan and cook in batches until golden brown, adding a little more oil as needed. Cool on a platter. These pancakes may be reheated, or served at room temperature. They keep well stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Makes about 12 pancakes.

Honey Hoisin Ribs
Here is a 2-stage recipe for pork ribs. You may do both stages the day of serving, or you can do the first step (the braising) one or two days ahead, then glaze and bake them just before serving.

Braising the Ribs:
1 rack of baby pork back ribs, cut in half
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into disks
1″ piece of ginger, sliced
1 head garlic, cut in half across the cloves
1 C. soy sauce
water

Place the ribs into the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with a lid (I used a large Le Cruiset). Add the rest of the braising ingredients, then pour in water to cover the ribs by 1″. Place the pot over medium heat and bring slowly to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer ribs until they are tender, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Test for doneness: the meat should be just tender, but not falling off the bone.

Remove ribs from the pot and discard braising liquid. OR, if you plan to serve the ribs one or two days later, store them in the liquid in the refrigerator until ready to finish in the oven.

Glaze and finishing ribs:
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. oyster sauce
1 T. rice wine vinegar
2 t. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1-2 t. sriracha sauce, or your favourite hot sauce, to taste
1/3 C. honey
1 green onion, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 T. toasted sesame seeds

Ribs Ingredients

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place ribs onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Whisk glaze ingredients together and brush over both sides of the ribs. Bake, brushing a few times with the glaze, until hot and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven and cut them into pieces. To serve, sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with green onion.
Serves 2.

Sunday Brunch

Twice-Baked Cheddar Soufflés
Bacon and Turkey Sausages
Cinnamon Bun Muffins
Oatmeal Soda Bread
Grapefruit, Orange and Mint Salad

Brunch has increasingly become a favoured family/friends meal in our household. It seems to suit the schedules of all generations who gather around our table these days. Planned ahead, much of the preparation for this menu can be started in advance: fruit salad the night before; bread and muffin ingredients measured in advance, then finished and baked quickly in the morning;  and yes, even the soufflés can be baked for the first time the day before, then refrigerated and finished just before serving. Read more

Peaches & Cream

Peaches and Cream

This is hands-down the best easy peach dessert ~ peach crumble with a twist and with a more elegant presentation. It comes straight from Smitten Kitchen, and in case you don’t follow it, I am broadcasting the magic of this recipe here. I plan on trying the same technique with apples and pears too. Read more

Copper River Salmon and Bread Salad

This main course salad can, of course, be made with any kind of fresh salmon, but during the very short season of Copper River salmon (approximately mid-May to mid-June), this is a perfect time to use it and Seafood City at Granville Island Market is where this came from. The Copper River flows in Alaska and is almost 300 miles in length, challenging the salmon by its length and its strong, cold rapids. Therefore, Copper River salmon are strong and contain healthy stores of natural oils (Omega-3’s) and body fat, making the salmon extremely rich, flavourful and nutritious.  Read more

A Tribute to Spring

Spring Flowers

Guacamole with Tortilla Chips, Pistachios
Shaved Asparagus Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
Roasted Halibut with Gingered Tomato Mango Salsa
Mini Potatoes Anna
Mixed Berry Gratin
Chocolate Cookies

Gardens are bursting with colour and markets here in Vancouver are selling gorgeous fresh halibut, asparagus and berries. OK, the asparagus and berries are not exactly local yet, they are from California, but they do taste more like the real deal at this time of the year. This menu is a tribute to my favourite season, Spring: full of colour, new growth, and promise. I hope this menu lives up to your spring expectations! Read more

Moroccan Dinner for 6

Assorted homemade or purchased appetizers: hummus, baba ghanoush, olives, grilled flatbread or crackers, pistachios
Orange and Grated Radish Salad with Orange Blossom Water
Moroccan Chicken
Couscous with Tomato and Onion
Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini Sauce and Za’atar
Tarte Tatin with Apples, Raisins and Orange Blossom Water

While testing recipes using preserved lemons and preparing a dinner menu, I began with the main dish, Moroccan chicken, a recipe recently given to me by my cousin, Daphne. I then drew inspiration from two wonderful cookbooks: Paula Wolfert”s “The Food of Morocco” and Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s “Jerusalem, a Cookbook”. I simplified the menu by purchasing the hummus and baba ghanoush, and serving them with olives and sesame crackers. Read more

Preserved Lemons

I picked up a bag of Meyer lemons at Granville Island and preserved them to use in several recipes that I have collected. Typically, preserved lemons are used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking but, since gaining in popularity in North America, they are turning up in a wide range of recipes for salads, pastas, relishes and desserts. Read more