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Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’

Dinner Party Menu: December

Blini with Crème Fraîche and Salmon Caviar
Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup
Beef Croustades with Boursin and Mushrooms
Chocolate Tart 

Our December menu may come just in time for a celebratory New Year’s dinner. Or, one  or two of the recipes may be just right for a more casual meal.

Warm Yukon Gold Blinis with Salmon “Caviar” and Crème Fraîche
This recipe is on Julie’s website where she has many more appetizing ideas.

blini

Photo with thanks to Julie Marr

Just like making pancakes the first blini is a bit of a throwaway, so use it as your learning curve to determine the correct heat level for your pan.  No butter is needed to cook the blinis as long as you use a good quality non-stick pan. You can, of course, use sour cream in place of the crème fraîche, and top with smoked salmon or other fish.

For the blinis:
1 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes, skins on
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 to 2 tablespoons of milk
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

For the garnish:
2 ounces of salmon roe (also called Ikura)
¼ cup crème fraîche
Parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

To make the blinis:
Place the un-peeled potatoes in a medium pot with enough salted water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Drain the potatoes and when they are still warm (but cool enough to handle) peel the potatoes and press them through a fine mesh sieve or a potato ricer. Place the potatoes into a medium bowl and quickly work in the flour with a fork and then add it the crème fraîche and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the egg yolk and mixing well after each egg is added. Season well with salt and white pepper

At this stage the batter should resemble a somewhat thick pancake batter. If is is really thick then add in 1  to 2 tablespoons of milk to achieve the right consistency.

Preheat a nonstick pan over medium heat and allow it to heat up thoroughly. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the batter into the hot pan and allow to cook for approximately 2 minutes and the bottom is golden brown. Flip the blini and allow to cook on the other side for an additional minute.

Remove to a small sheet pan and keep warm is a 200 degree oven while you cook the remaining blinis.

To serve:
Place the blinis on a serving platter and place a dollop (or a small quenelle if you are feeling super fancy) of crème fraîche in the centre of the blini. Place another small dollop of the salmon roe on top and garnish with a sprig of parsley.
Makes 40 canapés.

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup
Roasting the vegetables for this soup gives it a deep and rich flavour that improves with time, making it an ideal make-ahead recipe. It can be made 2-3 days in advance. It is healthy but filling, so I recommend serving it in small bowls if you are following this entire menu.

4 lbs. fresh tomatoes, halved lengthwise
6 garlic cloves
1 medium red onion, quartered, not peeled
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into thick wedges
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1-14oz. tin diced tomatoes
3½ cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (you may need more liquid: if so, add more stock or water)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Put tomatoes, garlic, onion and fennel on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast about 1 hour, or until vegetable are soft and slightly caramelized, then cool slightly. Peel the garlic cloves and the onion.

Sauté the shallot, sugar and fennel seeds in butter until the shallot is softened but not browned. Add the tin of diced tomatoes, the roasted vegetables and stock and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Purée mixture in blender. If soup needs more liquid, add more stock or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and and garnish with cheese straws, if desired.

tomato-fennel-soup

Photo with thanks to Julie Marr

Beef Croustades with Boursin and Mushrooms
This is a decadent dish, perfect for a special meal. It can be assembled in stages and ready for final baking well in advance. Julie kindly offered her recipe and to demonstrate how it’s done, which I captured on my iPhone.

Mushroom filling:
1 lb. white button or crimini mushrooms, cleaned
2 medium shallots
1 clove garlic, cut in half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Croustades:
6 beef tenderloin steaks 5-6 oz. each, about 1¾” thick
salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package peppercorn or herb Boursin cheese, slightly softened
1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight
¼ lb. butter, melted, or more if needed
¼ cup thinly sliced chives

For the filling: Trim the mushroom stems close to the caps. Put the mushrooms, shallots and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not puréed, scraping the bowl as needed. Or, you can chop all of these ingredients by hand if you don’t have a processor. Transfer the chopped mushrooms to the centre of a clean dish towel. Gather up the sides of the towel and twist, keeping the mushrooms well contained in the cloth, bonbon style. With one hand, hold the ball of mushrooms over the sink, and with the other hand, twist the gathered cloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.

Heat the butter and oil in a 10” skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, cover, and cook stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. This mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.

For the croustades: Season the tenderloins generously on all sides with salt. Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Put three tenderloins in the pan and sear on one side until browned, 1-2 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining filets. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To assemble: Mash the Boursin with a fork in a small bowl until spreadable. Remove phyllo from package and lay the stack on the counter. Take one sheet of phyllo from the stack and cut into 4 squares. Cover the remaining phyllo with a damp dish towel while you assemble each croustade. Brush squares with melted butter and sprinkle with ½  teaspoon of chives.

Make four layers, omitting chives from last layer, with the corners of the phyllo pointing in a different direction, star-like. Blot one tenderloin dry with a paper towel, set it in the centre of the star, and sprinkle it with salt. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the Boursin on the filet and top that with 2 tablespoons of the mushroom filling.

croustade-prep

Pick a starting point and work your way around the filet, gathering the edges of the phyllo star together. Lightly pinch together the gathered phyllo close to the surface of the meat to hold it in place. Pull the corners open slightly as if making a paper flower. Brush the whole exposed surface lightly with more butter being sure that the bottom is buttered as well. Transfer to a heavy baking sheet. Repeat this process for the remaining tenderloins. If you are working ahead, chill the tenderloin packages uncovered on the baking sheet until ready to bake, up to 2 days.

beef-croustade

To bake: Take the croustades out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you are ready to bake them. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Bake the croustades for 17-22 minutes depending on how well done you prefer tenderloin, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes to ensure even browning. Serve immediately. Julie served hers on top of roasted carrots and garnished it with quickly sautéed brussel sprout leaves.

croustade-final
Photo with thanks to Julie Marr

Chocolate Tart
This tart can be made 1-2 days ahead and can serve at least 12 people as it is rich and chocolatey. The recipe is slightly adapted from Gjelina, Cooking from Venice, California.

For the crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup ground almonds
½ cup ground pine nuts, pistachios or pecans
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar

For the chocolate filling
1 cup unsalted butter
2½ oz. bittersweet chocolate
1½ tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
4 eggs
pomegranate seeds and whipped cream, for garnish

For the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, ground almonds, nuts and salt. Set aside.

In a mixmaster fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Place another sheet of parchment on top and roll out the dough to a ⅛” thick round, 12-13” in diametre. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 10” tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. The dough will probably crack, but just press it back together. Bake for 10-15 minutes until firm to the touch. Don’t worry if the crust shrinks down the sides a bit as it bakes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 325ºF.

For the filling: Set a large heatproof bowl over 1” water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and chocolate to the bowl and melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder, and then add the brown sugar and salt. Continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is shiny. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next.

To bake: Pour the filling into the tart and bake until it puffs up slightly and the surface is shiny, like a brownie. The centre should be just set and does not jiggle when you shake the pan, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 40 minutes. Gently remove the sides of the pan.

Slice and serve with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.

chocolate-tart
Photo with thanks to Julie Marr

 

Dinner Party Menu: September

Okanagan Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese and Grilled Bread
Dried Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Bacon and Sherry Vinaigrette
Steamed Green Beans, Roasted Red Potatoes
Brown Butter Apple Galette with Maple Whipped Cream

This menu ushers in the Fall season with market ingredients ranging from the short appearance of beautiful Okanagan beefsteak tomatoes, green beans still available at farmer’s markets, and the new-crop apples so fresh and flavourful. My thanks go to Julie who continues to inspire through her friendship, collaboration and a gorgeous website. While she has been traveling we have been keeping up, one way or another, with our monthly menus. The pork tenderloin recipe, including the photo below, is from her website with a few minor tweaks that I added while testing.

Note: This menu serves 4 people, except the apple galette that will serve 6-8…great for breakfast the next day.

Okanagan Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese and Grilled Bread
4 – 1/2″ thick slices crusty bread
1 large garlic clove, halved
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes in assorted colours, halved or quartered
¼ cup chopped green onions
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, cored, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, sliced paper-thin, soaked in cold water
2 celery stalks, sliced thin on diagonal
¾ cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese (I used St. Augur)

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, cut cherry tomatoes, and green onions in medium bowl and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve the salad.

Slice red onion, place in a small bowl and soak in cold water for ½ hour.

Heat grill pan or barbecue to medium-high heat. Rub bread with cut garlic halves and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill bread until golden, about 2 minutes per side.

Overlap tomato slices in concentric circles on plates. Drain the red onion slices and scatter them and the celery slices over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon tomato and green onion mixture over. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese. Cut each slice of grilled bread diagonally in half and serve with salad.
Serves 4.

tomato-salad

Dried Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Bacon and Sherry Vinaigrette
As noted above, this recipe is adapted from Julie’s version and hers credits Charlie Trotter’s The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter. And so it goes with all recipes, often inspired by others and adapted in one’s own kitchen.

Roasted Potatoes
2 pounds small red potatoes, halved if on the larger side
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dried Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
1 cup dried sour cherries
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, minced, divided
½ cup water
1 20-oz. pork tenderloin, trimmed and halved (before halving, trim off the thin end and reserve for another use so that you have a piece of meat of even thickness)
2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil

Bacon and Sherry Vinaigrette
½ cup uncooked bacon, cut into ¼” slices
½ cup red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

1 lb. green beans, steamed

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, sesame oil and the salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan or a sheet pan and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden, crispy and cooked through.

Prepare the dried cherry stuffing. Put the cherries and 1 tablespoon of the minced thyme leaves in a medium saucepan. Add the ½ cup of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let stand for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

To prepare the pork tenderloin: Starting from the end of each half tenderloin, cut a slit using a slender, sharp knife through the centre. You may need to do this from each end if your knife is not long enough. Turn the tenderloins on their sides and cut another slit to create an X in the centre of each loin. Insert your fingers on each end of the loin and using your fingers, stretch a hole through the centre. Stuff as much filling as possible into each loin. Season them with salt and pepper. Reserve any remaining cherries and juice to add later to the sauce.

Place a large, oven proof sauté pan over medium heat and heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the canola oil and then the stuffed pork loins. Brown the loins well on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for about 25 minutes (the time will vary depending on the thickness of the meat) until the pork registers at least 150ºF. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. The pork will still be a bit pink inside. If you prefer it well done, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so.

While the pork is in the oven, prepare the bacon sherry vinaigrette. Render the bacon in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the red onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of minced thyme and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and add the sherry wine vinegar. Add any leftover cherries and juice. Slowly whisk in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place ¼ of the potatoes and ¼ of the steamed beans on a dinner plate. Slice the pork tenderloin into ¼” thick slices and place 3 slices on top of the roasted potatoes. Spoon some of the bacon and sherry vinaigrette over the pork and around the plate and season with some freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serves 4.

pork-tenderloin-with-cherriesPhoto with thanks to Julie at KitchenCulinaire

Brown Butter Apple Galette with Maple Whipped Cream
This recipe is adapted from a Food 52 version here.

1 recipe pie dough
5 large apples or 6 medium, kept whole and peeled
3 tablespoons salted butter
½ vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam, strained

Crust:
1 ½ cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla mixed with about 3 tablespoons very cold water

For the pastry: Combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse again until the butter is in small pieces. The mixture should be the texture of very coarse cornmeal. A few larger pieces of butter is fine. (Alternatively, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and cut the butter with a pastry cutter or 2 knives.)

If you’ve used a processor, pour the ingredients into a large bowl. This step enables you to slowly add the liquid and lightly combine it with the dry ingredients so that the dough does not get overworked as it sometimes does in a processor. Now slowly add the vanilla and water, stirring with a fork just until the mixture starts to come together as a dough. Add a little more water if necessary. The amount of liquid depends on the type of flour you are using. Using your hands, work the dough together until it forms a ball. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Take the pastry dough out of the fridge 10 minutes before rolling it out.

Heat oven to 400° F. Place a pizza stone or sheet pan in the oven to warm up. To make the brown butter, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Swirl it around a few times. After 2-3 minutes, it will start to smell nutty. Watch carefully as it will brown quickly. It’s ready when the sizzling quiets down and you see little brown bits drop to the bottom of the pan. Cool. Whisk in vanilla bean seeds and extract and set aside.

Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s about a 10″square. Roll out the dough into about a 12″ round. You can trim the edges slightly if you like, but this is meant to be a rustic tart. Roll dough onto your rolling pin. Unroll dough onto the piece of parchment.

Peel the apples. Using a very sharp knife or a mandoline, very thinly slice about 5 circles off of two opposing sides of the apple. Stop once you hit the core. Repeat with the remaining apples.

Starting about 2″ in from the border of the rolled out dough, make a circle with the apple slices, overlapping them. Continue with a second layer that overlaps the bigger circle. Do a third and smaller circle, then a fourth. Finish it off with a few discs in the middle in a flower pattern. Brush all exposed apple surface with the brown butter vanilla mixture. Fold in the outer border of the dough.

Whisk together egg and heavy cream. Brush exposed border of dough with a thin layer of egg wash. Generously sprinkle the turbinado sugar all over the apples and the dough.

Remove hot pizza stone or sheet pan from the oven. Quickly slide the tart (keeping it on the parchment) onto the hot surface. Bake until apples are tender and golden brown and the crust is crisp, about 40-50 minutes. If crust is browning too quickly, cover galette with tin foil.

Warm and strain the apricot jam. Brush surface of the cooked apples with warm jam. Serve with maple whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Maple Whipped Cream: 2 cups heavy cream, about 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup. Whip cream to soft peaks and add maple syrup to taste.
Serves 6

apple-tart

Dinner Party Menu: July

Appetizers: Gazpacho Shots, Hard-Boiled Quail’s Eggs with Toasted Fennel Salt, Radishes, Olives
Watercress Salad with Grilled Peaches or Quince Paste, Manchego and Almonds
Paella
Summit Blueberry Tart

This July menu has been planned and recipes proposed but not yet tested and photographed. I am excited to try the recipes below and will be doing so next weekend. We are so quickly approaching the end of the month and I wanted to share this with you so that you might enjoy it when it suits your summer schedule. Once tested, I will add comments and photographs.

Julie has had a rigorous travel and work schedule this summer (this is where she is now) but I am grateful that she has made time to get together to plan menus and chat around the table when she is home. She has already made a paella and will be posting her version in the coming weeks.

The idea to feature paella came from friend and blog-follower, Daphne, who commented last month and made reference to making this for a party. It struck Julie and me as an ideal summer dish that can feed many people and that can be eaten at room temperature if you like. This version of paella can be started in advance up to the point of adding the liquid, started on the stove and finished in the oven shortly before serving.

While researching this menu, I found that there are many versions of paella, depending on region and local ingredients. Some cooks write that they make the entire dish on the barbecue, some in the oven and others half and half. Ingredients can be varied according to preference: omitting the chicken and sausage, adding more varieties of seafood, or substituting a different green vegetable such as peas for the beans.

Regarding menu design, I liked the idea of making mostly Spanish dishes. The exception is the dessert since I wanted to use blueberries that are so gorgeous in the market now. I have inserted a link for the blueberry tart recipe which was first posted here almost 5 years ago. If you have made this tart before, you will notice that I have adjusted the sweetness of both the pastry and the filling by halving the sugar amounts.

Note: This menu serves 6.

Gazpacho
This recipe is based on one in John Bishop’s Cooking at My Home, with these adjustments: I replaced green pepper with red pepper, reduced amount of olive oil from ⅔ cup to ⅓ cup, and used Sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

1½ pounds fresh tomatoes, cut into pieces
3 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
1 medium red pepper, seeded and cubed
6 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seed, crushed
3 cups tomato juice
¼ cup Sherry vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to a creamy soup consistency. Check seasoning. Pour into a glass container, cover and refrigerate until very well chilled. This soup improves in flavour so can be made a few days ahead. To serve, pour chilled soup into shot glasses or other small glasses.

Toasted Fennel Salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons Fleur de Sel or Kosher salt

In a small saucepan, toast the fennel seeds until they start to brown and smell fragrant. Cool and then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle until finely ground. Add salt and mix well. If you want a finer consistency, grind the salt with the ground fennel for a second or two.

Quail’s Eggs
1 carton quail’s eggs (24)
Place quail’s eggs in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold tap water and peel off shells. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. I cut the egg container in half lengthwise and used it as a serving dish for the eggs.

Watercress Salad with Grilled Peaches, Manchego and Almonds
Like the paella recipe below, I found this recipe on Chowhound.com as part of a Spanish menu. The recipe calls for Membrillo (quince paste) that is a typical Spanish pairing with Manchego cheese. Manchego is made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the manchega breed. Quince paste and Manchego can be purchased at most cheese shops. I plan to test and compare this pairing with grilled peaches which are so delicious in our markets now.

1 large garlic clove, finely grated
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ salt, or to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 bunches watercress, stemmed and washed
⅔  cup slivered almonds, toasted
6 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved into thin slices
3 ripe peaches, halved and grilled OR 5 ounces quince paste, diced

Combine the garlic, vinegar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a steady stream until completely incorporated.

Combine the watercress, almonds, and half of the cheese shavings in a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Go lightly and taste as you may not need all of the dressing. Divide the salad among 6 plates and garnish with the remaining cheese and the peaches or quince paste.

For the peaches: Halve and pit the peaches, then brush with a little olive oil. Grill them just enough to mark them on the cut side. Cut each half in half again and reserve until ready to serve the salad. This can be done several hours before serving. If you do not want to grill them, you don’t need to, but the grilling brings out the taste of the fruit.

Paella
Paella

I found the basis for this recipe at Chowhound.com. I have made some adjustments to it and below is my amended version.

2 large, ripe Roma tomatoes
18 large shrimp (about 12 ounces), peeled (leaving tails on) and deveined
1 large pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups short-grain rice (about 1 pound), Bomba, Valencia or Orborio
1 lb. beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
18 mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 medium lemons, cut into wedges, for serving

Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. Set aside the tomato pulp and juice.

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in hot water. Reserve.

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.

Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.

Place a 15-inch paella pan, or a large sauté pan, across two burners and heat over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has started to brown and the fat has rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl that is lined with paper towels. When fat is drained, remove paper towels and set aside.

There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. You will need to rotate the pan occasionally over the burners to evenly distribute the heat. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon paprika, stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt ( 1 teaspoon) and stir to coat in the tomato mixture. Stir in the beans.

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Increase the heat on the stove to medium high. Add the broth and the saffron and liquid and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.) Bring to a lively simmer and continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary and rotating the pan 90 degrees every few minutes, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice starts to make a crackling sound, about 12 minutes. This produces the crust on the rice that is an important feature of paella. Remove the pan from the heat.

Arrange the reserved shrimp and the mussels (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.

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

In Praise of the February Braise

Braised Halibut with Garbanzo Beans and Chorizo
Braised Halibut 2

Braising is one-pot cooking at its finest and this halibut dish is a simple and comforting way to usher in February in Vancouver. While I would not normally buy halibut out of season, I found this recipe online at redonline and decided to test it with halibut fillets. The combination of smokey, spicy chorizo sausage, garbanzo beans (the original recipe called for chickpeas which are similar but smaller), and tomatoes, produces a deep and complex flavour that would complement many less expensive types of fish and chicken too. We ate this with a crunchy baguette to dip into the sauce.

Braising is a combination cooking method using both dry and moist heat and one pot from start to finish. Mostly, this method is used to slowly cook tough cuts of meat to tenderize them while producing a flavourful sauce. The difference in this recipe is that the sauce is cooked for an hour to develop its flavour, then the fish is added, making it a good dish for entertaining because you can make the sauce hours or even a day in advance, then reheat it on the stove, plunk in the fish and finish in the oven.

Here I have used a copper casserole that belonged to my mother, but any heavy pan with a snug lid will work as long as it is large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer.

Braised Halibut

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 ½ hours

2 links Spanish or Mexican chorizo, cooked or uncooked
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1-14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. dry white wine
2 c. chicken stock
4 x 6oz. thick fillets halibut
2 T. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a flameproof casserole dish until medium hot, then add the chorizo and fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oil is released. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme and tomatoes and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and stir well, then add the white wine and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cover with the lid and bake in the oven for one hour, then remove and place the halibut on top of the chickpeas. Cover again and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, or until just opaque. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes before removing the lid.

Carefully lift out the fish and place in individual shallow bowls. Stir the parsley into the chickpeas, season with salt and pepper, and serve alongside the fish.

Recipes from Readers

I have been thrilled with the response from family and friends about this new project of mine. People who I have met over the years in different places are tuning in, just as I hoped they would. This is exactly what I meant in my Discussions post about connecting and nourishing friends, family, and community through food. Yesterday I received this first recipe from a reader – I urge others to do the same and I’ll do my best to post recipes as soon as possible under the brand new heading in the Menu bar called Recipes from Readers. With family seasonal celebrations ahead, how about sending me favourite recipes that are traditional at your family table? Read more

Tomatoes Stuffed with Creamed Spinach

1 T. unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 T. flour
pinch grated nutmeg
3/4 heavy cream
1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to tast
grated gruyère cheese
8-9 tomatoes

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and cook until thickened. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and season to taste. Using a melon-baller, hollow out some of each tomato to create room for spinach stuffing. Fill tomatoes and top with grated gruyère cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until heated through and lightly brown on top. Tomatoes can be filled, covered and refrigerated the day before serving.

A Late Summer Dinner Party for 8

Guacamole with Crunchier Tortilla Chips
Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata Cheese and Basil
Short Ribs with Potato Puree and Swiss Chard
Pecan Torte with Nectarine Ice Cream

We’re being treated to summer weather here in Vancouver but I am still feeling the familiar transition into Fall. ‘Back to School’ is in the air, leaves are beginning to change colour and sprinkle the sidewalks, and I’m getting ready to put away the barbecue and crank up the oven.  Read more