Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Calves Liver with Bacon, Onion, Sage and Balsamic

I know .... you lost me at ...

I have to admit, I'm not the world's biggest liver fan, however, if done correctly, and not cooked within an inch of it's life, liver can be a tasty alternative to your "normal" week-night dinner. Give this offal another shot, you might just find that your tastebuds have grown-up with you!

This recipe will serve 4-6 depending on your appetites. For us, it served four, but I have a huge German in my crowd!

Calves Liver with Bacon, Onion, Sage and Balsamic
1.5 lbs calves liver
2 cups all purpose flour
2 large vidalia onions, cut into rings
15 rashers bacon
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
20 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Combine the flour with a large pinch of salt and pepper. Dredge the liver in the flour until it has a good coating. Set aside.
Cook bacon in a large skillet until cooked but not crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.
Pour all but 2 T of the bacon fat out of the skillet, set removed fat aside. Place onions, garlic, sage, salt and pepper in skillet and fry, over medium heat, until onions are brown, sticky and caramelized.
Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar.
Chop the bacon into large pieces and add back into skillet.
Meanwhile, heat the removed bacon fat in a separate pan (should be 2-3 T of fat). Fry liver for 2 minutes per side, or until done to your liking.
Serve liver covered with the onion mixture, sprinkled with fresh parsley.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs

Is there anything more indicative of summer than barbecued ribs? But when I awoke this morning it was raining and so I thought to myself: this is an opportunity to use my oven to make Slow Roasted Ribs, instead. This recipe is fail-safe. It always results in ribs so tender that they are difficult to remove from the roasting pan because the meat is falling off the bone. This is my kind of medicine to cure rainy day blues!

Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs
2 sides baby back pork ribs
1 T smoked or hot paprika
1 T sweet paprika
1 T chili powder
1 T roasted garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T brown sugar
1 T sea salt
1 T black pepper
1 bottle beer (your choice)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Remove the silver skin from the bone side of the ribs.
Make a dry rub by combining all of the spices. Rub generously to liberally cover the ribs with a coating of the rub.
(At this point you can let the ribs marinate for a few hours, up to 24 hours)
Place the ribs in a large roasting pan, bone side down.
Pour beer over ribs.
Cover tightly with tinfoil.
Roast for 4 hours.

Remove ribs from pan and place on a rack to let them dry a bit.
Coat ribs liberally with your favourite bbq sauce.
Drain beer from pan.
Turn on oven broiler to 500 degrees.
Place well lubricated ribs back in roasting pan.
Broil until ribs are caramelized.

Fall off the bone goodness!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Panna Cotta

On a recent trip to the St. Jacobs Market, I was delighted to find some beautiful Ontario strawberries. They were the first local strawberries I had found this season. I had a craving for panna cotta so I thought, what better way to celebrate my find.

Panna cotta (cooked cream) is an Italian desert, which is found on almost every trattoria menu, similar to creme brulee in France. The desert is shamelessly simple and fail-free.

Strawberry Rhubarb Panna Cotta

panna cotta:

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 cups half and half cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 t vanilla or 1 one vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 packets gelatin
6 T cold water

2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped in half
1/2 cup sugar
2 T Chambord liqueur

Dissolve gelatin by sprinkling over cold water and letting the mixture stand for about 5 minutes.
Heat cream, half and half and sugar over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved.
If using vanilla: turn off heat and whisk in vanilla.
If using vanilla bean: split pod in half, lengthwise, scrape all off the seeds out of the pod and place pod and seeds in with cream mixture while still over heat. Cook cream until it almost comes to a boil. Remove from heat cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Remove pod from cream, re-heat cream until very hot but not boiling.
Pour hot cream over gelatin mixture and whisk well so that the gelatin is fully dissolved in the hot cream.
Pour into eight, well-oiled ramekins or teacups
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight) so that panna cotta has time to set-up
To unmold: run a knife around the edge of the panna cotta, turn upside down, pat the bottom of the ramekin and it should pop out!

To make sauce: add all ingredients to a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Cook until fruit is very soft. Pure half of the liquid in a food processor until very smooth and add back into pan to combine with the remaining fruit. Cool well and serve with panna cotta (also fantastic with pancakes, french toast and waffles!)

Based upon Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Paprika Fried Tomatoes

These tomatoes are the easiest side dish in the universe. They are so simple, in fact, that I am almost hesitant to put them on this blog. However, they are so good and everyone that I serve them to asks for the recipe, so I thought I would share. Originally the recipe is from my sister-in-law's father. He lives in the Czech Republic and makes these tomatoes for breakfast almost daily. I tried them one morning and was immediately hooked. They are fantastic with steak or fish and equally as good with eggs for brunch.

Paprika Fried Tomatoes
1 or 2 pints fresh grape tomatoes
large spoonful sweet paprika
sprinkling of white sugar
large glug olive oil
large pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, sprinkled with sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. Heat for about 2-3 minutes, tossing a few times, to ensure that tomatoes are equally scorched on all sides.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs

I first tried Kofta Kebabs while visiting my friend Jen in London, UK. She took us to this amazing little shop that sold hand minced lamb kebabs that were cooked in the restaurant, in-front of the patrons, over a roaring fire of coals and mixed wood. The make-shift campfire filled the restaurant (and half the neighbourhood) with an alluring perfume of smoke and grilled meat. Their plan was successful as the patrons were lined down the block. I immediately fell in love with the tender, full-flavoured, smokey kebabs.

I made homemade flat-breads, they turned out very well, and were very easy to make. Here is the recipe link.

Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs

~Makes 8 wraps ~

1 kilo ground or minced lamb (I used a boneless shoulder)
2 hand-fulls shelled pistachio nuts
zest of two lemons
1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 large red Thai bird chili, chopped fine
1 T chili powder
2 T ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients, other than the lamb, in a food processor and grind into a very fine crumb. Pour into a bowl, with minced lamb, and combine well. Skewer onto 4 large metal skewers or 8 smaller metal skewers. Cook on BBQ grill (charcoal is best), until cooked through, and nicely browned on all sides.

Sauce: 1 cup plain yogurt mixed with juice of 1 lemon, 2 cloves crushed garlic and 1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine.
Lettuce: mix of salad leaves, torn, picked whole leaves of parsley and mint, dress with good olive oil, lemon juice, 1 T white wine vinegar and salt and pepper.
Pickled Onion: combine 1 medium sized red onion, very finely sliced into rings, with the juice of one lemon, let rest for 1/2 hour before serving.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's "Jamie at Home" cookbook, which is one of my favourites.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spaghetti with Clams (Spaghetti alle Vongole)

This pasta dish (which is also commonly made with Linguine) brings me back to Italy, in an instant. Originally developed in Naples, the dish is common throughout the southern parts of the country, including the Amalfi coast. It's simple, clean flavours and ingredients all work together to show off the sweet clam meat. As such, it is not common to put any Parmesan on the dish as the argument is, that it is too strong a flavour for the delicate seafood. However I say, to each his own, if you want to add cheese, carpe diem!

Spaghetti with Clams
(Spaghetti alle Vongole)
1 pound dry spaghetti
large glug olive oil
2 T butter
large pinch red chili pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 kilo pasta clams (little neck or smaller)
1 pint tomatoes, halved
1 cup white wine
large bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine

Cook pasta, in well salted water, according to directions on package.
Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat olive oil and butter until butter is melted. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add chili flakes, clams and wine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until clam shells just open.
When pasta is quite al dente (it will continue to cook in the sauce), drain pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water aside, and toss pasta into pot with clams. Add tomatoes and half of the parsley and toss well to combine.
Cook pasta until sauce thickens and pasta is cooked according to your liking. If pasta is dry add reserved pasta water.
Serve sprinkled with remaining parsley.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella

This late spring / early summer salad demands the freshest ingredients. The salad is so simple yet it is bursting with flavours. On a warm night when I don't want to cook in the house, I will grill up some fish or meat and accompany it with this salad. If you toast the bread on the grill outside, you can cook the entire meal without using your oven!

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella

1/4 loaf crusty day old bread, cubed
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 sweet pepper, cut into thirds, seeds removed
3 large leeks, white parts only
1 large bunch asparagus, tough ends removed
1 large bunch basil, chopped
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toss bread with olive oil and toast until dry.
Combine tomatoes and bread in a large bowl.
Cut leeks in half, lengthwise.
Combine leeks, pepper and asparagus and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.
Grill leeks, pepper and asparagus until vegetables are soft. Remove blackened skin from peppers. Chop all vegetables roughly, and toss with bread, tomatoes and basil.
Combine lemon juice, zest, vinegar and olive oil in a separate bowl. Pour half of dressing over salad and toss to combine. Add more dressing, as needed, until salad is dressed to your liking. Adjust seasonings.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Salmon and Avocado Cold Rolls

This recipe is a great way to use up leftover salmon. I used leftover miso-glazed salmon, which was a fantastic match to the other ingredients in the recipe. You could also use cooked shrimp, crab, lobster or chicken. This recipe is loosely based on Dinah Koo's of Toronto's "Tiger Lily's Noodle House".

Salmon and Avocado Cold Rolls

~ 8 rolls ~

5 oz brown rice vermicelli noodles
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 cup cucumber, de-seeded and shredded
bunch mint leaves, chopped fine
bunch basil leaves, chopped fine
bunch chives, chopped fine
6 oz salmon
1 avocado
1 T toasted sesame seeds
16 rice papers, two per roll

1 T dark honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 T sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
juice and zest of two limes
pinch red chili flakes

Prepare vermicelli noodles by soaking in hot water until noodles are soft. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Add to large bowel. Drain excess water from shredded carrots and cucumber and add vegetables to noodles. Add fresh herbs (mint, basil and chives) to noodle mixture.
Prepare sauce by mixing all ingredients in a bowl.
Add half of the sauce to the noodle mixture.
Prepare a water dish by filling a large pie plate or large bowl with very hot water.
Soak 2 rice paper rounds, per roll, in the hot water for 1 minute.
Lay softened papers, one on top of the other, on a clean board.
Place a large mound of noodle mixture onto center of round.
Top with a couple of slices each, of avocado and salmon.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Fold the bottom of the paper above and over the mixture, tucking in the sides. Roll another quarter turn, re-tuck in the sides and then continue to roll until mixture is completely wrapped. The rice paper will naturally stick to itself, creating a seal.
Tip: soak two more papers while rolling each roll, in order to make the process quicker.
Serve rolls, cut down the middle, with remaining sauce.