dimanche 29 juin 2008

Shrimp and Melon Salad

This weekend both melons and shrimp were on sale so I decided to make a summer salad. This is more of a throw together salad than one that has a recipe. The shrimp were pre-cooked which is sadly the most common way to find them here. From time to time, raw shrimp is available.

Fruit is a wonderful addition to green salads. I have recipes of salads using fruits such as strawberries, peaches, nectarines, figs and melons.

I marinated the shrimp with a little chile oil (olive oil infused with chiles), garlic, cumin powder, ginger and freshly ground black pepper. I placed the shrimp and melon balls on a bed of bibb lettuce leaves and drizzled with a vinaigrette of olive oil, raspberry vinegar and sugar.

mercredi 18 juin 2008

Beef Do Piaza

My mother had one small spice rack in her kitchen that contained tins of mustard powder, white pepper, mild paprika, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, marjoram, thyme, sage and a couple of others. Cinnamon was probably the most commonly used one for baking and mixed with sugar for cinnamon toast. As far as I knew, the paprika was only ever sprinkled over mashed potatoes for colour. Curly parsley was probably the only fresh green herb that we knew.

Today I probably have over 40 different herbs and spices in my kitchen. All these are necessary to prepare the different types of cuisine that I make. Indian cuisine is one of the most fascinating for its unusual blends of spices and herbs. It is not unusual to use a combination of 5-10 different herb and spices in one dish. Some recipes call for the spices to be dry heated in a pan first. Some call for the herbs to be cooked in the dish then added fresh to the completed dish as well for two different tastes.

Beef Do Piaza (Beef with onions cooked in two different ways)
Serves 3-4

2 large onions
20 mL (1-½ Tbsp) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) freshly grated ginger
1 mL (¼ tsp) chilli powder
7.5 mL (½Tbsp) ground coriander
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) ground cumin
2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground turmeric
2 cardamom seeds, crushed
2 cloves
600 g beef, chopped into cubes
125 mL (½ cup) yoghurt
200 g can crushed tomatoes
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh mint, chopped
6 mL (¾ Tbsp) garam masala

Thinly slice one onion and dice the other. Heat half the olive oil in a large pan, add the sliced onions and cook until lightly browned. Remove onions from pan and reserve. Heat remaining olive oil and add the diced onion, garlic and ginger; cook, stirring until onions are lightly browned. Stir in spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add beef and brown on all sides. Add yoghurt in about 4 batches, stirring well after each addition. Add undrained crushed tomatoes; simmer, covered about 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Just before serving, add reserved onion slices, fresh herbs and garam masala; stir until heated through.

lundi 9 juin 2008

Insalata Caprese

Summer means fresh tasty tomatoes and not the red globes that try to pass for them the rest of the year (those SHOULD be given another name). Even in summer real tomatoes are hard to find unless you are lucky enough to grow your own. Tomatoes and basil were meant to be together. This really is the taste of summer.

The first time I was had Caprese Salad was at my friend Jane’s home near Paris a couple of years before I moved there. This simple blend of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with an olive oil and vinegar dressing has become a favourite in all its variations chez Jan. Jane is a fabulous cook and her version used “Vinaigre de vin aromatise noix” or walnut flavoured vinegar. It was such a fabulous new taste sensation that I had to import a bottle or two to Canada to impress my friends with my new secret ingredient. I did find it later in Toronto at one of the fruit and vegetable markets on the Danforth. My preference is the Maille brand (in Paris, buy it from Monoprix or other grocery stores rather than the Maille store on Place Madelaine for a better bargain).

Mozzarella is a semi-soft white cheese with a spongy texture. It is made from either cows milk or buffalo milk (mozzarella di Bufala). It is a cheese which can be found in un-pasteurized or pasteurized varieties. In Canada, think of Bocconcini, the small balls of mild buffalo cheese rather than the hard, stringy balls sold as mozzarella. Buffalo mozzarella has a softer texture and slightly stronger flavour. In Europe, mozzarella balls are packaged in plastic bags with whey or water.

The recipe here calls for tomatoes and mozzarella to be cut in rounds. It can also be made with cherry tomatoes – for this I suggest that you either cut large mozzarella balls into chunks that roughly match te size of the tomatoes or use the tiny mozzarella balls.

Insalata caprese (Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil Salad)
Serves 4

4 large tomatoes, sliced
400 g (14 oz/ 2 cups) fresh mozzarella, cut into rounds
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
60 mL (4Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
30 mL (2 Tbsp) balsamic or walnut vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the tomato and mozzarella overlapping slices on a serving dish. Decorate with basil. Sprinkle with olive oil and vinegar. Season with pepper to taste.

dimanche 1 juin 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Salad

Spinach is one of the vegetables that have an earthy “good for you taste”. Spinach’s claim to fame was as the force giving food of Popeye the Sailor Man. It seems that sometime ago a scientist published a report with a typo that gave spinach 10x its actual level of iron and perpetuated the myth that spinach would make you very strong. However, spinach is good for you - it is packed with vitamins and minerals (A, B9, C, E, magnesium, manganese and iron to name a few). Spinach can be eaten raw, stir fried or quickly steamed. Boiling will destroy some of its nutritional value. Store fresh spinach for a few days only in the refrigerator. Do not reheat cooked spinach.

The dressing for this Spinach salad can also be used as a dip for carrot, celery and cucumber sticks.

Spinach and Mushroom Salad
Serves 4

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and dried
125 mL (½ cup) mushrooms, sliced
30 mL (2 Tbsp) Roquefort cheese
60 mL (¼ cup) sour cream or crème fraîche
15 mL (1 Tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mash together Roquefort and sour cream; stir in lemon juice.
Remove any large stalks from spinach and tear into bite-size pieces. Place spinach, mushrooms and salad dressing in a large salad bowl; toss to coat well and season with black pepper.

Another blue cheese such as Gorgonzola can be used in place of the Roquefort.
Silver beet (chard) can be used instead of spinach.