jeudi 31 juillet 2008


A summer favourite of mine is bruschetta.  It is a  perfect aperitif accompaniment.  The bread can be grilled on the barbecue, under the oven grill or in the toaster/toaster oven.    The best bruschetta is simple - lightly toasted baguette or Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with fresh tasty tomatoes and basil.  
A Spanish version is made by rubbing both garlic and tomato onto fresh bread but I prefer the Italian version.  My personal twist is to replace the basil with cilantro (fresh coriander) and brushing the toast with a little chile oil for a Mexican flavour.  
You can really personalize the bruschetta by varying the type of bread, thickness of the slice, herbs and amount of garlic.  

Bruschetta con pomodoro (Bruschetta with Tomato)
Serves 4

3-4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, torn in pieces
8 slices of Italian or crusty bread
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
90 mL (6 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

Place the chopped tomatoes and shallot in a small bowl. Season with pepper; stir in the basil. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Toast or grill the bread until it is lightly browned and crisp on both sides. Rub one side of each toast slice with the garlic clove. Arrange on a platter. Sprinkle or brush with olive oil and spoon over the tomatoes. Serve immediately.

dimanche 20 juillet 2008

Zucchini Blossoms

I found zucchini blossoms in the marché in Thionville, France on Saturday. The vibrant yellow colour and the chance to make something so delicate and seasonal were irresistible. I brought some home. I have been eyeing them in my neighbour’s garden with envy. It is so rare to see them in markets since they are so fragile.
Zucchini is a vegetable that seems to multiply in gardens – a little goes a long way or you will be looking to give a lot of it away to friends and neighbours. Eating the female blossoms could be a good way to curb the population. Trust the Italians to come up with a way to use every part of the zucchini, even the flower.
Only use firm, fresh blossoms that are slightly open (the lighter yellow ones). Do not eat the darker spent (wilted) flowers. An example of how it is advantageous to get to know your marché merchants in France so that you will get the “good” produce. Male zucchini blossoms have stems and stamen; female ones are attached to tiny zucchini and have pistils.

I chose to deep fry the flowers coated in a light tempura batter. Maybe next time I will chose to stuff them.
To clean the flowers, use a damp cloth rather than rinsing under running water as this can damage them.

Zucchini Blossom Tempura

Serves 4

1 egg
250 mL (1 cup) ice water
250 mL (1 cup) all purpose flour, sifted
12 zucchini blossoms

Prepare the of zucchini blossoms by trimming stems and removing pistils or stamen; wipe gently inside and out with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or insects.
Beat the egg in a bowl; add ice water and stir to mix. Add flour and mix lightly (batter should be lumpy).
Dip zucchini blossoms in batter and deep fry until golden; drain on absorbent paper and serve hot.

dimanche 13 juillet 2008

Moroccan Beef Tajine

Moroccan cuisine is rich in spices. Cumin, coriander, saffron, chiles, ground ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika are commonly used. The combinations are widely varied and each kitchen has its own secret blend (comprised of anywhere from a few to 100 different spices). Raz el hanout is typically a blend of cinnamon, turmeric, freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, ground cardamom seed and ground clove that is used in couscous and tajines. In addition to dried spices, garlic, chiles and fresh herbs such as coriander (cilantro) and parsley are also commonly used. Harissa, a very spicy paste of garlic, chiles, olive oil and salt, is used during cooking and/or as a condiment on the side for those who want extra heat.

Thanks to my friends who brought me back some Moroccan spices from their trip to Marrakesh, I now have paprika, saffron, harissa dry mix and a blend of 4 spices (for grilled fish) to experiment with.

I decided to start with the paprika and made this spicy rich Moroccan stew. As I do not have a wonderful Tajine (a North African cooking pot with a dome-shaped top), I made it in a Dutch oven (large casserole). It tastes even better the next day. Serve it with the traditional couscous.

Moroccan Beef Tajine

5 mL (1 tsp) cayenne pepper
15 mL (1 Tbsp) paprika
15 mL (1 Tbsp) ground ginger
15 mL (1 Tbsp) turmeric
30 mL (2 Tbsp) ground cinnamon
10 mL (2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper
1 kg (2 lb) stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 5 cm (2”) cubes
2 large onions, chopped
60 mL (4 Tbsp) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
800 g (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
125 g (4 oz) dried apricots, quartered
60 g (2oz) sultanas or raisins
5 mL (1 tsp) saffron, soaked in cold water
625 mL (2-1/2 cups) beef stock (preferably homemade)
15 mL (1 Tbsp) honey
30 mL (2 Tbsp) cilantro, chopped
30 mL (2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Mix together cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place half of the spice mixture into a large plastic bag, add beef and toss to coat well. Leave in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

Heat half of the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large casserole dish). Add chopped onion and remainder of spice mix; cook over gentle heat until the onions are soft but not coloured. Add garlic and cook a few minutes longer, until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat the remaining oil; add beef and brown all sides (this might need to be done is several batches depending on the size of your pot). Add some of the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the bottom. Return onions to the pan; add chopped tomatoes, apricots, raisins or sultanas, saffron, beef stock and honey. Bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven to cook for 2-2½ hours (until meat is tender). Garnish with chopped cilantro and parsley. Serve hot over couscous.