Sunday, January 29, 2012

Warm Squash Salad & Winter Squash Dip

I seem to be blessed when it comes to squash: there is always one lying around the kitchen ready to inspire me. This week I had two and a hankering to transform them into something new.  Enter the winter squash dip recipe. Actually this was well timed since the Superbowl is fast approaching and this dip would please any snacker. Those with dairy intolerances, watch out! This dip contains enough cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and butter to shock any cow.

The salad was not only the healthier option, but another lunch idea. It served me well this week. Lentils, goat cheese and a few walnuts make this a complete meal.  

Warm Squash Salad

Source: My head, although I'm sure I've seen versions of this while perusing through other food blogs.

Serves 6


  • 1 Head green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
  • 5 oz Goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Whole squash of your choice (I had a Hubbard Squash..I think)
  • 1/4 cup Chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup French lentils, cooked
  • 3 T Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T Dijon Mustard
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


To prepare the squash, preheat over to 400F. Cut the squash into wedges, scooping out and discarding the seeds and stringy flesh. Brush the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until flesh is brown on the surface. Remove from oven and slice the skin from the flesh. Chop into 1 inch cubes.

Combine salad ingredients and set aside.  Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well with a fork or whisk. I would suggest adding a little water to the dressing to thin it. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Winter Squash Dip

From: Martha Stewart Living Magazine. October 2007. p 242

Serves 12

  • 1 Squash (this one was a Kabocha)
  • 2 Garlic heads with tops cut off 
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 10 T unsalted butter
  • 8 green onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced 1/4'' thick
  • 2 Chipotle chili (canned in adobo sauce)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 t lemon juice
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish


Preheat oven to 400F. Place squash on a baking sheet. Brush with oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Spread squash in a single layer. Place garlic on a piece of parchment-lined foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap loosely. Place on baking sheet with squash. Bake until squash is soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. 

Scoop flesh from squash and transfer to a food processor. Squeeze garlic from skins and add to squash. Add onion and chipotles and pulse until smooth. Add remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, the sour cream, cream cheese, Parmesan and lemon juice and pulse until combined but not smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in a hollowed-out squash or dish and top with pumpkin seeds. I chose warm pita wedges as my accompaniment of choice. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crab Salad Rolls

There is something about chef Michael Smith's haircut that just doesn't jive. I was watching his show Chef at Home at the gym and this hairdo he had going on seemed to overshadow his fabulousness. Didn't help that Pearl Jam's Eddie Veder kept appearing on an adjacent screen with his yummy tousled curls falling all over his face. I still managed to drool over Smith's  parchment paper-baked fish and tuna salad rice paper wrap creations. Only, I wanted something a little different. 

I doubt imitation crab has ever been chic, but if I was serving real crab in a prairie city such as Edmonton, I would be serving it for a special occasion. It is pricey! This isn't that occasion. I needed lunch food and a Vietnamese-style wrap sounded like the perfect item. Instead of a typical wrap filling, I opted for the crab salad recipe below. Awesome! Light, delicious and I wasn't tired of it after three days. 

Adapted From:

Serves 6

  • 1 medium avocado chopped
  • 2 cups chopped imitation crab 
  • 2 T chopped red onion
  • 2 T capers
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 1 t olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • rice paper sheets

    In a medium bowl, combine onion, lime juice, olive oil, capers, cilantro salt and pepper. Add crab meat and toss well.

    Dip the rice sheets in warm water to soften (follow package instructions and take advantage of this useful tutorial on You Tube: 

    Drop a few tablespoons worth of the crab salad into the centre. Fold the edges into the centre of the wrap and roll the paper into a tube-like creation. Seriously, just watch the tutorial.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Tuscan White Beans with Spinach, Shrimp & Feta

    Heavy meal, light meal, heavy meal, light meal. I don't post everything I cook, so the cycle may not be as obvious on this blog, but I have a tendency to make a heavy meal and follow it with a light meal. This isn't any astounding observation, just a little build-up to my dinner menu for this evening. Ta-da!!


    Serves 4

    • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (weight after peeled)
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp chopped fresh sage
    • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 cup low sodium, fat-free chicken broth
    • 15 oz can cannellini beans rinsed and drained 
    • 5 cups baby spinach
    • 1 1/2 oz crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese


    Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp until just opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
    Heat remaining oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat and add onion, garlic and sage; cook 4 minutes stirring occasionally until golden. Stir in vinegar and cook 30 seconds.
    Remove from heat and stir in shrimp. Top with feta cheese and divide in 4 bowls.

    Kale & Blood Orange Salad

    If you glance at the original recipe you'll notice I've substituted a number of ingredients in order to make it easy on myself. While I do at times enjoy hunting for original ingredients in various little neighborhood grocers, I just wasn't up to that task today. I also didn't think my substitutes would compromise the flavour. 
    Adapted from:

    Serves 6

    • 1 Bunch kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped
    • 1 T Olive oil
    • 3 Blood Oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
    • 1 Avocado, pit removed, diced
    • ¼ cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
    • 1/4 cup crumbled feta 
    • 1 Shallot, diced
    • 3 T Olive oil
    • 1 t Honey
    • 2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
    • 1 T Poppy Seeds (didn't have them!)
    Place kale in a large salad bowl and add 1 T olive oil. Toss kale lightly to coat and then slowly massage the oil into the leaves until they are a darker green and tender. This should take about five minutes. Add blood orange rounds, avocado, feta and pumpkin seeds.
    Make the dressing: whisk the olive olive, honey, and cider vinegar with shallots and poppy seeds until well combined. Dress salad lightly in 2 stages, tossing salad in between. Serve immediately.

    Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup

    What a difference daylight makes to my poor food photos! Man I need to cook mid-day more often. I also need more soups like this hearty multi-dimensional delight. This could use a little heat, perhaps in the jalapeño or hot sauce form. Anyways, I thought a little heat was in order considering that we are experiencing the coldest day so far this winter.

    Adapted From:

    Serves 8

    • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
    • 1 t salt
    • 1 t pepper
    • 1 T olive oil
    • 1 medium red onion, diced
    • 1 yellow pepper, diced
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 red pepper, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2, 15 oz cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
    • 1, 15 oz can of black beans
    • 1 litre of chicken stock
    • 1 t chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
    • 1 T smoked paprika
    • 1 T cumin
    • 1 t chili powder
    • 1 t dried oregano
    • 1 medium avocado, chopped
    • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
    • handful of tortilla chips

    1. Combine chopped chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Preheat a large soup pot. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add chicken to soup pot. Add red onion, green pepper, red pepper, yellow peppers and garlic. Cook over medium heat until chicken is done and no longer pink.
    2. Add fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, chipotle chili peppers and adobo, paprika, cumin, dried oregano and chipotle chili powder. Add 1 quart chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 – 30 minutes.
    3. Garnish soup with chopped avocado, crumbled feta, and tortilla strips.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Pork with Gorgonzola Sauce & Wine-Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms with Polenta

    This was the entree that went with the scallops and yes we actually moaned when we ate this meal. Hello rich food! Actually, the only thing rich on this plate is the gorgonzola sauce. This sauce was the highlight of my Christmas vacation. We made so much of it that I had plenty to top grilled vegetables with it, baked spuds and other items. Definitely worth the experiment!


    • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    • 1 T olive oil
    • 1 T dried thyme
    • 2, 3/4-pound pork tenderloins

    Gorgonzola sauce
    • 1 T butter
    • 1 T all purpose flour
    • 1 cup whipping cream
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine
    • 1/4 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
    • 1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese 


    Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Whisk Dijon mustard, olive oil and thyme in small bowl to blend. Sprinkle pork tenderloins with salt and pepper. Heat heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add pork and sear until brown all over, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer seared pork to prepared baking sheet. Spread Dijon mustard mixture over all sides of pork. (Can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead. Refrigerate pork uncovered.)
    Preheat oven to 425°F. Roast pork until thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 150°F, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.


    Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon flour and whisk 1 minute. Gradually whisk in whipping cream, white wine and chicken broth. Boil until mixture is thick enough to coat spoon, whisking frequently, about 1 minute. Add crumbled Gorgonzola and whisk until cheese is melted and smooth and sauce is reduced to desired consistency, about 5 minutes.
    Slice pork and transfer to plates. Ladle some sauce over pork. Serve, passing additional sauce separately.

    Wine-Sauteed Portobella Mushrooms and Polenta

    Adapted from: Martha Stewart Living. October 2007 p. 102.

    Serves 4


    • 2 portobello mushrooms
    • 1 garlic glove, coarsely chopped
    • 2 T coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 t kosher salt
    • freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1/8 cup and 1 T of olive oil
    • tube of ready-to-serve polenta (feel free to prepare your own. I wasn't able to find anything but the ready-made variety)


    Toss portobellos with garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, vinegar, and 1/8 cup of oil in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally for 1 hour. Pour portobellos and marinade into small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon of oil and remove mushrooms only from pan.

    Slice polenta into 1/2 inch disks and place in pan on medium heat. Coat with remaining vinegar and oil mixture in pan. Let simmer for 3 minutes on each side. Place the polenta on a plate and the portobellos on top. Add the sauce over the combination and garnish with chopped parsley.

    Scallops with Celeriac Puree

    This is definitely a party menu item. It wows in terms of presentation and tempts foodies to dream of the next course. My mother-in-law sent us a box of fresh produce from her neck of the woods over the holidays and one of the items was a celeriac bulb. Having had no experience with celeriac I immediately went to Tastespotting to peruse all celeriac-related pics. This was definitely my favorite and gave me another reason to whip out my new food processor. I made this as a starter, but the original recipe suggest serving three scallops on each dish if you are using this as an entree. Enjoy!

    Adapted From:

    Serves 12


    • 1 medium sized celeriac bulb, peeled and grated or processed into small pieces
    • 1 cup milk
    • 50g butter
    • Salt
    • 100g smoked bacon
    • 12 scallops
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives


    Into a medium saucepan over medium heat, place the celeriac and add enough milk to cover. Simmer for around 10 minutes or until tender enough to squash between your fingers. 

    Add half the butter and a pinch of salt and puree to a smooth consistency. Taste and add more salt if required. Keep warm.

    In a non-stick fry pan over medium-high heat, sauté the bacon until the fat is rendered and it is crispy and golden. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel. Wipe some of the fat out of the pan, but leave a couple of tablespoonfuls in.

    To the bacon fat add a little butter. When the butter is foaming and starting to brown, add the scallops (they may need to be cooked in batches depending on how big your frying pan is). Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute on the first side, then flip and cook for only 20 or so more seconds.

    To serve, put a circle of puree on a warmed dinner plate. Top with 1 scallop and scatter with bacon and chives.

    Balsamic-Glazed Calf's Liver & Bacon Brussel Sprouts

    At last; two of the most hated foods combined in as subtle and flavorful a cooking method I could muster. I enjoy both liver and sprouts, but their flavours are strong enough to warrant only occasional consumption. Having pan-fried liver before with mixed results, I wanted a recipe that adds moisture and a sweet kick to the liver. This recipe did just that. If you are in to organ meats, give this a try. 

    Balsamic-Glazed Liver
    • 2 slices of calf’s liver
    • Salt and pepper
    • Flour
    • 2 T butter
    • 1 T olive oil
    • 150 ml balsamic vinegar

    Season the liver with salt and pepper, then dust with flour.  Fry in 1 tbsp of the butter and the olive oil, 2 minutes per side.  Remove and set aside.
    Pour out the oil from the pan and deglaze with the vinegar, boiling until reduced to half.  Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and whisk until blended.  Put the liver in the pan, turning to coat and cook for about 2 minutes.
    Bacon Brussel Sprouts
    • 1/2 lb brussel sprouts
    • 1 T olive oil
    • 1 T butter
    • 4 pieces of bacon
    • 3 small shallots

    Anyway, clean sprouts and cut in half.
    Saute 1/2 cup of chopped bacon until just starting to brown.    Add 3 sliced shallots and continue to saute until the shallots are soft.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
    Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the brussel sprouts and brown a bit.
    Stir shallots and bacon into the brussel sprouts and saute for about 1 minute.

    Rib Eye Steak with Burgundy-Mushroom Sauce & Potato-Parsnip Latkes

    My primary reason for leaving the house on what turned into an eight kilometre journey was to get groceries for this evening's meal. There wasn't anything on our menu that required a special trip, but we hiked over to a distant grocer in order to pass Duchess, my favorite bakery. After loading up on raspberry-chocolate brioche, I was ready to tackle our remaining errands. What a rough life. 

    The parsnip latke recipe was the first discovery of the morning and sent me on a search for a beef dish of some kind to accompany it. Once I found the steak with burgundy-mushroom sauce, I opted for sauteed spinach to round out the meal. 

    As far as preparing the spinach is concerned, simply sauté 1 tablespoon of minced garlic or about two cloves in a soup pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for two minutes. Add a bag of baby spinach and stir well to coat the oil and garlic mixture over all of the greens. Once softened, removed from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Thumbs up with respect to this threesome. 

    Rib-Eye Steak with Burgundy-Mushroom Sauce

    Serves 2

    • 2 Rib-eye steaks
    • 1 small container sliced mushrooms
    • 2 cloves garlic, grated
    • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 1/2 cup red wine (Burgundy or a Cab will do)
    • 2 T butter
    • 2 - 3 T olive oil
    • kosher or sea salt and pepper, or steak seasoning to taste 


    Bring steaks to room temperature on the counter. Preheat a large skillet. Season steaks with salt and pepper or steak seasoning. Drizzle pan with olive oil and add steaks to pan.
    Brown steaks on each side, cooking just shy of desired doneness. Turn heat to low. Remove steaks from pan and add mushrooms, butter and garlic. Saute until mushrooms have softened. Add red wine and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce by half. Add a splash more of wine and add steaks back in to pan turning and covering in sauce. Serve immediately.

    Potato-Parsnip Latkes with Horseradish and Dill

    Yield: About 18 latkes

    • 1/2 pound (about 1 large) Russet potato
    • 1 T lemon juice
    • 1 pound parsnips (about 2 large or 4 medium)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 t baking powder
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 2 T chopped fresh dill
    • 1 t table salt
    • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
    • Olive oil for frying

    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 T lemon juice
    • 1/2 t table salt
    • 1 T freshly grated or prepared horseradish
    • 1 T chopped dill


    Preheat: Oven to 250 degrees. Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with foil and leave them in the oven until needed.Peel vegetables and grate them on the large holes of a box grater or (my preferred method) using the shredding blade of a food processor. If using the food processor, I like to lay the vegetables sideways in the chute, in an attempt to get the longest strands of vegetables. This creates latkes that look like little piles of mops, which is my goal.Transfer shredded vegetables to a lint-free dishtowel or square of cheesecloth, and wring out as much liquid as possible. Let stand for two minutes, then wring again. Wetness is the enemy of crisp, light latkes, so we want to get rid of as much as possible.

    Transfer wrung-out vegetables to a large bowl. Add lemon juice. In a tiny dish, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and any herbs or additional seasonings and toss with vegetables, evenly coating the strands. In the same tiny dish, whisk your eggs and then stir this into the vegetable-flour mixture, evenly coating the strands.

    Heat a large, heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Once skillet is hot, add 3 tablespoons oil and heat oil until shimmering. If you’re unsure, you can flick a droplet of water onto the oil; if it hisses and sputters, you’re good to go. Using a fork or your fingertips gather spoonful-sized mounds of battered vegetables and drop them onto the heated skillet. When golden underneath, 3 to 4 minutes later, flip pancakes. Cook on the other side until nicely bronzed underneath, another 2-3 minutes, and transfer to paper towels briefly to drain pancakes, before transferring them again to a tray in warm oven. If latkes cook too quickly or slowly on the stove, adjust the heat accordingly. Add more oil if needed (you want to keep the pan at that 3 tablespoon level), being sure it is heated before adding more pancakes to the skillet. Repeat with remaining batter. I like to keep the latkes in the oven for at least 10 minutes to ensure they’ve cooked through before serving them. Mix sauce ingredients in a small dish.  Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve: Warm with a dollop of the sauce.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Meat-Free Middle Eastern Feast

    I am officially meated out. Over the last two weeks, we've indulged in too many meat-laden meals. I need a break from steak.

    On occasion I crave meatless dishes, especially after the holidays when meat appears only to be served with heavy sauces and sides. After a spring cleaning session, I pulled out a March issue of Canadian House & Home and found the solution to my cravings: North African and Israeli-inspired salads and entrees. The kinds of dishes we prepared tonight call for quality produce. I had farm carrots, beets and onions, so our salads felt clean and tasted crisp and new. 

    The Shakshuka, a simple egg dish on a layer of cooked tomatoes was lovely, but lacked the punch that great tomatoes can contribute. All I could find at the grocer today were stacks of tired-looking romas, which I reluctantly used. In a case such as mine, you may want to wait for better quality tomatoes or experiment with canned as the recipe suggests.  You'll notice in the photo above, the large plate with the carrot salad and Shakshuka also has a slice of grilled eggplant with a chunk of Appenzeller cheese on top. The eggplant is simply sliced in 1/2 inch sections, brushed with olive oil and baked at 375F for 15 mins or so. I typically add whatever leftover cheese I have to each slice's surface once grilled and throw it back in the oven for 10 minutes tops. Tonight I just threw a piece on the hot eggplant and let it melt on its own. 

    From: Canadian House & Home March 2011. pp. 116 & 118.

    Serves 8

    • 10 large ripe tomatoes
    • 1T flour
    • 2 t sugar
    • 3 T olive oil
    • Salt & Pepper to taste
    • 8 eggs
    • 1/2 cup of flat-leaf parsley


    Slice off the very top of each tomato then, using the largest holes on a box grater, grate tomatoes until only the peel is left (I lost bits of my hand doing this so be careful). Discard peels. If you cannot find serviceable fresh tomatoes, use canned whole ones in a pinch; just use a few more and squeeze out a bit of the excess juice. In a deep cast-iron skillet or pan, stir together tomatoes, flour, sugar and olive oil and cook uncovered over medium-high heat for 30-40 minutes, or until sauce is a rich, deep red and has cooked own significantly. Season with salt and pepper.

    A few minutes before serving, reduce temperature to low, make 8 wells and crack an egg into each. Cover pan with a lid or tinfoil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until eggs are cooked to your liking. Top with a little more salt and chopped parsley. Serve hot with warm pita or lavash bread.

    Orange & Carrot Salad
    Serves 8

    • 4 large carrots
    • 4 large seedless navel oranges
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 T honey
    • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
    • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted in a fry pan (I used pumpkin seeds)
    • Sea salt to taste
    • Pinch of chili flakes


    Peel carrots and discard peel. Using the same carrot peeler, make "ribbons" out of each carrot, peeling away until you get down to the woody core. Discard the cores. Cut tops and bottoms from oranges, slice off peel, then cut sections of oranges out from between the membranes. In a serving bowl, mix lemon juice with honey. Add carrot ribbons, orange sections and red onion. Gently toss with lemon-honey dressing. Tear up mint leaves and toss into salad. Scatter toasted pine nuts over top and sprinkle with salt and chili flakes, then toss once more before serving.

    Beet & Pomegranate Salad
    Serves 8

    • 4 whole medium beets, washed
    • 2 t Dijon mustard
    • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
    • Pinch of sugar
    • 1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
    • Salt & pepper to taste
    • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
    • 1 bunch watercress ( I used two cups of baby spinach)


    Preheat oven to 400F. Trim the rough root and green leafy tops from the beets (save the greens...if you've learned anything from this blog you will SAVE THE GREENS!!!). Wrap beets tightly in foil-like swan and roast 1-1.5 hours, depending on size. When done, let cool until you are able to handle them, then pop off skins over the sink. Cut beets into 1" cubes and set aside.

    To make vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together mustard, lemon juice, sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

    In a salad bowl, toss prepared beets with pomegranate seeds and vinaigrette and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Just before guests arrive, toss with watercress (aka spinach). Taste for seasoning and adjust if need be.