Sunday, October 27, 2013

Balsamic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes & Mushrooms

I didn't realize it was already time for my annual thumb grating culinary fiasco, but here we are again. While cooking this morning, I attempted to pull off the guard on my new microplane and ended up shredding my right thumb in the process. Last year was the left with a mandolin. It appears my thumbs are taking turns sacrificing themselves in order to give each other a break.

My sous-chef did much of the preparation on this recipe due to my wound. Handling raw chicken with an open cut isn't sanitary for the chicken or the cook, so I needed a spare set of hands. I was grateful for the help and he was grateful this recipe was easy. 

My take on this dish is as follows:

While the dressing seasons the chicken quite nicely, the selling point of this recipe is the vegetable combination. It is bright and light as a side to the chicken. It was also welcome on Edmonton's first snow day of the season. If you've got a piece of fish you'd like to use, I would expect good results swapping out the chicken for your fish.

Adapted From:

Serves 4


  • 1, 3lb chicken or chicken parts (I used 4 chicken breasts & modified the instructions to suit)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced and 2 sliced
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 4 large basil leaves
  • 1 large red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • fresh arugula or spinach leaves for serving

Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk the vinegar, oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. 

In another bowl, combine the onion, mushrooms and tomatoes. Pour a third of the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.

Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry. Pour a third of the dressing under the skin of each of the breasts. Place a lemon slice, a few slices of garlic and a basil leaf under each of the breasts (if you are using a whole chicken, visit the website for prep instructions.

Pour the remaining third of the dressing over the breasts. Rub the dressing all over the meat to coat it well. Place the breasts in an uncovered casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the breasts, baste them with the juices lurking in the bottom of the dish and cook on their other side for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the vegetables around the chicken, tenting the dish with foil before returning it to the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven again (last time!) and place the vegetables and juices in a pan, simmering until the juices thicken. Once thickened, serve the vegetables and chicken on a bed of fresh spinach or arugula.

A Soup Affair

Thai sweet potato bisque
 On this do-nothing October weekend I have defied the odds and done something: cook! Soup is on the menu and it's going to be a doozy, due to the multitude of soup recipes I've found that I must try. Ruedi is sporting his baking hat and is all over the bread. One cannot experiment with soup without plenty of crusty bread.

First off is a Thai-inspired sweet potato bisque. For those of you who don't do spicy, omit the jalapeño. Heat or no heat, you'll still get a delicious soup. I opted to add sambal oelek in addition to the jalapeño because I'm on a heat kick. After tasting this soup I added minced basil to it. I felt it needed a bit more oomph and basil was the ticket.

Italian parsley soup with ricotta spaetzle
Following this, I experimented with an Italian parsley and ricotta spaetzle soup. Spaetzle is a German pasta or dumpling which is often served as a side dish. This time, it was added to a clean-tasting, but flavourful soup. The recipe calls for watercress leaves, but I had spinach on hand. Just make sure to trim your greens' stems well to avoid the stringy remains in your blended soup.

Thai Sweet Potato Bisque


Serves 6

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1, 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 6 reduced salt bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top of the soup
  • 6 cups of water
  • Canola or coconut oil for cooking
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk (I chose light)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Lime zest from half a lime
  • 2 T, minced fresh basil
  • To serve, wedges of lime, basil (thai if you have it), ground cinnamon and sea salt


Place the red pepper face down on a foil-covered cookie sheet and broil on high for 10-15 minutes. The skin should be blackened at that point, but if not, keep broiling until blackened. Remove from cookie sheet and place in a bowl, covering to allow to steam for a few minutes longer. Once cooled, remove the skins, chop and set aside.

In a large pot, saute the onion and jalapeño in a little oil until the onion has softened. Add the potatoes, ginger, bouillon cubes and water to the pot. Cover and bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Add a dash of cinnamon to the pot. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Add the lime zest, basil and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with lime wedges and any combination of the seasonings mentioned in last bullet of the ingredients section. While this soup can be served immediately, it ages quite well. 

Italian Parsley Soup with Ricotta Spaetzle


Serves 4-6

For the Soup

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch of watercress, washed with stems removed (I used spinach)
  • 2 cups fresh italian parsley, washed with stems removed
  • 1 t sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a sauce pan and add onions, sautéing until softened, but not browned. Add the potato and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. If the mixture starts to stick, add a little stock to loosen the vegetables. Add the spinach, parsley, stock, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Set aside while you make the spaetzle.

For the Spaetzle

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 1/4 t ground all spice
  • salt & pepper to taste


Sift the flour, salt and pepper in one bowl. In another, whisk in the remaining ingredients until blended. Add the flour in batches until completely combined. 

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Spoon some of the batter into a colander placed over the pot (I used a slotted spoon since I didn't have a colander with large enough holes). Push the batter through the colander. The batter will drop into the pot in chunks and once blanched, rise to the top of the pot. With a slotted spoon, scoop the spaetzle out of the pot and into the soup. Continue cooking the batter until all of it has been blanched. 

I ended up with more spaetzle than I knew what to do with, so I set some aside for other, yet to be determined uses. This soup can be eaten immediately. I topped mine with a bit of leftover parsley and served with some crusty parmesan french bread.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Everything Green Salad

I suspect you'll be reading this after you've gorged on one or several turkey dinners. If this is the case, my timing couldn't be better. You will likely be looking for something on the light side. This is a summer salad filled with summer ingredients and I made it in July when all the vegetables in this pictures were in good form. At this time of year, your selection of greens will look a little different, but that's okay. What makes this salad unique is the dressing. It is magic when combined with fresh feta and good veg. Those with allergies should not despair. Having made a sunflower seed pesto the other day confirmed that substituting sunflowers seeds in nut-based recipes is no sacrifice. Seeds in this dressing would make this salad just as interesting. Now, go finish up that last piece of pumpkin pie.


Serves 4



  • Head of green leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces
  • Head of butter lettuce, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of sugar snap peas
  • 4 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small zucchini, cut in ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 T freshly chopped dill
  • 2 Baby cucumber, sliced
  • 2 oz feta cheese, diced


  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1T Dijon mustard
  • 1 t granulated sugar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 finely chopped pistachios
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the salad dressing:

Whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon, mustard and shallot until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly add in the oils until emulsified. Stir in pistachios and season with salt and pepper. 

For the Salad:

In a large pot of boiling water, add the peas and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and dump the peas in ice water to stop them from cooking any further. Repeat this blanching process with the asparagus. Once the peas and asparagus have cooled, remove them from the cold water and set them aside to dry before adding them to the salad. Combine the remaining salad ingredients into a large bowl. Add the peas, asparagus and salad dressing, tossing well to allow the dressing to coat all elements of the salad. Serve immediately.