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Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer Squash & Goat Cheese Tart

A couple weeks ago I was invited to a potluck dinner with some girls. It was a last minute get together during the week so none of us really expected too much in the sense of food and really didn’t know if we’d have 4 desserts and no main, or all salads etc.... Well we should not have under estimated ourselves as the dinner was complete with a large beautiful cheese platter, an assortment of crackers and baguette, Asian rice wraps with peanut dipping sauce, green leaf salad with summer fruit, a summer squash tart, and lots of dessert and plenty of red wine. Although making an entire dinner for friends is nice, the potluck, although old school as it might sound, is still a great theme. In keeping with its origin the potluck dinner provides a since of community where everyone has contributed and everyone gets praise for it.

All summer I have wanted to make a summer squash tart and considering it is almost fall I figured it was about time I stop thinking about it and just do it. I really wanted to grill the squash and make my own crust. With the last minute invite I was happy to sautee the veggies and buy a pre-made pie crust. The dish was simple to make and delicious. It would be great as a side or main meal with a side of salad.

Summer Squash Tart

1-2 yellow summer squash (zucchini), sliced
2 shallots, minced
½ T chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
Fresh cracked pepper
Pie crust (bought or homemade)
1 egg white, beaten
Goat cheese or blue Roquefort

Roll out the pie crust to 13” round.

In a skillet cook the squash, garlic and shallot for about 7min, until slightly soft, but not fully cooked.

Remove from heat and stir in the rosemary and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Spread the cheese over the bottom of the pie crust, leaving a 2” boarder around the edges.
Arrange the squash mixture in the centre of the pie crust over the cheese. Then fold the edges up over the squash. Brush with egg white.
Bake on a baking sheet for 35-40 minutes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cilantro Lime Chicken Skewers

The kebab is a summer classic and one that I adore making particularly for friends. Kebabs or “skewers” can be made as diverse as your friends are. I have many friends with different culinary tastes, some do not eat chicken; some do not eat beef; some are vegetarian, while others like me love it all. So having a variety of skewers (different meats and vegetables, even fruit) on the table makes it easy to please everyone. It is also fun to host a kebab making party where guests can build their own skewers. I also like how skewers can look rustic or elegant depending on how you want to present them.

This particular recipe was inspired by my love of cilantro and lime. To me these ingredients are a match made in heaven. Their fresh and citrus flavour brings a nice tangy freshness to the chicken. The addition of jalapenos if add some of the seeds can also add a bit of heat if so desired.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Skewers

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp chopped fresh jalapeno
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of half a lime
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
cherry tomatoes
cremini or button mushrooms
8 bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 min or metal skewers

Combine water, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a plastic freezer bag. Seal and shake the bag to mix well. Add the chicken, seal it and massage the chicken until well coated. Marinade in refrigerator for at least 30 min.
Pre-heat grill to med-high heat.

Thread the chicken onto each skewer (alternate with cherry tomato and mushroom) and cook on grill for 10 minutes, or until chiken is lightly browned and no longer pink in the middle. Turn the chicken occassionally.

Wine Pairing: Running Duck Chardonnay or Chardonnay from France.

2009 Stellar Organic Winery Running Duck Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa. This is nice Chardonnay with apple and peach aromas, with a hint of oak and citrus. It pairs nicely with grilled chicken.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chili-LIme Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Mayo

You cannot get a more classic American meal then burger and fries. This pair has been made famous from diners in the 50s and 60s and by the fast food movement which although began earlier grew in popularity in the 70s onward. The burger and fry combo has no bounds as it can be served as part of a backyard barbeque on a summer’s day, grabbed via drive-threw on your way out of town, or ordered in a five star restaurant, likely as a gourmet slider with fancy match-stick potatoes served with seasonal chutneys and aioli.

With so many fun things to do with burgers and fries, I thought I would bring the classic diner to my backyard. I used sweet potato for fries and added some complimentary spices and served these fries up with a spicy chipotle mayo. I just loved dipping my crispy sweet fries into creamy and spicy mayo. These fries were served with a classic beef burger. The plating was a large red basket lined with brown paper (could also use newspaper). It was fun to sit in the backyard eating burgers in fries in what felt like a dish plated at a Diner. I haven’t perfected the plating and will certainly be doing it again in the near future.

Chili Lime Sweet Potatoe Fries & Chipotle Mayo

2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced into fries
(keep on some of the skin for rustic look)
1 T olive oil
1 T lime juice
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Once the potatoes have been cut up, place them in ice cold water for 30min in the fridge. Then drain the fries and pat them dry. This will help the outer part of the fries to get crispier. But noting the high sugar content of sweet potatoes the inner will inevitably remain soft, which is what makes them so tasty.

Note: Coating the outside of the fries with egg white is also a tip I heard of. I think it did help add a bit more crisp to the outside as well.

Add the oil, lime juice and spices to the fries. On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper line the fries without touching each other.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Watch them carefully so they do not burn and flip them once during cooking. You may broil them at the very end for about 2 minutes, but be careful not to dry them out.

Check out this delicious burger recipe.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pita Chips

A great way to use up pitas or tortillas that are on the verge of going stale is to make them into baked pita chips. You can season them with any herb and spice you like and serve them up with any dip, making it a quick and easy appetizer.

Preheat your oven to 375F and spray a cookie sheet with non stick spray or use parchment paper.

Cut your pitas into triangles and lightly brush one side with olive oil. Then add any combination of spices you like. I enjoyed using these combinations: garlic and rosemary; rosemary and pepper; pepper and parmesan; pesto.

Place pita triangles on cookie sheet and bake them for 12 minutes. Watch closely so they do not burn. You may want to try broiling them for 30sec to crisp them up. Let cool and serve with hummus.