Friday, August 18, 2017

Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Tart with Streusel

This gorgeous Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Streusel Tart is a cross between a tart and a clafoutis, and is absolutely delicious. The sweet butter crust is made with ground almonds, flour, white and brown sugar, cinnamon, a little salt and butter, which are all blended together in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. The resulting crumble is pressed into the base and up the sides of a greased springform pan, then baked for about 20-25 minutes. Once the crust has cooled, chopped pitted plums, raspberries and blueberries are scattered along the bottom, although any combination of stone fruit and berries would be great. A simple custard of eggs, cream, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg is then whisked together and poured over the fruit. The remaining streusel is sprinkled over the fruit and the whole tart is baked at 350°F for 45-50 minutes, until the custard is set and the crust is golden brown. The crisp buttery almond crust is extraordinary — a crunchy cookie-like sweet shortbread — which compliments the tart fruit and creamy clafoutis-style custard beautifully. A fabulous dessert, this Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Streusel Tart is a real winner.

Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Tart with Streusel Topping
Serves 6-8

3/4 cup unsalted butter - 1 1/2 sticks - chilled and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup blanched almonds 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided plus 1 tbsp
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
3/4 tsp salt 
4 medium ripe but firm plums
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 large egg yolk 
2/3 cup light cream 
1 tsp grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with room temperature butter or olivina and set aside. Place the ground almonds in a food processor and pulse until medium fine. 

Transfer the nuts to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix until just combined. Add butter, and mix on low speed until the crumble begins to stick together, about 2 to 3 minutes. Press 3 to 3 1/2 cups of the crumble into the bottom of the prepared pan and to about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan to form the crust. Set the remaining crumb mixture aside.

Transfer the crust to the oven and bake until it appears to be set, about 20 to 25 minutes, then set aside. Watch to ensure the crust doesn't burn.

Slice the plums in half, remove pits and slice into eighths. Scatter the raspberries, blueberries and sliced plums onto the cooled crust and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup flour + 1 tablespoon flour, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk in the 2 eggs, egg yolk, cream, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and nutmeg, and mix until blended. Pour the custard over the fruit and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the custard has set and is slightly golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let rest at least 25 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with a bowl of whipped cream, Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream to be completely decadent.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gobi Matar: Indian Cauliflower, Peas & Kari Leaves

A staple in most Indian restaurants, Aloo Gobi is an aromatic combination of spiced potato (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi), made even more popular with Gurinder Chadha's 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, a wonderful heart-warming comedy about bending the rules to reach your goal. The film follows two 18 year old girls who have their heart set on a future in professional soccer, as opposed to finding a nice Indian boyfriend, settling down and cooking the perfect chapatti. There is a quirky cooking segment at the end of the film where the director of the film, Gurinder Chadha, makes her personal recipe for Aloo Gobi with the help of her outrageously interfering mother and auntie. Ever since I saw that segment, I can never make this dish without smiling. With its rich texture, complex flavours and intoxicating aroma, Gurinder's recipe for Aloo Gobi has been adjusted without potatoes for a sensational Gobi Matar, an equally delicious yet low-fat carb-free version of the original.

Gobi Matar - Indian Cauliflower & Peas
Serves 2-4 

1/2 cauliflower 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1/8 tsp asafoetida 
1 tbsp black mustard seeds 
1 tbsp kari leaves 
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen 
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste 
1 tbsp chopped herbs for garnish, optional

Separate the cauliflower into small florets, about 1 to 2-inches. Warm the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafoetida, then a second later, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the kari leaves and stir to combine. Then add the cauliflower, turmeric and some salt to taste. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the cauliflower is well coated with the spices and begins to brown slightly. Add 1/2 cup of water, and as soon as it starts to bubble, add the peas, cover the pan and turn down the heat to med-low. Cook 10-15 minutes more until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through. Sprinkle with some chives or cilantro leaves and serve. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grilled Maple Salmon with Tamari & Sesame Oil

Succulent, moist and enormously flavourful, Salmon is also one of the most nutrient rich and versatile fish around. It's also one of the healthiest. Low in saturated fat and calories, but high in protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon is a near perfect food — in my mind anyway. One of my favourite marinades features pure Canadian maple syrup, a natural sweetener that is more nutritious and healthier than sugar, plus Tamari, which has a richer, smoother, more complex flavour than ordinary soy sauce, and fragrant nutty sesame oil. Grilled outdoors until the fish is just cooked through, this is a dish we devour each and every week during the summer.

Grilled Salmon with Maple Syrup, Soy and Sesame Oil 
Serves 2

2 6-oz organic salmon fillets, with skin on
2 tbsp Canadian maple syrup
1 tbsp Tamari soy sauce 
1 tsp sesame oil

Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small baking dish, then add the salmon, turning it well in the marinade, then set skin side down. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the barbecue to medium-high and cook the salmon, skin side down for  8 to 10 minutes, or until just cooked. To serve, transfer to warmed dinner plates and garnish with fresh herbs.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Herb Marinade

Butterflied leg of lamb which cooks quickly and evenly on the grill, is split down the centre, then unfolded and spread open to resemble a butterfly. Gently massaged with a simple marinade of fruity olive oil, garlic, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard, the lamb should be allowed to slowly marinate for a few hours for the robust flavours to work their magic. Perfectly designed for the grill, this butterflied leg is best barbecued for about 10 to 15 minutes per side for medium rare, for a perfectly pink centre enveloped with a flavourful herbed crust. Succulent, juicy and bursting with flavour, this is one of our favourite summer recipes, and absolutely delicious served with a heaping bowl of tzatziki and tangy Greek Salad.

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb
Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 butterflied leg of lamb, about 1 lb, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 lemon, fresh parsley, oregano and sage for garnish, optional

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, rosemary, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place the lamb in a large shallow dish with the marinade, and turn to coat. Cover with cling film and let marinate 1 hour at room temperature, turning a few times.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, then grill the lamb about 10 to 15 minutes per side for medium rare. Allow the lamb to rest covered, about 10 minutes to allow the juices to retract before slicing against the grain where possible. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Grilled Asian-Style Chicken Breasts

A sensational marinade for poultry, this fragrant Asian-inspired recipe is perfect for satays, cornish hen, chicken breasts or plump juicy thighs. With a sweet delicate flavour, the marinated chicken caramelizes beautifully on the grill, allowing the intoxicating character of the marinade to shine through. Basting the chicken while on the grill ensures that the chicken stays moist and flavourful, as well as producing attractive grill marks for lovely presentations, such as this healthy summer salad with grilled zucchini, campari tomatoes, fresh mint, sliced lemon and peppery baby arugula with the fresh off the grill chicken breasts nestled on top. Fabulous served with a bowl of cold creamy tzatziki, this versatile salad could be adapted to include a rainbow of your favourite seasonal vegetables from grilled asparagus, sweet peppers or vitamin rich sliced avocado.

Grilled Asian-Style Chicken Breasts
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skinless
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy 
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fish sauce

Slice the chicken breasts in half and place into a bowl with all the marinade ingredients, then cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat an outdoor BBQ to medium high and grill the chicken breasts for about 6-8 minutes per side, or until golden brown and they have nice grill marks. Delicious served with some grilled vegetables or a light green salad.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Backhouse: Integrated Cool Climate Cuisine

Backhouse is a culinary journey that celebrates the imagination and diversity of Niagara through Chef Crawford's continuously evolving tasting menus. Voted as Best New Restaurant by Air Canada enRoute magazine, Backhouse offers an 18-seat chef’s bar where guests can engage with and watch the chefs in action, with an open-fire brick oven and wood-fired grill that provides the setting for the restaurant's continuously evolving tasting menus and what they call integrated "cool climate cuisine", a nod to the regional focus of the menu. They also describe it as integrated sustainable cuisine because the staff farmer grows vegetables and herbs for each dish. The kitchen uses everything, from carrot tops and imperfect seconds that less creative types might toss in a green bin, to create syrups, preserves, mains and sides. An exquisite restaurant built on love by locavores Bev Hotchkiss and her husband chef Ryan Crawford, the couple are totally committed to integrated cool climate cuisine and own a 2-acre farm where they source seasonal and locally sourced ingredients where staff tend to and deliver vegetables still warm from the sun, and preserve the rest for the winter months. 

They also source ethically raised meat, have their own in-house butchery and cook over an open fire. They hand-craft and bake fresh daily our sourdough bread; produce their own cheese and culture their own butter, and source local fruits and nuts for their house-made desserts — all in the hopes of bringing guests the best possible culinary journey. Chef Crawford makes his own prosciutto, and vegetables are roasted in front of the fire and poultry is often smoked or roasted at the back of the massive wood-fired grill.  The chefs even haunt old Niagara orchards, chain-saws in hand, for firewood. The bar and wine program employs a bar chef and lead sommelier, ensuring inspiring craft cocktails and a detailed and heavily-curated international wine list that sources small producers from around the globe. An exquisite restaurant built on love by locavores Bev Hotchkiss and her husband chef Ryan Crawford, their busy celebrated restaurant is named using Bev’s grandmother’s surname, a lady who wanted to be a nurse and wasn’t able to. She inspired them to always follow their dreams and the dynamic husband and wife team haven’t looked back. 

Voted as Best New Restaurant by Air Canada enRoute magazine, Backhouse offers an 18-seat chef’s bar where guests can engage with and watch the chefs in action

Chef Crawford

Pasta Carbonara with Meggs duck egg, duck confit, english peas and pecorino

Saugeen Ojibway First Nation White Fish Crudo with edible nasturtiums

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Cabernet Franc, of which only 192 cases were produced

Rich dark purple in colour, this is a wine of deeply-rooted structure and classical dimension

Bird on a Wire - Wood Fired Heritage Chicken with grilled oyster mushrooms and shishito peppers

St. John Beausoleil Rosé, the private label of Fergus Henderson's restaurant St John in England

Grilled Beverly Creek Lamb with green beans, garlic mousse and basil and feta salsa verde

The Backhouse cheese menu boasts the largest selection in Canada of locally sourced Ontario cheeses

Flight of 5 cheeses:

Stratus Winery Botrytis Semillon, the perfect dessert wine with a luscious honeyed combination of ripe pineapple and guava

Locavores Bev Hotchkiss and her husband chef Ryan Crawford

Pan-Fried Featherstone Duck Breast with Dillon's Vodka Laced Niagara Sour Cherries
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Ryan Crawford, Backhouse, Niagara-on-the-Lake

2 cups Niagara sour cherries, pitted

1 tbsp Featherstone Verjus
3 tbsp Dillon's Method 95 Vodka
2 to 3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp farm fresh butter
4 small duck breasts, individual portion size
1/2 cup Featherstone Cabernet Franc or another dry red wine
2 tbsp farm fresh butter
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Toss the cherries in a saucepan with verjus, vodka and sugar. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes. 

Using a sharp knife score the skin and fat of the duck breasts in a diamond pattern being careful not to cut into the breast meat. Season with salt on both sides. Place all four breasts, skin-side down in a cold, non-stick skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the duck breasts for approximately five minutes, basting with the duck fat that accumulates in the pan, then turn them over and continue to cook for four minutes. 

As the duck fat accumulates in the pan, tilt the pan towards you and spoon out excess liquid not needed for basting. Using tongs, turn the breast on its sides to evenly sear the meat on the side surfaces then remove the breasts from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Finish the cooking in the pre-heated oven, about eight minutes. When done, place duck breasts on individual dinner plates and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, pour off all the duck fat from the hot skillet and add the red wine. Increase the heat to medium high and reduce the wine to half, scrapping the bottom of the skillet to release the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Add the cherry/vodka mixture and heat just to the barely simmering point for five minutes to poach the cherries. If necessary, add a few teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice. 

Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and divide them equally over top and around the duck breasts. Add the butter and boil the sauce rapidly to reduce and thicken slightly, about three minutes. Correct the seasoning. Spoon the sauce over each duck breast.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Peach, Blueberry & Arugula Salad with Feta

This healthy and colourful Summer Salad makes the most of fresh ripe Ontario peaches and wild blueberries when their at their peak during the hot humid months of July and August. Scattered over a bed of peppery baby arugula with some chopped celery and crumbled Greek feta with a drizzle of olive oil or simple vinaigrette is all that is needed to dress this gustatory ode to summer.

Peach, Blueberry & Arugula Salad with Feta
Serves 4

4 cups wild baby arugula
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into slices
1/2 cup wild Ontario blueberries
1/4 cup Greek feta, crumbled
1 tbsp olive oil 
1/2 tsp Maldon salt

Please the arugula on a large platter and top with the sliced peaches, chopped celery, wild blueberries and crumbled feta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a dash of Maldon salt, if desired.