Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Cool Crab Dip For Canada Day

Ok, I have to admit it: I don’t celebrate our National day. Sorry for those who do. But what I do enjoy on our National celebration day is a nice day off, usually spent with a bunch of friends. Isn’t that what long weekends should be about?

Big parties on a day off usually equal pot luck, which means you might have to bring something along to your friends’ house (if the party isn’t being held at your place). I’m personally always impressed with what some people bring at these sorts of parties (forget about those who buy prepared foods…no comments on that). I mean, some people can get really creative. A friend of mine, who’s almost a local version of Martha Stewart, always brings these really cool dishes that seem to be made for entertainment. Where does she get such cool ideas? She’s probably hooked on the Martha Stewart website… I’m not sure I want to go that way. Still… I, on the other hand, with my not so bad cooking skills, never seem to find a cool idea for what to bring at these gatherings.

This time though, I decided to think out of the box. Lately, I wanted to try out for the “Women of Philly” contest, a cooking contest organized by Philadelphia (the cheese, not the city!). I bought some big jugs of Philadelphia cheese at Costco, only to realize that the contest was closed to the residents of Quebec (what the heck?). Anyways. The cheese has been in my fridge forever so I decided to put it to use. I found a great recipe for entertainment: a cool and easy to make and carry around crab dip. Finally! I believe I made a Martha Stewart out of myself and am ready for those parties coming up in the weekend. Bring it on! Are you ready?


250g Philadelphia cheese, softened
1 ½ cup grated Swiss or Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 can (120g) crab, drained
2 green onion, chopped
Hot sauce (optional)

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Lay the mixture in a pie plate.

When ready to serve, place in the over at 350˚F and cook for 15 minutes stirring once during the baking.

Serve in a dipping bowl. Accompany with bread stick or nachos.

Note: tastes even better if you have along with a nice Rosé wine! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tasty Fish Taco; Healthy Yet Fun To Eat!

Don’t you feel like summer is flying by? It only just started and I feel like it’s ending already. Every year it’s the same thing; there is so much more to do, so many more people to see… the agenda is fully booked and time flies by. It seems like time to cook also flies by. Who wants to stay indoors to cook a huge roast when you can go chill under the sun and eat a great big ice cream? Hey, I love to cook by I am no masochist!

So the other day I did this recipe. I made it up on the fly (I felt like having fish which is something I crave lately… must be the heat). It took me a few minutes to make and realized that I had created something incredible for summer. I’m sure some of you have tried to make fish tacos before, but for me, it was a first. I thought it was amazing!! It’s healthy yet looks like junk food (I even fooled my 1 year old who was asking for more)! You can even prepare the different elements in advance and then pop the goody in the oven for a few minutes. If you’re dying to run outside to enjoy the fast disappearing summer, this is perfect for your beat. I know I’m going to be making this one close to once a week. I can’t wait to have it again!

Makes 2-3 servings

400g Fresh Cod
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp butter
¼ white onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp smoke paprika
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cumin
Salt & pepper

2 small fresh mangos, diced
¼ red onion, finely diced
8 small vine tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
Hot sauce (chipotle or scotch bonnet is ideal)

Old age cheddar, shredded
Sour cream
Tortillas (flour or corn)

In a large cooking pan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until softened. Add the cod and cook until it breaks into small pieces (only a few minutes will do). Season with smoke paprika, coriander, cumin, salt & pepper. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the mango, red onion, vine tomatoes and cilantro. Add the lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and hot sauce. Set aside.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven at 475˚F. On a tortilla, lay some of the fish mixture and top with grated cheese. Put in the over for 5-6 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Put the tortilla on a serving plate and top with some of the salsa and sour cream. Serve immediately.

Note: you can prepare the fish in advance and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

World’s Best BBQ Ribs

Summer in Quebec is all about using a BBQ (why do I feel like I’m repeating myself?). People have them all over the place and they pretty much are a must in the backyard (or the balcony). For tenants, it can be a huge prerequisite: ‘Can we put a BBQ on the balcony?’ is always a very popular question. Maybe because of the fact that BBQs are mostly useless during the winter, summer becomes and orgy of BBQs. Who can blame us when you simply put meat or fish on the grill with vegetables of all sorts and you don’t have much dishes to make? And who can deny the amazing taste of smokiness?

I actually had these twice in a row this weekend. I made them for some friends on Friday night and then had them again on Sunday for Father’s Day as my mom made the same recipe without knowing I had done the same thing 2 days prior (we often share our recipes. You’ve gotta share the goods!). Both time were great and I could eat them again. I just don’t seem do get tired of these goods. I guess that’s a sign of a great recipe.

These ribs are an absolute pleasure to eat. The meat comes of the bones and melts in your mouth. It’s a finger-licking recipe that’ll have you ask for more. Make sure you have enough if your guests have big appetites!

Makes about 4 servings

5 pounds baby back pork ribs
2 beers (ideally brown Ale)
3 tbsp liquid smoke 
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 big onion, diced
5 garlic cloves

1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup brown rum
½ cup chipotle chile sauce
1 tsp dry mustard

In a large pot, cover the ribs with the beer, onion, garlic, chipotle peppers, and liquid smoke. Add water until the ribs are completely covered in liquid. Cover and let simmer for 2 ½ hours.

In a bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients. Keep aside.

When the ribs are cooked, lay them on a deep cooking pan and cover with the sauce. Put in the fridge and let marinate over night. Mix whenever you can. Make sure you’re careful not to break the meat of the bones.

When ready to serve, cook on the BBQ for about 20 minutes making sure the meat is slightly grilled and not dry.

While you’re cooking the ribs, boil the left over sauce in a small skillet. Before serving, add some on top of the ribs with a chef’s paintbrush. Put the rest in a small bowl so your guests can add some on their ribs if they feel like it. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Mom’s Gazpacho: Refreshing On A Hot Summer Day

I think there’s nothing better than summer vegetables when they’re at the peak of their game: juicy, colourful and absolutely tasty. Summer is a time to stock up on all the good vitamins winter drains out of our system. Even the ones who aren’t big fans of vegetables can be taken aback by the great tasting fruits of the earth. Gazpacho is a great example of what you can make out of great vegetables: a cold raw-vegetables soup (its origin is Andalucía).

The recipe I’m about to introduce has been in my family since I can remember. My mom has made it every single summer and it’s always been a great success. I’ve event introduced it in dinner parties at my place and everyone, each and every single time, has asked for the recipe… So I know that by reading this, a few people will be really, really happy (it’s my pleasure!).

The secret to the success of this recipe will probably shock a few… the secret is in the choice of tomatoes. Instead of using fresh tomatoes, you can use canned tomatoes! You’ve read me well… Canned! Unless you’re at the peak of tomato season and that you’re willing to double up the time of preparation of this recipe (you have to blanch your tomatoes), don’t bother. Simply buy the best canned tomatoes you can find and make this amazing summer soup. It’ll take you a big 5 to 7 minutes and you’re bound to be happy with the results!

Take care of this one, it’s one of our family’s best kept secret!

Makes about 6 servings

1 slice of stale bread (optional)
½ cup water
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 big tomato can (28oz), cherry tomatoes is your best choice
1 small onion
¼ green pepper
½ English cucumber
1 garlic clove
Salt & pepper
Fresh basil

In a small bowl, drench the bread in the water, olive oil and vinegar for a few hours (optional… I personally always skip this step because I can be a little lazy and am always in a hurry!).

In a blender, mix the liquid and bread mix, tomatoes, onion, green pepper, English cucumber, and garlic. Blend to your desired texture (I like to use slow speed for about 1 minute to give my soup a delicate chunky texture). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you’ve made your gazpacho a little late and can’t wait to eat it, you can chill faster in the freezer.

Serve very chill and decorate with fresh basil leaves, small cucumber and green pepper dices.

Note: an even better gazpacho is made a day in advance. It give it time to take on a deeper flavouring.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Get your booze on with bread pudding with rum sauce

Although summer is here, there’s still time for desert decadence. It’s not because it’s hot that we’re only supposed to eat fruits, right? This one is one of my personal favorites. If you’ve read me before, you know I’m more of a caramel type than a chocolate type. So with a sauce like this one (who can resist rum and sugar?) added to the moist bread pudding, my palate is more than satisfied!

On top of that, I have to admit that this is one of the only ways I’ll accept white bread to hit my plate. Yes, I like a healthier piece of bread for my breakfast… but still like the idea of a plain old white piece of flour once in a while. It’s just a better way to getting rid of the guilt and keep the most pleasure out of it.

Try it if you’re having friends over. It’s easy breezy to make!

Makes about 8 servings

2 cups milk
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tbsp dark rum
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 ½ cups stale white bread cut in small cubes
½ cup golden raisins

Rum Sauce
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 tsp all purpose flour
¾ cup milk
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract

With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8-inch in diameter soufflé dish that has an 8 cups (2 litres) volume and sprinkle with sugar.

In a bowl, combine the milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, rum and vanilla. Add the bread and raisins. Let the mixture soak for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form.

With a spatula, little by little, carefully fold the meringue in the bread mixture. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour.

Rum Sauce
In a saucepan, blend the brown sugar and flour. Add the cream, milk, rum and vanilla. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Let it become lukewarm while whisking a few times.

Serve immediately. Coat the pudding with the sauce. 

Note: Don’t be shy with the rum… I usually add a bit more than the recipe requires… just to get a better kick out of it! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Can’t get enough of fish? You need ceviche!

A few years back I was in Peru for a couple of months doing humanitarian work (sure makes me feel good to say this!). I had an amazing time and can tell you that Peruvians are more than welcoming and generous. And they most certainly know how to crack a good smile! But, as much as my time there was amazing and fulfilling, there was a downside to the whole thing: I was way up in the mountains, at about 3500 meters up in the air. Way up there, the food is great but pretty much evolves around rice and potatoes (can you believe living on such a diet made me lose 10 pounds?); forget about having a good steak or, even worse, some fresh fish up there... you might regret it.

So when I ended my trip and spent a few days in Lima, right next to the ocean, there was one thing I was dying to do, and that was to eat raw fish. And boy did I eat some amazing fish there. Ceviches are at their best in the capital and I’ve yet to find a place where they serve ceviches that good (if you know of a place in Montreal or the surroundings, can you please let me know?).

But I did bring back a few tricks to make sure I could reproduce some of the good stuff at home. Although never as good, this is close to what you can find over there. The following recipe, if you go ahead and try it, starts as the most bizarre mix of ingredients and can, well, look unappetizing (my husband certainly didn’t think that this dish looked appetizing!). But, don’t judge a book by its cover. This ceviche in rocoto cream is absolutely delicious and different (my husband ended up loving the dish and he's quite a tough critic). It brings a little something to your plate that you don’t often find in this part of the planet. So if you’re feeling adventurous and you love fish, try this one and book your plane ticket to Peru. I guarantee you’ll want to head out there really soon!

Makes 4 servings

2 ½ pounds fresh firm white flesh fish (like halibut, sea bass or flounder fillets)
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ leeks, white part only, roughly chopped
2 celery branches, roughly chopped
¼ small white onion, roughly chopped
2 large scallops
1 tbsp fish stock
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp rocoto paste
Juice of about 8-10 key limes
1 red onion, cut in very fine slices
1 cup cooked fresh corn kernels
1 cooked yam

In a skillet, over low heat, blanche the celery, leek and white onion in olive oil (about 5 minutes). Set aside and let cool.

Combine the scallops and fish stock in the jar of a blender or food processor. Blend for about ½ minute at low speed. With the motor running, add the vegetable oil in a slow, steady stream, as you would to make a mayonnaise. The mixture should take the consistency of a light, chunky mayonnaise.

Add in the cooled vegetables. Blend for a minute or two. Add the rocoto paste. Adjust taste to your liking of spiciness. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Cube the fish in small pieces and sprinkle with salt. Keep chilled until ready to serve. Just before serving add the key lime juice. Adjust taste to your liking.

When ready to serve, display yams and fresh corn kernels. Add the fish ceviche and top with the scallops mayonnaise. Finish off with red onions as decoration.

Note: You can find ready made rocoto paste in specialized or latin markets.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Favorite BBQ Chicken Marinade

BBQ season if official on. And I’m a huuuge BBQ fan. In this household, we don’t relate to the typical BBQ stereotype. In here, I’m the BBQ queen… and there is no BBQ king!

BBQ cooking can get really fancy and actually quite technical. I wish I knew more but I’m just a simple BBQ user, an average gal who grills her vegetables the simple way. One day I’m hoping someone will teach me some cool techniques for my grill but until then, I stick to the basics and really enjoy the taste of the grill. If you’re like me and don’t want to bother with the complicated stuff, then maybe you’ll enjoy this simple yet soooo tasteful recipe that I like to make quite a few times during BBQ season.

The trick for marinades is to go without measurement. In my recipe, I’ve indicated a few measures but only to give you an idea of quantity. Make as much chicken as you need (whether it’s just for you or if you’re having 25 friends over!), use your favorite chicken parts, and simply cover with the marinade ingredients. Put more or less of one ingredient and it’ll still be good, each time around. That’s my trick. This is a go with the flow kind of a recipe… Because BBQueing is always done on mellow days, the mellow way!

Yellow mustard
HP sauce
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Liquid Smoke
Smoked paprika
Granulated onion
Granulated garlic
Salt & pepper
Hot sauce (optional if you have no baby around and like spicy food)

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Add the chicken and blend well so the marinade is all over the chicken. Cover with cellophane. Put in the fridge and let marinate for 12 to 24 hours.

Grill your chicken on the BBQ. The best way to do it is over low heat. Slowly but surely. That way you keep all the good juices in and the meat is juicy and tender. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eggs Cocotte For Sunday Brunch

The other day I had some girlfriends over for brunch. There’s nothing like a good brunch at home when you’re not really in the mood to go to the restaurant. I’m a big fan of Sunday breakfast with eggs but, somehow, brunch is not something I master very well. I always get so impressed when I’m invited over at friends’ house for brunch and find out they have all these original and great breakfast ideas… Waffles, pancakes, breakfast pizza, special omelettes, etc. When I invite, I never know what to prepare and always end up making scrambled eggs!!

But this time was different. Because I’m not having a lot of guests over for dinner these days, I felt like making a great breakfast with something original and out of the ordinary. So I thought of my little “cocottes”, those individual serving size dishes that go in the oven. They’re cute and perfect for the occasion. So I crafted a special mix of eggs, bacon, mushroom and cheese; my own personal version of a great omelette… only much cuter than the traditional version!

Add to that great seasonal fruits (aren’t they amazing these days?), fresh croissants, and café au lait and you’re in for business. I don’t know if my guests were that impressed with my creation but I certainly was… considering what my Sunday breakfast usually looks like! Make this recipe as a treat for yourself or to share with friends. You can even have it for diner!

Makes 4 servings

8 eggs
8 bacon slices, cooked crispy and cut in ½ inch pieces (keep 4 for decoration; keep the fat for cooking)
1 shallot, thinly chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
Salt & pepper
1 cup 15% cream
1 cup Jarlesberg or Gruyère, grated

Preheat your oven at 400˚C.

In a large saucepan, cook the shallot and the mushrooms in 1 tbsp of the leftover bacon fat, over medium heat, until nice and tender (about 7-10 minutes). Add the cream and let simmer for about 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.

Break 2 eggs in each cocotte. Divide the cut bacon between the 4 cocottes. Cover each cocotte with the mushroom and cream mixture. Top with the cheese. Finish off by adding a slice of cooked bacon.

Put in the oven for 7 minutes at 400˚F. Bring the heat up to broil and cook for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: The great thing about this recipe is that you can prepare it early in the morning and pop the cocottes in the oven just before serving. That way you can entertain your guests without having to cook at the same time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Master Chef, Season 2 Starts On Monday June 6

If there’s one reality cooking show you don’t want to miss, it’s Master Chef, another one of Gordon Ramsay’s success TV shows. This one is particularly good because the contestants could be any of us. The ultimate goal is to find America’s best home cook. The competition is serious and the best part of it is that you’ll probably relate to it if you’re a serious cook; what you’ll see will inspire you. If ever this show comes to Canada, you can be certain that I’ll try out… and that I’ll take a few of my friends along with me (I’ve got a couple of them who can cook a seriously damn good meal!). Last year, a 21 year old won the honors. If she can do it, a lot of us could do it too. Just make sure you know how to perfectly season your food.

The new season starts on June 6th and is aired on Fox. You don’t have Fox yet? Make sure you get it, it’s really worth it and it’ll keep you foodies entertained on those hot summer nights.

To get a sneak peak of the new season, go to the following link. Master Chef - Season 2 Preview