Rustic Asparagus-Mushroom Galette

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On asparagus:  “Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphodisiac, and the church banned it from the nunneries.”

Barbara Kingsolver

Spring is in the air and tender asparagus abundant.  My cooking is at its creative best when improvising in the kitchen.  With some leftover pastry dough I combined fresh asparagus, mushrooms and shallots to create this tasty little rustic tart, literally, thrown together in the spur of the moment. It was so good, I just had to share it with you!

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Thai Spiralized Zucchini Salad

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The most success I have had with spiralized salads is using zucchini.  My spiralizer is a hand held el cheapo version and does best with soft vegetables.  Good thing we love zucchini!  This version introduces Thai ingredients to the spiralized zucchini for fresh, bold flavor.  It was so good, we fought each other for every last bit of it.

 

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Spiced Rice Pudding with Orange Caramel

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After unseasonal spring-like weather, winter is back with a vengeance. The nesting spirit set in just as a recipe for a very interesting rice pudding from Millie’s Kitchen landed in my inbox and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  When life throws you an ice storm, make rice pudding!

This luscious rice pudding fragranced with warming spices is topped with orange segments in a salted caramel syrup.  I  really liked that this rice pudding recipe got extra creamy with the addition of a surprise ingredient, evaporated milk, and only had 1/4 cup of brown sugar in it.  Allspice as well as the traditional cinnamon spiced it up nicely and gave the pudding a rich depth of color.  I added some vanilla bean to mine. I cut down the prep time of the original recipe by segmenting seedless Tangelo oranges instead of the more time consuming supreming.  I substituted the rum for pomegranate molasses and simplified the cooking method.  The caramel got a gorgeous mahogany color and lovely bittersweet notes.   Instead of the original recipe’s candied almonds, I simply toasted sliced almonds  to finish the dish.  I found the pudding and its caramel sweet enough without adding sugared almonds and liked saving a step.  I can’t rave enough about this jazzed up rice pudding and hope you give it a try too. Weathering a storm never tasted or looked so good.

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Gratin of Endives with Ham in Béchamel Sauce

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I grew up French.  We spoke only French at home and I attended all French schools.  Yet where ever I find myself in the world, people always comment, “Oh, you’re French Canadian, not really French.”  It is a curious distinction since I feel I am simply, French.  At a recent French conversation lunch, the hostess placed a beautiful casserole of something bubbling under a blanket of luscious béchamel on the table.  As I wondered what this enticingly aromic dish might be, the group erupted in cheers that we were having “un gratin d’endives”.  It was a dish familiar to everyone but me, driving home that my French culture was perhaps a bit different after all.  Oh la la, was I happy to get an introduction to this dish!

Baked endives, wrapped in a slice of ham are smothered in a cheesy béchamel for a family style main dish served in many French and other European homes.  It is quite easy to make, especially once the endives are cooked. Because the endives hold water when cooking, it is imperitive to really squeeze all the water out of them. This is easiest done if they are cooked the day before and left to drain overnight wrapped in a paper towel, in a colander.  The rest of the dish consists of  just making a classic béchamel. Add a green salad, and you have a wonderful comforting French family style meal.

Merci, Christine, for introducing me to this lovely dish.

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Roasted Cauliflower and Shallot “Hummus”

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Cauliflower is one of those versatile vegetables that is good for you but can easily be transformed into so many dishes.  This heart-healthy dip from Cooking Canuck is hummus-like in color and texture but is made entirely of the puréed cruciferous veggie and gets a depth of flavor from caramelized shallots, smoked paprika and rosemary.  Crunchy hazelnuts add protein and texture.  So easy, good and guilt-free.  Dig in!

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Upside Down Blood Orange-Olive Oil Snacking Cake

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This cake features in-season blood oranges in both the batter and in an upside down layer.  The whole fruit is pulverized into a purée which is folded into the batter.  A second orange, thinly sliced, is layered on the bottom of the pan much as if making an upside down cake.  I used a citrus flavored olive oil in my batter to add a triple punch of citrus flavor.  This is a moist cake with bold bittersweet notes as the whole fruit, pith and peel included, is used.  If you love marmalade, you will love the bite of citrus in this cake.

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Savory Turkey-Cranberry Hand Pies

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All around the world, savory pies encased in golden pastry are the ultimate hand-held comfort food.  Each culture has its own tradition. In Russia, the piroshki is a ground beef and onion deep fried pie flavored with dill and served with sour cream on the side.  In Turkey, the borek’s filling can comprise of spiced ground lamb or beef or a vegetarian filling and the pastry is more of a phyllo-type dough.  In England the Cornish pasty, a turnover in a half-moon shape, stufffed with minced or roughly cut beef with turnip, potato and onion has been around since the 14th Century and may be the original street food.  Latin America has given us the empanada which varies from country to country:  Argentina stuffs theirs with ground beef and olives while Chile showcases seafood in theirs. Their dough can be made from wheat or corn flour or even from plantain or sweet potatoes.  The West Indies’ Jamaican patty has attained almost cult status.  Its pastry boasts turmeric to give it its golden color and the filling is a spicy beef seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, curry powder and cumin although vegetarian or seafood versions are also popular.  In India, the samosa is a triangular pastry stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and sometimes spiced potatoes and veggies. In culturally-rich Canada, many of these hand held pastries from around the world are on menus everywhere.  I never, however, encountered the beloved tourtière of French Canadian culinary heritage offered in a hand held size.

Recently, while in a marathon session in the kitchen preparing  home-cooked meals to send to one of my sons, I was inspired to create our family’s traditional meat pies in individual portions for ease of travel and in a size to feed a single guy, not a whole family.   I substituted the pork for ground turkey and added shredded cabbage and dried cranberries to my maman’s classic tourtière recipe, with all its fragrant spices enveloping a golden, flaky half round pastry crust.  And oh my, the result was totally mouth-watering and so adorable in its mini size, a practical adaptation of a family favorite.  Then I read an article on hand pies from around the world in the current issue of The Canadian Living Magazine and realized there were NO Canadian savory meat pies featured.  Who knows, maybe I’ve just created the Canadian cultural offering to the world of savory hand-pies?  From Canada, with love!

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