Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 27-29 Almond Pesto

June 27    Blue Cod with Tomatoes, Wine, Garlic and Basil
June 28    Dinner with friends
June 29    Almond Pesto with pasta, shrimp and broccolini

On Monday, I attempted to make that delicious looking haddock, tomato, wine and garlic recipe I linked to up there. I will not go into details about the ways my dinner was an epic fail but I will give you this bit of advice:
When defrosting frozen fish, Do NOT leave it in it's packaging overnight so that it can sit in all of that liquid for 24 hours getting totally water logged and soggy so that it falls apart as soon as you touch it and makes it impossible to even think about grilling it or searing it or serving it in fillet form and is really only suited to, say, a nice blue cod porridge or a fish gruel.
That is all I will say about Monday's dinner.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grilled Peach & Speck Salad

June 26 - Wings at The Fill Station
June 27 - The Boy cooked delicious BBQ Chicken, grilled green beans and a ridiculous Tomato & Buratta Salad
June 28 - Grilled Peach & Speck Salad

The weather here in Toronto yesterday was ridiculous.  In the morning when I was walking to Zumba it was humid, really ridiculously humid.  It held on my walk home after class too.  The sky had that grey quality that when coupled with humidity you just expect the sky to explode.  I prayed that it wouldn't until I got my errands done and was safely inside the house.  My prayers were answered but in the East End of town we never got that explosion of rain.  Just an afternoon sun shower.  Because of that, the humidity stuck and as a result  cooking was the last thing on my mind.  But because I didn't have anything to post I knew I'd have to pull something together.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barley Mushroom Risotto

As I was looking for some make-ahead meals for the kiddies while Q and I are away (with a vague and distant hope that they may actually eat them and not just toss them in the can immediately before we return), I came across this recipe for what looked like mushroom risotto but is actually made with pearl barley instead of arborio rice. The process was pretty much the same--me standing at the stove and patiently stirring for about half an hour--but figured it was worth trying something new for a change and keeping fingers crossed that it may come in handy for them for a lunch or dinner over the next few days. I have to confess that I skipped the step of reconstituting the dried mushrooms and just threw in some sauteed ones, since my main priority was to pack my suitcase and cross other items off my to-do list before leaving for the airport, and I knew my critics wouldn't notice the difference. It might have added a deeper, more 'shroomy flavour, and probably would, but luckily the loss of that won't be noticeable to any of them. When I took a little taste, it seemed plenty flavourful enough to me so the shortcut seemed to have work. Then again, it's more likely that a mushroom pizza delivered to the door will be the only fungus any of them will be interested in while the parental units are away. The truth hurts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 23-26 Thai Corn Chowder

June 23     Thai Corn Chowder
June 24     Sausages and rice
June 25     Dinner with The Neighbours
June 26     Date night with Little Shack at Jean's Vegetarian Kitchen

I am deep in a cooking funk right now and so meals have been light and simple and luckily, that is okay with The Kid. If Shack were around for meals, he would not be pleased with the current state of affairs but he is not around so I am getting away with it for now but I am going to spend this week trying to get my mojo back before Little Shack and I find ourselves resorting to frozen corn dogs and Kraft Dinner kebobs.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's a Thomas the Tank Engine kind of day

June 25 - BBQ for the nephew's 2nd birthday and a big ole Thomas cake

So I didn't cook anything at all yesterday.  It was the nephew's 2nd birthday party and his Mom put together a BBQ at my sister-in-law's house.  On these occasions I'm more than happy to let someone else be in charge of dinner.  What I did contribute to the meal was some of my Watermelon Rosemary Lemonade, which is beyond addictive and what I consider to be one of the most important components to a birthday celebration, the cake!

So that's what I'm sharing with you today, a delicious chocolate cake decorated to look like a grassy meadow that a little boy might find Thomas the Tank Engine rolling through.  I had never done a cake like this before and my biggest concern was making a track that wouldn't get icing all over the extra special birthday Thomas and Caboose the Boy picked up to go on top of the cake.  Upon doing a bit of research I saw a cake with a similar idea to the one I was thinking of that had made the chocolate out of candy melts.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Melt some chocolate and pipe it onto the cake to look like a train track.  I knew I could do that.  What I failed to think about was that hot melted chocolate is extremely soft and liquidy (if that's even a word).  So I melted it on a double boiler and had to wait for it to cool enough to pipe easily but not so much so that it would harden.  While it all came together beautifully there were some hiccups along the way.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tamale Pie

June 22 - tamale pie to empty out the fridge
June 23 - The Boy made delish steak and broccoli on the grill
June 24 - taught the Boy's cousin's kids how to make pizza

The second half of this week has been a bit nutty.  From a lack of inspiration on the kitchen, to a last minute request for a birthday cake to planning to teach some kids how to make pizza, I've been busy and not really into being creative in the kitchen.  Wednesday night's dinner came about purely out of neccessity, I knew we needed a dinner and I knew I needed to pul something together with what I had in my fridge.  Tamale pie is one of those Tex Mex dishes that I have never had but have always been intrigued by.  I love tamales and while I've never made them and suspect a traditional tamale pie has little to do with my beloved little corn husk wrapped parcels, I thought I'd give it a try.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

There's something supremely satisfying to most of us about the self-directed approach to assembling burritos, tacos and fajitas--loading on and layering all the veggies, salsa, sour cream and guacamole to make it uniquely your own--and the process is even more gratifying to kids. No shortage of individual inventions and weird combinations that generate creativity at the dinner table. And it kind of feels like they made the whole thing themselves, but without any of the hassle of the actual cooking. My idea of a perfect world. So it's no surprise that any of these options are generally the most popular requests I get whenever I ask for meal suggestions, as I did this week when I hit the wall in terms of new meal ideas. Even with dozens of cookbooks and magazines at my fingertips, not to mention the internet, we all get stumped sometimes. I was almost at the point of Carole's approach of resorting to a DQ Blizzard for everyone for dinner. Almost. Maybe next month.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 20-22 Radish Pesto

June 20     tacos with the leftover skirt steak  and veggies , guacamole, salsa,
June 21     pasta salad with radish pesto
June 22     risotto with radish pesto, grilled radish and spicy shrimp

I am seriously having a cooking crisis over here. It's summer and when it's hot all I want to eat is watermelon and both The Kid and I are happy with watermelon, popsicles and a dinner of bread, dips, cheese and maybe a bit of meat on a stick from time to time but I have to keep cooking new stuff because I made this pact with Jen and Dianne and the devil and I have to stick to it. Last night it was time to eat and I truly just stood there in the kitchen and wanted to have a little cry. My feet have been kind of numb since Monday so it might have something to do with it, who knows. All I know is that I am finding this challenge really, really difficult at the moment and it would probably be a lot easier if I could feel all of my toes. I'm just saying.

Then I remembered that Jen made pesto from radish greens and I thought that was something I could do since I still had those beautiful radishes from the market. I didn't want to go whole hog with the radish greens so I used half basil and half greens and because I am terrified of pine nuts since my bout with pine mouth, I threw in some chopped walnuts instead. It ended up being quite tasty  so on Tuesday I tossed it with cold, cooked whole wheat rotini, some chopped radish and some roasted red, yellow and orange peppers and on Wednesday it went into a risotto.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Asian Pork Tacos with Do Chua

June 18 - Indian take-out with the in-laws
June 19 - The Shacks came over for tacos and cocktails
June 20 - Dinner out at the Cieli Cottage
June 21 - Grilled Pizza - Feta & Bacon and BBQ Pork with Cheddar, peppers and green onions

If you follow my blog, Piccante Dolce, you'll know that I'm pretty big on canning and preserving.  From freezing seasonal produce to canning it as pickles or jam, I'm all about having some of my favorite veggies for use in the barren days of winter.

This season I've been using a book called Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff which I'm basically in love with.  When I was perusing the book I became mildly obsessed with a quick daikon and carrot pickle and the accompanying recipe for pork tacos to serve it on.  I knew it was something I had to make and when I couldn't wait any longer I invited the Shacks over for dinner for this past weekend and planned my meal.  They were an easy invite, because they love tacos and eat just about anything, plus we're long overdue to have them over for dinner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mango Blueberry Quinoa Salad with Grilled Salmon

Cooking for the family at this time of year is becoming a slippery affair because I have no idea from day to day who'll actually be home for dinner. My only reliable guest, Q, has already left for France for his Ironman event, Corbin is working on and off, Austin can usually be found at the local skateboard park and Maddie is now living on the streets. Yesterday I rushed home from errands to be here for my youngest after school, only to have her dart in the door, throw down her backpack and disappear until 9:00 pm. Trampolining, water fights, bike rides and generally hanging out on summer nights all (rightly) take precedence over any thoughts of family time. She assured me that a neighbour had thrown her a cob of corn at some point but obviously dinner isn't a priority when the weather is so great and friends are a-calling. So last night it turned out to be just Corbin and me enjoying some grilled salmon along with this ultra-fresh and light salad, which was more like a salsa companion to the fish than a salad. I could almost envision eating it for breakfast, it was so sweet and refreshing. I ended up tossing the leftover salmon into the remaining quinoa mixture and one of our absent guests can enjoy it for lunch sometime this week instead.

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 16-19 Grilled Skirt Steak for Father's Day

June 16     Dips with pita, cucumber and radishes, california rolls, boccaccini
June 17     spinach cheese ravioli with brown butter and sage
June 18     pre fathers day - grilled skirt steak, horseradish coleslaw, various farmers market veg
June 19     dinner at Jen's - Asian inspired pork tacos, scallibut ceviche and strawberry shortcake

Jen invited us for dinner and cocktails on Sunday so we had our father's day bbq on Saturday. For some reason, Shack woke up at the crack of 7 on Saturday morning and loudly announced that we were going to the market and that all the lazy people in this house needed to get out of bed. The Brickworks isn't open that early, probably for very good reasons, so we went to the St Lawrence Market and found breathtakingly sweet little local strawberries as well as all sorts of beautiful local produce and a nice, big hunk of meat. I was planning to do a flank steak in a coffee marinade but they had skirt steak.  It looks like flank steak but marbled with tons of yummy fat and the guy assured us that if we like flank steak, we will LOVE skirt steak. He looked like an honest type of guy and he did work at a butcher so we trusted him and bought it. He did not steer us wrong.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spaghetti Squash-sagna

I've been pretty lucky over this challenge that the kids and hubby haven't been particularly picky or critical of most of the meals I've chosen to experiment with (although they have been pretty amused by some of the results) so when Corbin pointed out this week that "we haven't had lasagna in ages, Mom," I knew I'd have to accommodate his personal request and pull one together, even if it is the summer and it goes against all my instincts to be making a casserole. Poor kid was so desperate, he even went sniffing around in the far corners of the basement freezer, searching for a frozen one, since I used to make them three at a time to have handy for last-minute meals. Little did he know that I've dropped that habit because we can't use them this year anyway.
So I turned to tastespotting and browsed through lots of familiar-looking but overly rich lasagna options, knowing that I wanted to find something a bit lighter. When I came across one that substituted roasted spaghetti squash for the pasta noodles, I knew I'd found our next meal. Not a vegetarian option since it includes Italian sausage in the sauce, but more veggie-rich, lighter on the cheese, less carby and definitely healthier overall. Most importantly, it hit the spot for Corbin and brought back memories of the good old days when Mom regularly made kids' faves and wasn't on some crazy midlife culinary adventure.

Spaghetti Squash-sagna
serves 6

1 large spaghetti squash
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
4 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
6 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking tray with cooking spray and set aside.

Cut the ends off the spaghetti squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds, brush surface with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and lay cut side down on baking tray. Cook for 35 minutes or until cooked through but not mushy.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Once the sausage is cooked through, add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the spinach and saute for a minute or two, until it has wilted. Remove from the heat.

Use a fork to scoop out the spaghetti-like strands from the squash. Line the bottom of the prepared baking dish with a layer of squash, using about half the squash. Top with half of the tomato sauce. Spread the sausage-spinach mixture over the tomato sauce and top with half the mozzarella and parmesan. Continue to add layers, ending with the cheeses on top.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes and then broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Allow to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Rest of the week

June 17 Pizza night

June 18 Spaghetti squash-agna and tossed salad

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sausages, Peppers & Onions - a Perfect Grill meal

June 15 - Grilled Sausages Peppers & Onions with sauteed asparagus and mixed green salad with tomato & mozzarella
June 16 - Homemade ricotta pesto ravioli and a blueberry & fennel salad
June 17 - Burgers & Buns on the grill with a green salad

To me sausages with onions & peppers are summertime food at it's finest.  It's ballpark food.  At least it is at Fenway Park, the home of my beloved Red Sox.  The ballpark is surrounded with sausage carts, most famously The Sausage Guy.  When I think of sausages and peppers, I think of hot days and cold beer.

We had one of those hot days on Wednesday.  A day when cooking was the last thing I wanted to do.  As I started thinking about dinner and saw that I had a big bag of PC sweet baby peppers, a whole ton of onions all I could think of were sausages with onions & peppers.  It's not only a perfect summer meal but it's one I can cook entirely on the grill.  That means no sweating it out in my hotbox of a kitchen.  That's always a winner in my book.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes

At Corbin's graduation party the other night, we served up one of our favourite appetizers--goat cheese topped with finely chopped sundried tomatoes, tossed with a whole whack of different finely chopped herbs such as basil, rosemary and thyme, and combined with some minced garlic, balsamic vinegar and the very best extra-virgin olive oil you've got in your cupboard. You can get all fancy and serve it already prepared on toasty crostinis but I usually just spread a layer of the goat cheese on a serving platter and then let everyone help themselves, with crunchy bread on the side. Even better, this spread is great for leftovers--as a spread on sandwiches or even as a pasta sauce. This week I stuffed it inside some chicken breasts, browned it and threw it in the oven, and voila, dinner was done.

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes
serves 4

8 sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, finely chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 oz softened goat cheese
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sundried tomatoes, herbs, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Add the goat cheese and stir to combine.

Place the chicken on a cutting board and slice a pocket into the thickest side of each chicken breast to hold the filling. Divide the filling among the four chicken breasts and gently stuff it into each pocket. Use a toothpick to secure it in place.

Season the outside of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the chicken breasts to brown on the outside, 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 12 minutes or until cooked through.

Rest of the week

June 14 Bubble chicken served with assorted leftover salads

June 15 Chicken breasts with goat cheese/sundried tomatoes and steamed broccoli and cauliflower

June 16 Corbin's magical meatballs and spaghetti

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Resorting to Plan B.... Greek Orzo Salad

On Monday night, I had originally planned to make a delicious-sounding vegetarian dish called Orange-Scented Eggplant and Couscous Rolls, topped with a nice marinara sauce, but the thinly sliced eggplant burned quickly in the oven, and since I only had one eggplant on hand, I had to come up with a backup plan. In the spirit of "keeping it real," my charred results are documented for all to see and for me to learn from. So much for multi-tasking in the kitchen.

The night before, we had hosted a family get-together to celebrate Corbin and my niece Sara's graduation from high school and this Greek orzo salad was delicious. I paired it with pulled pork, cheesy cornbread, grilled asparagus and salad. Easy and make-ahead so it simplified things at busy dinnertime. Probably the biggest hit of the night, however, was something I can't even take credit for making but at least I know where to buy it: a towering carrot cake from a new bakery in Toronto, Bobbette and Belle, although I'm now kicking myself for not taking pix of how beautiful it was, topped with nuts scattered over a burnt caramel sauce that spilled down the sides of the cream-cheese icing. But even more importantly, it knocked our collective socks and tastebuds off and we all thought it's one of the best carrot cakes we've ever had. We also tried their sublimely pastel-coloured macarons (the pistachio, caramel, hazelnut and chocolate ones) and melt-in-your-mouth raspberry and coconut marshmallows. We had eaten their scones and clotted cream at our Royal Wedding breakfast party a few weeks back and I haven't been disappointed in anything that comes out of their beautiful shopdoors. Free advertisement but totally deserving.

June 13-15 Panzanella Salad

June 13     Panzanella Salad with a suppeworks pork tenderloin
June 14     I had h'orderves and Little Shack had a pulled pork sandwich and pie   
June 15     poutine for Little Shack and the worst green curry on earth for me from food court

I know that Dianne made a panzanella salad last month but she made a greek panzanella salad so they are a bit different and I thought this one was worth sharing too. Instead of using a more classic loaf of crusty bread, I chose to use this middle eastern whole wheat flat bread. I love the texture of it and it toasts up really nicely. I wish I could tell you what this bread is called but the writing on the bag is in what appears to be arabic or something and all it says in english is Whole Wheat and At Your Service Since 1993, which isn't much help but reassuring, none the less.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Asparagus & Brie Frittata

June 12 - 5-spice rotisserie chicken with soy glaze on the grill with green beans & fiddleheads
June 13 - pizza delivery
June 14 - asparagus frittata with brie and a green salad

I'm in a bit of a cooking funk.  It may be because I just haven't been sleeping well and by the time dinner time rolls around I'm just too drained to even care.  Which would be why we ordered takeout on Monday and why I really wanted to last night too.  We had spent the day in Buffalo taking care of some immigration stuff and doing some shopping.  By the time we got home I was drained, but I knew I need something to share today, since my rotisserie chicken while it was tasty and sounds impressive was far from photo worthy or a recipe worth sharing without some serious tweaking.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 12 Cheese and Spinach Ravioli with Garlicky Shrimp

June 12     Cheese and Spinach Ravioli with Garlicky Shrimp

We were supposed to bbq but by the end of the afternoon it felt like it could rain at any second and neither of us felt like bbqing anymore. Little Shack had a friend over until about 6:30 and and it was kind of getting late so whatever we ended up making, it had to be quick and easy or else we would be eating half an hour before bedtime. I had some really nice yellow tomatoes that I bought at a farmer's market a couple of days ago so I thought maybe some sort of pasta with a nice, mellow yellow tomato sauce. I was originally planning to do some sort of panzanella salad with them but nobody needs bread salad to go with their pasta, do they. At the grocery store, Shack saw some fresh ravioli stuffed with spinach and cheese so we grabbed those and then we got a bag of shrimp, some other stuff and came home.
I chopped up the tomatoes with the one red tomato that I had on hand, cooked the shrimp in lots of olive oil, garlic and butter and just sort of went from there. For a total flying by the seat of my pants dish right up until it made it to the plate, it was pretty darned tasty.

Spinach and Cheese Ravioli with Garlicky Shrimp and Yellow Tomatoes

250 g of shrimp, cleaned and shelled
2 cloves garlic

1 tbls butter
extra virgin olive oil

3 yellow tomatoes, chopped 
1 small red tomato, chopped 
1 shallot

450g spinach cheese ravioli
1 sprig of fresh thyme

freshly grated parmesan

bring a bit pot of salted water to a boil.
In a sauté pan, heat up a pan over med heat. Add a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and butter and sauté the garlic until it just starts to get a bit golden. Throw in the shrimps and toss. Cook until just starting to turn pink. Splash in about 2 or 3 tbls of white wine and continue to cook until the shrimps are just cooked. Put the shrimps and any liquid into a bowl and set aside.
Put the ravioli into the boiling water. It should take about 7 or 8 minutes to cook.
Pour a bit more olive oil into the pan, add the shallot and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over med high heat while the pasta cooks. After about 4 minutes add another bit of white wine, about 3 tbls, the fresh thyme and let it cook for another few minutes. Add the shrimp and juices back into the pan with the tomatoes.
By now your pasta should be cooked so remove it with a slotted spoon and add it to the shrimp and tomatoes, give it a few tosses to make sure it's all mixed together and top each serving with a small handful of freshly grated parmesan.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 9-11 Cream Cheese, Apple and Almond Croissant

June 9      Haddock with cornmeal crust, rice and green beans with salad
June 10    Cream cheese, green apple and toasted almonds on a croissant and salad
June 11    Went out and truly ate all the sushi we could eat

Friday night I was on my own for dinner because Shack was working and Little Shack had a previous engagement so could make anything I wanted. Normally, my thoughts turn to things with olives and rapini and hot chilis or really spicy indian but for some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about this sandwich that I used to make when I first moved to Toronto at 20 and was just learning about food. For me, this sandwich was the height of fancy pants food snobbery and I always felt very smug and proud when I would make it for someone using an fresh croissant from a french bakery and cream cheese not from the grocery store but from the cheese shop in the market. It made me feel very continental and sophisticated and it was unlike anything I had ever eaten growing up. Of course, by the end of that year, I was actually living in Paris, eating real, mind blowing croissants and endless wheels of brie and other exotic, stinky cheeses and this sandwich faded from memory.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Grilled Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Sage & Pancetta

June 8 - grilled pork tenderloin wrapped in sage & pancetta and green salad with strawberries & feta
June 9 - tandoori chicken tacos
June 10 - Rogers Center for the Sox/Jays game

I had actually prepped this meal to have on Tuesday night but when I realized I wouldn't be able to watch my Red Sox destroy the Yankees at home I made the boy take me out to our fave sports bar in the Beach The Fill Station.  They have pretty solid food, a ton of tv's AND they were willing to put my game on when we walked in.

The good thing about it is that I had already prepped the tenderloin so it was waiting in the fridge for a simple supper on Wednesday.  Though I have to say even if it wasn't already prepped it would have been a really easy dinner to pull off.  The tenderloin was ridiculously juicy and the pancetta and sage added awesome flavor.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad

Salmon, arugula and couscous salad for dinner, or otherwise known as "the dinner that nobody ate".... yet. On Thursday night Austin had a four-hour swimming exam that started at 4:30 so around 3:30 I began preparing this meal so he could eat it early and have lots of energy for his long haul. But when he walked in from school, he informed me that it was way too early, mom, for kids to eat fish (apparently there's a rule that fish is only acceptable after 5:30 or 6:00) and that he'd prefer to go hungry than force this down. And so it went. One by one, they dropped like flies. Quentin was on his way to England, after a 14-hour delay at the airport due to weather and mechanical issues, so he wouldn't be my reliable and always-grateful guest at the table. Corbin was still lying on the couch, feeling unwell, as he has for most of the week, so the smell of salmon wasn't appealing to him and anyway, mom, we seem to eating a whole lot of salads lately so I'm not interested anyway. And Maddie was running up and down the street like a banshee, having water fights with her school buddies, and didn't make it back in until bedtime and with no appetite at all by that point. Probably full of popsicles and pink lemonade. That left me, who had a nibble of it (yummy) but decided to hold onto it until lunchtime on Friday and enjoy it then. And I fully intend to. My guess is that all moms have, at one time or another, had meals that have been picketed and this was my most recent one. At least I'm not alone.

serves 3

3/4-pound piece fresh salmon fillet, cut from the thick center portion, skinned, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil for the fish and about a tablespoon for the pan
Juice from half a lemon
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
5 ounces baby arugula
1/2 cup sweet grape tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic, red wine, or sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, minced

Rub the salmon with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and season both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. When it's hot, add the salmon, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then carefully turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the salmon to a plate, squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, and cover loosely with foil.
In the meantime, bring 1 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, stir quickly, cover, and take off the heat. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and minced shallot. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
Put arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle about half the vinaigrette down the sides of the bowl and gently toss the arugula to coat. Add more vinaigrette, if needed. Add about 2 cups of the warm couscous and toss so the arugula gets slightly wilted. Add tomatoes, raisins, and capers, and toss again to combine.
Divide salad between three plates. Cut salmon in thirds and place a piece on top of each salad.

Rest of the week

June 7 Broccoli, asparagus and sweet pepper stirfry tossed with strips of pork

June 8 Penne with chicken, vegetables and tomato-basil sauce

June 9 Salmon, arugula and couscous salad

June 6-8 Indian Spiced Chicken Meatballs and Pulao

June 6    Brussel Sprout Pulao with indian spiced chicken meatballs and raita
June 7    Fried rice (from last  night's pulao), pan fried rainbow trout
June 8    Dinner out with The Neighbours

The Kid and I are on our own again this week as Shack is back on the film and they are now shooting so we will be lucky if we see him again before Little Shack finishes high school. Speaking of Little Shack, he really enjoyed the tandoori chicken we had over the weekend and he also liked the aloo jeera from last week so I am striking while the iron is hot. I really want to turn my kid into an indian food fan so I will have him on my side from now on when it comes time to selecting restaurants. I know it's terrible that I am manipulating my innocent child like this but it's for a good cause.

I am going to be very honest with you and recommend that you do not use leftover caulflower and brussel sprouts for this and instead just throw in the frozen peas and maybe some carrot or something because they were totally overpowering but I am sharing the recipe as I made it because that is what we are supposed to do. I could have lied and pretended that it was fabulous and that I never make mistakes, I suppose, but The Kid would no doubt rat me out at some point. I think he would have liked the rice much better if I had used just peas but it made really tasty fried rice the next night. The rice itself was delicious but this version just ended up tasting way too cruciferousy (if that is even a word).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fettucine with Pesto & Beans

June 5 - takeout from Queen Margherita Pizza
June 6 - Fettucine with pesto & beans and a caprese salad for Meatless Monday
June 7 - ended up at the Fill Station so I could watch my Red Sox destroy the Yankees

After a weekend chock full of food at the cottage, I guess that's what happens when your friends are all foodies and you invite them away for the weekend, I couldn't have been more ready for Meatless Monday. Since I've been full time back in town I haven't consistently been following along with my Meatless Monday pledge and am happy to be back on the wagon, especially with a dish like this.  So simple and packed full of flavor, I have a feeling I'll be regretting using it up this early in the summer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greek Panzanella Salad

We spent most of Sunday afternoon out on the deck, finishing our planters, moving heavy urns, laying an outdoor carpet and generally preparing the area for outdoor living over the next three months. By dinnertime, all we wanted to do was relax on our lawn chairs, break bread together and enjoy the fruits of our labour. I had bought Greek souvlakis earlier in the week but didn't want to resort to traditional Greek salad as an accompaniment so was happy to stumble across this Greek version of Italian panzanella salad. Instead of basil, I threw in some fresh oregano, as well as some diced feta, peppers and cucumber. You can also add olives if your family likes them (mine doesn't). Since my bread was so fresh, I ended up toasting the bread cubes before tossing them in the hot olive oil. Allowing the salad to rest for 30 minutes in the vinaigrette while we grilled the chicken made all the difference in the bread absorbing the zippy flavours. Besides its great taste, the best thing about this salad was that it was simply enough. Enough as a salad, as a carb, as a side dish. None of us needed anything more... not even dessert. And that's high (and unusual) praise.

June 2-5 Cottage Grilling

June 2    Queen Margherita Pizza
June 3    Dinner at Jen's Cottage Tandoori Chicken and her amazing s'mores
June 4    Jen's Cottage Grilled Meats and things throughout the day and night
June 5    Dairy Queen

As you probably read yesterday, we spent the weekend at the cottage with Jen and her Boy and two other friends. The guys were putting the dock in, everyone took turns preparing a meal and a lovely weekend was had by all. The Hindu Cowboy prepared his mother's tandoori chicken and a nice spinach salad with a raita dressing and we had Jen's yummy curried potato salad on Friday night. After dinner we made S'mores out of Jen's home made graham crackers, marshmallows and a nice chocolate ganache - typical cottage fare lol. The other dock installer made us a delicious breakfast on Saturday morning and my meal was Saturday's lunch so I kept it simple, knowing we were having ribs and chicken and baked beans later in the evening. We grilled Italian sausage and asparagus, roasted potato and two kinds of sweet potato wedges, salad and sautéed onions with sweet peppers and a low fat coleslaw. Because The Boy and The Hindu Cowboy are in the early stages of a weight loss challenge I was trying to keep things lean and clean so they could eat without worrying about ruining their girlish figures. Oh, by the way,  team THC!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Curried Potato Salad

June 4 - BBQ ribs & wings with coleslaw and baked beans

This past weekend we've been up at the cottage with the Shack's, TB and the Lone Hindu Cowboy since it was dock weekend, where the men exert their manliness as they put the massive dock in the lake for the summer.  Everyone came up on Friday night and the Cowboy offered to make Indian for this first night.  We all jumped on that since all of his Indian food come from his mom's recipes and are insanely good.  When he arrived he got to work on tandoori chicken that we would serve over a spinach salad dressed in a raita dressing and some great brussel sprouts and broccoflower.  He suggested we might need another side and I though a potato salad would be great with the spicy grilled chicken.  Since my experience with Indian flavors is rather limited, this turned into a potato salad in a curried yogurt dressing, not to fancy but ended up being a great easy and flavorful salad.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Greek Couscous Salad

May 1 -  Grilled Garlic Shrinp with whole wheat couscous and arugula  salad
May 2 - Burger's Priest as we headed up to the cottage
May 3 - Ah-mazing tandoori chicken cooked by the Lone Hindu Cowboy, with spinach salad and curried potato salad

The week brought some great weather, finally.  With the heat, cooking was one of the last things on my mind.  The challenge is to figures out what to make that requires as little time as possible in front of the stove or having the oven on.  Grilled shrimp were a no brainer since they cook so quickly, but I wanted something substantial to go with them.  After a quick search of my pantry, I found that I had a brand new box of whole wheat couscous.  I can't tell you the last time I cooked couscous, likely never.  But it was on sale a few weeks ago, so I picked some up and promptly shoved it to the back of the pantry.   On Wednesday I was happy I had picked it up, because I knew it would go really well with the classic Greek salad ingredients, all of which I also had in the fridge.  Throw in some mint from my newly planted herbs and this easy salad was the perfect side with my grilled shrimp.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wheatberry Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Sunflower Seeds

Now that Corbin has graduated grade 12 and is heading off to university in the fall, he has three glorious summer months stretching ahead of him to work, relax, chill with friends and hone his cooking skills by being responsible for preparing one family dinner each week. Even though he'll be living in residence in September and will have access to a meal plan, with likely regular visits home for the odd home-cooked meal, knowing how to pull together a few basic dishes is an essential survival skill in my books (and will make him an even better hubby and dad in future). So, every once in a while over the coming weeks, he'll be my guest post for the day and can present some of his new finds. Last summer, when we tried the same experiment, he discovered some great recipes, although he also found that "quick and delicious", as promised by Fine Cooking, could in fact involve four hours in the kitchen for him. So much for truth in advertising... but I imagine it also had something to do with a so-called "learning curve."

This week, he prepared delicious mushroom and pancetta pizza, and, with the exception of some pesky dough deciding to get stuck to the parchment paper underneath, it was a definite success. He followed it up with baked alaska, an ambitious undertaking for any newbie, but Q said the combo of home-cooked brownie, coffee ice cream and meringue was completely yummy, although Corbin was (understandably) disappointed that it didn't look quite the same as in the photo accompanying the recipe. Welcome to the club. In fact, I would wager that every cook has experienced the same visual disappointment at some point, but as his dad pointed out, who could find fault with three sources of pure sugar, in totally different forms and consistencies, rolling around in your mouth and tasting amazing. Skip the aesthetics and embrace the taste!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May 30-June 1 Roast Turkey, what else?

May 30     Roast Turkey Dinner with  Flourless Chocolate Cake
May 31     Pasta salad with feta, fresh basil and leftover turkey
June 1       Dinner with the neighbours

I promised Shack I would roast a turkey before the summer hit.  We had planned to do it outdoors on the neighbour's BBQ on Sunday but that didn't happen for various reasons. That means that on Monday, the first really hot day of the season, I spent the afternoon indoors roasting a stuffed turkey. That is love, people. Since I knew the oven would be on for a few hours I also decided to get really crazy and bake a flourless chocolate cake while I was at it. I mean, if I am going to get all sweaty and suffer hot flashes all afternoon, there might as well be some chocolate involved, right?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grilled Asparagus with Farm Fresh Eggs & Parmesan

May 29 - dinner out in Montreal
May 30 - ham sandwich on the train
May 31 - Grilled Asparagus with Fried Egg & Parmesan

Late last night we got home from our carnivorous weekend in Montreal.  There was lots of meat, lots of fries, lots of bread and booze.  Don't get me wrong I was in heaven, but after all that food and only having 10 days off from my previous vacation I was truly happy to have a night in and to throw together this super simple but delicious meatless meal.  I know we let the Shack's down by not rallying to meet them at the Cieli Cottage, but we were truly spent, plus there will be many a beer and lots of great food to be shared with them this weekend at the cottage.

I've been without a car lately, with the Boy working and needing it and my car still off the road.  Since it's finally nice out, I've started to go to a Zumba class that is run at the church a mile and half up the street from our house. I walk there and back. I could take the bus, but I lie to take advantage of the nice weather and it's a nice walk, luckily the church is near a few of my favorite shops, Courage Foods, Close to the Bone and Fallingbrook Cafe.  Between those three shops, I can easily put together a tasty meal or pick up whatever ingredients I may be lacking.  None of them are as inexpensive as a large grocery store or Fu Yao, Carole's fave Asian grocery, but I love supporting the local mom & pop stores.  Plus most of the food sold at Courage is locally grown or produced.

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