Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Paradiso, Oakville, Ontario

The weekend after Meredith's birthday, we were in Oakville and were taken out for dinner. I looked the place up on Urban Spoon before we left and wasn't sure about it when I saw a dish marketed as "Moroccan chicken supreme," that included "balsamic paint." It seemed like a bit much, so I was apprehensive.

But the reality is that Paradiso is a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Oakville that looks like it's the place to be. The wait staff are great and when we got there we were given a detailed explanation of the menu - the specials, what was popular, etc. It was a little dark inside, so the photos I took don't do the dishes justice.

When our drink orders were taken, we were served some freshly-baked bread with olive oil. It was moist and flavourful.

Meredith started with the sesame cornmeal crusted calamari served with horseradish cocktail sauce, toasted seed and cucumber aioli and grilled lemon. I wasn't sure what the grilled lemon was about, however, it did look good.

I started with the honey roasted beet and goat cheese salad. It was very tasty - the beets were sweet and the cheese really complimented the sweetness.

For my main, I had the twelve-hour braised wild boar gnocci. The gnocci was hand-rolled and very soft, not dry at all,  and served with the shredded boar meat, in a cream sauce with a "truffle scented pecorino crust." The crust wasn't anything to write home about - is was a little salty, however, it didn't take away from the pork and gnocci - it was excellent.

Meredith's main was a crab ravioli in a dill and cilantro cream sauce. It was very tasty. The ravioli was so good that Meredith finished eating before I did, even with a great deal of dinner conversation.

Meredith was also given a chocolate torte for a birthday dessert. It was very, very, rich. Solid chocolate, crusted with nuts  and topped with cream. It was a serious dessert. Not for kids.

Overall, I'd go back. The food was great and so was the atmosphere. I just won't order the Moroccan chicken.

Paradiso on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mulligatawny Soup

Soup season is definitely here. There's no doubt about it, and here's another restaurant soup from my past.

Years ago, I attended a franchise presentation for a small chain of Indian fast-food restaurants. It was a very interesting concept, as all of the food was prepared off-site and managed in a manner that made it easy to prepare and serve quickly.

Anyway, their website had a recipe for Mulligatawny, a soup that was made famous in North America by TV's Seinfeld. I made it at the time and it was quite tasty. When I decided to make it again, I was surprised to find that the website no longer existed. Fortunately, the Internet Archive had a copy of the page and I was able work from there.

The recipe on the website had a few errors in it, and I never bothered to write the authors for a correction, so I winged it in a few places. Fortunately, that's the nature of the soup - most of the ingredients vary wherever you go. Some variations use meat, some don't. Some use coconut milk, others use milk and cream.

Another tasty looking variation can be found at Foodland Ontario. Unlike their Moroccan Chicken recipe, I'd probably attempt the Foodland Ontario soup by following their directions.

Mulligatawny Soup

Phase 1

2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
4 cups water
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
2 tsp sugar
  1. In a pot, heat oil on medium and sauté onions and cumin seeds until onions are translucent.
  2. Add garlic, red peppers, and tomato sauce stirring continuously.
  3. Add water, basil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, curry powder, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to medium and cook, covered for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  5. Transfer mixture to a blender.
  6. Add milk and puree the mixture.
  7. Return soup to the pot and stir in cream and sugar.
Phase 2

2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup eggplant, peeled and diced
1/4 cup green peas
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a deep pan over medium heat.
  2. Let vegetables simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until cooked.
  3. Pour mixture into pot from phase 1 and let simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Apple Pie

In September, our friend Penny, of Sweet Sadie's Baking, entered a pie baking contest at Chudleigh's apple farm. Meredith assisted preparing the crust and we all pitched in to peel and core the apples.

A Ginger Gold apple at Chudleigh's.
Penny prepared for a long night of pie baking.
Meredith's pie wasn't as refined (we bought a prepared crust), however, she based her filling on Penny's method.

Apple Pie

2 prepared pie crusts
Apple Filling
4 medium Ginger Gold apples
4 medium Macintosh apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp butter
1 egg white, beaten lightly
1-2 tbsp sugar, for topping
  1. Combine 3/4 cup sugar, salt, allspice, cloves and cinnamon in small bowl.
  2. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2-to-3/4-inch slices and toss with lemon juice, then add sugar mixture and toss again. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes. Drain and boil juices with 2 tbsp butter for 5 minutes to reduce. Pour 1/3 cup of these juices back over apples.
  3. Remove dough from refrigerator. If it is still stiff and very cold, let it stand until the dough is cool but malleable.
  4. The pie is baked on the oven floor. If you have a pizza stone available, place it on the oven floor and cover it with foil before preheating the oven.
  5. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  6. Gently press dough into sides of 9-inch pie pan (glass, foil, or tin) leaving some crust hanging over the lip of the pie plate.
  7. Empty the fruit mixture, including juices, into the chilled pie shell and mound slightly in centre of the pie.
  8. Place the second dough round over the filling. Trim the top and bottom edges to one half-inch beyond the pan lip and tuck the rim of dough underneath itself so the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal.
  9. Make a 1-inch hole in the top crust in the centre of the pie. Cut four slits at right angles on the top around the centre hole. Brush egg white onto the top of the crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  10. Reduce oven temperature to 425-degrees. Place pie on the floor of oven or the pizza stone and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until the top crust is golden.
  11. Reduce oven temperature to 375-degrees and continue baking for an additional 30-35 minutes, until the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden-brown.
  12. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skagway Brewing Company Spiced Carrot Soup

I garnished the soup with a little more fresh ground
pepper and some toasted cumin seeds. You might find
the cumin a little strong.
This is one of my favourite recipe stories.

Meredith and I honeymooned in Seattle for a couple days before embarking on an Alaskan cruise. It was beautiful.

Waiting to eat some crab and drink some
Alaskan beer in Ketchikan.

Taken during our air tour in Ketchikan

When we were in port in Skagway, after the bus tour, we walked around town. That's when I saw The Skagway Brewing Company. It was one of two breweries and the only brewpub in Alaska at the time.

Enjoying some down time at the
Skagway Brewing Company.

We had finished touring the town and had some time to kill - and I was hungry. The beer was great and I ordered a spiced carrot soup to tide me over until we got back to the ship.

Skagway Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon
Well, the soup was amazing. I had to have the recipe. I asked the bartender, who said that the chef would gladly share it, however, he's really busy right now. I told her that I could wait - and I did. We waited for about three hours, sipping through our pints and talking to people in the pub. We had a great time.

When the bartender realized that I wasn't leaving without the recipe, she went into the back, scratched some notes on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I returned the favour by buying a shirt and an oilskin cap to remember the brewpub.

The recipe itself wasn't very detailed. No quantities, just ingredients, when to add what, and how. It was up to me to figure out the rest. I made it once when we got back, but the recipe has languished in my "to-do again" box since then.

Now that the days are starting to chill, it was definitely time to bring that recipe back. I got everything together on a quiet Sunday when we were in the mood for a nice soup with some bread for dinner. It's not exactly what you'd be served in Skagway, but it's pretty darn good.

Skagway Spiced Carrot Soup

3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp salt (if chicken stock is low- or no-sodium)
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
500g carrots, grated (1 lb)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
1 medium potato, peeled and grated
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a deep pot. Saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add salt, ginger and garlic and saute an additional 2 minuets. Add carrots and saute an additional 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add dried cumin, ginger cloves, nutmeg and pepper, and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add potato and chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to medium and let simmer for 10-15, until vegetables are tender.
  5. Puree using an immersion blender and add cream.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicken Tajine with Apples

Running out of new ideas for a Friday dinner, I found a recipe for Moroccan chicken on a Foodland Ontario website. The point of the recipe was mostly to pitch the benefits of Ontario-farmed chicken, apples and onions to unsuspecting consumers.

But really, what does this guy know about Moroccan food? (Running a province, yes, Moroccan food: not so much.)

So I ran with the recipe as a base and fixed it from there - eliminating the cornstarch, adding saffron and swapping out the boneless, skinless chicken for recognizable pieces. My friend Simon called it "de-Martha-Stewartifying - making the dish much more my style, and specifically less... umm... this guy.

Chicken Tajine with Apples

2 apples, cored, peeled, thinly sliced and tossed in 2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
dash salt
1 to 1 1/2 kilos chicken legs and/or thighs
1/4 cup oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2 cups chicken broth
pinch saffron, infused in 1-2 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp cup raisins
1/4 cup blanched almonds
4 dates, pitted and chopped
7 dried apricots, chopped
  1. Core, peel and slice apples into thin wedges, toss in lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Combine cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper and sprinkle onto chicken.
  3. Heat oil on medium in a large pot, brown chicken on both sides. Set chicken aside.
  4. Saute onions in the same pot for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Place chicken back in the pan and add broth and saffron. Bring to a boil and let simmer on medium for 25-30 minutes, uncovered.
  6. Add apples (with lemon juice), dried fruit and nuts, reduce to medium-low and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Serve with cous cous or rice (for gluten-free)

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grilled Curry Salmon

Another excellent recipe I created using the camila oil from Three Farmers. The oil and spices created a nice glaze on top.

This fish was probably the best I've ever made, however, as I've mentioned before (salmon recipe from a couple weeks back), the quality of your ingredients can affect how your dish turns out, and in addition to the high-quality oil, the cut of fish was top-notch.

Grilled Curry Salmon

1 salmon fillet
1 tbsp camelina oil
1 tsp curry powder
  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
  2. Make a tray out of three sheets of tinfoil and place the salmon on it, skin-side down and lightly sprinkle with salt.
  3. Brush the oil evenly over the salmon.
  4. Sprinkle the curry powder evenly over the salmon - use more if necessary.
  5. Place the foil with the salmon on top onto the grill and let grill for 15-20 minutes, until the salmon flakes easily.
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Friday, October 7, 2011

Grilled Baba Ghannouj with Chinese Eggplant and Zucchini

I was contacted by the people at Three Farmers in Saskatchewan (Canada) asking if I'd like a sample of their new oil from a seed called camelina. Rarely do I turn away free stuff, so I agreed, and several weeks later, a teeny, tiny package arrived at my door:

Clearly, this must be some hot stuff if they only sent me about a half a cup's worth of the stuff. I imagine it's related to the amount of processing required to render a high-quality cold-pressed oil. It's only available at high-end retail outlets such as Pusateri's and The Cheese Boutique. You can check their website for other places in the GTA and across Canada.

Camelina is what's referred to as an aincent grain. The oil itself is rich in omega fatty acids, has a slight nutty flavour and an earthy smell (Meredith: "it smells like dirt, but the food tasted so good with it!")

According to the Wikipedia article on camelina, the seed has been busy in areas like biofuel production and animal feed as well, so it's clearly starting to pick up again in terms of popularity, even if it's not in the human consumption department.

Three Farmers has some good ideas behind it - a small collective of farmers working together to make a specialized product. Neat from a technical standpoint: each bottle comes with a QR code to help geographically locate where the seeds were harvested from.

Anyway, the day the oil arrived, I was already preparing Meredith a nice meal of grilled vegetables and fish. With the addition of the oil, I decided to do something different using those ingredients. To use more of the oil, I decided to turn the vegetables into a baba ghannouj, and I also used the oil on the fish before grilling to help the spices stick around.

Salmon served with the baba ghannouj, a baked potato and
some of the Haggis and Herring's famous salad with
balsamic vinaigrette.
Both dishes turned out spectacular. The oil wasn't overpowering and blended well with the flavours.

Grilled Baba Ghannouj with Chinese Eggplant and Zucchini

3 Chinese eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 tbsp camelina oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt to taste
3 tbsp tehina
1/4 cup camelina oil
  1. Toss the sliced eggplant and zucchini in 1 tbsp oil
  2. Grill the eggplant and zucchini until soft on the inside and a bit crispy on the outside
  3. Quickly puree lemon juice, garlic and salt in food processor.
  4. Add tehina and camelina oil and puree again.
  5. Add eggplant pulp and puree until smooth.
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Linked to Jane Deere's Fusion Fridays

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Banana Bread

Apparently, custard does not freeze well.

We had a three-tiered cake at our wedding. The bottom was chocolate, the top was carrot and the middle was vanilla custard cream. With a fairly decent dessert table, not much of the cake was eaten. We took a small chunk of the bottom tier home with us, and Meredith's mom took the carrot cake (which we enjoyed last year) and my mother took the middle layer home.

This year, to celebrate our third anniversary, my mom took the cake out of the deep freeze. The cake looked perfect. No freezer burn or other disfigurements. We ate some partially frozen (the custard was still mostly frozen), and it wasn't bad. We took the rest home to serve during the weekend and at our Labour Day barbecue.

On the Sunday, we served some more cake to our friends after dinner, and it was a disaster. The cake had finished defrosting and the moisture from the custard had soaked the bottom of the cake. Gross. More than half of the cake ended up in the garbage.

Needless to say, on Labour Day morning, Meredith got to work on making some dessert for the barbecue. She decided on her banana bread recipe since everybody loves it.

Banana Bread

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups (3 bananas), mashed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Grease two 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2 pans and preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and make a well in the centre of the bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar and margarine and add to flour mixture.
  4. Stir until moist (still lumpy) and fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Divide mixture and pour into pans.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the centre of the bread.
  7. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, remove from pan, and let cool completely on the wire rack.
Loosely based on Better Homes and Gardens banana bread recipe.

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