Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good-bye Summer ...... it is time to go

Dear Summer ,

You have hung around long enough. As we woke up this morning to a shivering below freezing temperature , I think you finally realised it was time to move on . Yesterday you tempted us with temperatures that defy the month of November , temperatures that made us think it was still ok to wear stylish flip flops and squeeze in one more pedicure , and question whether it is really Thanksgiving on thursday.

As I nostalgically looked through my photos I came across photos of my purple bell pepper harvest , and the most delicious tasting basil pesto I have ever made ...... Can you taste food through a photo ??

I realise am not the greatest photograher , I really have to get to know my camera a lot better , however I just stared at this basil pesto for days ..... it was that good . When we finally enjoyed it a few days later in a simple dish of fettucine and pesto - I died and went to heaven .

Tomorrow is Wednesday , the day before Thanksgiving and the day my girls have dedicated to baking . I do not cook for Thanksgiving , I am only just coming to terms with pumpkin pie ( will it be as good as last years attempt ? ) I will let you know . The recipes have been resourced, the ingredients cross checked - there is always a last minute run to the store ..... and the energy is palpable .

Happy Thanksgiving everyone ..... and hello Old Man Winter ..... we are more than ready for you !!!


**** For some great ideas go to my November 2009 archive for something a little different.****  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tale of Three Soups

Friendship is defined by not having to explain yourself . True friends can pick up where they left off and connect in a way that does not require any explanation.

With this in mind I recently re-connected with two wonderful ladies, I got to know through my catering business - and we got together to do what we know best - make soup !! It has been a while since I have had an opportunity to escape the gulag of work and cook soup , but soup it was spanning three very different cultures .

I think everyone understands the nurturing side of soup , the comfort it brings to everyone and the fact that simple ingredients can make outstanding soup . The menu was as follows, pumpkin soup, tortilla soup and miso soup - a very diverse selection which in the end tasted sensational . I did not have my own camera handy , I took the photo of the pumpkin soup the next day ( as i was about to enjoy it for lunch ) the tortilla soup refuses to correct itself and turn right side up - but you get the picture and the miso soup was taken by one of my friends.

The pumpkin soup was delicious and savoury - most recipes I have come across tend to make this soup on the sweet side - by adding apples or apples juice - still love your recipe Ina Garten ..... however it was refreshing to try this soup made with butternut pumpkin, carrots, onion along with fresh tomatoes and hot chili peppers. Simple clean ingredients but with a powerful flavour punch .

Next we made Tortilla Soup , one of my all time favourite mexican soups - and I came to the realisation that all I have eaten in the past is an americanization of the soup . This soup was made authentic , it was full of the mexican flavours we all love and after tasting it gave me a greater appreciation of corn tortillas and the correct way of cooking with them . The soup is basically a very flavourful broth made with dried ancho chilis ( all seeds removed) ,  onions , corn tortillas and fresh tomatoes with chicken broth . One secret ingredient was added to the soup called - espazote - and intensely flavoured herb/green used very sparingly in mexican cooking . The jewel of this soup is in the embellishments we add afterwards like fresh avocado, shredded chicken, queso fresco ( yummy factor +10) crispy tortilla strips and the same of the ancho chilis. The finale to this soup was a touch of mexican crema and a squeeze of fresh lime . OLE !!!

The last soup to be made was Miso Vegetable soup with Tofu and Soba Green Tea Noodles. You know those days when you feel a little run down , those days when you crave a nice clean crisp flavoured soup - then this is the equivalent of jewish penicillin , chicken soup for the soul - the defining pick me up . A flavourful broth of lemongrass and ginger is prepared and allowed to marry for a depth of flavour - to this we added shitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, carrot and celery ( the vegetable component) and then enhanced the flavour of the broth by adding miso paste, soy sauce and a touch of salt . The delicate flavour of the shitake mushrooms is magical in this soup - I would not recommend the regular everyday mushrooms - they will just turn out to be boring and uninteresting and not do justice to the soup . The pick me up finale for this soup is a handful of freshly chopped cilantro and green onions along with a squeeze of fresh lime .

At the end of this session , we had a taste test of the soups we concurred that they were all delicious, they were all diverse and we all went home with dinner ready for the rest of the family to enjoy .

Recipes :

Pumpkin Soup with Tomato and Chili

1 lge butternut pumpkin - cubed
2 large spanish onions
6 vine ripened tomatoes - chopped
4 large carrots
3 red chilis
2 cloves of garlic
flat leave parsley - for decoration

Saute the onions to soften slightly then add the rest of the ingredients , saute for a couple of minutes then cover with just enough water , bring to a boil then simmer until soft . Blend with a hand held blender to a smooth consistency . adjust seasoning if required - serve and sprinkle with some parsley.

Tortilla Soup

1/2 large spanish onion
2 cloves garlic
4 dried ancho chiles - deseeded
3 corn tortillas
4 plum tomatoes
chicken broth
espazote - one small sprig (optional)
mexican oregano

fried corn tortillas
fresh avocado
queso fresco
shredded precooked chicken
mexican crema
friend ancho chili strips
fresh lime

First deseed thoroughly the 4 ancho chilis, put 2 to the side then snip two of them into strips . then gently saute them on some canola oil to soften and release the flavour. remove from pan and keep for the toppings later. 

Next slice the onion and saute along with the chopped garlic in some canola oil until just softened and aromatic. Roughly shred the 3 corn tortillas and add to the onion mixture and saute , stirring all the time - you need to toast and cook through the tortillas - this will be your thickening agent for the broth .

Add the chopped tomatoes , saute for a few minutes then add the broth , bring to a boil , then simmer for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have started to break down. remove from the heat and blend with a hand held mixer until smooth . Bring back to a simmer then add the sprig of espazote and a good pinch of mexican oregano . Simmer for about 10 minutes then turn off the flame and allow the flavours to marry . In the meantime prepare your toppings and add them at serving time.

Miso Vegetable soup with Tofu and Green Tea Soba Noodles

2 small stalks fresh lemongrass
fresh ginger - about the same as 1/2 cup
shitake mushrooms
oyster mushrooms
1 med carrot - peeled
2 stalks celery
miso paste
soy sauce
fresh cilantro
green onions
extra firm tofu
fresh lime wedges
thai bird chilis ( optional)

This soup is all made with approximations. Depending on the size of your pot you adjust the quantity accordingly. Peel the outer layers of the lemongrass stalks and slice into very thin rings , peel the knob of fresh ginger and then slice very thinly and again across the grain - you need to end up with very fine slivers of ginger . add both the water and bring to a boil - then simmer for at least 20 minutes to all the flavours to meld together .

Meanwhile , start slicing the mushrooms thinly, sale for the carrots and the celery - all the vegetables should be the same size as the shitake mushrooms - both for convenience of equal cooking time and for presentation . Once the broth has developed some flavour add the carrots and celery for a few minutes then add the mushrooms and a small handful of soba noodles . Stir to combine - then add the miso paste and soy sauce along with a pinch of salt . At this point you need to taste the soup and adjust the seasoning by adding more miso, salt or soy sauce .

Allow to simmer for no more than 5 minutes , then add the cubed extra firm tofu stir to heat through and off the heat add the chopped fresh cilantro and sliced green onions. Serve with a wedge of fresh lime and some thinly sliced thai bird chilis - for those that like the extra heat .

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stir Fried Snake Beans

When the heat is on , you need to avoid turning on the oven at all costs and you need to conserve energy . 

I know that summer is high grilling season , however I have to confess that this is the second summer I have been without a grill , so the Gourmet Goddess has had to improvise on many a recipe . 

That been said, I also feel that summer is a high octane carnivor carnival. Don't get me wrong , I love nothing more than a piece of nicely grilled meat , grilled vegetables and dinner is done in an instant . But by far the quickest meal in my repertoire is stir fried vegetables and jasmine rice . You can eaily add your favourite protein to make this more substantial and sometimes I enjoy it without rice or meat , just  on its own .

The secret to a good stir fry is a nice composition of vegetables and not the kitchen sink . I know for many people this is a great way to use up old vegetables forgotten in the bottom of the fridge. But I feel strongly enough that good quality vegetables make for a better stir fry .

One vegetable I always like to include in my stir fry is snake beans , I am sure many of you have seen them in the international markets and wondered how you would cook them . I tried them out one day , as an experiment and have not looked back since . They are not snappy like the classic green bean rather they are limp and sad looking - but they pack a powerful flavour punch .

In this recipe I also included an eggplant , and much to my surprise it really brought the whole dish together and was sweet and delicious. Add all of these ingredients tp a very hot wok , a touch of ponzu and hoisin sauce and you have a delicious dish that can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature .... or should I confess - standing at the fridge door !!!  

This is a recipe without precise measurement and or ingredients . Use whatever your family likes and the sauces to your taste or liking.

Stir Fried Snake Beans
a GG original recipe

1 med spanish onion
canola oil
fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
ponzu sauce
tamari low-sodium sauce
hoisin sauce

red bell peppers
snake beans

sesame seeds (optional)
cooked jasmine rice

Prepare Jasmine Rice according to package directions and desired quantity - while that is cooking you have to time prepare and cook the stir fry.

Heat your wok until it is very very hot . Add some canola oil to the base and allow it to heat through , then add your spanish onion which has been sliced medium thickness, allow to soften a little then add the fresh ginger and garlic clove which have been peeled and sliced thinly . Stir until fragrant - do not allow the garlic to burn or it will taste bitter.

Add the vegetables in the longest order of cooking time , by that I mean carrots and peppers will take longer to cook that the beans . After you have added the beans , add a few splashes of ponzu or tamari , keep the vegetables moving , so they do not scorch . If at any time the vegetables look a little dry add a splash of water to the wok to keep things steaming along.When they are almost done add 1-2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce thinned out with a little water to bring the whole dish together and warm through .

Place on a platter and sprinkle with some black and white sesame seeds and enjoy .

Note : Tamari is a wheat free soy sauce and I find it more flavourful than regular soy sauce , I tend to use the low-sodium bottle because it is not as salty. Ponzu sauce , is again a soy sauce , but very light , not as salty and has a hint of citrus. This is delicious on steamed rice and or cooked wontons .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peach Salsa with Ruffled Basil

Upon our return from the road trip to the land of maple leaves and maple syrup I was craving something fresh, seasonal and inspiring. Do not think for a minute we did not enjoy beautiful meals in Canada, but as always I miss my kitchen after a few days , and I enjoy creating something with a Gourmet Goddess twist.

As you can imagine we are in the peak season of stone fruit and there is abundant basil in the gardens ..... I get inspiration just looking at the raw ingredients . Firstly, I love stone fruit , I anxiously await the arrival of apricots , peaches and nectarines every summer. My only proviso is that the fruit is firm and not soft and squishy ( we all have our quirks).

After visiting my fresh market I saw peaches that beckoned me , merely with their heavy scent and gorgeous colour . Having sampled fruit salsa during several trips to Whole Foods ( you know the pineapple and serrano pepper one ..... next to the guacamole bar !!!) , I thought it was now time for the Gourmet Goddess to give her spin on a summer staple.

My basil crop was abundant and thriving , the classic green genovese basil perfumed the patio area with its intoxicating aroma . I also planted purple "ruffled" basil this year and I have to say I was surprised by its intense aroma and flavour . I would not consider making a pesto out of this - the colour would put me off. However it was perfect for salads or salsa , because it could stand up better to the rigors of home made dressings and did not turn black and or taste bitter. The leaf was much thicker than your classic green basil and unlike thai basil ( which is also purple leaf coloured) this had a very intense basil aroma and taste - therefore a little went a long way .

This salsa was enjoyed with some grilled pork tenderloin and baby potatoes. It should be a sinch to put together as almost eveything in it should be pantry staples. If you are able to buy yellow and white peaches from your farmers markets - that would also be a great combination and look equally colourful . Of course, it held up well in the fridge for a couple of days and tasted even better on day 2 .

Please hit the farmers markets and enjoy the seasonal bounty upon us - this would also taste delicious with some blue corn chips and an ice cold beer on the patio ........ it is truly delicious.

Peach Salsa with Ruffled Basil
a GG original recipe

2 yellow and or white peaches
1/2 cup finely dices red onion
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
small handful of fresh basil - green and or ruffled - chiffonade
sea salt to taste
freshly ground pepper - a couple of twists of the pepper mill
1-2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
finely diced serrano chili or jalapeno peppers ( optional and to taste)

Wash and dry the fruit and proceed to dice in a small to medium size . Add the onion and bell pepper along with the fresh basil chiffonade ( you can substitiute flat leaf parsley if you do not have basil) . Toss to combine - the mixture should look colourful , you can adjust any of the ingredients to your taste .

Add a few sprinkles of sea salt , I recommend Maldon it is brand I have been using for years it is a finishing salt and it is surprising how it makes the peaches taste more like peaches .

White balsamic vinegar is readily available and it adds a beautiful sharpness and sweetness to the dish , add one teaspoon at a time and balance this with olive oil .

Allow the dish to develop it flavours , toss occassionally and the peaches will release their own sweetness with time.

Enjoy with grilled meats, tossed in some cous cous , quinoa or orzo pasta .

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Road Trip

It was road trip time in our household , plans had been hatched many a time over the last ten years , and we finally made good our promise and descended upon the beautiful city of Toronto Canada.

As usual, in keeping with the frenetic pace of my life at times , we departed our hometown of Chicago at a moments notice and within 48 hours we were on the road to Toronto. The car was packed , mapquest directions printed, Penelope (our cat) was left in charge of the household with a list of last minute instructions. The drive was uneventful , at times picturesque, filled with naps, songs and times of silence that needed no explanation . We took in the dulcid tones of Shirley Bassey, Elvis Presley and Santana ..... along with obligatory snippets of baseball scores.

While in Toronto we were expertly guided by  Andrew T-Tours a personally handpicked tour guide providing us with all the ins and outs the city had to offer . Several of the photos included in the post are courtesy of Andrew T-Tours  ........ highly recommend his services .

We enjoyed a tour of the island directly opposite the downtown area of Toronto , as a member of the garden club I was completely enamoured with the stunning garden beds and beautiful parkway . There was a beach and a lagoon within the park which was enjoyed. 

entering the waters of lake Ontario

getting ready to tackle the lagoon ....

taking it easy with dad at the helm !!

one day my garden might look like this.
what to they feed the plants ??

We also took a drive to Niagara Falls , enjoying a beautiful drive through vineyards, a quick stop at Niagara on the Lake , a beautiful picturesque town with adorable gift stores and places to eat . Again the garden beds were stunning :

We then took a walk down to the Niagara river and were met by two mermaids sitting on the rocks :

As we drove to the falls we stopped and admired ...... I use that word loosely - because my heart was in my mouth and I was dizzy just watching-  the boat tackle the whirlpool caused by the water from the falls.

Once we got to the falls all I can say is - they are loud and the water moves quickly and they are a sight to behold. I do not think any photo I could take would ever do them justice - it was overcast and rainy by the time we arrived there - so I will spare you the photo of us looking like drowned rats . Take time to listen to the video and hopefully this will give a feeling of what the falls are like.

We enjoyed a trip to the Science Museum , highlight of the trip was the Harry Potter exhibition. We enjoyed eating in some great restaurants - a "glowing" review to follow in a future post . We enjoyed getting to know long lost family members, we enjoyed quality family time and above all it was great to get away for a few days .

Needless to say we were hounded relentlessly by papparazzi and along the way brushed shoulders with some famous people ..... also  had some funny moments.

could this be Jackie O ???

air dried our hair at the CN tower .... who needs hairdyers ??

I specifically asked for a personal shopper, limo to the hotel and fresh cut flowers upon my arrival...and all I got was this hoodie!

Happy travels everyone ....... summer is fleeting make the most of the days to come !!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The heat is on .....

Summer has arrived with a vengenance this year . We are recording 90+ degree days like sand through the hour glass. My vegetable garden is growing in abundance, the basil is out of control - considering last year it refused to grow , turned a sad colour of yellow then curled up and died. My cucumber plants are seeking gold medals by outgrowing their cages and my tomato plants are growing in leaps and bounds.

A few weeks ago my eldest daughter had a few of her bff's over for a summer party - they all enjoyed these delicious fruit slushies . I cannot tell you how refreshing they were and perfect for an afternoon of summer fun .

Watermelons and strawberries starred in these delicious drinks , a little simple syrup and plenty of icecubes. Of course you can tailor these to your specific favourite fruits. I like to keep things seasonal - because nothing tastes better than watermelon and strawberries in the peak of summer.

Of course these can be made more enticing for adults by adding your favourite vodka or tequila ..... we have now elevated them to happy hour drinks - because it is always 5 o'clock somewhere .

Enjoy these drinks in the spirit of summer fun the perfect cooling beverage for the whole family .

Fruit Slushies
inspired my many a recipe

watermelon , cubed
strawberries - hulled and halved
simple syrup **
cold water
ice cubes

decorative drink umbrellas and fruit of choice

My preference is for seeded watermelon as they have more flavour , take the time to take out all the seeds , cube to about the same size as your icecubes . Wash and hull the strawberries them cut them in half . Place the fruit in the freezer for about an hour - to make them very cold - that way they will not melt the icecubes.

Place 2 handfuls of icecubes in your blender along with some water , the partially frozen fruit and blend. Add a little simple syrup and cold water to adjust the thickness of the drink - you want to be able to drink it through a straw - basically they need to be margarita consistency. You can adjust the ratios of fruit to your personal taste . If the fruit is sweet enough you can omit the simple syrup .

Place in a cold glass and decorate with whatever you have on hand.

** Simple syrup recipe.

In a saucepan place equal parts sugar and water , bring to boil then simmer for 5 minutes. allow to cool them store in a glass jar in the fridge until you use it all up .

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pesto and Mozarella Meatballs with Pasta

I think I have found my new go to quick family meal .

I will spare you the details of who eats what when I make the traditional pasta and meatballs. Who wants spaghetti , who wants penne , who wants sauce and who only nibbles at their meatballs before they declare they are full to the hilt and who looks at the sauce under a microscope before they will even contemplate eating the meal.

Once again we sat down to a meal that sought of came together in stages , when my little gourmet declared " you have to put this on your blog" . Mind you, this was after I had served everyone , I looked into the bowl and there was barely enough left to qualify a well presented dish ....... but taking into account how much I am flying by the seat of my pants lately, we should be grateful for small miracles.

So , out comes the camera and with the light of the evening dinner table , and everyone collectively holding their breaths - I took the photo. Once again please forgive and understand presentation is lacking in this photo - but taste is certainly not lacking .

Welcome to pasta with turkey meatballs , made with basil pesto and fresh mozarella. They are delicious and light, a wonderful break from the traditional tomato based sauce and a hit with the whole family .

I started making turkey meatballs with pesto and provolone cheese for customers when I had my  catering business happening and they were always a hit . In this particular case I knew I wanted meatballs, I had excess fresh mozarella left over from pizza night and I am staring at my basil plants in the pot contemplating beautiful dishes.

Confession up front, the pesto is store brought however the meatballs have fresh basil from my garden . My preference of late is ground turkey , I am sure this recipe will also work well with ground beef - I would recommend a mix 50/50 of ground sirloin and ground round.

So go ahead and make this dish - enjoy it during these summer months and I am sure it will become a family staple.

Pesto and Mozarella Meatballs with Pasta
a GG original recipe

1lb ground turkey meat 93% lean
1 large fresh mozarella ball
1/2 -3/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan/asiago /pecorino mix , or to taste
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
6 large fresh basil leaves , julienned
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
fat free milk - to moisten the breadcrumbs
basil pesto
canola oil

pasta of your choice

Combine all ingredients except the basil pesto. Add the fresh mozarella to the mixture by cutting it up into little chunks with your hands - they do not have to be perfect a shape. Or you can grate it coarsely on a box grater .

Once you have combined all of the above ingredients - flatten out the mixture in the bowl slightly, then drop dollops of the pesto over the mixture - then with your hands fold the meat mixture into itself gently so that you do not end up with a green meatball mixture - but rather  little pockets of pesto , little pockets of mozarella .

Place the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours before forming into meatball.

Meanwhile prepare your choice of pasta according to packet directions.

Preheat your oven to 400F and preheat a non stick pan , add a little canola oil. Remove the meatball mixture form the fridge and form into meatballs either using a small- icecream scoop or free form . Shallow fry in the canola oil  then finish cooking them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes depending on their size. They will not be cooked in any sauce therefore you need to make sure they are cooked thoroughly.

Once the pasta is cooked , add some pesto ( to taste) in the bottom of the bowl and add the pasta with a little bit of the pasta water to the bowl ( this helps to loosen up the pesto) - toss thoroughly to combine then place the pesto meatballs on top and serve with a salad.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cuban Inspiration

I am writing this post in the recovery phase of 4th of July festivities . Just got back form a wonderful lunch with friends , which we have enjoyed for the past few years, following the parade through our village streets.

Several weeks ago , I lamented the fact that I had not posted anything for May , of this year , and half the battle , excuse was because I would make something then eat it - then , realise I did not take a photo of the meal - and it was super delicious .......

So , a few weeks ago I purchases some ground turkey for burgers , has just flicked through a Sara Foster cookbook and was inspired by her Cuban Turkey Burger recipe. Because I always like to put my own twist on the everyday mundane , I thought it would be nice to incorporate some interesting flavors to what is otherwise an american summer staple.

Welcome to turkey burgers with a gourmet goddess twist.

Firstly , let me say that I have grown to love turkey meat for burgers - more than beef burgers . Not only for the health aspect of less fat - I feel that have a more delicious flavour and you can add more things to them , that many times just do not work out for beef burgers.

To make these Cuban inspired I have added some basic Latino staples such as black beans, cumin, cilantro, red onion and bell peppers . I know you are probably reading this and wondering how this all works . They were delicious . Approved by my little gourmets, raised eyebrows with my picky gourmet (a.k.a husband...... love you Deno) and absolutely inhaled by the gourmet goddess . But wait there is more - a secret ingredient ..... and the secret ingredient was bbq sauce - homemade no less !!!

I did not follow a recipe and neither did i adhere to strict measurements. I just added things as I went along and looked at the colourful combination created and adjusted accordingly . I have to say that the addition of cumin and bbq sauce really added a depth of flavour and deliciousness that made the ordinary hamburger - extraordinary.

I hope over the coming summer months you have a chance to enjoy the chance to experiment with different flavours and textures for turkey burgers - we enjoyed these on a nice sourdough buns, lettuce and a smear of bbq sauce on the bun and some yummy organic blue corn and flax seed tortilla chips.

Happy summer and burger and eating .

Cuban Turkey Burgers

ground turkey meat ( 93% lean)
black beans - rinsed and drained
red and yellow bell peppers - small dice
red onion - small dice
2-3 green onions , green parts as well
small handful of fresh cilantro - sprigs only
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
bbq sauce , of choice
panko breadcrumbs
fat free milk
lettuce leaves
provolone or cheddar cheese , to put on top
sourdough or very hearty wholewheat buns
blue corn chips

This recipe is just guidelines , depending on the amount of ground meat  you want to use you adjust the other ingredients accordingly. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a bowl and cover with the milk , stir to combine and allow the breadcrumbs to absorb all the milk . they should be moist and not dry before you add them to the burger mixture , add more milk if needed.

Grill accordinly to well done and with a slight char on the burger , toast the buns a little - it makes then a lot more tasty .

If you prefer your burgers not to have breadcrumbs - just omit - and look more to the melting pot of flavours rather than the strict adherence to amounts.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Albuquerque Dip to die for

Hi everyone .

Happy 4th of July , the weather is July perfect , rising humidity, rising heat and frazzled parents . Well, I enjoyed drinks on my patio the other day with my friend Sharon , and somehow we managed to put away one bottle of wonderful organic Malbec , dip , chips and conversation in a timeframe of 2 hours - and still keep our heads clear . Hence , I cannot explain the touch.... hint of blurriness of the photo .

Sharon came bearing gifts , one of which was this delicious dip - with a post-it note stuck to it - letting me know I could not enjoy this deliciousness for at least 24 hours . What is a gourmet goddess to do - but bide her time , it looked very colourful and smelt amazing .

The recipe has travelled along way , all the way from Albuquerque New Mexico , via a friend of Sharons, from a restauruant which escapes everyones memory . To this restaurant , I acknowledge you and thank you for inventing this wonderful dip .

It is not your typical soft serve dip , it is chunky, it is moreish and received outstanding approvals from both my little gourmets. It is a collusion of Mediterranean and Mexican flavours , you have olives, balsamic ( in this case it was made with red wine vinegar - due to allergies .....I still think it tasted awesome) corn, cilantro and beans. I tweaked it a bit because I think kalamata olivess would give a greater taste than tinned olives - and I urger you make it with deli brought olives rather than tinned ones .

This would be great served as a side dish with any grilled meat , served with rice - but we enjoyed it on its own with blue corn chips.

I urge you all make this , put it away in your fridge and enjoy it tomorrow with your 4th of July festivities .

Albuquerque Dip
from a restaurant in NM

3 tbls Balsamic vinegar
1 can small chopped green chilies
3 tbsl taco seasoning
2 ripe diced tomatoes
3 tabsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
2 garlic cloves ( finely chopped or put through a garlic press )

1 cup pitted kalamata olives , sliced
1 cup pitted green olives roughly chopped
1 bunch green onions chopped - white and green part
1 15 oz pinto beans 
10oz bag of white frozen corn - try making it with the yellow and white corn
1-2 cups Mexican shreddes cheese * read my note in the method

Put everything in a bowl except the cheese , I would recommend the prepackaged Mexican cheese mix , or you can really make it special by crumbling some Mexican Chichuaua cheese . If you are not a huge fan of balsamic you can swap it out for good quality red wine vinegar .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chicken Pesto Salad

I am back , it has been a while since my last post . Cannot even believe I allowed May to pass me by without even an attempt at posting........ needless to say many a delicious dishes were made and consumed in this time . Believe me when I tell you , I felt pangs of bloggers guilt for not sharing even an insight into what we were enjoying at the dinner table .

May, as a rule is probably the busiest month of the school year . Why? I hear you ask - well it is when everything and I mean everything , except school wraps up for the year . It is a month filled with recitals for .... let me see (1) chorus, (2) piano , (3) school play .... etc etc etc . Mum is run ragged running from one rehearsal to another , the miles on the car are piling on , and all I can think about as I am waiting in the pick up line is ..... " what are we having tonight for dinner ?" and will I have time to at least photograph it ???

Hence , from my lack of postings you have all figured out the answer for the past month .

I did promise myself that June would not be like that - I now had no excuse - or let me refrase that , limited excuses for not posting anything . I did actually achieve one goal of photographing a few dishes , and I am embarrassed to say it is only a few dishes. This dish was bourne out of both  desperation and inspiration and trying to get dinner on the table in a "one dish" affair. So, you may well be asking yourself why it is not plated nicely, why does it look like the bottom of the salad bowl when I took a picture !" . Because it was at this moment I realised this salad needs to be posted and photographed .

The first time I made this dish it was just me and my little gourmets for dinner , hubby was working late - deadlines to be met and dinner does not wait when there are hungry little gourmets to feed.

In an effort to broaden their palates , expecially my little little gourmet , I have instigated a rule that when I ask them about ingredients I put in a dish , to which they concur they will eat , then they have to eat it .

This dish combines eveything I love with a nice balance of protein, carbohydrates and delicious crunchy vegetables . It has been ispired by a myriad of tv chefs, magazine articles and visits to beautiful food bars. There are no rules as far as quantities go , or what you would like to include in your salad . I always say make a dish look pretty and your stomach will be happy with the anticipation.

This dish actually made my little gourmets eat with ravenous speed , sugar snap peas - in their raw and deliciously sweet state . I would have to say that was my secret vegetable ingredient. The dressing is nothing more than pesto - pure and simple.

Feel free to make your own salad , it stores well in the fridge , it is great enjoyed straight from the fridge or you can allow it to come to room temperature. You can change the colours of the peppers- you can add some feta cheese or shavings of parmesan , olives etc etc - you are inhibited only by your imagination.

GG Chicken Pesto Salad
an original GG dish 

1 packet penne pasta 
chicken tenders or rotisserie chicken 
yellow bell peppers
sugar snap peas 
red onion 
basil pesto 

Cook pasta according to packet directions , drain and rinse slightly to get rid of the starchy water . Allow to cool . 

Prepare chicken tenders to your family's liking or use a store brought rotisserie chicken, shredded into large bite size chunks.

In a large bowl add all the vegetable ingredients you are using , add the pasta and chicken, toss to combine then add as much or as little pesto you would like. Toss well to combine and serve.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mushroom and Zucchini Salad

It is spring time in the Midwest , or at least trying , if you stepped out right this minute you would think that we regressed to November weather , rather cold, rather dismal and a tad dreary . By now we have already experienced a couple fo 80F days , we have been teased with good weather , but a gently reminder of who is the boss - mother nature always wins .

Around this time we have become a little tired of comfort food , albeit homemade mac and cheese, soups stews - you get the picture . You look at the calandar , you look outside and realise that regardless of what mother nature throws our way - it time to shed the blankets and think spring like recipes and lighter fare . I took the brave step of planting some lovely spring flowers in planters - to remind us that it is indeed nearly the end of April , and regardless of the weather they are standing tall . Note to all - the picture with the CD/Disc flower is courtesy of my little little gourmet's school art project and in fact she also took the flower pictures .
Let me introduce you to Mushroom and Zucchini salad , for all the people squeemish about eating raw mushroom or zucchini - steel yourselves . You are about to experience a taste sensation , your taste buds are about to go into overdrive. This dish does not require exotic mushrooms, but rather the simple plain jane everyday mushrooms you buy at a food market and or supermarket . The key to the success of this salad is that the mushrooms are very fresh, ie, with a white and dry feel ( no slimey mushrooms allowed) , heavy to hold and a little bit of organic matter will not kill anyone and as tight a cap as possible. I prefer the slimmer sized zucchinis as there is less chance they will have started to produce a lot of seeds inside- again make sure they are very fresh and tender.
To sqeemish foodie readers , PLEASE ...... and I beg you PLEASE , do not rinse the mushrooms under running water , OR soak them in a bowl of water - to clean a fresh mushroom you need nothing more than a just damp paper towel and brush the organic matter off the mushroom.......... that is it ...... many decades on, I am living proof that I have not suffered physical harm from eating fresh mushrooms.

This salad marries well with beef - I would not exclude making it for chicken , pork or fish - but for some reason I always feel it just goes better with good ole beef . For the vegetarians and or raw foodies , this will also taste great on a bed of spring greens . The beauty of this salad is that it does not need last minute preparation and loves to sit around for at least a hour before been eaten . I would not recommend you leave it longer than that or the lemon juice will soften up the salad too much. So if you are invited to a picnic in the park - or a bbq in the country make this salad and allow it mature to perfection as you drive to your destination .

Any week now in different parts of the nation Farmers Markets will begin to surface and I am sure they will have wonderful fresh produce to enjoy - too early for zucchini - but I am sure the mushrooms will be molto fresca!!! .

Enjoy the recipe and I hope you all enjoy this first ode to spring fare .

Mushroom and Zucchini Salad
a GG original recipe

1 packet white button mushrooms or loose white mushrooms
1-2 small zucchinis
3 spring onions
1/2 bunch italian flat leaf parsley
1 large very juicy lemon
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel, and slice into quarter inch slices. Wash and dry your zucchini then slice about the same thickness as the mushrooms- either at an angle or round discs.

The juice of a large lemon or two, if they are not very juicy, some olive oil to balance the tartness of the lemon juice . Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper - or to taste . Toss the salad to combine at this point , as the marinade starts to soften the vegetables just keep on tossing the salad. About 15 minutes before serving add the finely sliced green onions and chopped parsley. This way the lemon juice does not discolour the spring onions and parsley and the salad looks vibrant and you get to enjoy the freshness of the herbs. At this point check the seasoning of the salad , it should not taste bland or too salty. 

You can alter the ratio of mushroom to zucchini according to your taste - it is a very forgiving salad. You can substitute red onion ( very finely sliced) or fresh chives instead of spring onions , if that is what you have on hand or in your garden. The red onions can be added straight away to the mushrooms and zucchini and they will take on the marinade and impart a lovely flavour.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Caulifower Toastie

There are not many people with an affinity for cauliflower . Try as you may , that it is a long lost cousin of the broccoli , you will still struggle to win over any friends . However , one of the buzz words for healthy eating , high in anti oxidants and a good fighter against cancer is anything from the cruciferous family - and I believe cauliflower falls in that catergory .

I grew up eating steamed cauliflower with a simple adornment of freshly squeezed lemon juice and only the best extra virgin olive oil . A spectacularly simple and delicious side dish , that I still enjoy to this day .

As the quest of motherhood came upon me and raising little gourmets followed close at hand , I have pondered many ways of how to introduce this wonderful vegetable to the family . Then I remembered reading about this simple and unusal take on cauliflower , from a book that escapes my memory. It is a fusion of steamed caulifower florets, some mayonnaise, good dijon mustard, tiny little cubes of celery and red onion and freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt.

One day , with much trepadition , I purchased a beautiful white head of cauliflower, came home, and with much aplomb cut off the florets and proceeded to steam them ,until fork tender .You add to this a fusion of
aromatics ,toast some nice hearty whole wheat bread, pita or sourdough bread and proceed to slather on this delicious spread . You can also elevate this to super health food snack ( thus momentarily forgetting the much maligned use of mayonnaise ) by topping the delight with some grated carrot and sprouts.

I must confess that I have yet to serve it with these accroutements , to my immediate family - as we at baby step stage - when we reach toddler stage Iwill break out the frills and spills.

But more importantly , I was completely floored when the family scoffed this down without a second of hesitation . I am still in recovery - I was expecting resistance from my little little gourmet - more like downright refusal- and to my complete delight she thoroughly enjoyed eating it like this . Needless to say my little gourmet cannot eat enough of this - I am sure she will be the first to embrace the accroutements as mentioned above . And daddy enjoyed it also - he falls in the slot just before my little little gourmet when it comes to pickiness ..... somehow this dish has won everyone over .

It is not a dish with exact measurements, it is made with a little bit of this and little bit if that and commonsense .

I urge you all to give this  a try and I am sure you will in wover fervent haters of cauliflower and it will become a staple, quick , go to meal/snack for your family and friends .

Cauliflower Toastie
a recipe inspred by a book that escapes my memory !

1 head of cauliflower - florets only
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard - or to taste
1 stalk celery - diced
1/2 scant cup red onion - diced
small handful of chived - fine dice ( optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
whole wheat breat or pita - toasted

Cut florets from the cauliflower head and steam to fork tender.

Meanwhile ,clean and wash a stalk of celery , then cut down the length of the celery long strips and then crosswise into very small dice . Fine dice your onions and fresh chives if you are using them . Place all the ingredients in a large bowl , add the mustard and about 1/2 cup of mayonnaise - to begin with .

Once the cauliflower is cooked , remove from the steamer and place on a chopping board to cool down , at this point you can also start to roughly chop through the cauliflower - this will accelerate the cooling down process .

Once it has cooled down enough - you can then mash it with a fork or continue to finely chop it with a kitchen knife . Add the cooled cauliflower to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl .

Do not add the caulifower to bowl , steaming hot as it will make the mayonnaise go runny and par cook the onion and celery and the mix will not have the crunch it needs .

If you see that the mayonnaise is not enough - just add more so that it coats the cauliflower but does not swim in it .

Toast some of your favourite bread or Pita - or you can even enjoy it with some Wasa Crispbreads.

This can be enjoyed at room temperature or kept in the fridge and enjoyed cold as well .