Friday, April 30, 2010

Roast Chicken with Fresh Herbs

Montreal, like Paris, is known for its' "terrasse" culture. On the first relatively warm and sunny day, we can be spotted sipping coffee or eating " alfresco" on St. Denis or any other street in this beautiful city. This was not the case recently, when fooled by mother nature, an easterly cold spell brought in a snow storm covering all signs of spring. So maybe this explains the need for a hot comforting meal, and of course this next recipe. A golden roast chicken with roast potatoes and carrots coming out of the oven surely fits the bill. The secret to its rich flavors is to separate the skin from the breast and thighs; and then insert fresh herbs of your choice. As you can see from the photos, I use rosemary, sage and thyme. Stuffing the cavity of the chicken with a mirepoix; will also enhance the flavor and give you a moist bird. Season with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil. I cover the roasting pan for the first part of the cooking process, about one hour. The vegetables are added; and with the lid on, allow the vegetables to cook for about another half hour. Then remove the lid to allow the bird to become golden brown.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hazelnut Biscotti

Sorry mom but these hazelnut biscotti, an Italian favorite, do not come from your treasure trove of recipes. The truth be told, for years, I have been using a recipe gleaned and adapted from the Canadian Living kitchens. Angie is a fan of these delightful treats and as requested, I made a batch just for her so I could post the recipe on line. Angie, good luck with the recipe and promise to send a comment on the blog; and let us know how they turn out. Hope you enjoy them, dipped in a nice espresso or café americano.

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup hazelnuts
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Triple Sec liqueur
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 egg white slightly beaten
100 g dark Belgian chocolate

Roast the hazelnuts in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. Roasting gives extra flavor and crunch. In a bowl combine the flour and baking powder then stir in the cooled hazelnuts. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and gradually add the sugar, butter, vanilla, liqueur and orange rind. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix. You will have a sticky dough which will be transferred to a lightly floured work surface. Form the dough into a ball and divide into three portions. Roll out each portion into a 9 inch long by 2 3/4 inch wide log. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and brush with the egg white. Bake 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut each log diagonally into 1/2 inch wide slices. Return to the same baking sheet (cut side side up) and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool and dip in melted Belgian chocolate.
Makes about 30 biscotti!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marinated Flank Steak /Carne Asada

Bavette, a staple on French bistro menus, has stood the test of time. It still remains a favorite among Montreal diners. Also known as flank steak, it is used in Chinese beef stir fry and as carne asada (roasted meat), the star ingredient in Mexican burritos or fajitas. In central America, carne asada is served with chimichurri sauce, similar to Italian gremolta. Flank steak is a tougher cut of meat that lends will to marinating; and should be cooked rare to maintain its tenderness and succulent flavor. If you love the fresh taste of cilantro and lime, this marinade hits all the right notes.
Served as a main dish, carne asada served with rice and a simple salad will keep you out of the kitchen and give you more time to enjoy your guests. So lets take a trip south of the border for this one.


2 pounds flank steak
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 large handful fresh cilantro with stems, chopped
Salt and pepper
juice of 2 limes and zest for extra flavor
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
In a food processor, finely chop the garlic cloves. Add the seeded jalapeno pepper, cilantro and chop. Toss in the remaining ingredients and pulse on and off to blend. Set aside. If you are doing the recipe by hand, simply mince the garlic with a knife and finely dice the seeded jalapeno. Chop the cilantro leaves and stems (they have great flavor). Combine in a small bowl and whisk in the lime juice, zest, white vinegar, sugar, salt , pepper and oil. Set aside while you score the meat with a knife. Season with salt and pepper. Place the meat in a large non-reactive baking dish; and pour the marinade over the flank steak. Cover with plastic wrap; or simply spread the marinade over the steak and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for for at least an hour or up to 8 hours.
Pre-heat a grill pan, seasoned with oil, over medium high heat. Remove the steak from the dish or plastic bag, and pat dry to remove the excess marinade . Place on the hot grill pan and cook 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes; before cutting thin slices across the grain on a diagonal.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Zucchini Fritters (Zeppole)

While in the process of making my mom's zucchini fritters, I thought of adding cumin and coriander to give the recipe a more complex taste. I think she would approve, given her adventurous nature when it comes to different cuisines. In fact she loves a good samosa, spicy and perfumed with cumin and coriander. So it is now up to you, to either go Italian or give it the Indian flare as I do in this recipe. Try serving them with a yogurt dip. Either way they are delicious.

3 zucchini diced (small)
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3 eggs beaten
2 finely minced garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp pepper
canola oil for frying

Peel and dice the zucchini into small pieces. Stir in the salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Place the zucchini pieces in a paper towel to remove the moisture and set aside. In a bowl beat 3 eggs and mix in the garlic, parsley and zucchini. Gradually add the dry ingredients: the flour, salt,pepper, baking powder, cumin and coriander. The batter should have a cake batter constancy. In a saucepan heat the canola oil to 350 degrees F or test the oil by dropping a small amount of the batter into the oil. If the batter puffs up immediately upon touching the oil, it is ready. Proceed by dropping teaspoonfuls of the batter and fry until golden on all sides. Drain onto a paper towel and serve hot. The fritters can also be made ahead and reheated in 375 degree F oven


My girlfriend Marilyn, first introduced me to this wonderful Greek dish back in the 70's and it has been a family favorite ever since. To this day, I still use her original recipe. Although for the past few years I have opted to make small triangle phyllo wraps rather than one large tray. The recipe makes 48 small triangles, which freeze well and can be baked for later use. Just remember to separate each layer of triangles to be frozen with parchment paper to prevent them from sticking. They are great to have on hand for last minute appetizers.

1 lb. (1 package) phyllo dough
1/2 cup melted butter
16 oz fresh spinach (or frozen)
4 green onions (shallots)
large handful fresh dill (about 1/2 cup finely chopped)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 eggs well beaten
1/2 cup 35% cream
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

In a small amount of boiling water add the spinach leaves, and cook just until wilted. Transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain the spinach and wring with your hands to remove the moisture. Set aside. In a food processor finely chop your green onions. Set a side in a small bowl and proceed to finely chop the dill and parsley. Heat about 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and cook the green onions on medium heat for 1 minute until translucent. Add the dill and parsley, season with the salt and pepper, and continue cooking an additional minute or so, until soft. remove from the heat and combine with the spinach. In a mixing bowl beat the eggs and whisk in the 35% cream. Blend in the spinach mixture and the crumbled feta cheese. Set aside.
Take one sheet of the phyllo dough on a work surface . Cover the remaining dough with a damp tea towel as the filo tends to dry out quickly. Brush the first (bottom) filo sheet with some of the melted butter, add a second (top) sheet . Butter the top sheet. Phyllo dough usually comes in 12" x 16" sheets so you'll be cutting the 16" side into 6 strips. Place a 1/2 tablespoon of the feta/ spinach mixture on the end of the strip. Fold 1 corner of the dough over the filling to meet the edge of other side. Fold the end flap over and continue to fold upward and sideways until you reach the end of the strip. Repeat this with the remaining strips.
Place the triangles on a parchment lined cookie tray and bake in a 375 degree F oven for 15 minutes or 'til golden brown.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lentil Soup

Lentil soup often appeared on mom's kitchen table. Hearty and of course healthy, it is almost a meal in itself; all you have to do is serve it with a slice of fresh bread, dipped in olive oil and delicious balsamic vinegar reduction. However, today I think I am going to stick to the original tried and true recipe. Maybe next time, I will tweak it with different ingredients... a touch of cumin for a more middle eastern flavor sounds good; or pieces of pancetta and chopped potatoes or perhaps small cut pasta. For the vegetarian version, simply omit the chicken broth and substitute it with vegetable broth. I would also like to pass on a little tip handed down from my mom; when cooking any legumes add your salt at the end of the cooking process as salt tends to toughen lentils and dried beans.

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 cups green lentils
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 cup canned tomatoes chopped
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove (whole peeled)
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper

Begin by checking the lentils carefully for any small stones. Wash the lentils and drain. Set aside in a bowl.
In a saucepan, add the oil, and heat on medium high until hot. Add the chopped onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, the carrots, celery, bay leaf and continue cooking another 4 minutes on medium heat. Add the tomatoes and peeled garlic clove and continue to cook for 5 more minutes to infuse all the flavors together. Add the lentils, the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until tender. Near the end of the cooking process, season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and for extra flavour; drizzle with some olive oil for extra flavour.