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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leek & Sweet Basil Bake

Lately I've had extremely busy work weeks and just want to have a healthy, warm, carefree dinner so I can make the most of my evenings. If you're going for big aromas and deep, rich flavors, casseroles and bakes are just what you need for anytime comfort food.


Here is a recipe which I really enjoyed making (and eating) and I'm sure you'll fall in love with it all and the warmth it brings to your home. So here we go let's go through this recipe so you can make your own for dinner this week.


LEEK AND BASIL BAKE
SERVES 4


- 2 Cups Elbow Macaroni, cooked, strained and put aside
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- 3 Tablespoons of butter or margarine
- 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 Cup of Milk
- 3 medium sized leeks, whites thinly sliced and lightly fried in butter
- About 7-8 leaves of sweet basil (any type of basil can be used)
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- 1 1/2 Cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 Cup Bread crumbs


1. Cook the pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water and set aside in a strainer.
2. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large pot (large enough to contain the sauce and the pasta you just set aside). Whisk in the flour into the butter and whisk for 1 minute while the flour is cooking with the butter. Whisk in the milk into the flour mixture a little at a time. You will notive that it will thicken up pretty fast, while bringing it to a simmer.
3. Once the sauce has come to a simmer and has thickened, drop previously fried leeks and the basil in the sauce and simmer a few minutes. Add to the pot the cooked elbow macaroni and stir everything together. Stir into the pasta, 1 cup of the grated mozzarella cheese.
**At this stage, it makes quite a nice macaroni and cheese dish and could be eaten like so.***
To create the bake:
4. Preheat oven at 375F. Pour your pasta and cheese dish into a large ceramic casserole dish. Large enough to fill the dish with the pasta ( I used a 9inch circle by 3 inches deep). Sprinkle on top the 1/2 cup of grated cheese, the Parmesan and lastly the bread crumbs. Place in oven until the top is of a lovely golden color.


Ohhhhhhh just thinking of it, makes me want some more! Hope you get to try this recipe out pretty soon, its a pretty good one! :)

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!

Alix

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cauliflower and Potato Gratin with Cherry Tomatoes


The cold weather is setting in in some parts of the country and naturally, our bodies seem to be craving richer flavors and baked goods.  Hot soups are coming back on the lunch menus and baked casseroles are bringing back a familiar warmth to our homes.

The other day was a cold, rainy day and I couldn't think of anything else better to make then lasagnas and a gratin; pasta, potatoes and cheese with bread. If my guests weren't going to be comforted by this meal, I would have failed big time!

The following recipe is very easy to make and will fill your home with amazing aromas.









Cauliflower and Potato Gratin with Cherry Tomatoes

- 1 head of Cauliflower, cut in small florettes
- 3 medium sized potatoes, cubed
- 1 handful of cherry tomatoes
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Bechamel sauce
- 25g butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 25g flour
- 300ml milk
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- Enough grated cheese to lightly cover your dish (1-2 cups grated cheese of your choice)

1. Cook the cauliflower in a pot of boiling water, for 10 minutes and drain well. Repeat this step with the potatoes.  
2. To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a sauce pan and put in the garlic till it starts to sizzle all together. Add the flour to the melted butter and cook this mixture for 1 minute while stirring non stop. Take the pot off the heat and incorporate the milk and 1/2 cup of cheese. Bring to simmer all the time while stirring. 


3. Place the blanched cauliflower in the bottom of a deep gratin dish, then place the tomatoes and then the diced, blanched, potatoes. Cover with the bechamel sauce. 
4. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, enough to cover the dish. Place in a 400F oven for 20 minutes or until it bubbles and becomes golden brown on top. Serve right away!


Don't forget to comment on my blogs, the feedback is always appreciated! Thank you! Enjoy!

Alix

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Curried Peach and Shrimp Crostini


Crostini is the Italian term for "little bread", and is usually prepared with French or Italian baguette. It is sliced and baked with olive oil and then topped with any type of topping from meats and cheeses to anything else you can fit on it. It is believed that the history of the crotini goes back in the medieval times when peasants had nothing but their slices of dry bread on which to eat their food.


Whether you're looking for a simple appetizer or hors d'oeuvres for a get together, this light and crispy treat will get all your guests talking about your amazing culinary skills. Easy to make and full of flavor, make some, even if just for a healthy snack by yourself.

Start off your "mise en place" by slicing some baguette in thin slices and brushing olive oil on one side. Place them in a preheated, 400F oven until they become crisp and turn a nice golden color on the edges.

While they are in the oven, cut in small cubes, 2 ripe peaches. Also, put some water to boil to quickly cook your prawns. Here's a list of ingredients you will need;
- 2 peaches, cut in small dice
- 1 cup raw shrimp, cooked and cut in small dice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Pinch of dry chili peppers
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 Tsp Curry powder
- A sprinkle of liquid honey


1. Place the prepared shrimp in a bowl with the small dice of peaches.
2. In a small pot, warm over medium-low heat, the oil. When the oil has heated, place in the pot the chili peppers and the finely minced garlic and curry. Swirl the mixture around till heated through.
3. Pour the oil mixture over the peaches and shrimp and stir. Then sprinkle the honey over and stir again.
4.With a spoon, place the curry mixture on top of your crisp and golden crostini and serve.


Hope you all get to try this one soon, while the peaches are in season! :)

Eat well, sleep well and till next time,

Alix

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fried Shrimp in Caramelized Ginger and Garlic


The end of the summer if knocking at our doors and the local crops are being cultivated, bringing tons of fresh, local products at your local markets. Make sure to take advantage of it, especially with the corn who's price has been seen as low as 15-20 cents the ear. There are plenty of ways to prepare your corn. Whether it's boiling, grilling, microwaving, or a combination of ways, butter will run freely, just the same, on a hot ear of corn.

Now for the other night's meal, it may have not been complimenting flavors, but I was in the mood to try out different taste combinations and thought I'd be inspired by the "crème brulées" I had caramelized that morning at work. So while my corn was grilling away, I cooked up some jasmine rice and knew it would be a good base for anything I would make. I also took out some precooked shrimp I had laying around in the freezer.


Now for the caramelized garlic and ginger, it was simple. You just have to follow a few simple steps. On medium-high heat set a frying pan with a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and add;
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 2-3 Tbsp of finely diced fresh ginger root
- 2 Tsp Cayenne pepper
Fry in the pan, being careful not to burn the garlic. Next to your pan you want to add;
- 3 Tbsp of finely granulated white sugar
Reduce the heat to medium heat and let sizzle away and watch the sugar naturally transform to caramel and give the dish an incredible color. At the same time you'll want to throw in your precooked, dried shrimp to the frying pan.


Take the caramelized shrimp mixture and spoon over your rice. The combination of sweet and spicy in this dish, will have you wanting more! Serve with which ever side dish you prefer, but I consider you go for some freshly picked local produce depending on the time of the year. I recommend you'd try making a fresh green been salad with a soya sauce type dressing.  In my case, I had picked up some fresh ears of corn which I had grilled, and that worked out just fine.


Hope you get to try this flavor combination soon!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Alix

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pancakes aux fraises


Les fraises du Québec, les Québecois en sont fiers. N'étant pas Québecois, la saison des fraises fut assez remarquable lorsque les pencartes sur les bords de rues ont affichées; "Elles sont arrivées!". Malheureusement, au début de l'été, les fraises locales sont quand même très petites. Peut être parfaites pour certains plats ou certaines préparations, mais pas trop idéales pour d'autres. Avec les grandes journées ensoleillées et les bonnes averses de pluie du mois de juillet, les fraises du mois d'août sont mûrent, grossent et juteuses. Comme tellement d'autres gens, ceci m'a inspiré de les utilisées dans ma cuisson. Alors aujourd'hui au menu pour déjeuner, des "pancakes" aux bleuets et fraises du Québec. (Merci encore Renaud pour les bleuets!)

INGRÉDIENTS
- 2 Tasses de farine tout usage
- 3 C. a thé de Poudre à pâte
- 1 1/2 Tasse de lait
- 2 Oeufs
- 2 C. a thé de vanille
- 1 Tasse de fraises, coupées en quarts
- 1/2 Tasse de bleuets

1. Dans un grand bol, mélanger la farine et la poudre à pâte. Dans un bol de taille moyenne, fouetter le lait, les oeufs et la vanille.
2. Verser le mélange liquide dans le bol contenant la farine et fouetter pour bien avoir un mélange homogène. Incorporer les fruits.
3. Réchauffer la poêle a feu moyen et y faire fondre une noisette de beurre, ou margarine. Déposer une louche du mélange a "pancake" dans la poêle et seulement retourner la galette lorsque les bulles dans le centre forment des petit cratères dans la pancake.

La fraise du Québec est sucrée et juteuse et transformera ce met en un vrai délice. Servir avec plus de fraises coupées et du sirop d'érable (du Québec).

Savourez bien et à bientôt!

Alix

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Poulet à l'estragon / Tarragon Chicken


Ce repas m'a souvent été servi durant mon enfance quand venait le temps de manger chez les grands-parents. Un souvenir si clair dans ma tête que je m'y rappelle l'odeur, le goût et la texture. Un vrai plaisir à déguster à chaque occasion. Étant éloigné de ma famille par quelques provinces, il m'arrive souvent de reproduire une recette provenant de la famille pour m'emmener confort.

This dish was often served to me as a child when it came time to visit the grandparents. This memory, so clear to me, I can still smell the aromas and taste the tenderness of the chicken with it's rich sauce. Now, being distant from my family, I always enjoy making a familiar dish to bring me back closer to home.



The simplicity of this dish is probably what is so beautiful about this recipe. You can count all ingredients on one hand, including the side dishes.



La simplicité de cette recette est ce qui rend ce plat si appetissant. Si simple, que les ingrédients peuvent tous être comptés sur les doigts d'une main.


INGRÉDIENTS
- 2-4 poitrines de poulet désossées
- 1 C. à table d'Estragon ou 4-5 morceaux d'estragon frais (la quantité dépend du goût voulu)
- 1 boîte de conserve (284ml) base de soupe à champignon (une boîte suffira pour jusqu'à 4 poitrines)



1. Faire rôtir à la poêle à feu moyen, le poulet, dans un peu d'huile d'olive pour avoir une belle couleure dorée.
2. Tout de suite, verser la base de soupe dans la poêle, incorporer l'estragon bien dans la sauce et baisser le feu a doux en recouvrant d'un couvert approprier. Laisser mijoter pour 15-20 minutes.
3. Durant ce temps, faire cuire du riz et cuire des légumes à la vapeur.

INGREDIENTS
- 2 to 4 boneless chicken breasts
- 1 Tbsp of tarragon or 4-5 springs of fresh tarragon (depending on how much tarragon flavor you prefer)
- 1 - 284ml can of mushroom soup base

1. In a medium heated pan, fry the chicken in a bit of olive oil to get a nice golden color on the outside of the chicken.
2. When this is achieved, pour the soup base into the pan and reduce the heat to low. Place the tarragon inside the sauce and place a secure lid on top of the pan. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
3. While the chicken is simmering away, cook some rice and steam some vegetables.


Et voilà! Une assiette remplie de bon goûts et de textures qui se mêlent très bien ensemble. Voux devez mélanger la sauce au riz, c'est un pur délice! Le poulet sera tendre et la sauce onctueuse. À la table!

And there you have it! A plate full of color, tastes and textures to please the entire family. What you have to try on top of it all, is mixing the sauce to the rice; my favorite part about eating this dish! The chicken will with tender and juicy and the sauce will have a deep flavor from the tarragon.

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!

Alix

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bacon Beef Pizza


Once in a while I have a craving for pizza. When I do, I can always count on my handy dandy pizza dough recipe which i find is the easiest one out there. As for toppings, I always am one to use what I have laying around in the fridge and/or pantry. What do I have going on on this one? A tomato and beer sauce topped with beef, bacon, coffee mushrooms, red onions and freshly sliced tomatoes. Here's a few of my basic recipes for pizza.


I have a few recipes when it come to pizza dough. It mostly depends on if I want it multigrain, whole wheat of just a simple white dough. This white dough is a little on the sweet side but works wonders in the over. Give a nice crisp and good volume.
Lightly whisk in a bowl:
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp Quick rise yeast
Let the yeast activate. With a good water temperature, and that much sugar, the yeast will LOVE you!
In a large bowl mix:
- 2 Cups All purpose white flour
- 1 Tsp garlic salt

Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir gently until all the liquid is absorbed and the dough starts forming into a ball. If the dough is too wet, at flour as needed. Word of advice, the more moisture in your dough, the better crust you will have after baking. Once the dough is formed into a ball, pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the bowl, roll the dough in the oil and cover the bowl to let the dough double in bulk.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch down and roll out onto a lightly greased pizza pan. Shape is not important, topping are! So let't go ahead with our toppings.


 (I prefer to cook my meat thoroughly before putting on the pizza, just so there are no worries on that end.)

Making a sauce
You can find many types of pizza sauces in any supermarket, even corner stores now. But nothing beats a homemade recipe where you have the power to tweak it and add as you'd like. You can make a white sauce to go with seafood on a pizza, as much as you could just smother ketchup for a base on your pizza. It's your pizza, anything goes! For this pizza I used (for a doubled recipe of the dough, 2 pizzas) 1 - 156ml can of tomato paste with about 1/4 cup of beer mixed with it and some garlic powder; a pretty safe combination.


Preheat your oven at 425F while you assemble your pizzas. Sauce, then meat, veggies, then cheese. There you have it! A plate full of delicious pipping hot pizza with enough for lunches at work (guaranteed  to make all your co workers very jealous)!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!

Alix

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peas and Mushroom Frittata


If you're ever watched Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals, you'll notice she has dishes that she puts in the "Set it and forget it" category. Well take notes Rachel because this one is definitively one for the books. In a matter of minutes you have dinner on the go packed with flavor!



 What you'll want to do is:
- In a large frying pan on medium heat fry:
Mushrooms, garlic and peas with 2 Tbsp olive oil


 If you have leftovers potatoes or feel like boiling up a potato, slice one up and lay it over the vegetables.





If not, whip together 5 large eggs and 1/4 cup of milk. If you have an allergy to dairy, simply omit the milk, it works just as well. Poor the egg mixture over the vegetable and do not stir.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover with the appropriate lid. Let cook until the egg mixture has set all the way to the center of the pan.

Makes 2 large portions of 3-4 good portions if you are accompanying this dish with potatoes or a side. Cut the frittata directly in the pan with a PLASTIC spatula and flip each pieces in the plates so that the bottom side faces upwards. Serve


Eat well, sleep well and till next time! :)

Alix