Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Grilled Zucchini with Shaved Parmigiano & Fresh Mint

Zucchini are one of my favourite vegetables, so imagine my surprise when I found out that it's not really a vegetable. Botanically speaking it's actually a fruit, the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. This remarkable 'fruit' can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed, baked, barbequed, fried, baked into a bread, incorporated in a soufflé, shredded for fritters or battered as tempura. In short, the zucchini (or courgette) is an amazingly versatile little thing, plus it's low in calories. The word zucchini comes from the italian zucchino which means small squash. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the dark green zucchini is probably the best known and most popular of the summer squashes. Zucchini has a natural sweetness when its cooked, making it an obliging ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes, this easy and delicious Grilled Zucchini with Shaved Parmigiano and Fresh Mint is one of my favourite summer recipes.

Grilled Zucchini with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint
Serves 4-6

4 large zucchini, trimmed and sliced diagonally about 1/4-inch thick
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper

Place the zucchini on a large plate and brush with the oil, then lightly season with salt and pepper.  Preheat the BBQ to medium-high and when hot, arrange the zucchini in one layer and grill for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown with nice grill marks. 

To serve, arrange the zucchini on a large platter and top with the shaved parmigiana and sliced or whole mint leaves with a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Breasts

Tender, succulent and full of flavour, these Moroccan-inspired chicken breasts are marinated in a mixture of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic and ginger and an aromatic mixture of fragrant earthy spices including, ground cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric. Whisked together into a loose paste and combined with a bunch of finely chopped fresh cilantro, the breasts are well massaged with the bright earthy marinade until the meat is well coated, then covered and refrigerated for at least 2 hours or up to 8, before grilling on a hot barbecue until cooked through with attractive grill marks, about 6-7 minutes per side. Low calorie and carb-free, this delicious recipe is easy to prepare and would be sensational served with grilled vegetables and Ina's colourful Moroccan Couscous for a Casablanca-inspied evening — here's looking at you kid!

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Breasts
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of 'Cooking Classy'

4 trimmed skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut in a half
3/8 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic 
1 1/2 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1 tsp Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper  and then place the chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and seal the bag while pressing out any excess air. Rub the marinade over chicken breasts then transfer to the refrigerator and allow to marinate at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Preheat a grill over medium-high heat to about 425°F. Grill the chicken until it's cooked through and nicely grill marks, about 6-7 minutes per side. Transfer to a decorative platter and garnish with cilantro and serve warm with a bowl of tzatziki, if desired.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tarragon Potato Salad: A Barefoot Contessa Classic

A welcome addition to any barbecue, lunch, or picnic, Potato Salad is a classic summer time favourite and considered by many to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. However Ina Garten's sensational Tarragon Potato Salad takes this humble side dish to another level. Fresh dill, tarragon, scallions, red onion, white wine vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon juice and homemade mayonnaise seasoned with fresh ground white pepper provide the creamy catalyst for cool firm Yukon Gold potatoes. Developed in Canada, Yukon Golds are a cross between a North American white potato and a wild South American yellow-fleshed one. Their golden flesh is richly flavoured and fairly firm and moist, with medium starch content. A perfect compromise between dry, fluffy russet potatoes and moist, waxy varieties, Yukon Golds are incredibly versatile and perfect in Potato Salad, especially this luscious version by the one and only Ina Garten.

Tarragon Potato Salad
Serves 12
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

4 lb medium Yukon Gold potatoes
Maldon salt
2 cups good store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tarragon white wine vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
6 tbsp chopped scallions, white and green parts
6 tbsp minced red onion
1/4 cup minced tarragon
1/4 cup minced fresh dill

Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes, just until tender when pierced with a small knife or skewer. Drain in a colander. Put a kitchen towel over the colander and allow the potatoes to steam for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes or leave the skins on if you prefer. Slice into 1/2-inch thick coins and place in a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and two teaspoons of Maldon salt and white pepper. While the potatoes are still warm, pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss well. Add the scallions, red onion, tarragon and dill, and toss gently. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to develop. Garnish with a little extra dill before serving at room temperature.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Whole Grilled Branzino with Sliced Zucchini

Branzino is a Mediterranean sea bass, indigenous to the shores of Greece, and is considered a prized fish throughout Europe. In France, they are called Loup or Bar, the Spanish call them Robalo, and in Italy they are known as Spigola or, more commonly as Bronzino. In Greece, they are also known as Lavraki, and are a near mythical fish. In fact, when Greek journalists stumble upon a great story — snag that rare exclusive scoop — they call it a Lavraki. Stuffed with fresh herbs, lemon and sliced ginger this recipe for Whole Grilled Branzino is easy to prepare and makes a gorgeous main dish, especially on a hot summer evening under the stars.   

Whole Grilled Branzino
Serves 2

2 medium Branzino, at room temperature - cleaned and scaled by your fishmonger
1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper
1 handful fresh lemon thyme
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
2 lemons, one finely sliced and the other cut in half for grilling
1 zucchini, thickly sliced on a diagonal and brushed with oil

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Light an outdoor grill or barbecue to high heat. Season the inside of the Branzino with salt and a few grindings of black pepper, and rub the outside with the olive oil and season well with kosher salt which will help ensure a wonderful crispy skin. Stuff with lemon slices, sliced ginger and sprigs of fresh lemon thyme. Place the fish, lemon halves and sliced zucchini on a foil lined baking sheet for easy transport to the barbecue.

Grill the fish over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side, adding the lemon halves cut side down plus the zucchini for the last 3-4 minutes. Serve the grilled Bronzino and zucchini straight away, and garnish with the grilled lemon wedges for squeezing overtop of the fish.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grilled Quail with Smokey BBQ Sauce & Sambal Oelek

These tiny little birds have a lot of flavour for their diminutive size. Marinated in a robust smokey BBQ sauce spiked with generous spoonfuls of Sambal Oelek, a hot chili-based sauce which is popular throughout the Indonesia, these Grilled Quail are an ideal appetizer for a summer cocktail party, Javanese-inspired Tiki party or delicious outdoor dinner. Served spatchcocked or butterflied, by removing the backbone so the quail can be opened up and grilled flat, they can also be split in half for smaller appetizer-friendly portions. Barbecuing the quail brings out the sweetness of the marinade, infusing the meat with bold robust flavour, and becomes lightly charred and deliciously moist and golden brown. Be sure to provide guests with lots of cocktail napkins or finger bowls of warm water and sliced lemon, and watch these succulent little birds disappear!

Grilled Quail 
Serves 2-3 as entrée or 8-10 as appetizer

6 quail
1/2 cup Diana Gourmet Western Smokehouse BBQ Sauce
2 tbsp Sambal Oelek
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Using poultry scissors or a sharp knife, butterfly the quail by cutting down the backbone so that the birds open up like a book. Rinse the quail under cold water to remove any impurities, then dry with paper towel. Place the whole quail in a glass flat bottomed dish, or cut them in half for appetizer portions,  and coat with the BBQ sauce and Sambal Oelek, using your hands to massage the marinade all over. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cover with cling film and chill until needed. The quail can be prepared up to a day in advance, but an hour at the very least. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high then place the quail skin side down and cook about 15-20 minutes, turning once, until the quail is cooked through and has become golden brown and lightly charred. Arrange on a large platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grilled Tuscan-Style Veal Chops

Moist, tender and enormously flavourful, this simple and delicious recipe is at its best when made with the freshest and thickest veal chops you can find. Marinated for a few hours in a classic combination of aromatic herbs, bold garlic, fruity olive oil and freshly grated lemon zest, these tender milk-fed Tuscan-Style Veal Chops are best grilled on medium-high heat, until the veal is well-marked, about six minutes per side for medium-rare. Succulent and juicy, simple fresh ingredients transform these gorgeous grilled veal chops into sumptuous works of art. 

Veal Chops with Tuscan-Style Marinade
Serves 2

2  8-ounce veal chops, cut 1-inch thick 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, zested
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme 
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage 
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, thickly sliced for garnish

Combine garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, sage, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Place the veal chops in a baking dish and drizzle half of the marinade over the chops, pressing the mixture into the meat with your fingers, making sure they coat the meat. Turn the chops over and repeat with remaining oil and herb mixture. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 6 hours or even overnight. 

Half an hour before cooking, remove the veal from the refrigerator and allow it come to room temperature. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high then grill the chops for 5-6 minutes per side for medium doneness, turning with tongs halfway through. For nice crosshatch marks, rotate the chops 90 degrees after 3 minutes of cooking on each side. While chops are resting, brush the lemon slices with olive oil and grill until slightly charred and warmed through. Transfer the chops to a platter and let rest for 3 minutes before serving, for veal, like beef, must rest before it is cut or the juices will run out.

Serve the veal chops with the lemon slices and your favourite side dishes, such as grilled fennel and simple Arugula Salad.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Grilled Asian-Inspired Chicken Breasts

A sensational marinade for poultry, this fragrant Asian-inspired recipe is perfect for satays, cornish hen, chicken breasts or plump juicy thighs. With a sweet delicate flavour, the marinated chicken caramelizes beautifully on the grill, allowing the intoxicating character of the marinade to shine through. Basting the chicken while on the grill ensures that the chicken stays moist and flavourful, as well as producing attractive grill marks for a lovely presentation, especially when garnished with fresh lemon, parsley and flowering thyme.

Grilled Asian Chicken 
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skinless
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy 
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fish sauce

1 lemon, sliced
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
4-5 sprigs of fresh flowering thyme

Slice the chicken breasts in half and place into a bowl with all the marinade ingredients then toss well to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat the BBQ on high then grill the chicken breasts for about 6-8 minutes per side, or until golden brown and they each have nice grill marks. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Nami: Superb Japanese Cuisine & Robata Grill

For over three decades, Nami has been a quiet escape in the heart of downtown Toronto, for the finest sushi, sashimi, made-to-order grilled meat, fish and seafood at the Robata Grill, and Sukiyaki — Japanese hot pot. Considered to be one of the city's finest authentic Japanese restaurants, Nami is a hidden gem. One of my favourite sushi restaurants for many years, Kimono-clad servers attend to guests in the main dining area, as well as private rice paper screened Tatami rooms which can be reserved for groups of eight people or more — a real treat. Peter oversees the Robata Grill and patiently and expertly prepares the most sublime grilled fish, seafood and succulent steamed mixed mushrooms bathed with butter, soy sauce and sake marinade. With an assortment of fish, many of which is brought in from Japan, it’s no surprise that 'nami' means 'wave' in Japanese. When it comes to uni, diners either love it or hate it,  but Nami’s general manager and executive chef Tadashi Takinami absolutely loves it, with good reason, this “caviar” of the sea is imported direct from Hokkaido. The Sushi Bar is also a fabulous place to sit and watch the nigiri sushi and sashimi being hand prepared by a trio of expert sushi chefs — just remember to say "Gochisosama Deshita!", as you leave.

The fabulous Robata Grill with robata maestro Peter Chen

Sampler set of best sashimi of the day chosen by the chef, and served with Tosa soy sauce and Hon-wasabi, freshly ground real wasabi

Nami is one of very few places in Toronto that makes authentic Honwasabi 
which is freshly ground wasabi from wasabi root

Spider Roll made with a whole soft shell crab

Spicy Scallop Sushi

Ikura Sushi - salmon roe

Hamachi (yellowtail) and Salmon (sake) Sushi

Ebi Sushi - tiger shrimp

Unagi Sushi - freshwater eel

Succulent Black Cod grilled on the Robata Grill by chef Peter Chen

Executive chef Tadashi Takinami 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Traditional Greek Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Well known for its delicious cuisine and healthy Mediterranean diet, Greece has a long rich culinary history that dates back over 4,000 years. From grilled fish and dolmades to skordalia and spanakopita, Greek cuisine is a divine marriage of bold flavours, simple ingredients and time-honoured traditions. Many dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece and Byzantium, whereas others were influenced by Ottoman cuisine with names that reveal their Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots: moussaka, tzatziki, yuvarlakia, keftethes and boureki. However, among the icons of modern Greek food culture, one of the most popular must be souvlaki. Infused with the intoxicating flavours of oregano, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, these Pork Souvlaki owe their tenderness to a tangy marinade that helps break down even the toughest cuts of meat. Traditionally served wrapped in pita bread and topped with a variety of condiments such as lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki, Souvlaki are also entirely delicious all on their own, ideal for enjoying as part of a Greek-inspired menu on a warm summer evening.

Pork Souvlaki

Serves 4

1 1/2 lb pork shoulder or loin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Fresh parsley and flowering lemon thyme, for garnish
2 cups Tzatziki

In large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the pork and toss to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes. Evenly thread the marinated pork onto 4 skewers and grill on a preheated barbecue, turning halfway through, until just a hint of pink remains inside, about 8 minutes per side. Garnish with sliced lemon and fresh oregano, and bowl of tzatziki.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mint And Cumin-Spiced Lamb Chops

Ideally suited for summer grilling, Rack of Lamb is one of my favourite cuts of meat, and when sliced into single or double chops and marinated in a fragrant rub of shallots, fresh mint, parsley, cumin, paprika, all spice, crushed red pepper flakes and garam masala, the flavours are positively intoxicating. Blended together in a food processor, and loosened with a soupçon of vegetable oil to produce a thick paste, the marinade is simply massaged into the lamb chops and then abandoned to works it's magic for an hour or so. Grilled with some fresh Ontario asparagus, they can be cooked beside one another for an absolutely delicious summertime meal when it's just too hot to do anything else.

Mint And Cumin-Spiced Lamb Chops

Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit Magazine

1 scallion, peeled and quartered

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves 
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ras-el-hanout or garam masala
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 New Zealand rack of lamb, sliced into single lamb chops
1 cup Tzatziki as a condiment, if desired

Pulse the scallion, cilantro, parsley, mint, cumin, paprika, allspice, red pepper flakes, garam masala and vegetable oil in a food processor until it is very finely chopped and becomes a thick paste. Place the lamb in a large dish and rub with spice mixture, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and oil grate. Grill lamb to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Belfountain Inn on the Credit River

Nestled away in the historic hamlet of Belfountain on the winding Forks of the Credit Road with picturesque views over the Credit River, the Belfountain Inn is a delicious destination for a weekend drive through the lovely Caledon countryside about an hours drive north of Toronto. First settled in the 1820s, Belfountain is one of the oldest villages in Ontario. Originally named McCurdy’s Village, it was later renamed 'Belfountain' in 1857, and is now a popular destination with it beautiful conservation area with historic sites, trails, and suspension bridge over the river gorge. Run by husband and wife team Thorntin and Sonia MacDonald, the Belfountain Inn's menu features a selection of homemade appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas and entrées including Chef Thorntin's decadent Foie Gras Paté, generous Fried Calamari with mayonnaise, fried capers and hot banana peppers, Mushroom Cheddar Burger, Fish and Chips with frites and minted peas, Thai Coconut Curry with chicken and shrimp, and rich Mushroom Tagliatelle with Quebecois Bleu Ermite cheese, sweet peas and roasted shallots in a silky cream sauce. A short but sweet menu of enticing house made desserts and specialty coffees are tempting, but there's also an old fashioned Iced Cream Parlour a few steps away, which offers eighteen flavours of iced cream, frozen yoghurt and iced cappuccino among other delectable treats. Thank goodness there are fabulous hiking trails at the Belfountain Conservation Area just around the corner, the perfect place for burning off the extra calories from a long leisurely lunch.

The modern comfortable interior of Belfountain Inn

The Belfountain Inn luncheon menu

Iced water with cucumber

Red Wine Sangria

The spicy Belfountain Inn Caesar with banana peppers

Beau's Brewing Co. Lug Tread Lagered Ale

Bibb & Blue Salad made with Boston Bibb lettuce, Ermite blue cheese and marinated artichokes

Fried Calamari with mayonnaise, fried capers and banana peppers 

Co-owner Sonia MacDonald with her custom made log-shaped pepper grinder

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Mushroom Tagliatelle with Ermite Blue Cheese, Sweet peas and Roasted Shallots in a Cream Sauce

Fish & Chips made with Oceanwise Cod, Lemon, Frites and Minted Peas

Homemade Tartar Sauce

Thai Coconut Curry & Rice Noodles with Chicken and Shrimp

Seared Albacore Tuna Salad with Marinated Artichokes, Pickled Radish, Heritage Greens 
and Sunflower Seeds

Cappuccino with a smile


Executive Chef and co-owner Thorntin MacDonald (R) with sous chef (L)

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Good Son on Queen with Chef Vittorio Colacitti

Nestled in the heart of Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West and Dovercourt neighbourhood, The Good Son gives a cool new meaning to hip urban dining. Located in what was formerly a car wash, the space stays true to its bohemian roots, embracing the local Queen Street culture. Guests enter through the pantry, which serves as a hostess station and doubles as a pizza takeaway counter and retail outlet for the Colacitti family's olive oils. Further inside, leather wingback chairs and tufted booths furnish the lounge, while the kitchen at the back of the room overlooks a handsome 18-seat harvest table. The interior is festooned with faux heirlooms: old clocks line one wall, plates line another and mismatched chairs are scattered throughout. 

Opened in 2014 by Hamilton raised and former Top Chef Canada contender chef Vittorio Colacitti, The Good Son serves seasonally-influenced cuisine that draws on the influences of different neighbourhoods of the city with a menu that features outstanding wood-fired pizzas and a diverse range of flavours including Jerk Shrimp with crispy potato, green mango and fresh peanuts, Sea Bream Ceviche with roasted pineapple, citrus, avocado and crispy taro, and Bulgogi Short Ribs with kimchee fried rice and sunny-side quail egg. Inspired by Lorenzo Loseto, executive chef at George Restaurant and an early mentor of Colacitti’s, the Top Chef Canada alum refers to his style of cooking as 'Toronto' cuisine. "It focuses on balance. It’s seasonally driven and locally driven as much as possible."

Long before Andrea Bocelli was famous for his music, the Bocelli family has been known for wine - here our server is opening a lush Bocelli Sangiovese from Tuscany

Chef Vittorio Colacitti's menu of seasonally-influenced dishes that he calls 'Toronto Cuisine"

Handmade Pappardelle with Rapini

Pancetta Pizza with Arugula and Parmigiano

Wood Grilled Octopus with Piquillo and Shishito Peppers

Pizzaiolo making pizzas in the wood fired oven which was imported from Italy

Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle
Serves 6
Recipes courtesy of chef Vittorio Colacitti

900 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams semolina flour
8 eggs
12 egg yolks
4 tsp olive oil

2 lb wild mushrooms: oyster, chanterelles and portobello, stems removed & saved
2 tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs thyme
2 cloves garlic

Mushroom stock:
Mushroom stems
2 medium onions, chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1 fresh bay leaf

To finish:
Sea salt, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 tbsp dry white wine
chopped chives, to taste
chopped parsley, to taste
grated Grana Padano, to taste
cracked black pepper, to taste
shaved truffles - optional

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flours for the pizza dough and mix on low speed. Whisk together eggs and yolks and slowly add to the mixing bowl. Once incorporated, drizzle in the olive oil around the edge of the bowl, and continue mixing on medium-low speed until glossy. Remove the dough and wrap with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, trim the mushrooms, saving stems for stock. In a skillet, sauté the  mushrooms on high with olive oil, thyme and smashed garlic. Don't crowd the mushrooms in the pan, rather, sauté in small batches. Remove from pan and set aside.

Place the mushroom stems, onions thyme and bay leaf in a pot of cold water, so that it comes about 2 inches above the level of the ingredients. Simmer on medium for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the stock to steep for an extra hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside.

Roll out the pasta dough using a home pasta roller. In a large pot of boiling water, add enough sea salt so the water tastes like the ocean. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook the onion until softened and fragrant. Then add the wine, mushrooms and mushroom stock.

Place the fresh pasta in boiling water for 1 minute or less, then strain and place in the pan with the mushrooms and stock. Simmer gently, constantly tossing until the pasta is tender. Add a knob of unsalted butter or a splash of olive oil. There should still be liquid in the pan but it should not be soupy. Plate and garnish with chives, parsley, Grana Padano and pepper. For extra glamour, add shaved truffles.