Early Taste of Summer With Grilled Salmon

It was my kind of day yesterday.  Warm sun, a slight breeze, and time available to get in the garden.  Perfect weather!  We are doing a major tackle of our flower garden this year which will be shown in an upcoming post.  But suffice it to say, the grass has been winning.  So we’re rolling up our sleeves and plotting our strategy for winning back the space for our flowers.

Yesterday definitely put me in the mood for bright flavours and grilling.  It also reminded me that I need to get our outside table cleaned and set up with the chairs.  It would have been lovely to have dinner outside.

I discovered at the co-op that wild sockeye salmon is back in season so that was the base of the meal for my daughter and I.  For my husband and son I grilled up some curry chicken sausages and grilled veg.  But for me the salmon was the prize.  I found this recipe for tomato avocado relish and thought I’d do a version for our dinner.  One thing I love about the warmer weather is many dishes that go on the grill are so easy to throw together and you can have a fabulous fresh meal in less than 30 minutes.  And clean up is even easier!

I prepped the food in stages as the sausages had to go first.  I sliced up the lemon for the grilling.  This is one of the lightbulb moments when you first see it.  Grill the salmon on the lemon!  It is such a no brainer but really raises the flavour profile on the dish.  I will definitely be using this method going forward.

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To make the tomato and avocado salad I first did up the dressing of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part white balsamic vinegar and whisked it to an emulsion then seasoned with salt and pepper.

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I sliced up an avocado.  This is fast becoming one of my favourite foods.  It goes well in a lot of dishes but is also a superfood so for me it’s a win-win.  My other favourite foods include crisps which isn’t on the superfood list by any stretch of the imagination.  So I’m getting one right!  🙂  Chop up a fresh scallion.  I’m not a huge fan of raw onion as it is too much for me but in dishes like this it gives it just enough zip.

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I found at the co-op some local cherry tomatoes, they must be grown in a hot house and while not the same as fresh from the garden they taste better than those trucked in from afar.  Slice them in half and add them to the dressing along with the scallion and avocado.  Toss to coat with the dressing.

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Set aside and spread out the lemon slices on the hot grill and place the salmon on top.

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This is a great trick for two reasons, one it doesn’t stick to the grill, and second it imparts a lovely lemony flavour to the fish without overpowering it.  Once the fish is cooked place it on some mixed greens and top with the tomato avocado salad.

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I’ll admit I went for presentation for the photo then added more of the tomato avocado salad!  My daughter and I loved this dish and I look forward to having it again.

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A Blackberry and A Duck Got Together

Things have been looking up this past week which has been nice.  Still waiting for my husband’s car to be fixed but hopefully that will be within the week.  Our seedlings are growing like crazy and we’re back to looking like we live in a jungle.  It will ease once the weather warms which can happen any time now as I’m tired of wearing snowpants!  It’s a formal protest now as it shouldn’t be this cold this far into March!  I’m wondering when the lamb part will show up.

Despite all the craziness I did want to cook a nice meal and I found a pin on pinterest that was for a blackberry sauce for duck.  Ooh, I thought, this looks wonderful.  Until I clicked on it and all it was about was an article about wine.  Now normally I am more than happy to learn about wine but I was looking for food!  So it was time to get creative and come up with something myself.  Given that I have a food blog I should be able to do that!

Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C

In a baking dish place the duck legs with the skin scored into the pan.  If you have duck breast or a full duck this will work as well.  Our duck legs were frozen so they are a bit funny shaped at first.  In the dish I drizzled a bit of olive oil and about a 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper and a couple of sprigs of rosemary.  Roast uncovered until cooked about medium.

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While the duck is roasting chop up 1/2-3/4 cup onions and saute in olive oil.  Once they are softened add about a cup of blackberries.  Bring to a simmer with 1/2 cup water and 1/8 cup of white balsamic vinegar.

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As the blackberries soften and cook down add a few teaspoons of freshly grated ginger.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Once the duck is done remove from the oven and let rest.  Add a few tablespoons of the duck fat and juices from the baking dish to the sauce.  Simmer for a few minutes to reduce.  Then spoon over the duck and serve.

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The tartness was a great pairing with the richness of the duck.  I kept the sauce rustic but as the blackberries had dehydrated a bit the seeds were tough.  If you aren’t a fan of the seeds the sauce can be strained.

And The Beet Goes On….

We finally got to watch our daughter’s cooking show episode last night!  So exciting.  🙂  She did a fabulous job and we’re really proud of her.  And Luca does a great job with the kids.  What a wonderful way to get more kids cooking.

Here is the episode:

Kids in the Kitchen

I tried to insert from youtube but it wouldn’t do it so another thing for me to figure out!  I love technology but sometimes it doesn’t like me.  Ok, a lot of times.  Ah well.

Here are a few stills from that episode as well:

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In honor of her doing this I decided to be inspired by the dishes and make something with beets.  Now, I do not like beets.  Right up there with Brussels sprouts. But when I tasted the beet puree made in this show I liked it!  I find beets lack brightness but this was different.  Because my husband and son really don’t like seafood I decided to do roast chicken with a beet puree.  I did this with my own twist but it went very well with the chicken.  And my husband was happy because he loves beets but it doesn’t find it’s way to the table.  It will now.  🙂

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The beets will take a bit to cook so I started them early.  I peeled them and cut them up into chunks.  I used three beets because I knew whatever I didn’t use for the puree would be eaten by my husband.  In a saucepan add the beets and about 2 cups of chicken stock.  Season with salt and pepper then add about 1/3 cup of white balsamic vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and cook until tender.

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Meanwhile mince some fresh garlic and slowly cook in olive oil until tender.  I used 2 large cloves.

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Once that is done set that aside.  To prep the roast chicken legs I coarsely chopped several garlic cloves.

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In a baking dish I added the legs, rosemary and the garlic.  Seasoned with salt and pepper.  I added a bit of water and some white balsamic vinegar.  I baked this at 375F/190C covered until mostly cooked then uncovered to brown the chicken. This keeps it nice and moist with all the flavours.

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To do the puree I thought I’d save on dishes and tried to use the blender we already had out.

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That failed so I switched over to the food processor.  I wanted to keep this somewhat rustic so I pulsed the beets then added some olive oil, the garlic, and a bit of the liquid from the saucepan that I cooked the beets in.  It’s not the traditional smoothness that you would call a puree but just a smidge coarse.  If you want it smoother add more liquid until you have the consistency you would like.

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I served it with roasted potatoes and parsnips with a bit of corn.  The brightness of the beets worked well with the garlic rosemary on the chicken.

It was such a fun process to watch our daughter do this show and to share it with everyone.  And yes, Luca, I will be doing a post on the grilled cheese.  😉

Bacon Dressing and the Revolutionary War

Are you a loyalist or a patriot?  We were asked that when we went to the kids camp for lunch.  Little did he know!  My husband said pacifist but apparently back then if you said that people just assumed you were a loyalist and were treated with suspicion.  Now my husband doesn’t have any American history in his family but I do.  My mum is American and people have been coming over nearly every generation in this family since the early 1600’s.  Including me.  So it makes for an interesting genealogy.  There was a good number of my family that had to high tail it to Canada as they were loyalists.  They came back down about fifty years later.   You know, when it was safe.  🙂

Not sure if the gentleman playing the father of the camp noticed my Union Jack on the back of my phone!  But we were served anyway.  Lucky us as the kids did an amazing job.  They made blueberry jam, butter, cornbread, pickles and soup.  The soup was tasty but a bit much on a very hot day.  So I was wilting a bit at the end.  Loved the butter and the jam.  So yummy.  We were impressed with everything they did.  And it was hard work keeping the fires going so they could boil the water and keep the tavern guests fed.

After a hot lunch it seemed like a good idea to do a cool dinner.  I had some bacon to finish up.  I know, tough problem to have.  🙂  But didn’t want it to go to waste.  I thought I would have a go at some bacon dressing.  Once I started cooking the bacon the dogs got very focused on what I was doing.  Boy were they optimistic!

Bacon salad 1 2013

To make the dressing I scraped the bacon fat into a bowl and added some olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   I think I put a bit too much vinegar in.  It was tasty but either less vinegar or more bacon drippings.  Which would mean cooking more bacon.  But it had a brightness to it that went well with the salad.

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The genius of salad is you can tailor it to the individual taste.  My husband likes beets and onion on his and he’s not a fan of blue cheese.  So for his I added some jarlsberg.  I love blue cheese and bacon together.  A great combo.

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Very filling on a hot day and I just love all the fresh flavours of the veg.

Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy

My favourite holiday is Thanksgiving.  There is nothing materialistic about this holiday.  We celebrate family by being thankful for what is important.  A healthy family, food on the table, and a roof over our heads.  Our wealth is not in the objects we collect but in the love we have for each other.  And one way I enjoy showing my love for my family is to cook for them.  My husband and I spent two days cooking and cleaning to get the list done.  We joke about two days of work for 1/2 hour of eating.  LOL But we enjoy the results.  Because there is so much food I won’t do it all in one post.  That would be very long post.  🙂

I love doing the turkey and gravy.  Now you always hear about the debate about using brine on the turkey or dry roasting it.  I don’t do either and I’ve never had a dry turkey.  It comes out moist and flavourful.

Heat the oven to 325 F.  The Fanny Farmer Cookbook recommends 15 minutes per pound if less than 16lbs and 12 minutes per pound if more than that.  Our turkey was just a smidge under 14lbs.  Also, I recently read that heirloom turkeys when done can still have pink tinged juices so you want the turkey to be 165 F when finished deep in the meat.  We got our turkey from a local farm two towns over so I was glad I read about this.

Once I put it in the roasting pan I drizzle it with olive oil.  Another tip with the turkey, don’t wash it, just put it in the pan.  Washing it will spray germs.

I liberally apply salt and pepper to the skin.

Whatever is added now is the base for the gravy so it is important to use the best ingredients.  I grabbed some rosemary and lemon thyme from the garden and put the sprigs into the pan.

I chop up some garlic and onions and toss these in.  Next I add a few cups of water and about 3/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar.  It has a lemony taste that I was going for.  Cover and pop into the oven.

To add another layer of flavour to the gravy I simmer the heart, liver, and neck in water while the turkey is cooking.

I keep the turkey covered for most of the cooking time so it steams with all the flavours.  For the last 20 minutes or so I uncover it to brown a bit.  Now as my daughter and I are the only ones that really like the skin my main objective is to keep the turkey moist rather than crisp the entire skin.  There are times I get it really crisp and sometimes it is like this time round not so crisp.  I set the turkey aside covered to rest while I make the gravy.

I remove the sprigs of herbs and add the water from the neck, heart, and liver to the gravy.  I set aside the neck to add to the stock I’ll make.  The dogs get the heart and liver.  🙂  Bring the gravy to a boil and add either flour mixed in water or corn starch mixed in water to thicken.  Add a bit at a time until you get the consistency needed.  I also add a bit of gravy master for flavour and colour.  Season as needed.

It’s important to boil as it thickens so you don’t have a flour taste.  I stir regularly to keep it all the same consistency.

It was wonderful having my parents, my aunt, and my sister and her family around the table with our family.  As some are vegetarian we have a lot of turkey left over!  Time to get creative.

 

Cream and Butter Sauce

One of my favourite cook books came from my good friend Corrie.  She and I have spent many a time over the years sharing good wine and food.  The feasts we’ve had!  For our wedding she bought us the “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marchella Hazan.  There are some wonderful recipes in this book and a great one is cream and butter sauce.  Also known as Alfredo sauce.  I usually make this with our Homemade Pasta.

However it was a crazy day so I used mushroom ravioli instead.  🙂

I did deviate from the recipe in the book a little so here is my version:

1 cup heavy cream

2T of butter

1 cup freshly grated parmigian-reggia

Pepper to taste.  (her recipe calls for salt.  I love salt but I find that the cheese adds plenty of saltiness as a good base.  I usually add a bit of salt at the table.)

A few shakes of ground nutmeg ( her recipe calls for whole nutmeg to be freshly ground)

Melt the butter in a small pan and add the cream. Heat slowly and stir with a whisk frequently.  Do not whisk so hard it becomes thick.  This is not a thick sauce but a lovely creamy sauce that coats the pasta.

While the sauce is warming up I saute mushrooms and garlic.  This time we had bacon left over from the Bacon Crostini  so I used a bit of that.  As the bacon starts to crisp up I add a bit of white balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan.

I add the cheese to the heated cream and butter and stir thoroughly as it melts.  I then add the pepper and nutmeg.  Adjust the seasoning as needed.  At this time the pasta is cooking.  Just as the pasta is done I add the sauce to the mushroom mixture and then the pasta.  Toss and serve.

Grate some fresh cheese and enjoy!  This is an uncomplicated dish that takes less than 30 minutes to make if you aren’t making fresh pasta and the flavours are amazing.

Bacon Crostini

One of the things we learned at the cooking class we took in Tuscany was crostinis.  Easy to make and great for a light meal or starters.  My husband makes amazing bread and he did up the baguettes for this.  Unfortunately I was at work so I don’t have any photos.  When I make them I will do a post.

To start I gathered some fresh rosemary from the garden.

Then I chopped up some bacon and onion.  The bacon is nitrate free that we can get at our grocery store.

I start rendering the bacon first, once there is enough bacon fat I through in the onions and rosemary to cook through.  To deglaze the pan and add flavour I usually splash in a bit of white balsamic vinegar.  It’s not real balsamic obviously but that’s what it says on the label.  I got distracted and splashed in dry sherry instead.  Fortunately it worked just as well.

While this is cooking put some olive oil on the sliced bread and toast.  Top the crostini and enjoy!

I usually do a decent batch of this because it is so delicious.  This is very good paired with a chablis or pinot grigio.