Pineapple-Grilled Salmon with avocado salsa

Fish and fruit are such a perfect combination. This particular dish was inspired by an article I read which talked about the popular Hawaiian pairing of canned Spam and pineapple (I kid you not). That might be tasty….but I think salmon and pineapple is even better. While I like to prepare a bed of mild-flavoured quinoa for this salmon dish, rice or couscous would be equally good.

Layering salmon between slices of fresh pineapple before grilling infuses the fish with a ton of flavour and keeps it from drying out as well.

Layering salmon between slices of fresh pineapple before grilling infuses the fish with a ton of flavour and keeps it from drying out as well.

Ingredients

  • 1 leek (white part only), split, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 8 thin (1/3 inch or 1 cm) slices fresh pineapple
  • 2 salmon fillets, approximately 5 ounces (140 grams) each
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) minced red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced scallions (green onions)
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons (10 – 15 mL) honey, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh lime juice (or more, to taste)
  • few dashes hot sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons (60 mL) chopped pistachios

Method

  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter (or heat olive oil) over medium heat. Add sliced leeks and cook, stirring, for several minutes, until leeks are softened.
  • Add quinoa and water to saucepan. Cover and increase heat to medium high. As soon as the quinoa comes to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting. Cook, covered, for about 40 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
  • While quinoa cooks, preheat barbeque to hot (approximately 400F).
  • While barbeque is heating, lay out two 12 inch (30 cm) square pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil.
  • Place two large pineapple slices in the centre of each foil square.
  • Place salmon on top of pineapple; top with additional slices of pineapple so the salmon is completely covered on both sides.
Wrapping the salmon and pineapple in foil keeps the fish from drying out as it cooks.

Wrapping the salmon and pineapple in foil keeps the fish from drying out as it cooks.

  • Fold up the edges of the foil to seal the packet tightly.
  • When the grill is hot, place the salmon packets on the grate. Flip once after ten minutes; cook for a total of twenty minutes.
  • While salmon is cooking, prepare the avocado salsa. In a small bowl, combine diced avocado, red pepper, scallions, honey, lime juice and hot sauce. Stir gently to blend well. Add more honey, lime juice or hot sauce to suit your tastes, along with salt and pepper.
  • To plate, put cooked quinoa in the bottom of a broad soup plate. Top with pineapple and salmon. Spoon avocado salsa over top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Serves 2.

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Blueberry Ice Cream

This recipe was inspired by the incomparable taste of blueberry pie. While I love raw blueberries in my morning cereal, they seem to become even more flavourful when baked up in muffins or pies. Cooking up the berries before adding them to the egg and cream custard means the ice cream is really saturated with that delicious berry flavour. I’ll be freezing extra berries this week so I can make this delicious ice cream throughout the fall and winter.

If you close your eyes, you just might think you're eating chilled blueberry pie when you enjoy this luscious ice cream.

If you close your eyes, you just might think you’re eating chilled blueberry pie when you enjoy this luscious ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) blueberries, rinsed and picked over (frozen berries are fine as well)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 cups (500 mL) whipping (35%) cream
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk (2% or 3.5% are best)
  • 6 eggs, yolks only
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla

Method

  • In a small saucepan, combine blueberries, lemon juice and cinnamon with ¼ cup (60 mL) of the sugar.
  • Bring to a boil then cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until blueberries have softened and the mixture is looking a bit jam-like (about 10 minutes).
  • Put into a covered dish and refrigerate to chill.
  • In a large saucepan, combine remaining sugar, cream, and milk.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot and is just about to simmer – try not to let it boil.
  • While cream mixture is heating, put egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk then add about half the hot cream mixture to the eggs, ½ cup (125 mL) at a time.
  • Return egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spoon (about 8 – 10 minutes).
  • Remove from heat; add vanilla and strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours until completely chilled.
  • Fold the chilled blueberry mixture into the chilled custard.
  • Freeze following ice cream machine manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes about 1 litre (1 quart plus).

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Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins

I love baking with blueberries. Just the sight of them in a pie, scone or muffin makes me smile. While it’s their delicious flavour that I find irresistible, it’s also great knowing that they are packed with all sorts of nutritional and antioxidant goodness as well! This wholesome muffin recipe is a personal favourite. You can use either fresh or frozen berries and these muffins freeze beautifully. 

Browning the butter gives these muffins an extra-special flavour.

Browning the butter gives these muffins an extra-special flavour.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (125 mL) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
  • 2.5 cups (375 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups (500 mL) blueberries
  • Coarse sugar

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners (or grease with vegetable oil).
  • Put the butter in a small pan set over medium-low heat. Cook butter until it begins to brown and becomes very fragrant, stirring occasionally. Keep a close eye on it during this process so it does not burn.
  • As soon as butter is browned, pour it into a heatproof bowl, scraping pan in the process, and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream or yogurt, milk and vanilla. Add the browned butter and stir well.
  • In a separate, large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest.
  • Sprinkle the blueberries on top of the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients and berries and stir just until combined (don’t over mix).
  • Fill the muffin tins 2/3 full with the batter. Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar.
  • Bake for 18 minutes, until tops are lightly browned.

Makes 18 muffins.

browned butter blueberry muffins 2

 

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A delicious day to visit Prince Edward County

Early September’s gorgeous weather has me in complete denial that autumn is coming. I’m still cooking summery foods, basking in warm sunshiney afternoons and enjoying dinners on the deck. I’m also busy looking for new ways to prolong that relaxed, happy summertime feeling….and I think I’ve found a great one. It’s an ideal opportunity to visit one of my favourite places in the world – Ontario’s Prince Edward County. One of the top wine producing regions in Canada, The County, as it’s affectionately known, is also a culinary hotbed, with farms, chefs and vintners collaborating to deliver some seriously tasty food. All that’s delightful about The County will be at your fingertips on September 27 during a wonderful event called simply TASTE community grown.

Taste_poster_2014_v3

The thirteenth edition of TASTE community grown will be held at Picton’s historic Crystal Palace, just a few hours’ drive from the National Capital Region. The event is an annual showcase of the best that Prince Edward County offers in terms of food, farm products, restaurants, wineries and craft breweries. At only 30 dollars’ admission, which includes ten sampling tickets (more can be purchased at the event) and seminars throughout the day, it’s a delicious bargain. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds will go towards supporting The County’s food banks.

Prince Edward County is gorgeous all year round but perhaps at its finest in early autumn.

Prince Edward County is gorgeous all year round but perhaps at its finest in early autumn.

Presented by the Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association, TASTE community grown will also feature the County Chopped event, based on the popular TV program. Celebrity judges will assess the efforts of local chefs who will  be cooking their way through a mystery basket of ingredients.

It's fun to visit The County's wineries - many are stunning properties, like The Grange.

It’s fun to visit The County’s wineries – many are stunning properties, like The Grange.

TASTE community grown will be a jam-packed day, with over 75 participating wineries, restaurants, farmers and food trucks. It will also be a very family-friendly event; kids are admitted free! I suggest making a weekend of it so you have time to check out some of the other sights of The County.

 

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Peach-almond ice cream

This recipe should have you making a mad dash to the nearest produce purveyor to grab another basket or two of fresh peaches before the season is done. I love this ice cream because it’s not too sweet and really lets the peaches’ natural flavour shine. You can make the peach puree ahead of time and freeze it, so whip up a few batches of that and you can enjoy a taste of summer all winter long.

Fresh peaches and just a hint of almond flavour give this custard-based ice cream a great taste.

Fresh peaches and just a hint of almond flavour give this custard-based ice cream a great taste.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) peeled, finely chopped peaches (2 – 3 peaches)
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) almond extract (optional but delicious!!)
  • 2 cups (500 mL) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • ½ (2.5 mL) teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks

Method

  • In a small pot, combine peaches, 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar, lemon juice and almond extract (if using). Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 – 2 hours to draw juice out of fruit.
  • After standing time, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until peaches are soft. Pour into a clean dish, cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  • In a saucepan combine 3/4 cup sugar (185 mL), heavy cream, milk and vanilla. Bring just to a boil.
  • In bowl whisk egg yolks. While whisking, slowly pour in about 1 cup (250 mL) of the hot cream mixture.
  • Return egg mixture to the saucepan, whisking vigorously.
  • Continue to heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (it will thicken as it cooks for a minute or two).
  • Remove from heat, add vanilla and strain into a clean bowl.
  • Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  • Transfer the custard mixture to a prepared ice cream maker; add peach puree. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes about 5 cups (1250 mL).

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Overnight Sticky Cinnamon Buns

Your family would quite likely fall in love with you all over again should you decide to get up at the crack of dawn to craft some home-baked love, fragrant and just-from-the-oven warm as soon as they awaken. However, in today’s busy world, starting anything from scratch at 5 am is just a bit of an unrealistic plan. I’ve been experimenting for a while now with suspending various yeast doughs – preparing them the day before, refrigerating them, then baking them up the next day. This technique is perfect for sticky buns, which do need time to rise but only require a short baking time before serving. To avoid the almost-impossible-to-resist temptation of eating the entire batch myself, I like to portion up half or even three quarters of the batch into small foil pans with lids, then share them with friends so they can wow their own families with freshly-baked breakfast treats.

Nothing says I love you more than a tray of freshly-baked sticky buns first thing in the morning, right?

Nothing says I love you more than a tray of freshly-baked sticky buns first thing in the morning, right?

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk (or buttermilk if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon (45 mL) yeast
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) white sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) melted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3.5 to 4 cups (875 – 1000 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) soft butter for proofing bowl

Sauce:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup (125 mL) butter
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) coarsely chopped pecan halves (optional)

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) very soft butter
  • ¾ cup (180 mL) chopped pecans, raisins or currants or a combination

Method

  • Warm milk carefully in microwave to approximately 105 – 110 F (40 – 43 C) and pour into a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one).
  • Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk then sprinkle 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the white sugar on top.
  • Let stand about 5 minutes until yeast is frothy.
  • Add remaining sugar, melted butter and egg yolks; mix well to combine.
  • Add 2 cups (500 mL) of flour (3 cups / 750 mL if using a stand mixer) and the salt; stir vigorously to combine.
  • Continue adding flour until the dough comes together into a soft ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be slightly sticky.
  • Knead using stand mixer for 3 minutes. If mixing by hand, turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding just a tiny bit more flour as needed to keep it workable.
  • When dough is well-kneaded and smooth in texture, shape it into a ball. Rub the inside of a clean, large bowl with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of soft butter. Roll the dough around in the bowl to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Let proof (rise) in a warm place (an oven that has been ever so slightly preheated and turned off is great) until the dough has doubled in size (approximately 60 – 75 minutes).
  • While dough is rising, make the sauce by placing butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly so it does not burn, and boil for a minute or so.
  • Remove from heat; add corn syrup and cream then stir to blend well.
  • Pour the sauce into the bottom of two parchment paper-lined 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) pans (or equivalent larger/smaller pans) and sprinkle evenly with pecans, if using. Set aside to cool.
  • Prepare the filling by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • When dough has risen to double its original size, pull it out of the bowl and place on clean countertop.
  • With your hands or a rolling pin, flatten into a rectangle approximately 10 inches x 16 inches (25 x 35 cm). Spread the dough with the soft butter and sprinkle with the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle with nuts and/or raisins (currants), if using.
  • Starting on one of the long sides, carefully roll the dough up into a long cylinder, pressing gently as you roll.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 20 equal slices.
  • Arrange the slices, cut side up, atop the cooled sauce in the pans.
  • Cover each pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 36 hours.
  • When ready to bake, remove the pans from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Bake 22 – 25 minutes for smaller pans, or 26 – 30 minutes for a large pan, until sauce is bubbly and buns are golden brown on top.
  • Remove cooked buns from oven and let pans rest for 5 minutes before inverting them onto serving platters.

Makes 20 delectable sticky buns.

 

Posted in Breads, Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Better barbequing all year long

I have heard that there are people who hang up their barbeque tools after Labour Day. I suppose these same folks might put their white pants and shoes away as well, tradition-bound as they seem to be. Not for me – while I might not bust out the white patent pumps in December, I sure do enjoy barbequing in all kinds of weather. Autumn can be a particularly pleasant time to be outdoors, after all. In the spirit of year-round grilling, I bring you a quick roundup of handy items for grillers both novice and experienced.

Three-Compartment Grill Basket

three compartment grill basket

What sets this basket apart from others is quite literally the fact that it comes apart! I love to use it for grilling veggies; because there are three compartments, it’s super easy to vary the cooking times for different ingredients. It’s also a lot easier to clean up afterwards than traditional grill baskets. Available online at kitchenware emporium Sur La Table.

Cave Plate grilling stone

cave plate soapstone grill

Made by Ottawa legend “Rizak the Horrible” (aka Todd Chambers of Really Horrible Enterprises), this soapstone grill is useful for all sorts of grilling duties. One side is slightly roughened, making it ideal for flatbreads or pizzas, while the smooth side can be used for vegetables, fish, meat …. pretty much anything and everything. With just a touch of oil it serves as a non-stick, easy to clean surface that also keeps food from falling through the grill.  Available in Ottawa at Kitchenalia in Westboro and Around the Block Butcher Shop (formerly Brian’s Butchery) in Bell’s Corners.

Gastro Grilling Cookbook

gastro grilling cover

Barbeque Guru Ted Reader’s ninth cookbook is, in my opinion, his best yet. As the publisher says, “Gastro Grilling is for everyone who loves to fire up the grill at any time of the year and turn an everyday meal into a gastronomic delight!” The book offers a host of tricks, including tips for wintertime grilling, along with dozens of great recipes in various categories, including party foods, sandwiches, cocktails, desserts and more. I’ve challenged my husband to see if we can prepare every single one within the next six months. Available at traditional and online booksellers everywhere.

Herb zipper

herbzipper better

This is one of those gadgets that I thought might be gimmicky but actually turned out to be quite useful. It’s ideal for stripping the leaves from herbs such as rosemary and thyme – all you do is pull the herb stem through the appropriately sized hole, and the leaves drop into the attached measuring bowl. Available online at surlatable.com.

Octopus Bottle Baster

octopus baster

The playful design was what first drew me to this barbeque tool, which is a bottle and basting brush combo. Simple fill it with your favourite basting sauce (it works best with thicker ones) and then you can squeeze and spread quickly and easily. I like to wash and reattach the baster after use and then store the remaining sauce right in the bottle, in the fridge. It’s BPA free too! Available at surlatable.com.

Accu-temp digital thermometer

An instant-read digital thermometer is an essential kitchen tool.

This instant-read digital thermometer takes the guesswork out of barbequing meat – no more under- or over-cooked steaks, chops or chicken breasts! I bought mine at Canadian Tire for under $15 and have used it for years.

Posted in Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments