Moroccan Carrot Soup

This soup combines sweet-tasting onions and carrots with a subtle spice mix to create an irresistible flavour that is just as delicious chilled as it is warm. Don’t skip the ras el hanout – it is a wonderful ground spice blend commonly used in many savoury Moroccan dishes. While the ingredients in ras el hanout vary from shop to shop, common elements often used are cardamom, clove, cinnamon, chili, coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric. In Ottawa, you can find it at Cardamom and Cloves. While I adore the lovely taste and cheerful colour of this soup, I also really love the fact that it only takes 15 minutes to prepare and it’s vegan and vegetarian friendly if you use vegetable stock!

This brightly coloured soup is simple to make and packed with flavour, thanks to the exotic and appealing ras el hanout spice blend.

This brightly coloured soup is simple to make and packed with flavour, thanks to the exotic and appealing ras el hanout spice blend.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ras el hanout
  • ½ cup (125 mL) chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cups (500 mL) packed grated carrot
  • 2 cups (500 mL) vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) very finely chopped fresh mint, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) dukkah, for garnish *

* dukkah is a delightful mixture of herbs, nuts and spices that is used in many African cuisines, although its origins are said to be Egyptian. You can purchase it pre-made although it’s very easy to make your own.

Method

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add ras el hanout, stirring constantly.
  • As soon as the spices begin to get toasted and fragrant, add onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  • Add grated carrots and stir well to coat with the spice mixture. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  • Add stock and cover pot; let come to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and let simmer until carrots are tender (about 5 – 7 minutes).
  • Add lemon juice.
  • Puree using a blender (or an immersion blender).
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving time and reheat (or serve cold).
  • Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of chopped frest mint and a teaspoon of dukkah.
  • Note that the soup freezes beautifully and you can easily double, triple or quadruple the recipe.

Makes 2 servings.

 

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Chef biking across Canada to promote sustainable seafood

You know someone is passionate about a cause when they choose to promote it by biking over 8,000 kilometres across Canada in ten weeks. In this case, the chef is Ned Bell, renowned for his work at Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel and YEW seafood + bar and the cause is sustainable seafood.

Vancouver chef Ned Bell is biking across Canada to promote sustainable seafood.

Vancouver chef Ned Bell is biking across Canada to promote sustainable seafood.

Ned left St. John`s on July 1st and has ridden through the Maritimes and Quebec, logging anywhere from 100 to 190 km each cycling day, with stops along the route to participate in unique events for media and supporters. He landed in Ottawa on July 28 and collaborated with Chef Rene Rodriguez at his Navarra Restaurant to present an impressive five course seafood tasting menu, paired with Okanagan wines.

Chefs Ned Bell and Rene Rodriguez have been friends for over a decade, since working together on the Ottawa-produced Cook Like a Chef TV series.

Chefs Ned Bell and Rene Rodriguez have been friends for over a decade, since working together on the Ottawa-produced Cook Like a Chef TV series.

The message Chef Bell is promoting is clear and crucial: over-fishing, not using environmentally-responsible fishing methods, and not taking good care of our waterways will one day lead to a depletion of seafood.  In partnership with Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program and SeaChoice, and with sponsorship from Ottawa’s Gusto TV, Bell established this Chefs for Oceans campaign to promote sustainable seafood so we can enjoy the bounty of the sea now and in the future.

BC Albacore tuna with Ontario pickled peaches and jalapeno

One of the highlights of the Ottawa Chefs for Oceans dinner at Navarra was this scrumptious BC Albacore tuna with Ontario pickled peaches and jalapeno

OceanWise has already certified 27 restaurant and retail locations in Ottawa, including Navarra; these businesses are serving or selling products which are abundant and resistant to fishing pressures as well as being harvested in appropriate quantities using sustainable methods.

Perfectly prepared, this roasted Skeena River Sockeye salmon was served with sweet and sour local vegetables and NK'MIP Riesling vinaigrette.

Perfectly prepared, this roasted Skeena River Sockeye salmon was served with sweet and sour local vegetables and NK’MIP Riesling vinaigrette.

Chef Bell conceived of Chefs for Oceans three years ago while attending a national Chef`s Congress in Halifax. “As chefs, we celebrate our communities, regions provinces but we don’t always do things on a national level,” he explained.

Chef Ned Bell had fun serving guests at the Navarra event for Chefs for Oceans.

Chef Ned Bell had fun serving guests at the Navarra event for Chefs for Oceans.

“I recognized that many chefs shared similar concerns and we have a unique opportunity to raise awareness about sustainable seafood,” said Bell. “Seafood is an integral part of Canada`s history and heritage and I want to ensure it is available for generations to come.” He hopes that his ride generates awareness and that when looking at seafood options on restaurant menus, people will start asking, “is it sustainable?”

Pacific halibut with Quebec pig cheek, Ontario beets and Spanish Padron peppers.

Pacific halibut with Quebec pig cheek, Ontario beets and Spanish Padron peppers.

Chef Rodriguez supported his colleague’s message, noting that chefs always enjoy a strong connection through their shared passion for food. “The better we eat, the better we live, so you should always try to work with the best ingredients you can,” he noted. The plates presented at the Ottawa Chefs for Oceans event were a testament to both the skill of the chefs and the superlative flavour of sustainable Canadian seafood.

Ontario rhubarb and strawberry pudding with nitro Greek yogurt-vanilla sorbet

Ontario rhubarb and strawberry pudding with nitro Greek yogurt-vanilla sorbet

 

For more information on Chef Ned Bell’s campaign, visit www.chefsforoceans.com. Details about sustainable seafood can be found at www.oceanwise.ca.

 

 

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Spiced Watermelon Soup

This refreshing, summery soup is packed with flavour and only takes ten minutes to prepare. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you prefer; just be sure not to overwhelm the watermelon’s bright, fresh taste. It’s nice to serve in clear glasses or bowls to show off the soup’s gorgeous colour.

This watermelon soup is as delicious as it is pretty, and it only takes ten minutes to prepare!

This watermelon soup is as delicious as it is pretty, and it only takes ten minutes to prepare!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped gingerroot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) finely chopped shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 5 cups (1.25 L) coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 mL) hot sauce (or more, to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves, for garnish

Method

  • Put olive oil in a small saucepan, over medium heat.
  • Add ginger, shallot and garlic and cook, stirring often, for three minutes or until slightly softened.
  • Put chopped watermelon in a blender (or a large bowl, if using an immersion/stick blender) and add cooked seasonings.
  • Puree until smooth.
  • Add lime juice, hot sauce and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkling of chopped mint, or chill and serve within 2 days.

Makes 4 servings.

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FLUX part 2 – A magical summer’s eve dinner

There is truly something magical about enjoying a meal composed of ingredients harvested just a few metres from your table. The second FLUX dinner, held Monday, July 21 at Rideau Pines Farm in North Gower, just south of Ottawa, was not only a delicious showcase of hyper-local food, it was also a pretty awesome party, with freshly-sawed planks for platters, live music, plentiful drinks, perfect weather, post-dinner ‘smores by the campfire and obliging fireflies rounding out the evening.

fluxjuly2014

The FLUX dinner series is the brainchild of Chef Danny Mongeon, one of Ottawa’s rising stars on the culinary scene.

You may recall that I was quite impressed with the first FLUX dinner, held in June at Mariposa Farm, east of the city. The brainchild of wonderchef Danny Mongeon, known for his culinary wizardry at Hooch Bourbon House, FLUX is a travelling dinner club of sorts, featuring inventive collaborations involving some of Ottawa’s finest young chefs, including Kyle Mortimer-Proulx of Lowertown Brewery, Stephen LaSalle of The Albion Rooms, The Courtyard Restaurant’s Ian Reed, Ian Carswell of K-W Catering (National Gallery), and Hooch’s Adam Bannerman. Once again, generous suppliers stepped up to help with the event, including The Grange Winery, Jim Beam and Beau’s Brewery. It was a fundraiser for the important work being done by Operation Come Home, for whom the night raised $3000. In addition, all kitchen and service staff volunteered to work at the event.

What a delightful surprise to step off our school bus shuttles and arrive at Rideau Pines Farm's outdoor dining room.

What a delightful surprise to step off our school bus shuttles and arrive at Rideau Pines Farm’s outdoor dining room.

The next FLUX dinner will take place at The Grange Winery in Prince Edward County on August 4, 2014. It will be an intimate affair with just 20 tickets up for grabs. You won’t want to miss it, so watch Facebook for details, coming soon.

Volunteer servers like Julie Ribi, shown here with shots of tasty yellow tomato gazpacho, were both cheerful and professional throughout the entire evening, adding much to the fun atmosphere of FLUX.

Volunteer servers like Julie Ribi, shown here with shots of tasty yellow tomato gazpacho, were both cheerful and professional throughout the entire evening, adding much to the fun atmosphere of FLUX.

Delightful little bites to start the evening included these delicate stuffed potato nests.

Delightful little bites to start the evening included these delicate stuffed potato nests.

These pretty compressed watermelon cubes were a big hit among guests.

These pretty compressed watermelon cubes were a big hit among guests.

The Vandenbergs (owners of Rideau Pines Farm) generously invited guests to tour the farm and pick some berries.

The Vandenbergs (owners of Rideau Pines Farm) generously invited guests to tour the farm and pick some berries.

Stephen LaSalle gets help in the outdoor kitchen - everything was cooked over an open fire - assembling the first course, a charcuterie smorgasboard.

Stephen LaSalle gets help in the outdoor kitchen – everything was cooked over an open fire – assembling the first course, a charcuterie smorgasboard.

The charcuterie platters were dubbed 'Dan O'Brien's Odd Bits' and featured beef heart pastrami, head cheese, green tomato chow chow, dills, and a spectacularly yummy cold vegetable salad featuring Rideau Pines radishes on a Glengarry Celtic Blue puree with microgreens. This course was created by Ian Reed and Stephen LaSalle.

The charcuterie platters were dubbed ‘Dan O’Brien’s Odd Bits’ and featured beef heart pastrami, head cheese, green tomato chow chow, dills, and a spectacularly yummy cold vegetable salad featuring Rideau Pines radishes on a Glengarry Celtic Blue puree with microgreens. This course was created by Ian Reed and Stephen LaSalle.

The second course, brought to us by Kyle Mortimer-Proulx and Stephen LaSalle, included Atlantic sturgeon wrapped in Seed to Sausage bacon, rapini wilted in bacon fat with smoked honey and veal jus plus an array of gorgeous Rideau Pines veggies cooked a la plancha and topped with smoked bread crumbs.

The second course, brought to us by Kyle Mortimer-Proulx and Stephen LaSalle, included Atlantic sturgeon wrapped in Seed to Sausage bacon, rapini wilted in bacon fat with smoked honey and veal jus plus an array of gorgeous Rideau Pines veggies cooked a la plancha and topped with smoked bread crumbs.

Adam Bannerman's 8 hour salad included greens all picked at Rideau Pines Farm within 1 to 8 hours of service, along with carrot tips,onion greens, purslane, kohlrabi and blitzed, pickled cauliflower. It was so fresh and delicious.

Adam Bannerman’s 8 hour salad included greens all picked at Rideau Pines Farm within 1 to 8 hours of service, along with carrot tips,onion greens, purslane and blitzed, pickled cauliflower. It was so fresh and delicious.

Danny Mongeon contributed spit-roasted pork as well as three-day brined Cornish hens, cooked over woodcoals in a method similar to Jamaican Jerk Chicken; Ian Reed added German potato salad with capers and a hot mustard vinaigrette.

Danny Mongeon contributed spit-roasted pork as well as three-day brined Cornish hens, cooked over woodcoals in a method similar to Jamaican Jerk Chicken; Ian Reed added German potato salad with capers and a hot mustard vinaigrette.

Darkness was settling in as dessert was served - heaping platters of New York cheesecake with flourless chocolate cake, raspberry compote, caramelized maple tuile and a goat cheese garnish.

Darkness was settling in as dessert was served – heaping platters of New York cheesecake with flourless chocolate cake, raspberry compote, caramelized maple tuile and a goat cheese garnish.

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Cucumber-mint sparkling vodka lemonade

There’s nothing more refreshing than lemonade on a hot summer’s day…unless, of course, it’s a cucumber and mint infused lemonade, spiked with a judicious amount of vodka. This drink is light and super tasty without being too boozy or too sweet. The infusion process actually pickles the cucumbers slightly, so it’s fun to include them in the drinks as a tasty prize at the bottom of the glass. Because the flavour is so delicate, it’s a good idea to use a premium vodka – I am a big fan of the quadruple-distilled, Ontario-made Silver Lake brand. This recipe is best made just a few hours before consuming as it will start to turn a little bitter after about 8 hours.

Adding cucumbers, mint and vodka to homemade lemonade makes for a super refreshing cocktail.

Adding cucumbers, mint and vodka to homemade lemonade makes for a super refreshing cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) white sugar
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 baby (6 inch/15 cm) seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces (190 mL) premium vodka
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ice cubes
  • soda water
  • lemon and cucumber slices to garnish

Method

  • Put the sugar in a medium pitcher.
  • Cut the lemon slices in half and add to the pitcher along with the mint leaves.
  • With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture (muddle) vigorously to extract juices and aromatic oils from the lemon and mint.
Muddling the sugar, lemon and mint draws juices and essential oils out of the fruit and herbs.

Muddling the sugar, lemon and mint draws juices and essential oils out of the fruit and herbs.

  • Add the cucumber slices and stir gently to combine.
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally. During this time, the sugar will dissolve into the liquid that gets drawn out of the lemon and cucumber.
  • After an hour or two, add the vodka, stir well and let sit for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, to thoroughly infuse the alcohol with the cucumber, lemon and mint.
  • When ready to prepare cocktails, add 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice to the vodka mixture.
  • Strain the vodka mixture into four cocktail glasses (approximately 3 ounces / 90 mL of liquid per glass).
  • Reserve some of the cucumber slices from the infusion; put 2 – 3 of them in each glass.
  • Add several ice cubes to each glass and top with 1 – 2 ounces (30 – 60 mL) of soda water.
  • Garnish with fresh lemon and cucumber slices.

Makes four cocktails.

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Fat-free Microwave Potato Chips

I don’t watch much television – I’d rather be cooking, reading or spending time outdoors. Once in a while I do succumb, however. A couple of months ago, I was flipping through the channels looking for something worth watching and I paused at an infomercial for a microwave potato chip maker. It got me to thinking, “I can do that without a plastic gadget” … and the results are delicious! Use a mandoline (or sharp knife and steady hand) to create uniform, thin potato slices; soak in water or vinegar to remove excess starch, and then, in less than ten minutes you’ll have a bowlful of low calorie snacks. One of the things I love most is that you can cook up just one potato at a time, so you won`t have the rest of bag winking at you seductively from across the room. These chips are tasty on their own, plus they make the perfect guilt-free dippers. Speaking of dips, ditch the sour cream and use lowfat Greek yogurt – it’s fantastic for chips!

It may be hard to believe, but you really can make tasty, crisp potato chips in the microwave!

It may be hard to believe, but you really can make tasty, crisp potato chips in the microwave!

Ingredients

For plain and salt & vinegar chips

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • Cold water
  • Cider vinegar (approximately 1 cup / 250 mL)
  • Salt

For the dips

  • 1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (30 mL) powdered Ranch salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon (30 mL) taco seasoning

Method

  • Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible (1/8 inch or .4 cm).
  • Put half the slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Put remaining slices in a second small bowl and cover with cider vinegar.
  • Soak the slices for 45 – 60 minutes.
  • While potatoes are soaking, prepare dips: divide yogurt among two small bowls. Add powdered Ranch dressing mix (or other seasoning of your choice) to one bowl and taco seasoning mix to the other. Stir to blend well; cover and refrigerate.
  • To cook the chips: Working with one bowl at a time, remove the potato slices from the liquid and dry on a clean kitchen towel.
Be sure to dry your potato slices thoroughly after soaking; this will help promote crisping

Be sure to dry your potato slices thoroughly after soaking; this will help promote crisping

  • Lay the slices out in a single layer on a sheet of parchment paper the same size as your microwave turntable.
  • Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  • Lay the parchment on the turntable, close the door and microwave on high power for 3 minutes.
  • Carefully flip the potato slices over (they’ll be very hot).
  • Microwave for 2 minutes. Check and remove any chips that are golden brown and place these on a wire rack to cool.
After you've flipped them, watch the potato slices carefully as they will start to brown very quickly.

After you’ve flipped them, watch the potato slices carefully as they will start to brown very quickly.

  • Continue microwaving the potato slices in 30 second increments, removing cooked chips after each interval and placing them on a wire rack to cool.
Gauge the doneness of your chips by colour, not texture. They may still be a little floppy when you remove them from the microwave, but they will quickly crisp up. Gauge the doneness of your chips by colour, not texture. They may still be a little floppy when you remove them from the microwave, but they will quickly crisp up.

Gauge the doneness of your chips by colour, not texture. They may still be a little floppy when you remove them from the microwave, but they will quickly crisp up.

  • Depending upon the power of your microwave, the entire cooking process can take from six to ten minutes.
  • Be sure to watch the potatoes carefully as they cook so they don’t burn.
  • Note that they will crisp up as they cool and once cooled can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.
  • If you are making multiple batches of chips, be sure to let the microwave turntable cool down between batches so it doesn’t overheat and crack.

Makes 3 – 4 cups of chips (depending upon size of potatoes) and 1 cup of dip.

* Final notes: if you’re looking for low-fat instead of no-fat, you can spritz or brush the potato slices very lightly on one side with olive oil before microwaving them. It adds just a gentle hit of flavour that my grown-up kids really liked.

 

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Raspberry-Mint Lime Rickey

Cocktails and mocktails made with real fruit juice always taste so delicious. I like to make many batches of different kinds of fruit syrup during the summer – they freeze beautifully and can help bring a little sunshine and warmth into the colder months of the year. The combination of raspberry and mint makes a really fantastic syrup; note that it’s best made a day or two before you want to start mixing drinks so it will be chilled. Using a contrasting but complementary fruit to garnish – in this case, blackberries – gives this updated version of a classic cocktail an extra visual appeal.

This classic lime cocktail gets a huge flavour and colour boost with raspberry and mint simple syrup.

This classic lime cocktail gets a huge flavour and colour boost with raspberry and mint simple syrup.

Ingredients

For the Raspberry-Mint Simple Syrup

  • 12 ounces (340 g) fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup (250 mL) tightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water

For the cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces (45 mL) raspberry-mint syrup
  • 1.5 ounces (45 mL) Premium gin (I like Ungava)
  • 1 ounce (30 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Lime wedge
  • 4 ice cubes
  • Soda water
  • Blackberries (or raspberries) to garnish

Method

  • Combine raspberries, mint leaves and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir well and let sit, covered, for 6 – 12 hours to macerate and draw juice out of the fruit.
  • Add water and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes then strain through a fine sieve, pressing down on solids to extract as much juice as possible.
  • Refrigerate in a tightly-covered jar until ready to use. Keeps in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • To create a cocktail, put syrup, gin, lime juice and lime wedge in a highball (tall) glass.
  • Add cubes and top with soda water. Garnish with berries.
  • To make a mocktail, simply omit the gin!

 

Makes 1 cocktail.

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