Vietnamese Chicken or Shrimp Salad

I love crunchy salads that are packed with flavour and colour so this one is a real winner for me. I find the hot-salty-sour-bitter-sweet flavours of Vietnamese food absolutely irresistable and appreciate that Vietnamese food is also considered to be one of the healthiest cuisines on the planet. This is an easy dish and best of all, everything can be prepared ahead of time and assembled at the last minute for a nutritious, delicious lunch or dinner. I’ve made it with both chicken and shrimp and it’s equally delicious; it would probably be great with tender sliced beef as well. It’s also a perfect one-dish meal for summertime picnics – just be sure to keep the chicken or shrimp chilled with ice packs and add it to the salad at serving time.

This Vietnamese Chicken Salad is fresh and flavourful! Everything can be prepared ahead of time and assembled at the last minute for a healthy, delicious lunch or dinner.

This Vietnamese Chicken Salad is fresh and flavourful! Everything can be prepared ahead of time and assembled at the last minute for a healthy, delicious lunch or dinner.

Salad

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white vinegar
  • 4 cups (1 L) shredded Savoy or Napa cabbage
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) chopped mint (or more, to taste)
  • 1/3 (90 mL) cup chopped cilantro (or more, to taste)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated carrot
  • 2 cups (500 mL) sliced English or Lebanese cucumber
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) chopped red pepper
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, grilled and sliced OR 2 cups (500 mL) medium shrimp, cooked, peeled and chilled
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) roasted cashews, chopped
  • Lime wedges (garnish)

Dressing

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Asian chili paste (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fish sauce
  • 5 tablespoons (22 mL) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sesame oil

Method

  • Put the red onion in a small bowl with ice water. Add the vinegar and let soak while you prepare other ingredients. This will take reduce the onion’s harshness.
  • Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar with a tight lid. Shake well to blend.
  • Combine the cabbage, drained red onions, mint and cilantro in a bowl. Pour ¼ of the dressing over top and toss to mix well.
  • Put the cabbage mixture on a platter and top with carrot, cucumber, red pepper and sliced chicken. Drizzle enough dressing over top to coat well but not drench the salad.
  • Top with cashews and serve, with lime wedges on the side.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer.

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Crunchy Pan-fried Cod Fillets

While my British mother-in-law would have insisted the only way to serve cod is battered and deep fried, I beg to differ. With the right coating, you can skip the deep fryer and still make delicious, crispy fish that is easier, healthier and quicker to prepare. The secret ingredient in this crispy crust is Corn Flake crumbs, readily available in most grocery stores. (As an added bonus, because most cereals are fortified with vitamins, these crumbs are super nutritious!) The cod fillets cook especially quickly when you cut them into smaller pieces, which also makes them easier to flip in the pan. If you have time, I highly recommend making my simplified version of the classic French Gribiche sauce (below), a mayonnaise-style concoction that is a nice alternative to tartar sauce. If not, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice is pretty tasty as well!

Fresh cod's mild flavour is perfectly complemented by a crispy, seasoned crust made from Corn Flake crumbs. The optional Sauce Gribiche is delicious, but can easily be omitted in favour of a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Fresh cod’s mild flavour is perfectly complemented by a crispy, seasoned crust made from Corn Flake crumbs. The optional Sauce Gribiche is really delicious, but can easily be omitted in favour of a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 2 fillets fresh cod
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups (250 mL to 375 mL) Corn Flake crumbs (or panko, though I’d increase the seasonings if you don’t use Corn Flake crumbs)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon (1.25 to 2.5 mL) cayenne (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) paprika
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 mL) thyme
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (45 to 60 mL) canola oil

Method

  • Cut each cod fillet into three portions (two longer ones from the thicker part then one portion from the thinner section).
  • Crack the eggs into a broad, shallow dish and beat thoroughly.
  • Combine the Corn Flake crumbs and seasonings in another small bowl.
  • Preheat a large, heavy duty skillet over medium-high heat (cast iron is ideal).
  • When ready to start cooking, add just enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of the skillet.
  • Starting with the thickest pieces of fish, working one piece at a time, dip the fish in the egg, then Corn Flake crumbs; back in the egg and then back in the crumbs. You’ll want to keep a damp cloth handy as your hands will get messy.
  • Put the twice-coated fillets in the hot pan and quickly repeat with remaining fillets.
  • Cook for 5 minutes; carefully flip and cook for 5 minutes more.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 2 – 3.

Sauce Gribiche

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg, hardboiled, peeled and chilled
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
  • ½ cup (125 mL) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) chopped dill
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) capers, chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped

Method

  • Put the peeled egg in a saucer; add the mustard and about 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt.
  • With the back of a fork, mash the egg well. Transfer the egg to a high sided medium-sized bowl or two cup (500 mL) glass measure.
  • Add the vinegar and lemon juice and stir quickly to blend.
  • Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously (or use an immersion blender).
  • The mixture should emulsify and become thick and shiny. If not, keep whisking or blending. You can also add a teaspoon or two of cold water and that will help it bind.
  • Stir in the herbs, capers and shallots. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

Makes about ¾ cup (200 mL) of sauce. It’s also excellent on chicken or as a salad dressing.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones

Scones are one of my favourite breakfast or brunch treats. I love them because they are not too sweet and the basic scone dough is so versatile in terms of the fruit and seasonings you can add to it. One of the first items to appear in my spring garden – and one of my favourite spring flavours – is rhubarb; I have also seen local rhubarb at fruit markets this week. Strawberry and rhubarb are a classic pairing; the addition of a generous amount of ginger really perks up the flavour of these scones. You can make them with milk but they are particularly delicious when made with cream. They can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature and I dare you to try to eat just one.

Strawberry and rhubarb are a beautiful combination in pies, jams or these delicious scones which get an extra flavour boost thanks to a generous amount of fresh ginger.

Strawberry and rhubarb are a beautiful combination in pies, jams or these delicious scones which get an extra flavour boost thanks to a generous amount of fresh ginger.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) flour
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) very cold butter
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped rhubarb (1/2” pieces)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy (35%) cream plus 1 tablespoon (15 mL)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder and salt.
  • Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. With two forks, toss the mixture together.
  • Add the rhubarb, strawberries and ginger to the flour and butter mixture; stir to coat the fruit with flour.
  • Pour the 1/2 cup of cream over the flour and fruit mixture. Using a large spoon, stir quickly with just a few strokes to combine.
  • With clean hands, fold the scone dough over itself about ten times, working dry bits into the moist part of the dough. You don’t want to over work the dough as the scones will not be as light and flaky. If your bowl is broad enough, it’s easiest to do it right in the bowl; otherwise dump it out on the counter and work on it there.
  • If your dough seems a little dry, you can add additional cream, one teaspoon at a time. You want a dough that holds together but is slightly sticky.
  • When the flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter (if it’s not already on the counter). Pat it into a circle that is about ¾” (2 cm) thick.
  • Cut the circle into eight wedges and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  • Bake in the lower third of the oven for 12 – 14 minutes, until the tops are beginning to turn golden and a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of a scone comes out clean.
  • Transfer scones to a rack and let cool five minutes, then serve.

Makes 8 large scones.

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, brunch, Fruits and vegetables, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick Herbed Trout Fillets

While I sometimes enjoy getting carried away in the kitchen, preparing elaborate dishes with myriad ingredients, there are days when I just need to get something healthy and tasty on the table FAST. Having Saslove’s, a great butchery with a well-stocked selection of fish, just a couple of blocks from my house is a big help, in terms of both quality products and inspiration. When I saw gorgeous organic trout fillets there the other day, I knew exactly what we would be having for dinner. Trout has a very mild flavour and is often popular with people who are not big fish fans. The fillets cook very quickly under a hot broiler; if you prefer, you can grill them for about the same amount of time but be sure to oil your barbeque’s grates so the fish doesn’t stick. I served the seasoned trout on a bed of orzo cooked in vegetable broth with some shallots and halved cherry tomatoes tossed in; we found it to be a great accompaniment for the fish.

Trout is a mild flavoured fish with a delicate texture; pairing it with herbs and garlic then quickly broiling or grilling makes it super delicious!

Trout is a mild flavoured fish with a delicate texture; pairing it with herbs and garlic then quickly broiling or grilling makes it super delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 large trout fillet (about 400 grams / just under a pound)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary or sage, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges and chopped parsley, for garnish

Method

  • Preheat broiler (or barbeque, if using).
  • Put oil and butter in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat, cook garlic in the oil and butter.
  • After garlic has softened, add rosemary and a bit of salt and pepper to the pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes then remove from heat and add lemon Juice.
  • Cut the fillet into two equal portions and lay them in a glass or ceramic broiler safe dish.
  • Drizzle the sauce over the fillets.
  • (Note: if grilling, you will need to baste the fish frequently with the sauce instead of pouring it over all at once.)
  • Broil or grill for 5 – 7 minutes, until fish flakes easily and internal temperature of the thickest part is 155F. If one of the fillet pieces is a bit thinner, it may cook more quickly so you may need to remove it from heat and let the other piece cook a minute or two longer.
  • Serve fish over orzo, rice, salad or potatoes with a sprinkle of parsley and a wedge of lemon.

Makes 2 servings.

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Freekeh-Greeky Salad

It seems like every time I turn around, someone’s talking about a new superfood. One that’s appearing in discussions lately is freekeh, also known as cracked green wheat. It’s an ancient grain that is high in fibre and has a low glycemic index. It’s super nutritious, super tasty, super easy to prepare and super versatile, so in my mind, that makes it a superfood! It’s so simple to match this healthy, mild-flavoured grain with the elements of a flavourful Greek salad. If you are oven 40 (as I am), OR a huge fan of the movie Little Miss Sunshine (as I most certainly am) I dare you to make, eat or talk about this dish without having the song “Super Freak” roaring through your brain like a runaway train. Long Live Dance Music.

Freekeh makes a great base for Greek Salad, providing a riot of colour, flavour and nutrition.

Freekeh makes a great base for Greek Salad, providing a riot of colour, flavour and nutrition.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freekeh (cracked green wheat)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water plus 2 tablespoons (30 mL)
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) each chopped tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled feta (or vegan substitute)
  • 5 tablespoons (22 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons (22 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each salt, pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried oregano
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) olive oil

Method

One of the best parts of this main-dish or side-dish salad is that it only takes 25 minutes from start to finish to prepare.

One of the best parts of this main-dish or side-dish salad is that it only takes 25 minutes from start to finish to prepare.

  • Combine freekeh and water in a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to low and simmer approx 20 mins until grains are soft and all water has been absorbed.
  • While freekeh cooks, put red onion in a bowl and cover with ice water and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white vinegar and let soak. This will make the raw onions much milder and more pleasant-tasting.
  • Also while freekeh cooks, chop vegetables and crumble cheese.
  • Make dressing by combining vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper and oregano in a small jar with a tight lid. Cover and shake. Add olive oil and shake again.
  • To assemble salad, spread cooked freekeh on the bottom of a rimmed platter or shallow, broad bowl. Top with vegetables and olives. You can make ahead to this point and store at room temperature for up to 2 hours or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
  • Drizzle dressing over salad, then top with feta.

Serves 2 – 3 and can easily be doubled or tripled.

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Pecan-crusted cod with lemon-chive sauce

I love cooking and eating cod because it’s such a versatile, mild-flavoured fish, not to mention being crammed with all sorts of nutritional goodness. I grew up eating it coated in cracker crumbs and panfried; while I still enjoy fish fillets prepared that way, sometimes I just crave a little more flavour. This recipe delivers taste in a big way – and it takes less than 20 minutes to make!

Crispy Panko and sweet pecans make a crunchy, delicate crust for cod fillets that have been dipped in egg and Dijon. Baked rather than fried, this is a tasty, healthy dish!

Crispy Panko and sweet pecans make a crunchy, delicate crust for cod fillets that have been dipped in egg and Dijon. Baked rather than fried, this is a tasty, healthy dish!

Ingredients

  • 2 cod fillets
  • ½ cup (125 mL) very finely chopped pecans (you can do this in a food processor)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil

Lemon-Chive Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) whipping (35%) cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon (5 mL) water
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped chives
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Place a large, heavy-duty, oven-safe skillet (cast iron is ideal) in the oven to get hot while oven preheats.
  • Dry the cod fillets with paper towel and set aside.
  • Combine the chopped pecans and panko in a pie plate or other shallow dish.
  • In a second shallow dish, beat egg and Dijon together till smooth. Add about a half teaspoon (2.5 mL) of freshly ground black pepper and a quarter teaspoon (1.25 mL) of salt.
  • Add the oil to the skillet to heat in the oven while you coat the fish.
  • Dip the fillets in the egg mixture then dip them in pecan-panko mixture so both sides are well-coated.
  • Place the coated fillets in the hot skillet and return it to the oven.
  • After 5 minutes, carefully turn the fillets over. Cook another 5 – 7 minutes or until internal temperature of the thickest part of the fillets is 160F.
  • While fish is cooking, make lemon-chive sauce. Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add shallot and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add white wine and cook until reduced by half (about 2 minutes).
  • Add cream, cornstarch mixture, lemon zest and juice. Cook 2 minutes.
  • Add butter and chives, plus salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm on low heat.
  • Once fillets are cooked and plated, top with a generous amount of lemon-chive sauce.

Serves 2.

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Crispy pan-fried Basa fillets

If you’ve not yet tried Basa, you’re in for a treat. This mild-flavoured white fish is remarkable not only for its delicate taste but also the fact that you won’t find rogue bones lurking in the flesh. Insulating the fish with a creamy paste of avocado before applying the crumb crust ensures the fish won’t dry out as you cook it. I like to serve the fillets on a bed of sautéed herbed onion, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes and chopped black olives, to punch up the flavours on the plate. 

Mild-flavoured Basa fillets taste particularly delicious when wrapped in an avocado paste and dressed in breadcrumbs.

Mild-flavoured Basa fillets taste particularly delicious when wrapped in an avocado paste and dressed in breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 Basa fillets, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 very ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each salt, pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp (2.5 mL to 5 mL) hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped parsley
  • Canola oil (for frying)
  • Lemon wedges (garnish)

Method

  • Peel and mash the avocado in a bowl. Add lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and mayonnaise. Stir to blend well until you have a smooth, thick sauce.
  • With the back of a spoon, spread the fish fillets with the avocado mixture.
  • Put the breadcrumbs in a broad, shallow dish and coat both sides of the fish in crumbs.
  • Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet large enough to hold the fish and give you room to flip the fillets. Heat oil on medium-high.
  • Reduce heat to medium once the oil is hot and add the coated fish to the pan.
  • Cook for 5 minutes; flip and cook for 5 minutes more.

Serves 2.

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