Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots & Figs

I, like everyone else in North America right now, am a bit obsessed with Yottem Ottolenghi. My copy of “Jerusalem” is littered with so many post-it notes that it resembles something from “A Beautiful Mind”. I have turned to Yottem on many a special occasion and my sister’s birthday was no exception. After mixing and matching dishes from “Jerusalem” and “Plenty”, his vegetarian offering, I had it sorted. We would celebrate with a menu of Braised Quail with Dried Apricots, Steamed Rice with Herbs, and Roasted Beet And Fennel Salad.

The first time I make a dish, I normally follow the recipe religiously. However, when I caught myself pondering whether or not the spices would be better toasted, I knew I was going rogue.

Braised Cornish Game Hens with Apricots and Figs

Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots and Figs
(adapted from “Jerusalem”)

  • 2 Corish Game Hens, butterflied and halved down the breast bone. You can just as easily use a chicken, quartered.
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1.5 tsp dried chile flakes
  • 0.5 tsp coarse salt
  • healthy dose of ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/2 c dried figs, sliced
  • 1/8 c raisins
  • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tamarind paste
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 c water
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish

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Strawberry Cake – Hold the Cow (aka Dairy Free)

This post has as much to do with my family tree as it does food. You may need a flow chart to follow along…

I have a sister. She is a very, very, very lovely sister. She has a boyfriend. He is also lovely. Recently, he discovered that he is allergic to dairy. Not so lovely :(

Have I mentioned I also have two lovely cousins? It’s true. These two cousins also have lovely parents who were in town to help their children (the cousins) prepare for their upcoming adventure to Thailand. I wanted to make a cake to celebrate their visit but also wanted aforementioned boyfriend to be able to enjoy it. So I fired up the internet to see if there was such a thing as a dairy-free cake (I know, I know…I am new to this whole alternative diet thing).

I came across this recipe on the WholeFoods Market website. You can find the original here. I tweaked it slightly to compensate for the sad state of my pantry. The result; a very moist and flavourful cake. It was also a very pretty shade of pink if that matters.

Dairy Free Strawberry Cake

Dairy-Free Strawberry Cake

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. pureed strawberries – can use frozen but at this time of year, why would you?

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Sunday Dinner – Chicken Bouillabaisse

I was feeling sort of French on Sunday. I think it was due to the fact that we finally made it to Pied-A-Terre, a beautiful restaurant down the street, the night before. So lovely….a sophisticated room with a menu to match. Definitely left me wanting more.
So there I was, Sunday, leafing through my cookbooks when I came across a recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse. Chicken? Really? I had always associated this dish with fish. However Ina Gartner (aka the Barefoot Contessa) had a different take on it. Now, totally confused, I decided to do some research. According to Wikipedia, bouillabaisse is derived from the Provencal Occitan (a dialect spoken in south of France/Spain) words “Bolhir” (to boil) and “Abaissar” (to simmer). So, it seems as though the term references the cooking method, as opposed to the ingredients. Mystery solved – although in hindsight, I don’t think I had ever bothered to translate bouillabaisse any further than “yummy fish soup”….tres french, non?
Chicken Bouillabaisse
Adapted from Ina Garnter
  • 3 lbs chicken (I used thighs but you can mix it up with whatever parts you like)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Tsp saffron threads
  • 1/8 c. pernod (I didn’t have any so I used cognac – equally as lovely, or you can skip it entirely)
  • 1 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lb yellow fleshed potatoes (I like Yukon Gold, but that’s just me)

Killer Kebabs – Sirloin with Mustard Soy Glaze

When I sit down to write a post, I usually figure out the recipe first, upload the photo and then turn my mind to writing the preamble. There is something funny about WordPress (or something funny about my limited skills with WordPress, I should say) that won’t allow you to insert text above a photo that is already loaded. I usually plug in some silly and random words before adding the photo so I don’t run into this problem. When I opened up this post to finish it off, I realize that my placeholder text read “yum, yum, yum, meat on a stick, yum, yum, yum”. Really, I don’t think I have much more to add.

Sirloin Kebabs with Mustard Soy Glaze
adapted from a recipe by Lucy Waverman

  • 2 lb sirloin steak
  • 20 or so button mushrooms
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • olive oil

Mustard Soy Glaze

  • 1/4 c dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • toasted sesame seeds (optional)

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Marinated Flank Steak with Pacific Rim Glaze

Someone older and wiser once told me that a good marriage was one “filled with compromises”. I am not sure if I totally agree with this bit of wisdom but I do know that there is a certain art  to give and take. This is why I happily volunteered to organize the basement one recent Saturday morning as the weather began to warm up. In return, my husband donned the rubber gloves and took part in a ritual that dates back to the earliest days of man kind…the cleaning of the BBQ. Between you and me, I would declare myself the winner of that bargain.

Speaking of clean BBQs…now that I have one, I thought I should share one of my favourite grilling recipes with you. I actually posted this way back in August as a part of a menu (Dinner for 5 in Under an Hour) but it is so good and so simple that it needs it’s own entry.

Marinated Flank Steak with Pacific Rim Glaze
Adapted from Saveur

  • 1 c. teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/8 c. honey
  • 1/3 c. fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and smashed (go for 2 if you love garlic as much as I do)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger
  • liberal amounts of fresh ground pepper
  • 1.5 – 2lb flank steak
  • orange slices
  • rosemary spears

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Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Leeks & Gorgonzola

I am about to state a fact that many of you who read this blog may have concluded on your own. I cannot photograph food. Yes, I can point the camera in the general direction of my subject and even manage to push the button. I just can’t produce those small works of art that you will find on so many other blogs out there. If you go here, here, here, here, here and most decidedly here, you will see what I mean.

Worse than my poorly lit, slightly fuzzy efforts are the nights where I sit down to a great meal and realize that my camera is resting peacefully in its case, unbothered by my exploits in the kitchen. To be honest, there are some fantastic dishes that have gone unposted as I didn’t have time/completely forgot to document them visually. For example, the Chicken Masala with Cucumber Raita and Roasted Carrots with Cumin Seeds we had on Saturday was truly great. The Braised Fennel in Cream from last week was a hit.  The Bolognese Sauce on Sunday was one of my best.

So…new policy. Photos or not, here I come.

A photo that has nothing to do with leeks or gorgonzola!

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Leeks & Gorgonzola
adapted from Canadian Living

  • 4 chicken boneless chicken breasts (with or without skin…your preference)
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white & light green parts, washed and chopped into half moons
  • 1/4 c. cooking sherry (or you can substitute chicken stock or even white wine)
  • 1/4 crumbled gorgonzola TIP: put this in the freezer when you get home, it is easier to crumble when it is really cold.
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • coarse salt and pepper

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Braised Short Ribs with Tuscan Herbs

A friend of mine, who is a talented cook in his own right commented that I need something with “more fat” on my front page…too many vegetables in his opinion. I thought this dish would please him…lots of meat…rich sauce….nice spices.

What I really like about braised short ribs is that most of the work is done in the oven. There is some chopping to do on the front end, but it is the slow heat breaking down the collagen that gives these dishes their beautiful taste and texture.

Braised Short Ribs with Tuscan Herbs (or “congrats on your new job, sis” ribs)
Served with Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Roasted Beets with Honey & Thyme

  • 3-4 lb of beef short ribs
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, washed and diced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp oregano, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 c. + 1/2 c. red wine
  • 1 1/3 c. beef stock
  • 2/3 water
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

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Fancy Fish – Baked Salmon with Spinach & Marscapone

My step-daughter is a very lovely young woman who doesn’t often make requests from the kitchen, so when she does…I am happy to oblige. Christmas Eve dinner is a big deal in our house and this is her favourite dish for the occasion. So every year I head out a few days before Christmas to pick up the ingredients. I might also mention that it is at this time that I am reminded about two things….1) marscapone is nearly impossible to find at Christmas time and 2) wow…it is expensive. Having said all of that…it is totally worth both the time and the expense to track some down because this salmon is amazing. Truly… and simple. Really.

Baked Salmon with Spinach & Marscapone
adapted from Bon Apetit

  • 10-ounce bag fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (about 4 ounces), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 8 good size salmon fillets with skin…they must be about 1 inch thick so you can stuff them with goodness
  • glug of olive oil
  • 2 2/3 cups fresh breadcrumbs … I use ones that are quite fine with excellent results
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

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Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary

When it is really hot and sweaty outside…say mid-July, I find myself reminiscing about cooler weather and all the food that goes along with it. Thick and hearty stews, braised meats and yes, roasted vegetables. I swear that you can roast anything with a great result (I am going to be experimenting with beets this weekend if all goes well).

Here is one of my favourites…butternut squash with rosemary and maple syrup. You can serve this as a delicious side or it can also work as a filling for some beautiful stuffed pasta.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary

  • 1 or 2 butternut squash, depending on how many people you are feeding
  • large glug of olive oil
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c. maple syrup (depending on how much squash you are using) + 1 tsp.
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (optional…also optional to add more if you love it)
  • 4-6 sprigs of rosemary

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Fancy Veg – Carrots Glazed with Marsala

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that despite having eaten my fair share of carrots in my life, I know relatively little about them. I decided to do some research. It turns out there are four main types of carrots; Imperators, Nantes, Danvers and Chantenay, which are determined by the size and the depth that carrots grow. Carrots also come in various shapes and sizes; from the long, taper like shape that most of us are familiar with to completely round balls. You may also see their glory in shades of orange, white, yellow, purple and the very rare black. Wow…a whole new world of carrots for me.

Now, here is a recipe that is guaranteed to be wonderful with any shape or size of carrots that you choose. It is my favourite combination of elegant and easy.

Carrots Glazed with Marsala

  • 2 bunches of whatever type of carrot you like, washed and sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c. marsala
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • large pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

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