Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Peach Cobbler

    It's summer and it's time to take advantage of all the delirious summer fruits that are now reaching their peak. Peach cobbler is a great summertime classic that can be put together quickly, with ingredients that most people already have in their pantry. I garnish mine with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup, but you can top it with anything you like, or simply enjoy it on its own.  

Let's get one thing straight: I am not a pastry chef. The sad truth about most professional chefs is that they know little to nothing about how to make desserts. Pastry chefs are specially trained to make desserts and most large professional kitchens will have at least one chef dedicated to making desserts, so the line cooks and even the head chef will never have to do much baking. Unfortunately for me this fact has left my dessert repertoire a little lacking. So why am I posting a dessert recipe? Because if I can pull this off, then you the adventurous home cook certainly can too. 

Prep time 20 minutes, cooking time 30 minutes

Peach Cobbler
10 fresh peaches, roughly chopped
100g brown sugar
2 pinches cinnamon 
1 pinch nutmeg
30g butter

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
2/3 cup milk

1. Add the first 5 ingredients to a baking dish and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt & sugar in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and use your hands to incorporate it into the flour.
3. Stir in the milk and then use a spoon to spread the mixture over top of the roasted peaches. 
4. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake until the crust is goldden brown, about 20 minutes.

To serve:
1. Use a knife to cut the top crust into portions, then use a large spoon to transfer the cobbler onto the plates
2. Top with vanilla ice cream and drizzle with caramel or maple syrup.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mahi Mahi with Mango Relish and Tomato Rice

    Mahi Mahi - the fish so nice they named it twice. It's is a tropical fish so it should not be surprising that it goes well with tropical flavors. A good rule of thumb when pairing flavors with meat is to go with what the animal would eat in it's natural environment - pork with apples, rabbit with carrots, deer with blueberries. Now I don't imagine too many mahi mahis are crawling onto the shore to snack on pineapples and mango, yet, somehow this climate based rule of thumb works for fish too. The slightly spicy mango relish is the perfect accompaniment for this meaty fish. The roasted tomato rice is easy to make and can be used as a side to just about anything. The rice takes about 20 minutes to cook, which is just enough time to make the relish and cook the fish.. If you time it right, you can have this dish ready in under 30 minutes.

Prep time, 20 min, cooking time 20 min serves 4

4 filet mahi mahi
1 large mango
1 red bell pepper
1 chili pepper (or 1tsp crushed chilies)
50g onions
2 clove garlic
75ml olive oil
20ml red wine vinegar
2 pints large cherry tomatoes
200ml tomato juice
250g brown rice
1 bunch fresh basil
thyme and rosemary (fresh or dried, optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F( 175C) & light the barbecue. Add the rice and tomato juice to a medium size sauce pot and add 200 ml water. Simmer gently until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. If you have fresh thyme and/or rosemary, you can add a couple springs of each and remove them when the rice is cooked. Alternately you could add one pinch of dried thyme and/or rosemary, but fresh is always preferable.
2. Meanwhile slice 1 1/2 pints of cherry tomatoes in half and place on a roasting try with the remaining cherry tomatoes. Garnish with chopped basil and 1 clove sliced garlic and season with salt & pepper. Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 8 minutes, then stir the chopped tomatoes into the rice and set aside the whole tomatoes for garnish.
3. To make the relish finely dice the mango, chili pepper, red pepper onion and remaining garlic and add to a small sauce pot with the olive oil and vinegar. Gently simmer for 10 minutes
4. Once the barbecue is very hot, lightly brush the mahi mahi filets with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Start the fish on high a heat and cook each side until nicely charred, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat or move the fish to a cooler part of the grill and continue cooking until the fish is just starting to break at the touch of a fork, about another 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

To serve:
1. Divide the tomato rice among 4 plates
2. Place 1 filet on each pile of rice.
3. Garnish each fish with mango relish, roasted tomatoes and a couple leaves of fresh basil.     

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Asian Style Scallop Ceviche

     I love shellfish. Lobster, crab, oysters - the whole lot. But I especially love scallops. Seared scallops are great, but like oysters, they are also really good raw. When buying scallops, it's always preferrable to get them at a fish market rather than a supermarket because generally the ones you'll find will be of a higher quality. When serving scallops raw or rare it's important to get the freshest possible product. Often fresh scallops are pumped with water and preservatives, or might have been previously frozen. To avoid this, ask your fishmonger for "fresh, dry scallops."
       This recipe is a "fusion" of two culionary styles.  It takes as its starting point the classic South American dish ceviche, and adds in some Asian flavours. Ceviche can be any seafood that is marinated in citrus juice and chilies. The acid from the citrus will "cook" the scallops without any heat. The Asian influence come from the addition of sesame oil, pickled ginger and soy sauce. I garnish the ceviche with a generous helping of seaweed salad. Seaweed salad can be found in most Asian markets, but is also becomimg more common at regular supermarkets. If you cannot find any, simply garmish the dish with a few sprigs of cilantro instead.

800g   fresh scallops
 50g    Pickled ginger
   1      chili pepper
200g   seaweed salad
  2 tbs sesame oil
  3       limes, juiced
  2 tps olive oil
           salt & pepper

Start to finish: 30 minutes, serves 4

1. Finely chop the chili and the pickled ginger and combine with the lime juice, olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce.
2. Thinly slice the scallops and cover with the marinade. Refrigerate the marinated scallops for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes you will notice that the lime juice in the marinade has cooked the scallops. The longer you leave the scallops in the marinade, the more they will cook. I like the scallops to still be a bit raw when I serve them, but if you like you can leave the scallops even longer to get more of a cooked texture.

To serve:
1. Spread the marinated scallops evenly across the center of four plates.
2. Place a pile of seaweed salad in the center of each plate.
3. Drizzle over top some of the remaining marinade. Serve with chopsticks.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Breaded Pork Chop with Rhubarb Jam and Sauteed Greens

   When I tasted the rhubarb, apple & maple jam from my last post one thought lept to mind: "Dear Lord this would go great with pork chops!" And lo, it did. I found some beautiful, thick cut pork chops and breaded them in the classic style. It's just like Shake & Bake, but without the preservatives. I used plain bread crumbs to keep things simple, but you can jazz up the bread crumbs with anything you like. I suggest trying some fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary. If you want to save time, you can skip the breading entirely. The combination of the rhubarb jam and sauteed greens would also go well with grilled pork chops.     

     The accompaniment to the pork chop is sauteed rapini (brocolli rabe) and dandelion leaves. The bitterness of the dandelion leaves helps cut through the sweetness of the jam and brings balance to the dish. If you cannot find dandelion leaves, or simply want to use something with a milder flavor, you can use arugula or spinach instead. Before sauteing the vegetables I blanch them in salted boiling water. Blanching is useful techinque to add to your culinary repertoire for number of reasons. Firstly, most vegetables will turn out much better after roasting or sauteing if they are blanched first. An example of this is the roasted potatoes from my eggs benedict recipe. Blanching is also useful because you can precook each vegetable separately to the perfect doneness and then saute them together so that they are ready at the same time. This is key in this recipe because the rapini needs to be cooked for 3 minutes, but the dandilion leaves will cook in seconds.  

Start to finish 30 minutes. Serves 4

    4    thick cut pork chops
    1    bunch rapini
    1    bunch dandelion leaves,
          roughly chopped
    2    cloves garlic, thinly sliced
200g   flour
    3    eggs
100ml milk
200g breadcrumbs
200ml rhubarb, apple & maple jam
olive oil, salt & pepper
1. Place a baking tray in the oven and preheat to 425F (220C) Whisk the milk & eggs together and pour in a plate. Spread the flour and breadcrumbs on two other plates.
2. Dredge the pork chops, one at a time, in the flour, then the egg wash, then the breadcrumbs.
3. Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Set the breaded pork chops on the heated tray. The chops should sizzle when they hit the tray. If you don't hear a nice sizzling sound when the chops hit the tray, then it is not hot enough. If that is the case, set the chops aside and return the tray to the oven until it is hot enough.
4. Cook the pork chops until golden brown on each side, about 7 minutes per side.
5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place the rapini in the water and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked rapini to a bowl of ice water. Next, place the dandelion leaves in the water until wilted, about 45 seconds. Transfer the dandelion leave to the bowl of ice water, then drain when cooled.

To serve:
1. Heat a large frying pan with a small amount of olive oil and sautée the rapini and dandelion leaves on medium heat until warmed through, but not browned. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Divide vegetables on the center of 4 plates.
2. Place the cooked pork chops over the vegetables.
3. Top each pork chop with warm rhubarb, apple & maple jam