Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pan Roasted Quail with Beetroot Couscous

        This recipe is definitely a bit of work, but it's a great dish for when you are having a small number of friends over for dinner and you want to impress them. The vibrant colours should get some oohhs & ahhh's and the rich flavours will have your guests swooning. If you find the dish as a whole a bit too daunting to take on, you can try making just one element at a time first. The red beet coucous is great with chicken or fish. The glazed onions would go well with just about anything. They're awesome with grilled flank steak. If you practice each element with other recipes that you've already perfected , making the complete quail dish will be a piece of cake. Then you'll be ready for when it's time to have the in-laws over.

                   Recently, a wine maker in Niagara Valley gave me a bottle of Ice Syrup to try and I though it was pretty delicious, so I decided use it to glaze the cipollini onions. It's a non-alcoholic syrup made using the same grapes used to make ice wine. It's similar to maple syrup, but instead of a woody flavour, it has a nice grapiness to it. If you can't find Ice Syrup, you can use ice wine and a little sugar to glaze the onions instead.

Start to finish: 1 hour. Makes 4 appetizers


4 quails, de-boned
2 cups couscous
2 cups red beets, peel & chopped
12 cipollini onions
3 tbs butter
60ml (2oz) Ice Syrup (or 2oz ice wine + 2tbs sugar)
12 cherry tomatoes
olive oil, salt & pepper
mustard sprouts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F

1. Boil the beets in salted water until soft. Strain the beets, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Place the couscous in a large mixing bowl. Add the 2 cups cooking water while it is still hot and stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and add 1 tbs butter and the cipollini onions. Sautée on medium-high heat until the onions start to brown. Add the Ice Syrup and then lower the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the onions are soft and glazed.

3. Generously season both sides of each quail with salt & pepper. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large frying pan and then add the quails skin side down. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. You can fry the quails in batches of 2. Fry the quails on medium high until the skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the quails, skin side up, to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the boiled beets and cherry tomatoes on the baking tray. Drizzle the beets and tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast in the oven until the quails are cooked, about 8-10 minutes.    

To serve: Reheat the couscous on the stove with a bit of olive oil. Divide the couscous among 4 plates. Top with the beets, cherry tomatoes and then one quail. Add the glazed onions along with extra syrup from the pan. Garnish with mustard sprouts. 


Friday, August 10, 2012

Melon Soup with Prosciutto Chips

            This ice cold melon soup is a bowl of pure refreshment on a hot day. It's a play on the classic combo of prosciutto and melon, but with a little twist. I first saw my friends Max do this dish a few years ago, and I thought this re-invention was pure genius. The pureed melon is smooth and delicious and the  prosciutto chips add a nice salty crunch. The idea of adding orange juice and honey come from Pascal, the head chef at Chez Ma Grosse Truie Cheri. The honey and orange juice help make the texture extra smooth and the add to the soup's flavour without distracting from the taste of the melon. A bit of fresh herbs will brighten up the flavour even more.  I like using lemon balm, but mint and basil also work really well.


2 cups honeydew melon, peeled  & chopped
2 cups canteloupe , peeled & chopped
2 cups watermellon, peeled & cubed
2 cups orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon balm, finely chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 350F

1. Lay the slices of prosciutto in a single layer, without touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven until crispy, about 10 - 15 minutes. How long they take will depend on the thickness of the prosciutto. Keep a close eye one them because they can burn easily.

2. To peel the melons, cut them into wedges and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Run the knife along the bottom to remove the peel. Cut the canteloupe and honeydew into rough pieces and then place in the blender. Cut the watermelon into small cubes and then put it the fridge until ready to serve. Check the watermelon for seeds as you cube it.

3. Combine the honeydew, canteloupe, honey & lemon juice in the blender. Blend on low for one minute and then on high for one minute more. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour, or in the freezer for 10 minutes.

To serve: Divide the soup among bowls, leaving room for the watermelon. Add a generous amount of cubed watermelon to each bowl. Garnish with fresh lemon balm & a prosciutto chip.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dill & Cucumber Shrimp Salad

     We're just getting into mid August now, and these are the real Dog Days of summer. No surprise, this has been a particularly hot one. I was trying to think of some refreshing cool dishes to post and this came to mind. After all, what's cooler than a cucumber? This cucumber & shrimp salad is easy to make and super tasty. The small pink shrimp are delicious slathered in homemade mayonaise and a healthy amount of lemon juice brings some real zing.

       I use cold-water northern shrimp, a.k.a. pink shrimp to make this salad. They are the tiny, bright pink shrimp that are fished from the cold Atlantic waters of the norther U.S. and here in Canada. In my humble opinion, the best ones come from Matane, in the Gaspé region of Quebec. Because of their short shelf-life, northern shrimp are usually sold pre-cooked and pre-peeled, making them really easy to use. While you can use pretty much any shrimp to make this recipe, I find that northern shrimp are really the best choice for this kind of salad. They are so good covered in mayo, and their soft, melting texture is the perfect balance for the crunch of the cucumber. I like to use the small Lebanese cucumbers because they are extra crunchy. If you can't find any, English cucumbers work well too.

Prep time: 10 minutes. Serves 4


400g northern shrimp
4 Lebanese cucumbers or 1English cucumber
250ml (1/2 cup) homemade mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoon lemon juice
4 lemon wedges
salt & pepper

1. Place the shrimp in a strainer and gently rinse in cold water. Press down with a paper towel to remove excess water. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and the stir in the lemon juice.
2. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well, season with salt & pepper.
3. Divide the salad among 4 bowls. Garnish each salad with a sprig of dill and 1 lemon wedge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homemade Mayonnaise

      Like most people, I consider mayonnaise a minor miracle. A thick smear of mayo in a B.L.T is pure heaven. A lobster roll would be lost without it. What I find most miraculous about mayonnaise is that it's luxurious taste and texture come from mixing together just 3 ingredients: eggs, vinegar and oil. A little bit of lemon juice and mustard will help give it that extra little something-something. When you're making you're own mayonnaise, you can always throw in some extra flavours, like fresh basil or Sriracha. I add bit of fresh dill to make a dressing for the salad I'll be posting in the next couple days.

Prep time 10 minutes, makes 2 cups mayonnaise


 2 egg yolks
 30ml (2 tbs) lemon juice
 30ml (2 tbs) white vinegar
 30ml (2 tbs)  dijon mustard
500ml (2 cups) vegetable oil
 15ml (2 tbs) water
salt & pepper

      In a blender, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, white vinegar & mustard and blend on medium-high speed. While the blender is going, gradually add oil in a slow steady stream. Add a couple tablespoons of room temperature water to loosen then mayo. Season with salt & pepper.

       Health note: This recipe uses raw egg yolks, so there are a couple things you need to be mindful of. The safest option is to use pasteurized eggs, but regular eggs are fine so long as they are as fresh as possible. Using regular eggs for this recipe poses about the same health risk as eating cooked eggs with a runny yolk. Homemade mayo should be kept refridgerated and discarded after 3 days.