RECIPE: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pears, Bacon and Stilton

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Butternut Squash is in season! By roasting the butternut squash, the flavour is concentrated and turns it into a delicious ingredient to be used in salads or soups.

The recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/roasted-butternut-squash-salad.aspx) with some changes: watercress and romaine lettuce hearts were used instead of escarole (due to availability); fresh thyme was added, the plating and serving style is also different.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as appetizer)

1 Large butternut squash (approximately 3 lbs), 5 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, 6 slices of thick sliced double smoked bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces), 2 medium firm ripe pears (Bartlett or Anjou – cleaned, peeled, cored, sliced 1/8 inch thick), 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (use the nicest one you can get), 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, two romaine lettuce hearts and handful of fresh watercress, 6 oz of Stilton cheese (crumbled).

Preparation:

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 450°F.

Cut off the narrow top portion of the squash close to where it widens (reserve the base for other use); peel and slice it into 12 thin (about 1/4-inch) rounds.

Brush both sides of the squash with olive oil (1 Tablespoon) and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme on both sides.IMG_0032

Roast, turning once only, until softened and browned, approximately 25 minutes (Keep an eye on them!)

Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel to drain the fat. (The bacon bits can be prepared earlier; I prefer the “splatter free” method: bacon slices bake in the oven, transfer to plate lined with paper towel to absorb extra fat, after they cool, chop into small pieces) 

In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Slowly whisk in the remaining 4 Tablespoons oil; season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

In a large bowl, toss the watercress and romaine lettuce with enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly, season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the pears and tossed salad greens on 4 large dinner plates, top with butternut squash, add drizzle of vinaigrette, then sprinkle with the bacon and Stilton cheese to serve.  Be creative!

Notes:

Escarole is a variety of endive family, the leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of endive family.

Stilton is an English cheese, Neal’s Yard Stilton was used in this recipe (Purchased from Whole Foods. Stilton cheese is not readily available at any regular supermarket, it’s usually available at specialty cheese/food stores only). Watercress has a peppery taste, very little were used in this recipe.

Bacon from Gelderman Farm (http://www.geldermanfarms.ca/, purchased at the Trout Lake Vancouver Farmer’s Market)

RECIPE: Braised Pacific Wild Cod with Leeks and Shimeji Mushrooms

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This was a recent weekend experiment based on an older #Fine Cooking’s recipe (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/braised-pacific-halibut-leeks-mushrooms-clams.aspx); pacific wild cod was used instead of halibut, clams were omitted and shimeji mushrooms were used.  The cod is very delicate, be sure not to overcook and handle with the fish with extra care while serving.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, 4 packages of shimeji mushrooms (can be found in Asian supermarkets), 3 large leeks (white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, about 4 cups), kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, 3 cups low sodium organic chicken broth (or homemade , 4 pieces Pacific wild cod (medium size, 6 ounces), 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (for garnish, parsley infused oil will be a good option), black truffle salt**optional 

Preparation:

Melt the butter over medium heat in Dutch Oven.

Add leeks to pan, cook for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms; season lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned,  approximately 7 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

Pat dry the cod with paper towel; portion the fish (same size to cook evenly) then season both sides with salt and pepper. Gently place (nestle) the fish among the vegetables in the Dutch Oven.

Bring the broth back to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to low. Cook gently until the fish is just cooked through (approximately 8 minutes, I used a knife to “peek” and check for doneness, colour changes from translucent to opaque).

Serve the fish in shallow soup bowls (preferably warmed), topped with leeks and mushrooms, ladle the broth. For finishing touches, sprinkle a hint of black truffle salt (optional, do not overuse as it’s overpowering) and garnish with chopped parsley*.

*Additional notes:

The black truffle salt is optional – My friend Haruko brought me a jar from Italy as a present (Thank you so much!). We used very little to finish the dish and it was stunning!  Since we didn’t use the clams, the truffle salt added more depth and flavour to the broth. Perhaps a few drops of parsley infused oil will round off the dish nicely than the chopped parsley.  If you have time and the ingredients (do not throw away the roast chicken caucus), it is worthwhile to make your own chicken stock and have it ready for use in the freezer anytime.  We had a salad as a first course and I will post the recipe later (OO).

You can use olive oil instead of butter (1/2 cup butter = 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil), or combine together to enhance the flavour.

#Fine Cooking offers many excellent basic cooking tips, other than Rouxbe, I use the website and cookbooks/magazines as reference all the time.

RECIPE: Deb Perelman’s Mushroom Bourguignon

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Fall is here and mushrooms are in season! This is the best time to utilize this versatile and healthy ingredient. For the past few weeks, “Mushrooms Sunday” have become a norm…

This is one of my favourite Deb Perelman’s dish (http://smittenkitchen.com/) – the Mushroom Bourguignona scrumptuous and wonderful meatless adaption of the French flavoured classic which can be prepared with moderate amount of effort and minimal cooking time.  A couple weeks ago, I prepared this dish together with my friend for a Sunday night dinner; the recipe is adapted from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, we have made slight changes (*marked) based on our dietary preferences.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

2 Tablespoons olive oil, 2 Tablespoons organic butter (softened), 2 pounds mixed mushrooms *(we used Portobello and cremini, in 1/4 inch slices, cremini mushrooms all quartered); 1 1/2 cup of pearl onions (peeled), 1/2 carrot (finely diced), 1 medium* yellow onion (finely diced), 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried), Kosher salt*, freshly ground pepper, 2 garlic cloves (minced), 1 cup full bodied red wine, 3 Tablespoons* tomato paste, 1 1/2 to 2 cups *low sodium* organic beef broth (use vegetarian broth to make it vegetarian), 1 1/2 Tablespoons rice flour* (all purpose flour works), Pappardelle pasta* for serving, greek yogurt* and chopped chives or parsley for garnish (optional)

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Preparation:

-Clean all mushrooms, removed gills from Portobello mushrooms), blanched and peeled pearl onions

– Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in medium sized Dutch oven (or heavy saucepan) over high heat; sear the mushrooms and pearl onions until they begin to take on a little colour for approximately 3 to 4 minutes.  The mushrooms will make a “squeak-squeak” (just as Deb Perelman puts it in her book, you can actually hear it !) sound as they are pushed around the hot pan – and they do not yet release any liquid.  Remove mushrooms and onions from the pan and set aside.

– Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Cook carrot, diced onion, thyme, pinches of salt and black pepper in the pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is slightly caramelized.  Add the garlic, cook for additional 1 minute, season with more salt and pepper.

– Add wine to the pot to deglaze and scrape all brown bits off the bottom, turn heat up and reduce it by half (takes approximately 5 minutes).  Stir in the tomato paste and stock, add the mushrooms and pearl onions with any juices that have collected and bring it to a boil; bring it down to simmer for 15 minutes, or until both the mushrooms and onions are very tender.IMG_0015

-Combine flour and remaining butter (roux) with fork, through a small strainer (to avoid forming any lumps), stir mixture into the stew, let it simmer in lower heat until stew thickens to a “coating” consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

– Prepare noodles in salted boiling water (follow instructions on package), drain thoroughly.

IMG_0034– To serve, spoon the stew over the bowl of noodles, add dollop of greek yogurt (if using) and sprinkle with optional chives or parsley.

– The stew is full of flavour already when enjoyed on same day; reheats very well on the second and third!  The beef is not missed at all…Enjoy!

RECIPE: Spicy and Sour Thai Soup with Sea Bass

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This is a simple recipe (Tom Klong Plaa Kra Phong, a nice dish to try other than Tom Yum Goong) from Blue Elephant Cooking School in Bangkok, Thailand; I took a half day class (4 dishes plus visit to local street market) during my short visit in December 2012. Classes are available year-round at two locations, Bangkok and Phuket:  http://www.blueelephant.com/cooking-school/.  

The portion is for 1 person, please adjust accordingly. Conversion: 1 gram = 0.035274 ounces

Ingredients:

80 grams Sea Bass (Fillet and cut into bite size pieces), 200 Grams Chicken Stock

(I’ve used Pacific Cod and works just as well; fish stock can be used in place of chicken stock)

Vegetables and Herbs:

10 grams shallot (crushed), 4 thin slices galangal, 1 coriander root (crushed), 5 birds eye chili (crushed), 3 stems Thai saw coriander (cut 1 cm in length (can substitute with regular coriander), 1 stem lemongrass (bruised, crushed into pieces), 1 kaffir lime leave (torn, no stem), 2 dried chilies

Seasoning:

1 1/2 Tablespoon Fish Sauce, 1 1/2 Tablespoon Tamarind juice, 1/4 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
(this is the basic ratio, you can always adjust according to taste)

Preparation:

– Prepare the vegetables and herbs (sliced, diced, grind – always have everything ready!)

– Using medium heat, dry roast lemon grass, galangal, shallot and dried chillies until their aromas develop (don’t burn them)

– Add stock, bring to boil, add coriander root and kaffir lime

– Add fish, cook well and do not stir (our instructor emphasized this as stirring will break the fish into small pieces); when bubbling, add seasoning and gently mix well, taste and adjust if necessary.

– Once boiled, remove from heat and add crushed birds eye chillies, coriander and lime juice

– Remove coriander root prior to serving, enjoy!

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Spicy and Sour Soup with Sea Bass, Thai Green Curry (in background) – we enjoyed the dishes at the dining room after class completed. Will go again for sure when I visit Bangkok next time.

Here’s the picture of the dish I made at the school:

**Galangal is not the same as ginger and is commonly used in Thai cooking. The cooking process for this root is the same as cooking ginger, it has a peppery flavour and commonly used in soups, curries and stir fried dishes.  I found the vacuumed packed galangal here in Vancouver at Gourmet Warehouse (imported from Blue Elephant).  Since Thai food is so popular everywhere, this ingredient may be available at your local Asian grocery stores.

Recipe: Lemon Tart Filling and Meringue

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This is the lemon curd filling and French meringue recipe, courtesy of Chef Christophe (chef instructor at http://www.nwcav.com/).  It is absolutely delicious and one of the best I’ve ever tasted, the ratio of tartness to sweetness is just perfect.

LEMON TART (Yields 4 portions)

Due to the extensive length of explanation for the Sweet Paste (for the tart dough), I will only post the recipe which was used in class that evening: instructions can be found easily on internet.

Recipe yields 620g – enough for 2 10″ pies

100 g Sugar, 200 g Butter, 1 whole Egg Yolk, 300 g Cake Flour, 1 g Vanilla Essence, 1 Pinch Lemon Zest

Lemon Curd Filling: 

Juice of 4 lemons, Juice of 1 orange, 2 whole egg, 4 egg yolks, 6 Tablespoons Sugar, 4 teaspoons cornstarch, 6 Tablespoon cold butter, cubed, Zest of 2 lemon (don’t get to the pith), Zest of 1 orange (no pith please)

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Method:

– In saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch and orange juice, ensuring you have no lumps

– Add lemon juice, zests, stir and stir in eggs (must be room temperature)

– Whisk on medium heat until thickened, remove from heat.

– Stir in butter (set the custard and this gives it flavour)

– Cool, and fill in blind baked tarts (prepared separately)

– Chill overnight.  To serve, top with meringue and torch (be careful!!)

Remember, Patience is Virtue! and no Scorching!

Meringue (French meringue)

2 Egg whites (75g), 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Method:

-Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peak

– Slowly (like snowfall), add the sugar while whisking.  Use within 1 hour.

– Use Piping bag to decorate the tart with meringue; creme brulee torch use to “burn” the meringue, remember to follow the instructions and exercise extra caution!

Recipe: Seared Halibut Cheeks with Seasonal Vegetable Puree

Our group's finished dish!
Our group’s finished dish! Not as pretty as Chef’s but not too shabby for the first try.

This is the Halibut Cheek recipe, courtesy of Chef Curtis Webb (http://vancouvercateringcompany.com/ class instructor at http://www.nwcav.com).

The instructions are based on my notes; I made this dish for Father’s Day Dinner and my family loved it!  Due to “cheek shortage” at the market, I had to improvise and use halibut fillet; it worked just as well.

Ingredients: (serves 3-4 PPL)

Halibut Cheeks (2-3 per person; Vancouverites, cheeks can be purchased at Granville Island (http://granvilleisland.com/)

15 pc nugget (different varieties) potatoes, 3 bay leaves, 1 tbs salt, 1 liter of water, 3 sprigs of thyme, 2 Tbs Butter

Mixed Mushroom Puree: 2 cups Mixed (button, brown) mushrooms, rough chopped, 1 pc chopped shallot and 1 clove chopped garlic, 1/2 thumb ginger (grated), 1/2 cup cream, white wine

Shaved Vegetable salad: Asparagus, Beets (boiled), Baby Lettuce, Carrots and Radish with Citrus Vinaigrette (1/4 tsp lemon juice, 1tsp Extra Virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste)

Preparation:

Boil potatoes in cold water and salt (use enough water to cover potatoes), cook through, drain and set aside

In hot pan add shallot, garlic and ginger (cook until translucent), add mushroom and “sweat” the vegetables, when all liquid evaporated, add wine to deglaze, then cream and cook until fork tender.  Puree in blender set aside.

Prepare vegetable salad:

Vegetables all prepared, later toss in citrus vinaigrette
Vegetables all prepared, later toss in citrus vinaigrette

Beets (boiled, use rag to remove skin, slice with mandoline (be extra careful when using one), Asparagus (can be eaten raw or parboiled quickly in hot water and “shock” in ice bath in order to retain the crispness) then thinly sliced using vegetable peeler, Carrots (peeled, thinly sliced using peeler) and Radish (thinly sliced easier with mandoline).  Prepare vinaigrette and set aside.  Can soak vegetables in cold water to retain the colour (it will lose some flavour). Be careful when using mandoline to shave the vegetables!

To finish the dish: 

Strain the vegetables, lightly toss in vinaigrette, reheat potatoes in separate frying pan using butter, bay leave and thyme, season accordingly; reheat mushroom sauce (there’s cream, low heat)

Halibut cheeks – pat dry, season with salt and pepper, add to Hot pan (use low smoking point oil) and seared (2-3 minutes per side,cooking time depends on thickness of cheek, translucent appearance turns opaque when done).

To assemble: Spoon mushroom sauce on serving plate, then potatoes (remove bay leave/thyme), place halibut cheeks, then garnish with shaved vegetable salad. Enjoy!