No words are enough to describe the beauty of the turquoise colored water and the soft white sand. One could see their feet in the crystal waters of the sea as clearly as in the swimming pool. The air is humid but the clean waters blended with the occasional cocktail serve as a cure to all.
Running away from the cold weather for a brief vacation, in less than four hours we arrived at a beautiful house situated on the edge of a white sandy beach, tucked in among the tall palm trees and far enough from the strong ocean waves. A culinary beach house experience begins
Wow! most certainly, it is an awakening.
One day at a time!
After a relaxing morning walk, we arrived to relish a delightful breakfast that was prepared by our chef Eric. Fresh squeezed juices alongside organic poached eggs on a bed of Spinach five days of Paradise Island wonder!
Midmorning, relaxing at Coral House, Gentle Caribbean breezes and sun-kissed beaches of Grace Bay, with a virgin cocktail created by the house attendants and served to us each in our own dedicated spot .
Lots of activities going on all the time!
From Yoga to hobie catamaran, kayaks & wind surf boards exercises in the ocean throughout the day. My favorite sports were– beach volleyball & tennis.
The early afternoon was dedicated to body and soul, a wellness delicacy on the terrace of our room deep muscle therapy to heighten the enjoyment even further.
The time is passing by quickly!
Chef Eric preparing a very tasty meal is sharing his inner most secrets. He honors us with a mini cooking demonstration. With fresh local ingredients: of avocado & lobster spring roll and zesty mango salad. Under a semi covered gazebo we devour this absolutely delicious appetizer while we sip on our martini beside the pool , Before the sunset .
A colorful martini that is not like the martini I am used to ( Turktini ) a mixture of:
- 1 oz. Orange Vodka
- 1 oz. Cointreau liqueur or Tequila
- 1/2 oz. pomegranate Juice
- Shake ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, pour in martini glass
- Top with a splash of ginger ale and garnish with lemon and lime twists
After sunset and this is when the true magic begins an evening of culinary adventures where chef Eric took us into a themed tasting menu and each course unlike the next, embodies the flavor of the island. An experience that reveals farm and sea to table with uncompromising dedication to fresh ingredients,
He said to me the only frozen things I have in this kitchen are ice cubes, for the cocktails.
Moving along to the dining table we started with Mediterranean first course of saffron bass with couscous and olive tapenade with followed by a Filipino chicken dish and risotto and finish off with pear almond frangipane
Avocado & Lobster spring Rolls with mango salad
- 10 rice spring roll wraps
- 3 cooked 10 oz. lobster tails
- 1 whole egg beaten
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 whole lemon juiced
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 10. Oz cornstarch
- Chopped coriander
- Salt& pepper to taste
- Oil for frying
- Slice the lobster meat season with cayenne pepper and chopped coriander and set aside
- Slice the avocado and season with lemon juice salt and pepper to taste and set aside
- Place the spring roll wrapper on flat surface, spoon a small amount of lobster and two slices of avocado in the middle
- Bring the bottom of the wrap up to the top, fold in both sides and upward brushing with egg mixture and dusted with cornstarch to seal the roll
- Repeat until all finished place in the refrigerator until ready to cook
- In deep frying pan fry the spring roll until crispy golden brown
- 1bunch fresh coriander leave picked and Some for garnish
- 5 oz crushed peanuts
- 1/2 red and green pepper thinly sliced
- 1/2 thinly sliced red onion
- 2 whole stalk green scallions
- 2 mangos julienned
- In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients toss with the Thai dressing and garnish with crushed peanuts
- 1cup lime juice
- 3 clove garlic crushed
- 3/4 cup fish sauce
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 3 tbsp. soya sauce
- 3 red chilli seeded and finely chopped
- Mix all ingredients until sugar has dissolved
On dinner plate placed the mixed salad in the middle of the plate with two lobster spring roll while they are hot
Poached Sea Bass in Saffron broth, with Chorizo couscous
Tomato Confit & Black olive tapenade
I love olives and Tomato, so I absolutely loved this recipe “the combination of the ingredients is phenomenal” and really make the dish Delicious! Great flavor with saffron poach sea bass
Poached sea bass
- 4 sea bass fillets, approximately 6 ounces each
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups fish broth or clam juice
- ¾ cups Pernod
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
- Salt and pepper to taste
Method for poaching fish:
- Combine all ingredients except fish and bring to a boil season with salt and pepper to taste
- Place the fish filets into the stock making sure that the fish is covered Cook gently for 4-5 minute.
For the tomato broth
- 4 pound vines ripe tomato
- 1 cup chopped shallots
- 2/3 cup garlic
- 6 oz. balsamic
- 2 fresh chilli peppers
- 5 bay leaves
- 3.5 oz. fresh thyme
- 3.5 oz. fresh rosemary
- White Pepper and salt to taste
- Chop all ingredients and blend to sauce consistency
- Strain in cheese cloth or very fine sieve so the tomatoes can release the clear broth
Tomato Confit Ingredients
- 4 whole vine ripe tomatoes cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp. Garlic
- 2 tbsp. Shallots
- 5 tsp. Thyme
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt &peppers to taste
- Wash and cut the tomato into wedges And Drizzle with olive oil
- Place the tomato on baking tray sprinkle with fine chopped garlic shallots and thyme
- Bake on very low heat for 45minute to an hour
- Season with salt and pepper and set aside
- 1 cup couscous
- 2 cup chicken stock
- 3.5 oz. chorizo sausage chopped
- 1 table spoon chopped fennel
- 1table spoon of capers
- 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
- 1 tsp. shallots
- 1tsp fresh rosemary chopped
- 1 tsp. chopped parsley
- 1 1sp orange zest
- 1tsp lemon zest
- 3 table spoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Heat up the extra virgin olive oil, add the chopped chorizo sausage add in the garlic and the shallots, capers and fennel
- Stir in the couscous and add the chicken broth.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, bring to boil, remove from the heat add in the zest of lemons and oranges and let it sit to absorb the moisture
- 1 cup of black Kalamata olive pitted
- ¼ cup of pine nuts
- 1tsp.Fresh thyme
- 1tsp.Fresh rosemary
- 1tabp. Shallots
- 1tsp. Parsley
- 1tsp. Orange and lemon zest
Roast the garlic shallots and pine nuts then blend all ingredients together until becomes a smooth paste
Chicken Adobo with herb risotto
Preferably (for the white vinegar DATU PUTI– For the soya sauce MARCA PINA Filipino Brand)
- 4 lb. Boneless chicken, cut in chunks
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 3 pieces shallots, sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 pieces bay leaves
- 1 tsp. Ground black peppercorn
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 pieces green chilies, chopped
- 2/3 cup white vinegar
- 1/3-cup soy sauce
- One Sliced ripe mangos for garnish
- In a Dutch oven or a stainless steel pot, heat oil on a medium heat. Add garlic, cook until Colden brown.
- Add shallots and bay leaves. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until softened;
- Add peppercorn and brown sugar then the chicken pieces.
- Bring to high heat, stirring chicken to incorporate seasonings. And cook chicken half way.
- Add in vinegar, do not stir, let to evaporate most acidity leaving on high heat; After 3 to 4 minutes start tossing and stirring chicken. Pour soy sauce then stir to incorporate well.
- Cover pot, lower the heat and let it simmer. Stir in occasionally to prevent chicken from sticking to the pot, cook until sauce thickens and flavor intensifies about 15 to 20 minutes,
- Add little more soy for more seasoning.
- Consistency of sauce should coat the back of the spoon and thick enough to cover chicken pieces, yet flavorful, salty and sweet and a bit spicy.
- Top with browned garlic, scallion and garnish with mango slices.
This classic risotto is flooded with fresh herbs at the very end of cooking. Serve it as a main dish or a side. Also For this recipe you can Use a combination of sweet herbs and vivid-tasting salad greens, like wild arugula.
- 7 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, chives, chervil, dill, basil, chives and arugula (4 cups leaves)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup finely chopped onion or leek
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon Blanc
- Freshly ground pepper and Salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Put your stock or broth into a saucepan, and bring it to a simmer on the stove, with a ladle nearby or in the pot. Make sure that it is well seasoned. Combine the herbs and one of the minced garlic cloves in a bowl, and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or saucepan. Add the onion or leek and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook gently until it is just tender, about three minutes. Do not brown.
- Stir in the rice and the remaining three cloves of garlic, and stir just until the grains of rice become separate and begin to crackle.
- Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed.
- Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladleful’s (about 1/2 cup) at a time.
- The stock should just cover the rice and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. When the rice is just tender all the way through but still chewy, usually in 20 to 25 minutes, it is done.
- Taste now and correct seasoning.
- Add another ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir in the herbs, pepper, lemon zest and juice, and Parmesan, and remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy. Serve right away.
Yield: Serves six.
Pear Bruschetta with almond Cream
Rustic fruit bruschetta (essentially, a fruit tart with a bread crust)
This pear bruschetta, with its layer of creamy almond frangipane flavored with kirsch, is a comforting, late-winter incarnation.
- Four 1/3-inch-thick slices of sourdough bread, 5-by-3-inches (6 ounces)
- 3/4 cup roasted, skinned almond (3 ounces), chopped ½ for garnish
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons kirsch liqueur
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, chilled
- 2 large, ripe Bartlett pears
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Put the bread slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and lightly toast for about 7 minutes.
- In a food processor, finely grind 1/2 cup of the roasted almond Transfer to a bowl. Add the confectioners’ sugar and butter and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the kirsch and vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
- Spread the almond cream on the toasts.
- Peel, halve and core the pears. Slice each pear half lengthwise 1/4 inch thick; spread them into fans. Brush with lemon juice. Using a spatula, transfer the pear fans to the toasts. Dust the pears with confectioners’ sugar.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the almond cream is set and nicely browned. Dust the toasts with confectioners’ sugar and scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of chopped roasted almond over the top.
- Serve right away.
Hope we inspire you in the kitchen with these flavours. Spring and summer are on the way!
Seasons play an important role in how we eat and ultimately define our food culture.
With the holiday season behind us, January brings resolutions to set right all the indulgences of the past month. It’s bitterly cold weather is better geared towards hearty stews and hearty root vegetables.
A great month for steamy saucy casseroles and simple dishes and soups that are warming and delicious.
In my household, January is the month of soup. Many soups are not only easy to prepare but can also be very economical.
Better still; with the wide range of produce available to us soups are an excellent natural source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins.
There are lots of variations on the basic theme of soups; from thick & creamy known as a Bisque or Chowder, to the water-based and healthier broth of consommé, and the vegetable-laden chilli and gazpacho.
As with many recipes, this soup comes with an interesting back story about one of its ingredients.
When introduced to Europe from Canada in 1605, they were well received and enjoyed a quick burst of popularity that is still here today.
Jerusalem artichokes have a tendency to collapse when cooked which makes them perfect to use in soup.
There are so many versions of the Jerusalem artichokes soup and my favourite is the Escoffier version. It includes roasted hazelnut and enriched with cream. It has a classic sweet, nutty flavour which works very well with garnish of crispy pancetta, smoked ham, shaved black truffle or smoked salmon.
Jerusalem artichokes make great chips and can be used raw and grated in salads provided they are coated with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
- 1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, picking ones with the fewest nodules so they’re easy to peel
- Bowl of cold water with 2 Tablespoon of lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons, butter
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 2 stalks celery (no leaves), chopped
- 8 cups chicken stock or (vegetable stock)
- 2 cups milk
- 3 Tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, finely crushed
- 2/3 cup double cream (heavy cream)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and dice into rough pieces. Place in lemon juice and water to prevent discolouration.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan add in the onions and celery. Cook for several minutes then add in Jerusalem artichokes and stir to coat.
- Cook on a low heat covered for 6 – 8 minutes. Add the milk and stock and cook for 20 minutes until the chokes are tender.
- In blender, puree the soup, solids first, and then return to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste, and return to a simmer.
- When you’re ready to serve ladle the soup into the bowls, place dollops of the heavy cream on top of each and sprinkle with the crushed toasted hazelnut
Mom’s Free Range Chicken with Rice
One of my favourite dishes for January is made with free range chicken. It is absolutely magnificent when cooked and combined with robust flavours of fresh herbs and warm spices such as cinnamon and allspice.
While cooking the bird, baste regularly whether you’re roasting or poaching in a saucepan to help keep the moisture.
My favourite Lebanese dish, which my mom used to make, is Chicken & Rice with ground meat, Pine Nuts, Almonds & Cinnamon.
This is an easy and impressive looking dish that is uncomplicated and economical for your next dinner party.
Preparation Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 50 min
Number of servings: 8
- 1 x 1.2 kg free range chicken cut into pieces (or 2 large chicken breasts skin and bone in)
- 500 g finely ground lamb
- 2 cups long grain rice (Basmati)
- 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
- 20 g of butter (approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1 small onion, (finely chopped)
- 1/4 cup raw pine nuts, roasted
- 1/4 cup almonds, roasted
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 litres of water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper & 1 teaspoon salt
- In a frying pan, lightly sear chicken pieces on both sides in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Remove and put in a saucepan. The chicken shouldn’t be completely cooked.
- In saucepan, pour 2 litres of water over the chicken pieces and let it boil. As the water boils, remove with a spoon any foam that might formed on the water surface. Discard.
- Once the foam is removed, add one large chopped onion, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and bay leaves to the water.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken from the saucepan and set aside. Strain the broth and keep aside for later use.
- In a deep pot, sauté minced lamb in its own juices for 10 minutes, stirring and breaking up lumps. Add butter, and small finely chopped onion with salt and cinnamon and allspice and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes till minced lamb is lightly brown and a little toasted.
- Wash and drain rice then mix in the cooked minced lamb. Add 4 cups of the broth. Cover and let it simmer for 25 min or until rice is well cooked.
- While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken into nice neat pieces.
- Fry nuts with 5 tablespoon of olive oil till golden. Remove and drain oil. Place nuts on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
- Arrange chicken pieces neatly over serving bowl. Place cooked rice on top, then place a plate over and revert it carefully. Sprinkle on top with the roasted almonds and pine nuts
- Serve the dish with a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, romaine lettuce and mint with lemon garlic dressing or with cucumber, yogurt& mint salad
In the early days of my career, having just moved away from home, I worked as a waiter, restaurant manager, bus boy, dish washer and everything in between.
There was a flight of stairs between the dining room floor and the kitchen and I used to run up and down daily. I started to get terrible pains in my legs until my doctor told me I’d been running the equivalent of a marathon!
I decided to go on a sabbatical by moving from the front of the house to the back where the kitchen became my new life, and the rest is history as they say.
Cooking has always been my greatest passion. It got me started on opening up my own company in Toronto creating incredible “Moveable Feasts” which were inspired by the beauty of the city and its exquisite multicultural cuisine.
Our summer has led us to an abundance of autumn produce bringing in the delicious Crumble apples & pears and root vegetables.
I always enjoy working with local farmers and using their seasonal produce and introducing Lebanese cuisine through my experience over the years.
Being an abstract painter myself, I can truly say that I am also an Artist of the taste buds. Recently I braised a whole chicken with celeriac, carrots, and roasted butternut squash with thyme from my garden which added a fantastic flavour to this delicious slow cooked dish.
With October and its Halloween’s pumpkin carving fun behind us, November is the month to start gearing up for the festive season. It is a good time to try out and perfect all your new recipes while you still have the time.
So What I’ve included for November is canapés and holiday treats.
Where did the word Canapé come from?
A canapé is a type of hors d’oeuvre, or single-bite food, which is traditionally made with a base of a small piece of bread with some sort of topping .It is usually a decorative food of various shapes, held in the fingers to eat.
The origin of the word canapé is very curious. The name comes from the French word for “couch” drawing on the analogy that the garnish sits atop the bread as people do a couch
Watermelon, grapefruit & King crab
- 1/2 medium-sized watermelon, peeled, seeded and cubed
- 1 whole grapefruit – segments cut in half
- 1 lb. king crab legs shelled and the meat cut into 32 small pieces, keep chilled
- 1/2 bunch fresh Florida basil leaves
- 8 six-inch bamboo skewers
- Cut the watermelon flesh into 3cm (1¼ inch) cubes. Using a melon baller scoop a tiny amount from the top of each cube
- To divide grapefruits segments, simply cut off the top and bottom of the fruit and stand it up on one end. Slice downward to cut away the skin and pith, moving around until all is removed. Holding the fruit over a bowl, slice along the sides of each membrane to release segments.
- To assemble, alternate, watermelon cubes and torn basil leaves king crab grapefruits segments on skewers
- Serve immediately. With your favourite white wine or sparkling champagne
Great appetizer- for a children’s party delicious, easy to make recipes that kids love and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
- 1 basket of cherry tomatoes
- 200 grams sugar
- 100ml water
- 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- Wash cherry tomatoes, dry them and Prick them with a wooden skewer then place them on the board ready for dipping.
- Prepare caramel by mixing water and sugar .Boil until the caramel sets. It will start to darken at the edges of the pan. Then mix the sesame seeds and sea salt together.
- Dip skewers of tomatoes in the caramel mixture then roll it in the sesame and salt mixture.
- You must work quickly before the caramel hardens. (If the caramel hardens too fast, warm it up a little)
- Let it cool for a few minutes and serve
Caramelized Onion Tart
Gruyère makes this an outstanding dish!
A great appetizer or a main course Pair with a simple green salad or some fresh tomatoes.
- 3 Large Yellow Onions – Julienned
- 2 tsp. Chopped Garlic
- 1 tsp. Chopped Thyme
- 3 tbsp. oil
- 1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
- 3 Tbsp. Chopped Chives
- 1/4 Cup Grated Gruyere
- 4 Eggs
- 2 tbsp. Cream
- 2 tbsp. Sour Cream
- 4 3″-4″ Tart Shells
- Salt & Pepper to Taste
- Over medium-high heat, caramelized the onions in 3 Tbs of oil
- When onions are almost ready, add the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Mix together the eggs, cream and sour cream with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper.
- Spoon some of the caramelized onions into the tarts then sprinkle with some of the chives and cheese then pour the egg mixture just below the top of the shells.
- Bake at 400 degrees until egg is set – about 10-15 minutes
NOTES: You may have some onions, chives, and cheese and egg mixture left over. That’s alright. Just make another tart or two then you can freeze the finished tarts for another day.
Also Use the egg mixture base as a springboard to your own tart masterpiece. Try adding bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. Make it your own.
Red Beet Arancini Risotto
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 2 tablespoons salt
- ¼ cup Cabernet Sauvignon
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup Parmesan, plus extra for serving, grated
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup red beet purée (one medium sized head of beet)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 oz. frozen goat cheese, diced into small pieces
- 4 cups flour
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 4 cups bread crumbs
- 2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
- In a medium sauce pot heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. Add the salt and Cabernet Sauvignon and keep stirring until all of the wine evaporates.
- Add ½ cup of broth and stir constantly until the broth is absorbed into the rice. Repeat this step until all of the broth is used and the rice is tender. The consistency of the rice at this point should be creamy; if it is sticky or dry, add more water until it is soft and pourable (meaning, if poured onto a plate it will run flat and not hold its shape).
- Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, Parmesan, beet purée and balsamic vinegar. Pour into a shallow dish and refrigerate until cool.
- Boil red beets until they are tender.
- Cool, peel and purée beats in a blender using a tiny bit of olive oil to help everything mix together.
- Make the rice balls and coat with bread crumbs
- Once cool, scoop up two tablespoons of the rice mixture and form into a little ball while pushing a piece of goat cheese into the centre. Be sure the cheese stays in small pieces. (If the rice is too loose, fold in some bread crumbs to give it enough body to hold its shape.) Repeat with the remainder of the rice and Goat cheese.
- Roll each rice ball first in the flour, then dredge it in the beaten egg, and roll it well in the breadcrumbs. Place on a sheet pan. Refrigerate for up to two days, or freeze.
- In a large heavy saucepan preheat the oil to 350°F. Add the Arancini and fry until golden brown on all sides (about 3-5 minutes). Using a slotted spoon carefully remove from the oil and Strain onto a wire rack.
- Serve immediately or Keep warm in a heated oven, serve hot.
Granny smith apple Clafouti with Goat’s Cheese
Makes about 24 bites
- 2 whole apple peeled and diced
- ½ cup crumbled goat’s cheese/feta
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a big mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, salt & pepper.
- Distribute the diced apple and goat and the parmesan cheese into a greased mini muffin tin.
Spoon egg mixture into each cup over the diced apple and cheese mixture
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the egg mixture is cooked. When the center of the clafouti is set, remove from the oven and let cool
- To serve, finish with a dollop of goat cheese and garnish with some baby cress
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 1 red pepper cut into 1/2cm strips
1 carrot, cut into 1/2cm strips
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut a slit down the center of each chicken breast, without going all the way through, and then open it flat.
- Spread a layer of plastic wrap on your work surface and place one opened breast on it. Place a second layer of plastic wrap over the chicken and then pound it flat using a meat tenderizer
- Roll pounded chicken breast around your roulade filling, and then tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Grab ends of plastic wrap as shown in photos below, and use a counter twisting motion to form the roulade into a tight cylinder.
- Once the cylinder forms roll the roulade on your work surface, pushing it away from you in rapid motions, while still holding the plastic wrap ends repeat this motion a few times until the plastic wrap builds tension and the roulade is noticeably tight.
- Poach in water and simmer (180ºF/82ºC) for 18-20 minutes. Remove from poaching liquid and chill in an ice bath.
- These roulades are to be served cold with the perfect relish
When I was a kid this was a huge family production where my mom and I would get together and devote days to cleaning, skinning, cooking and preserving tomatoes and making apple and quince jam for the winter. Our kitchen was buzzing; I can still remember the sweet smell of it all.
While I could go on forever, tomatoes are my favorite fruit and I feel that this is the best time to enjoy their rich flavour with a little salt and pepper and nice pita triangle and a glass of Arak
Arak is a distilled alcoholic drink commonly used in social settings; the drink is famous for its potency, and the milky-white color it turns when water is added. Arak has high alcohol content, so water and ice are almost always added.
I remember my dad telling me about Arak and the drink’s nick-name being “the milk of lions,”
The grapes are hand-harvested in September and gently crushed in a press to obtain the best grape juice. The traditional method is a 12 to 15 day fermentation period. The juice is put into traditional Moorish lid copper stills for the distillation.
A slow heat is required for the distillation process .The vapors travel through the copper pipes, into a cooling device. Then the vapor from the juice condenses into alcohol, and drips into a vat. The distillation process is repeated a second time, and the third distillation is combined with the very best quality green anise seed
So I ask why three times? The first gives you alcohol, the second distillation removes impurities from the alcohol and the third gives the Arak its purity and distinction.
Beefsteak tomatoes are my favorite, freshly cut, sprinkled with some Arak and salt and crushed pepper
Lebanese cuisine is loaded with tomatoes like many of our stews and fresh salads such as Tabouli and Fatouch
September is the month when tomatoes are plentiful and therefore less expensive and that is why it was a month of activity in my Mom’s kitchen. Preserving the taste of her garden and stocking her pantry: from tomato ketchup to tomato paste to tomato sauce, along with the abounding availability of jams and jelly, whole grains, and beans for the winter.
Quince (‘spherrjeel’ in Arabic)
When cooked, quince often tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear and sometimes has the aroma of a tropical fruit. Due to their high pectin content, they are perfect for use in jams and jellies. They are ideal for poaching, stewing, or baking as a dessert. There are many ways to use quince but this time it is all about my mom’s kitchen and some of her recipes. She prepared the jam in a very different method allowing the jam to simmer for two hours and the result was an intensely caramelized and gorgeously thick quince jam that perfumed the entire house with its cinnamon aromas
Birthdays were a very special occasion and one where no one could stop eating! For dinner kefta kebab on the BBQ, slow cooked eggplant with a whole braised clove of garlic in tomatoes, chickpeas and herbs sauce. A big garden salad and steamed asparagus, watermelon and feta cheese, some garden harvest tomatoes that make this gorgeous and rustic peasant salad ( fattoush salad).
A combination of intense flavours of arugula and other garden greens with fresh mint and crunchy fresh radishes with toasted pita bread that hold their shape and absorb juice from the tomato and the tangy flavours of the sumac dressing. Do yourself a favor and hurry and make this salad now before the tomatoes are gone for the season they won’t be around much longer and I can’t think of a better dish for that final taste of summer.
September weather is also a highlight for me. Why? It is the absolute best time for eating locally. Our markets are still full of tomatoes and zucchini, and the last of the peaches and apricot plums– At this time of year it’s possible to have garden tomatoes on the same plate as root vegetables.
Homemade Tomato paste is really just tomatoes that have been reduced…and reduced…and reduced some more! The results are certainly worth the time! Rich, savory paste with strong, concentrated tomato flavour that is one of absolute essential kitchen ingredients It is used in small quantities to season various foods and sauces.
-4 pounds of end-of-season overripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
-1-2 teaspoons of sea salt
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Roughly chop Tomatoes into small pieces and process in a food mill, processor, and blender until well pulped.
Put the tomatoes in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low heat and cook for 15 minutes.
- While they’re still at a sauce-like consistency take them off the heat
- Strain the mixture using a strainer, suspend it over a bowl. Leave to drain to remove all excess liquid. Reserve all the liquid and discard the peel and the seeds. Return the tomatoes to the sauce pan and add in the salt
- The tomatoes have a tendency to burn so keep cooking the tomatoes uncovered
- Stirring every so often until they’ve reached a thick, paste-like consistency Lower the heat further if necessary. You should see steam coming off the tomatoes
- Spoon into sterilized glass jars, taking care to avoid creating air pockets, and top with 1/4 inch of extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover completely). Store in the refrigerator until ready to use
The perfect relish
There’s nothing like harvesting the tomatoes from your garden. I prefer roasting the tomato then sun drying them.
-500 g (18 oz) cherry tomatoes cut in half
-500 g (2 1/4 cups) caster sugar
-2 lemons, zested and juiced
-3 whole red chillies pepper
-Handful fresh thyme
- In a large bowl place the tomatoes and cover with the sugar.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave on your countertop overnight.
- Transfer the tomato mixture (lots of natural juices will have extracted over night) to a large pot with the chillies, fresh thyme, lemon zest and juice.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes. It should be sticky jam consistency.
- Ladle into clean, sterilized jars. And seal immediately. Lower into the water Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes Remove from water and cool on the counter, then remove jars from the pot and place the jars on a towel-lined countertop.
- Let them cool undisturbed for at least 6 – 12 hours. During this time, the lids should seal. Check to ensure the jars have sealed by pushing down on the centre of the lid. If it feels solid and doesn’t move, it is sealed Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.
Apricot Jam -Mourabah el Mishmoush
Of all the jams I make, this one remains my favorite. Letting the fruit and sugar macerate together before cooking mellows the sweetness and helps thickens the final product without the need for long cooking. This preserves the fruit’s naturally vivid flavor and color.
-4 cups apricots
-4 cups sugar
-2 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Wash and Halve apricots and pop out pits
- In a bowl, toss apricots, sugar, and lemon juice together in a glass or stainless steel bowl. And let stand Cover with a towel and set aside for about 4 hours. at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator Stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve evenly
- In heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot and bring to a boil over medium,
- Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, Remove scum when necessary Cook for another 8 minutes, until the fruit looks translucent and is beginning to break down it’s easy to scorch it at this stage, so stir frequently and don’t wander off.
- Add lemon juice Scoop a small amount of juice onto a clean metal spoon. Tip the spoon sideways and let juice run off the edge.
- When juice has reached the jelly point, the last few drops will look thicker and run together into one viscous drop. Remove from heat. Ladle into clean, sterilized jars. Yield: 4 to 5 8-oz jars.
Quince Jam – Mourabah el Sefargal
-4 cups quince washed, peeled, cored and cut into cubes.
-4 cups sugar
-2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1. Wash, peel and shred quince. In bowl, cover with sugar and let stand for at least 4 hours.
2. In saucepan, over low flame simmer for approx. 30-40 minutes until the quince is soft, occasionally stirring. Constantly remove scum.
3. Cook, until the mixture has caramelized and is very thick, deep orange color
4. When thick, remove from fire and add 2T of lemon juice and pour the thick jam in sterilized jars. Seal with lids.
Kofta kebabs with minted yoghurt and Tomato sweet onion salad
-900g/2lb minced lamb
-2 onions, finely grated
-6 garlic cloves, crushed
-2 tsp dried chilli flakes
-1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
-oil for brushing
-Freshly ground black pepper
-200g/7oz Greek natural yoghurt
-2 tbsp chopped mint
Tomato Sweet Onion Salad
-1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
-2 vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
-Salt to taste
-3/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries
-salt & black pepper, to taste
-1cups fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat a charcoal barbecue 40 minutes ahead of cooking or a gas barbecue 10 minutes ahead of cooking. If using a cast-iron griddle pan, heat it over a high heat, then lower the heat slightly before cooking.
- Cover eight bamboo skewers with cold water and leave them to soak.
- Put the minced lamb into a bowl with the onions, garlic, chilli flakes, parsley, one teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix together with your hands until bound together.
- Divide the mixture into eight and mould it into long sausage shapes around the drained bamboo skewers.
- Brush the kofta generously with oil and lightly oil the bars of the barbecue or griddle.
- Cook for five minutes, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through.
Mix the yoghurt with the mint, half a teaspoon of salt and some pepper and set aside.
- Sliced tomatoes and onion & chop parsley sumac salad
- Slice the tomato and place on serving plates
- Mix the onion parcely and sumac together toss with lemon juice and olive oil place on the top of the tomato Lay the kofta on top, and serve with the minted yogurt.
First an early morning, then a two-and half hour drive to get to a small town called Dorset which straddles the border of Muskoka & Halliburton Highlands. My first weekend trip to the cottage after a cold bleak winter
I really can’t wait!
After that long drive, reaching the cottage involves all means of transportation. You have to wait for the ice to go out on the lake as it is the only way to the cottage.
The first trip of the season is by water taxi as our boat is on shore at the cottage, anchored to the dock standing at point of Jackson’s bay. Wow, it is paradise!
Staring at the lake I stand outside because it clears my mind. Not just being outside but the whole cottage experience. It makes me feel so relaxed, so at ease, so at home. I sleep like the proverbial log here. The food tastes better; even cooking a meal is more fun.
We watch for shooting stars as there are so many stars to see in the night sky up north!
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words
and never stops – at all.” Emily Dickson
As I am listening to loons call for rain, as the sweet smelling wind blows around my head with last year’s leaves rustling under my feet, I rake the pathway to the cottage and the outside fire pit. The Barbeque is fired up!
All ready to go!
The story of this cottage goes back 30 years to when my friend fell in love with this house
Not even a teenager yet, he always asked the late owner if he would sell him the cottage.
He grew up with the determination that one day he will buy the property!
The cottage sat empty for long time!
A few years ago the owner of the cottage died leaving the cottage to his daughter who was not interested in cottage life.
So my friend jumped in and approached the daughter and made her an offer to buy the cottage.
Her response was what took you so long?
I do remember you at a very young age telling my dad that one day you will look after his cottage. I am glad that you are going to do so. I had so many other offers but I would not sell it to anybody else.
When I first stepped onto this tiny island, I immediately asked myself, “He was not kidding me?
My first encounter at the cottage was The Four Elements (Air, Fire, Earth, and Water)
This completely blew my mind. The trees in the forest, the smell of woods, the sound of the lake the sense of nature, (Process these fragment of nature are hand embroidered and illustrated seen of god in beautifulmuted colours!)
The nearest store is Robinson’s general Store; it involved a boat and a car ride so you only go if absolutely necessary
Without disappointment there is no better place to enjoy!
Ontario Rack of Lamb Crusted with Pistachio
From taste to texture and even color, Lebanon is the inspiration for this multi-faceted dish.
While the flavors are traditional, the approach is modern
- 2 lamb racks, trimmed, 2-21/2lb each
- 1tbsp harissa paste
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup finely ground Sicilian pistachios
- Salt & ground white pepper
- In a shallow container, coat the lamb racks with the harissa, oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Marinate, covered, overnight in the refrigerator.
- Puree the pistachios in a food processor until powdery and set aside
- Remove the lamb from the marinade, and wipe off excess oil; season all over
- Preheat the BBQ to 350″F or a medium-high heat
- From the marinade remove the bay leave and in a blender blend in garlic and herbs to use for basting
- Place the lamb on the BBQ and sear on one side for approximately 4 minutes, while basting Turn the chops over and sear on the Second side continuing to baste for another 4 minutes or until medium rare
- Remove from BBQ then coat with the grounded pistachio and let it Rest for 4 minutes before cutting and serving
Roasted eggplant with garden vegetables and minted yogurt sauce
- 6 mini sized or medium sized eggplants, halved
- Salt for drawing out any bitterness
- 6-8 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 red pepper (capsicums) (I used one red and one orange), diced
- 3 tomatoes, diced
- 1 teaspoon harissa (or more, to taste – I used a heaped teaspoon!)
- 2 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Small bunch parsley leaves picked and chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Trim the stems from the eggplant, and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the pulp from the center of each half, leaving about 1⁄2-inch shell of flesh
- Remove the flesh from the eggplant using a sharp knife being sure not to cut through the skin. I found it easiest to cut around the edge of the eggplant and then make a few vertical cuts and then use a knife to remove the flesh. Chop the eggplant flesh into small cubes and place it in a colander
- Sprinkle salt over the chopped cubes of eggplant and over the eggplant skins and leave for 30 minutes to draw any bitterness
- Brush the eggplant halves inside and out with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Roast in a hot oven (200C/390F) for 15 minutes while you make the filling.
- Heat the remaining oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a frying pan over high heat add the garlic, the onion and chopped eggplant and stir constantly until starting to brown (5-6 minutes).
- Add the mushrooms and cook until wilted (5 mins). Add in the dice peppers Allow any moisture that is released to evaporate and then toss in the diced tomato. Stir to combine until the tomatoes have softened slightly (2 mins).
- Take off the heat and mix in the harissa and parsley leaves. Season with cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste
- Place the eggplant skins on the lined baking tray and brush with oil. Fill with the vegetable mixture and top Drizzle some more oil on top and around the sides of the eggplant and bake for 35-40 minutes or until very soft. Serve with extra parsley
Minted yogurt sauce
- 2 cups yogurt
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Mix all ingredients together with the yogurt. Place a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl,
- Strain overnight, in refrigerator adjust the season and serve with eggplant.
Chickpea Panisse with Tahini Sauce
I Pan fried my panisses in my cast iron skillet
You can use vegetable oil, or olive oil but I find that olive oil add to the flavour of the panisses
- 1 quart (1l) water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 1/4 cups (285g) chickpea flour
- Olive oil, for frying
- coarse salt and freshly-cracked pepper, for serving
- Lightly oil a 9-inch (23 cm) square cake pan, or similar sized vessel.
- Heat the water with the oil and salt in a saucepan. Once hot but not boiling whisk in the chickpea flour
- Whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about three minutes.
- Switch to a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes until very thick and the batter holds its shape.
- Scrape into the oiled pan and let cool.
- Cut into batons about as wide as your fourth finger and as long as your middle one. To fry the panisses,
- In a heavy-duty skillet, heat 1/4-1/2 inch (1-2 cm) of olive oil. In hot oil fry the panisses in batches, not crowding them in the pan until golden brown on each side
- Remove from pan and drain on paper towels, Continue frying the rest, heating more oil in the pan as needed sprinkling them very generously with sea salt and pepper. Don’t be stingy with either. Served warm
- Makes about 30, more or less
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Mince garlic, then mash to a paste with sea salt.
- Whisk together garlic paste and remaining ingredients until combined well.
A favorite treat at bonfires
S’mores is a sticky gooey treat made of marshmallow, graham crackers and chocolate. They are wonderful!
You will need: Sticks (live, green sticks) long enough to hold the marshmallows in the fire without burning yourself and shaved off at the end to take off the bark and make a point.
A fire with lots of red coals
Ingredients for each S’more:
- 1 whole Graham cracker
- ¼ of a chocolate bar where ¼ is 4 pieces
- 1 marshmallow
Making the S’mores
- Take ½ of the Graham cracker and lay the chocolate piece on it ready to go.
- Take 1 marshmallow and jam it onto the end of a stick.
- Cook the marshmallow until golden brown.
- Take the cooked marshmallow still on the stick over to the prepared Graham cracker.
- Carefully lay the marshmallow down onto the graham cracker and chocolate.
- Place the other Graham cracker on top and remove the stick from the marshmallow
- Note (When the S’mores is fully assembled, let it sit for a few seconds. The heat will somewhat melt the chocolate and you won’t burn your mouth!
- Now smooch together and eat it. Make sure to lick the “marshmallow goo” that slides out the sides!!
Enjoy the gooey mess!
Easter for me is considered the most important Christian celebration!
My family took us to church making sure that we were wearing new clothes or, if they couldn’t afford a total new outfit, at least we had a new pair of shoes.
For the Shanineh (Palm Sunday) celebration church bells were ringing and the crowds waved olive branches as they made their way in a procession around the church. Children carrying candles decorated with olive branches and flowers tied with ribbons, are carried on their parents’ shoulders, traditionally in our house the most exciting activity was preparing the eggs which we colored for egg-cracking games on Easter morning.
My mom would decorate the house before Easter with Branches and painted eggs, spring flowers in the centre of a table with nests made out of moss and leaves filed with multi-coloured chocolate eggs.
Chocolate is an essential component when celebrating Easter. In many patisseries, chocolateries, great attention to detail results in chocolate eggs looking more like pieces of art than anything edible.
Easter Sunday is spent visiting relatives and friends, usually for a short time and children playing the egg-cracking games. In each household we visited we were offered Maamoul and Easter holiday cookies along with other delicacies and of course Chocolates!!!
I especially like Easter in Canada when it corresponds with maple syrup season.
This past Saturday a group of maple enthusiasts gathered at the lake of bay cottage to make maple syrup. Although I have no previous experience, I was keen to try it out. It was a long day collecting sap and boiling for hours to produce Real maple syrup. A treat that can be enjoyed year round thanks to my friend in Lake of Bay who harvests this sweet sap from his maple trees.
In the late winter and early spring when temperatures begin to rise during the day, but still fall at night, is when sap can be harvested.
This sugaring season is when trees are tapped, using a drill, to make a hole that’s small enough to hold a Spile.
Ian Karn and Sue Barker said the tree is like a thermometer. Spring temperatures warm the sap in the root of the maple tree and the sap begins to travel up the tree toward the buds. Snow on the ground helps cool the sap so that it rises slowly to a perfect condition to extract the sap before it reaches the buds
It’s a slow and steady process that sees countless drips of sap drop into the bucket before being collected and taken into the sugar house.
Then the sap is poured into an evaporator that quickly boils off the sap’s water,
If using a large outdoor pan, you may not have enough syrup to maintain the depth needed to prevent scorching. Always have at least 2.5 centimeters of sap in the evaporating pan.
As you boil, keep adding more sap to maintain this level. If you are boiling the sap on an outdoor fire, then move it to an indoor stove for the final stages. Using The Hydrometer for measuring the density of maple syrup the syrup needs to have a temperature less than 20°C, to concentrate it into thick syrup.
Then we strain the hot syrup through a felt filter to remove the sugar sand this sand can also be settled out in the jars, The syrup can then be poured into hot sterile jars and sealed The sugar content preserves the syrup. If the sugar content is too low, the syrup may spoil. Syrup that grows mold can be filtered and re-boiled with no damage to the flavour. So for every 43 L sap that we collected we made 1L syrup.
It was worth every drop!
Maple-glazed meatballs with pineapple
Ingredients For the meatballs:
Makes about 24 meatballs
- 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped basil
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 Cups gluten free oatmeal
Ingredients For sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups ketchup
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, drained
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To make the meatballs, use your hands to combine all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until just incorporated.
- Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 20 minutes or until golden and cooked all the way through.
- In a large saucepan, combine the ketchup, syrup, soy sauce, allspice and mustard and bring to a boil
- Turn the temperature down and let cook 5 minutes Stir the mixture to avoid sticking to the saucepan Carefully add in the pineapple chunks and meatballs and cook for 10 minute to warm through , and to glaze them in the sauce.
- Serve with toothpicks
Eggplant And Yogurt (fatet batinjan)
- 1lb Ground beef
- 2 whole onions, chopped
- 1 tsp. chili flakes,
- 1 tsp. ground allspice,
- 1tsp.black pepper,
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 large eggplant,
- 1 pita bread
- 2 cups yogurt
- 1 garlic, finely chopped
- Toasted Sliced Almonds and pine nuts for garnish
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying the eggplant
- In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of yogurt and salt and finely chopped garlic set aside
- Peel eggplant then cut in cubes and heat the oil and fry the cubes of eggplant to nice golden color drain on paper towel set aside.
- Cut the pita bread into square pieces toasted until golden crisp set aside.
- Sauté the Chopped onion until soft and golden Add ground beef and cook about 5 minute stirring frequently
- Add spices and chicken stock then stir again until meat is cooked about 10 minutes
- Or until mixture is dry and not too wet
- Into a serving dish layer the fried eggplant, Top with meat mixture then toasted bread.
- Cover with the yogurt mixture.
- Garnish with toasted almonds and pine nuts
- 1 kg flour
- 450 g almonds
- 400 g icing sugar
- 400 g butter
- 4 tbsp. water of rose
- A dash of salt
- Almond paste: Boil almonds. Peel them then dry them in the oven.
- Finely chop almonds. Mix them with sugar and water of rose. Roll dough like a long rope as thick as a pencil.
- Main dough:
- Sift flour with a dash of salt then put it in a bowl.
- Make a hole in the middle of the flour then pour in melted butter and knead well.
- Gradually add warm water until soft dough is formed.
- Boil water in a pot Take a small portion of dough, dip it for a few seconds in that water then roll it out as thinly as a paper on a greased surface.
- Cut dough in 15cmx7 cm rectangles. Fill every rectangle with almond paste and roll it and form it like a ring
- Bake in a hot oven at medium heat for 25 minutes approximately.
April always reminds me how important it is to share and give back to the community. Sharing is caring and that is the spirit in which we base our upcoming gala on in support of children’s education! I enjoy the art of food sharing which is an essential part of my Lebanese heritage and enjoy sharing it with guests.
I also love getting a few plates to share. It is always exciting to try a few small bite of new cuisines while dining out.
My Mom used to say sharing the loaf of bread with others, brings you closer together. Through sharing a meal in a Family –style dining guests can make an instant connection in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
Family-style dining nonetheless has its challenges. How do you arrange a table when food is shared rather than simply plated and served? Its presentation!
I admit that the downside to family-style dining is that food inevitably looks messy after a few servings.
My suggestion is choosing a cultural theme to bring some order to the table without quashing the convivial atmosphere at the reunion. Use innovative dishes that comprise a fresh and sophisticated bite so you can enjoy sharing with your family and friends. Organize the tableware and timing to keep the presentation simple, and choose the number of serving dishes depending on the number of guests and table size. For a long table, you may divide the same type of food into two plates to allow people to serve themselves simultaneously. Don’t be afraid of mixing and matching dinnerware combining the old with the new and the formal with the casual.
Grilled eggplant with sesame paste and lemon juice. Moutabel is a dip like hummus, but it is a completely different experience. Like hummus, moutabel is regularly found on my mom’s table. In this recipe the eggplants are grilled, however they can also be baked. I can remember my mother assigning me the task of crushing garlic
Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)
- 2 eggplants
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 3 ounces plain yogurt
- 1-2 teaspoons of salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate paste (optional)
- Sweet red peppers
- Pomegranate seeds
- Grill the eggplants.
- Stick the eggplants on a couple of skewers and grill on BBQ over an open flame (I place them on the naked flame of my gas stove). This is the best way to obtain that great smoky flavor (you can put them under the grill if you like). The skin will blacken and wither with the heat, keep turning them until the eggplants’ skin is soft all over to the touch and a skewer can easily cut through the vegetables.
- As soon as this happens, take them off the flame and put them in a pot filled with cold water (this will help to cool the eggplants and make it easier to peel them).
- Peel the eggplants (I find it helps also to peel them under cold running water).
- Discard the burnt skin and put the pulp in a strainer to preferably leave overnight in the fridge. This will ensure that the excess water is removed.
- (Instead of grilling, you can deep or shallow fry your eggplants until golden. Then continue on with preparation. Using this method however, you do not get that smoky taste which is so typical of this dish.)
- Cut the eggplants into small pieces and then pound to a rough pulp (you don’t want it too smooth, it’s good to have some texture left).
- As you add the other ingredients make sure you incorporate them one by one into the mixture.
- First, add the tahini, then the yogurt if you wish (yogurt will help take some of the bitterness of the vegetables away, but if you like that bitter taste don’t add any yogurt).
- Now add the lemon juice and the salt (to taste).
- If you prefer a sweeter taste I found that adding pomegranate paste works very well.
Place the mixture in a dish and smooth it out to cover the dish. Garnish with paprika, parsley leaves, wedges of sweet red pepper, pomegranate seeds and walnuts (walnuts go extremely well with this dish). Finish off with a dash of olive oil. Like hummus, moutabel will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Don’t forget to cover with plastic wrap.
Mom’s Addas bi Hamod- lentil and Swiss chard soup
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups homemade vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving (optional)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- pinch of crushed red pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 bunch green Swiss chard washed and chopped (1 1/4 pounds),
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1 cup or 1 medium potato cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or 2 lemon)
- freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
Yield: 6 Servings
Note: If you’re not a cilantro lover, feel free to omit it. I’ve done so a couple times and it’s still a great soup.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and potato with the water, and vegetable stock and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.
- Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the lentils and potato are barely tender, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add the onion, crushed pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cilantro and cook for 1 minute. Then add to the lentils
- Add the chard to the lentils, cover partially, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, season with pepper and olive oil and serve.
Bemieh bi Zayt (Okra stew)
Okra, stir-fried in olive oil and cooked till tender in a stew of onions, tomatoes and garlic is served at room temperature with a side of pita bread.
- 2 lb (1kg) fresh okra (tender)
- 4 medium-sized onions chopped
- 2 whole garlic bulbs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 lb (1 1/2 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon ground, dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon of allspice
- Cut off the stems of the okra then wash and drain.
- In deep skillet heat ½ cup oil and Sauté the okra, a few at a time, until almost golden, then drain and set aside. Repeat until all finished.
- Peel and finely chopped the onions, peeled and crush the garlic bulb in the same skillet sautéed the onion until lightly browned. Then add the crush garlic.
- Return the okra to the skillet and add in the diced tomatoes, salt and allspice.
- Crush and add the dried coriander, and the chopped green coriander.
- Pour half a cup of water over the okra and allow boiling over low heat and lemon juice cook for half an hour without stirring.
- Garnish with some more chopped coriander then serve cold with pita bread
For more information on the Waladi Child Education gala, please visit http://www.waladi.ca