French Bread

Making bread at home really isn’t that hard – it just takes a bit of time. An added bonus is just how amazing your home will smell.

The house smells amazing and when you pull this french bread out of the oven you will have a hard time waiting for it to cool down enough to slice.

The house smells amazing and when you pull this french bread out of the oven you will have a hard time waiting for it to cool down enough to slice.

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
1 tbsp sugar
1 2/3 cups warm water (105-115°F)
3 tablespoon olive oil

Dissolve sugar in 2/3 cup of the warm water, stir in yeast. Allow yeast to bloom for 15 minutes. Set aside the other 1 cup of warm water, adding the olive oil and vinegar.

Meanwhile – stir flour and salt together. When yeast has bloomed, stir into flour mixture along with the remaining cup of warm water and olive oil/vinegar mix.

It is pretty easy to do this in either food processor or stand mixer, using the dough hook – allow the machine to do some of the kneading for you – but take the time to finish the kneading yourself to feel the texture. You want a relatively soft,but firm dough.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat with oil – cover, and allow to rest in a warm, draft free place.

45 – 60 minutes later it should have doubled in size. punch it down, turn again and allow to rise one more time until doubled.

Separate dough in half. Roll out and form loaves. Repeat with the other half. If you happen to have french loaf pans, grease well and allow to rise again in those pans. Most of us however don’t have those pans. I used my roaster, with parchment paper separating the two loaves.

Ready for the oven - if you like, give each loaf a few diagonal slices.

Ready for the oven – if you like, give each loaf a few diagonal slices.

Preheat oven to 425 – on lowest rack place 9 x 13 baking pan full of boiling water (hint – put baking pan in oven first, THEN fill with boiling water). On upper rack place baking tray with bread.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until crunchy and nicely browned.

Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Panzanella Salad

When tomatoes and basil are this fresh you can’t go wrong with a Panzanella salad, so simple, few ingredients and yet the flavours are just bursting with freshness.

Juicy tomatoes, bursting with flavour, basil out of the garden and naturally, a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio while preparing it all.

Juicy tomatoes, bursting with flavour, basil out of the garden and naturally, a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio while preparing it all.

These amounts are rough, use whatever you have on hand that is fresh:

Grilled bread, cut into bite size pieces (or use home made croutons – well seasoned)
fresh tomatoes, cut into about the same size piece as the bread
1/3 cup kalamata olives, sliced in half
1/4 cup roasted red pepper slices, diced
fresh basil, torn

Dressing:
1 tbsp capers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In serving bowl mix dressing ingredients together, taste and adjust seasonings ….

Stir in all the other ingredients, mix well and allow to sit for 30-45 minutes to allow flavours to blend.

The combination of olives, capers, and fresh tomatoes along with the texture of crispy crunchy bread is absolute summer perfection.

The combination of olives, capers, and fresh tomatoes along with the texture of crispy crunchy bread is absolute summer perfection.

Wam Kale Salad

I wanted to credit Joni for this delicious salad – served warm or at room temperature, but she insisted I give the credit to her sister Brita, who originally came up with this – regardless of who gets credit, I will happily take it now as I post it and recreate it in my own kitchen! So delicious, and like lots of salads it is easy to adapt with whatever you have on hand or in your fridge.

This delicious salad is equally great served warm or at room temperature.

This delicious salad is equally great served warm or at room temperature.

Kale (chopped and massaged)
spinach
pears (bite size pieces)
dates (diced)
almonds (roasted and roughly chopped)
feta

onion, garlic, asparagus & cherry tomatoes

Saute onion until translucent, then add garlic and asparagus and cook only until asparagus is tender crisp, add cherry tomatoes, stir and remove from heat.

Dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Bragg’s
salt and pepper to taste – be cautious with the salt tho as both feta and Bragg’s will be a bit salty

Combine all ingredients – tossing in a large bowl with warm onion/garlic mixture and dressing.

This salad is so delicious and packed with nutritious bites that it can easily be a full meal – if you like add shrimp or cooked chicken, maybe a little quinoa??

BBQ Beef Brisket Slow Cooker Style

If you have the time then a beef brisket should be cooked in a smoker, low and ever so slow ….. 10 hours minimum. If, however, that doesn’t work for you, and for lots of us at times it just doesn’t. Try this … perhaps not as authentic, but absolutely delicious.

Combine in slow cooker:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 chipotles in adobo sauce – finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Rub the brisket with:
1/4 cup paprika
1 tbsp chile powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 5 lb beef brisket – cut in half width wise.

Place rubbed brisket onto sauce in slow cooker and allow to cook on low for 10 hours.

If you have the time, and ability – allow beef to rest out of the liquid, then grill quickly on each side to get a bit of crunchy texture. Slice and return to sauce in slow cooker.

Serve on fresh buns with some nice crunchy cole slaw on top.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

We have a smoker, so when time and weather permits, we love to do a pork butt roast in the smoker – but let’s be honest, that doesn’t always work. The whole point of a slow cooker is simplicity, and being able to walk away ….. This recipe allows you to do just that, and still enjoy amazing pulled pork flavour.

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 pound pork butt roast
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 3″ piece cinnamon stick
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce

In slow cooker, place sliced onions and garlic.

Combine the dry ingredients, and give the pork a massage with the seasonings .. after all, it isn’t called a rub for nothing!
(if you want to make things really easy in the morning, rub the pork up the night before and allow those seasonings to penetrate the pork)

Place seasoned pork on top of the onion garlic mixture. Stir chicken stock and barbecue sauce together and pour over pork.

Allow pork to cook on high (6-8 hours) or low (8-10 hours). Remove from cooker, and allow to rest.

Use immersion blender and create sauce out of mixture in cooker – reduce to about half.

Shred pork with 2 forks, and return both pork and sauce to cooker.

Serve on fresh buns with a bit of crunchy cole slaw.

I will update with a photo next time I make this …. with our crowd, before I knew it, the serving was happening and there was no opportunity to take that shot!

Phyllo Wrapped Halibut with Lemon Scallion Sauce

A little bit fussy to prep, but once you try wrapping a few of the halibut fillets, the rest will be easy to complete. Well worth it and super impressive to serve. Our good friend Jean came up with this, and we helped her do it for her own 40th wedding anniversary celebrations.

Ready for a party, these little phyllo packages are sprinkled with chives, fresh dill and an extra little drizzle of the lemon sauce.

Ready for a party, these little phyllo packages are sprinkled with chives, fresh dill and an extra little drizzle of the lemon sauce.

To serve 4:

4 tbsp butter
8 sheets phyllo dough
4 (5 oz) halibut fillets
4 tsp chopped fresh dill
6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
4 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425

Separate the phyllo – it will take 4 sheets total for every 2 halibut fillets. Lightly butter 1 sheet phyllo dough. Lay another sheet directly on top of the first sheet and lightly butter it. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets of phyllo. Cut sheets in half.

Season halibut with salt and pepper. Place each fillet near the bottom edge of one of the halved sheets – sprinkle with dill. Fold in the sides of the phyllo, then roll the fillet.

Place on baking sheet, lightly brushing with more butter.

Ready for the oven, these little fillets are going to be so moist inside, crispy and crunchy outside.

Ready for the oven, these little fillets are going to be so moist inside, crispy and crunchy outside.


Bake in preheated oven until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

While the fillets are baking:

In a small saucepan, bring lemon juice to a boil over high heat. Boil until almost evaporated. Reduce heat to medium and stir in cream. simmer until the cream thickens somewhat. Stir in green onions and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve halibut on a pool of the sauce. Garnish with more fresh dill.

General Tso’s Chicken

I’ve been working on this recipe for ages, trying to get the correct balance of flavours and I think this is it – finally nailed it. Every brand of these ingredients will be slightly different. Taste the marinade BEFORE adding raw chicken and make sure it tastes great – adjust as needed. Follow that plan with the sauce also, make sure each component of this dish tastes great before putting it all together.

Slightly spicy, slightly sticky and slightly sweet - a winning combination in this quick stir fry.

Slightly spicy, slightly sticky and slightly sweet – a winning combination in this quick stir fry.

CHICKEN & MARINADE
2 #’s boneless skinless chicken thighs – cut into bite size pieces

6 tbsp sesame oil
2 1/2 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped tbsp Sambal Oelek (chile paste)
1 tbsp each minced garlic and ginger
1 tbsp corn starch

Combine marinade ingredients in bowl, stir in chicken and allow to sit in fridge for an hour.

SAUCE
2 tbsp yellow miso
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Sambal Oelek (chile paste)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp light brown sugar

Stir well, and set aside

STIR FRY
peanut oil
2 small hot chile peppers
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed – but left whole
1/2 medium white onion, cut into 1/2″ dice
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 tbsp Shaoshing rice wine (or sherry wine for cooking)
1/2 each red and yellow sweet pepper, cut into 1/2″ dice
4 scallions, chopped into 1″ pieces

GARNISH
Toasted sesame seeds
thinly sliced green onions
thinly sliced hot red peppers

Heat wok over high heat until it starts to smoke, add enough peanut oil to lightly coat bottom – quickly toss in onions, garlic and chile peppers. Stir for 1 minute and add chicken. Toss and stir fry until chicken is slightly opaque, add peanuts and 1 tbsp rice wine. Add reserved sauce, peppers and cook until peppers are cooked through. Stir in large pieces of green onion.

Garnish with the sesame seeds, green onions and red peppers.

Serve with sesame jasmine rice, which is super simple! Just toss finely sliced chives into cooked rice along with toasted sesame seeds and a little sesame oil.