Vinaigrette

Try either of these vinaigrettes, easily done and keeps in the fridge to be your own "house dressing".

Try either of these vinaigrettes, easily done and keeps in the fridge to be your own “house dressing”.

I love making my own salad dressing vinaigrettes – and when the herbs are fresh and growing right outside my back door it is even more fun.

These recipes are written for whisking by hand – but if you have an immersion blender they will create a deliciously creamy dressing.

Here are a couple of my herby delicious faves.

SCALLION VINAIGRETTE

In a small bowl, whisk together:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 chopped scallions (about 1/4 cup)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt

Whisk well, and then slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.

HERB & GARLIC VINAIGRETTE

In a small bowl, whisk together:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
3 tbsp fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, tarragon)
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp honey
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Whisk well, then slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil. Taste!! Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Last summer we had an overabundance of beautiful red peppers growing outside the back door, so we used them in a variety of ways – smoked, dried and then ground into powder to be used in salad vinaigrettes, dips and meat rubs. We also canned a few jars of them, to be used in another variety of methods ….. this is one of them, hope you enjoy! Remember, if you don’t happen to be crazy about the idea of doing the work for your own roasted red peppers, they are easy to buy!

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About 3/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers
One 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
1/4 cup tahini
Half of a large garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 1 1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

For serving: 2 tablespoons of minced red pepper, extra virgin olive oil and sesame seeds.

Throw everything into a food processor and let it whiz until smooth and creamy. Add a bit of water if it seems too dense.

Now – this is critical – taste!!! Every different jar of roasted peppers, or can of chickpeas will have a different level of flavour. Make sure this is the way you like it. I often end up adding a bit of water, a bit more oil, more salt and certainly some fresh ground pepper. Just to bump up the flavour a bit, I also added a teaspoon of our ground red pepper – but you could use smoked paprika.

Turn into a serving dish, drizzle with a little extra good, extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with a few sesame seeds and a few of the roasted red peppers, minced.

For the non wheat eaters in our group, I serve this with a pile of fresh vegetables, and for the rest of the crew they love pita chips, taco chips or rice crackers. This is as versatile as your own household likes!

Toasted Crumbs

Do you ever have left over garlic toast? Bread that is past its “best before” date? Or – as has occasionally happened ….. just forget to take the garlic bread out of the oven to serve??? I can relate to all this very well. Don’t throw it out!

The tastiest use of forgotten or leftover garlic bread is to make bread crumbs.  You'll never buy bread crumbs again!

The tastiest use of forgotten or leftover garlic bread is to make bread crumbs. You’ll never buy bread crumbs again!

Allow it to completely dry out by cutting or tearing it into pieces – then spread on a baking tray and just leaving it be. If you want it toastier just put it in a moderate oven (350) and allow to toast a bit more.

When totally dried out, give it a whiz in your food processor, and you have the tastiest bread crumbs – particularly if you are working with leftover or forgotten garlic bread. If you don’t have an immediate use for it, put crumbs in a ziplock bag in the freezer – stays for ages and so handy to have.

~ ~ Melt a little butter in a frypan and crisp the crumbs up – serve sprinkled over pasta!

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
MARINADE
2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce
1 tablespoon chile garlic sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
SAUCE
1/4 cup black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons Chinese dry sherry
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tsp chile flakes
4 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons minced ginger
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1/2 cup diced bamboo shoots
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add chicken and stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirling to coat sides. Add chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove chicken from the wok.
Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add ginger, chiles, garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add celery, bell pepper, and bamboo shoots; stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Return chicken and chilies to wok; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a boil. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.

Amazing served with Szechuan Green Beans

Szechuan Green Beans with Kung Pao Chicken

Szechuan Green Beans with Kung Pao Chicken

Summer Ratatouille

I always think of a ratatouille as a long stewed vegetable dish. When the summer vegetables are at their peak, or even just starting to wane -that flavour is fresh and delicious.

Summer Ratatouille

Summer Ratatouille

Tonight’s version included;

olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup each chopped zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant and tomato
2 tbsp tomato paste
fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil until well softened and starting to turn a golden colour. Add zucchini, cauliflower, and eggplant. Saute until vegetables are starting to soften – move vegetables over to the side and in a little hot spot add a wee bit more oil, along with the garlic and tomato paste. Allow tomato paste and garlic to cook a bit, then stir into the vegetables. Add basil, salt and pepper.

Butternut Squash Soup – with a Mediterranean twist

At this time of year the butternut squash is coming out of the gardens and so fresh that when you cut into it beads of moisture appear – yum yum! Butternut squash soup is a favorite of mine, but this time I felt like a little twist.

Butternut Squash Soup with a Mediterranean twist

Butternut Squash Soup with a Mediterranean twist

You will need:

roasted butternut squash
chicken stock
onions
garlic

Seasonings: Ras al Hanout, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper

Garnishes: Grated feta cheese, minced chives, crispy bacon pieces

In a soup pot cook bacon pieces (I like to cut my bacon slices in thin slivers). Remove bacon as soon as it gets crispy. Remove some bacon fat, but leave enough to sauté your cinnamon stick, onions and garlic until soft. Add chicken stock and roasted butternut squash. Remove cinnamon stick as soon as you get a hint of it in the broth, but not overwhelming. Cook until everything is steaming hot – puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (if using a blender take care to leave an opening for the steam to escape – you do not want to end up wearing this hot soup). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The portions on this will vary greatly on the size of your squash, and the amount of soup you want! For tonight there were only 2 of us so I used 1/2 a squash (about 2 cups) to 4 cups of chicken stock.

Serve once the soup has been pureed – garnish with the chives, bacon bits and grated feta.

For a vegetarian option, leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock.

Either way – a delicious soup!

Torn and Tossed Garlic Bread

Everybody loves the crunchy crust and soft tender bits of garlic bread – why not get more of it?

Torn garlic bread is crunchy and soft all at the same time.

Torn garlic bread is crunchy and soft all at the same time.

I had a loaf of sourdough bread and half a loaf of French bread – rather than tear it I cut it all into approximately 2 inch pieces.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, stir in 2 garlic cloves and 1 small shallot – both chopped fine. Naturally, use more garlic if you feel so inclined (and everybody is eating it…).

In a large bowl combine the melted butter, garlic and shallot mixture – add in the cubed bread, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

This is great made earlier in the day too, just let it sit and absorb all those flavours.

When you are ready to serve, spread cubes on baking sheet – take care not to overcrowd the pieces. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes just until the outside is nice and crispy, golden brown.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve – everybody will love it!

Serve this with as any side dish, or with your favorite soup or salad.