Green Beans with Walnuts and Orange

Green Beans with Walnuts and Orange
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

The key to these beautiful beans is not to over cook them. If you over cook them they will turn a brownish colour and be limp and lifeless. Who wants limp, lifeless beans? Orange and walnut are great additions to this lovely side dish. Enjoy!

Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup walnuts
1 orange
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Bring plenty of unsalted water to a boil in a large pot.  You need lots of space for the beans, as this is critical to preserve their color.  Blanch the beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain into a colander and run them under plenty of tap water until cold.  Leave to drain and dry. 

2. While the beans are cooking, scatter the walnuts over a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Chop the nuts with a large, sharp knife.  They should be quite rough; some can even stay whole. 

3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in strips, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith.  Slice each piece of zest into very thin strips.  You could also use a citrus zester.

4. To assemble the dish, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, toss gently, taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve at room temperature.

Couscous With Dried Apricots And Butternut Squash

Couscous With Dried Apricots And Butternut Squash
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo courtesy of Christina Kakaletris


I adore this side dish. I love the sweetness from both the apricots and the roasted squash but what I love more is the freshness from the herbs. The combination of parsley, mint and tarragon is a new favourite. This is a vibrant dish that you can enjoyed hot, warm or cold. I use the leftovers to make fried couscous cakes. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 large onion, thinly sliced
6 tbsp olive oil
50g dried apricots
1 small butternut squash (about 450g), peeled, seeded and cut into 2cm dice
250g couscous
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
a pinch of saffron strands
3 tbsp roughly chopped tarragon
3 tbsp roughly chopped mint
3 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest of ½ lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the onion in a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a pinch of salt. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pour enough hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

3. Mix the diced squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread the squash out on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly colored and quite soft.

4. While waiting for the butternut squash, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to a boil with the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for about 10 minutes; all the liquid should be absorbed.

5. Use a fork or a whisk to fluff up the couscous, then add the onion, butternut squash, apricots, herb, cinnamon and lemon zest. Mix well with your hands, trying not to mash the butternut squash. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish or cold.


Fennel And Feta With Pomegranate and Sumac

Fennel And Feta With Pomegranate and Sumac
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

This refreshing salad is a showstopper and so easy to put together. I adjusted this recipe slightly by adding orange juice to the the mix and crumbling the feta. I love the taste of orange and fennel together and the sweetness of the orange compliments the rest of the salad beautifully. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6



Ingredients:
1/2 pomegranate
2 medium fennel heads
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sumac, plus extra to garnish
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
4 tablespoons tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
70g Greek feta cheese, crumbled
salt and black pepper

Directions:
1. Start by releasing the pomegranate seeds. The best way to do this is to halve the pomegranate along its "belly" (you only need half a pomegranate here), then hold the half firmly in your hand with the seeds facing your palm. Over a large bowl, start bashing the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon. Don't hit the fruit too hard or you'll bruise the seeds and break the skin. Magically, the seeds will just fall out, without splashing you in the process.

2. Pick out any white skin that falls in.

3. Remove the leaves of the fennel, keeping a few to garnish later, and trim the base, making sure you leave enough of it still attached to hold the slices together. Slice very thinly lengthways (a mandolin would come in handy here).

4. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, sumac, lemon juice, orange juice, herbs and some salt and pepper. Add the fennel and toss well. Taste for seasoning but remember the feta will add saltiness.

5. Layer the fennel, then top with feta and then the pomegranate seeds in individual serving dishes.

6. Garnish with fennel leaves, sprinkle over some sumac and serve the salad immediately.

Banana, Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies

Banana, Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies
Recipe by Dragon

Banana bread in cookie form. I know, right? What's not to love? Don't forget to toast your walnuts, it brings out their nuttiness and makes a huge difference in the taste. Enjoy!

Makes: 24 cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripen bananas (about 2)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
250 grams dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an eletric mixer, combine butter and sugars. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Mix in vanilla and bananas. Slowly mix flour mixture into the batter. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Chill dough for an hour.

4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.

Pumpkin, Dark Chocolate & Toffee Cookies

Pumpkin, Dark Chocolate & Toffee Cookies
Recipe by Dragon

The flavour of Pumpkin Pie in a cookie. What could be better? Well, you can add dark chocolate and toffee and you have better. You're going to love these addictive cookies. ;) Enjoy!

Makes: 24 cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
250 grams dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits

Directions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an eletric mixer, combine butter and sugars. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Mix in vanilla and pumpkin.  Slowly mix flour mixture into the batter. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits. Chill dough for an hour.

4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.

Hand to Mouth, A Kamayan Dinner at Lamesa

Hand to Mouth, A Kamayan Dinner

Last week, I had the pleasure of enjoying my first Kamayan dinner at Lamesa, a Filipino restaurant on Queen St W in Toronto. This was truly one of the best meals I've had in my life. A Kamayan dinner is a family style feast that is laid out on banana leaves and where guests eat with their hands.

We watched, mesmerized, as Chefs/Artists Rudy Boquila and Joash Dy 'painted' the banana leaves with dish after dish after dish to create a beautiful painting. The painting was not only beautiful but it was a delicious mix of Filipino textures and flavours. A feast for the eyes and the tongue.

First the chefs painted sauces on the banana leaves. A bagoong (shrimp paste) caramel, garlic confit puree and their own version of sriracha which is a combination of red peppers and bird's eye chilies.  To the sauce base they began layering the following dishes: a green mango salad with a citrus vinaigrette, chicken lettuce cup,  garlic fried rice, pickled adobo egg, clams & mussels ginataan, grilled corn, bok choi, kale chips, bangus fish (a fish that was deboned and fried), oxtail kare, crispy adobo wings and ube cornbread. There were choruses of oohs and ahhs from the hungry guests after each addition....our hunger building with each dish. We all dove into the feast with abandon, licking our fingers with each bite. My favourites were the bangus fish and the crispy adobo wings but really, I loved all of it.

Lamesa is offering their Kamayan dinner every Sunday ($40/person). In their words it offers you "a unique Filipino experience that promises to engage your senses and leave you licking your fingers." I couldn't have said it better myself. Hurry and try this wonderful meal.

The memory of this dinner it will linger on you tongue and heart for a long time and make you long for the next one. Enjoy the photos!


They called this Tropical Treat. So good!
Hand to Mouth Menu

Head Chef Rudy Boquila

Sous Chef Joash Dy

Mango Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Another layer. Chef, plating the Chicken Lettuce Cups

Smiling Chef Rudy, plating the Garlic Rice

Bangus sitting on top of the Clams & Mussels

Crispy Adobo Wings with Grilled Corn

Oxtail Kare, so tender and flavourful

Ube Cornbread

All mine!

Finished table, a work of art

Feast

Pinkies up, Ladies.

Aftermath

Roasted Fennel, Carrot, Sweet Potato and Garlic Soup

Roasted Fennel, Carrot, Sweet Potato and Garlic Soup
Recipe by Dragon


Nothing is better on a cold day then a hot bowl of soup. Its also a great way to get your vegetables. This soup is a delicious and healthy keeper. The combination of roasted fennel, carrots and sweet potatoes is sweet but still savoury because of the addition of the roasted garlic.  This is the kind of soup that gets better the longer you leave it so make a big batch and keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Enjoy!

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 small bulb, quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 whole bulb of garlic, top 1/4 cut off
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
bay leaf (remove before blending)
onion
1 celery stalk
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.   In a large roasting pan, combine fennel, carrots, sweet potato, garlic and herbs. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables and garlic for 30 minutes.  Squeeze the garlic out of the casings and reserve.

2. In a large pan over medium high heat, add remaining olive oil and allow it to heat up. Add the onions and celery and reduce the heat to medium. Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Add the roasted vegetables, roasted garlic, bay leaf, broth and water. If the broth doesn't just barely cover the vegetables, add some water. Bring to boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

3. Working in small batches, puree soup in a blender (careful, very hot) until smooth. Return soup to pan and add honey, cream and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Zucchini & Carrot Cakes With Feta, Dill and Mint

Zucchini & Carrot Cakes With Feta, Dill and Mint
Recipe by Dragon


These Greek inspired vegetable cakes are a delicious treat. They remind me of my trips to Greece and the warm Greek sun. Everywhere I went, I would order zucchini cakes. :)  I miss that warmth during these cooler autumn months so I have to settle for the warmth of the kitchen when making these. The key to getting these cakes perfect is to make sure you've removed most of the moisture in the zucchini and carrots so they will be firm. Play with the quantity of the herbs. If you like dill, add more. Enjoy!


Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 cup crumbled Feta
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/3 cup - 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (you may need more)
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and black pepper


Directions:
1. To a colander, add the grated carrots and zucchini. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little salt to draw out their moisture. Place the colander over a bowl to drain for 15 minutes.  Add the drained vegetables to a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the excess water.

2. In a large bowl, combine vegetables, feta, spring onions, dill and mint.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggs and mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs. The mixture should be firm enough to form into patties, if its not, add some more breadcrumbs.

3. Shape the mixture into 6-8 patty cakes. Refrigerate the cakes uncovered for at least half an hour to firm up.

4. Heat a large heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Add a some oil and fry the cakes until golden brown and crisp on either side. Serve with some mint and dill to garnish


Lemon Basil Ice Cream

Lemon Basil Ice Cream
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi


This is one of my favourite ice cream flavour combinations....ever. Fresh and bright while being creamy and comforting. This ice cream is a perfect way to end any meal and especially my Ottolenghi dinner. I served this ice cream with the Almond and Orange Florentines. Enjoy!


Serves 8

Ingredients:
675ml full-fat milk
60g large basil leaves, torn
Shaved rind of 3 small lemons
338g caster sugar
9 egg yolks
3 tbsp lemon juice
338ml whipping cream

Directions:
1. Pour the milk for the ice-cream into a saucepan and cook on a medium heat for five to six minutes, until it just comes to a boil. Add the basil and lemon rind, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing the leaves to extract as much flavour from them as possible, then discard the leaves and lemon rind.

2. Beat the sugar and yolks until light and fluffy, combine with the infused milk, and return the mixture to the pan. Simmer on a medium heat for six minutes, until the custard thickens, then remove, set aside to cool, then add the lemon juice.

3. Lightly whip the cream, then fold it into the custard. Churn in an ice-cream machine until almost frozen (or put in a suitable container and freeze, giving it a good stir every half-hour or so). Transfer to a container and freeze for at least an hour. (Remember to remove it from the freezer 10 minutes before you are due to serve, so it softens.)

Orange Olive Oil Cake

Orange & Olive Oil Cake
Recipe adapted from David Leite 



Last month I went to an event planned by Flavor Your Life  a campaign supported by Italy and the European Union  in support of extra virgin olive oil. The evening was filled with beautiful food and a lot of information about olive oil and how to make sure you're getting the best product. I spent a lot of time on their website, exploring their recipes and learning about extra virgin olive oil. There is a lot to learn!

"The campaign ‘Olive oil and olives – European quality’, promoted by the European Commission & the country of Italy and realized by Unaprol was launched to promote awareness and the consumption of European high quality extra virgin olive oil and olives, in partner countries, through the diffusion of appropriate information about the quality of the product, its organoleptic characteristics, its usage in cooking, traceability and European quality acknowledgments (Bio, DOP and IGP)."

This organization believes you should be educated and vigilant on the type and quality of olive oil you use. Make sure that the product is authentic with the proper designation or you run the risk of it not being pure olive oil. A little education can make the difference between using a quality product or an inferior one. Buyer beware.

We heard from two speakers that night. First was Robert Beauchemin, an olive oil expert who educated us on what to look for to make sure we get pure olive oil. Next was tonight's chef, Marcus Monteiro, the executive chef for Brassaii. Chef Marcus prepared all beautiful appetizers and delicious desserts for this evening using olive oil.



My favourite olive oils come from Greece, Italy and Portugal. I trust my suppliers and I also trust my taste buds. I use olive oil on a daily basis in my cooking so quality is important to me. I also use olive oil in my baking! It is a wonderful substitute for butter in baking and imparts a subtle but delicious taste. My favourite olive oil cake is this orange cake that I made for my recent Portuguese Supper Club. It was well received and I had many requests for the recipe. I serve this cake with an Orange & Honey Syrup but it is lovely on its own with just a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Try to find a fruitier tasting olive oil rather than a peppery one. I used a Cretan olive oil from Nisos Importing.

Ingredients:

4 to 5 large navel oranges
1 lemon
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
5 large eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups fruity extra virgin olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above, and crank up the heat to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt and set aside.

2. Finely grate the zest of 3 of the oranges, then squeeze 4 of them. You should have 1 1/2 cups of juice; if not, squeeze the 5th orange. Also finely grate the zest of one lemon. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar and continue beating until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and oil, starting and ending with the flour, and beat until just a few wisps of flour remain. Pour in the orange juice, juice of 1/2 the lemon and zests and whirl for a few seconds to bring the batter together.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 1 1/4 hours. If the top is browning too much as the cake bakes, cover lightly with foil. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

6. Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely, then place it in a covered cake stand and let it sit overnight. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar. If you leave it for longer than overnight, keep the cake in the refrigerator.

Almond and Orange Florentines


Almond and Orange Florentines
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi

Delicate looking and so easy to make, these Florentines are a perfect way to end any meal or have with a cup of tea by a warm fire. Enjoy!

Makes 20 cookies

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil for brushing
2 free-range egg whites
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 100 g confectioners' sugar
2 3/4 cups / 260 g sliced almonds
Grated zest of 1 orange

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and brush lightly with vegetable oil. Next to you have a small bowl of cold water.

2. Put the egg whites, confectioners' sugar, sliced almonds, and orange zest in a bowl and gently mix them together. Dip your hand in the bowl of water and pick up portions of the mix to make little mounds on the lined pan, well spaced apart. Dip a fork in the water and flatten each mound very thinly. Try to make them as thin as possible without creating too many gaps between the almond slices. They should be about 3 1/4 inches / 8 cm in diameter.

3. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Check underneath one cookie to make sure they are cooked through.

4. Allow to cool, then gently, using an icing spatula, remove the cookies from the baking sheet. Store in a sealed jar.
 
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