Thursday, 31 July 2008

I Rest My Quesadillas

So, I recently went to the Real Canadian Superstore in Wasaga Beach and gave my first cooking class. It's what they call a What's For Dinner class where people can walk in watch me give a demonstration for an hour and try whatever it is I make. It is free and open to anyone interested in ideas for dinner. It was fun once I got past my nervousness. I will be giving more all summer both in Wasaga as well as Midland.

I decided on a fairly easy menu since it was my first time and something I felt that anybody can do in the same amount of time. It is an easy recipe and hopefully a little different than what people make themselves on a Friday night in August.

I've noticed in the past that a good portion of people dislike cilantro. Fair enough. If you want something different in your salsa, use fresh oregano or savory.

Quick Quesadillas

1red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 medium tortillas
500 g Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Drizzle olive oil
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of Cajun spice
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325°F

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a hot frying pan sear seasoned chicken, 2 minutes on each side. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, cut into medium-sized cubes.

In a hot frying, drizzle olive oil. Add cumin and Cajun spice. After 15 seconds, add onions, peppers and chicken. Sauté for 2 minutes.

In a cast iron frying pan on medium-low heat, lay tortilla flat. On one half, sprinkle small handful of Monterey Jack. Spoon chicken-vegetable mixture evenly over cheese. Sprinkle same amount of cheese on top. Fold other half over. Toast each side for approximately 1 minute, or until tortilla is crispy. Cut into three triangles. Serve with sour cream and salsa. Repeat.

Serves 3.

Homemade Salsa

3 mid-sized tomatoes, chunked
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 small jalapeno pepper (seeds removed), finely diced
1 small bunch cilantro (coriander), roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Splash red wine vinegar
Drizzle olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

In a large bowl, combine ingredients.

Serves 4.

A Humble Chef's tip: try this with the Cilantro Lemonade and Vodka. Party time.

Variation: use some chopped shrimp or maybe if you have some leftover lobster or king crab, throw them in with a splash of lime juice. Mmm.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Me Poppy`s Favorite Salad

This post is a direct result of a request made by the teachers at my children's school. I had prepared for them a small luncheon as their end-of-year gift. Fairly simple really, two salads, a tureen of Vichyssoise and some Nutella Brownies (click on chocolate in my tabs and give it a shot).

My salads pretty much change every time I make them because I use whatever I got in arm's reach.

I even sometimes like to throw stuff in that even I least expect. Like poppy seeds.

Before I write out the recipe I would like to tell a story about a man I used to work with at a restaurant that shall remain nameless. A very nice man with a very strange diet. He had some, how shall I put it . . . digestive issues. First he would cook some noodles (and when I say some, I mean a few pounds worth) and boil the pasta for about 20 to 25 minutes. Not exactly al dente. Then he would wash the pasta in running cold water for another 5 minutes. Then he put his drained pasta in a large garbage bag with some olive oil and tons of poppy seeds. Shake it like a polaroid pictcha and vacuum seal each portion. He would live off the noodles for probably a week or so. I felt bad for him because he loved food so much and whenever he would succumb to temptation and have himself a pastry or something, he would get sick. Then go back to his poppy all'olio. Necessity is the mother sauce of all inventions, I suppose.

Boiled Starch Salad with Honey-Glazed Salmon and Poppy Seed Dressing

1 package of Penne (my wife likes the regate, I like the lische, to each their own)
1 side of Salmon
20 g of Honey
Splash of Olive Oil
1 Red Pepper, finely diced
1 Green Pepper, finely diced
1 Red Onion, finely diced
1 Roma Tomato, finely diced
Small Bunch of Dill, finely chopped
250 ml of Lemon Poppy Dressing (see below)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 325.

In a tall stockpot, boil pasta in salted water and follow directions on package. Drain pasta and toss in oil. Reserve for later. Save 100 ml of pasta water. Add honey and stir to dissolve.

In a hot skillet, heat oil and sear salmon. Turn over and pour honey water over. Cook in oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, roughly chop the fish and add to pasta.

Add peppers, onion, tomato and dill. Add dressing and lightly toss to coat evenly. Taste and then adjust to seasoning.

Serves 6 - 8 people or 4 - 6 teachers

Lemon Poppy Dressing

25 ml Dijon Mustard
50 ml Lemon Juice
200 ml Olive Oil
35 g Poppy Seeds
25 g Sugar
Salt and White Pepper to taste

In a blender or with a mixer, blend mustard and lemon juice until completely mixed. Slowly drizzle oil while whisking vigorously. Add seeds and sugar. Add salt and pepper sparingly.

A Humble Chef`s Tip: if you find the dressing is too acidic for your tastes, feel free to add more oil. If the dressing gets too thick, slowly whisk in small amounts of hot water. This trick will work with any emulsified dressing or sauce. i.e Hollandaise, Caesar, Mayonnaise.

Variation: with pasta salad, there are no limitations. I draw the line with adding anything deep fried.