potato salad with mustard vinagrette

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For me, nothing says comfort food like potatoes! The other day, I picked up some local sausages and fresh buns, and decided that a potato salad would make a lovely side dish.

I have never been a huge fan of creamy, mayo-based potato salads. I have had an intolerance to eggs for years now, so I’m sure that’s had a lot to do with it. This recipe is tangy, has a nice kick to it, and is egg-free.

Ingredients

8-12 medium sized potatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp old style whole grain mustard
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
juice from half a lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely sliced
1/4 cup mixture flat-leaf parsley and chives, chopped
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

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Start by peeling, cleaning, and quartering your potatoes. Fill your pot with cold water, and add a cup of vegetable broth. This helps to flavour the potatoes, and the cold water helps to cook the potatoes evenly. Add the potatoes, then bring to a boil, uncovered. After about 5-6 minutes of boiling, start to check if the potatoes are done by poking them with a fork. They will be done once you can easily poke through without any resistance. Once cooked, drain, and place potatoes in a large bowl.
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In a small bowl, add mustard, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, shallots, herbs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix together.

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Add the mustard mixture to the potatoes, and stir so that potatoes are well-coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then serve.

lemon, leek & cremini mushroom risotto

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With fall’s cold weather seemingly here to stay, I still find myself craving some of the light-tasting, citrusy flavours of summer. This dish is perfect for a transition to the cooler months.  It is simple, yet bursting with flavour, and rich and creamy without being too heavy.

Ingredients

3 leeks, trimmed and chopped
10-12 cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tbps extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
6 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 3/4 cups arborio rice
1 generous glass of white wine*
4 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth
juice of 1/2 a lemon
zest of a whole lemon
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mixed chopped chives and flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
garnish with lemon wedges and parsley, if desired

slice leek
Start by cleaning your leeks. The best way to get all the dirt and grit out is to cut off the tops and bottoms of the leeks, then make a lengthwise slice, as pictured above. You will be able to spread the layers apart, and really open up the leeks to get them nice and clean. Next, chop them up.

peel mush
Equally as important to clean are the mushrooms. Mushrooms act as sponges, so it is a good idea to peel them before rinsing them off with water. Otherwise, all the dirt from the outside will just get sucked to the inside, and despite your best effort to clean them, you will end up with an equally as dirty mushroom. Peel the skin off the mushrooms, as pictured above, then rinse with water, and slice.

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Next, add oil to a large pan, and cook the garlic. Garlic will burn quickly, so make sure the heat is not set too high. After about 1 minute, add the leeks and mushrooms, and coat them with the oil and garlic.

set aside
After about 10 minutes on medium heat, the leeks will become soft and start to brown slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.

melt butter
Using the same pan, add about 1/2 the butter, and let melt.

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Add the chopped onion and salt to the buttered pan, and cook until onion becomes translucent, very soft, and slightly browned (about 15 minutes on medium heat).

add rice
Add the rice to the onion, and give it a good stir so that it is well-coated in butter. Then, add that generous glass of white wine, and make sure you have a glass yourself.  Continue to stir until the liquid has been absorbed.

*The wine that I used for this recipe was Cono Sur Viognier 2012 from Chile. It worked well in this recipe because it is quite aromatic and not too sweet; it complemented the creaminess and zest of the dish very nicely.

add stock
Stir in about 3/4 cup of veg stock at a time, until it has been absorbed. Stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn. I like to use a heat-safe rubber scraper so that I can make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Keep adding stock and keep stirring constantly until finally all liquid has been absorbed and rice is cooked through. It should be a creamy consistency, without being gluey or mushy. Remove from heat.

add herbs leeks
Add the rest of the butter and the Parmesan cheese to the rice, and stir until melted. Next, mix in the pepper, lemon juice, zest, leek mixture, and fresh herbs. Stir until combined.

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Garnish with parsely, lemon wedge (and/or zest) and Parmesan.

Though I have made a few minor tweaks, the original recipe can be found at So Good and Tasty.

creamy gorgonzola risotto

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One of the best presents I have ever received is a cookbook from my dear friend, Dana. It is called ‘Cheese: Sumptuous Cheese Recipes for all Occasions’. Oh, she knows me so well.

This is my take on the cookbook’s ‘Sage and Gorgonzola Risotto’ recipe.

Ingredients:

scant 4 tbsp unsalted butter
150 g pancetta
1 sm onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
scant 1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1/2 white wine
4 cups reduced sodium hot vegetable stock
200g Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh red grapes, halved (or sub. 1/4 cup crisp pear, diced)
2 tbsp minced fresh sage, plus extra, whole, to garnish
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
pepper to taste

pancetta
Start by adding half the butter in a large pan or skillet and cook the pancetta over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the fat melts, and the pancetta begins to brown and get slightly crispy.

I used a pack of President’s Choice pancetta. It was pretty inexpensive, and contained exactly 150g which was perfect for the recipe. I was happy with the quality, too. If you do not have any pancetta on hand, a thick-cut bacon will do trick (just add 1 tbsp of butter instead of 2).

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Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

rice
Add the rice and stir to coat the pancetta mixture. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Start to add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Continue adding the stock until it is all absorbed, and the rice is creamy but still firm to the bite.

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Remove from heat, then add the Gorgonzola and sage. Stir mixture until the Gorgonzola has melted, then add remaining butter. Then, fold in the nuts and grapes.

garnished

Serve immediately, garnished with sage and Parmesan.

Bon appétit!

spicy tortilla soup

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After a day out in the cold, there’s nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup to warm up even the chilliest winter-enthusiast. This spicy soup is a favourite year-round, but it’s that much more satisfying to have on a snowy day. It is well-seasoned and hearty. Doesn’t get much better.

For this meal, I used two medium sized pots to cook all of the soup, but 1 large soup pot is ideal*.

This recipe is based on Harvest Chicken Tortilla Soup from TasteFood.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
1 sweet red pepper, stemmed and seeded, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, medium-fine chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
6 cups chicken stock
1 – 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp cloves
2  1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 cup canned peaches and cream corn kernels
1 cup canned black beans
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
tortilla chips, broken in pieces (garnish)
grated cheddar or monterey jack (garnish)
Astro Balkan Style yogourt (garnish)
sliced avocado (garnish)

To start, create a quick dry rub for the chicken with 1/4 tsp of the ancho, 1/2 tsp of the chili powder, a generous dash of each salt & pepper. Once the chicken breasts are seasoned, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in your soup pot (in my case, i used one of my two  medium seized cast-alluminum dutch ovens*), then sear the chicken until it is cooked through and you get a nice dark crust on the outer layer of chicken. Set aside.
chicken
Using the oil and juices from the chicken, add your chopped onion to the pot, and pour in the remaining tbsp of oil.
onions
Once onions become slightly translucent (about 2-3 minutes), add all of the peppers and sauté with the pinch of red pepper flakes (2 minutes).
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Stir in the garlic and zucchini. After a minute, add chicken broth, canned plum tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste, cumin, Italian seasoning, cloves, remaining chili powder and remaining ancho chili powder. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.I ended up fishing out the cloves with a slotted spoon at this point, because i don’t like getting an unexpected bite of this powerful spice while having my meal. Putting the cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and tying it off would also do the trick, and could stay in the soup until the meal is ready to be served.
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Chop up the cooked chicken into small bite-sized pieces, and add to the soup with the beans and corn. Toss in most of the cilantro, reserving some for garnish, and stir.
Per serving, add about 1/2 tbsp of cheese, followed by a dollop of yogourt, broken tortilla chips, and cilantro. When I have made this in the past, I have also topped the soup with sliced fresh avocado. Unfortunately I didn’t have any on hand this time around, but it is a great addition. Do not skip the garnish for this meal. The garnishes aren’t just there for decoration; the chips offer a crunchy texture, while the cheese, yogourt, and avocado help to cool some of the spice. Oh, and cilantro just tastes great, so bring it on.