Archive | November 2012

Grilled Harissa Portobello Burger

I dragged my husband out of the house first thing on Saturday morning, without his coffee. This is not an easy feat and was only accomplished after promising to stop at our local coffee house for a professionally made latte. The only thing better than a store bought latte is a free one. He was generous enough to treat me that morning.

From there I headed to the gym for my step class. I looove my step class. The weather was gorgeous upon leaving the gym, a bright, mild autumn day that just screamed barbequing. Given it’s November, these kinds of days are limited, so I headed to the grocery store. Didn’t quite know what I wanted, but knew it would be grilled and it would end up in a sandwich.

The portobello mushrooms looked absolutely gorgeous, so burgers it would be. I whipped together a quick marinade and decided to zing it up with Harissa. If you haven’t tried it and you like things on the spicy side, it’s worth a try. There are lots of varieties out there, so plenty from which to choose. The combination of Harissa and balsamic vinegar is sensational! – the coming together of the sweet, sour, and spicy just blew me away! Overall, the Harissa provided just a little bit of a kick and it was beautifully offset by the sweet roasted red pepper and creamy, salty havarti.

Dizzying hits of flavour explosion? Not at all! More like a symphony in my mouth. I could have easily and seriously eaten another! I took my first bite and the juices from the mushroom just flowed. I don’t remember the last time I experienced this; very few vegetables produce this kind of effect. This sandwich has changed my mind about portobelli.

Mushrooms and grains are a complete vegetable protein, plus the cheese, make this a substantial sandwich. This is a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Serves 2


Mushrooms, Portobello 2
Harissa paste 1 tbsp
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp
Black pepper
Mayonnaise 2 tsp
Harissa paste 1 tsp
Buns, multigrain 2
Spinach, leaves, large 4
Red pepper, roasted 1
Havarti cheese, slices 2
Black pepper
Onion, red, thinly sliced


  1. To make the marinade, combine the harissa, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Brush marinade on both sides of the mushrooms. Pour any remaining marinade over the mushrooms and marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Season mushrooms with salt and black pepper.
  3. Grill mushrooms for 10 minutes, 5 minutes on each side.
  4. In the last two minutes, add one slice of Havarti to each mushroom and allow the cheese to melt.
  5. Combine mayonnaise and harissa.
  6. To assemble, spread harissa mayonnaise on the bottom half of the bun. Follow with 2 leaves of spinach, half of the roasted red pepper, Portobello mushroom with melted Havarti, freshly ground black pepper, and thinly sliced red onions.
  7. Serve with a side of steamed green beans tossed in a little bit of olive oil, salt, black pepper and a touch of rice wine vinegar.

Delicata Squash Stuffed with Cashew Butter

I love squash. When I saw these at my farmers’ market, I bought eight! fully intending to stuff half and roast the rest as a side dish. I knew I wanted to stuff them, but wasn’t sure how. I get tired of the high carb vegetarian stuffing options and wanted something different. This time, I experimented with cashew butter and though only 1 tablespoon gets served with each half squash, the combination is extremely filling.

Not only is this squash visually stunning with its bright yellow exterior and forest green stripes, but this combination is absolutely delicious! The squash has a delicate sweetness and together with the layer of the bold and earthy cashews enhanced with undertones of roasted red pepper and garlic and that sage surprise make my mouth extremely happy and this dish one of my favourite ways to serve squash. My husband took his first bite and let out what sounded like a very, long approving groan. My mom went out and bought this squash after seeing the picture.

Be sure to thoroughly wash and scrub the exterior of your squash; it becomes very thin when roasted and is fully edible.

This is a perfect autumn dish.

Serves 6


Squash, Delicata, yellow, washed 6
Olive oil
Black pepper
Sage, leaves, fresh 6
Cashew butter 1 cup
Pepper, red, roasted ½
Garlic cloves, roasted 4
Chives 6-8
Parsley, sprigs 2
Canola oil 3 tbsp
Lemon juice 2 tsp
Black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut each squash in half and remove seeds.
  3. Using your hands, coat the squash halves with olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Place one sage leaf in each squash half. Brush the sage leaf with a little bit of olive oil (this will prevent it from burning in the oven).
  4. Bake for approximately 45 minutes until the squash is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor.
  6. Place 1 tbsp of the filling in each half squash.
  7. Serve two half squash per person with a side of roasted potatoes. Before eating, using a knife, evenly spread the cashew butter over the entire surface of each of the squash.

Pecan Butter Tarts

I made these for my friend, Laura. I don’t see her often, but when we do get together, it’s as if no time has elapsed at all, so we just pick up where we left off.

I was not well that day, but was so looking forward to seeing her. I’ve been wanting to make butter tarts for years, but just have never gotten around to them. That day I needed something relatively simple and only moderately laborious, so these were perfect.

Only special guests get invited to my home (I am an extremely private person) and fewer still are invited to my table. Baking is not a labour of love for me (though I’ll admit that my extremism has at times rendered it laborious). I have often expressed to people that I normally bake without benefiting from the fruits; it’s as much about the process as it is about the treats. More importantly, it’s an extension of me – I have taken the time to select the treat and dedicated the time to creating it with my very own hands. It is perhaps one of the greatest forms of expression, so much so that I consider the entire process from start to finish so very personal.

I remember the day because it was at the end of the summer. That dreaded humidity had temporarily broken and we finally had some reprieve, a gentle breeze blowing, on a bright sunny day. She showed up with her new baby (I was hoping I’d get a chance to meet him on this occasion), with a big smile, and cheerful disposition as always.

She joined me in the kitchen. I showed her the tray of butter tarts and was about to ask, “I hope you like butter tarts”, but she blurted out, “they are my favourite”.  So, how did I know? I didn’t, but who doesn’t love butter tarts?

The recipe is Anna Olson’s with some adaptations. I found that the original recipe is not sweet enough for a butter tart, so I reduced the amount of butter, omitted the lemon juice, and increased the amount of maple syrup.

The feeling of biting into a butter tart is without a doubt ineffable and enough to leave you speechless!! You have not tasted a butter tart until you have made one from scratch. It was like tasting it for the first time. The gooey, sweet center meets the buttery pecans and they are enveloped by a delicate, flaky crust that for a moment just renders you oblivious to everything and everyone around you as the whole thing melds into one and melts in your mouth. That perfect moment that you wish could last forever.

Laura visited for the entire afternoon as we slowly made our way from my kitchen to the dining room and then my living room. My first experience with butter tarts will always remind me of that visit. I have fond memories of that afternoon.

Yields 12


Flour, cake & pastry 2 1/4 cups
Sugar 2 tbsp
Salt 3/4 tsp
Butter, unsalted, cold, cut into small cubes 1 cup
Ice water 6 tbsp
Lemon juice 1 tbsp
Butter, unsalted  3 oz
Sugar, brown  1 cup
Eggs, large  2
Maple syrup  2/3 cup
Vanilla extract  1 tsp
Salt  1/4 tsp
Pecans, whole  36 (3 per tart)


Pie Dough:

1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the dough attachment.

2. Add the cubed butter and pulse until you get pea-sized bits of flour.

3. Stir the water and lemon juice together and add this to the dough all at once while the food processor is running, until the dough just comes together.

4. Shape the dough into 2 discs, wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling.

Butter Tarts:

5. Pull the chilled dough from the fridge 20 minutes before rolling.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

7. Lightly sprinkle a 12-cup muffin tin with flour.

8. Cut each of the disks of chilled pie dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface to just under a ¼-inch thick and use a 4 ½ inch round cookie cutter to cut each into a circle. Line each muffin cup with the pastry so that it comes about ½-inch higher than the muffin tin, and chill the lined tin while preparing the filling.

9. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepot over medium heat, stirring until the mixture is bubbling. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.

10. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the maple syrup, vanilla and salt and slowly pour in the the slightly cooled sugar mixture while whisking constantly until incorporated.

11. Place 3 pecan pieces into the bottom of each tart shell and ladle or pour the filling into each shell.

12. Bake the tarts for 25 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the crust edges have browned.

13. Cool the tarts in the tin and after about 5 minutes, carefully twist them around in the pan to prevent sticking and keep them in the pan until completely cooled.

14. The butter tarts should be stored refrigerated but are best served at room temperature. The tarts can be stored chilled for up to 3 days.