Archive | January 2013

Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Mushrooms and Parmesan

Warm Mushroom Salad

My mother has always had very definite opinions about food, particularly combinations of food. I’ll be explaining what I prepared for dinner that night and she’ll quickly chime in, sometimes even before I am finished, to say she is not particularly fond of that combination. It’s ok to have an opinion, but what is more fascinating to me is that she has already thought about the combination and made a conscious decision about it. My mother not only knows what she likes, but even more resolutely knows what she doesn’t like, and of course why. How many of us have actually given thought to this?

It’s interesting how much of our food preferences are shaped by what’s familiar. Growing up, my mom worked long hours, so I was in charge of starting dinner. She always insisted I take out the salad greens from the fridge as soon as I came home from school because she didn’t like salads in the wintertime particularly cold ones. By the time she came home, the greens were at room temperature and more appetizing for the cold winter night. Well, this stuck. Not because I am a creature of habit, but because what she was saying is so true.

In the wintertime, we love to eat hot comfort food. We turn to dishes that warm our bellies, melt our hearts, and insulate us from the cold. We look forward to dishes like roasted root vegetables, steaming soups and stews and baked casseroles like macaroni and cheese. There are reasons for this; Canadian winters can be mighty cold!

How many of us crave a nice green salad in the middle of January? Definitely not me (besides salad greens don’t quite taste the same out of season). Nonetheless, I do try my best to get the raw greens in and this is one of the best ways I have found to enjoy them in the wintertime.

Be sure to use greens at room temperature. It really is part of the experience. The “fresh” mixed greens, with pieces of red radicchio, are enveloped by the sweet balsamic vinegar; they combine with the warm roasted caramelized mushrooms, which exalt with that little bit of lemon juice and together with the creamy, salty, yet sharp Parmesan (yes, a good quality Parmesan actually tastes creamy and sweet for that matter) provide what I would call the ultimate food experience.

With my first bite, I found myself doing my little dance in my chair and my husband was just watching me quite amused. “Yes”, he confirmed smiling, “it is quite delicious”. I had songs in my head! It was one of those dishes that I wanted to be bottomless. Why didn’t I make enough for four? It was so good, I broke my rule and put it on my weekly menu plan back-to-back. Just couldn’t get this dish out of my head.

I have served this salad without the Parmesan. It goes very well with strips of crispy smoked tofu.

This is my idea of the perfect winter salad. The roasted mushrooms take approximately 45 minutes to roast, but it is even faster on the barbecue. I roast mine the night before to make this a quick weeknight meal.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Roasted Mushrooms:
Mushrooms, oyster 1 lb
Mushrooms, King, sliced lengthwise into 4-5 strips 1 lb
Olive oil 1/4 – 1/3 cup
Salt
Black pepper
Garlic, cloves, whole 2
Thyme, fresh  1 tsp
Parsley, fresh, chopped
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed 2 squeezes
Balsamic Vinaigrette: you’ll have vinaigrette left over
Olive oil 5 tbsp
Balsamic vinegar 2 tbsp
Garlic clove, crushed 1
Basil, dried 1/2 tbsp (or 4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped and added to the salad greens)
Salt 1/4 tsp
Black pepper 1/4 tsp
Mustard, Dijon 1/2 tsp
Salad greens 6-7 oz
Parmesan, shavings  Garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium roasting pan, combine mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add parsley and thyme and toss. Continue to roast for another 15 minutes or so (until the mushrooms are caramelized).
  3. Remove from the oven and lightly squeeze some lemon juice on the mushrooms. Lightly toss.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk well. Set aside.
  5. To assemble, toss salad greens with vinaigrette. I use the salad spoon and drizzle in one full spoonful for the amount of salad recommended. Adjust to taste. Remember, salad greens should just be kissed with dressing, not weighed down. If you happen to add too much, just add a few more salad green to balance it out.
  6. Place half the greens on each of two plates. Top each plate with half the roasted mushrooms. Follow with Parmesan shavings.

Matcha Green Tea Latte

Matcha_5

You have heard me struggle with my relatively recent introduction to caffeine. I have managed to avoid it (except in the form of chocolate) for most of my adult life, but am sad, even distressed, to admit that 2 years ago, I succumbed to its effects and now even embrace them. I have posted that my quality of life has improved. On most days, it clears that ever present fog in my head. I no longer struggle through my day. I don’t crave sugar for that afternoon pick-me-up. For the most part, I am able to adhere to my exercise schedule and can even make it past 8 pm at night without falling asleep.

I’m not trying to make excuses. At some point, I became tired of going through life constantly fatigued and chose to live, wishing to be present, and of course, active.

So, have I made peace with my daily caffeine fix? Obviously not entirely or I wouldn’t be searching for alternatives. At my yoga retreat last year, I learned that if I was going to ingest caffeine, to at least switch to green tea because of the health benefits it may bring. I don’t know if you know much about matcha green tea, but the reason it is so potent, in fact, ten times more potent than just steeping green tea, is because you ingest the entire leaf (which has been grounded into a powder).

When I came back from the retreat, I walked into my favourite coffee house and was delighted to see they offered a matcha green tea latte. Thought I would give it a try. I’ll never forget my first reaction. It was “hmmmm, this tastes green”. That’s saying a lot coming from me. I love the taste of green. I’m one of those rare people who can drink wheatgrass juice straight up (I actually think it tastes sweet). However, the ‘hmmmmm’ was an unsure one. My second zip made me jump. It was delicious!!! Some rejoicing followed. The next day, I decided to try it with soy milk and found that it complemented the green tea even better.

I liked it so much I was beginning most of my days with it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except that it was getting expensive and it occurred to me that the green tea concentrate syrup they were using would probably be laden with preservatives and additives. I asked to see the label one day and sure enough, it was. I have written emails to their head office and have spoken to the owner, but still no change in the brand of syrups they use. I also asked why they were using a concentrate instead of a tea bag and they explained to me that the taste of the green tea would get lost, otherwise, and it does.

I had no alternative, but to find preservative and additive free syrups of my own. What I found was Monin (http://americas.monin.com). I pick my syrups up directly from the distributors, but have found their syrups in one of my favourite gourmet shops recently. This was wonderful for a while, but then the sugar intake was beginning to bother me.

That’s how I set out to make my own green tea syrup and replaced the cane sugar with agave syrup. I still keep the Monin green tea syrup in my pantry for those days I am absolutely pressed for time. If you are using the green tea concentrate syrup, and you are following this recipe, you’ll need 2 tbsp of green tea concentrate syrup + 1 tsp of matcha green tea powder.

I absolutely adore this drink. It’s deliciously sweet and green!! This is a quick and easy breakfast drink.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

Milk, Soy, vanilla, heated or frothed 14 oz
Matcha green tea powder 1 tsp
Green tea concentrate 40 drops
Agave 2 tbsp (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. On the stove, in a small pot, or using a frother, warm/heat the milk. You’ll need a thermometer; liquids added to matcha green tea powder must not exceed a certain temperature. Check the instructions for the matcha green tea you are using. Temperatures vary between brands.
  2. In a 16 oz measuring cup, combine matcha green tea powder, green tea concentrate, and the agave syrup (to taste).
  3. Using a small whisk, whisk all the ingredients until the match green tea powder clumps have dissolved.
  4. When the milk has reached the ideal temperature, slowly add a little bit at a time to the green tea mixture, whisking constantly until all of the matcha green tea powder has dissolved.

Belgian Waffle with Whipped Mascarpone, Cranberry Compote & Bananas

Waffle

On new year’s day, I like to sleep in. The ability to lie in bed awake with my eyes closed and no sense of time is a luxury. I jump out of bed at leisure, but with purpose. Make my way to the kitchen to make brunch or a big breakfast. This is my new year’s tradition. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I can’t think of a better way to start the new year.

I’ve been using this Martha Stewart waffle recipe for years. It delivers moist, spongy waffles every time. Instead of melted butter, I use canola oil. The accompaniments, the mascarpone and cranberry compote are my concoctions. This is one of my absolute favourite breakfasts.

The aromatic waffle, beautifully infused with vanilla, is airy and light and on top of it sits a cloud of whipped mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese) faintly sweetened with maple syrup, which begins to melt ever so slightly from the heat from the waffle. The tart cranberries with orange undertones are mellowed by the creamy mascarpone and mounds of sweet, fresh bananas and nutmeg. The whole thing is tied together by a scant drizzle of maple syrup (for no waffle is complete without pure maple syrup). Waffle + mascarpone + cranberries + bananas + maple syrup = the perfect bite.

I have seen Jamie Oliver make waffles in a square, ribbed skillet, so you don’t necessarily need a waffle maker to enjoy these.

Happy new year everyone! Wishing you food for the soul.

Makes 6-7 waffles (depending on your waffle maker)

Ingredients:

 Waffles:
 Flour 2 cups
 Sugar, light brown  1/4 cup
 Baking Soda  1 tsp
 Baking powder 1.5 tsp
 Cinnamon  1/2 tsp
 Salt  1/2 tsp
 Eggs, separated, @ room temperature  3
 Buttermilk  2 cups
 Oil, canola  1/2 cup
 Vanilla  1 tsp
 Cranberry Compote:
 Cranberries, fresh  24 oz
 Maple syrup  1 cup
 Cinnamon sticks  2
 Star anise  4
 Peel, orange, small  1/2
 Lemon  two squeezes from half a lemon
 Salt  small pinch
 Whipped Mascarpone:
 Cheese, Mascarpone  415 g
 Maple syrup  1.5 tbsp
 Cinnamon, ground  1/4 tsp
 Garnishes:
 Bananas, fresh, sliced  3 (1/2 banana per person)
 Maple syrup  drizzling
 Nutmeg, freshly ground  light dusting to finish dish

Directions:

For the waffles:

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.
  4. Pour buttermilk mixture into dry mixture and combine.
  5. Fold whites into batter.
  6. My waffle maker does not require any grease. Check the instructions for yours.
  7. On my waffle maker, I set the dial to no. 2.
  8. Ladle 1 scoop (my waffle maker includes a scoop) of batter into waffle grid.  Spread batter almost to the edges.  Close lid.  My waffle maker lets me know when the waffles are done. They bake for approximately 3-5 minutes depending on the waffle maker.
  9. Transfer cooked waffles to a baking sheet. Place in an oven set to low heat about 200 degrees while preparing remaining waffles.

For the cranberry compote:

  1. Meanwhile, place all the cranberry compote ingredients in a saucepan and heat to medium. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Many of the cranberries should burst and the compote thickens naturally. Remove from stove. Remove cinnamon sticks, star anise, and orange peel. Cover and keep warm.

For the whipped mascarpone:

  1. To make the whipped mascarpone, place all ingredients in a small deep dish. Using a hand blender with whisk attachment, whisk until soft peaks form. Place in a a piping bag and set aside.

Garnishes:

  1. Slice bananas on the diagonal.

Assembly:

  1. To assemble, place one Belgian waffle on each plate. Pipe 1/6 of the mascarpone onto the center of each waffle.Spread 1/6 of the cranberry compote on each waffle covering approximately 2/3 of the waffle. Pile the banana slices decoratively. Drizzle lightly with maple syrup. Dust lightly with freshly ground nutmeg.