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grilled halloumi caprese salad

grilled halloumi caprese saladRipe tomato slices play well with grilled salty halloumi in this grilled halloumi caprese salad. A rethink of the traditional tomato and mozzarella caprese, and I think maybe even better! It was a super busy weekend at our house Oscar turned two and we hosted a big family BBQ and Sunday was Father’s Day. My quick to make but still yummy Father’s Day dinner for Neil was BBQ flank steak and this salad, and some fresh garlic thyme pita bread and hummus. Fresh and tasted like summer.

I first tried halloumi about 15 years ago backpacking in Cyprus and we’d have it wrapped with grilled meats in a pita (usually at 2am after a night out). This meal reminds me of all those flavours.

As with all simple recipes, quality ingredients are key. Thankfully they’re not hard to find for this salad. I let my tomatoes ripen on the window sill for a few days, and just bought the halloumi from my local grocery store. You can get cow or sheep and both are great. The basil came from my garden, the olive oil from my mother-in-law’s recent trip to Italy and the balsamic reduction is store bought. You can find balsamic reduction at any major grocer now. It’s reduced balsamic vinegar (make sure you read the ingredients) and so handy to drizzle over a salad, BBQ meats or cheeses. I use it for salad dressing instead of honey often too.  My boys gobbled this salad up and used the fresh pita bread for the leftover olive oil on the plate. So if you occasionally eat carbs like we do, serve up a little good bread for this recipe – worth the calories to sop up that good olive oil! Makes four side portions.

grilled halloumi caprese salad

Ingredients:
250 gram package halloumi cheese
2 large or 3 small ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper
10 whole basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction

Cut the halloumi cheese into 1/4 inch pieces. I usually get 10-12 slices per package. Pat dry with paper towel. Heat a non stick pan or case iron skillet to medium heat. Grill cheese for 2 mins a side until golden brown. Use a rubber spatula to check it every minute or so. I do it in two batches to not crowd the pan. Slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch slices and layer on serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Layer grilled halloumi on top of tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and toss basil leaves over top. Eat right away or can sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so until serving.  Recipe can easily be doubled. Enjoy and happy summer eating!

Canola Eat Well Holiday Baking Party

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Who doesn’t love baking up a storm, hanging with your girlfriends, learning about food, and sipping some wine? I got to do all this and more last week attending a farm-to-table holiday baking party hosted by Canola Eat Well. The event took place at Luxe Appliance Studio, a stunning cooking space on King St East here in Toronto, and was hosted by cookbook author and chef Emily Richards.

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A neutral oil, canola oil can be used for frying as well as in sweet or savory recipes. Emily explained its versatility and how well it lets other flavours shine. A great versatile healthy oil to have in your pantry, I often use it in baking and for making popcorn the old fashioned way on the stove top using a pot and kernels.

My dad’s family has run a successful family dairy operation for generations. At the event I especially loved getting to chat with a Canadian canola farmer from Alberta about how the farm-to-table dining craze supports Canadian farmers and their local communities. Just another reason to reach for canola oil!

To kick off the evening and get our hands dirty we crushed some canola seeds. A practice canola farmers still do today to grade the quality of their canola seed. We were even able to expel some canola oil.
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A highlight of the night for me was connecting with Emily, a successful cookbook author and mom of three. She shared some tips on weeknight family dinners and the beauty of cooking and eating as a family. Emily talked about watching her grandmother use canola oil this time of year in holiday baking and shared some of her favourite recipes. I have included her aranaci rice ball recipe below.  If arancini is on the menu at a restaurant I always order it to share as a starter. Crispy and cheesy, a perfect small bite with some wine. It’s featured, along many other delicious Southern Italian recipes in her latest cookbook Per La Famiglia. A great Christmas gift for a foodie!

Arancini (Cheese-filled Rice Balls)

Ingredients for filling:
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 egg

Ingredients for Coating:
6 oz mozzarella, provolone, asiago or havarti cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
4-6 cups canola oil (for frying)
good quality sea salt (to sprinkle after frying)

Filling: Boil water and saffron in large pot. Add rice and reduce heat to low stiring frequently for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add romano cheese and butter. Set aside and let cool. Coating: Cut cheese into 16-18 small cubes and set aside. In a shallow dish whisk eggs. Divide rice filling into 16-18 small balls. Make an indentation in each ball and place cheese cube, then seal indentation. Roll balls in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. In a large saucepan heat oil to 375 degrees. Fry balls in small batches 2-3 minutes until golden. Drain on a paper towel lined dish. I added a sprinkle of coarse sea salt to these as they cooled as well.

I served these at home with a little tomato sauce for dipping and topping and they were a huge hit.

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Photo credit: photography by Josh Tenn-Yuk courtesy of Canola Eat Well. This event and post was sponsored by Canola Eat Well. All opinions and comments are my own.

tomato + zucchini baked egg shakshuka

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Tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and feta – maybe some of my favourite flavours ever. Shakshuka hails as a breakfast dish in the Middle East, but I often make it for weeknight suppers or late lunch on Sunday afternoons.

It cooks in one pan, and we sometimes have fresh bread from the market on Saturdays to scoop it all up with. Other wins? Shakshuka cooks in one pan, is meatless and loaded with veggies and protein from those eggs. Can you tell I have gone back to work with the cooks-in-one-pan business? Life’s full of big beautiful feelings with my boy now in daycare and it’s BUSY. Three of out four meals I am cooking these days cook in one pot or pan i.e.: soups, frittatas and dishes like this one. Okay enough about me, back to the recipe! I used tomatoes and zucchinis, but you can easily substitute any veggie your family likes. Red peppers, mushrooms or spinach all work. I’ll often make this on Sunday and enjoy it Monday for lunch, it’s one of those dishes that reheats well the next day too. Recipe makes four servings when paired with a green salad or fresh bread.

tomato + zucchini baked egg shakshuka

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 small or 1 large zucchini sliced into half moons
2 tomatoes diced
1 and 1/2 cups canned tomatoes or leftover tomato sauce
4 eggs
handful feta
chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil in an oven proof pan (like a cast iron) on the stove top. Add onion and salt and pepper. Saute onion on low-medium heat until fragrant, approximately 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, zucchini and fresh tomatoes and paprika and cumin. Cook for an additional 10 minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down and zucchini lightly browns. Add canned tomatoes or leftover tomato sauce scrapping up any bits that are sticking. I almost always use leftover marinara-style tomato sauce which I usually have hanging around in my fridge or freezer. This has some basil and oregano already in it, so feel free check the seasoning and add a pinch of each and some extra salt and pepper if using canned tomatoes. If they are whole canned tomatoes, break them up a bit with your hands as you add them. Cook and stir occasionally until canned tomatoes warm. Lastly, using a wooden spoon push back the sauce and veggies creating an empty space in the pan for each egg. Break the eggs (I use a bowl in case of shells) one by one and add in. Transfer pan to the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes based on how well done you want your eggs. With a little toddler eating this at my house I veer more towards the 10 min mark. Serve straight from the oven topped with parsley and dive in!

butter chicken with coconut milk

easy butter chickeneasy butter chickenButter chicken tops my list of comfort foods. I had a fierce craving the other day and  crafted this easy homemade version instead of ordering in. This curry was simple to make and amazing to eat. I used a can of coconut milk, instead of the traditional whipping cream and love it all the more for being healthier. The little knob of butter at the end makes the recipe just the slightest bit better. The sauce a bit glossier. A little bit of butter goes a long way. I froze a few containers for busy weeknights and it was perfection. Makes 6 servings.

butter chicken with coconut milk

Ingredients:
2 onions chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 heaping tbsp good quality yellow curry powder
1 heaping tsp cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
4-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh cilantro for topping

Coat the bottom of a large pot generously with olive oil. Saute onion on medium heat until fragrant with salt and pepper to taste (approximately 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add a touch more oil if needed. Using a wooden spoon stir the curry powder, cumin and chili flakes into the onion, garlic and oil. The goal here is to create an aromatic curry paste. Add a small splash of water if needed. Cook for two more minutes reducing the heat slightly if looks like it’s burning. (Should smell pretty amazing by now.)

Add the chopped chicken and coat in curry paste. Pour in tomatoes. Using the wooden spoon again scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate any bits that are sticking. The acidity of the tomatoes helps here. Add can of coconut milk. Let simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice. Taste test for salt and pepper. Stir in sugar and butter. At this point I let the curry rest on the stove for about an hour to cool and thicken and for the flavours to mingle. Serve over rice or quinoa and sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.

flank steak tostadas

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I love Mexican food. Tostadas are one of my favourite dishes to order in Mexican restaurants so I thought it time to try to bang out a yummy version at home. Since figuring out the recipe, I think I’ve made this at least four times this winter already! You can serve with crispy tostadas, tortillas or lettuce wraps. Flank steak is a reasonable cut of beef at most butchers and using the slow cooker makes it juicy, tender and fall apart. I have also portioned it out, frozen and reheated it and it’s still amazing. Recipes makes 6 servings.

flank steak tostadas

Ingredients:
1.5 – 2 lbs flank steak
2 cooking onions cut into thin slices
2 red bell peppers cut into strips
1 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
6 dashes of your favourite hot sauce
salt and pepper
drizzle olive oil

Serving:
chopped cilantro, crumbled feta cheese, salsa and lime slices, plus tostadas, tortillas or lettuce wraps

Cut flank steak into chunks roughly the size of a hockey puck. This makes it easier to shred after cooking. Slice onions and peppers into strips. Combine cumin, chipotle and garlic in a small bowl.

Coat bottom and sides of slow cooker generously with olive oil. Layer all the onions on the bottom and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top the onions with the flank steak pieces and sprinkle with spice mixture and hot sauce. Layer the red peppers on top of the flank steak. The moisture from all that veg makes the meat juicy and I serve the cooked onions and peppers with the meat too. Cook in slow cooker for four hours on high. Once finished cooking remove lid, let cool slightly and shred with two forks. Let shredded meat and veg sit in remaining liquid in slow cooker for a few mins before serving to absorb some of the flavourful liquid. Serve with toppings and tostadas, tortillas or lettuce wraps. Freezes well too. I add a few spoonfuls of the remaining liquid before packaging for freezing to keep the meat juicy and moist.

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