Friendly Food Snobs

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chicken marbella

IMG_3093Taught to me by an old friend when I lived on the west coast, this chicken marbella is exotic and warming in the winter‎. The cumin, lemon and hint of cinnamon reminds me of what I ate during North African backpacking adventures years ago, although the origin of the recipe is Spanish. It can be made the day of, or evening before and is aromatic, sweet and salty all at the same time.  Serve alongside rice, couscous or quinoa.

chicken marabella

Ingredients:
8 chicken thighs (or 2-3 pounds combo of breasts/drumsticks/thighs)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red pepper chopped into large chunks
1 onion sliced
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons capers with some juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 dried figs halved and stems pinched off
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into baking dish. Can be made up to 12 hours in advance to marinate. Place chicken pieces all skin side up. Bake for one hour. Stir once. Hint: it’s a forgiving recipe, feel free to replace figs with prunes, or capers with green olives. This version is just my favourite. Enjoy!

refried bean and cheese quesadillas

 
IMG_3009Who knew refried beans are so easy to make at home? Just grab a can of pinto beans and off you go. Packed with protein, I love these quesadillas for a weeknight meatless meal. Make more than you think. We fought over the last one. Serves two with leftovers.

refried bean and cheese quesadillas

Ingredients:
1 can pinto beans
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
pinch cumin and chili powder
juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
4-6 corn or flour tortillas
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
hot sauce, chopped cilantro, salsa, plain yogurt for garnish

Drain and rinse the beans. Chop the garlic and combine beans, spices and water in small pot. Simmer on low for 10 mins stirring often. Remove from the heat and mash. Stir in sugar and lime, and more salt and pepper if needed. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Assemble quesadillas by layering beans and then cheese on tortillas. Heat each side until warm and brown. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until serving and slice into quarters with a pizza cutter. Great warm or cold for lunch the next day.

pomegranate molasses roasted Brussels sprouts

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IMG_2844Savory, sweet and nutty –  pomegranate molasses roasted Brussels sprouts can win over any Brussels sprout hater. Halving the sprouts means more edges get crispy and the pomegranate molasses adds a tangy sweetness and helps the sprouts caramelize.

Look for pomegranate molasses in any Middle Eastern food shop, Whole Foods or health food store. It lasts in your pantry forever and is great to add to salad dressings. Can’t find it? Just use honey, maple syrup or balsamic reduction. These sprouts pair well with lamb, beef tenderloin or pork for a holiday meal. If you have leftovers, they’re yummy tossed cold into salad the next day. Serves four.

pomegranate molasses roasted Brussels sprouts

Ingredients:
3 cups Brussels sprouts ends removed and halved
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degree. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Top with the sprouts and drizzle over the oil and pomegranate molasses. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast 15 minutes, then stir and flip the sprouts. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until crispy and tender.

halibut with roasted tomatoes

IMG_2798I am a big fan of fish for weeknight dinners. It cooks quickly and is simple to make delicious. Salmon, cod and halibut are my favourites.  This dish has all the flavours I love –  fresh and Mediterranean with slightly charred tomatoes, garlic, butter, capers and olive oil. It reminds me of eating fish caught that morning on seaside holidays.  Serves two. Can easily be doubled for four.

Hint: Buy fish from your grocery store’s fish counter the day you want to eat it. This avoids the dreaded fishy smell and ensures it’s fresh. I am often that crazy person at the fish counter asking “But what’s the freshest?” But it makes for yummy fish every time.

halibut with roasted tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 halibut fillets
1 clove garlic
1 shallot finely chopped
olive oil to coat pan
2 tablespoons butter
20 or so ripe cherry tomatoes halved
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons drained capers
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I get the fish counter to take the skin off as it makes for easier clean up. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat oil to coat the bottom of an oven safe pan. Cook halibut for 2-3 minutes a side and then remove from pan. Add butter to pan at medium heat. Saute shallots. When fragrant, add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Once you smell the garlic add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Nestle the fish back into the pan, spooning some sauce over it. Tuck in both bay leaves and bake in oven for 15 minutes or until fish completely cooked. Serve over rice or couscous with capers sprinkled on top.  .

vietnamese style chicken + rice noodle salad

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I LOVE the flavour profile of Vietnamese food. So happy I finally figured out how to make this at home. Plus the recipe comes together in 30 minutes. This dish has so many layers. The rice noodles to slurp, the vegetables to crunch and the herbs and Vietnamese dipping sauce that make it so addictive. This used to be my favourite take out in my single-just-starting-my-first-real-job-days. Ten years later, I finally figured out the recipe and make a variation of it once a week.  Serves four.

Vietnamese style chicken + rice noodle salad

Ingredients for the chicken:
1 clove garlic roughly chopped
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Ingredients for the salad:
Half of a package rice noodles (makes four one cup servings)
2 grated carrots (or chopped red peppers)
½ cucumber cut into thin matchsticks
½ cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or mint)

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 tablespoon  rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons water to dilute the sauce (optional)
Juice of half a lime

Slice chicken lengthwise. Combine the garlic, hoisin and chicken and marinate for 20 minutes while you prep everything else.

Pour just boiled water over the noodles in a bowl. Let noodles soak for 4 minutes before straining. After straining well, pour a few drops of rice wine vinegar over top to keep them from sticking.

Scrape off a little of the chicken marinade. If it’s too saucy, it won’t crisp up. Sear it on either side until cooked through on medium-high heat in a non stick pan (or cast iron) or toss it on the BBQ. It cooks quickly because it’s so thin.

Plate the noodles, vegetables, fresh chopped herbs, peanuts and chicken with sauce on the side. Serve with soy sauce, siracha hot sauce and lime wedges on the table if you like. Dig in! Also very delicious the next day cold or warm as leftovers. [wink, wink]

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