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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Calamari Salad

Here's another light summer salad that keeps the house cool but is super tasty.

If you've never bought fresh squid you should try it! You can usually get it cleaned and ready to cook, but if you buy it whole you'll need to follow these instructions to clean it first.

These were cleaned. Instead of cutting it into rings I cut the bodies almost all the way through but left them intact on one side so they'd be easier to grill.

Just before grilling I tossed them with a tablespoon of Asian chili garlic sauce and a little oil.  Grill the tentacles too!

These take almost no time at all to grill, about a minute per side, so get your salad ready ahead of time.

I made a lemon vinaigrette for the salad.  Just fresh lemon juice, dijon mustard and olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper.

I dressed the salad and topped it with the grilled calamari after chopping through to separate the rings.

I also added some shallots I'd crisped in some oil on the stovetop, but that's optional.

A delicious, light salad. Something simple and different for a nice lunch or summer evening.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bean Burritos

I'm not a big fans of beans but my husband loves them. We made a huge batch of bean burritos for the freezer so he can take one to work for lunch every day. 

I use this technique for cooking the beans. You don't need to pre-soak them overnight. Just bring a pound of dried beans covered in water and a bit of salt to a boil on the stovetop, cover and place in a 250 degree oven for about 75-90 minutes until tender.  

Cooking dry beans gives a nicer texture and flavour than canned beans. I use pinto beans which are so healthy for you! They have tons of fibre and protein.  

Once the beans are cooked, saute some onions, jalapeno and chipotle peppers in a little oil and then add the beans and mash together. 

You can also add some beer or stock or water at this point to get the beans to the right texture.

Once the beans are somewhat smooth, or whatever texture you prefer, prepare the other ingredients.

You can just use beans or add rice, corn or whatever you like.  

We added rice and corn to this batch.
At our local farmers market we get these great whole wheat tortillas made by Mennonite farmers from just outside town. 

Spread a couple of tablespoons of the bean & rice mixture on the tortilla... with cheese...

...and roll up.

Package them for the freezer by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap. Posing with a superhero is optional.  

Microwave the frozen burrito for about 1 minute, or 30 seconds if it is thawed.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Short & Sweet Sunday - Bok Choy

We found fresh local bok choy at the market this week so I thought I'd share a very quick and easy recipe.  All you need is a bok choy, a garlic clove and a little olive oil.

Rinse the bok choy well because it can be gritty. I swirled it in a bowl of water then rinsed it in a colander.

Meanwhile, heat a bit of oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. Just saute for a minute. 

Add the bok choy to the hot pan with a bit of water. It will wilt quickly if you toss it around a bit.

In just a few minutes it's all done!  Serve with grilled chicken and boiled potatoes or with anything else. Fresh & delicious!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Road Trip - Iceland - Exotic Tapas

One of our most exciting plans for our trip to Iceland was to try as many local foods as possible.  On our first night in Reykjavik we decided to try the Icelandic Gourmet Feast, a tasting menu of Icelandic dishes at Tapas Barinn in the centre of town.  

Tapas Barinn, Reykjavik
Tapas Barinn, Reykjavik
The atmosphere was cozy and a little dark.  We ordered a bottle of Spanish red wine to accompany our dishes and all ordered the tasting menu.  The first thing served was a shot of Brennivin, an Icelandic liquor flavoured with caraway.  It is also called "Black Death" but it wasn't bad at all.   

Tapas Barinn Reykjavik smoked puffin
Smoked puffin served with blueberry brennivin sauce
The first dish was Icelandic smoked puffin served with blueberry brennivin sauce.  This was the least successful of all the dishes we tried. It was served at a cool temperature and that and the texture made it not so appetizing. 

Tapas Barinn Lobster tails baked in garlic
Lobster tails baked in garlic
But the next course was the most delicious thing I ate on the whole trip!  Lobster tails baked in garlic.  The Icelandic lobster is actually a langoustine, sort of like a large shrimp. The tails were served in a hot dish with garlic butter and a lemon on the side.  So delicious!  

Tapas Barinn pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce
Pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce

Next we were served pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce. The fish was lovely and tender in a tasty sauce. 

Icelandic sea trout with pepper salsa & Minke whale
Next came Icelandic sea trout with pepper salsa, which was much tastier than I expected.  I am not always over the moon when it comes to fish but I think that comes from living in the centre of North America with very little good fresh fish available. This trout was delicious!

Tapas Barinn Minke whale in cranberry sauce
Minke whale in cranberry sauce

Along with the trout we received the most exotic, controversial and exciting dish on the tasting menu: Minke whale. There's a general moratorium on whaling all over the world, but Japan and some Nordic countries, including Iceland, continue to hunt whale. Minke whale is not endangered but some people do have an objection to eating the meat. We figured we'll likely never have the chance again so we might as well try it.

We were not disappointed.  It was delicious!  It was served over a sweet potato pure with a cranberry glaze. It was extremely meaty, almost like steak but with a slightly different flavour and texture. It tasted wonderful and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to try it.  

Grilled Icelandic Lamb
 Next came grilled Icelandic lamb Samfaina served with zucchini and peppers in a minty sauce.  This was lovely and tender and the vegetables were nice.  

Tapas Barinn
Here's a variety of our dishes on the table. The service was good but the dishes were a little rushed. It would have been nice to have a little time between courses but they came two or three at a time, perhaps that's how tapas should be served but we would have preferred a slower pace. 

Dessert & coffee
Dessert was White chocolate skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis. It was like a cheesecake but so light and delicious. I also indulged in a pricy spanish coffee.  Liquor is pretty expensive in Iceland but it was a great pairing with the dessert. 
Tapas Barinn White chocolate skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis
White chocolate skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis
 This meal was an outstanding introduction to Icelandic cuisine. To be honest I wasn't expecting a whole lot because it seemed like a tourist joint and I couldn't reconcile the spanish tapas concept with Icelandic food, but it was truly wonderful and our best meal on the whole trip.

We liked it so much we went back a second time!  There were a few dishes we missed on our first trip that we wanted to try, and some favourites we wanted to repeat. On our second trip we ordered the lobster, lamb and again.  

Tapas Barinn Icelandic foal in Calvados sauce
Icelandic foal in Calvados sauce
 We also ordered the filet of Icelandic foal in Calvados sauce. It tasted sort of similar to lamb with a rich taste and texture. 

Tapas Barinn grilled sweet peppers
Grilled Sweet Peppers
 This is roasted peppers and salad, a nice light dish.  

Tapas Barinn Baked potato with salad and Alioli
Baked potato with salad and Alioli
Also a baked potato and salad was exactly as advertised. 

Tapas Barinn Serrano ham with melon and horseradish
Serrano ham with melon
 As was Serrano ham with melon and horseradish, a nice refreshing bite.  

To spend two of our five prescious vacation dinners at the same restaurant meant we really liked what they had to offer. If you happen to be in Reykjavik and would like to try Icelandic cuisine, I highly recommend this restaurant. It is very reasonably priced and the food is delicious. Even if you're a little shy about trying new things, they have a wonderful menu with lots of options.

Tapas Barinn
Vesturgötu 3b
101 Reykjavík
Sími 551 2344

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chili Chicken Tacos

Sorry for the lengthy hiatus. I have lots more to say about Iceland but lets break for a spicy, hearty, healthy recipe.

This recipe is adapted from one in the wonderful Clean Eating magazine, but the recipe is unfortunately is not available online.  Dried chilis used to be hard to find where I live, but the little gourmet market around the corner has started stocking some so I was excited to give this new technique a try!

You need boneless chicken thighs, dried ancho or other mild chilis, garlic, tortillas, black beans, a tomato, an orange, carrots, mint, and an avocado.

First seed and stem the dried chilis. I used scissors to cut off the tops and cut them open, then banged the seeds out. 

Then add the chilis, tomato, garlic, the juice of the orange (zest it first and set the zest aside), a cup of water and some salt to the blender.

Blend until smooth and bright orange.

Now dice your chicken thighs and brown them in a bit of oil. Leave them alone on one side for a few minutes to get a nice brown crust before flipping them over.

Once the chicken is browned on both sides but not necessarily cooked through, add the 1 cup of the chili sauce to the pan and scrape the bottom to deglaze.  

Drain and rinse your canned black beans...

...then add the rest of the sauce and the black beans to the pan with the chicken.

Simmer for about 30 minutes, partially covered until the chili sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, make the carrot slaw by grating up carrots

and chopping the mint.

Mix together with the orange zest for a nice, refreshing slaw to top your tacos.  

By now the chicken's chili sauce should be nice and thick.  

Once it is thick and the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the heat and assemble your tacos.  

On warm flour tortillas spread some chicken-bean-chili mixture, some carrot slaw and some avocado wedges.

Fold up and taste the delicious, warm flavour dried chilis bring to the chicken.