Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How do I love Mustard? Let me count the ways…freely, purely & passionately.

Mustard is a handy condiment to have in the kitchen and is used for waaaaay more than hotdogs. No matter your cooking ability, it’s fun to try ‘new-to-you’ types of mustard. Mustards can be an amazing flavour boaster for dishes you may never have thought about.

Mustard Suggestions
Most people have experimented with various mustards on hot & cold sandwiches, (tasty on a grilled cheese) but try mustards on grilled meat, salad dressings, tuna salad, chicken wings, drizzled over vegetables, roast and yes, even pomme frites, (A.K.A. French Fries) and tofu…who knew?! It’s not all about the ‘yellow stuff’…there are sooooo many more mustards out there to try!

For those Julia Child followers, there is always ‘Sauce Robert’. This is really “Brown Mustard Sauce” and it is wonderfully delicious! Try it on “roast…pork chops, beef, broiled chicken, turkey, hot meat leftovers and hamburgers.” That covers a variety of foods to use with mustard perking up the taste big time.

For the no fuss cook…make Roasted Potatoes w Cheese and Mustard….they are sooooo good!
Quarter some Yukon gold potatoes, toss them in a little olive oil, sea salt, rosemary and cracked black pepper; roast for 20 minutes in a 400-425 F oven for approximately 20 minutes. Pull out of the oven and toss the hot potatoes with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and 1 Tablespoon of Dijon or Coarse Mustard. Put back in oven and continue to roast for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with a pinch of fresh chopped parsley. Oh yea…these are outstanding with very little effort!

For a simple sauce to use on grilled Panini’s, wraps or grilled hamburgers make the following sauce.
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayo
1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
½ clove of garlic, minced garlic
Pinch of dried basil
½ - 1 teaspoon Grainy or Dijon mustard
Optional: 1 teaspoon of horseradish
Mix together and use as a ‘special sauce’ for your next sandwich.

Grill your next beef steak with this Herb mustard:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of white wine
2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard
Cracked black pepper to taste
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of dried basil
1/2 -1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
Mix together. Brush herb mustard on the steaks and place on a hot grill. Grill first side, flip once and brush herb mustard on second side. Cook until desired doneness. Steak may be seasoned w/ salt (if desired) after it has been flipped. Discard unused herb mustard.

Or try this Herb Mustard Glaze on salmon (or your favourite fish)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon dry white wine
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (or your favourite mustard)
2 Tablespoon whole-grain mustard
Combine all ingredients in food processor. Set aside.
Place salmon on sprayed foil and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper.
Broil for 2 minutes. Add the capers to the mixed sauce and spoon the mustard sauce over fillets. Continue to broil 5 minutes or until salmon is cooked but not overdone. (Salmon may be done on the grill if preferred. It’s wise to make sure the grill is properly seasoned and not overcook the salmon. If grilling salmon is unfamiliar to you, information is widely available online or in cookbooks at the library)

The list of mustards below is not meant to be comprehensive, just a simple list of mustards you may find interesting to try. If this is a new thought for you, may I suggest you be a bit adventuresome and buy mustard with a label that simply looks appealing.

Basically the mustard seeds most often used in the culinary world are white, yellow, black and brown. The seeds are used in pickling blends, and curry seasoning. Once the seeds are processed they turn into mustards. There is even a National Mustard Day.

Onto the short list of mustards…(by no means comprehensive just informative)
Dijon Mustard is made with white wine, vinegar and juice from unripened grapes all which help make this mustard less acidic and smooth. A well known producer is Grey Poupon which became widely popular from their commercial touting Grey Poupon to be “one of life’s finer pleasures”! In my opinion, all good cooks have Dijon in their fridge.

Wine mustards are numerous in variety and even include Champagne mustard. I find the wine mustard particularly good on fish. It even perks up simple cooked carrots. Add some wine mustard to carrots, a pinch of thyme, salt and pepper and a small pat of butter…not like Grandmas carrots!

Creole Mustard is brownish mustard with a hint of horseradish and spices making it somewhat hot, spicy mustard. I have a weakness for Creole mustard on pork tenderloin & crab cakes.

Whole Grain Mustard sometimes called ‘coarse mustard’. The coarse grain mustard that comes in a stone jar with a red seal is Pommery and happens to be one of my personal favourite. I like it on almost any food that can be enhanced with mustard! Try it on potato salad and grilled lamb. Fantastic flavour.

German Mustard ranges from mild to hot, spicy and mildly sweet. From pate to pretzels, this is a tasty type of mustard.

Honey Mustard also ranges from hot to mild. Its fun to pick up locally made honey mustard in different regions all over the world. Go shopping at a Farmers Markets almost anywhere; many times you can sample the variety of mustards which is a fun treat.

All-American Ball Park Mustard is the bright yellow mustard most people put on hot dogs. No need to say too much more.

Flavored Mustards are numerous. Blue Cheese mustard, Horseradish, Basil-Pesto mustard, Wasabi mustard, Maple mustard, Chipotle mustard, (love this one!) Roasted Garlic mustard are just a few…actually there are literally hundreds more to choose from! It’s fun to experiment with new mustards. I like to buy a different mustard (or 2 or 3) when ever I travel away from home. Pick up a new mustard and have a ‘mustard adventure’ trying it with a new recipe or an old favourite.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chilled Soup is easy, quick, healthy and downright delicious for all ages!

Warm weather is a perfect time to sip on a refreshing chilled soup. Soup has a universal appeal. In the cooler months nothing beats a steaming bowl of hot soup but hot weather begs us to cool off with a delightful bowl of cold soup!

Most cold soups are full of flavour and pop with colour. Fruit based cold soups have just the right amount of sweetness to make you say ‘ummmm’ with each bite. Fruit soups are a refreshing start to a summer meal or the perfect way to end a meal. Enjoy chilled soup at the next family picnic, late night dinner on the patio, sipping on the deck for lunch, on the boat, or at the dinner table…really almost anytime and anywhere is the right time to enjoy a delicious chilled soup.

Vegetable based cold soups can be a vegetarian’s delight; add some beans and it is a complete meal. For those who enjoy a bit of meat, it is easy to incorporate fresh crab, shrimp or other light protein. Fruit soups are an excellent way to start or end a meal and vegetable soups can actually be the meal along with some Artisan bread.

Whether fruit or vegetable, most cold soups are either cooked very lightly or not at all…sounds wonderful on a hot sticky day!

Farmers markets, backyard gardens and a good produce department are perfect places to get inspired with the plethora of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Sweet soups are usually fruit based enhanced with a bit of honey and savoury soups can be filled with vegetables and spices. That being said, there are no firm rules other than using quality fruit and/or vegetables. Over-ripe food will produce a less than desirable soup. Using food at its’ peak is the best way to ensure a great tasting chilled soup.
A few basic tips when making cold soups are to chill the soup thoroughly, many times overnight. Taste the soup once it has chilled and adjust seasoning if necessary. Most pureed chilled soups should be almost too thick to pour.

The sky is the limit for variety in cold soups! Try Cucumber with Yogurt and Dill. Mango, Tomato-Basil, Watermelon Gazpacho, Curried Pineapple, Chilled Apple with Curry, the timeless, and classic Vichyssoise and the summer favourite, Gazpacho to name a very few.

Want to try a simple cold soup that friends and family will rave about? Whip up this easy Strawberry soup. If kiddies are eating simply replace the Chardonnay with white grape juice. You can even pour the strawberry-grape soup into popsicle moulds and make ‘soup-on-a-stick’ for the kids, they will love it. The Chardonnay and strawberries make an elegant and delicious soup that begs to be made and eaten now!

Chilled Strawberry & Chardonnay Soup

Ingredients Serves 4
12 oz strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup liquid honey
1& 1/2 cups Chardonnay wine (White grape juice can be substituted for the Chardonnay)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
Pinch of cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp strawberry yogurt
1 kiwi, peeled, cut in half from top to bottom then cut into slices

Place strawberries, honey, Chardonnay and lemon juice in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and put in fridge to chill a several hours or even overnight. Once chilled thoroughly, add the lemon zest and strawberry yogurt mixing ingredients together.
Pour into 4 chilled soup bowls* and garnish each bowl with sliced kiwi.

*Have fun serving the chilled soup in chilled martini glasses or half of a hollowed out cantaloupe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marinade Tips for the BBQ

Summer brings out the desire to use the outdoor grill. The smell coming off the grill is like no other and flavour peaks from food sizzling on the grill. Pack even more flavour in by using a marinade on your favourite meat, fish, poultry or vegetable. Basically a marinade is oil, an acid and seasonings imparting great flavour into grilled food. Marinades also add moisture along with flavour and using them is an easy way to achieve quick success as a ‘grillmeister’!

Here are a few marinade tips plus a quick marinade recipe. When ever you use a marinade that includes vinegar, lemon juice, or wine (an acid base marinade) be careful not to let the meat to sit longer than 4 hours or it can actually start breaking down the texture of the meat.

A quick no fuss-no muss way to marinade is to put the meat and marinade in a heavy-duty plastic zip lock bag; since it keeps the food completely surrounded by the marinade, it eliminates the need for frequent turning. Press out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator, never on the counter at room temperature.

A few ingredients like chopped garlic and parsley leaves may scorch over direct high heat and taste bitter. Although they add flavour to the marinade, you may want to brush them off the food before grilling. If you want to another hit of flavour to the food on the grill, tie-up five or six fresh herbs with heavy cotton string securing the herbs to make a fragrant ‘basting brush’. Dip the herb ‘brush’ into a favourite sauce, marinade or just olive oil to baste as the food cooks on the grill!

The following step seems so simple and yet can make a big difference; simple shake off as much marinade as possible before grilling to promote a good sear. If the meat is too wet, it will steam and drip liquid onto the coals, inhibiting the development of that distinctive crisp, browned exterior.

Simple Citrus Marinade
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (can interchange orange and/or lime juice)
1-2 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs. finely chopped shallots or green onions
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, tarragon, dill or sage, or 1 tsp. dried herb of choice (choose your favourite herb mixture)
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. cumin (optional)
2 tsp. minced jalapeño chilli
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, lemon zest, thyme, minced jalapeño, salt and pepper. Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly covered jar for up to 2 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Have fun with marinades on the grill!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

CHARMOULA creates a symphony of flavours!


Want an easy way to punch up flavour to your meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and even pasta? Make up some Charmoula. This simple blend of spices creates a symphony of flavours for anyone who loves great flavour in their food!
Charmoula’s origin is from North Africa and is an aromatic blend of spices that can transform chicken, meat or fish into a memorable dish your friends and family will adore.

All the spices in Charmoula are readily available at the local grocery. The blend varies from cook to cook but most blends include garlic, lemon juice, parsley, cumin, cilantro, sweet paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil with a pinch of cayenne. I like using a mortar and pestle but there is no panic if you do not have one; simply use a food processor.

Charmoula can be made on a weekend and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or pop in ice cube trays, freeze then put the ‘Charmoula cubes’ in a freezer bag which provides instant flavour for many dishes!

This versatile seasoning can be used as a quick marinade for fish or a rub for chicken, as a finishing sauce for any meat and vegetables, or as a dip with crusty bread. Add a tablespoon of Charmoula to mayonnaise or yogurt and serve with your favourite grilled fish…this is so simple and tasty! Drop a tablespoon of Charmoula into a vegetable or chicken soup or a pasta dish. It doesn’t matter is the pasta or soup is cream or broth based you have boasted lovely flavour into your meal.

Charmoula is easy to make, simple to use and livens up simple foods you are used to preparing with a fresh pungent flavour.

Charmoula ingredients
6 Tbsp garlic, mashed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp Sea salt
Pinch of cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cracked fresh pepper
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/ 2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon (zest the lemon first)
4 tbsp olive oil

Using a mortar and pestle, (or food processor), grind mashed garlic, chopped parsley, cilantro and lemon zest to a coarse mixture. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, paprika, cayenne, cumin, and mash enough to mix together.
Slowly pour in the olive oil while blending to emulsify; add salt and pepper.

Yields: approximately 2/3 cup or 6 oz. Unless a recipe calls for a specific amount, use 1 tbsp. per portion serving in each recipe.

Optional ingredients to add are: turmeric, couple of teaspoons of honey, 1 dried bay leaf, crumbled and a pinch of saffron.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Zest up Your Life with an Orange

ZEST up your life! Save the zest from your next Orange and pack in colour, nutrition, and flavour simply be adding a little orange zest.

You’ve heard of simple ideas like freezing some zest and water in ice cube trays and throwing some zest into your tea cup for added flavour. But really orange zest can be added to many foods. Consider saving orange zest and tossing it into muffin batter or your next bowl of breakfast cereal, add zest to cake and cookie recipes or simply into rice as it cooks. For dessert, sprinkle some orange zest over frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Orange Vinaigrette is easy to make. In a screw-top jar combine 3/4 cup orange juice, zest of the orange, 1/4 cup of white wine or champagne vinegar, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup water. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Shake to mix up the flavours and pour over your salad.
If you want to punch up the flavour add one or more of the following ingredients:
A minced clove of garlic, finely chopped fresh or dried basil and a tiny pinch of cayenne
Makes approximately 1 & 1/2 cups or tasty dressing.

Orange zest in mashed sweet potatoes will make you ask for more…Add 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 4 tablespoons maple syrup and 2 teaspoons grated orange rind to 5 to 6 medium-sized sweet potatoes. Sea salt and black pepper to taste. Delizioso!

Thoroughly wash oranges before using and buy organic if possible.

Last but certainly not least…add some dried orange peel to your next bath for an aromatic and rejuvenating soak. ‘Orang’ you happy to learn what to do with those peels!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tidbits on Tomatoes

There are several simple ways to increase flavour to tomatoes; add a pinch of sugar or a grated carrot when cooking tomatoes. Keep the seeds in the dish! Those little tomato seeds and ‘jelly’ trigger a lot of extra flavour, so cook a bit more rustic and keep the tomato seeds in the dish.
Less juice is lost in the tomato when they are sliced the ‘French’ way which is from stem to blossom (vertically)
Store tomatoes at room temperature. Tomatoes will not ripen any further in the refrigerator and actually, refrigeration can make them tasteless and turn the flesh to a mealy mush.
Want to extend the life of the tomatoes sitting on your kitchen counter? Place the stem-end down. This minimizes the air entering and moisture exiting making the life of the tomato longer.