Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pear, Brie, Walnut and Prosciutto Baguettes with 15 yr Old Balsamic

Who doesn't love anything packed between a good piece of bread? Sandwiches just might be one of the best things ever invented! Some of my best food memories have to do with them. In Spain on a culinary tour, we had just arrived and were absolutely famished so my friends and I wandered down the street and picked up a baguette, some local serrano ham and manchego cheese and brought it back to the hotel, where we tore the baguette open with our hands, leaving crumbs all over the bed and stuffed it with the meat and cheese. So simple, soo good! In Italy my fam and I came across a local bakery that had the most gorgeous flatbreads that had zucchini and tomatoes baked right in, across the street we picked up some salami and pecorino cheese and made open faced sandwiches which we brought back to our hotel and ate in the picturesque backyard garden. I will never forget that lunch! I first had this pear, brie, walnut and prosciutto creation at a little place called Finch's in Van. Cutest place ever, the menu is written on chalk boards and they have the most gorgeous antique stove which can only bake 6 chocolate chip cookies at a time! (Some of the best cookies in the city I might add). Finch's uses a blue brie cheese so if you can get your hands on that, even better! From time to time I like to re-create this sandwich at home and I really think this might be the best combo ever, from the sweetness of the pear to the saltiness of the prosciutto to the creaminess of the brie, crunch of the toasted walnuts and tang of the balsamic vinegar, it's got it all! Fruit, cheese, bread and meat...all bases covered!

Pear, Brie, Walnut, Prosciutto Baguette
(Really this recipe is self-explanatory but here are the ingredients anyway!)
Crusty Baguette
Brie Cheese (Or Blue brie cheese if you can find it or any soft cheese)
Walnuts (Toasted)
Balsamic Vinegar (I used 15 yr old balsamic)
Olive oil

1.Tear open baguette, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Spread cheese over baguette, stuff with prosciutto and fan pears inside and sprinkle in toasted walnuts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Creamy Penne Pumpkin Alfredo with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chicken Sausage

Pumpkin Alfredo you ask?! l told you I was on a pumpkin kick and somehow pasta made it into the mix! I love alfredo sauce, how can you not like creamy garlicky goodness? But every time I see it on a menu I tend to stay away from it just because I know one dish of the stuff is probably enough for 2 days of my caloric intake as well it often leaves you with that oh so lovely stick to your ribs, can't breathe, need to put my sweatpants on immediately, I can't move from the couch feeling. Well I am telling you now I think I have found a worthy alternative! Pureed pumpkin and cottage cheese are the base for this creamy sauce and I know those two ingredients are probably at the bottom of everybody's food list (they used to be on mine) but it really works!! It's garlicky, cheesey, creamy and as an added bonus, loaded with antioxidants (beta carotene), Vit C, iron, fiber and much more! This sauce would also be great with chicken wrapped prosciutto, cannelloni, cauliflower and broccoli...tons of possibilities! Thanksgiving is coming up and I started thinking about how I could turn this into a Thanksgiving pasta....Pumpkin Penne Alfredo with Turkey Sausage, baked with a Sage Bread Crumb Topping (aka the "stuffing" component). This just may be what I will be eating seeing as I won't be with my fam this year for turkey dinner! Snff snff anyone in need of a extra guest at their table this year in Van? I know this great pasta dish I could bring...

Penne Pumpkin Alfredo with Garlic Chicken Sausage (Serves 4)
Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree (butternut squash would work well too)
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp agave syrup (or sugar)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 onion, fine diced
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped

Garlic chicken sausage, roasted or pan fried (or any kind you like, chorizo would be good too)
Swiss Chard (lightly sauteed)
5 cups cooked whole wheat or brown rice penne
Fresh grated Parmigiano Regganio

1. In a food processor puree milk, cottage cheese, pumpkin puree and tomato paste.
2. In a pot sweat onion and garlic just till translucent. Add in pumpkin sauce and add sage, cayenne, agave and s+p to your taste. Heat just until warmed through (be careful as the sauce can break when it gets too hot due to the cottage cheese). If too thick add a bit of pasta water.
3. Toss together pasta, sauce, swiss chard and chicken and serve immediately

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Sick! Pumpkin bread? Before you click off this blog (I might have done the same) hear me out! Usually I wouldn't even take a second glance at a recipe containing pumpkin, I only really like pumpkin pie because I associate it with Thanksgiving and turkey dinner and only then if it's slathered in homemade whipped cream! I was visiting a friend yesterday and she had just made a loaf that was still warm from the oven. Anything that is fresh baked and warm from the oven, even pumpkin containing, I will not turn down! I was blown away, it was nice and moist, due to the pumpkin puree and all the spices made me think of a warm chai latte. This definitely reminds me of fall and although I hate to see summer go, I'm stoked for everything fall brings, leaves changing color, cozy sweaters, warm scarves, crisp apples and now anything pumpkin! The ideas are churning..pumpkin cardamom creme brulee? Pumpkin souffles with mascarpone whipped cream...getting ahead of myself here. Of course I tweaked the recipe, cut back on the sugar and used more whole wheat flour than white. With that said, we happened to have some cream cheese icing leftover from a carrot cake so I slathered it on a few pieces, sooo goood!
Spiced Pumpkin Bread (Makes 1 loaf or 3 mini loaves)
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup agave (if u dont have, use 1 cup sugar)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/4 buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg (I used fresh grated)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup flax seeds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.Combine eggs, sugar, agave, pumpkin puree, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl combine baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, whole wheat flour, white flour and flax seeds.
4. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients, just until incorporated.
5. Place in greased loaf pans and bake for 30-35 minutes for mini loaves or approx 1 hour for regular loaf. When toothpick comes out clean with no batter, it is done.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coconut Macadamia Nut Crusted Salmon with Fruit Salsa and Banana Creme Fraiche

I've had this idea churning for awhile now and finally had a chance to try it out! So very summer and tropical, I think I'm trying to hold on to the last days of summer that seem to be slipping away! It first started out as a panko coconut crust which led me to add macadamia nuts into the mix. Thinking of something to make the crust stick to the salmon I came up with a wet rub of yellow curry paste, dijon and agave syrup. I also wanted a cool contrast to the salmon so I threw together a minted cilantro fruit salsa and if that wasn't enough, a banana "creme fraiche" which was really Greek yogurt with mashed banana. I swear I think this banana creme fraiche is a revelation..I just want to put it on everything (pancakes, peanut butter & honey quesadillas and South African curry come to mind) or just eat it by the spoonful! It sounds like alot of flavours for one dish but they really do work well together! As seen below is the complete meal which I served with a salad and of course bread, as a meal in my fam is not complete without it!

Coconut Macadamia Nut Crusted Salmon
1 fresh salmon fillet, pinbones removed, skin removed
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup shredded coconut (can use sweetened or unsweetened)
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
2 tbsp melted butter (optional)
1/4 cup yellow curry paste
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp agave syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay salmon on baking sheet. Combine panko, coconut, melted butter and macadamia nuts in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine curry paste, dijon and agave. Spread over top of fish and season with salt and pepper. Evenly coat fish with coconut breadcrumb mixture and roast for 15-20 min (for medium doneness)

Fruit Salsa
You can really use whatever is fresh and available to you, this is what I had available:
1/2 cup cantaloupe, diced
1/2 cup mango, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 lime, juiced
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh mint, chopped
1. Combine all ingredients and chill in fridge.

Banana Creme Fraiche
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 cups Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt that has been strained)
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tsp lime juice
1. Combine all ingredients and chill in fridge.