Thursday, 28 July 2016

Sriracha Chicken Tacos with Roasted Pineapple Salsa

We made pizza a few days ago, and my daughter wanted pineapple to put on hers. Needless to say there was almost a full can of pineapple chunks leftover, and it was time to use them!

 I had already decided to marinade the chicken breasts in sriracha, honey and cumin and the idea of using the chicken for tacos had some appeal, especially when I thought about making pineapple salsa. Keeping in mind that I can only eat cooked pineapple, I roasted it before turning it into salsa. This caramelized the natural sugars in the pineapple, and contrasted nicely with the acidity of the lime juice.

The chicken had a bit of a kick from the sriracha, which can be increased as you wish. The salsa was sweet and acidic, fresh and crunchy. This is a great meal for a week night dinner on the patio.

Start off by making a marinade for the chicken. Combine:

2 chopped green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoon avocado oil


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 chicken tenders

Turn to coat well on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Drain the pineapple, reserving 2 tablespoons of juice.

Place the pineapple and juice into an ovenproof dish and roast at 350F for about 30 minutes, until it starts to caramelize around the edges and the juice has all evaporated.

Remove from the oven to cool completely.

Remove the cooled pineapple from the pan, and add:

2 tablespoons lime juice

Place on the stove to heat, scraping the caramel off the bottom as it heats. When the lime juice boils, remove from the stove and cool.

Finely dice the pineapple. Add:

1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 red pepper, finely diced

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the lime juice and pineapple caramel.

Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lime juice or honey to correct the acidity.

Grill the chicken on a hot grill, until fully cooked.

Remove from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, before thinly slicing.

To serve, place some shredded lettuce onto a warm tortilla, and top with the sliced chicken and pineapple salsa. Allow guests to add avocado, sour cream or pepper Jack cheese as they wish. Roll up and dig in! I also served grilled corn on the cob.

  • For the salsa, fresh pineapple can be used instead of canned. If you are using fresh pineapple, add a bit of pineapple or apple juice to the chunks for roasting.
  • If you wish to increase the sweetness and caramelization, add some honey or brown sugar to the pineapple. 
  • To add more heat to the salsa, you have a few choices...sriracha; minced jalapeno peppers; chili flakes added to the roasting pineapple.
  • Chopped fresh cilantro can also be added to the salsa if you have some available. This will add freshness and colour.
  • As mentioned above, add more sriracha to the chicken marinade if you want more heat. 
  • The oil in the marinade should be sufficient to prevent sticking to the grill, but lightly oiling the grill first doesn't hurt.
  • These tacos can be made with fish, such as cod or snapper. The marinading time will be less, no more than an hour at the most. You can also use the marinade for scallops or prawns.
  • The chicken can be used for pizza toppings, quesadilla filling, wraps or served whole or sliced with salad. It can also be cut into chunks for marinading and then threaded onto skewers for grilling.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Fig, Brie and Prosciutto Crostata with a Pecan Crust

On our vacation we had stopped in at Telegraph Hill, a small place outside Napier that specializes in olives, olive oil and fig products. We bought a package of figs marinated in balsamic drizzle, and I was ready to try them! Here is a link to their websites...

As well as the figs I had 6 shallots and a handful of pecans to use, and this is what I came up with. I picked up a small piece of Brie and some prosciutto, and used some of the pecans to make pastry for the crust, the rest I added to the side salad. Some fresh rosemary from the herb garden, what more can you ask for?

I also reduced some of the Balsamic drizzle from the figs to make a reduction that I drizzled over the finished crostata. This meal was a hit! Very rich, but oh so good...the pastry was buttery and flaky, the Brie was gooey and melted, the figs were sweet but still had the tartness from the vinegar and the prosciutto was thin and slightly crisped.

Start off by making the pastry. In a food processor, combine:

3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Process until the nuts are finely ground.


3 ounces cold, salted butter, cubed

Process by pulsing, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

With the processor running, add:

1 - 3 tablespoons of cold water

Add the water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture resembles wet crumbs that will stick together when pressed between your fingers.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently knead the dough together and into a disc.

Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a hot pan, with a bit of olive oil, cook:

6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

Turn the heat to low and cook slowly, stirring often.

When the shallots have softened and caramelized, add:

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
a pinch each of salt and pepper

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Remove 4 figs from the syrup, and thinly slice.

Slice Brie into 1/4" thick slices.

Roll the rested pastry out on a lightly floured counter. You want a circle that is about 12" in diameter.

Place a 10" or 11" removable tart shell base under the rolled out pastry.

Spread the caramelized shallots over the centre of the pastry, leaving a border of about  2" around the outside.

Sprinkle the sliced figs over the shallots.

Place the sliced Brie over the figs.

Brush the edge of the pastry with eggwash.

Start folding the edges in towards the middle, a small section at a time, creating a section of pleats, as shown.

Brush eggwash as needed to help the folded dough stick.

Continue around the pastry until the whole edge has been pleated. You can use the edge of a knife to add a decorative element to the pleats if you wish.

Wrap the crostata with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Heat the oven to 425F, and place the crostata onto a baking sheet. Leave it on the tart shell base for stability when removing it from the tray for cutting. Brush the pastry with eggwash.

Place the crostata into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to 350F and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove the crostata from the oven and add:

5 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise

Gently drape the prosciutto as you add it.

Place the crostata back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.

I reduced a bit of the Balsamic drizzle from the figs until it was thick and syrupy, and then used it to garnish the crostata before cutting it into 4 portions, and serving it with a salad of mixed greens, toasted pecans and fresh raspberries.

  • For the dough, any nuts can be substituted for pecans. Some good choices are walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or pistachios.
  • If you do use unsalted butter, add half a teaspoon of salt to the dough.
  • The pastry can also be used for a sweet crostata. Omit the rosemary and pepper (although both would work well with peaches or raspberries). Add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Lemon zest and cinnamon can also be added.
  • If you do not have figs that are soaked in any kind of liquid, use fresh figs. If you only have dried figs, you can soak them yourself in a mixture of Balsamic vinegar and a bit of orange or apple juice. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the figs and allow to soak overnight, or longer. You can also soak the figs in liqueur or port.
  • Fresh fruits that can be used instead of dried figs include peaches, nectarines, pears or apples.
  • Cambozola would be another good choice of cheese, keeping the creaminess of the Brie, while adding the tang of the blue cheese. Soft goat cheese is another choice.
  • If you do not have shallots, caramelize a thinly sliced medium onion. 
  • It is important that the prosciutto is sliced thinly, so that it drapes and folds when you add it to the crostata. This creates layers and pockets of soft and crunchy prosciutto, and also looks better than flat slices laid on top!
  • The crostata can be assembled a day ahead, and baked when you are ready. The longer it chills  the better the pastry folds keep their shape without collapsing.
  • The pastry can be rolled out and used to line a tart shell; bake it blind before using it. A crostata is a nice rustic, free form style of tart, that does not require a tart shell.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pasta with Three Tomato Sauce and Grilled Chicken

One of the things I love most about pasta is the variety of vegetables, meats, cheeses and sauces that can be served with it. The combinations are endless, limited only by your imagination and available food items. This also makes pasta a blank canvas for using things up...

This meal was about tomatoes...I had a handful of grape tomatoes, some sundried tomatoes and some Basic Tomato Sauce in the fridge, all needing to be used. The soft goat cheese added a tang and creaminess to the sauce; grilled chicken breast and asparagus rounded out the meal.

Make a marinade for the chicken by combining:

4 tablespoons sundried tomato oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
pinch of chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 chicken tenders

Turn to coat all sides and leave for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook your pasta while you make the sauce.  Turn the grill on to heat.

In a bit of olive oil, cook until soft:

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper


1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

Stir in:

3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce

Simmer, stirring occasionally until ready to serve.

Grill the chicken on the hot grill until fully cooked. No need to oil the grill, the marinade will do that for you!

Remove from the heat, rest for 5 minutes and then slice thinly.

When the chicken is half done, toss the grape tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and add to the grill.

Cook until they start to char and the skin starts to crack. This only takes a few minutes. Remove from the heat.

At the same time as the tomatoes, lightly oil and season the asparagus and put that onto the grill until it is slightly charred and as tender as you like it.

Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta and add the tomato sauce, stirring to coat the pasta.

To serve, portion the pasta into a shallow bowl, top with the grilled grape tomatoes and sliced grilled chicken. Crumble soft goats cheese on top and serve the asparagus on the side. Buon appetito!

  • Roasted grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped canned tomatoes or peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes can be used for either the grilled grape tomatoes or sundried tomatoes.
  • If you don't have, or like, goat cheese you can add about half a cup of whipping cream to the sauce while it is simmering to achieve the creaminess the cheese adds when it melts into the hot tomato sauce.
  • The pasta and sauce can be put into an ovenproof dish, covered with grated mozzarella and baked. The chicken can be added before baking, or served on top as I did.
  • Any meat can be used; this would be a great way to use leftover roast chicken, beef or meatballs.
  • More vegetables such as chopped spinach, mushrooms, zucchini or olives can be added.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Fennel, Red Onion and Roasted Red Pepper Jam

There were two red peppers in the fridge, so I roasted one, with no clear intentions of what it would be used for. As I was putting it into the fridge I saw the fennel bulb that was in there, and that is how this jam came about.

I wanted to do something different with the fennel; I usually use it in salads, or with fish or pork, but the idea of making a jam with it intrigued me. The anise flavour would pair well with sweetness, but I wanted a bit of a kick as well, so I added some chili flakes and apple cider vinegar. 

I was still looking for something to serve it with, when the idea of turkey burgers came up...perfect!

First, roast the red pepper by placing it directly onto the flame on a gas stove, turning as each side blackens.

You can also roast the peppers on the barbecue or in a 400F oven, on a baking sheet.

When the whole pepper has blackened, remove it from the flame and place it into a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap.

This steams the pepper, using the heat from charring it, and separates the skin from the pepper.

To peel, rub the charred skin off, and rinse the pepper under cold water to remove any residual skin. Cut the pepper open and remove the seeds and white veins. Refrigerate until needed.

Thinly slice:

1 large fennel bulb
1/2 large red onion

Using olive oil, cook on a medium low heat, stirring often, until the onion and fennel start to colour.

Turn the heat to low, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel are a deep golden colour, and are starting to soften. This takes about 45 - 60 minutes. Transfer to a small deep pot.

Add, 1/4 cup at a time:

1 cup apple juice

Allow the juice to reduce to almost nothing before adding the next 1/4 cup. Keep the heat low, stir often, and allow the fennel and onions to deepen in colour and soften even more.

Stir in:

1/2 roasted red pepper, diced
pinch of chili flakes
pinch of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey

Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. I served the relish on a turkey burger, along with goat cheese, tomato, bacon and baby greens. The creamy, tart goat cheese was a great contrast to the sweet, tangy relish.

  • Roasting peppers is a great way to transform both the taste and texture. The sweetness is enhanced, while a smokiness is added, and the crunch is replaced with a softer pepper.
  • Roasted peppers can be stored in the fridge, well covered, for 3 - 5 days. You can also use purchased roasted peppers; they can be found both in cans and jars.
  • This is a great way to use softer peppers, that are starting to wrinkle a bit...these are still good to eat, but have lost the crunch that is so nice in things like salads. Hot peppers such as jalapenos can be roasted the same way.
  • Add the peppers to pasta sauces; puree and stir into mayonnaise; make soup using them along with vegetables such as fennel, leeks or potato; use them for pizza, wraps or sandwhiches.
  • Fennel and onion both contain natural sugars, and cooking them slowly by themselves allow the sugars to start to caramelize. Adding the apple juice enhances the sweetness, and the added liquid increases the jammy effect.
  • Orange or lemon zest can be added; grated fresh ginger will add some heat; chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or chives; orange juice instead of apple; white onion instead of red.
  • The relish made enough for four burgers; it can also be used on sandwhiches with chicken, turkey or ham. Try it with roast chicken, turkey or pork or on grilled fish.
  • Another quick sauce that can be used for burgers and grilled chicken or pork is this one. I made it when I discovered a beer that had been put in the freezer to chill and was forgotten...

Simmer until thickened:

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup beer
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground aniseeds
1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chili

I served the sauce with grilled pork tenderloin, cornbread and an arugula, grape tomato and corn salad. Leftover sauce can be frozen.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

White Chocolate and Raspberry Scones

My parents were visiting today, and knowing that my Dad loves scones, what else would I make? I had a half pint of fresh raspberries and quite a few chocolate curls left over from when I made the Cheesecake with White Chocolate, Goat Cheese and Cardamom. There wasn't much milk in the fridge, but there was a bit of white chocolate and raspberry scones it would be!

Turn the oven on to 375F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine in a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment:

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces cold butter, diced

When the mixture is the texture of coarse breadcrumbs, remove it from the mixer and place it into a large bowl.

I prefer to add the liquid and fresh fruit by hand.

Measure out:

1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add about a quarter of the liquid and using a fork, gently stir it in.


3/4 cup white chocolate

Gently stir in another quarter of the liquid.

At this point you will have a shaggy dough that is starting to hold together.

1/2 pint fresh raspberries

Continue adding small amounts of buttermilk as you gently knead the dough together using your fingertips.

When it holds together, turn it out onto a floured counter and gently knead it a few times to form a ball.

Carefully press the dough down into a circle, about 1 1/2" high.

Cut the circle of dough into 8 wedges and place them onto the prepared tray.

Brush lightly with buttermilk or egg wash and bake until set and golden, about 15 - 20 minutes.

The scones do spread a bit during baking, and the pockets of raspberries can remain hot for a while, so be sure to let them cool to room temperature before serving. I like to serve them just as they are, but butter or whipped cream can be served with them if you like.

  • These scones are lighter on sugar, the white chocolate adds sweetness. The raspberries do add a slightly tart note to the scone, so if you prefer your scones sweet, increase the sugar by another tablespoon, and sprinkle a little bit on the top before baking.
  • The chocolate curls break into small pieces, almost like grated chocolate. If you want to use chocolate chips instead, go ahead, they will give bigger hits of chocolate and will be nice and gooey if the scone is still warm. Dark or milk chocolate chips can also be used.
  • Lemon or orange zest both work well with raspberries and chocolate, so add some if you want. I had neither, so did without.
  • Keep in mind that the raspberries do add moisture to the dough, so be careful when adding the buttermilk that you keep an eye on the wetness of the dough and don't just pour it all in at once. I had about 1/4 cup left, and used that to brush the tops of the scones before baking them.
  • Frozen raspberries can also be used; add them frozen. Other berries such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, boysenberries or huckleberries can also be used.
  • As I mentioned above, I prefer to add the liquid and fruit by hand. I find that this makes it easier to control how much liquid you need, stops you from overmixing the dough and ending up with a tough scone and also prevents the berries from being crushed.
  • The dry ingredients and butter can be combined to the breadcrumb stage and then refrigerated until you are ready to bake the scones.
  • By replacing 1/4 cup of the flour with cocoa, you can make chocolate scones.