Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tomato Napoleon

In the world of food the term “Napoleon” usually refers to a layered flaky pastry dessert, filled with sweet creamy custard. It can also describe any dish that is made of different layers. Tomato napoleon is one of the easiest appetizers to put together. It is also one of the most beautiful and elegant hors d'oeuvres you can offer to your guests. Created by Chef Ricardo Larrivée, this dish is light, succulent and incredibly flavourful. The natural sweet flavour of tomatoes mixed with a spicy bite of chives, fragrant basil and crispiness of crystallized fleur de sel, creates a perfect balance of flavours and textures. Tomato Napoleon and chive vinaigrette both contain vibrant natural colours so serving it on a simple white plate can make the dish look considerably more appetizing…


Chive Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup minced fresh chives, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot, 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 pinch Salt and pepper.
Basil Oil: 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup fresh basil, 1 clove clove garlic, peeled.
Napoleons: 2 slices bacon, 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick, cut into small pieces, 4 tomatoes of various colours (yellow, red, orange, black [kumato]), cut into 1-cm (1/2-inch) slices, fleur de sel.


Chive Dressing: In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Basil Oil: Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and set aside.
Napoleons: In a non-stick pan, brown the bacon. Drain on paper towels. Let cool. Lay the tomato slices on a baking sheet. Brush generously with chive dressing. On 4 plates, arrange the tomato slices in uneven stacks, alternating the colours. Drizzle with basil oil. Sprinkle with bacon bits and fleur de sel. Season with pepper.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Salade Niçoise

Salade Niçoise must be one of the best known salads in France. It is as beautiful as the region of Côte d'Azur (“Azure coast”) where the salad originated. It is a perfect starter for any dinner party because it has something for everyone. Different textures, flavours and aromas come together in a perfect blend of colour and taste. Over the years, Salade Niçoise has adopted many variations of preparation but no matter which ingredients you add or take out, it always tastes amazing. Here is something you can do to add an additional layer of flavour to your Salade Niçoise. Rub the plate with a halved clove of garlic before plating your salad. It will give your salad a delicately piquant touch.


Vinaigrette: 1/2 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 medium shallot, minced, 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves, 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil leaves, 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Salad: 2-3 cans of tuna in oil, 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and either halved or quartered, 10 small new red potatoes, 2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce, leaves washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces, 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths,1 small red onion, sliced very thin, 8 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed and each bean halved crosswise, 1/4 cup niçoise olives, 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and/or several anchovies.


Whisk lemon juice, oil, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon (do not discard boiling water). Toss warm potatoes with 1/4 cup vinaigrette; set aside. While potatoes are cooking, toss lettuce with 1/4 cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter. Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Toss tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl; arrange tomato-onion mixture on the lettuce bed. Arrange reserved potatoes in a mound at edge of lettuce bed. Return water to boil; add 1 tablespoon salt and green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans, transfer to reserved ice water, and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry beans well. Toss beans, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste; arrange in a mound at edge of lettuce bed. Arrange hard boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies (if using) in mounds on the lettuce bed. Drizzle eggs with remaining 2 tablespoons dressing, sprinkle entire salad with capers (if using), and serve immediately.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

French Crêpes

Crêpes are considered to be the national dish of France. They originated in Brittany (Northwest of France). Crêpes are satisfying, easy to make and the creative culinary possibilities are endless. Crepes can be sweet (crêpes sucrées) or savoury (crêpes salées). Unless you are making a traditional Crêpe Suzette, you can experiment with the filling of your crêpes as much as your heart desires.  My favourite must be savoury crêpes with piquant cheese, mushroom and ham filling. I like to top them with a warm béchamel sauce or some crème fraîche.

3 eggs, ½ tsp salt, 3 cups of milk, 2 cup of flour, touch of baking soda, 3 tbsp melted butter, ½ cup of water.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together all ingredients. Beat until smooth. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side.

With Food Network's star Anna Olson, host of Fresh and Sugar.

Spinach Dip in a Bread Shell

This recipe was given to me by my lovely friend Nada, who is a fabulous cook and a great hostess. Besides an amazing symphony of flavours, this rustic dish offers guests an amazingly warm experience; it brings them together to enjoy this savoury dip served in a bread shell. I like to add an extra gourmet touch to this dip by crumbling some blue cheese on top and letting it melt into a warm mixture of the filling. I serve it as an appetizer with small pieces of bread for dipping and few slices of lemon and lime in case my guests enjoy an extra squeeze of it. 

Ingredients:Frozen chopped spinach, 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of mayonnaise, ½ cup of green onion, 1tsp. Parsley flakes or a small bunch of fresh parsley, lemon or lime juice to taste, ½ tsp. Seasoned salt, round crusty bread.

Directions:Mix all ingredients together. Cut the top from round loaf. Remove bread from inside shell, leaving 1 inch thick. Reserve removed bread for dipping. Fill with dip. Wrap in foil. Preheat your oven to at 300 F and bake for 2 hours.


Poulet Au Paprika

Poulet au Paprika is not a very traditional French dish since it has some Eastern European flavours like sweet Hungarian paprika and sour cream. This is just one more example of how versatile and open to outside variations French cuisine can be. Poulet au Paprika is rich, succulent and extremely satisfying. Since Poulet au Paprika is a very colourful dish I like it to remain the star of the show. I serve it on a warm bed of plain couscous.


4 chicken legs, split between thigh and drumstick, Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon bacon drippings or oil, 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into roughly 2-inch/5 cm julienne, 1 onion, sliced, 1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (optional),1 tablespoon high-quality hot or sweet Hungarian paprika,1 clove garlic, minced, 1/2 cup/125 ml white wine, 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped, 1 bay leaf, 2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche, squeeze lemon juice, to taste (optional).


Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon drippings in a saute pan and, working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Remove. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Lower the heat and add the julienned pepper, onion, fennel, if using, and paprika. Cook until soft, but not colored, about 12 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken back in. Cover the pan, and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Turn up the heat under the sauce and boil down to sauce consistency. Turn off the heat, stir through the cream, check the seasonings (including the paprika, adding more if you like), then pour over the chicken, and serve.