Friday, 26 February 2016

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Béarnaise Sauce

For 3 years of my career I was fortunate to host a cooking show where I got to cook with some of the best chefs and home cooks in Toronto. This translates into about 70 different kitchens, 70 different dinner parties and around 210 mouth-watering culinary creations. I ate and enjoyed every single one of them (and asked for seconds because I am not shy like that!). But there is one dish that competes for the top spot on my "most unforgettable" list and that dish is the Avocado and Grapefruit salad with Béarnaise Sauce made by the man our crew affectionately called Uncle Buck. A kind, worldly man with great stories and comforting recipes. When I tried his Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Béarnaise Sauce, I knew that my taste buds were introduced to the most luscious and breathtaking combination of textures they had ever experienced. 

A velvety, creamy avocado meets the juicy and revitalizing pink grapefruit. Avocado rounds out the sweetness of the grapefruit and the grapefruit's elusive bitterness compliments the avocado's mellow yet distinctive taste. It's a perfect marriage of flavours that are so different but work together in such great harmony. And then there is the sauce. The pride of French cookery - the Béarnaise. The beloved baby of the mother Hollandaise sauce. Even more velvety, even more intriguing and aromatic. Tickled with sweet shallots and tarragon. I like to spoon it over my plated avocado and grapefruit segments and crack some freshly ground black pepper over it. And yes, it is a perfect dish to serve on your next date night. Avocados are filled with vitamin E which plays a vital role in keeping us energized and happy. Not to mention the joy that comes from finding something you can put on your very own "most unforgettable" list. And I guarantee it - you'll start the list if you don't have one yet.


2 ripe avocados, 1 large grapefruit, 

For Béarnaise sauce: 1 cup butter, cut into cubes, 2 tbsp minced shallots, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 large egg yolks, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon, salt and pepper.


Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper, stir. Stir in vinegar, reduce heat and cook for 3 minutes. Continue cooking on low, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool.

Place the remaining butter in a medium glass bowl, and melt in the microwave, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the shallot, white wine vinegar, egg yolks and lemon juice. Add tarragon. Return to the microwave, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes, or until thickened, stirring until smooth every 30 seconds.

Cut your avocados and grapefruit into segments, Make sure that grapefruits segments have no membrane on them. Arrange on a platter and spoon your Béarnaise sauce over the avocado and grapefruit segments. Garnish with tarragon if desired. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Chocolate and Orange Madeleines

Photo credit:
French novelist Marcel Proust must have thought of Madeleines when he came up with the name for his work Les Plaisirs et Les Jours (Pleasures and Days). After all, Madeleines were his favourite amongst all enticing French desserts. Here is the most surprising thing about Madeleines - they probably are the simplest of all French confectionary treats. They don't take too much skill, time or effort. However, they are perfect! Tiny sweet, buttery sponge cakes, scented with vanilla and some joyful notes of orange. When you hold one in your hand, it softly speaks to you and asks you to find the most comfortable place in your house, make a cup of fragrant tea and dunk it so it absorbs the hot liquid and it can burst in your mouth with that unmistakable combination of flavour and warmth. 

Madeleines are delicious. But there is one ingredient that can take them to the next level of satisfaction. And that ingredient is chocolate. The food of Gods and one of the oldest aphrodisiacs. It is known to spike dopamine, the brain's pleasure chemical that also plays part in sexual arousal. If you don't want to add any chocolate to the Madeleine batter, you can serve some pieces of chocolate on the side. Just make sure that it is dark chocolate. It is the one that the ancient Aztecs used to spike lust. With chocolate or without, Madeleines are a perfect dessert. Shower them with some powdered sugar, make yourself a warm drink and just enjoy. Time to yourself and a little break can be more powerful and recharging than any aphrodisiac in the world. I wish you to find time for you and for your pleasure. Whatever it may be. 


Makes 12 Madeleines: 1/4 cup of butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 teasp. vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp. orange zest, 1/2 cup of butter, 2 tbsp. grated dark chocolate. 


Butter and flour 12 Madeleine molds. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F. 

In a bowl combine vanilla and eggs and using an electric mixer, beat until well combined. 

Add sugar, salt and beat for about 5 minutes. 

Slowly sift in flour. At this stage it is better to fold it in as opposed to incorporate it using an electric mixer. 

Melt the butter and add it to the egg and flower mixture. Add chocolate and orange zest. Gently fold them in. 

Spoon your batter into the prepped Madeleine molds. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. 

Once they are ready, carefully remove them from the molds and place on the cooling rack. 

Shower them with some powdered sugar and serve.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Sexy Breakfast Salad with Aphrodisiacs

Imagine yourself waking up in the luxurious comfort of white satin sheets. The sun is playing in the trees and there is a gentle breeze coming through your open window, bringing in the smell of the distant sea and ripe apples. You spread your arms, give your body a stretch and you land your bare feet on a cool floor. You walk out on a perfect little balcony overlooking the endless fields of lavender in the midst of French Provence. And when you thought that your morning just couldn't get any better, your breakfast is served. 
Fresh hard-boiled eggs, cheese, ripe figs and avocado, arranged on a bed of peppery arugula, garnished with some zesty chilies and buttery walnuts. Lightly drizzled with some invigorating vinaigrette that immediately wakes up your senses. Sunny notes of orange zest and lemon, sultry heat of the red chilies, earthiness of the Herbes du Provence and sweetness of sensual honey. They all come together in a perfect harmony to tantalize your body and your taste buds. Filled with a medley of aphrodisiacs, this breakfast salad will charge you up for the day, no matter where you enjoy it - in bed, on a patio, with your lover or alone. It's a great foreplay for all five of your senses that will get you ready for the day filled with small, exciting pleasures. And who said that salad should not be eaten for breakfast? If it makes you happy, then you should be. For the sake of pleasure that comes from living life by your own rules...


Arugula, 3 hardboiled eggs, 1/4 avocado, sliced, 2 ripe figs, 4 pieces of Brie cheese, 1/2 cup of walnuts, pinch of dried lavender, few slices of red chili pepper. 
For Vinaigrette: 
1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of one lemon, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. honey, pinch of Herbes de Provence, zest of 1 orange, grate a pinch of fresh ginger, salt, pepper and add few chilli flakes. 


Make Vinaigrette: In a bowl combine oil, lemon juice, mustard, honey, herbs, orange zest, ginger and chili flakes. Whisk it and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 min or overnight. 

On a plate arrange some arugula, hard boiled eggs, cut in halves, halved figs, avocado, cheese and top it with chilies and walnuts. Sprinkle some dried lavender around the plate. Drizzle with your vinaigrette but don't toss. Serve with some leftover vinaigrette on a side.

Thursday, 11 February 2016