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It has been far too long since I’ve updated. I’ve missed it very much. Fortunately, just because I haven’t written doesn’t mean I didn’t have some pretty awesome food these last months. April and May were a bit dreary, but ever since the warm weather hit we’ve been out on the balcony enjoying the fresh summer fare.
Today was no exception. After my run, I stopped off at our local farmer’s market to see what might look good for dinner. The first stand caught my eye with a beautiful bag of zucchini blossoms. I’ve never cooked them, but I’ve always wanted to so I decided they were going to be on my plate tonight.
The friendly chap instructed me to bread them and fry them and that is exactly what I did. Paired with tossed greens, a summer fresh tomato and homegrown basil it was delicious meal and perfect for a summer night. If you come across these little gems be sure to pick them up and give them a try.
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- fresh bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
- grated parmesan cheese
- zucchini blossoms
It was a Sunday morning and we were together as a family discussing what we might make for dinner. We tossed around the idea of fish, a roast and pasta. Someone said chicken and that’s when I remembered the salt-crusted chicken on Chocolate & Zucchini, a blog that has never failed me.
It involves wrapping the chicken in quite a large amount of salt and baking it. The crust is then cracked open discarded and a moist chicken is revealed. Everyone was intrigued and so we decided to give it a go. I’ll share the steps with you now, but I encourage you to check out Clotilde’s site for the exact directions.
You begin with a bird like the one you see above. You insert a few crushed cloves of garlic in the inside and under the skin you stuff handfuls of parsley.
In a big bowl you mix together 3 3/4 cup of flour, 1 1/3 cups of coarse salt, 3 Tbsp. of fresh thyme and 4-5 large egg whites. Then you add some water (2/3 – 1 cup water) and mix until a dough forms. I found this a little tough and I needed a bit more water, but with strong hands you can manage.
Then you roll out the dough into a huge circle in order to envelope the chicken. You plop the bird on top and carefully wrap it in the dough. It will look like a little mummy.
You move the wrapped bird onto an oiled pan and insert it into a preheated 400°F oven. Let it cook for 1 1/2 hours. Clotilde says cooking it longer won’t hurt it one bit. In the meantime you can prepare some delicious sides like these roast vegetables –
After the time is up. You take the baked bird out of the oven. The crust will be a nice golden brown and the smell of roasted chicken will be permeating the air.
This when you break out your hammer and let the fun begin. Cracking open the chicken proved to be quite a pleasure indeed. After smacking it a few times, you can peel away the crust, revealing a moist delicious chicken insided.
The chicken was indeed one of the best I have ever had and it was super fun to make. I must admit though, I did miss the crunchy skin. I certainly intend to try Clotilde’s other wrapped bird recipe –chicken in a bread crust!
Valentine’s day is on its way. To be honest, I never really get worked up about it. For me any day is a great excuse to cook up a fantastic dinner with my love. However, if you are looking for a special dinner on February 14th, then here are two tips:
1) Stay home and cook dinner together. Cooking is fun and you’ll be able to avoid all the hassle of getting reservations.
2) Cook really simple, but great quality food. Who needs the stress?
While there are plenty of things one can make that are simple, I recommend seafood for an extra special Valentine’s. It comes together super quick and if you buy good quality, it is always delicious. Plus it isn’t too heavy so you’ll have plenty of room for some tasty chocolate treats afterward.
Here are two recipes that you can either use together or solo depending on your plans. The first is a classisc Spanish Gambas recipe. It comes together so quickly and yet the sauce and the shrimp are positively perfect. I recommend it as an appetizer, but you could serve it as a main as well.
- fresh, deveined and shelled jumbo shrimp (3-4 per person for an appetizer)
- chili flakes
- garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- lemon juice
- fresh parsley
- serve with baguette
After you have cleaned your shrimp, heat a small fry pan with olive oil. Toss in your garlic and chili (vary the amounts depending on your taste). Let them cook a bit, but be careful not to burn the garlic. Toss in the shrimp along with a bit of lemon juice and a glug of sherry. Toss it well and wait for the shrimp to turn pink. Sprinkle liberally with parsley and serve with fresh bread.
My next recipe suggestion is mussels. They are also very quick to prepare and fun to eat. There are many simple recipes out there that involve steaming them in a bit of white wine, but recently we tried a great recipe from The Guardian that also used chorizo sausage. It was a bit more work, but still very simple.
The key with mussels is to buy very fresh ones. Most fish mongers will beard them for you, but be sure to check. It is also important to toss out any that don’t close their shells when you pinch them or if they have broken shells. Aside from this they are one of the easiest dishes to prepare. For a main meal you should count on about 1 lb. of mussels per person.
Mussels with Chorizo
(from The Guardian)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 100g chorizo for cooking, chopped (or other hot sausage)
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 lbs. mussels, cleaned
- Small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
In large pot heat the olive oil and sauté the sausage until it is cooked. Add the shallot and garlic and allow it to soften. Then add your tomatoes and allow them to heat through. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken. Add the wine and let the sauce reduce for another few minutes.
Toss in the mussels with the parsley and stir it up. Put the lid on and wait a few minutes until the shells have opened. If some mussels don’t open, discard them. Season with salt and pepper how you like. Once again, serve it up with fresh bread to soak up the sauce! A green salad on the side is also an excellent addition.
I have tried a variety of mushroom soups. There are the broth style ones that have the mushrooms floating around in them and then there are the cream kind. I have never really found either that appealing. Somehow the broth ones seem light and flavourless and the cream ones taste like someone boiled whipping cream with an onion and salt.
The key to a fantastic mushroom soup is the mushrooms of course. You need a lot of these puppies to make them shine in a soup. The other important part is to roast them. Roasting brings out flavour in almost anything and because mushrooms tend to lack a lot of flavour this really helps. This recipe is a stick-to-your-ribs sort of soup that I came up with on a frosty snowy day. If you leave out the creme fraiche it is vegan, but the mushrooms are so meaty you would never guess it. I hope you enjoy it.
Roasted Mushroom Soup (serves 2-4)
- at least 2-3 lbs of a variety of mushrooms (I used white button, brown button and shiitake)
- 1 whole head of garlic
- olive oil
- 2L of good quality broth (see note at the end)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1/2 c. of black or green lentils
- fresh thyme sprigs
- a touch of creme fraiche or whipping cream (optional)
Preheat your oven to 200*C. Scrub your mushrooms so they are free of dirt and remove any tough parts. Cut them up in chunks and toss them in olive oil. Spread them out on a baking sheet. Take the whole head of garlic and lop the top off like a pumpkin. Pour a little olive oil inside and put the top back on. Wrap in foil and place on the sheet with the mushrooms. Put them in the oven and let them roast about 45 minutes, depending on the size of your mushrooms. Stir them once or twice during this time.
Once they are done, set them aside in a bowl. Chop up your onion and carrot and heat them in a little olive oil in a big pot. Once they have softened a bit, toss in a few sprigs of fresh thyme and your lentils. Take your head of roasted garlic and squeeze it to release the cloves in the pot. Add 1-1.5 litres of stock and let it simmer about 20-30 minutes. Add 2/3 of your mushrooms to the pot and let simmer another 10 min. Fish out the thyme sprigs. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup or, if you don’t have one, let it cool a little and then puree it in batches in a food processor or blender. If it is too thick, add some more broth at this point. Now add your remaining mushrooms and, if you want, some cream or creme fraiche. I found the soup tasted rich enough without it, but I dropped a little in anyway.
Enjoy it with some fresh thyme on top. Trust me, it will make those cold winter days feel far away!
Note on Broth: Please make your own. It is super easy and tastes so much better. While I roasted the mushrooms I took a pot filled with water and dumped in two carrots, 1 potatoe, 1 quartered onion, a few smashed cloves of garlic, thyme and a few bay leafs. If you have celery or other root veggies on hand you can toss them in as well. Bring to a boil and let it simmer as long as you can. Strain it and then use it in this recipe or any other soups.
Variations: The really important parts here are the roasted mushrooms, broth and thyme. Feel free to play around with the rest. If you have celery or other root veggies you can add those. If you want a lighter soup, leave out the lentils. If anyone experiments with other types of mushrooms or combinations, please share them.