Thursday, September 1, 2011

Peach & Watercress Salad

Peaches, much like strawberries, have an amazing ability to swing both ways.  From dinner to dessert that is.  They make a mean pie and are equally at home in a salsa or on the grill along side a steak.  This dish marries the sweet peaches with savoury salad fixins and a healthy, happy union ensues.  We got crisp, cool romaine lettuce and cucumbers, juicy peaches and bitter, peppery watercress all tossed in a pungent, shallot studded balsamic vinaigrette.  All I'm trying to say is, peaches too, make a bangin' salad

Peach & Watercress Salad
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  Please, I urge you, if you are a lover of dairy, dot this salad with crumbled goat cheese.  It will be a fantastic addition.  Toasted, slivered almonds are also great with this combo.


1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into 1 inch strips
4 Lebanese cucumbers or 1 English (seedless) cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces
4 large, ripe but firm peaches, sliced
1 bunch watercress, trimmed, leaves and tender stalks only

1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Prepare the dressing.  In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify.  Add the chopped shallots, stir and let stand at least 10 minutes before serving, or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the Salad.  In a large serving/salad bowl, layer the romaine lettuce, cucumber, peaches then watercress.  Drizzle with dressing, toss and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Harissa Chicken Kabobs

Harissa is a delicious North African hot sauce.  A spicy paste made of red chilis, garlic and warm spices including cumin and caraway. It has a zillion uses, add it to soups or stews, marinate meats, use it as a sandwich spread, infuse grains like rice or couscous or use it to make a great, quick pasta sauce.  Check out this Harissa Spaghettini recipe from 101 cookbooks, really delicious and innovative stuff.  Today's recipe for chicken kabobs uses Harissa as a base for a marinade.  The addition of more warm spices, garlic, olive oil and a hint of lime juice packs a ton of flavour and moisture into this chicken.  I serve the kabobs with Harissa spiked aioli for dipping and Israeli salad (which I'll tell you about before tomato season is over).

Harissa Chicken Kabobs
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  I make my own Harissa to avoid the small amounts of sugar that the store bought varieties usually contain.  I find the spices are more fragrant in the homemade variety which is a bonus, but seriously, buy yourself a jar/tube, save some time and you'll bump up the spices in the chicken marinade.  The recipe I use for homemade Harissa is here.


3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
3 generous tablespoons Harissa
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
skinless boneless chicken breasts (the marinade makes enough to coat 2-4 lbs of chicken)
Harissa Aioli for serving (see recipe below)

Prepare the marinade.  In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, lime juice, Harissa, spices and olive oil.

Cut the chicken breasts into cubes about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in size.  Add cubed chicken to the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (the longer the better).

When you are ready to grill, thread chicken onto skewers.  Grill over high heat for 12-15 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear.

Harissa Aioli
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste


1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use homemade olive oil mayo)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Harissa

Combine mayo, lime juice, garlic and Harissa in a medium bowl, season with salt and whisk to combine.  Chill until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

What would happen if a whole summer whizzed by completely potato salad free?  It hurts to even think about, it just wouldn't be right.  I was determined to come up with an alternative for all of us white potato avoiders.  I knew I could make this happen with the nutritionally dense sweet potato, as long as there were enough savoury, tangy and creamy ingredients to balance out the sweet.  A healthy dose of onion, pickles, chopped egg, and celery did the trick!  With all of those delicious flavours mingling together, it's quite the summer party.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  To keep things paleo friendly, I make my own mayonnaise, avoiding sugar and unhealthy vegetable oils.  I have included my recipe for homemade, olive oil mayonnaise below.  Obviously, good quality store bought mayo works great here (I like Hellman's)I have incorporated instructions on how to roast sweet potatoes into this recipe.  Everyone has their own method for this.  I have found that preheating the baking sheets helps them crisp up pretty well.  You can roast the potatoes however you like, you just need to start with well roasted, bite sized chunks of sweet potato for this salad.


4 pounds sweet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed clean
1/2 cup coconut oil (or any vegetable oil), divided
salt and pepper

5 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 bunch green onions, finely sliced (about 1 cup)
4 large dill pickles, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

To roast the sweet potatoes, preheat oven to 475 degrees, place oven racks in the middle and lower positions.  Insert 2 baking sheets to preheat along with the oven.  Heat coconut oil in a small saucepan until just melted/liquified.  Chop the sweet potatoes by halving them lengthwise, then cut the halves lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces, chop wedges into bite sized pieces (about 1/2 inch thick).  In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 4 tablespoons of oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.  When the oven and baking sheets are preheated, carefully remove the baking sheets and drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil onto each sheet.  Carefully distribute the sweet potatoes between the 2 baking sheets in a single layer, and pop them back in the oven.  Roast for about 15 minutes, then flip the potatoes with a spatula, and put the trays back into the oven, rotating the 2 sheets top to bottom.  The potatoes should be done after an additional 10 minutes of roasting.  I like to put each sheet under the broiler for a couple of minutes to get some nice brown crispy spots.  Remove potatoes and cool completely.

To prepare the salad, combine the mayo and Dijon mustard in a small bowl.  Toss the cooled sweet potatoes, eggs, onions, pickles, celery and mayo mixture together in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, chill and serve.

Homemade Olive Oil Mayonnaise
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  This mayo can be made with a food processor or by hand with a very strong arm.  I use light or extra light olive oil for this recipe to keep the flavour neutral.  The mayonnaise made in the food proccessor will be more stiff then that made by hand, but it's worth it to save time and your arm.


2 egg yolks, preferably room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups light (not extra virgin or first pressing) olive oil

Food processor method:  Put the egg yolks, Dijon, lemon juice and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Measure out your olive oil.  Process the egg and seasonings for about 30 seconds until lightened and thickened slightly.  Keep the motor running and using a teaspoon (it helps control the speed at which you add your oil), drizzle oil SLOWLY, teaspoon by teaspoon, drip by drip, through the feed tube of the food processor.  After you have added about 1/2 cup, you should see a thick mayonnaise forming, you can now increase the speed at which you add the remainder of the oil, still using the teaspoon to drizzle in a slow, steady stream.  Stop processing immediately after you have finished adding your oil or it may separate. (Use your ears, you can actually hear a change in the sound of of the mayonnaise as it loosens before it separates. Stop processing immediately if you hear this!) Chill until ready to use.

By hand:  Dampen a tea towel, fold it, and place it under a medium sized mixing bowl (this will keep the bowl steady when whisking like a mad person).  Measure out your olive oil.  Place egg yolks, Dijon, lemon juice and salt in the mixing bowl, whisk vigorously until pale and slightly thickened, about 30 seconds.  While whisking continuously, using a teaspoon, VERY SLOWLY drip the olive oil into the egg yolk mixture.  By VERY SLOWLY I mean it should take you about 4 minutes to add the first 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Once the first 1/4 cup of olive oil has been added, you should see the mayo starting to emulsify.  You can increase the speed at which you add your oil now, still using the teaspoon to drizzle in a slow, steady stream.  It should take you an additional 4-5 minutes to add the rest of the oil.  Do not over mix or the mayo may separate.  Chill until ready to use.

If your mayo separates:  Have no fear!  It can always be rescued.  Get your arm ready, it's going to take some more elbow grease.  Start with one egg yolk in a medium, clean bowl.  Whisk the egg yolk vigorously for about 30 seconds, until it has lightened in colour.  Slowly add your separated mayonnaise, drip by drip into the new bowl, whisking continuously.  This should bring the mayo back to a smooth, creamy consistency.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blueberry Tea Cake

I'm back with something sweet to offer my neglected friends.  I took a couple of weeks off to enjoy some summer!  We had lots of fun houseguests, people popping in and out, birthday parties and bonfires...ahhhh, 'twas fun indeed.  I made this cake twice during my time off!  It was so light and fresh tasting, perfect for a summer dessert or afternoon tea.  No one could resist a slice!  It's a simple, homey cake, moist and choc full of fresh blueberries.  It has a hint of lemon and it's slathered with a decadent cream cheese frosting.  Really delightful!

Blueberry Tea Cake
Origin: (slightly adapted) Bill Granger via Leite's Culinaria

Notes:  This cake comes from Aussie chef Bill Granger, who uses terms like "scant" (just short of the prescribed amount) and "heaping" (just a bit more than the prescribed amount), just go with it, his hazy measurements worked for me!  The recipe calls for superfine sugar (not icing sugar), you can easily make your own by placing granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and processing it until finely ground but not powdery.  This recipe yields an uncomplicated 9 x 13, single layer cake.  The cake kept well for at least 4 days, popping leftovers into the fridge when it wasn't being devoured. 


3/4 cup sour cream, heaping 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking dish 
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, heaping
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3 large eggs 
2 cups fresh blueberries 
3 cups all-purpose flour, scant 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (1 block) 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
juice from 1/4 lemon 
16 ounces powdered/icing sugar (I used 4-5 cups, I just kept adding sugar until I got the frosting consistency that I wanted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a  9 x 13 inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper, allowing the excess paper to hang over the edge of the pan.

Combine the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder, set aside.  Place the blueberries in a separate bowl and toss with a spoonful of the flour mixture, just to coat the berries.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy.  Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.  Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then add the sour cream mixture and beat just until combined.

Add the remaining flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined.  Gently fold the flour-coated blueberries into the batter, being mindful not to overmix. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, either by using the parchment paper as handles or by inverting the cake onto a wire rack and then inverting it again.

When the cake is completely cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.  

To make the frosting, beat all of the ingredients except the sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the sugar and beat until smooth. Use immediately.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

I spotted this recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other day and within 2 hours I was eating it for dinner.  Smitten Kitchen is my all time favorite food blog and I try many of Deb's recipe recommendations.  But when she starts talking Bloody Marys, I move fast.  You see, Bloody Marys are a bit of a thing in my family.  My Nanny loved them, and always added a secret ingredient - pickle juice!  As long as I can remember my Mom has ordered at least one, without fail, every time we dine out.  I adore them anytime, especially with brunch (my Hubby too!).  And my younger sister?  Well, she may have caught the Bloody Mary bug worst of all, ordering doubles every time we are out.  Geez, I guess we all sound like a bunch of lushes...but it's in our blood, it can't be helped.  I always have the classic Bloody Mary ingredients on hand so I sprung into action and recreated this Bloody Mary Tomato Salad.  All of the complex Bloody Mary flavour is there, without the booze of course, and it goes amazingly well with a good steak.

*I have to mention, in Canada, we do not drink Bloody Marys at all.  It's this odd little variation on the Bloody Mary that has become a classic Canadian cocktail and a family favorite...the Caesar!  The ingredients and taste are virtually the same, substituting Clamato juice for Tomato juice...tomato juice with a hint of clam juice!!  It's essentially the same drink, but I guess we Canuks should really call this a Caesar Salad.  Ha!

Bloody Mary Tomato Salad
Origin: Bon Appetit via Smitten Kitchen

Notes:  The original recipe pairs this salad with a nicely seasoned flank steak.  I had 2 bone-in rib steaks in the fridge so I went with those.


1 cup red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, divided
2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (3 pints or 3-10 ounce containers)
1 cup celery hearts, chopped (light coloured inner stalks and leaves)
1/2 cup brined green olives, finely chopped, plus 2 tablespoons olive brine
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chopped onion in a large bowl, pour 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar over onions and let them sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (this will temper the onion's bite).  Add tomatoes, celery and olives to the onions.

To make the dressing, whisk remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, reserved olive brine, horseradish, Worcestershire, pepper sauce and celery seeds in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Pour the dressing over the tomato salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.  Serves 8-10.