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Appetizer Recipes

28 February 2010

Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms


A few weeks ago as part of my cheffing course I did two days of work experience in a local Italian restaurant famed for it’s house-made pastas and bread and simple, rustic fare.

I was pretty nervous on my first day having no real restaurant experience and conscious of the fact that the kitchen was tiny and I’d more than likely be a hindrance than help.

Despite the size of the kitchen and the erratic environment the head chef was patient, attentive and a brilliant teacher. I walked away from my brief stint excited, inspired and dying to try out some of the dishes at home.

One of my jobs over the two days was to stuff the ravioli. Sounds a little dull perhaps but I reveled in the task. The filling was a mixture of blue swimmer crab, snapper, mascarpone and chives.

The paper-thin ravioli was served simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and garnished with peppery rocket punctuated by salty shavings of dried mullet roe. Gorgeous.

I recently re-created the dish at home sans roe. And since my pasta machine is still in storage (yes, it’s been almost a year) I cheated and used wonton wrappers. A good substitute if you’re in a rush. It was divine. I’ll be sharing the recipe in my next post.

I made a little too much filling and decided to use it to stuff zucchini blossoms. A good decision. I used barramundi as opposed to snapper as it was half the price but beautiful nonetheless. The zucchini blossoms were coated in a light batter and then fried for about two minutes. It’s a wonderful appetizer but one that needs to be eaten straight away to appreciate the delicate crunch and oozing filling.

For a refresher on how to stuff and fry zucchini blossoms, click here.

Continue reading "Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms" »

29 December 2008

Parmesan Crisps


With New Year celebrations upon us I thought I'd share a great party appetizer recipe from my recent cooking class at Quince cooking school in Vancouver -- Parmesan crisps with fresh goat's cheese, figs and quince jelly. The jelly is made from quinces picked from chef-owner, Andrea Jefferson's, backyard. 

The lattice crisps are simple to make and can also be used as impressive edible decoration for soups and risottos

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays. I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and a tonnes of great food in 2009!

Quince - www.quince.ca
1780 W3rd Ave Vancouver
Tel: 604.731.4645

Continue reading "Parmesan Crisps" »

12 November 2008

Roasted Squash and Asparagus Salad


As of tomorrow I start my 12-day detox diet. The diet is called the Wild Rose D-tox and was developed by Dr. Terry Willard of the Wild Rose College of Healing in Calgary, Alberta. Dr. Willard is recognized as one of North America's leading clinical herbalists and has spent over 30 years studying the medicinal properties of plants.

Throughout the next twelve days I will eliminate dairy, flour, sugar, shellfish, tropical fruits, alcohol and yeast from my diet.

The diet also comes with four herbal formulas that are to be consumed with breakfast and dinner, the names of which are too graphic to repeat here and not appropriate for a food blog. If you want to see what they are, click here.

During the twelve days, I can eat as much as I want, as long as my diet consists of 80% alkaline-forming foods and less than 20% acid-forming foods. When digested, foods either leave an acidic or alkaline residue (or ash) in our bodies.

It is said that too much acidity is not good for us and alkalinity helps our bodies fight certain diseases. I've actually been trying to adhere to this concept for the past 6 months. I've been structuring my diet so that, to borrow from Michael Pollen's mantra, "I eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants". I've also permanently cut all all foods that contain ingredients I don't understand like "acesulfame potassium" or "calcium stearoyl lactylate".

So over the next fortnight, I'm only going to be featuring new and old recipes that align with my detox diet. Don't be deterred. The meals are nutritious and delicious.  I wouldn't have it any other way!

This brings us to detox recipe number one -- roasted squash salad with a garlic, basil and lemon dressing. Normally I'd eat this salad with some feta cheese crumbled on top -- but not today!

Continue reading "Roasted Squash and Asparagus Salad" »

02 September 2008

Orange Soy Glazed Scallops


I have never been a huge fan of scallops. When I've eaten them they've usually been undercooked or overcooked. My feelings have changed. Although I don't eat them often, I have a new-found appreciation for them.

The trick to cooking scallops is to have the fry-pan smoking hot. What I mean by this is that it should be giving off a tiny bit of smoke just before burning point. I usually use vegetable, canola or sunflower oil for these high temperatures. The pan should be lightly oiled and the oil itself should be swirling.

Scallops only require very little time in the pan. Medium-sized scallops such as the ones pictured were cooked for 80 seconds: 40 seconds on each side and - this is important - turned only once.

The high heat of the pan sears the outside of the scallop which helps to seal in the juices making the flesh firm yet tender.

The glaze is a combination of caramelized sugar, orange juice and zest and soy sauce. If you've never caramelized sugar before, then be warned, it requires a little patience and constant attention. The result is worth it though and it only takes about 15 minutes. This particular glaze is also excellent with chicken, oily fish such as salmon and halibut or pork.

Continue reading "Orange Soy Glazed Scallops" »

08 August 2008

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms


The delicate flower of young zucchini is something I look forward to each summer. They are a real delicacy in most countries however, they grow in abundance in their native Central America.

When I was in Oaxaca, Mexico, I'd see mountains of the flowers being sold in the local markets. Not so in Vancouver. So when I did finally see the prized blossom I bought as many as I could. I bought both male and female blossoms. Female blossoms grow directly out of the zucchini fruit whereas the male flowers grow directly on the stems of the plant.

Using the word 'stuffed' with 'zucchini blossoms' just seems wrong on all levels however I cannot find a better word and judging by all the other recipes out there, neither can anyone else. I looked up 'stuff' in a thesaurus and some of the synonyms included 'overload', 'force', 'ram' and 'jam'. All wrong. I was hoping to find a word that would better describe the way you have to tenderly fill the blossoms with the ingredients.

I guess sometimes literality trumps sounding pretty and delicate because the blossoms are literally stuffed with a creamy mixture of ricotta, garlic, fresh basil, egg and a little salt. They are then dipped in a light batter of flour and soda water and then deep fried for a few minutes.


While it almost seems a sin to deep fry such a delicate thing the result is worth it because they remain just as delicate to eat. The batter coats the flowers ever so lightly but still has a satisfying crunch when you bite into its warm, creamy centre.

Continue reading "Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms" »

18 June 2008

Penance for Profiteroles: Carrot and Kale Soup


After a rather decadent date with chocolate ice-cream filled profiteroles last week, I felt as if I needed to repent with something simple. That something turned out to be a Carrot and Kale Soup.

Kale is one of my favourite vegetables but I don't cook it nearly as often as I should. There's something about its texture which I really love, especially when it's steamed, or as in this case, simmered for several minutes.

I mentioned in my my kale & smoked bacon quiche post, that the texture is somewhere between English spinach and seaweed. However, I'm not sure that's accurate. The leaves are curled and are very much firmer than lettuce, but soften upon wilting. If you can help me with a description of its texture, I'd love to hear it, because right now I'm groping around without success.

When I was in LA doing the raw food thing I tried a pretty hardcore green juice with raw kale in it. I won't be doing that again. While I do love the leafy green, consuming it raw was far too potent and I felt rather 'green' for several hours afterwards! That's not to say you shouldn't try it raw though, perhaps having it for breakfast first thing was the problem. I think I should have first consumed some greasy scrambled eggs and bacon to counteract the purity of all the raw kale nutrients!

In this recipe I used curly leafed baby kale, which when lightly cooked provides more calcium for every 100g serving than milk, yogurt, cooked broccoli or cooked spinach. It also has seven times the amount of vitamin A than cooked broccoli. These are just a few examples of the seemingly endless benefits of kale.

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Joanna of the blog Joanna's Food.


Continue reading "Penance for Profiteroles: Carrot and Kale Soup" »

27 May 2008

Wild Salmon & Kaffir Cakes with Ponzu Sauce


I did a seafood & citrus cooking class last week at the Cookshop in Vancouver and these salmon cakes were one of the items on the menu.

We used wild Pacific Salmon which is oilier than the sockeye I'd normally use and much more 'forgiving' as the chef kept saying. What he meant was that Sockeye being a drier fish is much easier to ruin when frying in recipes such as this one.

The salmon cakes were simple to prepare and delicious. They were peppered with kaffir leaves which added a citrusy bite to the natural sweetness of the salmon. The little cakes were coated with Panko crumbs and then gently pan-fried about a minute or so on each side.

We made a Ponzo dipping sauce using soy sauce, brown sugar, green onions, ginger and lime juice.

The chef used an ice-cream scoop to make the salmon cake rounds which worked brilliantly and kept each cake the same size. I promptly raced out and bought one!

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Wandering Chopsticks.


Continue reading "Wild Salmon & Kaffir Cakes with Ponzu Sauce" »

21 May 2008

Thai-style Okra Tempura


Okra is the pod of a tropical perennial of the Mallow family. It is thought to have originated in the mountainous regions of Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia. 

The earliest account of okra was in the early 1200s by a Spanish Moor traveling in Eygpt who witnessed the tender pod being eaten.

Since then okra has spread across the world where it is eaten today in Europe, South East Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas.

Okra is known by a variety of names including 'lady fingers', 'Bhindi', 'Bamieh' and 'Gumbo'. It is high in fibre and contains vitamins A, C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

The versatile little pod can be used in a variety of ways. Here are just a few I found in my research:

  • It is cooked in soups, stews, battered, fried, dried, grilled or steamed
  • It is used as thickening agent for soups
  • It is ground into a fine powder and added to food such as cous cous to stop the grains from sticking
  • Its seeds can be pressed to make good quality oil and are also high in protein
  • Mature, dried okra seeds were ground and used as a coffee substitute in Central America, Africa and parts of Asia

I fried my okra in a light batter made of plain flour, tapioca flour (starch), soda water and baking soda. The okra was accommpanied by a Thai nam pla prik sauce consisting of fish sauce (nam pla), fresh bird chilis, coriander, lime juice and a little sugar.

I battered about four okra at a time and then placed them in the hot sunflower oil where I cooked them for 1-2 minutes until they were just starting to turn golden. The quick frying retains the okra's delicious crunch while still heating it up enough to make it tender.   

Continue reading "Thai-style Okra Tempura" »

08 May 2008

The Fiddlehead


I’m heading down to LA for several days but I just wanted to share a quick recipe with you from last night’s dinner: sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns.

This was my first time eating them and certainly not my last. I’ve read articles comparing Fiddleheads to asparagus but, other than the fact that they're green, I can't agree. Their flavour is more delicate and their crunch, more substantial.

Fiddleheads are the young, tightly coiled leaves of the Ostrich fern. The springtime delicacy was eaten by Malseet Indians, who lived in what is now known as New Brunswick, and is believed to have been introduced into the colonial diet in the 1700s.

Today commercial Fiddleheaders harvest the leaves in parts of coastal Canada and the northeastern United States.

Some important things to note about the Fiddlehead: it can only be eaten when it is young and must be thoroughly cleaned and cooked prior to consumption. I gave them two cold water baths to get rid of the little brown skins. You also must be sure to snip off the brown parts of the stem.

I boiled them for 10 minutes in lightly salted water and then sautéed them in butter, garlic and a dash of soy sauce.

Delicious and nutritious – they’re a good source of potassium and also contain vitamin C, iron and niacin.

15 April 2008

Oysters Tempura: Oishi Indeed!


There is something about the Japanese aesthetic which calms. So I'd like to say that it was with some hesitation that I destroyed the little Japanese garden I had just made on my plate.

The truth is that there was no hesitation. These little tempura tempters were gobbled up within 7.5 seconds of my camera going "click".

Happily, I was able to reconcile my appetite with the aesthetic by invoking Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi, in terms of Japanese art and arrangements, is centered on the acceptance of transience. This view, rooted in Buddhist ideals, particularly values imperfection and incompleteness, and considers these qualities to be beautiful.

And it was beautiful. The oysters were delicious and, afterwards, looking at their empty shells, I saw the beauty of their transience - into my tummy!

Continue reading "Oysters Tempura: Oishi Indeed!" »

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