Another Beautiful Veggie Platter

 

I’ve posted once before about making a veggie platter, but I thought I’d do another, since this one features an idea from my friend I-Wen, her pepper bowls.  You just cut the tops off of some bell peppers and use them for bowls for the dip and other veggies.  This one also has some edible flowers on it; they look pretty, but I tasted them just to see what they were like, and I can’t say I thought they tasted very good.  But they are safe to put on your platter, in case anyone does want to try them.

What you need:

several large bell peppers, in a variety of colours, preferably with flatter bottoms so they can stand)

assorted veggies, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and more peppers (I never buy the pre-cut mini carrots because I find they don’t taste like much, and I’ve heard that they rinse them in bleach to keep them from turning white)

radishes with greens still on

edible flowers, such as chrysanthemum, violet, snapdragon, or marigold (I found a package at a produce store)

your favourite dip

a large platter

What you do:

1. Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  If you need to, cut a little off the bottom of the peppers so they are level and can stand up.

2. Cut the other veggies and put some of them into the pepper bowls; I found carrot and pepper sticks work best for this.

3. Fill one of the peppers with your favourite dip, and put a small spoon in it for serving.

4. Arrange the veggies around the platter, and put a few flowers on top.  Keep some veggies on hand to refill the platter as parts of it get eaten up.

So pretty you almost don’t want to eat it!

Awesome Ouzo Prawns

For my mom’s 70th birthday party last weekend we made many appetizers, but I think this was my favourite.  The sauce is really yummy, and the prawns were so fresh and huge that they popped when bitten into.  Even if you don’t like ouzo, you’ll probably still like these, as the anise taste is quite subtle.

I served these as an appy, so I just put a toothpick in each one.  They would also work great on pasta.  Mmmm, makes me want to make them again!

What you need:

about 1lb fresh prawns, cleaned and shells removed

3 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, finely diced

1/3 cup cream

1/4 cup ouzo or sambuca

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Cook the garlic in the butter for a minute or so, but make sure the garlic doesn’t brown.

2.  Add the cream and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until it has thickened up a bit.  Add some salt and pepper.

3.  Now you have two options:  you can either add the ouzo to the cream and cook it off, then cook the prawns, which is the way I did it.  Or,  you can cook the prawns, then add the ouzo to them and set a flame to them, then add the cream mixture.

4.  If you chose the adding the ouzo to the cream choice, you may now heat some butter in a large frying pan, add the prawns and cook on each side only until they turn pink.  Over-cooking will turn them into tough, unpleasant things.  Once they are cooked, add the cream and ouzo sauce, give it a good stir, and serve.

 

 

Chorizo and Lime Appetizer

This idea comes from my good friend, Sarah.  It’s so simple and so delicious.  I bought the chorizo at Oyama Sausage at Granville Island; I particularly love the red wine chorizo.

What you need:

chorizo

lime

toothpicks

paper towel

What you do:

1.  Slice the sausage.

2.  Heat a frying pan.  Put the sausage in it.  Fry on each side until slightly browned.

3.  Use the paper towel to soak up the fat.

4.  Squirt lime over the sausages, then put a toothpick in each one.  I served them right out of the cast iron frying pan so they would stay hot.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Onions with Tahini Sauce

Roasted butternut squash, cauliflower and red onions with tahini sauce, za’atar and pine nuts: otherwise known as my new favourite meal.  And it’s vegan and gluten-free, and it’ll make you feel good on a rainy fall evening – at least it did for me!  And I’m really looking forward to my leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  I got the idea for the recipe from a  Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.  I added the cauliflower because I think it is perfect with tahini sauce, and I changed the cooking method a bit, cooking the squash before cutting it, because it’s easier to cut when it’s soft.  I also used my tahini recipe instead of his.

I served mine on quinoa to make it a filling meal, but it would be great on a bed of greens too.  Feel free to leave out the za’atar and pine nuts if you want, and garnish with some fresh pomegranate or parsley.

What you need:

1 butternut squash

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets

2 red onions, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

For the tahini sauce:

1/4 cup tahini

1/2 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash of hot sauce

1/4 cup of warm water, or as needed

For the za’atar: (there are so many ways to make this, so make it up as you go along)

1 tablespoon ground sumac

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground sesame seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground anise or fennel seeds

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.  To roast the veggies, first cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place the two pieces face down on a baking sheet and roast for about half an hour or until you can pierce it easily with a knife.

2. Put the onions and cauliflower pieces on another baking sheet, and toss them with the olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Put them in the oven with the squash for about 25 minutes.  About half way through the roasting, give them a stir.  The cauliflower should be a little browned when it is done.

3. Combine the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and hot sauce.  Add the warm water gradually, adding enough until the sauce is a consistency you like.  I like mine pretty liquidy, so I can drizzle it.  You can also adjust the lemon and hot sauce to your liking.  I usually add a little more lemon.

4. To make the za’atar just combine all the spices.  If you have them whole and want to grind them, it’s going to be even tastier.

5.  To serve, cut the squash into chunks and serve it on a bed of quinoa or greens, then top with some onion and cauliflower.  Drizzle with the tahini, pretty liberally, then sprinkle on some pine nuts and za’atar.

Enjoy!

 

 

Tomato Pesto

I haven’t made this in ages, but now that I’ve reminded my taste buds, I’ll be making it again soon.  This is a twist on traditional pesto, with a base of tomato.  It’s so easy to make, and works well on pasta, spaghetti squash, or steamed julienned zucchini, which is pictured.

What you need:

1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and chopped (use pumpkin seeds if you don’t like pine nuts)

1  small can of tomato paste

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped basil

1/2 cup grated parmesan

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

1. Mix all the ingredients together.  If you have time, let it sit for about an hour.  If not, serve it on top of your favourite pasta or one of the other suggestions above.

 

Confit de Canard avec les Pommes de Terre et Legumes

 

In France this summer I enjoyed eating duck on many occasions.  One night Corey and I made our own confit de canard dinner at a B&B.  We had this gorgeous outdoor space to cook and eat our meal in.  Duck confit is cured in salt, then cooked in its own fat.  And is amazing!  In France it is readily available, but not so much at home.  If you’re in Vancouver, I’ve heard you can buy it at Oyama Sausage at Granville Island.  The excess fat can be saved in the fridge to cook potatoes in the future.

What you need:

two legs of confit de canard

potatoes

1 zucchini, sliced about 2 cm thick

butter

2 tomatoes

salt and pepper

What you do:

1. Heat a frying pan on medium high and put the duck legs in it.  Cook them until they are nicely browned.

2. To cook the potatoes you can begin by either boiling them, or pierce with a fork and pop them in the microwave.  Then cut into thick slices.

3. Remove the legs from the pan and keep them in a warm oven.  Remove some of the fat from the frying pan, then add the potatoes.  Fry them until they are browned on each side. (If you want to make Perigord style potatoes, add some garlic and lots of parsley.  We didn’t get to try this, but our B&B host told us it was amazing, so that is how I’ll try it next time).

4. In another pan, heat a tablespoon or so of butter, then add the zucchini slices.  Brown them slightly on each side, then add salt and pepper.

5. Cut the tomato into slices and salt and pepper them.  If you have some balsamic reduction you can add some of that too.

Plate the duck, potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes and enjoy a gorgeous meal with a glass of red wine.  Ours was a Bordeaux.

 

The French countryside

Lychee Mojito

This summer I went to Nana Restaurant and Bar in Brooklyn, New York and had the most amazing lychee mojito.  Along with some fabulous appetizers like homemade ravioli and seared tuna… yum!  This is my attempt to recreate the mojito, and it’s pretty good!  A nice drink to sip and escape the heat on the patio.

What you need:

limes

canned lychees

white rum

fresh mint

club soda

What you do:

For each drink, squeeze half a lime and put it in a short glass with about 3 tablespoons of the lychee syrup.  Add a shot of white rum.  Take a spring of mint and squish it up a bit, then put it in the glass.  Add some ice, then top it up with club soda.  Give it a little stir and enjoy!

Shrimp Ceviche

If you love seafood, this one’s for you, a nice summery dish.  It’s as easy as cutting up some stuff and letting it sit for a while.  You don’t cook the shrimp; that’s what the lime juice does.  It’s a nice appetizer or part of a light meal that you can serve with nacho chips.  It’s important to get really fresh shrimp!

I found the recipe here.

What you need:

1/2 tomato, diced

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1/2 cup cucumber, diced

200 grams fresh raw prawns, deveined and shelled, chopped

juice of 1 lime

1/4 of a Serrano chili, deseeded and finely diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

hot sauce

What you do:

1. Put everything except the hot sauce into a bowl, stir to combine everything.  Put it in the fridge for at least an hour.

2. Taste your ceviche, then add some hot sauce of you wish.

Ready to serve with some nacho chips!

 

 

Watermelon Salsa

What you need:

1 cup tomatoes, diced

1 cup watermelon, diced

1/4 red onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced, seeds removed unless you like it really hot

2 tablespoons diced cilantro

salt

1 freshly squeezed lime

a few dashes of hot sauce

What you do:

1. Cut up tomato and watermelon into chunks of about 1 cm.

2.  Add everything else and let it sit for at least an hour. Have a taste and see if you need to adjust add more salt or hot sauce.

Ready to go!

Watermelon Gazpacho

Image

This brilliant, fresh soup is the perfect thing for a hot summer’s day.  I made it up ahead of time, stuck it in the fridge, and just ladled it up for an appetizer.  I topped it with a little feta and cilantro, but you could also chop up a little watermelon, tomato or cucumber to sprinkle on top.

I found the recipe on One Perfect Bite. I just used less olive oil.

What you need:

4 cups watermelon

2 cups tomatoes

1 small jalapeno pepper with the seeds removed, diced

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded

2 tablespoons cilantro (plus a little more for garnishing)

a tablespoon or two of olive oil

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

salt and pepper

feta for garnishing

What you do:

1. Puree everything (except the garnish!) until it is smooth.  I used an immersion blender, but a regular blender would do a great job.

2. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. Serve with your choice of toppings: feta, cilantro, chopped tomato, cucumber or watermelon.