Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Filet of Sole with Yogurt Coriander Sauce and Mushroom Barley

Tonight my husband made what I think is now one of my new favourite meals. This light, white fish paired with the yogurt sauce is heaven. My husband mixed together plain yogurt, coriander and a bit of Sriracha sauce. The tangy, spiciness of the Sriracha is smoothed out by the coriander and yogurt. As for the barley and mushrooms? Very satisfying and the perfect accompaniment. It doesn't steal the show but quietly reminds you how delicious it is and fun to eat. I love grains and the texture. I also love that you feel good and full after so little. Another winner in my books!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Salade Lyonnaise

Salade Lyonnaise is a traditional French salad made with frisée, lardon (or pancetta), croutons – and in this case giant, homemade, garlic, multigrain croutons, a poached egg and vinaigrette. My husband lived in Paris for a year and said they often ate this salad. I think the greasy, melt-in-your-mouth pancetta served with the crisp, fragile, pepperiness of the frisée (or chicory), is an amazing combination. In fact the pancetta was so juicy, it reminded me of the scrunchins we had in Newfoundland quite a few years ago. Scrunchins are fried cubes of fat-back pork often served as accompaniments to many Newfoundland dishes. One could call it the heart-attack snack. Or if eaten occasionally, and I mean rarely, a taste of heaven. For the dressing, my husband mixed together some of the bacon fat, sherry and vinegar. A satisfying and delicious salad to say the least.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

The first time I had this soup was at Café Soup’Herbe. I literally dreamt about the soup for years after and got very excited anytime they made it – it wasn't a regular on their menu. I finally decided, after a few disappointing trips of going there hoping that would be the soup of the day and it wasn't, that I would try to find the recipe online. I did, and made it, and it was fantastic. It's been a year or two since the last time I made it and went looking for the recipe again. I found one online but realized once I started cooking it that although this one was very similar, it was much creamier than the old one. Still delicious nonetheless. The dill and slight tang to the broth make this the best creamed mushroom soup ever. It's also very easy to make. I'll call this one Hungarian Mushroom Soup #1. When I make it again, i'll try looking for the less creamy version and call it #2. This will be my lunch for a few days this week. Yumm.

What you’ll need
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sour cream

What to do
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions in the butter for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 more minutes. Stir in the dill, paprika, soy sauce and broth. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the milk and flour together. Pour this into the soup and stir well to blend. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, stir in the salt, ground black pepper, lemon juice, parsley and sour cream. Mix together and allow to heat through over low heat, about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not boil. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Savana Café

My best friend and I went out for dinner at one of our regular spots last night, Savana Café. It's close to home, has a great little patio in the summer, and a colourful, inviting interior perfect for escaping the winter blahs of slush and snow in the winter. They serve unique dishes of tropical cuisine and the best Pad Thai in Ottawa. On other occasions i've ordered other dishes from the menu, which have all been fabulous, such as the Tofu Red Curry Bowl – vegetables, red coconut curry and roasted cashews; the Aqua Lemon Soba Noodles with shrimp, squid, fish, mussels, vegetables, tomato, lemongrass and sake broth; or even just a few starters for a meal like their Fresh Spring Rolls made with chicken, shrimp, peanuts, sprouts, mint, basil and cilantro and served with an apricot black bean sauce, and Grilled Chicken Satay with a Thai peanut sauce. But last night I opted for the Pad Thai. They serve a few dishes with bananas in them, like the Cubana Chicken which is stuffed with bananas, coconut milk and cilantro that i've always wanted to try, but staring at the Pad Thai on the menu, I weaken and 9 times out of 10 go with that. It's your typical rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, egg, tofu, peanuts and sprouts, but so much better than the Pad Thai from other places. The sauce has a lovely tang to it and just the right spice (I ordered medium). And for this reason Teresa ordered the exact same thing. We started off with some Shrimp Chips, these fabulous chips melt in your mouth and have a wonderful light and airy texture. The best part though, is they are served with this amazing Thai peanut sauce. Last night we found the service to be a bit less welcoming than usual, but when they offered to refill our peanut sauce, they redeemed themselves! For dessert, and I don't normally order dessert, I had the Savana Apple Mango Crisp, which was very yummy, but the real winner was Teresa's, the Chocolat Paté. If you have any wine left in your bottle, order this, the two together is magical. This rich paté is a flourless Belgian chocolate torte, drizzled with a crème anglaise sauce. Meals are very reasonably priced, starters range from $4 to $10 and mains from $15 to $25. They also have a great lunch menu and a decent wine list. I'll definitely be back again and again, and maybe, hopefully, try another dish.
Savana Café on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday’s Roast Beef House

This restaurant is more of a touristy spot in comparison to the restaurants we normally eat at, but is very good nonetheless. Last night my husband and I decided to check out the ice sculptures since it was the last weekend of Winterlude. And since this place is right across the street it was an easy decision to stop in. That and the special they always have going on – a Fantasy Dinner for Two, with a Nice Bottle of Wine for $89.75. My husband ordered the Market Fresh Salad to start, and then had the Friday's Cut, Prime-Rib Roast Beef au jus, with Yorkshire Puff. I can't comment on his dinner because I was so full from mine I couldn't possibly have a bite of his. He found it very good. I had the Soup of the Day, which was a flavourful cream of broccoli, and for my main I had the Maple Roast Atlantic Salmon Fillet. When I ordered this I knew I would have my choice of potatoes and was really looking forward to their garlic mash. I almost fell to the floor when they told me they were out. OUT? How can you be out of mashed potatoes?? I didn't want the baked potato, I didn't want the rosemary roasted potatoes, I wanted mashed. So, I went with their fries and some mayo on the side. They turned out to be fabulous fries. They were French bistro type fries, thin cut and very yummy. Only one thing I found a bit weird about them, although they didn't look at all like McDonald's fries, they tasted a lot like them. My husband thought I was being weird, until he tried them. A smile grew on his face, that is so weird! My salmon was absolutely divine, the maple on it was fantastic and had a slight crisp texture to it. The wine that came with the meal was JeanJean Arabesque Merlot from France. Definitely not a bottle we would order had we had a choice, but went well with the meal and was fine, especially for the overall price. This dinner also included dessert. I won't spend too much time on that, in comparison to the meal the dessert left little to be desired. My husband had Maple Syrup Crème Caramel and I had the Apple Pie with Warm Spice Sauce. I think the pie would have been so much better had it been warm. Even if the spice sauce was warm, the pie was so cold that by the time I ate it the sauce was room temperature. They also served us coffee and tea. The entire experience and food is a fabulous deal. The service is impeccable and the decor very warm and inviting. It's got an old Victorian style to it and is one of the best preserved houses of the early Confederation period to survive in downtown Ottawa. There are a few fireplaces in there and we were lucky to get a table right next to one. They also offer private rooms for parties and meetings and have a live piano parlour upstairs in a small room where people enjoy dancing and sipping cocktails along the piano bar. Definitely offers a nice evening out. Aside from the special, appetizers range from $5.75 to $12.75 and mains from $19.75 to $29.75.

Friday's Roast Beef House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Seared Tuna with Caviar and Bok Choy

It's February, i'm down, I haven't smiled all day. The only thing that can bring me back would be the sunshine. Oh, and this magnificent tuna. How can you not smile when you have a plate this sumptuous staring at you. My husband marinated this light hunk of meat in soya sauce and rice vinegar, then seared it for a minute or two in sesame oil. He served it on a bed of sticky rice, green onion and bok choy and topped it with rich caviar. Oh yeah, caviar! Not only is this fishy little accompaniment rich in omega-3's, but there is growing evidence that caviar can help chase the blues – it's like my husband can read my mind! Early research suggests people suffering from depression can benefit from diets rich in omega-3's which can be found in abundance in certain types of fish. Caviar offers roughly 6.5 grams of omega-3's per serving. That's high considering the next highest is Mackerel at 2.45g and salmon which comes in at just over 1.4g. The only thing about caviar is some varieties should be avoided due to over fishing and poaching. The worst are Beluga, Lake Sturgeon, Sevruga or Osetra. The one we had with dinner is Lumpfish caviar, and unlike some caviars, is pretty reasonably priced. You can get a small jar for $10, and it goes a pretty long way. I'm not sure where lumpfish caviar stands in terms of being overfished, it's considered more of an imitation, which is fine for me considering i'm far from being a connoisseur. In terms of my dinner tonight tho, it was delicious, and look at me – i'm smiling again!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Asparagus and Porcini Ravioli

I walked into the house, late and famished, to the smell of garlic and mushrooms simmering slowly on the stove. I don't know about you but my mouth waters at the smell of fresh garlic in any form. And this dish is sure to do just that if you decide to make it. My husband bought asparagus and cheese stuffed ravioli and topped it with an impeccable silky sauce made with sour cream, butter, ricotta cheese and garlic. He sauteed some porcini mushrooms and asparagus until al dente, then added the remaining ingredients. The sour cream ads a nice tang to the sauce that would normally be slightly bland if made only with regular cream. I needed this tonight, I had a long day at work. My husband is the best!

Monday, February 16, 2009


We had dinner tonight at a fabulous Japanese restaurant in downtown Ottawa. We wanted to have a light meal before catching a movie at the World Exchange and this place is just around the corner. I had been here once before, in the summertime. I remember the food being good, but unfortunately I also remember it being scorching hot in there. I don't think their AC was working at the time. My opinion of the place now? I definitely want to go again, soon. I would have liked to stay a lot longer tonight too. The atmosphere is very serene, the service is good and the food –fabulous. My only regret is we weren't there to stuff our faces, because the dishes on the menu were all very tempting. I started off with the Gyoza, probably my favourite dish on any Japanese menu, pan-seared dumplings with beef and vegetables with their house dipping sauce. These were probably the best gyoza i've had anywhere, not greasy at all. Then I had the Spicy Tuna Tempura Maki, a tempura fried tuna roll with green onion, cucumber and Japanese mayo. They were heavenly. My husband ordered the Kaiso Salad, 3 assorted seaweeds with Genji sesame dressing, delicious! And the Vegetable Tempura, also amazing. I had a couple pieces of that as well and the veggies were cooked to perfection, the beans still had a nice crunch to them. Another dish that caught my eye but that I didn't order was the Tosa Tofu, dry fried tofu wrapped with bonito flakes, I saw a picture of it and it looked great. Oh, and I forgot to mention, they started us off with an amuse-bouche of marinated salmon that was quite yummy. I'm looking forward to my next visit. Their soups and salads range from $2.75 to $8.95, appetizers from $3.95 to $13.95, maki from $3.95 to $15.95, nigiri from $3.95 to $9.95, sushi and sashimi from $6.95 to $29.95 and mains from $9.45 to $22.95. They also do catering and take-out.

Genji on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beertails and Fine Finger Foods

Before I start talking about the wonderful food in this post, i'd like to first talk about my wonderful friends. And at this very moment, mainly Teresa. Without her help for 10 hours yesterday, this fabulous spread would not have been possible.

This is going to be a very long post, but a very informative one for anyone who is thinking of throwing a cocktail or beertail party. Not only will I go through the recipes for each item, but I’ll also give an idea on how the planning took place. It all started because it was my husband’s birthday. Oh, and I thought I’d throw it out there, he was born on February 14th, so not only is he an amazing chef, he’s also my cupid! (yeah-yeah, enough with the cheese!)

I decided to throw the party on February 13th, that way all the lovebirds could have Saturday to themselves. I took the Friday off so that I would have the day to cook and prepare the finger foods. It’s a lot for one person, so when my best friend Teresa said she had the day off and would love to help, I was totally stoked. We say this is our thank you to Ryan for all of the amazing and delicious meals he has made for us. I’m sure if he had his hands on these recipes they’d be 100 times better, but hey, we did a pretty amazing job ourselves! Unfortunately I did not get a photograph of every single thing. Bad I know, but I was too busy hosting. I did manage to grab the shot of the pizza off one of the websites where I got the recipes, which I believe also need thanking: and

I spent hours scanning recipes online that would be delicious, work together, and in my mind, do-able. Here’s what I settled with.

Pear and Gorgonzola Mini Pizzas
Chèvre and Grape Truffles with Pistachio Crust
Little Mushrooms with Leeks and Goat Cheese
Miniature Jalapeno Souffles
Crostini with Beef Tartare and White Truffle Oil
Spicy Shrimp Rémoulade on Molasses-Buttered Toast
Roasted Red Pepper and Hazelnut Dip
Maple Smoked Salmon in Pastries with Caper-Dill Relish
Smoked Bison on New Potatoes with Cream Horseradish
Smoked Duck On Savory Parmesan and Thyme Cookies with Onion and Redcurrant Relish
Smoked Scallops on Cucumber Rounds
Quebec Cheeses and Ostrich Paté, Rillette de Canard and Rosette de Lyon
Smoked Trout with Capers and Red Onion
Maple Butter Tarts

Ok, so that’s a lot. But when you're cooking for the most important person in the world to you, and who has made you 100's of amazing meals, why would you do any less. Here's how I got started.

• Create a document with all the recipes and ideas
• Create a second document with all the ingredients
• Match like ingredients together and delete any overlapping
• Bring the list home and cross off what you already have
• Find out which grocery store in your area is the best to find most of the ingredients (I went to Loblaws on Ogilvie)
• If it’s a surprise, do the shopping a few days ahead and store the food at a friend’s place
• Do the specialty food shopping first then build around that
• Keep an extra day or two in between when you shop and when you start cooking to allow time to find hard to find ingredients
• Also get the liquor ahead of time just so you’re not rushing at the end
• Go through each recipe and mark all items that can be done ahead of time or require refrigeration time and start in that order

My first stop of all was at the Boucanerie Chelsea. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is my favourite food store of all time. The woman was also extremely helpful and gave me lots of fun ideas and tips. She even let Teresa and I taste the cheeses so we could easily pick which ones we wanted to bring home. A fabulous experience to say the least. I left there with the following items, which inspired all of the smoked and cheese items on the list above.

• Autruche Figues (ostrich paté)
• Foie Gras Rillette Canard
• Rosette de Lyon (meat stick)
• Smoked Bison
• Smoked Duck
• Maple Smoked Salmon
• Smoked Scallops
• Smoked Trout (the whole fish)
• Fleurs des Monts (cheese)
• Le Baluchon (cheese)
• Curé Labelle (cheese)
• Fromage de Chèvre Cendré (goat cheese)
• Unpasturized Goat Cheese (which I rolled in chives)
• Homemade Herbed Crostini Toasts

She even threw in a free smoked cheese as a special gift for my husband!

I picked up Teresa at 8am and filled the car with all the yummy food. We got back to my place and immediately got to work. Here’s what we made.

Pear and Gorgonzola Mini Pizzas

What you’ll need
1 lb. raw store bought pizza dough (500g)
1 tbsp olive oil (15 ml) + 1 tablespoon (15 ml
Flour for dusting
1 tbsp fresh dill, roughly chopped (15 ml)
Cracked pepper to taste
3 x ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8" slices
4 oz Gorgonzola cheese
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (30ml)

What to do
Preheat a pizza stone in a 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) oven.
Divide pizza dough into 6 equal portions. Start to form the dough into 6 equal-sized balls.
Work each ball of dough by pulling down the sides and tucking the sides under the bottom of the ball. Then, using a smooth surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the ball is smooth and firm, about 1 minute.
Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking tray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow them to rest at room temperature for 12-15 minutes. (If you are preparing the dough in advance, this is the point of the preparation that the balls can be loosely covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1-2 days).
To prepare each pizza, place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface. Press down on the center of the ball and flatten slightly. Lightly dust a rolling pin with flour and roll each ball of dough into 4" circles. Allow the outer 1/4" border to be slightly thicker than the center.
Brush the dough lightly with oil and sprinkle evenly with dill and pepper. Arrange the pear slices on the dough so they slightly overlap. Crumble gorgonzola overtop and sprinkle equally with pine nuts. Repeat with remaining pizzas.
Using a pizza paddle (lightly dusted with flour) carefully lift the pizzas onto the preheated pizza stone.
Bake pizzas for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer pizzas to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter.
Serve immediately.

Chèvre and Grape Truffles with Pistachio Crust

What you’ll need
8 oz (250 g) chèvre, softened
4 oz (125g) cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp (50 mL) port
Pinch salt
2 lb. (1 kg) seedless green grapes
1 cup (250 mL) pistachios, shelled, lightly toasted and ground

What to do
In a bowl, mix together chèvre and cream cheese. Add port and salt, and mix until smooth. Measure out 1 teaspoonful (15mL) mixture. Press grape into mixture. Cover grape and cheese with plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, evenly distribute cheese around grape. Remove plastic wrap and coat with pistachios.
Refrigerate until serving.

Little Mushrooms with Leeks and Goat Cheese

What you’ll need
1 1/2 lb. (750g) white or cremini mushrooms, stems removed and wiped clean
4 1/2 oz (140 g) chèvre
3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt, approx
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 x large leek, white part only
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
2 tbsp (30 mL) white wine or water

What to do
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 Celsius).
Toss mushrooms with 1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) each salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese with remaining salt and pepper.
Fill centre of each mushroom cap with about 1 tsp (5 mL) of cheese mixture. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. (Can be made up to 1 day ahead, wrap and refrigerate.)
Cut leeks into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces, and slice each piece into thin, long strips. Melt butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant and translucent, but not browned. Add wine and cook until wine has mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Bake mushrooms until cheese is bubbly and mushrooms are browned, about 15 minutes.
Top with leek mixture and return to oven to heat, about 1 minute.
Serve warm.

Miniature Jalapeño Souffles

What you’ll need
1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus additional for buttering muffin cups
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts, very finely chopped
1 small whole pickled jalapeño or 5 slices, seeded and finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 oz finely shredded Gruyère (1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large egg, separated

Special equipment: a nonstick mini-muffin pan with 12 (1/8-cup) cups (each about 1 3/4 inches wide and 3/4 inch deep)

What to do
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 400°F.
Butter muffin cups. Stir together 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon pine nuts in a small bowl. Dust cups with flour mixture, knocking out excess.
Melt remaining tablespoon butter in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and jalapeño and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk (mixture will temporarily look curdled) and bring to a simmer, whisking, then cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and add cheese, salt, pepper, mustard, and egg yolk, stirring until cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Beat egg white in a small deep bowl with an eggbeater or a handheld electric mixer at high speed until it just barely holds stiff peaks. Stir one fourth of whites into soufflé mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Spoon into muffin cups, filling about halfway, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon pine nuts. Bake soufflés until puffed and golden, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack just until warm, then, if necessary, carefully run a small knife around edge of each soufflé to loosen. (Soufflés will fall as they cool.)

Soufflés can be baked and cooled 1 day ahead, then chilled in pan, covered. Reheat in a 350°F oven 5 to 7 minutes.

Crostini with Beef Tartare and White Truffle Oil

What you’ll need
2 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon drained, chopped capers
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound beef tenderloin, freshly ground
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
8 slices Crostini
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white truffle oil

What to do
1. In a chilled mixing bowl, mash the anchovies and garlic with a fork to make a paste. Add the shallots and capers and mash them into the paste. Add the egg and whisk it into the paste with the fork. Whisk in the mustard and orange zest.
2. In a slow, steady stream, add the olive oil, whisking constantly until incorporated. Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce.
3. Add the beef and mix well with a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Mound some tartare in the center of each crostini. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with truffle oil.

Spicy Shrimp Rémoulade on Molasses-Buttered Toast

What you’ll need
Molasses butter
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons light molasses
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Remoulade sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 1/2 teaspoons drained prepared white horseradish
2 teaspoons minced shallot
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

24 1 1/2-inch rounds or squares cut from Westphalian-style pumpernickel bread slices

8 ounces cooked peeled medium shrimp
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

What to do
For molasses butter: Using fork, mix all ingredients in small bowl to blend.

For remoulade sauce: Mix first 12 ingredients in medium bowl.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread molasses butter lightly over bread; arrange in single layer on baking sheet. Bake until bread begins to firm up, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Mix shrimp into remoulade sauce. Top toasts with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with chives. Place toasts on platter.

Roasted Red-Pepper and Hazelnut Dip

What you’ll need
1 (7- to 8-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a baguette)
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup hazelnut or walnut oil

What to do
Purée all ingredients, except oil, with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until almost smooth, then add oil in a slow stream with motor running.

Maple Smoked Salmon in Pastries with Caper-Dill Relish

What you’ll need
3/4 cup finely chopped white onion
3 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons (packed) chopped fresh dill
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
24 round pastries (you can find this in specialty food shops)
6 ounces thinly sliced maple smoked salmon, cut into 24 pieces

What to do
Stir first 5 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Put a bit of cream cheese inside the pastry and then the smoked salmon. Top each with the relish. Arrange appetizers on platter.

Smoked Bison on New Potatoes with Cream Horseradish

What you’ll need
24 new baby red potatoes
Smoked bison
Cream horseradish
Olive oil

What to do
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut potatoes in half crosswise. Mix with oil in bowl. Place cut side down on heavy large baking sheet. Bake potatoes until just tender, about 25 minutes. Cool completely.

Cut thin slice off rounded end of each potato so that potatoes will stand upright. Spread a thin layer of cream horseradish on each, add the bison and garnish with rosemary.

Smoked Duck on Savory Parmesan and Thyme Cookies with Onion and Redcurrant Relish

What you’ll need
Smoked Duck

For the relish
1 x 400g jar onion marmalade
1/2 tsp ground ground allspice
1 orange, grated zest only
small bunch Redcurrants
1 tsp port

For the cookies
1 cup of flour
2 tbsp of fresh thyme (or rosemary)
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or cheddar)
1/2 cup of sour cream
Salt and pepper

What to do
For the relish
To make the relish, place the onion jam in a saucepan and add the allspice, orange zest, redcurrants and port. Heat, until the mixture comes to the boil and then remove from the heat.

For the cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place flour, thyme, butter and salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add cheese and sour cream and pulse a few more times, until dough comes together.
Roll out into a log and wrap in saran wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Using a sharp knife, slice discs off of the roll and place on a lined baking sheet. Press an herb leaf into the center of each. Bake for 15 minutes, until they just start to brown.

Place meat on a cookie and top with the relish. Garnish with a small parsley leaf and serve.

Smoked Scallops on Cucumber Rounds

What you’ll need
English cucumber
Smoked scallops cut into 3 or 4 round pieces
Whipped chive cream cheese

What to do
Cut the cucumber into little rounds. Spread some cream cheese on the cucumber and top with the smoked scallop. Garnish with chives.

Maple Butter Tarts with Currants
(I actually omitted the currants)

What you’ll need
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (650 ml)
Pinch salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (125 ml)
2/3 cups cold vegetable shortening (150 ml)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. ice water (150 ml)

1 egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (125 ml)
1/2 cup maple syrup (125 ml)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (60 ml)
1 tsp vanilla extract (5 ml)
1/4 tsp salt (1 ml)

3/4 cup currants (150 ml)

What to do
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients together. With a pastry cutter, blend in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water gradually until dough forms. Pat dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick. With a cookie cutter, cut out ten 41/2-inch circles. Press the circles into 10 cups of a muffin tin. Put the muffin tin in the freezer for 20 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden and set. Cool on a wire rack.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat together the egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, butter, vanilla and salt.

Divide the currants among the shells. Pour the mixture into the shells and bake until set, about 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Remove tarts from pan and cool on a wire rack.

In addition to the fabulous food, I also served some pretty fabulous drinks. Every one that I tried was really good. I had little menus for people to order from.

Beertails List

Panaché – French version of the Shandy, made with two-thirds beer and one-third lemon flavoured soda called limonade. In France they give this to little kids at parties, but with more limonade than beer.

Power Shandy - Half a pint of lager topped with a Smirnoff Ice.

Clamato con cerveza – A Mexican cantina staple. Tall glass half filled with spicy clamato, lime juice and ice and topped with beer. Can be enjoyed with a shot of tequila on the side or added in.

The Rachelle – A shot of tawny port in a pint of coffee stout.

Maria Maria – Shot of port with orange juice and Blanche de Chambly on ice.

BeeSting – Dark beer and orange juice.

Black Cossack – Chilled Guinness containing vodka and rum.

Caffeine bomb — Newcastle Brown Ale, Espresso, Jack Daniels and Red Bull.

Force — beer mixed with lemonade and vodka.

Gold Rush — Beer mixed wih Jack Daniels, vodka, and orange juice.

Ingrid — 2/3 beer and 1/3 vermouth.

Irish Carbomb — a shot of half baileys and half irish whisky dropped in a half pint of Guinness.

Strongbull — Strongbow and Red Bull.

Urine Sample — 1/2 shot beer, 1/2 shot tequila, mixed and warmed in a microwave for 15 seconds.

Wife Beater — a concoction containing 1/2 pint lager, traditionally Stella Artois, 1/2 pint Smirnoff Ice and topped with a shot of Vodka. This drink is generally associated with Binge drinking. In parts of Ireland and Britain many people simply refer to Stella Artois as "Wife Beater" in reference to the famous line from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cod with Creamy Leek Sauce, Spinach and Sweet Potato

The sauce in this dish reminded me of one of the sauces my mother used to make for her delicious salmon casserole. It's the perfect light sauce for a light fish and is flavourful without being overpowering at all. The addition of the dill also gives it a lovely kick. The appreciation I have for my husband and his effort to continually make new dishes is immeasurable. Variety is definitely not something we are lacking in this home! He served this delicious cod with spinach drizzled with lemon and sweet potato. If he had to do it over again, he would replace the sweet potato with red potatoes. He felt this wasn't the best accompaniment with the fish but it's all we had. And I absolutely loved every bite of it – I thought it went together fine.

What you’ll need
Cod filets
Cooked spinach
Cooked sweet or red potatoes
Sour cream
2/3 cup chicken stock

What to do
Whisk together 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1 tsp of flour. 

Cut up a big leek, just the pale green and white parts. Take 1/3 of the chicken stock and put in a pan with butter and leeks. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Add sour cream mixture and mix. Add fish and remaining chicken stock, cover and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Serve alongside spinach sprinkled with lemon and pepper and potatoes. Sprinkle with dill.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sesame Chicken Stir Fry with Peppers

I love food. And I love this dish. So light and fresh and full of flavour. My husband made this Asian inspired dish tonight and it was very tasty. What else can I say!?

What you’ll need
Chicken breast
Water chestnuts

Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Rice Vinegar

What to do
Mix all the sauce elements together. In a wok, stir fry the veggies alone and then remove. Stir fry the chicken in the sauce and then mix everything together afterward. When cooking, do it on high heat while stirring constantly – it's a stir fry after all, not a stare fry! Sorry, bad joke, sounds better when it comes from the source – Wok with Yan. Anyway, garnish with green onion and roasted sesame seeds.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spinach and Grape Tomato Pizza on Naan Bread

I think i've said it before, i'm not a huge fan of pizza. But this kind of pizza I love. I think the thing I don't like about traditional pizza is the greasiness and excessive cheese, although some might say that's the best part. I like to feel good after I eat, and this pizza does just that. My husband made this delicious concoction using only ingredients from Giant Tiger. I say that because it's very inexpensive to shop there, but you can't usually do a full grocery in that store without having to go somewhere else to get the missing ingredients. One day my husband and I did the bulk of our groceries at the one on Walkley and then went to our local Independent grocer (Hartman's) to get the rest. While he was doing the shopping I decided to check out all the prices on my GT receipt and compare. Not one item beat the GT prices, so I try to get what I can there first. The salad served with this pizza on the other hand, had some ingredients from Herb and Spice. This shrimp and quinoa salad is one of my favorite dishes and in this version my husband added a few more ingredients, green and yellow peppers, buckwheat sprouts, peas, lima beans and grape tomatoes. As for the pizza, absolutely fabulous, I especially loved the tomato sauce on the base. Here's the recipe.

What you’ll need
Naan bread
Tomato paste
Ricotta cheese
Grape tomatoes
Green peppers
Green onion

What to do
Mix the tomato paste, ricotta and garlic and spread evenly over the Naan bread. Cut up the rest of the ingredients and place bake in the oven at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes, then broil for a couple of minutes at the end.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fourth Avenue Wine Bar

Tonight I had dinner at the Fourth Avenue Wine Bar. I chose this place because I wanted somewhere with a nice atmosphere but not too crazy food choices. I was going with a very good friend of mine who I hadn't seen in two years, who I love to death and enjoy every single minute i'm with her, but who is very different from me in that she and I have contrasting food tastes. My goal is always to get her to try something new, but I don't want to scare her off, so i'm always very conservative with my choices. I knew she liked cheese, I knew she liked french fries, and I knew this bar had both. We started off with the three cheeses with roasted walnuts and grapes. The cheese selection was very nice and bold. With that we shared the sage, lemon and garlic meatballs with aged balsamic dip, which were also nice, and the warm dates wrapped in thick smoked bacon. None of these items were over the top for my friend Nancie, except the dates. Luckily they were wrapped in the delicious bacon, so it was definitely acceptable if not enjoyable. We shared a bottle of the quinta das maias dao, a 2005 portuguese wine that was absolutely divine. We had a wonderful evening. I wouldn't say the service was exceptional, they seemed to be there when you didn't want them to be and not when you needed them. But the food was very good and I had a great evening. This restaurant is tapas style ranging from $2 (for baguette) to $19, with a few mains from $16 to $28. It's also very small and depending on the time you will probably have to wait for a table. They don't take reservations but the wait isn't very long.

Fourth Avenue Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro

Last night I had one of the best meals i've had in Ottawa. My husband worked late and by the time I finished walking the dog, going out to eat seemed like the best option. Since i've been doing my blog, I find we try to hit restaurants we've never been to before. It's hard to do when you've got a few favourites. I had been here once before, a couple of years ago for lunch. I remembered they had a lot of unique dishes, and since I haven't reviewed them yet we decided to eat here. I'm so glad we did. The decor is very warm and inviting with aboriginal art on the walls. This is Ottawa's first aboriginal style bistro and I have to say, the food is absolutely amazing. As soon as we sat down they served us a bowl of popcorn, very fun. And you know most people are hungry before they arrive at a restaurant, so a little snack upon arrival is always nice. They also brought some Banik, an aboriginal bread normally rolled out flat but they make it more into the shape of a roll and serve it with a delicious herb butter. We ordered a glass of the Malbec from Argentina, very nice wine. And then here's where I go nuts – my app and main. I started off with the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Christophes mushrooms “bolognaise” and sage cream, absolutely divine. Then I decided to order the Potlatch as my main, which was a tasting of “In-Betweens”. This plate offered the queso fresco, which is a fried in-house made lemon and thyme cheese with Bryson farm roasted beets; rabbit dumplings – crisp rabbit filled dumplings with avocado salad and honey mustard aioli on top (I actually omitted the avocado because of my stupid allergy); a country paté made of pheasant, duck and wild boar served with a late harvest cabernet grape relish; in-house smoked trout – this was one of my favourite items, so smokey and so fabulous; and last but not least, the absolute best thing on my plate, a venison terrine on garlic toast that melted in your mouth in seconds. This item wasn't even on the menu for that dish so it was a thrilling surprise. The flavours pouring out of the food was sensational, I got happier and happier with every bite. I seriously did not want it to end. My husband was also very happy with his meal, slow cooked elk ribs from the Elk Ranch, served with celery root and potato puree and wild greens. I also tried it, of course. The potatoes were incredible and the elk was very moist and succulent. A convivial atmosphere, delightful service and conservative prices make this place the best of it's kind. I would highly recommend this spot! Starters range from $8 to $10, in-betweens from $10 to $22 and the mains $18-$36. Portions are also very generous.

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Breaded Pork Chops with Green Beans and Mâche

Tonight my husband made the most succulent pork chops, topped with tomato sauce and a sage and garlic bread crumb mixture. They were cooked to perfection and served alongside zesty green beans and mâche. I hate when meat is overcooked and takes you forever to chew. I probably could have let these chops melt in my mouth. Yum!

What you’ll need
Pork chops
Green beans
Tomato sauce
Bread crumbs

What to do
In a bowl, mix the sage, garlic, bread crumbs and lemon zest. Brown pork in a cast iron pan for 2 minutes on each side. Spread the tomato sauce on top and then add the bread crumb mixture. Cook in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes. Serve with cooked green beans mixed with mâche and sprinkled with lemon juice.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Halibut with Roasted Veggies

At this point of my blogging career (if you want to call it that), I feel there's only so many times you can use the various words available to describe how delicious a meal is without starting to sound redundant. And feeling that way makes it very difficult to describe how awesome this meal was. I can say it was delectable, but it's not the first meal i've described that way. Or mouthwatering, which it was. Or scrumptious, tasty, yummy, divine. I've used them all. There are other words I haven't used yet, but I also haven't found meals that fit their meaning, or found the words sound natural enough to use them. I need to read more reviews and start going into more detail about the flavours. Here's my first crack at it.

The combined flavours of the fennel and thyme in this dish make it absolutely amazing. Halibut is such a light fish that it will take on the taste of whatever herbs and veggies you cook with it. This recipe seems fairly easy – but this is coming from someone who cooks very little. A great dinner after a long day at work, thanks to my wonderful husband.

What you’ll need
Red onion cut up
Fennel cut up
Cherry tomatoes
Big bunch of thyme
6 garlic cloves (whole)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

What to do
Put the veggies, thyme and garlic in a baking dish and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes at 400. Add the fish and squirt everything with lemon and roast for another 10 minutes. Voilà!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Finnish Pancakes with Fruit and Sausage

Good friends of ours, Jenn and Eric, had a bunch of us over for brunch this morning. It was a sort of pre-Super Bowl breakfast party. One we decided should become an annual event. Jenn made what is sure to be the best pancakes i've ever had. I definitely ate more than I should have but there was no way I could have stopped at 2. She served them with our choice of mixed berries, bananas, yogurt, maple syrup and yummy breakfast sausages on the side. The table had some freshly cut watermelon, and to drink, mimosas and coffee. A decadent breakfast to say the least. I'm still salivating just thinking about it. Thanks guys!