Monthly Archives: September 2010

Mid-week Surprise: Salmon with Asparagus


I love it when I find my favourite foods on sale. The other day I went to my local grocer to pick up a few items and noticed that asparagus was on sale – so I picked some up. I didn’t know initially what I would do with it, but, it’s asparagus – there are so many options :). So, while asparagus was chilling out in my shopping cart, I walked by the fresh seafood section, and to my delight – Atlantic salmon was also on sale! Great! My asparagus now had a perfect companion and they were both going to be my dinner on a fall Wednesday afternoon :). I would say, a perfect way to break up the work week.

My favourite thing about fresh salmon is how moist and flaky it is. It already has an abundance of flavours so I thought I would keep the dish as simple as possible. I put a little bit of olive oil on both sides of the fish just so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Then some salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. I wanted to sear the salmon to get the nice brown colour, so I pre-heated the pan before salmon went in. Salmon doesn’t take a long time to cook – maybe 3-5 minutes per side. The asparagus also doesn’t take very long – 7-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your asparagus. The bottom part of asparagus is too chewy so it should be discarded. To know how much to discard off the bottom, try to snap one asparagus and wherever it snaps is how much should be discarded. You can use this test asparagus to cut the rest.

It took longer for me to get the lighting right to photograph this dish than it did to prepare it, so I had to wait longer than I wanted to to eat it. But, the end result, both the photos and the food were so worth the wait :).

 

I didn’t use a recipe for this dish, as I just tried to put together flavours that I thought worked well. It is very easy and quick to prepare. If it’s possible, use fresh salmon for this dish, because the frozen fillets just aren’t as flaky and moist. Make sure the pan is very hot before putting the salmon in. Season the salmon before with olive oil, salt and pepper. Sear the salmon for 3-5 minutes on each side and it’s done. For asparagus, discard the bottoms and cook with olive oil and butter for 7-10 minutes. You can test how well they’re done by tasting one – it should be crispy and easy to bite off – if it starts looking too dry and is stringy to the bite, it’s overdone. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

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For high resolution images, click on each photo

Banana Strawberry Parfait w Apple Yoghurt


A few weeks after Ahmad had generously made the delicious Lebanese-inspired dinner for Nada and myself, I thought it would be nice to return the favour. Dinner was risotto with asparagus, but I had no time to capture those on film, so instead I opted to use the little time I had and shoot the colourful dessert. Besides, it’s much more interesting to look at anyway 🙂 And, not to mention the best part to eat 🙂

Parfaits are so easy to make and they’re so decorative – it looks like you spent so much time making it, but really, it’s usually done in a few minutes. If I’m having guests over, I will usually chop up all the ingredients I need (in this case I chose strawberries and bananas and chocolate chunks) in advance. That way I can put everything together at the last minute so that the ingredients retain their flavour and texture.

You can choose to put any kind of yoghurt/frozen yoghurt or ice cream in your parfait. I opted for regular yoghurt (I prefer natural 6% yoghurt) since I find the fruit yoghurts are too sweet and have way too many artificial ingredients, not to mention all the added sugars you don’t really need. I mixed the natural yoghurt with some homemade apple butter Isabeau and I made back in August, for flavour and sweetness. The combination was quite good (hadn’t made that combo before) – it was zesty from the apples and lemon juice from apple butter and creamy from the yoghurt. Aside from a few chocolate chunks on top, this dessert is quite low on sugar.

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For high resolution images, please click on each photo.

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RECIPE

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Strawberry Banana Parfaits with Apple Yoghurt

Ingredients
  • 2 cups of strawberries chopped
  • 1 or 2 bananas chopped (depending on how many people you’re feeding)
  • 6% fat or higher natural yoghurt (or fruit yoghurt if you prefer)
  • Chocolate chunks for sprinkling on top
Layer strawberries, banana and yoghurt in a parfait glass or martini or wine glass. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks. Enjoy!

Unexpected Dinner Invitation – Lebanese Chicken, Rice and Tabouleh


It was Monday. I had just come back from a short vacation to Montreal and was sorting out my e-mail, when I received a message from my friend Ahmad whom I haven’t seen in a while. The subject was “Chicken Party” and as I opened it realized it was a dinner invitation for myself and Nada – our mutual friend. I was excited because Ahmad is Lebanese and I knew that the food will be exquisite.

On the Menu? Chicken marinated with hot spices (Red Taouk Spices, found in most Middle Eastern stores – Abido is the most common brand), yogurt, garlic and onions, tabouleh, olive oil infused rice, quadruple fudge brownie sundae (the fourth ingredient is love).
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When I arrived,  parsley was being diced for tabouleh and I was advised to stay out of the kitchen :).
While the chef was making last minute preparations, the rice was finished. It was infused with olive oil which gave it an extra kick of flavour.
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Soon after, the chicken came out of the oven and we were ready to eat. The chicken bubbled with spices.

There were only three of us and SO much food, two types of spiced chicken, a full pot of rice, tabouleh, and not to mention a dessert that was coming. The chicken and the rice looked even better on the plate, and I really liked how the various colours on a white plate complemented each other.

Since we were all born and bred on either a mix of mediterranean and middle eastern diets, no meal is complete without bread.

Pièce de Résistance!
Nada was in charge of dessert. Yummy “orgasm” brownies with Haagen Dazs Mayan chocolate ice cream, served with traditional Lebanese tea. YUM!
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This was one of my favourite lazy Wednesdays in September. Time spent with friends is the time best spent. Especially when it’s accompanied by great food and great conversation. For the rest of the evening, we discussed Middle Eastern politics, woes of being a PhD student and finished off the evening watching Iranian stand-up comedy.

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For high resolution images, please click on each photo.

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RECIPES

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Red Taouk Spiced Chicken

  • Two chicken breasts
  • 200 ml of plain yogurt (you can add more if you want)
  • 1-2 tbsps of salt
  • Two lemons. I used 1/2 of a small bottled lemon (the one shaped like a lemon)
  • 50 ml of olive or canola oil (use your judgement).
  • 1-2 large cooking onions (ground into paste)
  • Garlic. I used 10 cloves or so.
  • Spice mix. It’s called “Red Taouk Spices”. The brand is called “Abido”. There’s red and white. If you don’t find red, you can use the white one.
Mix the whole thing, seal it in a container and let it marinate overnight in the fridge. Before you cook it, add a very thin layer of oil to your tray in order to prevent sticking. Cook for 40 mins at 350-375 F. Cover tray with aluminum foil for the first 25 mins.

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Rice

Boil water in a pan. You will need 2 cups of water for every cup of rice. Rinse the rice well before using it. I used Indian rice. Add salt and olive oil to the boiling water and stir. Then add the rice. Cook for 20 mins at low heat. It may foam. Keep an eye on it. If this happens lift the cover monumentality and lower the heat a bit. After that, turn the heat off, keep the cover on and let it steam for 10 minutes of so.

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Tabouleh

  • Chop parsley (2) (really fine)
  • Dice 1 large tomato
  • Dice one medium size onion
  • Burgol: 1/4 cup soaked for a few minutes and drained
  • Use lemon juice and lemon to your liking.
  • Spices: it’s called “Seven Spices”. It’s a mix of seven kinds of spices. Abido brand is the one most commonly used – found in most Middle Eastern stores. Use 0.5-1 tbsp, depending on the quantity you’re preparing.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve.