Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Caprese Salad with Tomatoes, Basil & Bocconcini

The ultimate summer salad, a classic Caprese Salad involves slicing hot house tomatoes and layering them between slices of perfectly ripe Buffalo Mozzarella, and garnishing with fresh basil leaves. By using small bite size bocconcini and mini red and yellow campari and cherry tomatoes tossed with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh basil, the classic flavours of this mediterranean Insalata Caprese is perfect for serving a large group of friends, as part of an al fresco lunch.

Caprese Salad with Tomatoes, Basil & Bocconcini
Serves 8

200 gram tub of mini Bocconcini, drained
2 pints mixed campari and cherry tomatoes: red and yellow
1 handful fresh basil, julienned and sprig for garnish
1 tbsp olive oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Slice the campari and cherry tomatoes in half and place in a mixing bowl with the drained bocconcini. Season with olive oil, sea salt and some black pepper and toss to coat with the julienned basil. To serve, pour the mixture into a decorative bowl and garnish with a sprig of basil.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Spencer's at the Waterfront: Dining on Burlington Bay

Located on the Burlington lakefront, Spencer’s at the Waterfront offers lovely, panoramic views of Burlington Bay and Lake Ontario. Warm and welcoming with a natural wood and earth tone interior, diners can enjoy the sparkling lake view from inside Spencer's newly renovated dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, or from the picturesque outdoor terrace, perfect for summer dining. Tucked away in the award-winning landmark building by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, Spencer’s on the Waterfront has been a signature restaurant in downtown Burlington for the past decade. The property is well-known for its ship-shaped observatory encased with 30 foot, floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Burlington’s parklands and waterfront. 

As part of the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary, Pearle Hospitality refreshed Spencer’s brand to focus on fresh seafood and a daily changing Market Board features everything from halibut from B.C. to pickerel from Ontario’s Great Lakes. Whatever the fishermen are catching, that’s what’s for dinner. The market board is also accompanied by a menu that features craft cut steak, chilled seafood and a great selection of appetizers and sharing plates, such as Fried Humboldt Squid with gochujang aïoli, East and West Coast Oysters and spectacular Deluxe Seafood Tower which at $125 amply serves 4-6 people. On the weekend, Spencer's serves it's famous Sunday Brunch with unlimited Mimosas, seafood, salads, pasta, cheese board, artisanal breads, roast beef, salmon and chef's station with Eggs Benedict and made-to-order omelettes. Water and sky: the serene and naturally romantic backdrop of Spencer's waterfront naturescape promises a dining experience that changes with the seasons.

Spencer's bartender mixing a Mint Julep

The newly renovated interior with a modern nautical theme by Toronto design firm Addax

Rosé Sangria

6 oz Beef Tenderloin brushed with red wine butter and served with potatoes and farm inspired vegetables

Brunch Mimosa

Spencer's Sunday Brunch with fresh east coast oysters, shrimp, snow crab and more

Canadian Seafood Bake 
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Spencers

2 large onions
2 tbsp old bay seasoning
16 small new potatoes
8 bottles of Mill Street Organic beer
2 andouille sausages
2 1 1/2 lb Canadian lobsters from Nova Scotia
12 medium sized Manila clams from BC
16 blue PEI mussels 
2 cobs of corn, cut in quarters
1 baguette
1/2 lb butter - half for cooking half for drawn butter

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and old bay spice. Sweat onions until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add new potatoes and andouille sausage, stir to combine. Add Mill Street Organic beer or beer of your choice, and bring to a simmer. Once the beer is simmering, add the lobsters to pot and cover tightly with a lid for about 6 minutes. Remove the lid, add the clams followed by the mussels and corn. Cook until the clams and mussels are open, the remove the lobsters from pot, and crack the claws and tail. Serve in large deep platter with drawn butter and warm bread for guests to share.

Classic Mint Julep
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Spencers

8 oz Bulleit Bourbon
4 oz simple syrup
12-16 mint leaves
Crushed ice

Tear and place mint leaves in the bottom of 4 chilled julep glasses. Add the bourbon and simple syrup then fill the glasses about 1/3 full with crushed ice and stir slowly. Fill the glass with ice until it comes over the rim, resembling a snow cone. The glass will become frosty. Garnish with a mint sprigs.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Tart with Streusel

This gorgeous Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Streusel Tart is a cross between a tart and a clafoutis, and is absolutely delicious. The sweet butter crust is made with ground almonds, flour, white and brown sugar, cinnamon, a little salt and butter, which are all blended together in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. The resulting crumble is pressed into the base and up the sides of a greased springform pan, then baked for about 20-25 minutes. Once the crust has cooled, chopped pitted plums, raspberries and blueberries are scattered along the bottom, although any combination of stone fruit and berries would be great. A simple custard of eggs, cream, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg is then whisked together and poured over the fruit. The remaining streusel is sprinkled over the fruit and the whole tart is baked at 350°F for 45-50 minutes, until the custard is set and the crust is golden brown. The crisp buttery almond crust is extraordinary — a crunchy cookie-like sweet shortbread — which compliments the tart fruit and creamy clafoutis-style custard beautifully. A fabulous dessert, this Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Streusel Tart is a real winner.

Raspberry, Plum & Blueberry Tart with Streusel Topping
Serves 6-8

3/4 cup unsalted butter - 1 1/2 sticks - chilled and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup blanched almonds 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided plus 1 tbsp
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
3/4 tsp salt 
4 medium ripe but firm plums
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 large egg yolk 
2/3 cup light cream 
1 tsp grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with room temperature butter or olivina and set aside. Place the ground almonds in a food processor and pulse until medium fine. 

Transfer the nuts to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix until just combined. Add butter, and mix on low speed until the crumble begins to stick together, about 2 to 3 minutes. Press 3 to 3 1/2 cups of the crumble into the bottom of the prepared pan and to about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan to form the crust. Set the remaining crumb mixture aside.

Transfer the crust to the oven and bake until it appears to be set, about 20 to 25 minutes, then set aside. Watch to ensure the crust doesn't burn.

Slice the plums in half, remove pits and slice into eighths. Scatter the raspberries, blueberries and sliced plums onto the cooled crust and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup flour + 1 tablespoon flour, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk in the 2 eggs, egg yolk, cream, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and nutmeg, and mix until blended. Pour the custard over the fruit and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the custard has set and is slightly golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let rest at least 25 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with a bowl of whipped cream, Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream to be completely decadent.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gobi Matar: Indian Cauliflower, Peas & Kari Leaves

A staple in most Indian restaurants, Aloo Gobi is an aromatic combination of spiced potato (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi), made even more popular with Gurinder Chadha's 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, a wonderful heart-warming comedy about bending the rules to reach your goal. The film follows two 18 year old girls who have their heart set on a future in professional soccer, as opposed to finding a nice Indian boyfriend, settling down and cooking the perfect chapatti. There is a quirky cooking segment at the end of the film where the director of the film, Gurinder Chadha, makes her personal recipe for Aloo Gobi with the help of her outrageously interfering mother and auntie. Ever since I saw that segment, I can never make this dish without smiling. With its rich texture, complex flavours and intoxicating aroma, Gurinder's recipe for Aloo Gobi has been adjusted without potatoes for a sensational Gobi Matar, an equally delicious yet low-fat carb-free version of the original.

Gobi Matar - Indian Cauliflower & Peas
Serves 2-4 

1/2 cauliflower 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1/8 tsp asafoetida 
1 tbsp black mustard seeds 
1 tbsp kari leaves 
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen 
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste 
1 tbsp chopped herbs for garnish, optional

Separate the cauliflower into small florets, about 1 to 2-inches. Warm the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafoetida, then a second later, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the kari leaves and stir to combine. Then add the cauliflower, turmeric and some salt to taste. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the cauliflower is well coated with the spices and begins to brown slightly. Add 1/2 cup of water, and as soon as it starts to bubble, add the peas, cover the pan and turn down the heat to med-low. Cook 10-15 minutes more until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through. Sprinkle with some chives or cilantro leaves and serve. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grilled Maple Salmon with Tamari & Sesame Oil

Succulent, moist and enormously flavourful, Salmon is also one of the most nutrient rich and versatile fish around. It's also one of the healthiest. Low in saturated fat and calories, but high in protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon is a near perfect food — in my mind anyway. One of my favourite marinades features pure Canadian maple syrup, a natural sweetener that is more nutritious and healthier than sugar, plus Tamari, which has a richer, smoother, more complex flavour than ordinary soy sauce, and fragrant nutty sesame oil. Grilled outdoors until the fish is just cooked through, this is a dish we devour each and every week during the summer.

Grilled Salmon with Maple Syrup, Soy and Sesame Oil 
Serves 2

2 6-oz organic salmon fillets, with skin on
2 tbsp Canadian maple syrup
1 tbsp Tamari soy sauce 
1 tsp sesame oil

Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small baking dish, then add the salmon, turning it well in the marinade, then set skin side down. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the barbecue to medium-high and cook the salmon, skin side down for  8 to 10 minutes, or until just cooked. To serve, transfer to warmed dinner plates and garnish with fresh herbs.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Herb Marinade

Butterflied leg of lamb which cooks quickly and evenly on the grill, is split down the centre, then unfolded and spread open to resemble a butterfly. Gently massaged with a simple marinade of fruity olive oil, garlic, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard, the lamb should be allowed to slowly marinate for a few hours for the robust flavours to work their magic. Perfectly designed for the grill, this butterflied leg is best barbecued for about 10 to 15 minutes per side for medium rare, for a perfectly pink centre enveloped with a flavourful herbed crust. Succulent, juicy and bursting with flavour, this is one of our favourite summer recipes, and absolutely delicious served with a heaping bowl of tzatziki and tangy Greek Salad.

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb
Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 butterflied leg of lamb, about 1 lb, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 lemon, fresh parsley, oregano and sage for garnish, optional

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, rosemary, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place the lamb in a large shallow dish with the marinade, and turn to coat. Cover with cling film and let marinate 1 hour at room temperature, turning a few times.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, then grill the lamb about 10 to 15 minutes per side for medium rare. Allow the lamb to rest covered, about 10 minutes to allow the juices to retract before slicing against the grain where possible. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Grilled Asian-Style Chicken Breasts

A sensational marinade for poultry, this fragrant Asian-inspired recipe is perfect for satays, cornish hen, chicken breasts or plump juicy thighs. With a sweet delicate flavour, the marinated chicken caramelizes beautifully on the grill, allowing the intoxicating character of the marinade to shine through. Basting the chicken while on the grill ensures that the chicken stays moist and flavourful, as well as producing attractive grill marks for lovely presentations, such as this healthy summer salad with grilled zucchini, campari tomatoes, fresh mint, sliced lemon and peppery baby arugula with the fresh off the grill chicken breasts nestled on top. Fabulous served with a bowl of cold creamy tzatziki, this versatile salad could be adapted to include a rainbow of your favourite seasonal vegetables from grilled asparagus, sweet peppers or vitamin rich sliced avocado.

Grilled Asian-Style Chicken Breasts
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skinless
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy 
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fish sauce

Slice the chicken breasts in half and place into a bowl with all the marinade ingredients, then cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat an outdoor BBQ to medium high and grill the chicken breasts for about 6-8 minutes per side, or until golden brown and they have nice grill marks. Delicious served with some grilled vegetables or a light green salad.