French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup with Stringy Melted Cheese
When I think about my favourite soups, French onion soup is definitely one of the first ones that comes to mind. Even though it is one of my favourites I don't make it all that often as it requires a bit of time and effort to make. A French onion soup is basically a soup consisting of caramelized onions in a beef broth that is topped with a slice of bread and a bunch of cheese that is all melted and gooey and golden brown and good. How could you possibly go wrong with a sweet oniony broth topped with melted cheesy goodness?

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Quinoa Salad

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Quinoa Salad

Throughout fall I have been roasting red peppers and freezing them so that I can enjoy them for the rest of the year and along the way I have not been able to resist using a few of them! I have really been enjoying quinoa since I discovered it and in particular, using it to make simple salads with seasonal ingredients and I figured that a roasted red pepper quinoa salad would be perfect for fall! Keeping things simple is the name of the game and I went with some onions and garlic in addition to the roasted red pepper and quinoa. A salad such as this just cries out for a fresh herb and oregano seemed to fit the bill. Roasted red peppers are an little on the sweet side so some salty feta would fit nicely and some chick peas would bulk up the salad a bit. With that I just needed a dressing and since roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar go well together a balsamic vinaigrette was the obvious choice. Salads like this one make for great side dishes or even light meals and in fact I have been enjoying the leftovers for breakfasts this week. Speaking of the leftovers, they are nice either warmed up in the microwave or straight from the fridge.

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Quinoa Salad

(makes 4+ servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 roasted red peppers (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 cup quinoa (rinsed, I used a mix of white and red)
2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth or water)
1 teaspoon oregano (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup feta (crumbled)
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a pan.
2. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
4. Add the roasted red peppers, quinoa, vegetable broth and oregano, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and mix in the chickpeas, feta and balsamic vinaigrette.

Similar Recipes:
Spinach and Feta Quinoa Salad
Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Rice
Moroccan Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Quinoa Salad
Asparagus and Baby Artichoke Quinoa Salad
Greek Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta with Feta and Kalamata Olives
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Grilled Portobello Mushroom in a Porcini Cream Sauce

Grilled Portobello Mushroom in a Porcini Cream Sauce

The portobello mushrooms in creamy curry have been on my mind ever since I had them at Vij's restaurant a couple of months ago. I am not as familiar with Indian spices and blends and much to my dismay I was never able to decide what was used in the dish. My recent trip to Italy and the amazing mushrooms pastas that I enjoyed while there inspired me to take a new approach to the dish and go with some flavours that I was a little more comfortable with. I kept things nice and simple and flavoured the creamy porcini sauce with shallots, garlic, thyme and a healthy helping of parmigiano reggiano that was melted into the sauce. One thing that I like about using the dried porcini mushrooms is that they pack a ton of mushroomy flavour and it is really easy to capture it all by using the water that the mushrooms were soaked in in the dish. If you can still get outside and use the grill it will add a touch of smokiness to the portabella mushrooms that goes really well with the creamy sauce. If not, an indoor grill will work just fine. This version of the dish ended up being fantastic and I enjoyed it so much that I have already made it twice! The first time I served it as an appetizer with some crusty bread to soak up all of the extra creamy mushroom sauce and the second time I served it over a bed of spinach as the main dish in a lighter meal.

Grilled Portobello Mushroom in a Porcini Cream Sauce on a bed of Spinach

Grilled Portobello Mushroom in a Porcini Cream Sauce

(makes 2 light meal sized servings or 4 appetizer sized servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot (finely diced)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon thyme (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cream
1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano (grated)
2 portobello mushrooms (stems removed)
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the hot water for 20 minutes.
2. Drain the mushrooms and chop them reserving the water.
3. Melt the butter in a pan at medium.
4. Add the porcini mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.
5. Add the reserved water and simmer at medium-high until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
6. Add the cream and parmigiano reggiano and simmer until it thickens, about 2-4 minutes.
7. Brush the portobello mushrooms with the oil and season with salt and pepper.
8. Grill until cooked, about 3-5 minutes on the first side followed by 3 minuted on the other side.

Similar Recipes:
Roasted Portobello Mushroom Salad
Hot Cheesy Mushroom Dip
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Green Beans in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Portabello Mushrooms Stuffed with Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Cranberry Turtle Bars

Cranberry Turtle Bars

I am a huge fan of chocolate turtles! It is really difficult to resist those tiny turtles made with caramel and pecans all wrapped up in chocolate and during the holidays I often go through a few boxes of them. When I came across this recipe for cranberry turtle bars on No Fear Entertaining last year I knew that I would have to make them! You really can't go wrong with buttery shortbread topped with caramel, pecans and chocolate and I was really intrigued by the idea of throwing those tart little cranberries into the mix as well. Unfortunately I misplaced the bookmark and did not end up finding it until there were no cranberries left and I have been patiently awaiting their return. Now that the cranberries are back I finally got the chance to make them and they were well worth the wait!

Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab Remoulade

Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab Remoulade

Not too long ago I made some fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade that was exceptionally good and left me wanting for more. One gracious commenter paved the way by mentioning a crab version which sounded perfect, especially considering that I just happened to have some crab in my freezer. Unfortunately I did not have the time to make it before leaving town and I feared that the green tomatoes might be done by the time I got back. This weekend my fears were laid to rest at the farmers market which had even more green tomatoes than when I left. I immediately grabbed some of those green tomatoes and whipped up a batch of fried green tomatoes with crab remoulade that turned out to be just as good as they had sounded, if not better. With my cravings satisfied for now, I contemplate what else I can do with fried green tomatoes.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab Remoulade

(makes 2 servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups salad greens
6 sliced fried green tomatoes (hot)
1/2 pound crab (cooked and shelled)
1 batch remoulade sauce (chilled)

Directions:
1. Divide the salad greens and fried green tomatoes between two plates topping the tomato slices each with some crab and a tablespoon remoulade sauce.

Similar Recipes:
Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade
Maryland Crab Cakes
Crab Quesadillas

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Truffles

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Truffles

When I was in Italy on vacation I had the great luck to come across something that I had been wanting to try for a long time, truffles. I first came across them on a menu at a restaurant in the form of a pasta that also included one of my favorite foods, mushrooms. As soon as I saw that there was no need to read the rest of the menu and I ordered immediately. I was a bit disappointed to see that there were not all that many mushrooms in the pasta but it tasted great and the aroma and flavour was undeniably amazing! After that encounter I made a point to look for truffles and I quickly came across some truffle oil and eventually I found a small jar of truffles both of which I picked up. Now that the chaos of Thanksgiving was over I finally got the chance to come up with my own version of a mushroom pasta with truffles.

I knew that I wanted some nice sized pieces of mushrooms in this one so I started with a bunch of wild mushrooms including shiitake, oyster and cremini. The mushrooms in the pasta that I had in Italy were likely dried porcini mushrooms and since they, and the liquid that they have been soaked in, have such a strong and concentrated mushroom flavour I could not say no to them. I wanted the mushroom and truffle to dominate so I kept the other flavours down and went simply with a shallot, a bit of garlic and thyme. Cream works nicely as both a binder and for helping to absorb and distribute the flavour so I added a bit near the end without drowning the pasta in it. Of course I finish the dish off with the star of the show in the form of truffle oil and some shaved black truffles. The mushroom and truffle pasta turned out to be even better than the one that I remember having in Italy! I will definitely be making this a lot in the future!

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Truffles

(makes 4 servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces wild mushrooms (sliced)
1 large shallot (finely diced)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon thyme (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon black truffle oil
1 teaspoon black truffles (grated or shaved, optional)
1 handfull parsley (chopped, optional)
1/4 parmigiano reggiano (grated, optional)

Directions:
1. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the hot water for 20 minutes.
2. Drain and reserve the water and chop the porcini mushrooms.
3. Heat the oil in a pan at medium.
4. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
5. Add shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.
6. Add the reserved water and simmer at medium-high until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
7. Meanwhile cook the pasta as directed on the package.
8. Add the cream and simmer until it thickens, about 2 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and mix in the black truffle oil.
10. Serve optionally garnished with black truffles, parsley and/or parmigiano reggiano.

Similar Recipes:
Pumpkin and Mushroom Pasta with Gorgonzola
Wild Mushroom and Double Smoked Bacon Linguine
Roasted Mushroom Pesto Pasta
Mushroom and Thyme Farro Salad

Take a look at the Presto Pasta Nights roundup on Chez Cayenne.

Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict

Thanksgiving Leftovers Eggs Benedict
I was quickly making my way through my roast turkey leftovers, enjoying some turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce and some turkey Cuban sandwiches, when I remembered that there was one other thing that I wanted to try doing with them and luckily I still had just enough left. Last year some time shortly after I had finished all of my turkey leftovers I had come across the idea of Thanksgiving leftovers eggs benedict on the Del Frisco's menu by chef Thomas Dritsas and it sounded like a good way to enjoy some of those leftovers. This recipe is pretty simple given that pretty much everything is leftovers that simply need to be heated and the only real thing that you need to do is poach a few eggs. Within a few minutes I had my 'eggs benedict' and I have to say that smothering the already amazing Thanksgiving dinner flavours in a runny egg yolk works really well! (Feel free to throw in any leftover stuffing or mashed potatoes that you may have lying around.)

Roast Turkey Cuban Sandwich

Roast Turkey Cuban Sandwich
Although Thanksgiving dinner is always amazing it is the leftovers that I like the most! In particular, may favourite way to enjoy some of those leftovers is a roasted turkey sandwich stuffed full with cranberry sauce. After enjoying a few of those sandwiches this year it was time to try something new, a Cuban style leftover turkey sandwich that I came across last year on Panini Happy. The Cuban sandwich generally consists of roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard and this Thanksgiving leftovers version uses roast turkey rather than the pork and it adds a healthy dose of cranberry sauce to the mix. With all of the cranberry sauce, mayo and mustard in these sandwiches, they can be a bit messy but they are definitely worth it! The cranberry sauce works surprisingly well with all of the other flavours in this sandwich, so well in fact that you will hardly notice all of the cranberry sauce and mayo dripping down your chin after taking that last bite.

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

Alright, enough with the boring side dishes already! It's time for the good stuff, the dessert. The dessert is easily the most anticipated part of the Thanksgiving meal and I like to go all out for it. I could not believe that I did not have any pumpkin in my Thanksgiving dinner yet so a pumpkin pie cheesecake seemed like the perfect choice. I could not resist using a gingersnap snap crust as the ginger and pumpkin flavour combo is an amazing one. I then took things a step further and covered the cheesecake with some home made caramel sauce. One of the things that I like about a cheesecake is that you can easily make it the day before so you can lighten the load for an already large meal. In fact it is best to let the cheesecake cool completely and then let it chill out in the fridge overnight so it really should be made a day ahead. This pumpkin pie cheesecake was the perfect end to my Thanksgiving dinner!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

(makes 6+ servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons butter (melted)
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
3 eggs (slightly beaten)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
1. Mix the gingersnap cookie crumbs, sugar, ginger and butter and press into the bottom and up 1 inch along the sides of a 9 inch spring form pan.
2. Bake the crust in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minuters and set aside.
3. Cream the cream cheese.
4. Mix in the eggs one at a time followed by the sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla and then the spices.
5. Pour the mixture into the spring form pans.
6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until it is set, about 60-70 minutes.
7. Let it cool completely.
8. Chill the cheesecake in the fridge overnight.

Similar Recipes:
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake Turtle Bread
Chocolate Cheesecake
White Chocolate Cheesecake
Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Buns with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Chestnut Cheesecake
Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Fresh Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Relish

When I was at the grocery store picking up the cranberries, they had one of those buy two and get them cheap so I ended up walking home with twice as many cranberries as I really needed. It was ok though as there was another thing that I wanted to try with cranberries, a fresh cranberry relish. This relish is pretty simple consisting of fresh cranberries, an apple, an orange and sugar to balance out the tartness of the cranberries. Yes, you read that right; there is a whole orange with the peel and all in there. (The peel gives it a really amazing orange flavour.) This cranberry relish is certainly not a replacement for a cranberry sauce but it is wonderful in its own right. It is so fresh and vibrant and the flavour combination is pretty amazing. I could easily eat a large bowl of this like a salad or it would go well on some vanilla yogurt.

Gingered Cranberry Sauce

Gingered Cranberry Sauce

No roast turkey dinner is complete without an accompanying cranberry sauce! Because a Thanksgiving dinner is such a production, I wanted to keep the cranberry sauce simple and yet I did not want it to be the same old cranberry sauce from last year. Cranberry sauce is particularity good with this as it is easy to add simple flavours and this time I went with some freshly grated ginger. The ginger added a nice hint of the exotic to the cranberry sauce without overpowering it and without detracting from the enjoyment of that turkey and cranberry sauce flavour combo.

Gingered Cranberry Sauce

(makes 8+ servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
2 tablespoons ginger (grated)

Directions:
1. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce starts to thicken, about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with:
Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Use leftovers in:
Roast Turkey Sandwich with Cranberry Sauce
Grilled Turkey and Brie Sandwich with Cranberry Chutney
Roast Turkey Cuban Sandwich

Similar Recipes:
Cranberry Chutney
Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce
Pinot Noir Cranberry Sauce
Maple Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes topped with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes topped with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

Although the herb roasted turkey breast was the center piece of my Thanksgiving meal, this side dish was what I was looking forward to. You just can't go wrong with creamy mashed potatoes and I had been dreaming about these mashed potatoes for a while now. I don't make mashed potatoes all that often because I tend to inhale them a little too quickly but this was a special occasion so it was alright. Adding cheese to mashed potatoes is a sure fire way to add a ton of flavour and this time I wanted to try using a creamy blue cheese to give them a nice tanginess. Blue cheese also goes well with sautéed mushrooms and sweet caramelized onions and the plan was to top those fluffy white cloud like mashed potatoes with them.

This mashed potato dish is pretty straight forward to make but because of all of the slicing, chopping, sautéing, boiling and mashing they take a bit of time and effort but they are well worth it! The tangy blue cheese mellows out nicely in the mashed potatoes adding that hint of flavour without overpowering them. The mashed potatoes would have been pretty amazing just like that but topping them with the caramelized mushrooms and onions took them out of this world! The flavour combination of the blue cheese with the mushrooms and sweet caramelized onions was fantastic and serving them on those heavenly white cloud like mashed potatoes finished the dish off perfectly.

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes

(makes 4+ servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
4 ounces blue cheese (crumbled, room temperature)
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
milk to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Boil the potatoes until the potatoes are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes and mash.
3. Mix in the blue cheese, butter and milk to taste.
4. Mix in the parsley.

Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

(makes 4+ servings)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion (sliced)
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces mushrooms (cleaned and sliced)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon thyme (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine (or broth)

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add the onion and cook until it starts to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the butter and let it melt.
4. Add the mushrooms and saute until they release their liquids, it evaporates and the mushrooms start to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Add the wine, deglazed the pan and cook until it has evaporated.

Similar Recipes:
White Cheddar and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Creamy Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes Smothered in Coffee Gravy
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup
French Onion Soup
Baked Brie Topped with Caramelized Mushrooms
Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
Spinach and Feta Mashed Cauliflower

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
For me the center piece of the Thanksgiving dinner is definitely the turkey. Because I am not usually cooking for a huge family I generally find it easier to just get a turkey breast rather than a whole turkey. Turkey breasts can come quite large with the one that I got this time weighing in at 6 pounds without any bones so you can easily feed a small family with just one. Although I sometimes miss not having the whole carcass to use to make turkey stock I definitely enjoy using the leftovers that I do get to make turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce.

Pumpkin Dip

Pumpkin Dip

When I was coming up with my Thanksgiving menu the first thing that I started on was an appetizer. I was planning the menu shortly after making the hot cheesy mushroom dip so dips were on my mind and on a whim I thought; Why not a cheesy pumpkin dip? A quick search on the web showed that not only had it been done before, but that it was quite common! This pumpkin dip is pretty simple, consisting of pumpkin puree, cream cheese, sugar and pumpkin pie spices. This pumpkin dip kind of reminds me of a pumpkin cheesecake and as a gingersnap crust is wonderful on a pumpkin cheesecake I was immediately thinking about serving the dip with gingersnap cookies. If you want to keep it a bit healthier, sliced apples also work great.

Back in the Kitchen

Italy

I am back from my whirlwind of adventures in Italy! On my a little under 2 week vacation in Italy I visited Rome, The Vatican, Sorrento, Capri, Venice, Milan and Florence and I had a great time! In addition to having fun, I of course enjoyed a lot of good food! My favourite had to be the Italian style thin crust pizzas and I had more than a few of them while I was there. I also enjoyed a lot of good pastas and I gorged myself on gelato including a surprisingly tasty gorgonzola gelato.

For those that are interested you can see more of my adventures in Italy here:
Italy 2010 Gallery

For all of the Canadians reading this: I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving weekend! I have updated my sidebar to add some ideas for using those Thanksgiving leftovers. More to come on my Thanksgiving meal later on in the week.

Time to get cooking!

Italy