Pear and Gorgonzola Tart

Pear and Gorgonzola Tart

I have really been enjoying the pear and gorgozola flavour combination lately and when I came across a tart using it in a recent edition of Food & Drink magazine, it immediately caught my attention. Another reason that I was looking forward to making this tart was that it has a more traditional tart shell. Although the puff pastry and phyllo dough tarts that I have been making lately are quick and easy and always good, I was kind of missing the fluted edge tarts. Speaking of the crust, it is an all butter crust where some of the flour has been replaced with ground walnuts which is particularly nice as walnuts go really well with pears. The pears are poached in wine to ensure that they are nice and tender and poaching them like that makes them a little sweeter and gives them an amazing fruity aroma. The filling is a simple mixture of gorgonzola, sour cream, an egg yolk and a touch of honey that is all pureed in a food processor to make it nice and smooth.

This tart is actually pretty easy to make and if you prepare the dough for the pastry the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight then it takes even less time to put together on the day that you make it. I served the pear and gorgonzola tart with a simple arugula salad and topped it with some prosciutto. The peppery arugula and the salty prosciutto only added to the pear and gorgonzola flavour combination making it even better!

Pickled Green Tomato and Shrimp Remoulade Po Boy

Pickled Green Tomato and Shrimp Remoulade Po Boy

Near the end of summer I made a fried green tomato and shrimp remoulade po boy that I enjoyed immensely. While I was eating it, thinking about the fried green tomatoes reminded me of pickled green tomatoes and I figured that a pickled green tomato shrimp po boy with remoulade sauce would also be an amazing flavour combination. The idea of this new sandwich was the perfect excuse to make some pickled green tomatoes right away and then to make another po boy when they were ready! The only problem was that the green tomatoes needed several months to pickle so I would have to wait. Several months later I was still anticipating the pickled green tomato and shrimp po boy with remoulade sauce and I could finally try it. The wait was well worth it as the crisp, tart and sour pickled green tomatoes went perfectly with the spicy succulent shrimp and luscious remoulade sauce ! Now I have a bunch of pickled green tomatoes to enjoy! I will have a hard time trying to not just make this sandwich over and over again and to try something new.

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

I recently had the pleasure of attending The James Beard Experience put on by Chef Chris Mills of Joey Restaurants as a trial run for the meal that they would be entering the James Beard contest with. The evening was filled with great food, lots of wine and I got the chance to meet some new and interesting people. It was the hazelnut crusted Korean duck roll at this meal that started my cravings for some char siu bao. Although the version served at the dinner was completely different, it had all of the basics, including the warm and tender spicy meat filling with a hint of Chinese five spice to the soft and light steamed bun wrapping. It was one tasty steamed bun and it reminded me that I had not had a steamed bun in a long time which started me down the path to making my own. (If you are interested in seeing my photos of the event they can be found hear: The James Beard Experience by Chef Chris Mills Flickr Gallery )

New Feature: Recipe Index

Due to popular demand I have added a recipe index which can be found in the menu bar just below the header image. You have always been able to get to all of my recipes through the labels and the archives but you have to scroll through the more recent posts to see them all. I have always wanted a quicker way to get at the recipes but blogger did not make it easy. I recently came across a solution that works, even if it required a bit of tinkering and coding. It is a bit slow but it gets the job done and allows you to view all of the recipes in a particular group or category on a single page sorted alphabetically by title. Please take a look at it and let me know what you think. I would love to hear any suggestions about how I can make my recipes easier to access.

Recipe Index

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Over the last little while I have been craving some char siu bao or Chinese bbq pork buns and it was finally time to satisfy that craving. Of course the first step to making the char siu bao was to make the cha siu or Chinese bbq pork. Char siew is actually pretty easy to make, you simply marinate the meat in a sauce that is flavoured primarily with hoisin sauce and a hint of five spice. After marinating you roast the pork and then broil it for a few minutes to get a slightly charred and crispy outside. Given that you are roasting the pork in the oven I recommend using a fattier cut of pork like the butt or the shoulder. A pork tenderloin is wasted for this and it can end up being a little on the dry side. Once the pork has finished roasting it is served sliced thinly. Char siu is commonly a bright red colour and you can feel free to add some red food colouring to the marinade if you like. I served my char siu on rice along with some steamed bok choy in an oyster sauce with fried shallots .

Pumpkin White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip and Macadamia Nut Cookies

While I was looking through pumpkin recipes recently, I came across the idea of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies which sounded so good that I had to try them right away! I had not thought to use pumpkin in cookies before but I knew that it would be a killer combo. When I went to see if I had any chocolate chips, I happened to stumble across some macadamia nuts first. I looked at the container and thought, I have just enough for a batch of cookies and then inspiration struck! Why not add pumpkin to some white chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies? White chocolate chunk and macadamia nut cookies are my all time favourite cookie and so with that thought I instantly had a new plan.

Festive Roast Pumpkin Salad

Festive Roast Pumpkin Salad

The other day while I was enjoying the caramelized pumpkin and gorgonzola salad I was thinking about other ways to use roast pumpkin in salads. This simplest way to use pumpkin or other winter squash in salads is to cut it into bite sized pieces and roast it until it is tender and caramelizing a bit and I figured that I would do it that way next. I was then thinking about how well pumpkin works in both sweet and savoury combinations and in particular I was going to try spiking the roast pumpkin with a hint of cinnamon for use in a savoury salad. The cinnamon made me think about the holidays and then I thought about adding dried cranberries and toasted pecans or walnuts but I remembered about pepitas, or hulled pumpkin seeds, at the last minute and they felt like a more appropriate nut or seed to go in the salad. I finished the salad off with a sweet and tangy balsamic vinaigrette and some salty feta.

Mushroom and Feta Phyllo Pie

Mushroom and Feta Phyllo Pie

A while ago I was brainstorming mushroom recipe ideas and one that particularly caught my attention was for a mushroom and feta phyllo pie. This idea was of course inspired by one of my favourite dishes, spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie . I envisioned the recipe as something along the lines of sauteeing some mushrooms, mixing them up with feta cheese, wrapping it all up in phyllo and baking it until it was golden brown. I wanted to bulk the filling out a bit and a bunch of sauteed leeks seemed like the perfect way to do it and they would add some flavour at the same time. For some reason, I kept coming back to trying to work some balsamic vinegar into the dish and I decided that by using a scant splash to deglaze the pan with would be a nice was to get it without it overpowering the pie. These days when I am looking for a herb to go with mushrooms, thyme seems to get all of the attention but I also enjoy the dill and mushroom flavour combo and it seemed like the natural choice this time. Next up was the feta along with some ricotta and eggs to bind everything together. Normally when I make spanakopita I do it like a pie with layers of phyllo on the bottom and on the top but this time I wanted to try something new and I rolled the phyllo up around the mushroom filling and then spiraled the rolls around the inside of the baking pan. The mushroom and feta phyllo pie turned out even better than I had hoped. All of the ingredients and flavours worked well together and you really cannot go wrong wrapping it all up in light and flaky phyllo pastry!

Grilled Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Sandwich

Grilled Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Sandwich

I had a bit of goats cheese to use and I was thinking about just crumbling it over a salad but then I thought, no I can do something more creative with this. While I was looking through my fridge for ideas I noticed some of the red peppers that I had roasted and frozen in the fall and I knew that the sweet and smoky roasted red peppers would go perfectly with the tangy goat cheese. Right beside the red peppers was some bread and I recalled my experiments with pestos in grilled cheese sandwiches and I knew that I would have to try making a grilled goat cheese and roasted red pepper pesto sandwich. Five minutes later I had a batch of roasted red pepper pesto and a few minutes after that I was enjoying a little piece of heaven in my mouth, well, after taking some photographs that is. I made sure to bring the goat cheese up to room temperature before making the sandwich and by the time it came off the grill pan it was just starting to get all melty and good! The creaminess of the goat cheese played really well with the sweet and flavourful pesto and the buttery, crispy fried bread coating finished everything off perfectly.

Caramelized Pear and Gorgonzola Quiche

Caramelized Pear and Gorgonzola Quiche

Although I have been enjoying the pumpkins and winter squash a lot lately, I was ready for a bit of a change and that got me to thinking about other fall produce that I enjoy. Pears are one that I have regularly but I rarely seem to use them in recipes and now was the perfect opportunity to do so! I still needed something for breakfasts for the week and that reminded me of the pear and gorgonzola omelette that I had enjoyed so much last year and I recalled thinking that it would also be nice in quiche form at the time. I simply could not resist the idea of using one of my favourite flavour combinations, pear and gorgonzola, so I had my breakfast idea, a pear and gorgonzola quiche.

I figured it would not be all that fun to be biting into your light and fluffy quiche only to hit a rock hard piece of pear so I wanted to cook the pear a bit before putting it into the quiche. There are a few ways to do this and although poaching the pears crossed my mind I went with a simpler solution and I just sauteed the pear in some butter and brown sugar until tender. The sweetness added by caramelizing the pears like this goes surprisingly well with the pear and tangly gorgonzola combo in eggs. Next up, I wanted something salty to balance things out and diced pancetta sounded like they would do the trick nicely. I also wanted to work a nut into the quiche somehow but I did not like the sound of biting into nuts in a quiche so I decided to replace some of the flour in my my all butter crust with ground walnuts.

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque

The roasted pumpkin salad had got me thinking about using fall ingredients in light spring like meals and the next thing that I was thinking of was a pumpkin soup and I knew exactly which one I was going to make. There was absolutely no way that I could resist trying this pumpkin and shrimp bisque recipe from epicurious; I mean it combined my current obsession, pumpkin, along with one of my all time favourite foods, shrimp! I have a perfect recipe for a shrimp bisque but it is a little bit on the decadent side and this pumpkin and shrimp bisque is nice and light and healthy, comparatively speaking. This recipe starts off by making a shrimp stock and if you are like me, this is exactly the time to pull out those shrimp shells that you have been saving in the freezer for just such an occasion. From there you add the pumpkin puree , a bit of heavy cream and some simple seasonings and you are done. I served the pumpkin and shrimp bisque with a quickly assembled sage gremolata which added an amazing brightness to the bisque and a rocket salad with feta and walnuts rounded out a really nice light fall meal!

Caramelized Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Salad

Caramelized Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Salad

Pumpkin season is here and I certainly have been enjoying them so far. This weekend I picked up a small pie pumpkin and I was thinking of using it in a salad. Normally I would cut the pumpkin up into bite sized pieces and roast it up, but this time I was thinking about something different. I envisioned slicing the pumpkin into wedges and roasting the wedges in the oven until they started to caramelize. I could just imagine how those wedges would look on a bed of salad greens! But, a salad is not made from just roasted pumpkin and salad greens alone and I still had some flavours to add to finish things off. I figured that some nice and creamy gorgonzola cheese would go well with the sweet roasted pumpkin and some toasted chopped walnuts seemed to go hand in hand. I could not resist frying up some sage in butter until it turned amazingly crispy and good. A balsamic vinaigrette seemed like the perfect dressing to finish the salad off!

Apple and Cheddar Tart

Apple and Cheddar Tart topped with Arugula

Over the last little while I have been having fun experimenting with using puff pastry to make tarts. The thing that I like so much about using puff pastry for tarts is that you pretty much just have to thaw it, roll it, top it and bake it for a few minutes and you are done. Deciding what to top the tart with is probably the hardest part of making them as there are just so many great flavours to choose from. While I was flipping through the latest edition of the Food and Drink magazine I came across a new version of a puff pastry tart, the apple and cheddar tart. Apple and cheddar is one of those great flavour combinations and I knew immediately that I would have to try making the tart.

I had hesitated using apples on a tart like this as I was concerned that they would not be in the oven long enough to get tender. Food and Drinks answer to that was to simmer the apples in cider until they just start to turn tender and then place them on the tart. After the cider is used to precook the apples it is reduced to a syrupy consistency and then the apple slices are tossed in it along with a herb and I decided to go with some rosemary. As soon as I saw the recipe I knew that I would be adding a layer of mustard under the apples to add a bit of bite to the tart. The tart turned out really well and the apple, cheddar, mustard and rosemary flavour combination was certainly a winner all being held together by the light, flaky and buttery good pastry. As suggested in the recipe, I served the tart topped with some baby arugula that was tossed in a simple oil and lemon vinaigrette and it added an amazing freshness to the dish that is not to be missed. The next time that I make this tart, and there will definitely be a next time, I think that I might sprinkle it with some chopped walnuts.

Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Buns with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been looking forward to pumpkin season for a while and now that it is here I can dive into my some of the many pumpkin dishes on my to try list. The top item on that list was pumpkin cinnamons buns! The idea behind these pumpkin cinnamon buns was a simple adaptation of cinnamon buns that included adding pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices to the dough and adding pumpkin pie spices to the layer of cinnamon sugar in the middle. I started out with the recipe for the dough that I used in the blueberry maple pecan cinnamon buns and added the pumpkin puree while at the same time reducing the amount of other liquids in the recipe to balance things out. While I was at it I replaced some of the flour with whole wheat flour to make things a bit healthier. Next up was the 'cinnamon' filling layer where I replaced the white sugar with brown sugar and the cinnamon with pumpkin pie spices. At first I was going to add pecans and dried cranberries to the cinnamon layer but then I remembered how much I enjoyed the pumpkin and ginger combination in the pumpkin pie cheesecake and I decided to replace the pecans with chopped candied ginger. Next up was the frosting and once again thinking back to that cheesecake I knew that I would have to go with caramel and to keep it along the lines of cinnamon buns I mixed the caramel into some cream cheese.

The modified recipe for the pumpkin pie cinnamon buns worked like a charm! The yeast really seemed to like the pumpkin as this dough rose more than I have ever seen dough rise. As I pulled the cover off of the risen dough I could smell the amazing aroma of pumpkin pie mixed in with fresh bread and it only got better when I popped the buns into the oven. (A 9x13 inch baking pan is ideal for this recipe but I only had a 8x8 inch pan so I placed the remaining buns into ramekins.) As the buns baked the aroma intensified and the anticipation built up to the point where I was eagerly peering in the oven window just waiting for them to be finished. When they came out of the oven I could barely wait for them to cool down a bit before slathering on the frosting, taking some photos and then digging in. I have to say that even with the high expectations these buns did not disappoint and I will definitely be looking forward to breakfasts this week! The buns themselves were nice and light and tender and moist and the pumpkin flavour came through beautifully. The cranberries and candied ginger worked really well in buns and the caramel cream cheese frosting took them over the edge!