Souvlaki Chicken Salad Sandwich with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta

Souvlaki Chicken Salad Sandwich with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta

When I made the chicken, roasted red pepper and goat cheese lasagna I did not have the shredded chicken on hand. The easiest way to get shredded chicken is to roast a chicken and so I made my favourite version, a lemon and oregano roast chicken . After making the lasagna, I had some some of the chicken left over and so I started to contemplate ways to use it. I was thinking that the lemon and oregano flavouring on the roast turkey reminded me a lot of the marinade for my chicken souvlaki and this led me to think that a 'souvlaki' chicken salad sandwich would be pretty good.

I started the 'souvlaki' chicken salad with the chicken and some of the flavours from the souvlaki marinade including the lemon, oregano and garlic. I had used the chicken for the lasagna right away I did not get the chance to use the drippings so I put had them in a container and stored them in the fridge. Since the drippings are just packed with flavour, I skimmed the fat from the top, warmed them up and added them to the chicken salad. From there I added some things that I often add to my chicken souvlaki gyros, namely some roasted red pepper , red onion, tzatziki and feta.

These sandwiches were amazing! The lemon, oregano, garlic and red pepper flavour combination was really tasty and the red onions added a nice contrasting sweetness followed by a bit of bite. The salty feta and cool and creamy tzatziki finished off the sandwich nicely!

Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Lasagna

Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Lasagna

With all of the cold weather that we have been having, I have been craving some comfort food and one of my favourite comfort foods is lasagna. Although the classic tomato meat sauce lasagna is one of my staple recipes I often like to experiment with new flavours of lasagna and this weekend I tried a new one. I still have a ton of roasted red peppers in my freezer from fall and I have been dreaming up new ways of enjoying and a lasagna sounded like a great idea! While contemplating a lasagna with roasted red peppers I recalled the grilled goat cheese and roasted red pepper pesto sandwich that I had recently made and enjoyed so much. The sweet roasted red pepper and creamy and tangy goat cheese combination was amazing and I knew that I would once again have to pair them up in this lasagna.

Chicken Satay Salad in Spicy Peanut Dressing

Thai Grilled Chicken Satay Salad

With the cold dreary winter days that we have been having lately I have been craving the taste of summer and what better than a grilled chicken salad? This salad had been on my mind for a while now and I had been saving it for the summer but I decided to indulge a bit and make it now. The basic idea was a satay style marinated grilled chicken on a green salad. I kept the salad simple with a base of romaine lettuce, creamy avocado, cucumbers and some green onions. Normally I like to serve chicken satay with a spicy peanut dipping sauce but for a salad I decided to turn that into a spicy peanut dressing. The peanut sauce is a bit on the thicker side so I needed to add some liquids to thin it out a bit and I went with some Thai inspired ingredients including coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce. I then added even more spiciness in the form of a few birds eye chillies and I balanced things out with a touch of sugar.

Mushroom and Leek Wild Rice Salad

Mushroom and Leek Wild Rice Salad

The other day when I was going through my pantry I came across some wild rice and I realized that it had been a while since I had done anything with wild rice. Thinking that, I just had to do something with it and I was thinking about a whole grain style salad. Although I had a few ideas, the one that I kept coming back to was a mushroom and wild rice salad that would also indulge my obsession with mushrooms. My normal starting place for mushrooms is to saute some onions, add garlic, then the mushrooms followed by a herb. Leeks had been on my mind recently and I wanted to change things up a bit so I replaced the onion with leeks and I figured that the green that the leeks brought would lighten the dish up a bit. For the herb I went with thyme which goes really well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. I often like to add nuts to a salad like this and I was going to go with walnuts but when I was at the store I noticed some chestnuts which would add a nice sweetness to the dish. The final component was a dressing and a balsamic vinaigrette was at the top of my list. I served the mushroom and leek wild rice salad on a bed of arugula and formed the salad using ramekins.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta with Kalamata Olives and Feta

Greek Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta with Feta and Kalamata Olives

Whenever I make a new pesto, I like to try it out in a basic pesto pasta dish and now that I had just made a roasted red pepper pesto with some Greek inspired flavours, it was time to try it out in a pasta. Although many pestos are balanced and well rounded, I find that roasted red pepper pestos can be a bit on the sweet side and I like to try to re-balance things a bit by adding some salty elements to the dish. With the Greek inspired flavour of fresh oregano already in the roasted red pepper pesto it seemed only natural to turn to some kalamata olives and even more feta cheese to add some saltiness to the dish. The net result was a really tasty roasted red pepper pesto pasta that was just packed with flavour! I particularly enjoyed the hint of balsamic vinegar from the pesto and all of the herbs added a really nice hit of freshness.

Greek Style Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Greek Style Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

One of the things that I really like about pestos is that they are fun and easy to play around with. Despite the fact that they do not have all that many ingredients in them, changing just one or two can completely change the flavour profile of the pesto. The other day when I was going through my freezer I came across a cache of roasted red peppers that I had frozen back in the fall and I remembered an experiment that I had wanted to try with a roasted red pepper pesto . I don't tend to use fresh oregano all that often and I had been thinking about new ways to use it when the idea of replacing the basil in a roasted red pepper pesto with some would be particularly nice. Oregano definitely reminds me of Greek cuisine and that got me thinking about other Greek flavours when I thought that some salty feta might help balance out the sweetness of the roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar. I have to say that I quite enjoyed this use of the fresh oregano in the roasted red pepper pesto! You can use this pesto as a sauce for a pasta or as a condiment and it works rather well as a spread in sandwiches.

Gorgonzola Cheesecake with Vanilla Pear Compote

Gorgonzola Cheesecake with Vanilla Pear Compote

I recently came across the idea of a savoury blue cheese cheesecake in an issue of Food & Drink magazine and I was immediately taken by the idea! I am a huge fan of cheesecake and I had never even thought about trying a savoury cheesecake let alone one made with a blue cheese! It sounded so amazingly good that I had to try it. As soon as I saw the blue cheese cheesecake I knew right away that I would be trying it with gorgonzola which is my favourite blue cheese.

This recipe is really simple and I had my cheesecake in the oven in almost no time at all. Shortly after I got the cheesecake in the oven my apartment filled up with the amazing aroma of baking gorgonzola! By the time that I pulled it out of the oven I could barely restrain myself from digging in right away and at least letting it cool a bit.

Tangy gorgonzola goes really well with the sweetness of pears and I could not resist using this classic flavour combination by topping the cheesecake with a vanilla pear compote in a thick fruity syrup. I served the gorgonzola cheesecake on a bed of peppery arugula and garnished everything with some chopped toasted walnuts and jewel like crimson pomegranate. The savoury gorgonzola cheesecake was fantastic! It was just packed with flavour and the sweet an juicy pear compote was the perfect foil to balance things out. If only I had discovered savoury cheesecakes earlier! Now it is time to experiment with them some more!

Note: The recipe for this savoury cheesecake perfectly portioned for two as a light meal when made in a pair of four inch spring form pans. You could also make this recipe as more of an appetizer if you used a muffin pan.

ClosetCooking.com

I am excited to announce that Closet Cooking has a new home! If you are reading this on Closet Cooking you will notice that the address bar now reads www.closetcooking.com rather than closetcooking.blogspot.com!

What does this mean for you? You do not have to do anything! If I did things correctly, then everything should just work! All of the old links will automatically send you to the right place on closetcooking.com. If you do notice anything wrong, please let me know by sending me an email to lynch.kevin@gmail.com.

Brussels Sprouts in Black Bean Sauce

Brussels Sprouts in Black Bean Sauce

Brussels sprouts were on sale a while ago and I picked some up without knowing what to do with them. I knew that I wanted to try something different but I wasn't sure exactly what. Eventually I settled on the idea of brussels sprouts in a black bean sauce but before I got the chance to make them I came across the fermented black beans in my pantry. This was pretty fortuitous as it lead me to try making my own black bean sauce with them that I as then able to use on the brussels sprouts!

Over the last while I have really come to enjoy dishes with a nice blend of sweet, salty, spicy and tart and I have been trying to incorporate that concept in my cooking. While I was making the black bean sauce I remember thinking to myself that it had the sweet and salty down but it was missing the spicy and the tart, so any recipe that used it would have to provide that. With that in mind I relied on the brussels sprouts tendency to be a little on the sour side and that just left me with the spicy heat which I added with a touch of red pepper flakes. With that I may just have found my new favourite way to enjoy brussels sprouts!

Black Bean Sauce

Black Bean Sauce

The other day I was tidying up my pantry and taking stock of what was there when I came across some fermented black beans. The fermented black beans are salted and fermented soybeans that are commonly used in Chinese cuisine and I had picked them up a while ago to make a number of dishes including a mapo tofu . Upon seeing them, I was reminded that just the other day I had been thinking about doing a dish with a black bean paste and I immediately thought, I wonder if I could make my own black bean paste with these? As it turns out, it is pretty easy to make your own black bean paste at home! The black bean paste consists primarily of the black beans and garlic. The fermented black beans are all dried out and hard so you simmer them in some chicken (or vegetable) broth to soften them up and then you season them with soy sauce and sugar. Finally you thicken everything up with cornstarch until it forms a paste. Of course, the first thing that I did was whip out the jar of my favourite brand of black bean paste to do a side by side comparison and I have to say that I will be making my own black bean paste from now on!

Roasted Tomato Salsa

Roasted Tomato Salsa

One of the staples for fajita fillings in my book is a tasty salsa and since homemade salsas are always great and they are also fairly easy to make I set about making one. Tomatoes are not in season right now and the hothouse tomatoes are not all that flavourful but you can certainly enhance their flavour by roasting them in the oven. Roasting vegetables like this concentrates their flavour and tomatoes are particularly good when roasted. I figured that since I was roasting the tomatoes anyways I might as well roast the chili peppers as well. Once everything was all roasted up the only question remaining was how smooth or chunky do you want your salsa. If you like it smooth you can puree it in the food processor and if you like it on the chunkier side you can just dice everything be hand. One nice thing about a salsa like this is that you can make it a day ahead of time and lighten the load on a day that you make a meal that has a lot of components like fajitas.

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

I had been craving some Texmex flavours for a while and in particular, fajitas were calling my name. The only trouble was that it was below freezing outside and everything had been covered in a foot of snow. Not to worry though as my trusty grill pan came to the rescue! The idea behind fajitas is pretty simple being grilled meat, most often beef or chicken, served in a tortilla. I most commonly associate caramelized onions and multi coloured peppers with fajitas and from there you can pretty much go with whatever you want from salsas, to guacamole, to cheese, to sour cream etc. I like to keep the meat simple and I marinate it in some lime juice, chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic. In addition to using the marinade to season the meat, the onions and peppers also benefit from the additional flavours of the marinade making the fajitas even tastier.

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

Sometimes the simplest can be the best which is quite possibly the case with pizzas. Sure you can go all out with your pizza toppings but there is something magical about a simple pizza topped with a good tomato sauce, mozzarella and some fresh basil! I already had my pizza dough so the next step was the tomato sauce and adhering to the keep it simple theme, I went with a sauce that was seasoned with some garlic and oregano. If tomatoes had been in season I would have gone with fresh vine ripened tomatoes but canned works well in the winter. For the cheese, you can go either with a ball of fresh mozzarella or you can go with a grated harder mozzarella. When it comes to the basil you could easily mix it in with the tomato sauce but I like to preserve the freshness of it so I add it after pulling the pizza out of the oven. This pizza margherita certainly brought me back to my vacation in Italy and I am glad that I can reproduce some of those amazing pizzas at home!

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Thin Crust Pizza

While I was on vacation in Italy last year I got the chance to try some really amazing pizza! My favorite had to be the thin crust style pizza and that was nice and light and it had an almost crackery texture to it. When I got back from Italy I went on a quest to duplicate that thin crust style pizza at home and after trying a bunch of recipes I settled on this thin crust pizza dough from PizzaMaking.com that gave me the best results.

This recipe can be a bit tricky and it took me a few tries to get it just right but it is well worth the effort. One thing to keep in mind is that this recipe requires
you to let the dough sit for 24 hours so you need to plan on that when on making a pizza. This dough has a really low water to flour ratio which means that you pretty much need to mix the dough in a food processor and even then, the dough is going to be very dry. In fact the dough will be more like crumbs but as long as you can form it into a ball then everything is ok. After sitting for the 24 hours the dough will not have risen very much but it will now have a more dough like consistency. The dough will be a little hard to work with but you want to roll it out as thinly as possible. To keep the dough from puffing up like a pita, I like to perforate it with a fork a few times. You then bake the pizza crust in a 500F oven until it just starts to turn a light golden brown. This pre-baking helps ensure that the crust will be nice and crispy even under the toppings. Once you are done with the pre-baking you can top the pizza with your favourite toppings and then it is back into the oven for its final baking.

Now that I have my thin crust pizza dough recipe, it is time to start experimenting with some toppings!

Pumpkin Gnocchi in a Brown Butter and Sage Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in Brown Butter and Sage

The recipe for the pumpkin gnocchi easily made enough for two meals and now that I had had my pumpkin gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce it was time for a classic, pumpkin gnocchi in brown butter and sage sauce. It constantly surprises me that something so simple as a browned butter sauce can be so good and yet it is! Even better, is that the sage fries up nice and crispy in the butter and the pair are a match made in heaven. Combine that with some sweet pumpkin gnocchi and you have an amazing meal that takes almost no effort to make. I like to add a hit of lemon juice at the end to brighten things up a bit.

Mashed White Beans with Spinach and Olives

Mashed White Beans with Spinach and Olives

I am a huge fan of mashed potatoes! They are nice and light and fluffy and so addictively good even when flavoured simply with milk and butter. A while ago I had come across the concept of mashed white beans in the form of this recipe for mashed white beans with spinach and olives on Choosy Beggars . I was immediately intrigued by the idea of mashed white beans and the flavours in this recipe were right down my alley! Recently I have been trying to go for some lighter and healthier dishes and it seemed like the perfect time to try some mashed beans.

These mashed beans are pretty easy to make and for the most part the ingredients will come from your pantry. If you have any fresh herbs lingering in your fridge that need using this dish is perfect for using them up but if you don't have them then dried are good as well. The mashed white beans certainly were packed with flavour and oh the aroma! All of the herbs in the beans quickly filled my apartment with the most amazingly aromas and they really took this dish over the edge. Every time I entered my apartment for the next while, I caught a whiff of those herbs and I was immediately craving a bowl of the mashed beans! Even with all of the flavours and the aromas, I have to say that my favorite part of this dish was how creamy the mashed beans were. They definitely give mashed potatoes a run for they money.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in a Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce

Now that I had my fresh homemade pumpkin gnocchi , the only real question left was; What was I going to make with it first? Although I had a few ideas I just had to go with one of my favourite flavour combinations; pumpkin, gorgonzola and sage. I made a quick and easy sauce by melting the gorgonzola into some milk and cream to which I added some sage and a touch of nutmeg. In less time than it took to cook the gnocchi, the sauce was ready and when the gnocchi was cooked I tossed it in the sauce and served it with a garnish of julienned sage. Once again, the pumpkin, gorgonzola and sage flavour combination did not disappoint! The sweet pumpkin gnocchi was so good all covered in the creamy and tangy gorgonzola sauce which just clung to and all of it's ridges. I really enjoyed the soft and yet slightly chewy texture of the gnocchi and I am already looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow! Next time I think that I might try adding some sauted mushrooms.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Not too long ago I was waiting in line at a restaurant and in the front was an Italian mama making the gnocchi that was on the days menu. Gnocchi has been on my mind ever since and when I recently came across a gnocchi board I knew that it was time to make some! Gnocchi are small soft dumplings that can be made from various different ingredients, though these days they are commonly made with potatoes. At first I was going to make potato gnocchi but then I remembered that I had some pumpkin puree that was looking for a home and I figured; Why not add more flavour by using the pumpkin to make the gnocchi?

Gnocchi can be a bit time consuming to make but it is also a little fun so I always enjoy it. If you are making a gnocchi that requires you to roast something like the potatoes or in this case, a pumpkin, it is always nice to do that a day or so ahead of time to cut down on the effort required on the day that you make it. Once you have your wet ingredients you simply mix in flour until the dough is soft, light and not too sticky to work with. From there you roll the dough out and cut it into small pieces and if you like you can roll the pieces over a fork or other ridged surface to give it more nooks and crannies so that it can hold more sauce. Next you cook the gnocchi in boiling water briefly and then you are ready to use them in whatever dish you desire. Although the soft just boiled gnocchi are really good, every once in a while it is nice to fry them up in some butter after boiling them to give them a slightly crispy outer layer that conceals the softness inside.

Pomegranate and Roasted Tomato Bulgur Salad

Pomegranate and Roasted Tomato Bulgur Salad

Last year I made a pomegranate tabbouleh salad which I really enjoyed for its lightness and freshness. Shortly after writing about it, Janet from Taste Space let me know about a similar pomegranate bulgur salad that also sounded good. Unfortunately I was missing one of the key ingredients, the aleppo pepper, so I decided to hold off on making it. I recently came across some aleppo pepper and I picked it up immediately! It was the perfect time to try the light and healthy sounding pomegranate bulgur salad. I kept the recipe pretty much as it was, though I could not resist adding feta for some saltiness and honey for some sweetness to balance out the tartness from the pomegranate and lemon. I was quite pleased with the results! The salad has an amazing freshness brought by the lemon and mint and there in a nice blend of flavours and textures. I also like the balance of sweetness, spiciness, tartness and saltiness. As good as the salad was the first day, the leftovers were even better. The flavours had more of a chance to come out and the heat from the aleppo pepper was definitely stronger the next day. I will definitely be making this salad again and I think that next time I might add some roasted eggplant.

Garam Masala Roasted Halibut in a Tomato Curry Sauce

Garam Masala Roasted Halibut in a Tomato Curry Sauce

After a good long month of too many baked goods, party food and large meals, I wanted to start the new year off with something a little on the lighter side. When I think of light meals I often start thinking of fish and this time I went straight for this roast halibut in a tomato curry sauce inspired by a recipe in a recent edition of Food & Drink magazine. In this dish the fish, I chose halibut, is coated in a simple "curry powder" consisting of garam masala and turmeric and roasted in the oven. The roasted halibut is then served on a very simple and yet tasty tomato curry sauce.

Curried Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

Rice side dishes are a staple that often find their way to my table and I always like it when you can incorporate some vegetables in them. This cauliflower rice pilaf inspired by Food & Drink magazine is a perfect example of a rice dish that includes a vegetable and the cauliflower and rice combination is an excellent one. When I first read this recipe I noted that it seemed to be very similar to a lot of curry dishes starting out with some garlic, ginger and green chilies. I then used a touch of garam masala to add some warmth and aromatics. I particularly like the use of the coconut milk in this dish as it always adds a really nice flavour to rice and it pairs well with the cauliflower. The mint finishes off the rice nicely adding an amazing freshness to the dish and the toasted almond garnish adds a change in texture.