Morel Mushroom and Asparagus Eggs Benedict

Morel and Asparagus Eggs Benedict

One of the things that I always look forward to in spring are the morel mushrooms. Morel mushrooms are not cultivated and I do not know the first thing about how to hunt for them so I have to pay a heavy premium to enjoy these spring treasures. Even so, given the mushroom fanatic that I am, I try to enjoy some at least once a year and hey, its ok to indulge every once in a while!

Black and Blue Steak Sandwich

Black and Blue Steak Sandwich

Over the last few weeks I have been enjoying a lot of dishes made with seasonal ingredients but I was recently distracted when I came across the the idea of a black and blue salad. The black and blue salad gets its name from the grilled steak, which is the black component, that is combined with blue cheese in the salad. I would almost never pass up on some perfectly grilled steak and I am an absolute blue cheese fanatic so needless to say, I was immediately captivated by the idea! My obsession with sandwiches however is just as strong and as soon as the idea of a black and blue sandwich crossed my mind there was no going down any other path!

The steak is the starting point of this sandwich and you could use pretty much any cut of steak that you want. I figured that since it was going to be in a sandwich I would go for a nice tender rib eye which I barely seared on both sides over medium-high heat to get some nice charred gill marks on the outside while leaving the inside medium-rare and nice and tender. The steak would be perfectly fine if you seasoned it simply with salt and pepper but I went with a Montreal steak spice mix to add a bit of flavour. Next up is the blue cheese which I added in two forms both the crumbled blue cheese for the texture and a blue cheese dressing that would penetrate every crevice of the sandwich spreading its flavour. When thinking about steak I often think about caramelized onions and they seemed to fit into this sandwich just like home. To pay homage to the sandwiches origins, the black and blue salad, I added some greens and I tossed them in a tangy balsamic vinaigrette to complement and contrast the creamy blue cheese dressing .

I have to say that biting into this sandwich is like biting into a piece of heaven! The flavours just dance in your mouth, all working together to form something greater than the sum of their parts. I was so intent of it that my sandwich disappeared before I knew it and I was looking for more.

Ramp and Bacon Omelette with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Ramp and Bacon Omelette with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

It looks like this will be the last of the ramp posts for this year and it is a tasty one! This omelette was inspired by the ramp pesto omelette with asparagus and goat cheese but I was out of the pesto so I simplified things a bit and just used the ramps. I wanted to saute the white parts of the ramps and since I was going to be doing that I figured that I would start with some bacon and then saute the ramps in the grease. (Bacon was on sale recently, I swear!) However I did not want to saute the greens so I mixed them into the eggs along with some salt and pepper. I almost alway have some asparagus in the house these days and I still had some goat cheese left over so I finished off my omelet with them. This omelette was a great way to say goodbye to the ramps, well, the ones that I did not pickle that is.

Fried Eggs with Ramps and Bacon

Fried Eggs with Ramps and Bacon

Blink and they're gone! It looks like ramp season is over here in Toronto which is unfortunate but I certainly did enjoy them over the three weeks that they were available. Last week I pick up a few bunches of them and I was enjoying them for breakfasts during the week. Sometimes the simplest things are the best and this and this breakfast consisting of fried eggs, sauted ramps and a bit of bacon was definitely one of my favourites. Well, I mean you really can't go wrong when you start out with a little bacon and then you cook everything else in the tasty bacon grease and then you finish things off with a runny egg yolk! I served this breakfast along with a side of fiddleheads in a honey dijon vinaigrette.

Cod Baked in a Tomato and Feta Sauce

Cod Baked in a Tomato and Feta Sauce

I have been trying to get more fish into my meal plans and with spring here it ties in nicely with trying to eat lighter and healthier meals. First up was the jerk fish on coconut rice topped with banana and pineapple salsa and next was this dish where a white fish is baked in a tasty tomato and feta sauce. I have been thinking about this dish for a while and though I originally wanted to wait until late summers juicy field ripened tomatoes, I have been wanting to have the oven on less and less as the days get warmer so I figured it was time and besides, I had just been itching to make it.

The flavours in this dish are definitely inspired by some of my favourite Greek flavours including the tomatoes, feta, oregano and a healthy does of fresh herbs, especially the dill. I even spiked the tomato sauce with a hit of ouzo, a Greek star anise flavoured liqueur, which adds a hint of something exotic to the dish. The tomato sauce is started in a pan and cooked until it starts to thicken and then it is poured over the fish before baking. This helps to ensure that the fish comes out nice and moist and tender every time. I served the fish with steamed asparagus and some crusty bread to soak up any leftover sauce.

Ramp Carbonara

Ramp Carbonara

I have really been enjoying the ramps, aka wild leeks, this spring and and up next is this ramp pasta done carbonara style. Carbonara is a simple pasta that traditionally consists of bacon, eggs, pecorino romano and pepper. The basic idea behind the carbanara pasta is that you cook the bacon in a pan, add the noodles and then pour the noodles into the egg and cheese mixture where the egg is 'cooked' and the cheese melts. Of course there are a lot of variations of this recipe and I often like to add seasonal ingredients like asparagus or zucchini and this time I added some wild leeks. I sauted the bottom white part of the ramps in the bacon grease and I mixed in the sliced green parts then I assembled the pasta at the end. I have to say that this is a truly amazing way to enjoy some of springs bounty!

Ramp Pesto Omelette with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Ramp Pesto Omelette with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

One of my favourite ways to enjoy ramps or wild leeks is simply with eggs in various forms. While I was making the ramp pesto for the asparagus and ramp pesto mac n cheese I thought of a new way to enjoy that combo, a ramp pesto omelette. I really liked the sound of mixing a tasty pesto into an omelet especially a wild leek pesto and I just had to try it! The omelet started off sounding really good but it needed something more and when I think about omelettes I almost always include cheese. I figured that a creamy and tangy goat cheese would be the perfect fit! I was beginning to think that I was done but then I thought about how lonely the asparagus must be being left in the fridge all alone so I invited him to the party as well. Besides, it never hurts to add a green vegetable to the mix!

I always like to use a bit of fat when frying eggs to help make sure that they do not stick to the pan and why not take the opportunity to add some flavour by using some bacon grease, which I tend to save in a small container in the fridge. You could of course go with lighter options like oil or butter but the bacon grease goes particularly well with the ramps. I have to say that I quite enjoyed the ramp pesto omelette with asparagus and goat cheese! The pesto worked amazingly well in the omelet and its flavour really shone through. The the creamy goat cheese melted into the omelette with an amazing effect and the juicy asparagus rounded things out nicely. What a great way to start a weekend!

Asparagus and Ramp Pesto Mac n Cheese

Asparagus and Ramp Pesto Mac n Cheese

In addition to having the first of the fresh local asparagus at the farmers market this past weekend, they also had some ramps, otherwise known as wild leeks. Ramps have a white bulb on one end and leafy green leaves on the other end. They smell a lot like garlic but they have more of an onion flavour and they can be used in pretty much any dish that calls for anything from green onions to onions to leeks. I first came across wild leeks a few years ago and I have been hooked on them ever since. One of the first things that I did with the ramps was to make a ramp pesto and when I thought about that I remembered an idea that I had been wanting to try for a while and that was for a pesto mac and cheese.

That was all that I needed, and my mind was already racing; How about an asparagus and ramp pesto mac n cheese? As luck would have it I still had some Louis D'or cheese, the cheese that won the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix this year, and I figured that it would work wonderfully in the mac n cheese. (I would definitely have gone with gruyere otherwise.) Since I enjoyed the cheese bechamel sauce from the asparagus gratin that used the water that the asparagus was cooked in for the liquid, I decided to use that for the cheese filling. Finally I added a hit of grainy mustard to give the whole thin a mild bite and add a bunch of flavour.

This asparagus and ramp pesto mac n cheese definitely screams spring especially with all of the green in it! Luckily it is still cool enough to have the oven on, though this mac n cheese would be worth it even if it were on the hotter side as the asparagus, ramp pesto, melted cheese and grainy mustard flavour combination was simply amazing! This recipe makes a lot and I have been enjoying the leftovers for lunches at work throughout the week. The wild leek pesto worked surprisingly well well in a mac and cheese dish and I will have to explore the idea of pestos in mac and cheese further!

Asparagus Gratin

Asparagus Gratin

I am so excited! This weekend at the farmers market I came across the first of the local, Ontario fresh produce! Spring certainly has been taking its time in coming this year but now it finally starts with the asparagus. You can be sure that I picked some of that asparagus up and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. I was thinking that a simple asparagus gratin would be the perfect way to welcome the asparagus in, I mean, how could you go wrong smothering some juicy asparagus smothered in melted cheese?

Normally I would make this asparagus gratin with gruyere or parmigiano reggiano but this time I had another idea. Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada . At the gala I had the chance to taste the winning cheeses in each category and I was particularly taken by the over all winner, the Louis D'or, an organic firm cheese made in Quebec. After the gala, I managed to track down some of the Louis D'or and I figure that it would be great to enjoy it with the first of the years local asparagus in this asparagus gratin. ( Flickr gallery of photos from the gala. )

In general gratins are generally made either with a cream base or with a bechamel sauce base and this time I went with a bechamel sauce because I wanted to try something new with it. I had recently come across the idea of saving asparagus stems to make broth with and although I save a lot of other things to use to make broths, I had not thought about saving asparagus stems. Even though I had not had the chance to save a lot of asparagus stems I was thinking that it would be nice to use the water that the asparagus was cooked in as the liquid in the bechamel sauce in stead of milk or a vegetable broth.

I like to play around with this recipe and it is easy to use different cheeses and I often add different herbs to the bechamel or this time I simply garnished it with some chives. Sometimes I even spike the bechamel sauce with a bit of Dijon mustard to make it a touch bolder! I have to say that I was quite pleased with this version with the asparagus bechamel sauce and it certainly was an amazing way to use the first of the Ontario asparagus!

Jerk Fish on Coconut Rice Topped with Banana and Pineapple Salsa

Jerk Fish on Coconut Rice Topped with Banana and Pineapple Salsa

It has been a while since the last time I did a Jamaican jerk dish and I had been craving one for the last few days. Since I have been trying to keep things on the lighter side I figured that a jerked fish dish would be perfect. I kept things pretty and simple and I went with my favourite homemade jerk marinade recipe which I marinated the fish in for several hours ahead of time. I often like to serve jerk dishes with a fruity salsa and this time I went with a banana and pineapple salsa whose sweetness and juiciness would nicely balance the heat from the spicy jerk marinade. I served the fish over some jasmine rice that I cooked in coconut milk to keep the fruity theme going. Overall this is a really amazing light, quick and tasty dish that certainly satisfied my cravings for a Jamaican jerk dish!

Pineapple and Banana Salsa

Pineapple and Banana Salsa

I was planning on doing a spicy dish and I wanted serve it with a cool and refreshing fruity salsa. Sweet and soft bananas and juicy, tart and sweet pineapple seemed like an excellent combination and along with some sharp red onions and some fresh cilantro I was all set. I could not resist spicing things up a bit with the addition of some jalapeno peppers and I finished everything off with a splash of lime juice. I could also see adding a table spoon of marmalade to the mix but I held off on it this time.

White Bean and Spinach Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Blue Cheese in a Bacon Pan Sauce Dressing

White Bean and Spinach Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Blue Cheese in a Bacon Pan Sauce Dressing

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Although I am still impatiently awaiting the arrival of the first of the local spring produce I have started getting into the habit of eating lighter meals including more salads. Not too long ago I came across the idea of a warm white bean and spinach salad on How Sweet It Is that I was immediately drawn to. As I read through the ingredients I quickly realized why, as the spinach, bacon, sauteed mushrooms and onions reminded me of one of my favourite salads the spinach salad with bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms and blue cheese . I quite enjoy combining quinoa and beans in warm salads and I figured that adding them to the spinach salad could only be good and so I did just that. For the recipe, I pretty much just started out with my spinach salad with bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms and blue cheese salad and added the spinach to the pan to wilt followed by some white beans and quinoa.

Don't let the spinach, beans, mushrooms and quinoa fool you as below this salads healthy surface lies a dirty little secret and that secret is a heart full of flavour, and that flavour is provided by both the bacon and its grease. First I cook the bacon and set it and some of its grease aside. The mushrooms and onions are then slowly cooked in the remaining bacon grease until they are nice and golden brown. After cooking the bacon and caramelizing the mushrooms and onions in the same pan, its bottom is sure to be covered little brown bits that are just full of flavour! It would simply be wrong to let that flavour go to waste so I mix the salad dressing right in the pan and the vinegar in it helps pick up all of that flavour by deglazing the pan. The remaining ingredients of the salad dressing include the reserved bacon grease and some Dijon mustard. The final component of flavour in this salad is a touch of crumbled blue cheese that starts to melt into the salad which is served warm. You don't want to overpower the other flavours in the salad by using a lot of blue cheese but just a bit really enhances the salad and makes it truly special. With this salad you get the best of both worlds with lots of healthy ingreadients and lots of flavour!

Asparagus and Feta Fritters

Asparagus and Feta Fritters topped with a Poached Egg and Avgolemono

Fritters are definitely one of my favourite foods! There is just something irresistible about a savoury vegetable cake that is fried until golden brown and crispy! One of the things that I like so much about them is that you can make them with all sorts of different vegetables and and over the last few years I have been experimenting with different vegetables. One vegetable that I had never even considered using to make a fritter with, one of my favourite vegetables, was asparagus and when I came across the idea of asparagus fritters on Kalofagas recently I knew that I would have to try making some. What's more is that these asparagus fritters use some of my favourite Greek flavours including lots of fresh herbs and feta, a flavour combination that I have used in spinach fritters and zucchini fritters in the past.

Quinoa Porridge with Blueberries and Pecans

Quinoa Porridge with Blueberries and Pecans

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I discovered quinoa shortly after I started food blogging and I have been hooked ever since. Not only is quinoa good for you but I really enjoy its texture so I keep coming back for more. At first I was using it primarily in salads and then I started using it in soups and stews and then I discovered that it could be used in sweet dishes such as porridge and that just blew my mind! I tried a quinoa porridge right away and it was good! Since then it has been one of my staple breakfasts for the colder days of the year. Even though the days are finally staring to warm up, I came across some blueberries in the grocery store and I knew that I would be doing at least one more quinoa porridge before it got too warm. One of my favourite porridge flavour combinations is blueberries, maple and pecans and it goes great in porridges so I did just that a blueberry quinoa porridge sweetened with maple syrup and topped with some toasted pecans.

Enmoladas (Chicken Mole Enchiladas)

Enmoladas (Chicken Mole Enchiladas)

While I was researching ideas for the chicken mole tacos I came across the concept of enmoladas or chicken mole enchiladas. I really liked the sound of a warm chicken mole filling wrapped in tortillas and smothered in mole sauce so I made sure to save enough of my mole sauce to make some. Since it was a busy weeknight I wanted to keep things easy so I went with unbaked enchiladas with a filling consisting of just some leftover heated shredded chicken mixed up with some mole sauce. Next up was the mole sauce topping and because the mole sauce was pretty thick I added some chicken broth to thin it down a bit so that it would pour nicely over the tortilla wrapped chicken. Just because I kept the filling simple did not mean that I wanted to sacrifice any flavour and so I made up for it by throwing lots of garnishes onto the enchiladas including sliced onion, sour cream, queso fresco and cilantro. All of the garnishes had the added benefit of making something covered in a brown sauce look a little bit better and I quite enjoyed eating them this way! I would say that these enmoladas were definitely my favourite of enjoying this batch of the mole sauce and it has been a tasty week of mole indeed!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Tip: To help prevent your corn tortillas from cracking you can warm them in a pan with a touch of oil.

Chipotle Squash Fritters

Chipotle Pumpkin Fritters

When I made the chicken mole earlier on in the week, I served it on a bed of refried beans and these chipotle squash fritters. I had some squash left over in the fridge that I wanted to use and I figured that the sweetness of the squash would be a nice counterbalance to the thick and spicy mole sauce . Making these chipotle quash fritters to go with the chicken mole was not enough to finish the squash off and I was rather glad as I really enjoyed the sweet and spicy combo so I made them again and served them by themselves with some mole sauce. There is just something so addictive about crispy fried fritters and these ones with smoky chipotle chilies would go well topped with many different salsas. If you are not a big fan of squash or can't find it at the moment it would be easy to swap in sweet potato instead.

Chicken Mole Tacos

Chicken Mole Tacos

Although Toronto has a fairly vibrant restaurant scene there is absolutely no street food scene. This is a little disappointing especially when I keep hearing about the amazing street food in other cities. In particular, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing some taco trucks here in Toronto as tacos are a bit of an obsession of mine. Luckily when I was out in Seattle last year I got the chance to experience several food trucks including a taco truck. All of the food was amazing and I was especially impressed with the chicken mole tacos from the tacos truck; so much so that I had been wanting to make them at home ever since. With cinco de mayo coming up it was the perfect excuse to finally get around to making the chicken mole tacos!

Since I needed a chicken broth to make the mole sauce I just poached an entire chicken in some water and used the resulting broth to make the mole and that left me with a whole chickens worth of meat to use to make the chicken mole tacos. With the two main ingredients already made, I just needed to decide what else to put into the tacos. Since the mole sauce is very rich and it already contains some heat from the chilies I was looking for something fresh and juicy to help clean the palate and keep things interesting and I figured that a simple pico de gallo made with ripe tomatoes and sweet onion along with cilantro and a hit of lime juice would be the perfect fit. The effort required to make the mole sauce was definitely worth it for these chicken mole tacos alone! The tender poached chicken covered in the tasty mole sauce with a hint of chocolate and chili heat went really well with the fresh pico de gallo and the tacos disappeared very quickly! Luckily I still have some more mole sauce and some more chicken!

Chicken Mole

Chicken Mole

After spending several hours making the mole sauce I was a little drained and even though I wanted to get into the mole sauce right away, I wanted something nice and easy. Simply simmering some chicken breasts in the mole sauce has to be one of the quickest and easiest ways to enjoy and it sacrifices nothing in flavor. One of the reasons that I like to simmer the chicken in the sauce is that it helps to ensure that the chicken comes out nice and moist and tender every time and the flavours of the mole sauce start to infuse into the chicken. Although I wanted simple, I could not help but enhance the meal a bit and I served the chicken mole on a bed of refried beans and chipotle squash fritters with a side of cilantro lime rice . The mole sauce with a hint of chocolate goes really well with not only the chicken but with the refried beans and chipotle squash fritters as well. The bright cilantro lime rice helps cut through the flavour packed mole sauce refreshing the palate in between bites. Overall this was one very tasty meal and a perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Mole Sauce

Mole Sauce

Mexican cuisine is one of my favourites and with Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching it was the perfect excuse to indulge a bit! In fact, I figured that I would go all out and make a mole sauce . There are many different kinds mole sauces but perhaps the best known one is the mole poblano which contains many ingredients including chocolate. I have always been intrigued by the idea of using chocolate in a savoury dish and so as soon I heard about a mole sauce I had to try it. In this mole sauce the chocolate adds to an already complex flavour base without dominating but rather complimenting the other flavours really nicely.

If you just look at the list of ingredients and the instructions it is easy to see that this is a fairly time consuming recipe and because of that, I do not make it too often but, it is well worth the effort! The base of this mole sauce is comprised of chilies, nuts and seeds and the body is built up with onions, garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, and even a plantain. Next up is are some spices, the chocolate and some thickeners. Despite the long list of ingredients and the time required, this recipe is pretty straight forward and easy.

One of the things that I like so much about this mole sauce, other than how tasty it is, is that you can use it in so many different dishes. I always enjoy simply serving it on chicken but it also goes well in tacos, enchiladas, etc. Now that I have my mole sauce made, I am looking forward to some tasty dishes with it over the next few days as Cinco de Mayo comes!