Saturday, November 21, 2015

Frittata Frittata

Is there anything prettier than a frittata? When done right, this easy meal makes for a stellar sunday brunch centrepiece. The awesome thing about these that the variation possibilities are endless. Veggies, meats, cheeses... Mix and match your favourite combo, arrange it in the dish, pour your egg mixture over it, bake, and voila! Frittata magic.

Some of my favourite variations:

Smoked gouda & figs
Olives, arugula & feta
Pears & brie
Bell peppers, cheddar & mushrooms
Cheddar & apple
Chard & chile

So go ahead, impress your guests & get your frittata on!

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Tomato Frittata
an original recipe by allison sklar

6 large eggs
1/4 cup cream (15% or higher)
2 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 log goat cheese, crumbled
salt, pepper & fresh thyme
oil or butter, for greasing

Whisk cornstarch into cream. Whisk eggs with cream mixture until frothy. Mix in goat cheese, spinach and spices. Pour into greased 9" or 10" shallow round baking dish. Arrange cherry tomatoes on top. Bake at 325F for about 25 minutes, until eggs are set and no longer runny. Serve hot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stuffed Dates with Pistachios

Quick! You just found out that you have guests coming over and you haven't had time to cook up any appetizers. You know they're going to be hungry as soon as they walk in the door. What do you do? Simple. You make these stuffed dates, of course! These babies have been a lifesaver for me, time and again. So quick to throw together, and always a hit. It's a little sweet and savoury gourmet at your fingertips. Make a couple right now, just to see what all the hype is about. But, be warned. These beauties are highly addictive. I got the idea for these at a NYE gathering one year. The host had put out something very similar, using pine nuts instead. I happened to have pistachios at home when I decided to try it out. If you want to add a really interesting middle eastern twist, you can try adding a tiny drop of rosewater and a pinch of cardamom to the cheese. Note that rosewater isn't for everyone, though I think it works perfectly in this setting.

Stuffed Dates with Pistachios and Honey
makes 24

24 medjool dates, pits removed
1 tub old fashioned cream cheese (Liberté brand, if you're in Canada) or plain goat cheese
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
Honey, for garnish
Rosewater (optional)
Cardamom (optional)

Open up your dates on the long side, removing the pit and creating an opening to hold the cheese. (If using rosewater and cardamom, mix into cheese now!) Spread cheese inside and top with pistachios. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with honey.
(Seriously, seriously simple.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have written some of the most delicious recipes that I have ever tried. The pair have a way of taking whole foods and transforming them into vibrant, flavourful dishes that absolutely never disappoint. For those of you who aren't familiar with the duo, they are the co-authors of the Ottolenghi and Jerusalem cookbooks. Ottolenghi has also published two excellent vegetarian books, Plenty, and Plenty More, collections of recipes from his vegetarian newspaper column over at the Guardian. Whenever I'm in need of inspiration, I flip one of these gorgeous books open, scan around, and stop at whatever catches my eye, or whatever suits the vegetables in my fridge. I am in no way affiliated with these authors, and this isn't a promotion. This is just a little fangirl blogging about her biggest inspirations!

This weekend, I was invited to a very meat-centric potluck dinner, so I felt it appropriate to provide a hearty vegetarian option for those of us who are slightly less carnivorous. I wanted to make something simple, but that had a complex flavour profile. Enter this colourful dish - stewed chickpeas with caramelized sweet potatoes. Sounds simple, but Oh. Baby. I want to eat this stuff all day, erry day. Now, note that you can probably make this vegan by subbing coconut oil for the butter, but really, if there's ever a time to use butter, that time is now. Replacing it would be, just... well, it would be just OK. It would kinda be like the difference between going to see a Stones cover band, or seeing the actual Rolling Stones. The butter is Mick Jagger. You just won't get the same satisfaction. (See what I did there? Ok, ok, I'll get on with it.)

This recipe is a variation of the recipe titled Chickpeas and Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato (Ottolenghi, 82.) In the spirit of respecting intellectual property, I always like to give credit to those recipe authors who have inspired me, so, thank you kindly, Ottolenghi & Tamimi. You made my potluck dish a big hit!

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato
serves 3 to 4 people

500g sweet potato, cubed
50g salted butter
4 tbsp honey
3 cups water

3 tbsp oil
1 small onion (or about 6 shallots), finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 can (591ml) chopped, unseasoned tomatoes (no salt added is preferable)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mango powder (found in most spice stores, Indian or Asian grocers, or bulk stores.)
(note: if you can't find mango powder, 1 tsp of lemon juice or zest will also work.)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups torn spinach (or baby spinach)
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

cayenne pepper, to taste (use more if you like it spicy!)
salt, to taste

In a wide pot, bring water with potatoes, butter and honey to a boil. Lower heat to medium, and continue to cook until water is absorbed and butter & honey start to caramelize. Do not stir.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onions or shallots, and cook over medium heat, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and corriander seeds. Continue cooking until onions are brown and have reduced, about 3 more minutes. Add ketchup and stir, scraping any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add canned tomatoes with their juice. Add ginger, cumin and mango powder. Stir well. When mixture starts to bubble, add chickpeas and spinach. Continue to cook until mixture starts to thicken. Add cilantro after about 10 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed. Add cayenne , a little at a time, until you've reached your preferred level of heat. By this time, your potatoes should be ready, or almost there. Once they are, pour them into the pan, along with their buttery juices. Scrape as much of the browned butter into the pan as possible. Give it one nice, gentle stir.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Green Pea Soup with Roasted Chickpeas

Last week, I posted about Brussels sprouts, the little green vegetables trying to shed their bad reputation. Today, I'll spotlight another miniature green friend, who often gets tossed under the rug (or fed to the dog.) Please, allow me to re-introduce you to the humble sweet green pea. Often cooked until mushy, overdone, brown, or, to the horror of many, straight out of the can (yuck!) peas were never a favourite of mine. Little did I realize that in another state, these little veggies could pack a flavourful punch. Some may even consider them gourmet (pea froth garnish, anyone?).
It wasn't until I attended a wedding this summer that I realized that green peas make a wonderful soup. Born and raised in Quebec, "pea soup," to me has always meant that of the yellow variety, with little chunks of ham and maple syrup. Not that I don't love that one - I do! It's part of our culture, a taste of our heritage. I just wasn't aware that there was another pea, hiding from the spotlight, that could create a wonderfully aromatic, complex, naturally creamy soup, almost entirely on it's own! 
And oh, that colour though!

Creamy Pea Soup with Roasted Chickpeas
an original recipe by allison sklar

soup ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp oil or butter
2 cups frozen green peas
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup water
salt & pepper, to taste

chickpea ingredients
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp oil

Roasted chickpeas: Preheat oven to 400F. Toss chickpeas with oil and spices. Lay on parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, until crisp. 

Soup: Heat oil (or butter) in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cooking until translucent. Add water, parsley and peas. Turn up heat to high, bring to a boil. Transfer mixture to blender & blend until completely smooth. Serve hot, garnished with chickpeas. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. Known only to some as "that food in movies that kids never eat," Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rap over the years, possibly due to the fact that people have been cooking them the wrong way. However, there is a reason that they've been experiencing a resurgence - and you'll probably see them make an appearance a lot more often this Thanksgiving, Christmas & holiday season. These miniature cabbages of joy are sprouting up everywhere from upscale restos to food network kitchens. New age foodies have learned that when prepared and heated correctly, these little green powerhouses make for a tasty, tender, buttery dish. Now, what I'm about to say may shock you, so brace yourselves - YOU DON'T HAVE TO ADD BACON! I know, I know. Forget what all those other foodie sites & food network stars tell you. The secret to brussels sprouts that taste good ISN'T bacon. The secret is proper cooking time. To me, bacon is a cop-out. You're basically adding it to mask the flavour that you don't like. Thing is, if you make these little babies properly, they're so delicious on their own that you don't need the bacon at all. In fact, bacon would only distract from the natural tastiness. Before we get started, let me give you a few other pointers that'll help amp up your brussels sprouts game in the future.

3 Things not to do with brussels sprouts:
1. Do not boil the living daylights out of them.
2. Do not boil the living daylights out of them.
3. Do not boil the living daylights out of them.

Great! Now that we've got that covered, remember: do not boil your brussels sprouts. This is a surefire way to make sure you'll never eat them again. They become soggy, bitter, and truly unpalatable.

3 Things you should do with brussels sprouts:
1. Leave whole & steam them.
2. Finely chop & pan-fry them.
3. Half, glaze & roast them.

Today, I'm going to show you how to glaze and roast the tastiest brussels sprouts you've ever had.
So heat up your ovens, and get your sprout show on!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey Glaze
an original recipe by allison sklar

2 cups brussels sprouts, chopped in half, woody bottoms removed
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together honey and oil until homogenous. (If you're having trouble stirring, it helps to heat the honey slightly in the microwave.) Add salt, pepper & cayenne. Toss brussels sprouts to coat. Transfer to greased baking dish (8"square should do the trick!). Roast in preheated oven at 400F for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring half way through. They are ready when golden and very tender.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sweet Potato Gnudi

Ah, pasta dumplings. One of life's simplest pleasures! I saw this gnudi recipe a while back in Chatelaine magazine, and I (in my old-school ways) marked it with a post-it for later. I stumbled upon it again recently, and I can't believe I've waited so long to make these. You really don't need to be an expert chef to whip up your very own batch at home, impressing your entire household along the way. The recipe comes together quickly, making it a perfect weeknight meal. What's more, their neutral flavour lends beautifully to a variety of sauces, toppings, & even soups. While the boy ate his portion topped with some osso buco, I enjoyed mine on their own, tossed with a bit of crumbled goat cheese. The cheese melts and sticks nicely, creating a beautiful burst of flavour in every bite!

Sweet Potato Gnudi
inspired by Chatelaine magazine

400g sweet potato (about 1 medium)
200g potato (about 1 small)
3-4 tbsp oil, as needed
3 egg yolks
1 cup flour
pinch sea salt

Prick potatoes with a fork all over and microwave whole potatoes until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes each. (Or, if you prefer, cut into cubes, boil until very tender, and drain.) Let cool about 10 minutes. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Mash by hand, adding oil to make them extra smooth. Mash in egg yolks and salt. Add flour, a bit at a time, until fully incorporated.

Boil a large pot of water. Fill a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag, with some of the dough. Cut off the tip. Holding your bag over the water, pipe out into 1-inch sections, cutting with kitchen scissors and dropping into pot. Gnudi are ready when they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pumpkin Cream Pie

Dearest readers,

I know, I know, I've been gone for much too long. Sorry for the hiatus. I've been busy travelling, eating, baking and new-job-a-workin'. You can catch up with all of that thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram, where you can see my travel food posts (here!) and see my baking (here!)
Hear, hear, it is now time for a brand new recipe. I never grew up eating pumpkin pie, so, in all honesty, I'm not quite sure what defines a "good" pumpkin pie to most North Americans. What I can tell you though, is that THIS pie is the bees knees. It's the creamiest, fluffiest, pie-i-est pies I've ever made, and I just had to share it with you all. And, it's perfectly in season, perfectly in time for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, and any other fall-themed dinners or dinner parties you may be attending. It comes together quickly, and disappears even faster. I wish I had a photo of the actual sliced open pie, but alas, no time, as it was instantly gobbled up.

Best Pumpkin Cream Pie Ever
an original recipe by allison sklar


pie filling:
1 brick (250g) cream cheese - room temp
1/4 cup butter (approx 56g) - room temp
250g (approx 1 cup) puréed pumpkin*
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
pinch salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp allspice

1 sleeve of Maria Milk Cookies (Social Tea should work if you can't find Maria!)
5 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup (56g) butter

Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the Maria Cookies, 5tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter until crumbly. Press mixture into bottom of pan, and up the sides to form a shell.

In stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth, intermittently scraping down the sides.
Add pumpkin, egg yolks, brown sugar and sour cream. Continue beating until fully incorporated. Add spices, beat for another 30 seconds.

Pour pie filling into crust. Bake at 325F for 1 hour. Let cool at room temp, then transfer to fridge and cool for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Tip: try not to eat it all in one serving. Or do. It's basically happiness on a plate.

*I use E.D. Smith canned pumpkin (NOT the pie filling, just the pure pumpkin.) I absolutely love it. I don't consider it "cheating" at all. I've done the whole "real" pumpkin thing before, and it's totally not worth the time, the mess or the hassle.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Fall is just around the corner - which means it's time for pumpkin EVERYTHING! Last year, I showed you how to make your very own pumpkin spice latté, and some homemade pumpkin alfredo pasta. This year, pumpkin season kicks off with a super easy weeknight meal that requires very little prep and comes together in less than 15 minutes. Happy *almost* autumn!

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

2 tbsp butter
3 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup milk (or cream, for a richer sauce)
1 brick cream cheese (250g) cut into cubes
3/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
pinch salt, black pepper, and clove, to taste

Prepare your favourite pasta according to directions. (I used a herb-speckled pasta, but you can use anything you desire!) Drain, reserving some of the water for the sauce. Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add milk. Add cheese, a little at a time, until melted. Add pumpkin. Mix together until homogenous. Continue stirring for about one minute, until mixture comes together and is hot. If mixture is too thick, add a few tbsp of cooking water until desired consistency is reached. Add salt, pepper and clove. Toss with pasta. Serve warm.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chopped Salad with Lentils

One of my favourite late summer meals is a large, hearty chopped salad. Take the time to chop properly - a little prep goes a long way! I make many variations of this, usually just using whatever is in the fridge, and then adding a legume (chickpeas or lentils are my go-to, but any kind of bean or pulse will work nicely!)

Super refreshing, super tasty, and super pretty to boot! This version was made using a handful of lebanese cucumbers, yellow cherry tomatoes, a mix of red, yellow and orange peppers, an avocado, and a cup of cooked lentils.

Toss it all with a couple of tsp of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice, sprinkle with a teensy bit of salt, some fresh cilantro, and a GENEROUS amount of sumac. Sumac is an incredible citrusy seasoning that I just can't get enough of!

Let it sit for a little before serving so it can soak up all of the flavour. Voila, light and refreshing, yet surprisingly satisfying. Oh, and it's naturally vegan! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tandoori Cauliflower

So I realize that this is the second time in a row where I devote an entire post to a whole-roasted vegetable. But, trust me, this is SO worth it. Have you ever whole roasted a cauliflower? If you haven't, you pretty much have to do it. Like, right now. It's so easy, so tasty... and SO pretty! I mean, look at this! Use a pre-blended spice mix and this meal comes together in literally ONE minute. Is that even possible? Yes. Yes it is.

Please note that the nutritional yeast is a must! There's really nothing like it. If you haven't yet used nooch, now's the time to start. Not only does it make the texture of the marinade absolutely perfect, but it also creates this whole new dimension of flavour - a nice umami taste that you simply can't get by using anything else.

Alright, are you ready to rock your socks off?
Let's go! Roast that cauliflower and impress the world! Oh, and you don't even have to mention that it's vegan. It's just a nice little added bonus!

Vegan Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower
an original recipe by allison sklar

1 large cauliflower
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbsp tandoori masala spice mix (or garam masala + 1 tsp garlic powder + 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 tbsp water (more or less, adjust for consistency!)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
Trim bottom of cauliflower so it rests upright on baking sheet.
Mix together nutritional yeast, tandoori seasoning, oil and water. Whisk until it forms a smooth paste. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, careful not to add too much.
Rub paste all over cauliflower, covering it completely.
Roast for 45 minutes, until tender. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing.
Garnish with torn fresh cilantro.