Friday, August 30, 2013

IL FORNELLO















Toronto PATH








Tuesday, August 27, 2013

... more of my favourite things!



Food is such an amazing journey, and lately I've been experimenting and discovering many new things in the kitchen! 

Last night I made my first rack of lamb, I was terrified but kept it simple and boy was it such a hit! All I remember hearing chef Ramsay's voice in my head and trying to avoid those mistakes that I've seen too many times on Hell's kitchen. The picture of him grabbing a flimsy lamb chop and throwing it around or asking "Come here! What is this?"  was playing over and over in my mind.   

Lately another favourite food of mine is Lebnah,with all that leftover yogurt in my fridge from Ramadan I whipped up a huge batch!  During ramadan yogurt was on sale and in the flyer almost every week so I stocked up and would prepare a yogurt drink of creamy plain balkan style yogurt mixed with water and seasoned with a sprinkling of salt.  This was the perfect drink to enjoy with a delicious date at sunset when we break the fast. 

If you want to prepare your own lebneh then head over to my other posts on the subject, here 

The perfect accompaniment with lebneh is a nice generous drizzle of good olive oil and every day of this week I've used a different (plain) olive oil from Olive That! ... Tunisian, Spanish, Mission... What an amazing canvas to showcase the olive oils.  All you need is a sweet mint tea, a piece of fresh bread for dipping and some nice juicy watermelon.  This is is my ideal breakfast and it reminds me of my childhood back in the Middle East.






A couple of weekends ago I also got lucky and found myself a frozen free range organic turkey at the most amazing price! Being the impulsive person I can be I put my money down and walked out of the store with a box of two huge frozen turkeys... one I've thawed immediately for the weekend and the other I stashed in my freezer for the coming Eid celebration which falls practically around the same time as this year's Canadian Thanksgiving!

First time I've grilled an entire turkey on the BBQ but it was delicious, I really love the taste of turkey and these organic ones are not dry at all, especially if you brine them beforehand. 







A couple of stuffed zucchinis I made back in Ramadan.  These zucchini boats were stuffed with a spiced ground beef (you could do lamb) and then smothered in a creamy bechamel sauce with a bit of cheese.  Baked to perfection! 






Balsamic fruits are another easy dessert idea, and if you're in Ontario I highly recommend heading over to Olive That not only their selection of fabulous and fresh olive oils but also their flavoured balsamics.  I picked up a big bottle of 18 year old balsamic vinegar and love adding it to fruit. Strawberries and cherries roasted in the oven with a splash of balsamic is so perfect to have around when you want to top ice cream or  pretty much any dessert!





Friday, August 23, 2013

Black Eye Pea Salad سلطة اللوبية



Black eye peas are some of my favourite legumes! They have such a unique and delicious taste and are perfect for both winter and summer preperations.  I love a good black eye pea stew in the fall or winter but today I've got a delicious and easy summer salad that is perfect for a picnic, a nice change for the regular bean salads.

3 cups dry black eye peas (rinse and soak in plenty of water overnight) 
3 ripe summer tomatoes

3 persian cucumbers
1/2 red onion
Juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper (no salt here as the beans will be salty enough after cooking) 
 A big drizzle of good olive oil (I used a Spanish olive oil from Olive That!) 


- After soaking your black eye peas the night before drain the water and add them to a large pot, cover with plenty more fresh water and bring to a low boil.  Simmer on medium low until beans are almost tender.  Add more water if necessary to top off the pot and add salt in the last 30-40 minutes of cooking.

Once tender (they shouldn't be mushy or falling apart)  drain and set aside (they should taste great and not overly salty, if they are just rinse a bit)

Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

With a sharp paring knife make an X in the bottom of each tomato and set them in a strainer in the sink.
When the kettle water is boiled slowly pour the water over all the tomatoes. 

Wait a couple of seconds and at this point the tomato peels would be easy to peel.  Peel and core the tomatoes and remove the inside (seedy parts and discard) 
Chop the tomato in small cubes and set in the salad bowl.

Chop the cucumbers into similar dice as the tomatoes and add into the bowl.
Chop the red onion finely and add.

Add the beans to the bowl and season with black pepper.
Squeeze the lemon juice over and drizzle with olive oil.

Serve and enjoy!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Lasagna!!



Since I find that I've got a lot of times on my hands during Ramadan I attempted to try my hand at fresh pasta lasagna for the very first time!   The only other time I recall having a lasagna with fresh noodles is when I was really young, and it was mostly due to the fact that we were begging my mother for lasagna when we lived in Northern Iraq where they did not sell dry lasagna pasta sheets.  My mother made the dough and I vaguely remember having pasta sheets all over the front guest living room where it was half drying.

Elements: 

- Meat sauce
- Noodles/Pasta
- Bechamel Sauce
- Roasted vegetables
- Tomato sauce (for top)
- Cheese


Meat Sauce: 

This sauce contains very little tomato, so here it goes

- 2 tbsp good olive oil
-1 1/3-1/2 lb ground beef (your choice of blend, I used one pound lean and another 1/3 of medium) 
- 2-3 tomatoes (cut X in the bottom, place in a metal strainer and in the sink. Add boiling water from the kettle over them)  remove skins and core, dice to a medium chop.
- Salt & black pepper

Heat olive oil and brown the meat nicely on medium high then reduce to medium low allowing them to develop brown bits at the bottom of the pot.  When it can't brown any more (after about 15 mins) add chopped tomatoes and all the liquid from the tomatoes, this should create steam that will remove all the delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pot and create a nice sauce.  Lower heat while adding the tomatoes so it doesn't splatter on you or remove hot pan from heat completely.

Cover and set aside.


Roasted vegetables: 

- 3 Zucchini - slice in thick rings 
- 3 Eggplant - sliced into thick rings 
- 2 Red onion - chop into thick wedges

Salt the eggplant heavely and set in a strainer in the sink. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
Salt the zucchini lightly over a large casserole.  Set onions aside.

Preheat over to 400 F and set out a large baking tray lined with parchment.

Squeeze the eggplant with your hands to remove any moisture, rinse with water to remove excess salt and continue to squeeze the liquid out until they look grey (and kinda ugly)

Set all the vegetables in a bowl and toss with olive oil.  Place on a tray in an even layer and roast until nice and golden (turning them from side to side often) 


Bechamel sauce: 

Follow this recipe 

Set the bechamel in a bowl and cover with cling wrap until ready to use.

Cheese:

- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (about 1 1/2 cups!)
- 1 mozarella de buffala (fresh mozarella), totally optional! Thanks Country Cheese Company!

* Do not worry about the fresh mozarella, the liquid from this cheese will be absorbed by the fresh pasta so it will not be watery as it would it a traditional lasagna.


For the topping:

- 1 cup passata (strained tomato puree) 
- Salt & black pepper
- 1 tbsp good fresh olive oil (From Olive That!!)

Pasta: 

This is a fresh pasta lasagna so either you can purchase the sheets from the store or you could make them like I did!

2 cups flour
4 eggs
Pinch of salt

In a large bowl add the flour and salt, mix, create a well in the center. Crack the eggs in and blend with hands bringing in the flour slowly to incorporate with the eggs.

Knead until it's a nice smooth dough, form a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin and large work surface dust the dough and begin rolling it as flat as you can (you should be able to almost see through it)

Depending on what shape your casserole dish is either cut long strips or in a square/rectangle (or even circles like I did! Circles can be wasteful though, just a heads up)

You will need several layers of dough to create your lasagna, at least 5.


To assemble: 

Reserve some cheese by setting it aside. 

Add meat sauce to the bottom of the pan (a thin layer) 
Lay in a sheet of fresh pasta and from that point layer on everything else: 

- Meat sauce
- Pieces of roasted vegetables
- Grated cheese ( including soft pieces of mozarella de buffala lightly torn by hand or cut into slices)
- Bechamel


..... do several layers like this until you end with a piece of pasta and  pour over the passata fresh tomato puree.  Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt & black pepper and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!