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Monday, May 22, 2017

London Calling - Dinner At Ottolenghi & More

Last week's journey to London was our first trip across the pond in several years, which makes me all the more excited to chronicle some of the highlights as I've done for many of our past travels, domestic or international. For more on some of the highlights (food or otherwise) enjoyed during our previous jaunts, click below.   

London at Dusk, Photo: NK 
Montreal Family Trip for Four



Though the primary purpose of this trip was work, I am so glad that while I headed out to the office, scenically located near the Thames by gorgeous St.Paul's, my family was able to enjoy the sights in lovely London, even if we did have a few rainy days in between. As for myself, it was a pleasure to take in the city through adult eyes, having last experienced it decades ago as a ten year old. 

As far as culinary highlights, the undeniable winner was our trip to Ottolenghi in the Islington section of London. I have a real fascination with this amazing chef. From his gorgeous cookbooks packed with creative recipes built largely on Middle Eastern flavors, to his charming public persona and commitment to activism, there is nothing not to like about Yotam Ottolenghi. You'll find his restaurants in multiple locations across London, but if you make the trip to the Islington Ottolenghi, I can tell you you'll be greeted by a display window overflowing with sweet treats. Upon entering, you cannot help but feast your eyes on the counter offering an array of colorful and appetizing prepared foods. Continue even further and you'll discover the chic yet bustling communal tables in the back. 

The Ottolenghi dining format is small plates driven, allowing you to taste a great variety of creative preparations. I love this sort of meal as I am always wanting to sample more dishes than my stomach or wallet will allow. You'll also find lots of vegetable-centric dishes, so it's a great option for non meat eaters. 

Our dinner was mouthwatering start to finish, with almost all the dishes executed impeccably. Add to that friendly and approachable servers, and the fact that this was the scene of our first taste of orange wine (I cannot believe I've lived my life never discovering this wonder), and it was a memorably dining experience through and through. Luckily, I was able to discretely capture some photos for you. 
Heirloom Tomato Salad, Scallops with Mango, Roasted Beets with Tahini, Spiced Pork Chops and the most amazing Carrot Cake. All from Ottolenghi Islington, Photo: NK 
We surely enjoyed some other very solid meals, with a strong honorable mention going to Cote Brasserie (a reliable chain - we visited the charming Marylebone location) where we dined on quite a lovely bistro meal. Similarly, Osteria Antica Bologna in bustling Clapham (a quick overground rail trip outside London) offered a delicious Italian meal and endearing service. Special thanks to our two sets of lifelong friends for hosting us at both venues, and in their lovely homes.  

As for the rest of our trip, we were able to pack in some of the enumerable sights that London and its surrounding areas offer, from a visit to Greenwich by boat, a trip to the Natural History Museum, to the Temple Church and the absolutely not to be missed Churchill War Rooms (the latter two to the particular delight of my inner history nerd), there was certainly something for everyone. 

Thanks to all our friends and colleagues for an amazing trip and until next time, London! 


The Temple Church, Photo: NK 

Leave lots of time to enjoy the Churchill War Rooms,
Photo: NK

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Italian Pasta Classics - Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint & Pecorino

Mint, lemon and chili together are a very classic Italian flavor combination. They also happen to work deliciously together with seafood. This incredibly easy and company-worthy Pasta dish is an excellent choice if you are looking for an entree that is zesty, light and comforting all at once. At well under 30 minutes to prepare (if you get the Shrimp cleaned in advance) it's also doable on a weeknight. I know Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint and Pecorino is definitely going to be a regular on our summer menu rotation. Try it today and buon appetito! 

Photo: NK






































Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint & Pecorino
Serves 3 as an entree (or 4 lightly)
Lightly Adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:
1/4 lightly toasted Pine Nuts
1/2 Pound Spaghetti 
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
2 Garlic Cloves, halved
1/2 Pound Large Wild Shrimp, shelled, cleaned and cut in thirds (buy them cleaned to save time!) 
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Zest of one Lemon
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Chopped Mint, plus small leaves set aside for garnish
1 Cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon jarred Calabrian Chili (we like Tutto Calabria) or substitute Crushed Red Pepper


Method: 
Prepare Pasta as directed in well-salted water. Reserve 1/2 Cup Pasta water, drain and set the Pasta aside. 

Meanwhile in a large skillet, warm 2 Tablespoons of the Olive Oil over medium low heat and add the Garlic Cloves. Cook, stirring until slightly golden, for about 5 minutes. Discard the Garlic. 

Sprinkle Shrimp with a little Salt and Pepper. Add them to the skillet and cook about 2 minutes until almost totally opaque. 

Add the Pasta, Water, Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, 2/3 of the Pecorino Cheese, and the 2 remaining Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Cook, tossing constantly until the sauce thickens nicely, about 2 minutes. Season with a bit more salt and stir in the Calabrian Chili.

Plate and garnish with remaining Pecorino, toasted Pine Nuts and Mint Leaves. Enjoy! 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017 - Persian Style Herbed Rice

As long as I can remember, Easter has always been my absolute favorite holiday. For me, it's a day already so filled with hope, joy and a sense of renewal. It also coincides with spring, a season of rebirth itself, one signaling that summer is right around the corner. Last but not least, with the exception of delivering some baskets the Easter Bunny may have dropped off for the little ones, Easter isn't saddled with all the pressures gifting that plagued Christmas. No, in my mind, Easter is just perfect - right down to the menu.

This year, we went with the very traditional Lamb main. It was warm enough to grill outside and my husband cooked it perfectly. We adapted a great recipe for full racks (vs. sliced up chops from the rack) and drizzled it with a Greek lemon sauce called Ladolemono before serving. This would be a winner any time of year and it was so easy. Find the recipe HERE


Amazingly easy Lamb that we adapted Michael Psilakis' recipe by upping the grill time for a few full racks vs.
individual chops. Simple Ladolemono (a Greek Lemon Sauce) provides a little extra brightness to this rich dish. 

For a great side, you can't go wrong with our ilili Brussels Sprouts, a sweet, savory and tangy dish inspired by an amazing Lebanese restaurant in NYC by the same name. 

ilili Brussels Sprouts, Our version of the restaurant's recipe featured HERE on the blog

Finally, I adapted a much more technically complex (and phenomenal looking recipe for Sabzi Polo, Persian Herbed Rice served in a slightly molded form with a crispy crust on its outside) by playing off many of its flavors but presenting it more as a traditional (and far faster and easier) Rice dish. One day I will try the real thing but this meal was all about speed and ease despite the significant amount of time it took me to wash, chop and prep the many herbs that went into our meal! 
Persian Style Herbed Rice - A quick version of a much more involved side dish, Sabzi Polo. I adapted ours using many
of the same flavors and folding them simply in a basic rice dish. The recipe follows below.

I hope you enjoy the easy recipe below. And don't wait until next Easter to try it! 

Persian Style Herbed Rice

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 8  

Ingredients:


2 Cups Basmati Rice
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 Cup minced Dill
1/2 Cup minced Italian Parsley
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Water heated with a 1/4 teaspoon Spanish Saffron Threads

Method:

1. Prepare Basmati Rice as directed in Water, cooking until just the tiniest bit underdone.

2. As Rice cooks, heat Salted Butter in a small pan and saute minced Garlic a few minutes until soft and fragrant but not browned. Turn of the heat. 

3. In another small pot, heat the Saffron threads over medium heat in 1/3 Cup water until quite hot and water becomes deeply colored, about 5 minutes. Allow to sit. 

4. Fluff the Rice and carefully fold in all the Herbs, the Butter and Garlic, and toss gently adding the brewed Saffron liquid and distributing it throughout, reserving a small amount for serving. Follow by drizzling in 1/4 Olive Oil. Stir to incorporate. 

5. Finish by adding 1/2 teaspoon Salt and then combine.

6. Taste and adjust Salt as needed. 

7. To serve, remove to a serving bowl and drizzle with remaining brewed Saffron. Garnish with leftover herbs and enjoy! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Comfort Food Classic - Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf

Every once in a while, I get a craving for Meatloaf. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I go out of my way to make it something special.  Most often, I'll go for our standard (but very awesome) Turkey Meatloaf recipe, complete its own yummy basting and serving sauce, but this particular night, I wanted something different - a slightly faster cooking Meatloaf packed with savory, tender Mushrooms. 

Because this Meatloaf is also relatively small-batch (double the recipe and cook in two pans if you'd like to make more), it stays extra juicy and cooks in just about hour.  You don't have to love Mushrooms to love this recipe, but you will find that they add extra richness, texture and meatiness.  You almost feel like you're eating Beef instead of healthier Turkey Meat. Try this for your next family dinner. You won't regret it. 

Most Delicious Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf (Pictured with extra Mushrooms on top). Photo: NK

Most Delicious Mushroom Meatloaf
Serves 4 
*(If you double the recipe, best to divide into two portions and bake it in two sheet or roasting pans, side by side)

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, divided
1 large Carrot, minced
1 Leek, white and light green parts, minced (you can sub in 3 minced Scallions as well)
1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely diced
Cup and a half minced mixed Mushrooms (we used Oyster and Cremini)
3 Tablespoons minced Chives

1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 LB Ground Organic Turkey
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese 

Method:

Turn oven to 350 with rack in the middle. 

Melt 2 Tablespoons of the Butter medium skillet over medium heat. Add minced Carrots and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add Leek, and saute for about 2 minutes. Add Onion and saute another two minutes. Add minced Mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-4 minutes until they have softened but are still springy. Stir in Chives and Parsley and turn off the heat.

Add Panko to a large bowl. Stir in Chicken Broth and blend to moisten the Panko. Add the Mushroom Veggie Mix to the bowl as well as the Turkey, and 1 Egg. Blend. Melt the last Tablespoon of Butter and pour it in. Season with Salt and Pepper. Add Ketchup and Parmigiana Cheese. Blend.

Grease a high sided Baking Pan and mound the Meatloaf down the middle of it. It will seem rather wet and that is ok. It should be about six inches wide to nine inches long and about an inch and a half high. Bake about 1 hour until cooked through (170 in the middle with an instant read thermometer). Rest for 5-10 minutes and serve warm. 


Enjoy!