Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pita Sandwiches with Flank Steak, Tomato and Avocado and Lemony Yogurt Sauce

When the weather warms up, I'm usually in the mood for lighter lunches, bursting with color and flavor that I can make pretty quickly. This was the perfect, perfect summer lunch. It allowed us to inaugurate our BBQ for the season - having been gone for a while, we hadn't used it this month yet - and to make the most of the fresh produce we got at the farmer's market. Flank steak is always a great option for a cheap and satisfying meal in my book, and for a light lunch you really don't need much. It's perfect to grill on a BBQ, is ready in minutes and is perfectly juicy. Paired with a lemony cucumber yogurt sauce and a medley of colorful tomatoes with some plump avocado, we were set for our perfect summer lunch. What great summer lunches have you been making so far this year?

Pita Sandwiches with Flank Steak, Tomato and Avocado and Lemony Yogurt Sauce
Serves 2

One 300g piece of flank steak
8 cherry tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 avocado, cut into bite size pieces
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 circles of pita bread
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Yogurt Sauce:
1/2 cup of greek yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of seeded cucumber, finely diced

In a small bowl, add the quartered tomatoes and avocado. Drizzle with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and two teaspoons of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinate in the fridge while you prepare the rest.

Set your BBQ (or indoor griddle) to medium high heat. Generously season the flank steak with salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the steak is just medium rare.

While the meat is resting, make the yogurt sauce. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and add the diced cucumber. Thinly slice the meat against the grain.

To make the sandwiches, lay out a piece of pita bread, add a few slices of beef, a couple spoonful of the tomato and avocado salad and yogurt sauce. Wrap the pitas. Enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fresh Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese Cream and Oregano

Today being the first official day of the summer, it only seemed suiting to celebrate with the perfect meal for a warm sunny day. When tomatoes make their way to the farmer's market and are perfectly ripe and sweet it breaks my heart to overpower them with too many other ingredients or to cook them down. This tart is just perfect for that kind of feeling because the tomatoes stay uncooked, just lightly dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and lay atop a parmesan crusty dough with a goat cheese cream. Served with a simple lemony salad and a cold drink, it really is a blissful meal.

I really like flavoring doughs and this particular dough was just delicious with added parmesan. The only important thing is to really make sure that the butter is cold when you want to use it to make the dough. This will make sure that the dough has the right consistency and will form nicely. The dough is more of a crispy kind of dough but lends itself quite perfectly to the plump tomatoes and velvety goat cheese. Every summer, a couple dishes really stand out in my kitchen, and this is definitely one of those dishes .... for the time being, summer has just begun!

Fresh Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese Cream and Oregano
Loosely adapted from Donna Hay
Serves 6

2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of finely grated Parmesan
150g of cold butter, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon of cold milk
5 tomatoes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of soft goat cheese
2 teaspoons of the tomato vinaigrette (red wine vinegar and olive oil)
2 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
A handful of fresh oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the flour, parmesan, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 1-2 minutes or until the dough resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the egg and milk and process for 2 minutes or until a smooth dough forms. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the dough in half (if making 2 tarts) and roll out between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll the dough to make two evenly sized circles, about 1/4 inch thick. The dough is quite fragile, so roll with care!

Prick pastry base with a fork and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a circle of parchment and fill with baking weights or rice. Cook for 15 minutes. Discard the paper and weights and cook for another 10 minutes or until the dough is just cooked though and lightly golden.

Place the tomato slices, vinegar, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, add the goat cheese and pesto (if using). Extract 2 teaspoons of the tomato vinaigrette and add to the goat cheese to make it creamier and less dense.

Using the back of a spoon carefully divide the goat cheese cream between the two tarts and top with tomato slices. Garnish with torn oregano leaves. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Berry Crumble

As I mentioned in my last post, I've finally made a Facebook page for Chocolate Shavings. If you want to receive regular updates about the site, new recipes and photos, please join here! I've always loved a couple spoonfuls of warm fruit crumble topped with a scoop or two of vanilla bean ice cream. It's a pick-me-up for anytime of the year. I just came back from a month in a half trip to Europe - a blissful time in London working at the BBC and a relaxing couple weeks at my parents house in Paris spending time with family and friends. After a long time being away from my Montreal home, the one thing I always look forward to is coming back to my kitchen. Coming back as jet-lagged as ever - for some reason, the more I travel, the less my body seems to react properly to time change - I decided that making a gold old rustic berry crumble was the best way to get a sense of my Parisian self in my Montreal kitchen and make the hours before 7AM seem reasonably alive.

Crumbles really are one of my favourite ways to enjoy seasonal fruit. The light crumble topping is the perfect addition to ripe and plump berries at this time of year and the dessert really comes together in a matter of minutes. I always tend to add little sugar to crumbles because ripe fruit really doesn't need that much else to shine.

Berry Crumble
Serves 4

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 stick of very cold butter
1/2 cup of sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups of blackberries and raspberries
2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and, using your fingers, turn the mixture into small lumps of dough.

In a separate bowl, add the 2 tablespoons of sugar to the fruit and lightly toss to coat. Divide the fruit between 4 ramekins and top with equal portions of crumble topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Serve warm, preferably with some vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Curried Scallops with Almonds and Cream Sauce

First and foremost, I've finally gotten around to creating a proper Facebook group for Chocolate Shavings. If you want to receive regular updates about the site, new recipes and photos, please join here. I'm working on a couple exciting projects that I can't reveal right now but rest assured, some fun recipes are on their way!

This is a recipe I've been making for a few years and has become one of my go-to meals for easy entertaining. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that no matter how much you cook and love being in the kitchen, we have all had that moment of panic where you're having people over and you have absolutely no idea what to make. This dish has become an easy remedy to that problem. A little curry flavor, some plump sauteed scallops and a touch of cream .. and the whole dish is ready in minutes.

I really love cooking with scallops (as I do with shrimp) for that very reason: it's a fast way to create an elegant dinner suitable for any occasion. I usually serve this dish with couscous (to which I add some lemon juice, raisins, almonds and parsley), a simple olive oil potato puree or with a simple arugula salad as presented here. I hope you get to give this a try.

Curried Scallops with Almonds and Cream Sauce

Serves 4

16 scallops
3 tbl of good quality mild curry powder
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup of slithered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly season the scallops with salt and pepper. Place the curry powder in a small plate and lightly toss each scallop in the curry powder, shaking off excess.
In a small pan on low heat, add a good drizzle of olive oil and the diced shallots. Cook until the shallots soften (about 5 minutes). Turn the heat to medium and add the scallops. Cook for 2 minutes, gently flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. Turn the heat back to low and add the cream with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Add half of the almonds and the lemon juice and stir. Immediately transfer to your serving platter. Top with the leftover almonds. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lychee Salad with Ginger Syrup and Mint

One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to visit local markets. You really get a feel for the culture of a city when you see the tastes and try specialties of the place you're in. English food, I must admit, does not always have the best reputation, but my experience in the country has been nothing but positive. The photos I posted here are from Borough market. Although quite touristy, I really enjoyed walking through the different stalls and talking to local producers. I visited smaller markets during my stay in London, but I must say that I really did enjoy spending a couple hours here. A small fish shop in the midst of the market sells perfectly seared scallops and serves them in a shell with beansprouts and bacon - it's the best bite-size treat you'll find in the market!

I'm also posting a recipe for Lychee Salad. I absolutely love lychee and serving them on a warm summer day is always sure to please a crowd. My recipe is simple: just a little ginger syrup and some mint. Can you tell I've had a special craving for gingery desserts lately?

Lychee Salad with Ginger Syrup and Mint
Serves 4

¼ cup of water
¼ cup of sugar
1 slice of ginger, ¼ inch thick, diced
2 cans of lychee
10 mint leaves
In a small saucepan, add the water, sugar and ginger. Swirl the pan to make sure the sugar is dissolving in the water. As soon as the sugar is completely dissolved, simmer the mixture on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain and discard the ginger pieces. Let cool.
Add the drained lychee to your serving bowl. Pour the ginger syrup over the lychee and garnish with coarsely chopped mint leaves.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pickled Daikon, Mango and Thai Basil Salad

This recipe has become one of my favourite salads to serve in warmer months. After tasting pickled daikon in many different restaurants, I decided to try making my own at home. It's really quite easy to make and can be stored in a jar with its pickling liquid to be used when needed. I love using mango in salads, and with the daikon, crunchy peanuts and Thai basil it's really quite delicious.

I love serving this salad with lemongrass grilled chicken (I really should post that recipe too!) - it's fresh, colorful and easy to put together - just my kind of dish!

Pickled Daikon, Mango and Thai Basil Salad
Serves 4

2 mangoes, cut into matchstick pieces
1/4 cup of pickled daikon (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped peanuts
5 leaves of Thai basil
2 tbl canola oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, sesame oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Reserve.
In a serving bowl add the mango strips and pickled daikon. Add the vinaigrette and toss until all pieces are coated. Add the peanuts and coarsely chopped Thai basil.

Sweet Pickled Daikon

1 daikon
2 tbl of salt
½ cup of sugar
1 cup of white vinegar

Slice the daikon into matchstick pieces. Sprinkle with the salt and allow to rest in a large bowl for at least 30min and up to 2 hours. In a bowl, mix 1 cup of lukewarm water with the sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the vinegar. Add the daikon and allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving.
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