Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

Tangy condiment perks up a family-favourite meal!

I bought my first barbeque – a rickety little thing – when I was a starving student simply because I love grilled chicken. While my grilling appliances have definitely improved over the years, my love for grilled chicken has never waned. I’m constantly dreaming up new ways to serve it to my family and this week’s experiment was a real winner. The tangy pineapple salsa added so much bright, fresh flavour to the smoky chicken; I’m certain it would be equally delicious with grilled fish or pork. I paired this recipe with La Crema Sonoma Coast 2014 Pinot Noir. The beautifully balanced wine’s soft, rich fruitiness, with notes of spice, was the perfect match.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) diced fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely minced red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced red pepper
  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8 boneless chicken thighs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Make salsa by combining in a medium-sized bowl (I use a 4 cup / 1 litre glass storage container with a lid) the pineapple, red pepper, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, and lime juice. Stir until well combined. Season with salt, to taste. Cover and refrigerate if not using within two hours.
  • Preheat grill to medium-high (375F). Brush the chicken lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill chicken (or bake in a 375F oven) until it is golden brown on the outside and internal temperature is 165F.
  • Serve hot, with salsa spooned over top, or on the side.

Serves 4.

 

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Smoky Tomato Ketchup

A grown-up version of a favourite condiment

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with ketchup. I cannot imagine eating a burger or hotdog without a generous squeeze of ketchup, but I find it a little unsettling to watch people who slather it on everything. Horrifyingly, my brothers used to put it on white rice when they were little (not to mention on plain spaghetti and fish sticks), so when my kids were young I worked hard to make sure they didn’t get hooked on the stuff. I’m singing a different tune, now, since creating this gem of a condiment. It’s full of flavour and adds just a little heat along with a lingering smoky aftertaste to anything you serve it with. As a bonus, it’s lower in sugar that most commercial brands (none of that nasty high-fructose corn syrup here, please). We’ve used it as a dipper for meatballs, enjoyed it with our favourite crispy oven-baked French fries and even spooned some into our mac ‘n cheese at lunch today. I don’t think I’ll ever buy a bottle of ketchup again.

Smoky Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 of a 7 oz/200 mL can) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • one 680 mL jar strained crushed tomatoes (Passata) *
  • Few dashes liquid smoke **

* you can substitute with 1 can (796) mL crushed tomatoes; pass the tomatoes through a sieve to remove seeds before adding to pot

** available in most grocery stores near the bottled barbeque sauces

Method

  • Heat the oil in a medium pot set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more, stirring often.
  • Add all other ingredients and cook, uncovered, for about an hour. At this point, you can remove the chipotle peppers if you don’t want the ketchup too spicy.
  • Alternatively, if you want a little more heat, use a stick or regular blender to purée the mixture including the peppers (there’s no need to purée it if you remove the peppers).
  • Transfer to clean glass jars and store in refrigerator up to 3 months.

Makes approximately 3 cups.

Smoky Tomato Catsup

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Crunchy carrot and pea shoot salad

Asian-inspired dressing packs great flavour punch!

I love salads, especially during barbeque season. I feel like the crunchy, fresh flavour of a salad complements whatever cut of meat, fish or seafood we’ve chosen to prepare on the grill. Having said that, every once in a while I find myself suffering from ‘leaf fatigue’, meaning that for a few days, I just can’t abide chowing down on lettuce, spinach, kale or arugula – to name a few common salad leaves – usually due to a self-inflicted salad overdose. This crunchy concoction, however, will never induce any kind of fatigue for my taste buds. It’s absolutely bursting with bright, crisp flavours and looks so gosh-darned pretty too. Look for pea shoots at your favourite grocery store – they’ve gone mainstream!

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sweet rice wine (mirin)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly grated gingerroot
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sesame oil
  • Pinch each salt and pepper

Salad

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tamari OR 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of soya sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of water
  • 3 – 4 carrots, spiralized, grated or julienned (about 3 cups/750 mL once cut)
  • 2 cups (500 mL) (2 oz / 55 g) fresh pea shoots
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Method

  • Make the dressing by combining rice vinegar, mirin, ginger root, oils and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover jar and shake well to blend then refrigerate until ready to assemble and serve salad (dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance).
  • Toast the pumpkin seeds by heating a small frying pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and cook, tossing pan often to flip seeds and prevent them from burning. When they start to turn brown (3 – 5 minutes), add the tamari or soya sauce + water mixture to the pan and stir to blend. Cook 1 – 2 minutes more until liquid has completely evaporated. Transfer pumpkin seeds to a small plate and use two forks to spread out in a single layer. Let cool. Seeds can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance.
  • In a serving bowl, toss together the carrot strips, pea shoots and green onions. Drizzle with dressing and toss again. Sprinkle the toasted pumpkin seeds over top and serve immediately.

Serves 3 – 4 as a side dish.

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Fabulous fajita skillet casserole

All the flavour of this Tex-Mex favourite, with none of the mess!

I love fajitas but I don’t love how messy they can be to eat. This dish packs all the fabulous flavour of fajitas into a delicious, easy to prepare casserole. You can make it in one large dish, or single-serving size if you prefer. My family decided they like this even better than regular fajitas and I’m inclined to agree. You can swap in chicken strips for the steak for equally delicious results. While icy cold cerveza (beer) would be one possible beverage option, I served this dish with the extremely food-friendly Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and it was a perfect pairing.

Ingredients

  • 4 seven inch flour tortillas
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) olive oil (flavoured oil like roasted garlic is great)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chili powder (or a bit more if you like things spicy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1 pound (454 g) sirloin steak, thinly sliced into 1” pieces
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mild-flavoured beer (or water)
  • 2 red or green bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced into 1” strips
  • 1 large Spanish or red onion, thinly slicedinto 1” strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated Tex-Mex or cheddar cheese
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • Sour cream, to garnish
  • Salsa, to garnish

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly brush tortillas on both sides with olive oil then cut into one inch strips; cut the strips into one inch pieces. Place the pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray and cook in preheated oven till golden brown, about 6 – 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside; keep oven on to cook fajita casseroles.
  • In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large oven-safe skillet (cast iron is ideal for this) over medium-high heat and add oil. Add the meat to the pan and sprinkle seasonings over top – toss well to coat evenly. Sear meat, stirring often, until cooked (about 3 – 4 minutes for beef; 5 – 6 minutes for chicken). Add the sliced onions, peppers and minced garlic to the pan and toss to combine. Add the beer and cook uncovered, stirring often, for 2 -3 minutes.
  • Transfer meat and vegetables to a large bowl along with 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the liquid in the pan. Add crispy tortilla chips and toss to combine then transfer back to the skillet (drain off any liquid remaining in skillet before you do this) or divide among four smaller oven-safe dishes. Top with grated cheese and return to hot oven until cheese is melted and casserole is hot.
  • Garnish with a squeeze of lime juice, chopped herbs, sour cream and salsa.

Serves 4

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Quick pickled fennel with orange and star anise

An easy way to add a pop of flavour to any plate!

Lately, I’ve been eagerly peeking into my garden a few times a day, looking for tender young shoots that hold the promise of fresh spring vegetables to come. In the meantime, as I wait, I’m craving some bright tastes to perk up my palate after a long winter and rainy April. I pickled up some fennel the other day and have been scattering it on salads and rice dishes, plus tucking it in sandwiches. It’s such an easy way to add a pop of flavour to any plate. If you enjoy this, you might want to try quick pickling other vegetables too!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups rice or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 – 6 whole star anise (2 per jar)
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 large or two medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 medium navel orange

Method

  • Bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil in a large pot, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Wash two or three medium sized jars with tight fitting lids in hot soapy water, and rinse well. You can use canning jars and lids if you have them, but you don’t have to because these pickles will get stored in the refrigerator.
  • Wash the fennel and cut the stalks off the bulb(s), discarding them. Trim away any blemishes. Cut the bulb(s) in half then slice (or shave on a mandoline) into very, very thin strips.
  • Wash the orange and use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to cut six to eight strips of peel from the outside, avoiding white pith as much as possible.
  • Fill each jar halfway with fennel. Place 1 piece of orange rind, 1 star anise and a few peppercorns on top. Fill jars to the top with fennel, packing it down tightly with a spoon or your fingers. Scatter remaining star anise, orange rind pieces and peppercorns on top, then fill jars with hot brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jars.
  • Put lids on jars and let stand on the countertop until cool. Place jars in refrigerator.
  • Pickled fennel will be ready to enjoy in 24 hours and can be stored for up to a month in the fridge.

 

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Healthier Fish and Chips with homemade tartar sauce

Make-at-home version of a favourite take-out treat!

I adore fish and chips and it’s one of the things I love to eat whenever I’m visiting family in the Maritimes. One of my favourite spots of all time is the South Shore Fish Shack in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, which serves up delicious food in a great setting with magnificent views of Lunenburg’s historic harbour and shipyards. Perhaps I’m feeling a tad homesick, because I decided it was time to come up with a healthier, make-at-home version of fish and chips – one that doesn’t require a deep fryer. I’ve learned through experimentation that you can get things to crisp up nicely with very little oil, and that technique worked well for the fish in this recipe. I recommend haddock because it holds together well when cooking, but you can certainly use your favourite white fish (basa, sole, tilapia, etc.), reducing the cooking time slightly for thinner fillets. For the chips, behold my perfect oven-baked French fries recipe! The tartar sauce is the crowning touch. For a wine pairing, I recommend a rich, buttery chardonnay like La Crema’s Sonoma Coast 2014 Chardonnay which has bright, lemony notes that perfectly complement the flavours of this meal.

Ingredients

For the tartar sauce

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) capers, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) gherkins or cornichons, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) grainy or Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

For the fish

  • 1 lb(454 g) fresh or frozen haddock fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL)salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(1.25 mL) pepper
  • 1/4 cup(60 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1egg
  • 1 tablespoon(15 mL) 10% cream or milk
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons(30 – 45 mL) vegetable oil, for frying
  • Lemon wedges and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Method

  • Make tartar sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • If fish is frozen, thaw fillets before cooking.
  • Pat fillets dry with paper towel then season with salt and pepper. Put flour in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, whisk egg with cream or milk.
  • In a large, heavy duty skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  • Using tongs or your fingers, dip fillets into flour, gently shaking off excess; dip into egg mixture, letting excess drip off.
  • Fry until golden and crisp on both sides and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, about four minutes per side for 3/4 inch thick haddock fillets.
  • Garnish fish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Serves 2 – 3

 

 

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Deconstructed Cannoli with Crispy Cinnamon Cookies

All the flavour, none of the fuss!

I adore eating cannoli but I don’t enjoy making it. Maybe the distinct absence of any Italian ancestors in my lineage leaves me ill-equipped for the task, but I find filling those delicate pastry tubes to be a fussy job and don’t even get me started on making cannoli shells from scratch. I thought about the essential elements of cannoli – crisp, cinnamony pastry and creaming, chocolate-studded filling, and decided a simplified version might be a good experiment. These cinnamon cookies are delightful on their own, but even better when perched atop the rich, creamy filling. You can make the cookies ahead of time and store in an airtight container on the counter or in the freezer; the filling can be made up to 48 hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator. If you don’t have time to bake the cinnamon cookies, purchased amaretti cookies (available at Italian food shops) are a great substitute.

Crispy Cinnamon Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) soft butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups (180 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

Cannoli Cream

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated orange zest, tossed with 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional but delicious)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mini chocolate chips
  • crispy cinnamon cookies

Method

  • Make the cookies by creaming together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Combine flour with baking powder; add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Using your hands, roll the dough into balls about the size of a large marble. Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • Press the dough balls flat with the bottom of a drinking glass that has been lightly greased; dip it in the sugar-cinnamon mixture (in a small, broad bowl) before each time you press down.
  • Bake in 350°F oven 10 minutes; Remove from cookie sheet and let cool.
  • Make the filling by putting the ricotta and mascarpone in a mixing bowl; whip together with an electric beater until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle in the icing sugar along with the vanilla and liqueur, if using, and mix together.
  • Fold the sugared orange zest and mini chocolate chips into the cheese mixture.
  • Spoon evenly into 4 small bowls and perch a cookie upright in the filling. Alternatively, you can also sprinkle about a tablespoon of crushed cookie over the top of each bowl. Serve with additional cookies on the side.

Serves 4

 

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