August 30, 2009

Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Blue Cheese & Bacon

I am, by no means, a vegetarian but If I had to choose between a juicy beef burger or a juicy portobello
mushroom the mushroom would win hands down!

The fact is, I feel less guilty about tucking into the juicy goodness of a meaty mushroom and quite frankly, more satisfied. There is just something about the rich earthiness of portobellos that make me feel wonderfully sated.

The thing I like about this recipe is that it's deliciously tasty with or without the bacon. Satisfying vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

To experience the full potential that this burger has to offer, you must marinate the mushroom for as long as you can. I try to marinate mine for about 6-8 hours.

Once the portobello has been marinated you can pretty much do with it what you please. Adding bacon and blue cheese is my favorite variation but if you aren't a big fan of blue cheese, experiment with other cheeses such as feta, goat's or cheddar.

Whatever you decide this burger has everything going for it. So, go ahead, get marinating and start loving!

Serves 2

2 portobello mushrooms, stemmed
About 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 rashers lean bacon
Sliced tomato
Sliced red onion
Bread rolls of your choice


2 tbls balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tbls olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Mix marinade ingredients together thoroughly.
Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. Place in a flat dish, gill side up. Pour marinade over mushrooms and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove mushrooms from marinade and fill each one with a generous amount of blue cheese. Wrap two slices of bacon around each mushroom.

Place in a 425F preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Grill or broil for an additional 2 minutes to crisp the bacon and brown the cheese. Let the mushrooms cool for 5 minutes or so.

Place a slice of tomato onto your roll followed by a slice of red onion. Top with the mushroom and enjoy!

August 23, 2009

Crispy Gnocchi Salad

Have you heard about the pan-fried gnocchi sensation? I discovered it last summer and have had a slight obsession with it ever since. I have served this culinary marvel using a variety of methods; however, today's recipe has to be my absolute favorite way of presenting pan-fried gnocchi!

The crispy goodness works wonderfully in this salad with the creamy goat's cheese. In addition, the tangy goat's cheese compliments the intense fruitiness of the sunblush tomatoes. Furthermore the sausage adds that "extra something" that any good carnivore would appreciate. And finally the red onion creates just the right amount of sharpness that produces the perfect overall balance. It is, you could say, a combination made in heaven.

There is an added bonus: You can prepare most of the ingredients in advance. Up to 24 hours in advance if you wish!
I would; however, advise that you cook the gnocchi 10-20 minutes before serving. If you refrigerate it, the gnocchi will become chewy and lose its crispiness.

So here it is...My Crispy Gnocchi Salad..

Serves 4-6

1 pound fresh gnocchi
4 good quality sausages, sliced, (I like Aidells - Organic Sweet Basil and Roasted Garlic)
1/2 cup sunblush tomatoes
6 oz leafy salad greens
6 oz soft goat's cheese, crumbled or rolled into balls, time consuming, but pretty :)
Small red onion, thinly sliced


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbls olive oil
1 tsp truffle oil ( optional, but highly recommended )
1 tbls dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt

Whisk the dressing ingredients together thoroughly until thick and refrigerate until ready to use.
Note: The quantity of each ingredient in this dressing is perfect for me; however, if you feel that it is too tangy for your taste, just add a little more salt or olive oil until you achieve your desired taste.

In a large skillet, over a medium high heat, saute sausage until nicely browned. Remove from skillet and set aside to cool. Wipe pan clean and heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add gnocchi and cook until golden and crisp all over. Between 3-5 minutes per side. Season with salt and set aside to cool. Once the sausage and gnocchi is at room temperature start preparing the salad.

On a large platter, place a layer of the salad greens. Top with the gnocchi, sausage, tomatoes, red onion and goat's cheese. Serve with the dressing on the side.

August 15, 2009

Halloumi Parcels with Lemon, Chili & Thyme

Halloumi is a magic cheese with a stubborn streak. When exposed to extreme temperatures it simply refuses to melt!

Instead, it retains its firm shape and develops a beautiful crisp exterior with just the right amount of internal gooeyness. Originating from Cyprus, this squeaky, tangy, somewhat salty cheese is made from a combination of sheep and goat's milk.
It is wonderfully versatile and can be grilled or fried within minutes, making it the ideal choice for an appetizer or quick snack. It also works well as a meat alternative and is a great accompaniment to a couscous or lentil salad. Delicious!

For something simple serve halloumi sliced and grilled with nothing more than some freshly squeezed lemon juice. For something fancy try today's dish inspired by a recipe from BBC Good Food. I changed the ingredients and cooking method slightly and found that the new variation of flavours complimented each other beautifully.

Makes 4 Parcels

200g block Halloumi cut into 4 slices
4 coloured peppers
4 18" pieces of kitchen string that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes

1 tbls olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbls) plus 1 tsp zest
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes
Black pepper

Mix the marinade ingredients together thoroughly and pour over the halloumi slices. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 24 hours.
Place peppers (whole) in a 450F preheated oven. Roast until just soft enough to wrap around the cheese. About 25-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so. When cool enough to handle, make a cut down the side of each pepper to open it out. The skin can easily be removed at this point, if preferred.
Remove seeds and trim into neat strips. Place a slice of halloumi in the center of each strip then carefully wrap the pepper around it.

Tie each one with the kitchen string.
The parcels can now be refrigerated for up to 2 hours. When ready to serve, place parcels under a preheated broiler or grill for about 3-4 minutes per side or until the cheese begins to soften and brown at the ends. Serve immediately. Garnish with pretty herbs like mint or thyme.

Note: If you're short on time, skip the peppers and just grill the cheese on it's own, basting frequently with the marinade. You could always top with some roasted red peppers from a jar mixed with a few olives or herbs!

August 7, 2009

Chorizo Brunch Pots

Saturday is breakfast (or brunch) day at our house. Whether it be blueberry pancakes at our local diner, takeaway coffee and a muffin in the park or more often than not, something I create at home in the kitchen. Whatever it may be, it is always a pleasant and refreshing digression from the habitual weekday breakfast.

This dish is a particular favorite. Mainly because it is healthy (for the most part), easy, fast and deliciously satisfying.

For this recipe I use authentic dry-cured Spanish chorizo, available at most deli counters in specialty supermarkets. It is made from coarsely chopped pork that is seasoned with smoked paprika (sweet or hot), garlic, herbs and salt. Dry cured chorizo is ready to eat and may be served as part of a Tapas or Antipasti. It also lends an incredible depth of flavour to a variety of cooked dishes such as baked chicken or fish, bean soups or stews, paella, risottos, frittatas and more.

I typically use my Staub cocottes to make these lovely individual dishes but if you prefer, you can prepare this recipe in a medium sized baking dish, with one egg per person to be served, cracked on top.

Makes 4 individual portions

1 tbls olive oil
4 oz (125 g) chorizo, skinned and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 14 oz (400g) can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbls tomato paste/puree
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes
4 eggs
salt and pepper

To skin the chorizo, carefully run the tip of your knife along it's length while applying gentle pressure. Starting with the slit at either end of the sausage, pull back the skin and discard. Thickly slice chorizo and chop into chunks.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Add chorizo and cook for 2 minutes or until just starting to crisp.
Remove chorizo from the pan, and drain on paper towel.
Add the onion to the chorizo oil in the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until softened but not browned.
Add the garlic, paprika and chili flakes and cook for another minute or so.
Add the chorizo back to the pan along with the tomato paste, chicken stock and tomatoes. Add a pinch of sugar and bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add the beans and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F

Divide tomato mixture between 4 8oz mini cocottes or ramekins.
With the back of a spoon, make a little indent in the middle of each dish.
Crack an egg into each one and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until egg whites are cooked and yolks are still runny.

Serve with warm crusty bread.