Category Archives: herbs

Earth Day & Ethereal Shrimp Ceviche

‘Earth is our spaceship. There’s no other. Protect it…’ – was my verbal tribute to the Earth Day few days ago along with this Martian-looking image of the low tide vista some place beautiful. It brought the cozy memories of my most recent travel to Florida, and of course of all things ‘Floribbean’ including its food staple CEVICHE!
Shrimp Ceviche © http://www.letsheatit.com/

Bon Appetit magazine named ‘crudo’, which includes carpaccio, sashimi and other raw sea food creations seasoned with sweet, spicy and acidic components, the dish of 2014. Ceviche (raw seafood and fish) dish is hot on this list. Pristine fresh fish, scallops, even skate join this list with many inexpected spice takes on this Latin/Central American delight. I chose to showcase the Shrimp Ceviche starring freshly cooked shrimp reserving the hard core raw challenges for some hot days later this summer. Some authentic Peruvian recipes use raw shrimp, but I will stick to the cooked one because I wasn’t the one catching it, ha-ha.

The surreal scenery of one of our first nights in New Smyrna, FL with the gorgeous oceanview provides a perfect back drop for this kind of the dish and just to support the mood I found this amateur YouTube recording of the sunrise at the same place if you wish to see it in the day light or, at the sunrise to be exact.

Oh, those rear lucky days of fun in the sun, sandcastling, trying (and inevitably failing) YOLO (you only live once), dog-chasing sandpipers. Refreshing the taste buds in between with fresh ceviche and a glass of rose… 
Isn’t it the way life should be lived more of the time? Routine chores interrupted by whispering ocean breeze and spectacular sunset. Lazy seagul to watch while making your bed, hearing waves while falling asleep… 
The ocean-side theme has imprinted so much in my heart I’m even re-designing our bedroom based on this inspiration now. It’s going great and I will sure post the results once the project is done. You will see exactly this seagull picture framed among other things.
I’m also dreaming about visiting Peru quite often.

The first top notch shrimp ceviche I tried was not in Peru though. It was in Philadelphia at Nuevo Latino restaurant run by the renown Chef Guillermo Pernot. Two times James Beard award winner, Chef Pernot is a world’s expert of ceviche dishes and even published a book since called Ceviche with lots of exotic recipes worth trying. He now runs the chain of Cuba Libre restaurants specialized in ‘Criollo’ cuisine in Philadelphia, Washington, Orlando and Atlantic City.  Guess what, his shrimp ceviche is still on the menu! He serves his shrimp ceviche signature dish floating in the pool of the blackened tomato and pepper spicy gazpacho (the veggies are grilled, blackened and then ground in an old-fashioned way). Mine version is more of a hot day ‘take a break with rose’ style, but is nevertheless uber tasty.

Here are my few tips on how to make shrimp ceviche a success:
a. use the freshest shrimp of the best quality as if you were a real Peruvian, or just have caught this shrimp yourself in St. Lawrence river (at the level of Sorel) an hour ago;
b. salt matters: it’s not a joke – avoid table salt by all means, if you can’t afford to buy Maldon yet (my case), choose a quality flaky sea salt from Normandy for $2.99 from Avril/amazon or Greek sea salt, or Himalayan or other great salts that are 100% natural and not that ‘salty;
c. don’t overmarinate your ceviche;
d. customize the garnish and seasoning with your preferred things: I add mint, a dash of smoked chili or paprika and sometimes mix shirm with lime-brined fresh fish (that goes to the fish ceviche);

e) sweet potato chips are not just a staple in Peruvian cuisine, they are easy to make and supe-deliscious with ceviche.

A glass of nice pinot gris or rose will boost the indulgment. In no time you will be transported to some ocen-view place you feel like you belong to. If shrimp is not your thing, try lobster rolls (btw the images in that post were from the same place although during a day).

One last word: if you happen to be allergic to shrimp like me, the Nordic shrimp from Atlantic will guarantee your safety (I suppose you can find equivalents in other areas). Tested and approved by the undersigned.

Have fun making your shrimp ceviche and please let me know how it goes.
Great week-end cooking to all of you!
***
Other great dishes with shrimp: Shrimp & Fish Soup Provencal ;
***
***
SHRIMP CEVICHE RECIPE
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
1 pound (454g) medium small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced + for seasoning
1 small orange, juiced (optional)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) quality olive oil
3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup or honey
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika or chili (optional)

1 teaspoon Kosher or flaky sea salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small tomato, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons scallion or chives, minced
1/8 cup (35 ml) red onion or shallot, minced or thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno (35 ml), cubed
1 small yellow, orange or red pepper (250 ml or 1 cup)
1 small cucumber (250 ml or 1 cup), cubed
1 small avocado, cubed for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced for garnish (optional)
Plantain, tortilla chips or rice crisps for the side serving.
Instructions:
Add the shrimp to the large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes.*
Drain and run under the ice cold water to chill. Cut the shrimp into 1-inch sized pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the lime, lemon and orange juices, combine and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
Mix olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and smoked paprika. Add tomato, scallions, red onion, jalapeno and yellow pepper and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the vegetable mix into the shrimp mix and let sit at the room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.

Pick-Me-Up Spinach, Egg Drop & Parmesan Toast Soup Recipe


How should I explain better my appreciation of this soup in a few words? Umm, remember when Chef Sean Brock is reminiscing about his favorite mom’s chicken soup dumplings ‘In the Mind of a Chef ’ saying it’s the best dumpling dish he ever had? This dish is better, period. A bowl of it will make you feel as good as gold…
I make this vivid green soup at least four times a year, mostly around mid-seasons: summer and winter solstice; spring and autumn equinox. It is one of my favorite complete meals which never fail to surprise with the taste, texture and color. The consistency and color of it can vary depending on the amount of ingredients (which you can modify according to your taste – more/less spinach, greens, eggs, stock or Parmesan bread). This soup is very forgiving: the different stages of the eggs’ coagulation depending on a temperature or cooking method would deliver smooth, ragged or clouded broth. Nevertheless, all forms of it deliver a fine bowl of comforting, homey goodness: full-bodied yet very light. If you like the Greek soup Avgolemono , this egg drop soup might be your next favorite. If the Avgolemono’s color is pure yellow, this one is bright green and always reminds of the nature’s renewal. Which we are still some ten weeks (hopefully less) away from…
This soup is an immune system booster and will pick you up fast whenever you need. We felt we badly needed it last Sunday upon coming back from St-Paddy’s parade in a form of half-humans/half-icicles who haven’t felt their toes up until dinner. It brought us back to life fast.  
I can’t exactly state the origin of this soup other than disclose that this recipe is coming from the magazine clips of the cooking journal of my dear French Canadian mother-in-law. It is very close to Italian egg drop soup called Stracciatella and may be it is, by virtue of its ingredients including Parmesan, although most of the Italian versions have some pasta and/or herb in it instead of the Parmesan toast and spinach. I tentatively tag it as an Italian dish, but if you happen know the exact origin of it, I am all ears.  
I couldn’t resist messing with the egg’s chemical formula having studied its molecular magic as an ingredient. Few times, instead of following the recipe (below) method, I would mix fresh, spinach, herbs and eggs with a bit, or a lot of warm stock in the blender. It makes some white foam on top, which I discarded carefully. Other wise, it makes absolutely stunning emerald-colored mix, which when warmed through under the boiling point, would granulate into tiny green egg drop microspheres giving luxurious velvety texture and feel to the dish. I warm it through whisking carefully, without reaching the boiling point; then place it in the 400F oven for 15-20 minutes topped with Parmesan toasts. Voila – viva the cooking experiments!
This method delivers bright green, grainy texture that is really worth showcasing. Not bringing the soup to the boiling point also helps to preserve a lot of healthy enzymes in the dish, which you will find packed with flavors. Equally, I sometimes swap spinach for kale, Swiss chard or arugula, add a bit of garlic and sometimes, during the flu season, a dash of minced ginger. Spinach version is my favorite however because it doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of eggs and stock. You may wish to follow or not these leads, the results will be great anyways.
Complex in taste and highly invigorating, it is yet very simple and fast to pull off. Eggs, fresh spinach, home-made broth, sliced baguette (or other kind of stale bread of your preference) and Parmesan are five core ingredients to it. I like to also add a big bunch of parsley to bring the nutritional and detox value of it to even higher level.
Sometimes I use this simple trick to cut the rounds of the stale bread with the shot glass to have a better appeal and coverage especially if you are serving the soup to the guests.

Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc. 

Should you wish to make this soup a real taste bomb, try to assemble it with the ingredients of possibly highest quality, including: free range eggs, spinach and parsley from your own garden, stock made with organic chicken/veggies and so on. Ahhh, I can’t wait to welcome spring to our territory…
Bon Appétit!

***
***
SPINACH, EGG DROP & PARMESAN TOAST SOUP
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 cups packed, rinsed and minced spinach leaves, equal to 1-2 bunches fresh spinach, OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cups fresh parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground (preferably white) pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups of hot broth, chicken or vegetarian
4 bread slices (or more depending on a size), grilled (* select gluten free if necessary)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add butter to a big sauce pan or Dutch oven and heat to medium high. Add the minced spinach and parsley, stir for 1 minute. Add one cup of stock, mix and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and gently stir them into the spinach mix with the whisk.  Add the rest of the hot stock, mix well with the spinach-egg mix and check the seasoning. Place the grilled bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Place into the pre-heated oven uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the bread and Parmesan dumplings are golden brown. Ladle into the bowls and serve immediately.

Savory Potato Boxty Bread Recipe


This winter is the neverending story, and today we had yet another mini snow storm. However, it is St. Patrick’s Day, about the time we invite some spring into our lives and table travel to the Emerald Isle of soda bread and potatoes.

The apple tree branches I put in the water last week upon pruning our fruit trees have given tiny pastel green burgeons. They make some wonderful spring house decorations and an amazing background to feature the Irish savory potato soda bread called Boxty we baked for today’s particular occasion. Ready to follow? Buckle up to this fine old school gem of Sleepy Maggie’s Canadian rendition performed by an icon fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and scroll the images first to determine if this recipe will hook you up.
The word Boxty stems from the old Irish bacstaí, which means ‘poor house bread’ and pertains to the mix of flour and potato from which you can make a pancake or bread.  This Irish rural recipe is believed to have been created during the times of famine to feed big families and make potatoes, which were the only means of survival, stretch further.  The pancake or loaf was served with milk and salt and Irish kids used to call it ‘dippity’. Today Boxty is a huge come back food trend in Ireland and potato bread and pancakes are served in restaurants all over the country.
Obviously, the Boxty Bread is a tribute to the Irish terroir, which includes:
STARCHY POTATOES
WHEAT FLOUR, MILK & BUTTER
DILL or CARAWAY seeds, sea salt, pepper, BAKING SODA
Mixed together, they make quick and tasty savory bread. Note: you do need to prepare a piece of cheesecloth to drain the grated potatoes for the recipe.
Without yeast as a leavening agent, the Boxty soda bread is very easy and fast to knead and pull off.  

It tastes amazing with some extra butter or the rarebit cheese melt and pickles when freshly baked. Or in the form of Croque Monsieur or mini-pizza with all kind of garnish the day after.

I also love to add it to all kinds of pan-fried or baked breakfasts and brunches, from omelet to frittata.

This bread keeps up to one week in the fridge and slices better when cold. 

BOXTY BREAD IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST TRY IF YOU LOVE POTATOES!
It is said to have inspired the following folk rhyme:
‘Boxty on the griddle,
boxty on the pan,
If you can’t bake boxty
sure you’ll never get a man…’

Check if it’s true and stay tuned for more Irish soda breads.

PS: A friend of mine has just sent me a nice St. Paddy’s greeting, here’s mine in return-
‘May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of you wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.’
Happy St. Paddy to You All!
***
Former St. Paddy’s Recipes: Dublin Lawyer
***
IRISH BOXTY BREAD
Yields: 4 small loaves
Ingredients:
7 (about 1 ¾ pounds) starchy potatoes
2 tbsp lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve*
2/3 cup of milk*
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 ½ tsp dill seeds OR caraway seeds
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
5 tsp baking powder
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel four of the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, cover with water, add the heaped teaspoon of salt and bring to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash with butter until smooth pure.
Peel the remaining three potatoes and grate coarsely. Wrap in a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to remove the moisture. Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the milk, ¾ teaspoon of salt, pepper and dill seeds. Beat in the mashed potatoes.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt onto the potato mixture. Mix to smooth dough, adding a little more flour if the mixture is too soft.
Knead lightly, then shape into four flat, round loaves, about 4 inches in diameter. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Mark each loaf with a large cross. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.
Break each loaf into quarters. Serve warm, spread with butter.
Adapted from: The Irish Pub – Fabulous Food from the Emerald Isle, Parragon Books, 2012

Moules Mariniere & Roasted Rainbow Fries Recipes


They say Belgian and Northern French people are almost religious about moules -frites (mussels & fries), but so are almost all French Quebecers.  Rain or shine, snow storm or ice storm, none of my friends can pass on a well-prepared bowl of fresh steamy bivalves floating in a cloudy-winy-garlicky broth with French fries and crusty bread on a side. Each time we discover a good place serving this dish, it spawns a new sensation. This particular post, for instance, was inspired by a little gem place in Verdun we discovered recently, the ‘Bistro Entre Ciel et Terre’.
The bistro has opened its doors back in 2011, and within the record time became No. 725 out of 4543 restaurants in Montreal rated on Tripadvisor (as of today), which is a big deal for Montreal (i.e. Jamie Oliver’s Maison Publique is No. 763 on that list), winning also the first prize of the young Entrepreneurs of Verdun in 2013. Once you try their honest food (priced very reasonably) you will know why.

From the Home Burger with Melted Brie and Caramelized Onions garnished with microgreens (which was of a superb quality and tasted so much more than just a ‘lump of ground beef between two buns’); to ideal endorsers of the fans of Les Canadiens – merguez pogos; to their signature dish: Moules Mariniere, the place which is steadily conquering the hearts of many tourists and Montrealers.  

How come I didn’t know about the place? Perhaps I was too much grieving over the death of ‘Mas Cuisine’ in the neighborhood (which re-appeared recently in the Mile End as a new ‘Wilfrid sur Laurier’ brasserie where Michel Ross reunited with chef Suhl). Obviously, the explosion of Griffintown development did not inhibit Verdun’s Chef Georges Nory and he’s bringing his French bistro/Italian trattoria/American diner classics to the new level. The rustic-meets-funky bistro interior adds to the hipster feel, but with only 20+ seats in winter you’d better nip to it fast. I’m definitely coming back.
Bistro Entre Ciel et Terre 
750 rue de L’eglise
Verdun, QC H4G 2M8
(514) 768-0740

The oversized mussels they serve in Bistro are most probably a special order, but don’t shy away from a bag of fresh mussels in IGA, METRO or LOBLAWS if you are ready to make your own Moules Mariniere at home. This recipe of was given to me hush-hush almost 20 years ago by the first French Chef Manou in Kiev (he also happened to originate from Normandy). He often served our diplomatic receptions and each time everyone was particularly smitten by his Moules Mariniere, so I had no choice, but to take a note of his recipe. Now that thousands of the wine steamed mussels recipes are surfing the internet in mass, you are in a privileged position to try, test and select your own favorite version. And, hey, they are very easy to prepare – with all the right ingredients you are basically 30 minutes away from that bowl of goodness.
I had them with these crispy-crunchy rainbow roasted fries, for which I used a regular potato, sweet potato and purple yam (procured in Chinese grocery). These three ‘potatoes’ worked really well together balancing the regular potato crunch with the sweetness of sweet potatoes and balmy  delicate tuber yams, making a healthier match to the plump steamed mussels. Feel free, however, to use any other root vegetable of your choice (carrots, celery root, turnips and parsley are great too).
Here are some killer apps to speed up the healthier roasting fries method while still having a restaurant-style results: (1) parboil the fries before roasting for exactly two minutes uncovered; (2) drain, toss with oil (duck fat you’ve saved from the roasted duck would be a great savory alternative), garlic and herbs of your choice (rosemary always marries great to fries, but so does thyme or tarragon, fresh or dried).
Try to align the cooking process of both (for that you’ll have to begin with fries and proceed with mussels once the fries are in the oven) to have this outstanding meal, which is definitely romantic under any and all circumstances. Don’t forget some crusty baguette to sop that fragrant broth. Enjoy, or should I say with the French sign-song lilt Julia Child was trying to imitate for years, Bon appétit?
***
***
CHEF MANOU’S MOULES MARINIERE
Yields: 2 generous portions
Ingredients:
1 pack of mussels (2 lbs or 910 g), cleaned under the cold running water
3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped finely, OR 1 cup of chopped shallots (5-7 shallots)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Small pinch of chili flakes (optional)
1 bouquet garni (small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, 3-4 branches of fresh thyme and 2-3 bay leaves)
1 ½ cup dry white wine
3-4 branches of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
3-4 green onion branches, chopped
1 ½ cup 10% cream or milk (if milk intolerant, substitute with clam juice)
Instructions:
Clean the mussels under the cold running water removing the beard-strings or barnacles you might find on some with your fingers or paring knife.  Press the shells of any open mussels with your fingers: discard them if they don’t close.
Heat the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven (enough to take all the mussels: the pot has to be half-full) over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute until fragrant and onions are translucent. Add bouquet garni and half of white wine. Bring to boil on a high heat and add mussels. Close the pot tightly with the lid and cook for 4 minutes, shaking the pot 3-4 times. Open the lid and add the rest of wine, cream and chopped parsley and scallions. Close the lid back and steam mussels for another minute shaking the pot to help the juices and steam distribute evenly. Remove the pot from heat. Discard bouquet garni.
Divide the mussels into two big (preferably warmed) bowls. Ladle the broth over the shells.  Serve immediately with fries (check the tips on great home-made fries and try the Three Root Fries below for a change and uplifted taste) and, of course, crusty bread to sop up that magical broth. Don’t forget to place some empty bowls for shells and some finger bowls with lemon skin water along to indulge in the dish ‘comme il faut’.  Enjoy!
PS: Discard unopened mussels if any.
***
ROASTED RAINBOW HERB & GARLIC FRIES
Yields: 2 portions
Ingredients:
1 big potato (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
1 big sweet potato (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
1 big purple yam (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
3-4 tbsp duck fat or high heat cooking oil
1 tbsp rosemary, dried
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Cover the fries with cold water in a medium pan. Bring to boil on a high heat and boil for exactly two minutes not covered with lid. Drain the water and toss the fries carefully with fat or oil, garlic and rosemary.  Spread in a single layer into the foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven, flip the fries carefully with spatula and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until crispy and browned (preferably, flipping fries one more time in between to make sure they will not be glued to the foil because of their sugar content).  Season fries with salt and pepper. Serve hot with garlicky aioli sauce on a side for dipping.

No Bake Herbed Nut & Cheese Snowballs Recipe

It is official: the fall themes are over, the wreaths are being changed to Christmas and the Black Friday specials just zoomed themselves in. Christmas prep has just stepped into our house with these cute little coconut herb cheese balls appetizer to greet our friends in a jiffy and finally celebrate the end of the Black Friday expenses. I really needed some purifying after a long day of unnecessary shopping, so combining Boursin cheese 50/50 with minced parsley (great anti-inflammatory and tonic)) and adding some minced garlic sounded like a good idea. If you can’t find Boursin, a mix of cottage and cream cheese (in a traditional Georgian way, with addition of garlic, parsley and walnuts); or any other soft cheese of your choice (goat, sheep, etc.) make great alternatives. Tasty, light and totally unwinding, these little balls are easy, fast and delectable treat for any party (specifically, tapas party, yay!).

This appetizer was inspired by the flurry of birds swooping in unison we’ve spotted today while going shopping.  We were driving by the Richelieu river, doomed to freeze within hours, when suddenly flocks of white birds (I believe they were seagulls, although they looked like white ducks) were appearing ‘en masse’ simultaneously from East and West directions. Naturally, our aerial avian obsession pushed us to find the parking right away.

The birds landed on the rocks in the middle of the river in a peaceful and undetermined magic action and were loudly discussing what to do next. How come they were so late to leave South? Were they disrupted by the I-phones and other human electronics interfering with natural birds’ migration?

Few minutes after the clouds of ducks were arriving in queues peppering the sky over the same spot, all trying to scour some mini spots left in the water to take a break.  The scenery felt like both, a great blessing and a Hitchcock thriller at the same time – certainly powerful… Ready to go into the darkness of the sky an hour later all birds, were chatting loudly about their next survival step… How do they do that? I don’t know, but for sure it’s a very inspiring act of courage…

And here we are sharing more pictures of our great spotting…

Back home we fixed these little cheese balls within 5 minutes (plus 15 minutes in a freezer to cool), and shared the stories of birds and (mostly unnecessary shopping experiences).

All you need is to add a big bunch of minced parsley, a minced clove of garlic (optional), and then roll it in any chopped nuts or seeds of your choice.

Our choice was obviously coconut flakes, although we also tried black and white sesame as well as poppy seeds. All of them tasted heavenly. Definitely, this recipe is a keeper for the holidays…

Specifically wonderful with oatmeal crackers or bagel thins, but you can have them with anything else imaginable.  
Happy Holidays Countdown to You All!
*** 
*** 
CHEESE COCONUT HERB BALLS APPETIZER
Ingredients:
1 5 oz package of Boursin cheese (or cream cheese, or cottage cheese mixed with sour cream)
1 bunch of parsley, minced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1 pinch of ground white pepper
1 handful of walnuts, chopped (optional)
pinch of sea or Hymalayan salt
1 cup flaked coconut (or any other crushed nut or seed of your choice), for rolling
Instructions:
Combine the cheese, parsley, garlic, white pepper and walnuts with fork in a bowl. Refrigerate for one+ hour. Roll the cheese mixture into small balls and then roll the balls into the shredded coconut or nuts or seeds of your choice (poppy, sesame, etc.). Serve on the tooth pics with the side of crackers or bagel thins.