Thursday, 28 January 2016

Beet, Caramelized Apple and Goat Cheese Sandwhich

So, another sandwhich, but this time it was for lunch. As I mentioned in the post Garlic and Rosemary Baked Chicken with Orzo, Spinach, Beets and Feta, I saved a couple of the cooked beets with a sandwhich in mind. I was planning on using the last bit of spinach with the beets, and some goat cheese.

One of the tasks I had set myself for the day was to turn the two  bruised apples into applesauce, and then the thought of using some apple in the sandwhich presented itself. So after coring and slicing one of the apples, I used the other to make applesauce.

I also wanted a warm sandwhich, so I grilled it...melting tangy cheese, warm sweet beets and apples and crispy bread, this was a great lunch!

Core and thinly slice an apple. My slices were about 1/8" thick.

In a hot pan, using a bit of olive oil, quickly caramelize the apple slices. Season them with black pepper.

Keep the heat high, allowing both sides of the apples to colour, without letting them turn to applesauce.

Turn off the heat.

Lightly butter one side of two slices of bread, placing the buttered sides together. This allows you to build the sandwhich on the unbuttered side.

Place a layer of fresh spinach onto the bread.

Add the cooked apple slices.

Top the apples with thinly sliced beets.

Finish the sandwhich off with crumbled goat cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Lift the top piece of bread into a heated non-stick pan, and top it with the other piece of bread. Now the buttered sides are facing outwards.

Cook until the first side of bread is golden and crisp, gently pressing down with a spatula.

Carefully turn the sandwhich over and allow the second side to cook.

Remove the sandwhich from the pan, cut in half and serve.

  • The bread I used was my homemade Multigrain Bread, but any type of bread can be used. This can also be made as a wrap, or in a bun or baguette, and baked.
  • By placing the buttered sides of the bread together during the assembly of the sandwhich, you keep the counters clean. It also allows you to lift the top piece off into the pan, buttered side down, and then top it with the remaining piece, buttered side up. It also eliminates messy buttering of an assembled sandwhich.
  • Purchased beets can be substituted for the fresh cooked beets.
  • Other greens such as arugula or watercress can be used, or the greens can be eliminated.
  • Instead of apples, try pears or peaches. The black pepper enhances the sweetness of the fruit and adds a bit of heat to the sandwhich.
  • The apples can be roasted, or grilled. The key is to enhance the sweetness by caramelizing the fruit, while maintaining the shape and texture of the fruit.
  • The goat cheese can be blended with cream cheese; mixed with black pepper and honey; mixed with chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives or thyme. 
  • Blue cheese can be used if you prefer. Other cheese that will work include asiago, bocconicni or white cheddar.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Garlic and Rosemary Baked Chicken with Orzo, Spinach, Beets and Feta

The idea of rolling thinly cut chicken breast around fresh rosemary stalks and baking it came to me a few days ago, so I decided to try it out. The rosemary added fragrance and flavour to the chicken, as I knew it would. I balanced it by the addition of a  fresh garlic rub.

To serve with the simple chicken, I made a warm orzo salad, incorporating bits and pieces from the fridge...pomegranate seeds, a yellow tomato, fresh spinach, fresh parsley, feta cheese, a fresh lemon and some beets. I still have 2 of the beets to use, and plan to use them to make a sandwhich for lunch tomorrow.

I started off by cooking the beets, as they take a while. Once the chicken was rolled around the rosemary, the rest of the meal came together while the orzo cooked.

To cook the beets, place them into a saucepan, and add:

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
1 bayleaf
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Add enough water to cover the beets. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender. Add more water if needed during cooking, as some of the liquid does evaporate.  Allow the beets to cool. Peel the beets and slice, chop or grate 2 of them to use for this salad. Store the remaining beets in the liquid, covered, for another use.

Turn the oven on to 350F.

Make the garlic rub for the chicken by combining:

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Divide the garlic  between the chicken, and rub into both sides of the meat.

I used 5 thin slices of chicken breast, each no more than 1/2" thickness.

Place a sprig of fresh rosemary onto each piece of chicken. Roll the chicken up around the rosemary, securing it with a toothpick.

Using a very hot pan, sear the chicken on all sides.

Place the pan into the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is baking, cook 1 cup of orzo, drain and cool under cold running water. Cool the orzo just enough to stop it from overcooking; this is a room temperature salad. Place the orzo into a large bowl.


1 yellow tomato, cut into wedges
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


2 handfuls fresh spinach, shredded

Dress the salad with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

I served the salad topped with shredded beets, along with the chicken and some steamed asparagus.The salad was full of contrasting flavours, textures and colours, perfect with the hot rosemary infused chicken.

  • I made enough chicken for 4 people; the orzo salad was for two of us. The other two had a different salad. 1 cup of raw orzo will double in size during cooking, as most pasta does, giving two cups to use for the salad.
  • Any pasta shape can be used for salad. I try and match the size of the pasta to the size of the other ingredients being used, which is why I chose orzo...the pomegranates, parsley and feta cheese are all small. For larger pasta shapes vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, broccoli, olives or chunks or red pepper work well. In the end it comes down to personal preference or what you have available.
  • I dressed the salad with lemon juice and olive oil to enhance and allow the flavours of the other ingredients to shine. A more flavourful dressing could also lessen the impact of the rosemary.
  • The beets were placed on top of the salad after it was plated, as I didn't want pink orzo! Another option is to thinly slice the beets and place them on the plate as a base for the salad to sit on.
  • Purchased cooked beets can be used. You can buy them in jars or cans, pickled or not. They can also be bought in the produce section, already cooked and peeled, and vacuum sealed.
  • If you can, use yellow, orange and purple beets for contrast.
  • Other cheeses that go well with beets, tomato and pomegranate are goat cheese and blue cheese.
  • Yellow tomatoes are slightly sweeter than red, either can be used. Grape tomatoes can also be used, whole or cut in half.
  • I bought the chicken breast already thinly sliced. You can make your own thin slices by cutting a breast into two or three thin slices.
  • Other meats can be used...chicken, turkey, pork or veal scallopini; thinly sliced beef tenderloin; fish such as sole.
  • Rosemary works well as it is a woody herb and holds up well under heat. If you wish to use a different herb, try sage or thyme.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Steak, Onion and Cheese Pie

Mmmm, meat pie...comfort food for my husband, and something I don't make often enough for him.

The flank steak in the freezer inspired this; I decided to braise it and use it as the filling, along with the last two carrots and lots of onions.

Looking around I was able to use up a few other things...the pink peppercorns are all gone now! I also made good use of the cream cheese, open red wine and beef stock.

I made this over two days, marinating the beef overnight in red wine, Balsamic vinegar, pink peppercorns and fresh rosemary. I braised it with onions and beef stock, then shredded it and used the liquid to make the gravy, adding more onions and carrots.

While the filling was cooling, I made the pastry using butter and cream cheese as the fat. This results in a rich, flaky pastry, that is easy to work with and a bit more forgiving than one made with only butter.

I served this with oven fries and salad, my take on pie and chips!

Make the marinade by combining:

1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the marinade into a re-sealable plastic bag, along with:

1lb flank steak (I had just over a pound, in 2 separate pieces).

Seal, removing as much air as possible, and refrigerate overnight.

To cook the flank steak, remove it from the marinade, reserving the marinade.

Sear both sides of the meat in a hot pan.


1 medium onion, thinly sliced


The reserved marinade
2 cups beef stock

Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, cover and leave to cook until the meat is falling apart, 2 - 3 hours.

Remove the meat from the braising liquid, reserving the liquid to make the gravy. Measure the liquid so that you know how much flour you need to thicken the gravy. When the meat is cool enough, shred it and set aside.

Over a medium heat, with a drizzle of olive oil, cook until soft:

1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
Salt and pepper

I had 3 cups of braising liquid, so I added:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup flour

Cook, stirring until the flour and oil make a paste.

Add the reserved braising liquid, and bring to a boil, whisking to prevent lumps from forming.

Turn the heat down and allow the gravy to simmer for 5 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat.

Stir the shredded braised beef into the gravy (I had 3 cups of meat) and allow it to cool completely before assembling the pie.

While the meat is braising, make the pastry so that it has time to rest and chill before being rolled out.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream until blended:

8 ounces softened butter
6 ounces soft cream cheese


2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Mix on low speed until a soft, shaggy dough forms.

Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and gently knead on a lightly floured counter to bring it together into one ball.

Divide the dough into 2, and form each into a disc.

Wrap well with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.

When the filling is completely cooled, you can start to assemble the pie. Turn the oven on to 425F.

On a lightly floured counter, roll one piece of chilled dough out to a thickness of about 1/8".

Use the rolled dough to line a 10" pie plate.

Roll the second piece of dough out to the same thickness.

Scrape the cooled meat filling into the pie plate, and top with sliced Cheddar cheese.

Brush the part of the pastry that is resting on the rim of the pie plate with egg wash.

Carefully place the second piece of rolled dough on top of the pie, pressing it down to the egg washed edges of the bottom piece of pastry.

Trim the edges of both pieces of pastry, tuck them under and crimp decoratively.

Cut a steam hole in the centre of the top crust.

Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.

Place the pie plate onto a baking sheet and into the oven. Turn the heat down to 350F and bake until the crust is golden and the filling inside is bubbling, about 1 hour.

Allow the pie to rest for 5 minutes before cutting it and serving. We are sauce lovers, so I tend to make the gravy on the runnier side. This makes for a messier presentation, but the taste is much nicer, in my opinion...I'm not a fan of thick, stodgy gravy!

  • If you are not comfortable making your own pastry, use store bought pastry. The pie can also be made as a pot pie, by placing the filling into an ovenproof dish, and topping with a single layer of pastry. Purchased puff pastry is a great choice for this, as it has so many flaky layers.
  • Another pastry recipe that can be used is the one in the post  Goat Cheese Tart with Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
  • The pastry can be flavoured with chopped fresh herbs if you choose.
  • The pastry can be made a few days ahead, and kept well wrapped in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen.
  • Individual pies can be made if you have small tart shells; muffin tins can also be used. You can also make hand pies if you like (see the post Chicken Hand Pies ).
  • Leftover stew makes a great filling for a pie; all of the work has already been done!
  • Some people like to add potato to their pies; I prefer not to. If you want to add potato, why not try sweet potatoes or yams? Rutabagas can also be used.
  • The pink peppercorns added a hint of lemon and heat to the filling; the Balsamic vinegar gave some depth. The acidity from the vinegar helps to cut through the richness of the meat,  but as such a small amount is used it does not overwhelm any of the other elements of the filling. You can discard the marinade if you like, and just braise the meat in beef stock.
  • Other tough cuts of meat can be used, as you are marinating and braising it; these both help to break down, and add flavour to, tough cuts of meat. The other advantage of using tougher cuts is that they are often cheaper. Try skirt steak, blade steak, brisket or outside round.
  • I had two small flank steaks, with a total of just over a pound of meat. This made enough filling for one 10" pie plate; leftovers for lunches the next day after feeding four people.
  • The cheese is optional, but the gooey melted cheese does add a lot to the enjoyment of the pie. Any strong, melting cheese will do...asiago, cheddar, pepper Jack, havarti, blue cheese...whatever you have to use.
  • If you want a thicker gravy, use 1/2 cup of flour and 4 tablespoons of olive oil or butter. As I mentioned, we like sauce and prefer a runnier pie gravy.
  • The pie can be assembled and frozen. It can be baked from frozen; allow extra time for it to heat right through.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pinenut Crusted Rack of Lamb

I used to make this as a special occasion meal when we were first married, and haven't made it for a while. My husband made a cribbage board for someone and was paid with four racks of lamb, and this was my chance to use one of them, as it was only the two of us for dinner.

I had just enough pinenuts and breadcrumbs to make the crust. I had four red potatoes, one chorizo sausage and a red pepper which I turned into a hash, crumbled with some blue cheese as the accompaniment to the lamb.

Turn the oven on to heat up to 350F. Have your rack of lamb ready, excess fat and silverskin removed, and the meat, fat and membranes that are in between the bones have been cut away. This is called 'Frenching'. You can ask your butcher to do this for you, or you can do it yourself, as demonstrated in this link

Make the crust by combining:

2 tablespoons roughly chopped pinenuts
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper

Stir in:

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Olive oil

Add just enough olive oil to help everything stick together while remaining crumbly.

Lightly season the rack of lamb with salt and black pepper.

Add a drizzle of olive oil to a pan that can be put directly into the oven, and heat it until it is smoking hot.

Place the rack of lamb meat side down into the hot pan and sear.

When the meat has a nice brown crust, turn the rack of lamb over, and turn off the heat.

Using a spoon, spread a layer of Dijon mustard over the meat. I used about 2 tablespoons of mustard.

Gently press the crust onto the mustard.

Place the whole pan into the oven, baking until the lamb is cooked to your liking. Mine took about 25 minutes to our liking of medium.

The crust will be crunchy and golden.

Allow the meat to rest for 5 - 10 minutes before cutting it into individual chops and serving.

I served this with potato and chorizo hash, as well as asparagus. The richness of the lamb allows you to feed two people with one rack, giving you 3 or 4 lamb chops per person. I won't wait so long to make this again!

  • This recipe can easily be multiplied to serve more than two people. 
  • The crust can be made a day or two ahead, and kept in the refrigerator until needed.
  • The Dijon mustard helps the crust to stick to the lamb. You could also use pesto or roast garlic puree. Instead of plain Dijon, add some chopped rosemary, honey or spices to the mustard before spreading it onto the lamb.
  • As with most recipes, any nuts can be substitutes for the pinenuts. Some choices that work well with lamb are pistachios, pecans or hazelnuts.
  • Cheese can be added to the crust...finely grated or crumbled. Try blue cheese with hazelnuts. Other cheese to try included Parmesan, goat cheese or feta cheese.
  • Pork rack can also be used, just allow a longer roasting time, as it is a larger piece of meat. Herbs such as chopped fresh sage or rosemary can be added to the crust.
  • Rack of lamb is fairly pricey, but a little goes a long way as it is quite a rich meat. I do only ever make it for a treat, but you can still achieve the flavours and textures of this recipe by using it as a crust on other cuts of lamb if you want. Try using lamb shoulder to make an oven braised lamb, with vegetables and beans, and then add the crust to the top for the last half hour of baking.
  • You can also use the crust for other meats such as chicken breast or pork chops.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Pork and Cabbage Stuffed Pork Chops

The last time I made gyoza I had a bit of filling left over and I froze it. The plan was to use it for more gyoza; these boneless centre cut pork chops changed my mind. I decided to use the filling as a stuffing for the pork chops...why not? It is a simple filling of ground pork, shredded cabbage, carrots and green onions, some garlic and ginger and a splash of soy sauce.

I used the very last of the sweet chili sauce and the only lime in the house to make a pan sauce once the pork chops were cooked.

I defrosted the frozen filling and gently pressed some of the excess liquid out of it...this often happens with frozen vegetables, and most of the liquid was probably coming from the cabbage.

Trim the excess fat from the pork chops. Using a sharp knife cut a slit in one side of each chop, carefully extending the cut to form a pocket.

Stuff each pocket with the gyoza filling.

Season both sides of the stuffed pork chops with salt, black pepper and Chinese five spice.

In a very hot pan, using a bit of olive oil, sear both sides of the pork chops, turning once the first side is golden.


2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Turn the heat down and cover, cooking until the pork is done.

Remove the pork chops from the pan and allow to rest in a warm place while you finish the sauce.

Turn the heat up and reduce the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.

If you want more sauce, add more chili sauce or lime juice.

Add the juices from the resting pork, taste and adjust seasoning.

I served the pork chops on a bed of brown basmati rice, and stir fried red and yellow peppers, along with garlic broccoli. The sauce was spooned over the pork chops and rice.

  • As I mentioned, the gyoza filling is simple. The cabbage is shredded and cooked for about 5 minutes, then cooled and squeezed to remove any excess liquid. Add shredded carrots, finely chopped green onions, minced fresh garlic and ginger and ground pork. Season with soy sauce. Cook a small portion to check the seasoning before using the rest of the pork mixture to make gyoza, or these pork chops.
  • Not everyone makes gyoza from scratch so I have some other suggestions for stuffing pork chops: finely chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped cooked spinach, ground pork, seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped fresh herbs; stale bread or cornbread, crumbled and soaked in just enough apple juice to moisten it, grated apple, roasted garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped fresh sage; chopped prosciutto, goat cheese, minced sundried tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil; chorizo sausage meat removed from the casing, minced onion and roasted red peppers.
  • The pork chops can be left whole, without stuffing. Season the outside with salt, pepper and Chinese five spice and sear both sides. Add sweet chili sauce and lime juice, or apple juice, and finish cooking. 
  • If you don't have Chinese five spice, you can mix your own by combining and grinding star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper (or cayenne pepper) and fennel seeds. The star anise and fennel give the blend its licorice flavour, and by making your own blend you can control the intensity of this, as well as the amount of heat from the Sichuan pepper. Other spices can be used to season the outside of the pork...crushed fennel seeds, chili flakes or cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, ground cinnamon.
  • This stuffing can also be used to stuff pork tenderloin or pork loin  ( as in the post Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Scalloped Potatoes).
  • I had three pork chops, and ended up only feeding two people, so I diced the remaining pork chop and used it to make lunch wraps, with sriracha mayo, romaine lettuce and blue cheese.