Thai Red Curry Chicken with Avocado Foam

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Where do find your inspiration?

This past couple of weeks I have been bogged down with day to day living. I was not inspired to try new recipes, or to really cook for that matter.

So this weekend I packed my bag and headed off to see my sister, Cate, and brother in law, Chuck. They are both wonderful cooks and wine enthusiasts. My kind of people.

Since they live in the heart of Ontario’s Niagara wine region, visiting their beautiful home is like going to a resort. Weekends are filled with lunches out, wine tastings, and beautiful scenery. I also enjoy checking out the latest music playlists that Chuck has compiled from iTunes.

After an afternoon of visiting a local winery, we decided to crack open a great bottle of wine, turn on some music, and watch Chuck cook his famous Thai Red Curry Chicken.

Instant inspiration!

I am so happy that I took the time to connect with loved ones and let the rest of the world go past, while finding my inspiration.

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Thai Red Curry Chicken with Avocado

Ingredients:

2 tsp. coconut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 cup zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
½ medium onion, cut into chunks
1 cup mushrooms
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 avocado, peeled
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
⅓ cup of lime juice
4 tbsp. of water
salt to taste
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, loosely chopped

Directions:

Heat the coconut oil at medium heat and brown the chicken. Add in the vegetables and cook until chicken is done and vegetables are slightly cooked but still firm.
Add the coconut milk and red curry paste, stir and simmer for five minutes.

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In a blender or food processor combine the avocado, jalapeno pepper, water and lime juice. Add water as necessary to thin. Add salt to taste. Mixture will become foamy.

Serve the Thai Red Curry Chicken over rice with a dollop of avocado mousse on top sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

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Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary and Ginger

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

I am hearing the call of distant shores. My travel bug is starting to itch and I find myself pouring over books and websites to learn about exotic destinations. I imagine what it would be like to wander the towns and villages and to taste the local cuisine. I imagine the photo possibilities and the local culture. I am particularly inspired by beautiful architecture or places filled with art and rich in history.

I love roaming the countryside and seeing where the local food is produced. I love to visit a cooking school or taste some local wines at a vineyard. Some countries like France and Italy have such wonderful rural villages they make you wonder why we visit the cities at all.

I have so many places that I want to see; the challenge is choosing which one to visit first. For now, I will have to settle for trying some interesting new cuisine in my own back yard. I will create a culinary journey by featuring some international dishes over the next few months.

I am very fortunate to live in a city where the cultural diversity is part of everyday life and little pockets of ethnic food shops are easily found. Today, I am featuring a wonderful Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary and Ginger from Morocco.

A tagine is a cooking vessel used in North Africa to cook stews of meat, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits. The recipe cooked in this vessel is also referred to as a tagine.I am new to cooking with this type of vessel, but I was able to find one by Staub that has a cast iron bottom and ceramic cone shaped topper. It worked perfectly for this recipe which calls for the tagine to simmer on top of the stove creating a lovely brown skin on the meat as it cooks.

Traditionally tagines are also used for serving the dish in Moroccan cuisine. Many traditional tagines are made of clay and are glazed with beautiful designs for that reason.

If you do not have a tagine you can make this recipe in a cast iron pot that has a lid.

The chicken turned out to be very moist and tender and the apricots and honey add just the right amount sweetness to offset the ginger, rosemary and cinnamon. I was so please with flavours of this dish, I invited my daughters to pop over and try some. We all agreed that it is definitely worth making again. I will have to try more tagine recipes as well.

Chicken-Tagine-v2Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary, and Ginger

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil with a pat of butter
1 onion finely chopped
3 sprigs of rosemary, 1 finely chopped, 2 halved
1-1 ½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
8 chicken thighs
3/4 cup dried apricots
2 tbsp. clear honey
1- 14oz. can plum tomatoes with their juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil

Directions:
Heat the oil and butter in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in the onion, chopped rosemary, ginger, and chilies and sauté until the onion begins to soften.
Stir in the halved rosemary sprigs and the cinnamon sticks. Add the chicken thighs and brown them on both sides.
Toss in the apricots and the honey, then, stir in the plum tomatoes with the juice. (Add a little water if necessary, to ensure enough liquid to cover the base of the tagine and submerge the apricots.)
Bring the liquid to a boil, then, reduce the heat. Cover with a lid and cook gently for 35-40 minutes.
Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Shred the larger basil leaves and leave the smaller ones intact. Sprinkle them over the chicken and serve immediately.
This dish would be perfect served with couscous or rice.

Recipe from Tagine-Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Basan

Food Styling with some Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup

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School is out………….Let the fun begin!

I just spent the past 2 months in the Food Styling Program at the famous George Brown College Culinary Institute in Toronto. I signed up for the course after taking Culinary Arts 1 as well as other Food in the Media courses so that I could learn to create beautiful, mouth watering shots.

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All of the photos on my blog have been of food that I have cooked or baked, styled and photographed myself. Since I had no formal training in food styling, I decided to try out the program at George Brown College. I like the idea of offering clients a full service of styling and shooting if their budget does not allow for a team.

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In the course we learned how create fake ice cream out of shortening and icing sugar, as real ice cream would melt under the hot lights while shooting. This was fun but more difficult than it sounds. The mixture needs to be just the right consistency to look real.

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It was a great experience working with a teacher who has been styling for years, as well as another food photographer. We styled ice cream, pancakes, burgers, fruit salads, cupcakes, full course meals, as well as hot and cold drinks.

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One downside to taking a food styling course in a cooking school was the problem finding a place to shoot the food, once it was styled. The lighting in the kitchen was strong overhead lighting that reflected off of the stainless steel cooking surfaces and there was only one small window in the area where we cooked. I took these quick shots of my creations to share with you and to remind me of the techniques.

I plan to spend the next few months playing with the concepts that we learned and creating some really fun shots. There is nothing more relaxing than spending time creating food shots that are as delicious to look at as they are to eat.

I have also started working on some pairings of local foods with Ontario wines so please pop back and have a look.

This recipe intrigued me because of the wonderful combination of lemon and dill with the chicken soup.

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Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick

1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise ½ thick

12 oz. skinless, boneless, chicken thighs

6 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

½ cup orzo

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Lemon halves (for serving)

Directions:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and broth, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite size pieces.

Meanwhile return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente 8-10 minutes.

Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over

Recipe from Bon Appetit April 2013 edition

Zucchini Trifolati and Chicken with Artichokes, Roasted Tomatoes, and Chickpeas

Spring has brought us a fresh outlook on the world around us. Spring in Toronto has started early this year and it has had a positive affect on us all. With every gorgeous spring day we see the flowers and trees start to bud, the grass start to turn green and the days start to last longer. Slowly we have emerged from our winter caves to head toward the sunshine and fresh air. People are out roller blading, running, cycling, enjoying the outdoor cafes with friends and having fun.

Spring brings the promise of something wonderful yet to come.

Spring is like a new beginning that happens every year.

Happy Spring to all of you!

As we continue with Italian month,  I am featuring a simple family style Tuscan meal. The main course is a hearty chicken with artichokes, roasted tomatoes and chickpeas. I have added a side dish of zucchini with olive oil , garlic and parsley.

Zucchini Trifolati

Zucchini with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Parsley

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 lb. zucchini
½ cup olive oil
2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Trim the ends of each zucchini. Cut in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into slices about 3/8 inch thick.

In a large, heavy-bottomed fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and sauté, stirring often, until the zucchini are quite soft, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle the parsley over the zucchini toward the end of the cooking time.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe from the Florence cookbook by Williams Sonoma

Chicken with Artichokes, Roasted Tomatoes, and Chickpeas

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 chicken breast, halved skin on
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ cup red wine
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 cups chick peas
2 14 oz. cans water packed artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup sliced roasted cherry tomatoes
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves
½ cup black olives, pitted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Over medium-low heat, in a large enameled ovenproof pot with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sauté the onion, and after about 3 minutes, remove it to a medium bowl. Season the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. Add the remaining 4 tbsp. olive oil to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high, and brown the chicken for 3 minutes per side. Add the wine, bring it quickly to a boil, and then turn the heat off immediately.

Combine the onion with the parsley, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, thyme, and olives. Spread the combined vegetables over the chicken, and bake covered, 30-40 minutes, turning the chicken once. Serve right from the pot or transfer to a serving platter.

Recipe from The Tuscan Sun cookbook by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes