Spring Fling

Spring Easter Party Food and Table DecorSpring Easter Donuts and DecorSpring Party spreadBuffet Roast Turkey with Mint Cilantro Cumin SaucePickled Deviled EggsBest French Potato Salad with White Wine Mustard BasilTo celebrate Easter and the first long weekend of Spring, we had some friends over on Good Friday to share some good food and unwind. I decided on an easy menu to serve smörgåsbord  style that could be prepped almost completely the day before (my favourite). All of the dishes were also equally good served room temperature, as well as warm, so I didnʼt have to worry about keeping things piping hot throughout the day. To decorate the table, I used potted plants such as tulips, daffodils and ranunculus, instead of cut flowers, which added to the Spring-feeling of the party, and also served as take-home gifts.

I had a turkey taking up some space in my freezer, so I roasted it with my usual method, but then served it with the mint and cumin sauce from this Ottolenghi dish, which was ideal for serving the turkey in a more casual style and at room temperature.

I also made my favourite French potato salad, garnished with fresh, fragrant basil, and deviled eggs coloured with beet juice, which have become quite popular lately. Honestly, every time I make deviled eggs for a party or brunch with friends, I vow never to make them again! I try not to over boil them, and then all of the peeling and trying to carefully remove the yolks without destroying the delicate whites is just so labour intensive and time consuming. But, they are delicious, and these just seemed too ideal for the holiday not to include them. If you do want to attempt them, some tips for success include using somewhat stale eggs (the fresher they are, the harder they are to peel). To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil for a few minutes, add 6-12 eggs, and let boil for about 4 minutes before taking the eggs off the heat and letting sit in the water for about 10 minutes before placing in a bowl of cold water. Try to peel right away (this also makes it easier) and gently crack the very top and bottom of the egg to release the membrane, which helps the rest of the shell come off in bigger pieces. Once peeled, place all of the eggs in a large jar of beet juice (I just used the juice from a store-bought jar of pickled beets), for two hours to create a pink ring around the outside of the eggs. If youʼre storing them overnight, the colour will diffuse into the entire egg white. Once coloured to your liking, slice in half, remove the yolks and mix with your favourite mixture of mayo, whole grain mustard and spices. Pipe back into the egg whites and garnish with chives. I served mine on plates of broccoli sprouts.

For dessert, I picked up a tray of mini doughnuts from Jelly Modern Doughnuts here in Toronto and baked up Ottolenghiʼs Walnut Carrot Cake – more on the latter later!

 

 

Silver Dip

How to Polish Silver with Baking Soda and Tin Foil

I find polishing silver a terrible task–it’s incredibly dirty and takes forever–plus, I’m always a little weirded out by the idea of serving food or drink in something I’ve just used an intense chemical cleaner on (even if I wash it thoroughly in-between). So, in preparation of hosting guests this long weekend, I decided to take a new approach to the pile of tarnished items awaiting attention with a non-toxic silver dip.

If you have a lot of items or a few big pieces (like the ice bucket above) you can use your sink. Or, for just a few utensils you can use a soup pot. Line the bottom with tin foil, then fill with very hot, steaming water mixed with half a cup of baking soda and a couple tablespoons of salt. If you’re using a pot, you can just bring the water to a simmer then take it off the heat.  Place a couple of items in at a time and leave for 5-10 minutes, although you may need even less time, depending on how tarnished they are. After they come out of the water, buff them dry with a soft cloth.

If your items are really discoloured, you may have to dip them a couple of times, replacing the tin foil and the baking soda between sessions. My ice bucket was in pretty bad shape, so after about 15 minutes, it still needed a once over with a polishing cloth to finish it up. However, if you maintain the finish by dipping the silver regularly, this is a great way to save a lot of time and effort and avoid nasty cream polish!

Petits Fours

Yellow Daisies - Caring for DaisiesThe ultimate in cheap and cheerful: a gigantic, sunny arrangement of yellow daisies and mini chrysanthemums on my dining table. Daisies work so well in the house because they’re extremely cost efficient and last a very long time – often over three weeks. Just make sure to remove as many leaves and stems that lie below the water line as possible and remember to change up the water once a week.

 Preserved Boxwood Wreathes Chelsea Market

I’ve been trying to find a preserved boxwood wreath for my front door, which apparently all of the florists in my area only carry during the holiday season. If only I could have brought one of these ones home from Chelsea Market!

Anemones Toronto Ripley's Aquarium

Have strangely always loved anemones, so I fell head over heels for these beauties during my visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. A must-visit.

Little NIcky's Mini Donuts Toronto

What else could get me off my health kick than a bag of warm, mini cinnamon sugar donuts and a dry cappuccino at Little Nicky’s? Just tried this place for the first time this week, and it’s safe to say I’ll have to keep my distance from now on.

Postcard from New York: Part 2

New York Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue

 

New York Balthazar

Balthazar, 80 Spring Street

 

New York The Standard High Line Grill

The Standard Grill, 848 Washington Street

 

New York Magnolia Bakery Cakes

Magnolia Bakery, 401 Bleecker Street

 

Last week, on a quickie jaunt to New York, I was able to visit some fun new spots along with a few old favourites. I stayed in the lower west side, so stuck mostly to the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Meatpacking District, Greenwich Village and Soho. While I’ve been around this area numerous times, I’ve never had the chance to visit Chelsea Market, which is a definite must-see. It’s not only a great place to find just about any kitchen gadget or condiment you could dream up, but also a perfect stop to have a midday snack, cocktail, lunch, or even dinner. There are many great restaurants and cafes, the only problem, of course, is choosing just one to try.  I personally picked up some homemade caramels with ricotta and black truffle. So, there’s that.

I was also lucky to have time to stop for a relaxing lunch at Balthazar. The Soho outpost is about as classic as it gets for a French brasserie in NYC. It’s definitely on my new favourites list, especially since one of my original favourites, Pastis is devastatingly now closed for building renovations until further notice. Balthazar is about as close as it gets in decor style and food, which isn’t surprising considering both are owned by chef Keith McNally. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t get a reservation (which apparently are taken at least a month in advance), there are plenty of tables for walk-ins, as long as you’re willing to wait (and shop) a little before eating.

Lastly, while I hadn’t been there in ages, nothing says New York like a treat from Magnolia Bakery. The sugar-content of the icing shocks me every time, but the quaint shop, and Bleecker Street in general, always make for a charming stop. I also had a nice breakfast in the cafe at The Standard Grill. Great eggs and croissants and the space is bright and cheery – perfect for getting the day started.

 

 

 

 

 

Lobster Eggs Benedict

Lobster Eggs Benedict

It’s been a hectic few days, but I was still in the mood to make something indulgent for a special birthday brunch this week. Since I love Eggs Benedict (who doesn’t?) and I love lobster, oh, why not throw the two together!? I already had some lobster tails in my freezer, so I boiled those up (five minutes in extra salty water) and used the sauce from this Williams – Sonoma recipe. It’s not a traditional Hollandaise, which is made with egg yolks, butter and fresh lemon juice, but it was exceptionally good and went so well with the lobster without overwhelming it, like a Hollandaise might have.

Instead of heating the lobster meat in the sauce as the recipe suggested, I decided to keep it separate and layer over a very lightly toasted half croissant. You can use some large pieces of the lobster’s shell (I used a few chunks from the tail) while making the sauce, which adds in just enough flavour. I also cut everything in half (save for the tarragon and sherry), since I only needed enough sauce for two servings.

I don’t have an egg poacher, so I coddled the eggs the old fashioned way by cooking them for about 3 minutes in a pan of simmering water and a good dose of white wine vinegar (about 3 oz.).

Overall, it was completely heavenly, and I’ll definitely be making it again! Enjoy!

More lobster mania here and here.

 

Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Cucumber, Peppers and Cilantro

Quinoa Salad with Shrimp, Avocado, Peppers and CucumberWe’ve all heard about the various merits of quinoa– it’s as easy to  make as rice and is an excellent source of fibre and protein. The thing is, I’m not always sure what to do with it, since it’s quite tasteless, and frankly, a little boring. Last summer, however, I started making this salad (which started as one of those ‘we need to use up all of the vegetables in the fridge’ type things) and have recently returned to it as part of an attempt to get back to lighter meals now that I’m slowly  phasing out winter’s comfort foods.

I like to make a big batch at a time, so I can keep it in the fridge for a few days for easy lunches and dinners, when needed. I just wait to add the avocado and cilantro until right before serving, so they don’t get mushy and brown between meals. It’s delicious on its own, with the combination of crunch, citrus, and creaminess, so you can serve it alone, as a sidedish, or with sauteed shrimp or chicken.

Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa, rinsed
half a red pepper, diced
half a green pepper, diced
half a cucumber, diced
avocado, diced
handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of one lime
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Add quinoa, stir, and place the lid on the pot. Turn down the heat to simmer, and continue to cook until all of the water is completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and place quinoa in a large bowl and let cool. Once cool, add in remaining ingredients (save for the avocado and cilantro, if you’re not serving right away).

To add shrimp, saute half a pound of deveined shrimp, with tails removed, over medium-high heat with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook until pink and opaque. Serve shrimp over the salad and enjoy!

 

100 Days of Roses

 

 A Hundred Roses

In celebration of the 100th post on Pot of Roses, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the visitors (from over 60 countries!) that have stopped by POR so far.  It’s been a great experience recording (most) of all of my favourite dishes, restaurants, travel spots and celebrations over the last year, and most of all, seeing them all come together in one place. Thanks for taking the time to take a peek, and here’s to many more ideas, inspirations and delicious meals in the year to come!

 

Flourless Fudge Cake

Ottolenghi Chocolate Fudge CakeSince I have a good friend who’s gluten-free, I’ve made my share of flourless and gluten-free desserts. Flourless chocolate cake is always an easy choice for a dinner party, since I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like it, regardless of their dietary restrictions. Of course, when I came across this Chocolate Fudge Cake in the Ottolenghi cookbook, I just had to make it. The recipe’s unique method of baking the cake in two phases, which gives the bottom a dense, fudge-like texture, and the top a smooth, mousse finish, make it quite irresistible. I made this a few weeks ago, but just writing about it makes me want to make it again right now!

Ottolenghi’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
265g 50% dark chocolate, finely chopped
95g 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup Muscovado sugar (found in most organic sections)
4 tbsp. water
5 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
cocoa powder for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325°F and prep an 8-inch round cake pan by greasing it and lining it with parchment paper. Place the butter and all of the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil and stir. Pour the hot sugar syrup over the butter and chocolate and mix quickly to create a melted chocolate sauce. Stir egg yolks into the sauce one at a time, then leave to cool completely.

Put egg whites and salt into another large bowl and whisk into a firm, but not dry, meringue. Using a spatula or large metal spoon, fold the meringue into the chocolate sauce one third at a time until fully incorporated (you may still see small bits of meringue in the sauce).

Pour about two thirds of the batter (exactly 800g) into the cake pan and level with a spatula, if necessary. Bake for 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out nearly clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, flatten the top of the cake with a spatula (don’t worry about cracking the crust). Pour the rest of the batter on top of the cake and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the pan and dusting the top with cocoa powder. Will keep at room temperature for 4 days. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Spring Primrose FlowerA potted Primrose (which has edible leaves and petals) perks up my living room.

Asparagus and Feta Omelette with  BlackberriesI love making omelettes for breakfast or lunch, and asparagus and feta are one of my favourite combinations.

Perigord Truffle

I hunted down a Périgord truffle as a birthday present for a foodie friend who is close to impossible to buy for. Truffles can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a month. Keeping rice in the jar helps to keep it dry and can be used for a deliciously flavoured risotto after the truffle is consumed!

 

Soma Chocolate Easter Bunnies TorontoSpotted these adorable Easter bunnies already in-stock at one my favourite chocolate shops, Soma Chocolatemaker.

Marinated Turkey Breast with Cumin, Coriander and White Wine

Turkey breast marinade

Marinated Roasted Turkey Breast with Cumin Coriander and MintPan Toasted Sesame seedsOttolenghi Asparagus and Samphire with Toasted Sesame SeedsOttolenghi Marinated Turkey Breast with AsparagusEaster is pretty late this year, but if you’re thinking ahead to entertaining, this marinaded turkey breast recipe from Ottolenghi The Cookbook is a great option to consider. It’s amazingly simple, so it would be an especially good fit if you’re planning on having a small group, or even no guests at all! It’s such a fresh, original way to enjoy turkey and the flavours are, not surprisingly, phenomenal.

If you are serving guests, pick up one breast per two people. They’re surprisingly easy to find now that turkeys are being stocked back in the markets. The one I found happened to be skinless and boneless, which worked just fine. The marinade gets reduced down to use as a sauce, but it is quite zingy, so you may want to serve it on the side since it may not be something that everyone’s into.

I served it with arugula and another asparagus dish from the cookbook. The recipe originally called for the addition of samphire, an asparagus-like plant mostly popular in the UK that grows close to the water, but I used asparagus alone, for lack of samphire, and garnished it with some feta.

Ottolenghi’s Marinaded Turkey Breast with Cumin, Coriander and White Wine
(serves 2-3)

4 tablespoons mint leaves
4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley leaves
4 tablespoons coriander leaves (cilantro)
1 garlic clove, peeled
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
small organic or free-range turkey breast (about 2-1/4 lb/1 kg)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process for 1-2 minutes to get a smooth marinade. Put the turkey in a non-metallic container and pour the marinade over it. Massage the marinade into the meat, cover the container, and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Make sure the turkey is immersed in the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Remove the turkey from the marinade (keep the marinade for later) and put it on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400°F.  Continue to cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature again to 350°F.  Cook until the turkey is done, another 30 to 45 minutes (mine only took another 20). To check, stick a small knife all the way into the center; it should come out hot. If the meat goes dark before it is ready, cover it with aluminum foil.

To prepare the sauce, heat the turkey marinade in a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by about half. Taste and season with some more salt and pepper. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve with warm sauce.

Ottolenghi’s Asparagus and Samphire
(serves 4)

1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds
24 medium-thick asparagus spears
3 1/2 oz. samphire
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons tarragon
crumbled feta – optional
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a non-stick pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until they start to turn colour. Cook the trimmed asparagus in a large pot of salted, boiling water for a maximum of four minutes.

Drain the asparagus and rinse under very cold water until they’re cool to the touch. Leave in the colander to dry completely and use paper towels to dry the last few water drops, if necessary. Toss with the rest of the ingredients, along with the toasted sesame seeds, and serve immediately or chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours.