Roast Pork Rub

pork roast Pork Roast RubPork Roast Rub with Mustard, Horseradish, Herbs

As I’ve said before, I love a good roast for its ease, time efficiency and wealth of leftovers. However, I often find with pork roasts that they can easily taste dry and/or flavourless. In the effort of spiking this one up a bit, I whipped up this rub and the results were excellent. If you have time, you would also do well to leave it on for up to an hour before roasting to really jack up the flavour.

Roast Pork Rub

1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper
Low sodium chicken stock

Place the pork roast on a baking sheet. Use a small, sharp knife to poke holes all-over the top of the roast. Combine all of the ingredients together and massage over top, making sure to use extra mix around the knife holes. Fill the bottom of the baking pan with a half inch of chicken stock. Roast at 400°F for about 45 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool for about ten minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Drunken Tequila Shrimp

Tequila Shrimp Flambe

Tequila Shrimp Cream Sauce

Tequila Shrimp 2

After having a whack of shrimp left over from a previous dinner, I was looking to experiment with a new dish and stumbled upon this recipe. I liked that it had few ingredients and was short on prep time, but was a little concerned about never having actually attempted to flambé anything before.

Armed with extra-long matches and my sturdiest cast iron pan, I gave it a go and it turned out great. The tequila adds a lot of interesting flavour, but avoids tasting like you marinated your shrimp in a summer cocktail. Don’t be alarmed at how long the liquor takes to burn off (or how high the flames are), just stand back and carefully shake the pan from time to time wearing a good quality oven glove.

Tequila Shrimp

1.5 lbs. large shrimp (think about 20 per pound), peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 bunch green onions, chopped on the diagonal
fresh cilantro
kosher salt and pepper

Toss shrimp with salt and pepper and set aside. Place coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add shrimp and sauté until they’re pink and opaque, about five minutes.

Turn heat down low and slowly pour the tequila into the pan. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and use a long match to set fire to the tequila. Careful here – flames may be big and shoot up high. Stand back and carefully shake the pan as the flames die down.

Once the fire has subsided, remove the pan from the heat and add in cream. Mix well and sprinkle with green onions and chopped cilantro. Serve over brown rice and/or quinoa and enjoy!

Figgy Tarts

Fig Oregano Tart Ingredients


Fig Tarts with Puff Pastry

Fig Tarts with Honey Puff Pastry and Oregano

Easy Fig Tarts

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how hard of a time I had finding fresh figs for this salad I was making. Well now, of course, they’re everywhere. In fact, I bought a whole tray of green figs at the market the other day for less than $3! I’ve been enjoying them with honey in Greek yoghurt, with my morning granola, in salads, etc., but I also wanted to incorporate them into an easy warm-weather dessert.

Enter, these tarts. Since I made them with pre-fab puff pastry, they were super-easy and fast to put together, but their presentation is still lovely. The herb leaves add a savoury twist to the flavour, which also makes them ideal for a cocktail party appetizer or even any bridal or baby showers you have coming up this summer. Plus, you can change up the look depending on the shape of cookie-cutter and types of herbs you use.

Easy Fig and Herb Tarts
(makes about 10)

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon honey
fresh oregano (or other herbs, such as tarragon or thyme)
3 fresh figs
5 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the vanilla and sugar in a small bowl and mix together until crumbly, then set aside. Mix the honey with a small amount of warm water in another small bowl (start with about a teaspoon of water) and stir until it’s well combined with a watery texture and set aside. Gently wash and dry each fig then slice each into eight wedges.

Unroll your puff pastry and place with its parchment paper onto a large baking sheet. Lightly dust it with flour and use a medium-sized cookie cutter also dusted in flour (mine was about 2″x 3″) to cut out each tart. Carefully peel away the excess dough and place the baking sheet in the freezer for about ten minutes.

Use a spatula to evenly space the pastries on your baking sheet. One by one, use a pastry brush to paint each piece with the honey mixture before decorating with one to two fig slices. Carefully remove the herb leaves from their sprigs and arrange on the tart. Once in position, paint the leaves down with the honey mixture. Choosing leaves that look “flat” on the sprig will help them stay in place, and you can also push them gently into the pastry to help them stay put.

Once you’ve decorated each tart, sprinkle each with the vanilla sugar. Bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes until just lightly golden. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Antique Gold TelephoneYou rang? An antique telephone for my office makes taking calls a lot more interesting.

Marble and Gold Salt Cellars Indigo

Loving these marble salt cellars spotted at the Indigo holiday preview – I’ll be first in line to scoop them up when they land in stores in the Fall.

Fat Pasha Toronto Latka Platter

Indulged in an amazing meal at Toronto’s Fat Pasha restaurant this week, including these to-die-for latkas.

Picnic basket C Wonder

Summers are for picnics! Enjoying time in the park with my favourite picnic basket from C. Wonder.


Summer Dinner Party

Easy White Balloon Garland

Add a fun twist to any room with a quick balloon garland. I hung a gold ribbon across the dining room ceiling then tied white balloons to it at different lengths to create a tent-like feeling.

Summer Party Place SettingsPink peonies, sky blue napkins, fun, conversation starter place cards and my new favourite crystal goblets (snatched up at an antique market) make a colourful, summery table setting.

Winston Hamish Frenchie NecklaceWinston Hamish in his party best.

Tempt 9 Cider

While rosé and white wine were on ice for dinner, I always like to have some cocktail options on standby for when people walk in the door. Aside from serving these, this cider also caught my eye for its pretty packaging, so I made a batch of it in a pitcher along with mint and sliced strawberries and limes for quick and easy refills.

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

A classic Caprese salad is always one of my favourites for fresh, easy, summer dining. A high quality balsamic vinegar is a must – or you can take whatever you have up a notch by making a reduction. Just bring two parts vinegar and one part honey to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce to a simmer until it thickens into a syrup-like sauce (about 15 minutes).

Halloumi Cheese wrapped in Grape Leaves

Halloumi baked in grape leaves is another excellent summer starter that doesn’t take much effort. Place thick slices of halloumi cheese on a rinsed and dried grape leaf (find them in a jar in most grocery stores), drizzle with olive oil, fresh, chopped garlic, basil and pepper. Wrap the leaf completely around the cheese and bake for about ten minutes at 400°F. Make a lot because your guests will love ‘em.

Ottolenghi Cucumber Salad with Chili and Poppyseeds

Ottolenghi’s Cucumber Salad with Chili and Poppyseeds is made with the tastier, smaller cucumbers and is another dish you can whip up ahead of time to keep your menu light and refreshing. Simply slice six to eight mini cucumbers on the diagonal and combine with all of the ingredients listed here.

Summer Salad with Green Figs Strawberries Goat Cheese Honey

This salad just looks like summer on a plate. Admittedly, I had a hard time finding fresh figs at this time of year (even at the farmer’s market) but I finally stumbled upon some great green ones in my neighborhood and they really made the dish. Combine arugula with a handful of chopped basil leaves, small strawberries, goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey and olive oil.

Chicken with Mint Lemon and Almonds

This roasted chicken from Donna Hay’s Seasons is another easy addition. I picked up two chickens just over a couple of pounds each and had the butcher butterfly them for me. Roasting them flat cuts your cooking time in half. Once out of the oven, top with a zesty sauce of mint, chopped almonds, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.

Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream Cake

What could be more fun (or summery) than ice cream cake? Bring this childhood throwback into an adult setting by skipping the frosting, whipped cream and sprinkles in favour of better flavours (Bordeaux cherry and classic vanilla) and a topping of fresh berries and mint leaves.

Havana Special

Havana Special CocktailLuxardo Maraschino Liqeur

While I had my fair share of mojitos and Cuba Libres while in Cuba a couple of weeks ago, I also discovered a new favourite cocktail perfect for the summer months–the Havana Special. The special ingredient is maraschino liqueur, which is made from sour Marasca cherries and their pits, which give it a very dry and subtle almond flavour (nothing like those syrupy-sweet maraschino cherries in the baking aisle).

The maraschino cherries we think of today did get their name from the original Marasca cherries, which are mostly found around the Dalmatian coast,  and were often preserved in maraschino liqueur and consumed as quite a rare delicacy. Since they were not readily available, and consequently very expensive, imitation “maraschino” cherries were soon being produced with other varieties of cherries and the help of food colouring and sweeteners.

You can serve this liqueur over ice cream, drink it alone over ice after dinner or use it to add complexity to many cocktails. I suggest you start with the below:

Havana Special

1 oz. light rum
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
pineapple juice (fresh, if possible)

Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and serve in a coupe glass, or simply serve on the rocks in an old fashioned glass. Enjoy!


Petits Fours

Sofia Rose Wine Francis CoppolaSummer of Rosé – my new favourite, Francis Coppola Sofia, looks just as gorgeous as it tastes, making it a perfect hostess gift for one of your summer barbecues.

Remedios Cuba

Stopping for Cubatas (a Cuba Libre with dark rum) in the town square of Remedios during our recent summer break in Cuba.

Wimbledon Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries and cream for breakfast at Wimbledon early Sunday morning.

Nadege Tatin and Macarons

Late afternoon break at Nadège, complete with a coconut pineapple tatin (and macarons, of course).

Peaches Roasted in Honey with Rosemary and Lavender

Honey, Lemon and Rosemary

Roasted Peaches with Honey and Rosemary

Now that summer long weekends are in full effect, easy recipes that keep time in the kitchen to a minimum are key. These peaches fit the bill since they can be roasted ahead of time and kept on warm during dinner. They’re a simple approach to entertaining, but look summery and appetizing all the same.

Roasted Peaches with Honey, Rosemary and Lavender
(serves 8)

4 peaches
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. butter
sprigs of fresh rosemary and lavender
mascarpone cheese
vanilla ice cream

Half each peach and remove the pit. Place each peach in a large baking dish, cut side up. Combine lemon zest, honey, water and pinches of salt and cardamom together and pour over the peaches, into the dish. Place a large dot of butter over each peach and sprinkle with herbs.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, using the liquid to baste the peaches a couple of times as they roast. Serve each warm peach with a small scoop of mascarpone cheese and vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of liquid from the pan. Enjoy!

World Cup Snack: Fried Plantains

Green Plantains

Pressing Green Plantains

Flattened Plantain Fried Green Plantains with Salt

Fried plantains are a popular sidedish in many parts of South America–my favourite ones are actually made from ripe (brown) plantains, which make the final product quite sweet and perfect for dessert. These “chips”, however, are made from green plantains, which give them a savoury flavour perfect with salt and a even a little queso fresco on the side. Since we’re in the swing of World Cup fever, these would be an ideal snack to make if you’re having friends over to watch a match. I topped these ones off with a little Maldon sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, but a little chili pepper, garlic salt or even cinnamon would work nicely, as well.

Fried Plantains
(makes about 16)

4 large green plantains
vegetable oil
salt + other spices

Use a small, sharp knife to cut the ends off each plantain. Hold each plantain vertically, balanced on a cutting board, and carefully use the knife to peel off all of the tough skin. (If the skin is not as tough, you may be able to slice it open and peel off the entire peel with your fingers.) Cut each plantain into 4 equal pieces.

In the meantime, add just under an inch of oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Line a cookie tray with paper towl, and a cutting board with wax paper. One the oil is hot enough (use a small piece of bread to check if it starts “frying” immediately when dipped in the pan), fry the plantain chunks in small batches for 2-3 minutes at a time. Use tongs to remove them to the paper towel-lined tray to cool and dry.

Once dry, place the plantains flat bottom down on the wax paper one at a time. Cover the top with another piece of wax paper and use another small board (we used a bamboo cheese board) to press hard against the top to flatten it (this takes a little bit of muscle power!) Once flattened, use a spatula to carefully pick up the plantain and place it in the pan to fry for 2 more minutes, until golden. Remove once again to the paper towel to dry. Sprinkle with salt and spice of your choice before placing on an oven-safe plate in a warm oven while you continue. Squeeze fresh lime over top right before serving. Enjoy!

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

Carmelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

I’ve only ever used fennel in one other recipe, which is for a tomato-based fish stew I usually make in the fall and winter. However, thanks to this lovely dish (another stellar find in Plenty), which uses fennel as the star ingredient, I’ve decided I’ll probably start eating a lot more of it! It pretty much blew me away, and it would be a killer side dish to serve for guests if you’re looking to impress. I only made a few small changes to the original recipe, which were to omit the dill (I’m not a huge fan, and so didn’t happen to have any on hand) and switched out the butter and oil combo for straight coconut oil, which worked quite nicely.

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese
(serves 4)
4 small fennel bulbs (or 2 standard large ones)
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fennel seeds
coarse sea salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 cup roughly chopped dill
5 oz young and creamy goat cheese
zest of 1 lemon

Cut off the stalks and fronds from the fennel (you can reserve some of the fronds for garnish). Remove any tough or brown layers from the bulbs, and the hard part of the base, while still making sure the whole bulb will still be held together. Slice lengthways into half inch slices.

Melt the butter and oil (or coconut oil) in a large frying pan over high heat. Once hot, place the fennel slices into the pan (without crowding them – you may need to do a few batches) and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Once you have seared all of the fennel, add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan (I turned the heat down to medium here) and stir quickly for 30 seconds. Return the fennel slices to the pan and allow to caramelize (ensure they remain firm) for one to two minutes.

Allow to cool, then toss with garlic and dill (if you like!). Before serving, garnish with teaspoons of goat cheese, lemon zest and fennel fronds. Enjoy!