Arugula Salad with Pickled Beets and Preserved-Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad

The holidays are great, and simply over abundant with food! I like to cut the heaviness of a meal by adding a fresh vegetable to the mix, often in the way of a salad. This one has the added bonus of having beets, which are one of the symbolic foods that we eat. In Hebrew, the word for Beet is סלקא, is closely related to סלק —meaning to depart. So we partake of beets, so that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart. This recipe will serve up to 8 guests, and they will depart with nothing but good feelings for the chef! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the pickled beets:
2 large red beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
2 large yellow beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
2 cups rice-wine vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water

For the spiced pistachios:
2 egg whites
1 cup shelled raw pistachios
1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning

For the preserved-lemon vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped*
2 pinches salt

For the salad:
10 ounces (16 cups) arugula*
¼ cup good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

*Click here to learn how to clean thyme and arugula

Directions:

To make the pickled beets:
Place each type of beet in its own small pot, cover with water, and simmer until a paring knife can easily pierce the beets, about 30 minutes. Cool the beets, peel, and slice into thin half-moons. Reserve each beet in a separate bowl to ensure that the red beet slices don’t stain the yellow ones. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, and 2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and divide the hot brine among the beets. Then let the beets sit at room temperature until pickled, 3 to 4 hours.

To make the pistachios:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy, then add the pistachios and spices, tossing to coat. Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Nuts will crisp as they cool.

To make the preserved-lemon vinaigrette:
In a medium bowl, mix together the preserved lemon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes (if using), thyme and salt. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk until fully combined.

To assemble the salad:
Arrange the pickled beets on a serving platter. Toss the arugula in the preserved-lemon vinaigrette and place on top of the beets. Sprinkle with the spiced pistachios, drizzle with balsamic, and top with fresh black pepper. Serve immediately.

Pan Fried Fish with Mango Salsa

Fried fish with mango salsaWhen I was thinking about Fish Week, I knew I wanted to do some type of fried fish, and immediately thought of the classic fish and chips. These days, most people tend to stay away from a heavy battered piece of fish, deep fried served alongside deep fried starchy french fries. Can you blame them? I still wanted something with a crunch though, I thought a lightly breaded pan-fried tilapia fit the bill! Served along side the refreshing sweet and spicy mango salsa, you can get your fried fix without feeling too guilty. I’d even throw in some oven-baked sweet potato “fries” to go along with this meal. The recipe below will serve six. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

Fish:
1 ½ pounds tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1 egg
½ cup milk
¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon onion flakes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons blackened or Cajun/Creole seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground sea salt, or to taste
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Salsa:
2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced fine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro*
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
¼ cup lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean herbs.

Directions:

Prepare the mango salsa by combining the mango, red bell pepper, red onion, parsley/cilantro, and jalapeno pepper in a bowl. Add the lime juice and lemon juice, and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the fish, beat the egg with milk in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, onion flakes, garlic, blackened seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, and sea salt.

Dip a tilapia fillet into the egg mixture, then press gently into the crumb mixture on both sides; set the coated fillet onto a plate. Repeat with remaining fillets; refrigerate the coated fillets for about 15 minutes to help set the crumbs.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Lay the fillets into the skillet, and pan-fry until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side. The fish should be opaque and flaky underneath the coating. Remove and drain fillets on paper towels. Serve warm, topped with salsa.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

Chicken & Sausage GumboSure, you may have heard of Gumbo, but do you know where it got it’s name from? Well, we can’t be 100% sure, but we do know that the dish we know as Gumbo originated in southern Louisiana from the Creole people during the 18th century. It typically consists primarily of a strongly flavoured stock, okra, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions. Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu (Native African) word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw (Native American) word for filé (kombo). The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. The recipe below actually uses all 3 types of thickeners, though the filé powder is optional (more for taste rather than a thickener). In my mind, 3 is better than 1! This recipe will serve about 6 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup and 2 teaspoons oil or fat rendered from cooking sausage*
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 small/medium green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
6 ounces sausage, sliced
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 ¾ cups stock (chicken, beef or vegetable)
1 ¼ teaspoons white sugar
salt to taste
2 ½ teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste
1 ½ bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ of a 398ml can crushed tomatoes (about 200ml)
¾ cup tomato sauce
¾ teaspoon gumbo filé powder
2 ½ teaspoons oil or sausage drippings
1 cup frozen cut okra, thawed
2 ½ teaspoons vinegar

* Cook’s Note: This recipe calls for the use of sausage; you can use any type you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! Remember, save the drippings from cooking the sausage, and use it in place of oil in this recipe. It adds so much more flavour than regular cooking oil!

Directions:

Make a roux by whisking the flour and ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons oil/sausage drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown colour. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn. Remove from heat; continue whisking until mixture stops cooking.

Stir the vegetables into the roux, and mix in the sausage and chicken breasts. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Bring the stock to a boil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Whisk the roux mixture into the boiling stock. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; mix in 2 teaspoons of filé gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.

Meanwhile, heat 2 ½ teaspoons of oil or sausage drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Continue to simmer until flavors have blended, 45 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more teaspoons of filé gumbo powder. Serve over hot rice.

White Fish Étouffée

fish etouffeeSo here is another classic Cajun dish called Étouffée. Most commonly prepared with shellfish like crawfish or shrimp, it was back in the 1950s that crawfish etouffée was introduced to restaurant goers in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, however the date of invention of this dish has been shown as early as the late 1920s. Originally crawfish étouffée was a popular dish mainly just in the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana amongst Cajuns in the area, but in the early 80’s a popular Bourbon Street restaurant called Galatoire’s brought the crawfish étouffée dish into the limelight. Even amongst the French Creoles this Cajun dish was a hit. Our recipe uses firm white fish, rather than shellfish, but is just as good! This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches green onion, sliced*
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 pound firm, white fish, cut into large chunks (like Cod, Halibut or Flounder)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 ⅔ cups vegetable or vegetarian chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
rice to serve

* Click here to find out how to clean green onions.

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, stir in the flour until dissolved, and keep stirring until it turns a rich reddish-brown colour. Add the garlic, onion, green onions, green pepper and celery. Sauté until the vegetables become transparent, about 5-10 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, cumin and Cajun seasoning. Once combined, add the chunks of fish, being careful not to break up the fish too much. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the broth into the vegetable-fish mixture, taste for salt and pepper, and then let simmer until thickened, about 35 minutes. Serve over rice.

Sausage & Chicken Jambalaya

Sausage & Chicken JambalayaThis one dish meal is great for a weeknight, and can be made as spicy or mild as you like. You can use any type of sausage that you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! This recipe will makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
¾ pound sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (398ml) can crushed Italian tomatoes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 ¼ cups uncooked white rice
3 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Sauté sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. A lot of oil will naturally render when you are cooking the sausage, so you can use this very flavourful oil to now cook the chicken pieces in. If you find that you don’t have enough oil from cooking the sausages, you can always add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté them until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, thyme, basil and oregano. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Serve hot!