Roasted Asparagus, Avocado and Arugula Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

Asparagus, Avocado & Arugula SaladThis is a gorgeous green salad that will serve 6 easily. You can also substitute the arugula for baby spinach or baby kale. If you’re having a dairy meal, try shaving some strips of parmesan over this salad for a finishing touch!

Ingredients:

⅓ cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel**
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar (you can substitute with red or white wine vinegar)
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound slender asparagus, tough ends trimmed*
6 cups (lightly packed) arugula (about 5 ounces)*
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives*
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 ripe avocado
⅓ cup pine nuts or hazelnuts (optional)

* Click here to learn about cleaning asparagus, arugula and chives.
** Click here for my tips on zesting lemons.

Directions:

Whisk first 5 in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. If you would like to make this ahead of time, it can be done a day in advance. Just cover and chill, then let stand at room temperature 30 minutes and re-whisk before using.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place asparagus spears on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle ¼ cup vinaigrette over and turn to coat, then spread in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast asparagus until just crisp-tender, about 12-15 minutes.

While the asparagus is cooking, place the pine nuts into a small skillet over medium heat and toast them for a few minutes till they turn golden brown and aromatic. Be careful, stir constantly, and keep a close eye once they start to brown—they can go from brown to burned very quickly. Once they’ve turned golden, pour them into a small bowl and reserve.

When the asparagus has finished cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Cut each stalk into 4-5 pieces each. Discard any overly tough ends that did not get tender during roasting. Cut the avocado into small cubes.

Combine arugula, chives, avocado and asparagus in large bowl. Add remaining vinaigrette and toss to coat. Transfer salad to platter; sprinkle with salt, pepper and toasted nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mea Culpa!

Mea CuplaFirst off I want to apologize to my loyal readers for not posting so far this week. I came down with a wicked case of Stomach Flu, and those that have been there can imagine that food was the last thing I wanted to be thinking, or writing, about. But, the worst is pass, and I’m well on the way to recovery. So that’s my first apology. My second is to all the dads out there! I did a whole week tribute to moms for Mother’s Day, and I kinda am lacking for the same homage to dads. So for that, I am sorry, and please don’t think that I think any less of fathers than I do mothers. I’m lucky, I have both and amazing dad and amazing mom, so win-win!

Seeing as there are only two days left for me to post before Father’s Day hits, I thought I’d give you two recipes today and two tomorrow. Today’s will be a side dish and a dessert, both that we made last year for our Father’s Day BBQ. They were a hit! I hope you like them too!

Citrus Dill Gravlax

GravlaxSo how can you be a kosher cooking blog having a week highlighting fish, and not touch on Lox? It’s a Jewish staple! Confession time… up until a few months ago I could not stand Lox of any kind. Even the smell or thought of it turned me off completely. Now I seem obsessed with it! I don’t like it… I LOVE it! Better late than never I guess!

Now I realize that Gravlax is not Lox. Lox is cured through smoking while Gravlax is cured in a salt/acid mixture. The tastes and textures though are quite similar. That, and you can make Gravlax easily at home… Lox, not so much (I’m not counting those that have their own personal smokers at home). This dish takes a while to cure, but in truth, very little effort to make. Trust me this will be a HUGE hit at your next party and your guests will be incredibly impressed.

Ingredients:

Gravlax:
1 (1-pound) salmon fillet, skin on
1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
zest of 1 orange**
zest of ½ lime**
zest of ½ lemon**
1 ½ tablespoons tequila/vodka/gin (plus more if needed)
1 cup chopped fresh dill, divided*

Sauce:
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill*
¼ teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

To serve:
Melba toasts or toast points
capers
sliced onion
dill sprigs

* Click here to learn about cleaning dill.
** Click here for my tips on zesting citrus.

Directions:

For Gravlax: Heat the peppercorns in a small skillet over medium-high heat until spices are fragrant and seeds jump slightly, shaking skillet frequently, about 2 minutes. Crush spices in mortar with pestle or transfer to work surface, cover with kitchen towel (not terry cloth), and crush with mallet or bottom of heavy pan. Transfer spices to small bowl. Mix in salt, sugar, and the zests of the orange, lemon and lime.

Trim the fillet so that it is uniform in size. Using small sharp knife, poke 12 small holes through skin of both pieces of salmon. Rub ⅓ of spice mixture over skin. Sprinkle ⅓ cup chopped dill in bottom of 7x7x2-inch or 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the dill. Pour the alcohol over the fish. Rub the remaining spice mixture onto the top of the salmon. Then press the remaining chopped dill into salmon. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto fish. Place a small plate or smaller dish on top of the plastic, so that it makes direct contact with the wrapped fish. Place some heavy cans on plate so that the fish is weighted down. Refrigerate 2 to 3 days, checking on it once or twice a day, and basting the fish with the juices produced by the curing process. On the second day of curing, slice off a small piece and taste it. If it doesn’t taste like it’s getting there, add a little more salt and/or alcohol on the fish.

For Sauce: Whisk mustard and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Stir in chopped dill and salt. Season with ground black pepper. (Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

To Serve: Scrape spices and dill off both sides of salmon (some spice mixture will remain). Using knife with long thin blade, thinly slice salmon diagonally at 45-degree angle from top of fillet toward skin. Cut with a back and forth sawing motion toward the narrow end to remove a thin slice of fish. Start each succeeding slice a bit farther in from the narrow end; always cut at a flat angle to keep the slices as long and thin as possible. Serve with Melba toasts, toast points, capers, dill, onions and the mustard sauce.

Grilled Three-Fish Kebobs with Parsley and Garlic Butter

Lemon Fish KabobsSo even though it’s not yet officially summer (not until the 21st people!), it’s still pretty hot out there, so why not go outside and grill up this fish dish? These kebobs cook up fast on a grill, but can be made on a grill pan or in the oven if you are barbecue-less. The flavoured butter in this recipe is served up along side the dish after it has finished grilling, but can also be used to baste the fish while it grills. This butter is also AMAZING on steamed asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower. Truth be told, it’s good on anything! This dish will serve around six people, and is great served up with rice, couscous or pasta.

Ingredients:

Kebobs:
1 ¼ pounds centre-cut, skinless salmon steak, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 30 pieces)
1 ¼ pounds centre-cut, skinless halibut steak, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 30 pieces)
1 ¼ pounds skinless tuna steak, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 30 pieces)
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley*
4 ½ tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves*
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
2 lemons, thinly sliced (about 30 slices)

Butter:
1 ½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Special equipment: 15-30 (8 or 10-inch) skewers**

* Click here to learn about cleaning herbs.
**If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to grilling to prevent them from burning. If you want extra stability while grilling your kebobs, then use two per kebob. This will stop the fish from spinning around the skewer as you grill it.

Directions:

Kebobs: Put the salmon, halibut and tuna in a resealable plastic bag. In a medium bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour the oil mixture over the fish and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Thread each skewer with 2 pieces of salmon, 2 pieces of halibut and 2 pieces of tuna, alternating the fish on the skewers with slices of lemon.

Butter: In a small bowl, mix together the butter, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the butter to the centre of a 6 inch square piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over the butter and form it into a log, about 4 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Refrigerate until firm, about for 1 hour. Slice the butter into ¼ to ½ inch thick slices and transfer them to a plate.

Put a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Season the fish with salt and pepper, to taste, and grill the skewers until opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Arrange the skewers on a platter and serve the butter alongside.

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.

Spicy Tuna Pashtida

Tuna PashtidaFor those of you not in the know, a Pashtida (pash-ti-DA), is the Hebrew word a savoury pie, quiche or casserole. This fish recipe originally came from a family friend and neighbour, Esther Prisman, but we’ve made a few changes to adapt to the tastes of our family. The biggest change is that ours is more tomato-y with a can of diced tomatoes added, rather than two tomatoes, peeled and diced. Note, the tastes of my family seem to include lowering the intensity of the labour needed, as opening a can is a heck of a lot easier than peeling and dicing! You can also use pre-sliced olives, rather than cutting them up yourself. This can either be made as a large casserole, or as individual spring rolls for a fun appetizer!

Ingredients:

2 small onions, chopped
1 (796ml) can diced tomatoes
½ – 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
½ – ¾ cup green olives, sliced (about 15 olives)
2 cans tuna, drained
salt and pepper, to taste
1 package puff pastry dough (for casserole)
sesame seeds (for garnish)
~ or ~
1 package egg roll wrappers (for spring rolls)
oil for frying

Directions:

In a sauté pan, cook onions, tomatoes, chili flakes, olives, tuna, salt and pepper until all the liquids have evaporated. If making a casserole, take half of the pastry dough and place on the bottom of a baking dish. Spoon on the filling mixture, and then top with remaining half of dough. Make a light egg wash (one egg and some water, beaten) and brush the top of the dough. Score the top of the casserole and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

If preparing as individual spring rolls, spoon about a tablespoon or so of the filling on to an egg roll wrapper. Roll the wrapper up, tucking in the sides. Seal with water or egg wash along the edges. To cook the rolls, there are two options: You can either fry them in a sauté pan, with a few tablespoons of oil, until brown and crispy; or you can place them in a 375 degree oven on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, until brown and crispy.

Poached Cod with Tomatoes and White Beans

Poached CodConsidering the amount of rain we’ve received here in Toronto lately, I thought it would be appropriate to serve up some fish dishes this week, in honour of the creatures that we will soon all turn into! Today’s dish, is one of those that looks elegant and fancy, but can be made any weeknight in a hurry. The simple act of poaching the fish in the sauce makes for a flavourful, moist dish that you won’t have to worry about overcooking. Worst case scenario? You leave the fish poaching too long, and it breaks up… and you have fish stew instead! See, it’s all good! I hope you enjoy this cod dish. It will serve 6.

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 ½ medium onions, chopped
1 ½ red bell peppers, chopped
2 medium yellow squashes, chopped
6 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
generous pinch of saffron threads
½ cup dry white wine*
¼ cup water
1 ½ (540ml) cans butter, cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed
6 (6-ounce) pieces boneless, skinless cod (you can substitute with halibut, haddock or tilapia)
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, chopped (for garnish)**

* If you don’t want to use wine, you can substitute with an equal measure of water with a little powdered consume added for flavour.
** Click here to learn about cleaning parsley.

Directions:

Place the wine, water and saffron threads in a small saucepan and let steep over a medium-low heat while you work on the rest of the dish.

In a large skillet or pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the garlic and onions, and sauté until they become slightly translucent and fragrant. Do not brown. Add the bell peppers, squash and tomatoes, along with about ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down, and the sauce has thickened, about 10-12 minutes.

Once the tomatoes have broken down, add the wine mixture to the pan, along with the drained and rinsed beans. Stir to combine. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper, and then gently place them on top of the liquid/vegetable mixture. Cover and simmer until the cod is opaque throughout, about 7-9 minutes.

To serve, ladle some of the vegetable/bean sauce into the bottom of a bowl, or deep dish, and then top with the fish, along with some more of the sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley, and serve with crusty bread.

Greek Orzo Salad

Greek Orzo SaladSo to end off pasta salad week, I thought I’d do one of my favourites. I love the tang of the olives, feta and artichokes, along with the kick of briney heat from the pepperonicini! For those of you that don’t like heat, you can reduce or even eliminate the use of the pickled peppers. For those that want a little bit more heat running through the salad, and not just on the bites that have bits of pepper, try adding some of the brine from the peppers to the dressing, swapping out for some of the vinegar. This is another salad, like most pasta salads, that gets better with time. This recipe will make 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups uncooked orzo pasta
2 (6 ounce) cans artichoke bottoms, drained and roughly chopped*
2 tomatoes, diced (or about 20 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 large English cucumber, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½-1 red onion, diced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup black olives, preferably Kalamata, roughly chopped
3-4 pepperoncini, sliced thin (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley*
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
salt to taste (if needed)

* Click here to learn about artichokes and parsley.

Directions:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add Orzo and cook for 8 – 10 minutes (or according to box instructions); drain.

In a large bowl combine the orzo, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, onion, feta, olives, pepperoncini and parsley. Toss to combine.

In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the flavours as needed. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Chill for an hour in the refrigerator and then serve.

If you are preparing the salad a day ahead, do as detailed above, but leave out the tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and feta, adding these ingredients right before serving, so they don’t become soggy.

Israeli Couscous Salad

Couscous SaladSo I first had a version of this salad at a bridal shower for my sister-in-law. The woman who made it was one of my favourite Rebbitzens growing up, Mrs. Dassi Smolarcik. Subsequently, she and her family moved to Miami, (my Rebbitzen, not my sister-in-law…. my s-i-l moved to Savannah!), but what is Canada’s loss is Florida’s gain. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly, but I’m sure Mrs. Smo will forgive me. I suggest making this for your next meal, dairy or meat, where you’d like a nice, light salad in the mix. This recipe will serve 6-8 people.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups uncooked Israeli couscous
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4-5 radishes, sliced thin*
4-5 green onions, sliced thin*
1 can of corn kernels, drained
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped fine*
½ bunch fresh dill, chopped fine*

Dressing:

½ cup oil
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper (more or less to taste)

* Click here to learn how to clean these herbs and vegetables.

Instructions:

Prepare the couscous according to the directions on the package. Drain, and set aside to cool. Combine the cooled couscous, along with the prepared vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Prepare the dressing in a small container and combine well, tasting for flavour. Once you are happy with it, pour it over the couscous salad and mix well to combine. This salad is best if let to sit covered in the refrigerator to marinate, preferably overnight. If you preparing it the day before, you may wish to leave the tomatoes out until about an hour before serving, so they don’t get soft.

Old Fashioned Macaroni Salad

Here is a throwback to the old types of pasta salad that you used to see at big picnics. I’ve upped the flavour a bit by adding both tuna and eggs, as well as pickles, their brine and a dash of paprika. I hope you enjoy! This recipe will make 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups macaroni
1 can tuna, drained
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
4 green onions, sliced*
½ green bell pepper, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 pickles, diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 ½ tablespoons pickle brine
less than 1 cup mayonnaise (add enough to bring together, but not to overwhelm)
1 tablespoon prepared mustard (yellow, Dijon or honey)
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean green onions.

Directions:

Cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the directions on the package, until al dente. Drain the noodles, and set them aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tuna, eggs, green onions, celery, pickles, green and red bell pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, paprika, pickle brine, mustard, salt, pepper, and about half the mayonnaise. Taste for flavouring.

Add the sauce to the pasta mixture, and mix well to combine. Add more mayonnaise if needed to help bring it together, or if you’d like it creamier. The salad should be a little “wet” at first, as the noodles will soak up the moisture in the dressing, and you want it to be a little wetter at first, so that it is not too dry later. Refrigerate until ready to serve.