the grilled lamb chops that wooed my husband to be

grilled lamb chops à la provençale

grilled lamb chops with herbes de provence

Spring is here and the BBQ is starting to work overtime!  Here’s my favourite grilled lamb chop recipe, not only because it is super easy to prepare but most importantly because I wooed the man I would marry on the third date with these lamb chops!

They say you can win a man’s heart through his stomach.  I’m sure there’s more to that, but I agree that good food does help!  And serving lamb with mint jelly just doesn’t cut it, so if you want to make a lasting impression, whether for your date or for your guests, the best way to savour lamb chops is by grilling them on the BBQ with a herbes de provence marinade.

lamb chops with herbes de provence

lamb chops with herbes de provence

ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbes de provences
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 medium size lamb chops, trimmed of fat
  • squeeze of lemon

Serves 2

  1. Mix first 6 ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Rub marinade lightly on each of side of the chops, you don’t want the marinade to overpower the meat as the meat is so flavourful.
  3. Let chops sit at room temperature for a half an hour.  Or you can cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, just make sure to let the chops stand at room temperature at least 20 minutes before grilling.
  4. Heat grill at medium-high and grill each chop for 3-4 minutes each side depending on thickness (about 3 minutes if an inch thick and 4 minutes if thicker).  Ideally lamb chops should be served medium-rare to medium, often referred to as rosé.
  5. You can then let chops rest for 5 minutes before serving and then just squeeze a little lemon on top of each chop.

These lamb chops go well with a Greek salad.   That’s it, it’s that easy!

grilled lamb chops served rosé

grilled lamb chops served rosé

A little heat tempered by avocado – spicy shrimp and guacamole appetizer

spicy shrimp and guacamole

spicy shrimp and guacamole

Spring is a perfect time for freshness but also for a bit of heat.  Here’s a great shrimp appetizer to serve to your guests that has a little bit of kick but is gently tempered by some refreshing guacamole.   The secret to cooking this shrimp is the addition of a homemade sweet and spicy chill sauce.

There are three parts to preparing this appetizer, in addition to cooking the shrimp, you will have to make guacamole and prepare the sweet and spicy chili sauce.  It does take a little work, but thankfully the sweet and spicy chili sauce and the guacamole can both be prepared in advance.   You then just need to cook the shrimp before you’re ready to serve your guests.  This is not a complicated recipe, it just involves a lot of chopping and mincing.  However I guarantee that the efforts you put behind this will be worth it!

Serves 4

spicy shrimp and guacamole

spicy shrimp and guacamole

sweet and spicy chili sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ cup ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hot red pepper, seeded and minced
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon lemon rind, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon lime rind, finely grated
  • salt to taste
  1. Add sesame oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add ginger, garlic, shallots and hot red peppers and sauté until softened for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugar and water to the pan and stir gently until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Let sauce simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until sauce has slightly thickened and has slightly darkened in colour.  No need to stir as the sugar could crystallize.
  4. Transfer sauce to a bowl, and add lemon and lime rind.
  5. Let it cool and season with salt to taste.

You will have enough of the sauce for another meal, as this makes about 3/4 cup, and you can keep this sauce in the refrigerator for about 5 days.

guacamole

  • 2 avocadoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • ½ red pepper, seeded and minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet and spicy chili sauce as per recipe above
  • salt to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl and roughly mash together.
  2. Season with salt and refrigerate until needed.    To keep in refrigerator cover the surface of guacamole very tightly with plastic wrap to ensure there is no air.  This will allow you to keep the guacamole for up to a day in the refrigerator.

shrimp

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 8 large uncooked shrimps with tail, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons sweet and spicy chili sauce as per recipe above
  • cilantro, finely chopped for garnish
  1. Heat a medium frying pan over high heat and add sesame oil to pan.
  2. Then add shrimp and sauté with a little kosher salt.  When shrimp is halfway cooked, after 1-2 minutes or so, add the 2 tablespoons of the sweet and spicy chili sauce and caramelize for about another minute.  Remove from heat.
  3. To serve place 2 tablespoons of guacamole on a small plate and top with two or three shrimps depending on the quantity of shrimp you have cooked.  Garnish with cilantro and serve.

It’s quite pleasant with a glass of chilled white wine, my preference being a sancerre blanc!

BB, no, not a new cream, it’s beets and burrata, an indulgent combination!

beets and burrata

beets and burrata

You can’t beat this combination, beets and burrata.  I must admit that I have only become a fan of beets, that is, roasted beets, just recently.  Pardon my ignorance, but the reason I never ventured into the beets territory is simply because for all these years I thought beets always came out of a jar in their vinegary form!  For some reason, I’ve never been a fan of food pickled in vinegar so I just avoided trying anything with beets.  And while I’m at it, why pickle anything?  Aren’t eggs just better fresh anyways and if you’re going to keep anything why not just put it in olive oil, instead of vinegar…

Anyhow enough about the pickling, let me tell you about one magical day in a restaurant in Montreal which changed my perception of beets.  A friend had mentioned that the best salad on the menu of this restaurant was the beet and goat cheese salad.   Well, this was the game changer for me, at that moment I discovered that beets come in wonderfully bright colours other than dark burgundy and that they are actually very flavourful especially when roasted.

So, yes roasted beets are quite good served in a salad with goat cheese, as it is often prepared, however you can bring it to another level by serving it with burrata instead of goat cheese.

If you haven’t experienced burrata yet, let me introduce you to a whole new world of fresh italian cheese which is just heavenly creamy.   In my book, once you go burrata you can’t go back to mozzarella or even mozzarella di bufala.  It’s just a better version of mozzarella as the mozzarella is combined with cream in a pouch made of mozzarella.  It’s quite indulgent and can be served with fresh tomatoes just as is done with mozzarella di bufala or served with roasted beets as done here.

The beets and the vinaigrette for this recipe can both be prepared in advance, up to a day prior to you serving the salad, which makes for a great first course when hosting guests.  It is not only bright and colourful but it’s spectacular because of the addition of the oh-so decadent burrata.  The roasted hazelnuts are also a must in this salad as they add the necessary crunchy texture to the mix.

Serves 4

beets and burrata

beets and burrata

ingredients

vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

salad

  • 8-10 medium sized beets, golden, candy-stripped or red beets, tops trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 200g packs of burrata or fresh mozzarella di bufala if you can’t find burrata
  • bunch of basil leaves, cut lengthwise into ribbons
  • ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven at 375oF
  2. To make vinaigrette combine vinegar, lemon juice and shallot in a small bowl and stir in mustard.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  You can cover and chill vinaigrette while the beets are roasting.
  3. Toss beets in oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer beets to a baking dish large enough to fit all beets.  I prefer to line the baking dish with aluminum foil as it prevents me from having to clean and scrub the baking dish as the beets will bleed in the baking dish.  Then cover baking dish with foil really tightly so steam cannot escape.  Cook for about 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothbpick can slide easily through the beets.
  5. Carefully uncover the baking dish as the steam is very hot.  Let beets cool for about 10 minutes, until you can handle them, then peel beets by using a paper towel to help rub off the peel.  This will also help in ensuring you don’t stain your hands.
  6. Quarter the beets.  In a medium bowl toss beets with ½ of quantity of vinaigrette.
  7. Spread burrata on a serving plate and season with salt and pepper.  Top burrata with beets and drizzle remaining vinaigrette over the beets and burrata.  Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and basil.

Voila, beets served with heavenly creamy burrata!

Tart and sweet refreshing desert – blueberry and lime tartlets

blueberry lime tartlets

blueberry lime tartlets

I know blueberries aren’t in season yet in Quebec, and it’s not summer yet, but I just can’t wait any longer to share this little gem of a pie!   It not only looks impressive but it is truly scrumptious.

Yes, these tartlets do scream summer but you can still make them now, as there are always blueberries available from California.  Plus it’s not really the blueberries that make these pies shine, it’s the lime curd.  The lime curd brings to the pie both tartness and sweetness in a wonderfully refreshing combination.  The lime curd is so good that if you have any leftover you can just eat it on its own with a spoon!

These pies will not only impress your guests but, most importantly, will make it easy for you, as you can prepare them in advance and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve them.  The only special equipment you will require; are individual tartlet pans with removable bottoms.

blueberry lime tartlet

blueberry lime tartlet

ingredients:

tartlets

  • 10 oz (285 grams) gingersnap cookies (about 40 cookies)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • lime curd (see below)
  • zest from 1 lime
  • powdered sugar for dusting

lime curd

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yooks
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
blueberry lime tartlet

blueberry lime tartlet

  1. Preheat oven to 350oF.
  2. In a food processor or blender, grind gingersnap cookies into fine crumbs.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add melted butter and combine thoroughly.
  3. By using hands press gingersnap mixture into bottoms and sides of tartlet pans with removable bottoms.   If you use 4 inch tartlet pans you will have enough crust mixture and lime curd for 6 tartlet pans.  If you use slightly larger tartlet pans which are 4 ¾ inches you will have enough to make 4 tartlets.
  4. Bake until crusts are deep gold, which is about 12 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  5. While crusts are baking you can start making the lime curd. In a medium bowl mix sugar, whole eggs, and egg yolks.
  6. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine butter and lime juice and keep stirring until butter melts.
  7. Add egg mixture to saucepan and cook on low, stirring constantly until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat.  Transfer lime curd to a bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap where you press it onto the surface of the curd, then refrigerate until ready to use.
  8. Once cooled, remove tartlets from their pans and fill each with lime curd.  Top each tartlet with blueberries and lime zest.  Add a squeeze of lime juice over each tartlet and then dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Note: if you have any leftover lime curd after you have filled the tartlets, just keep it in the bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap as done above and refrigerate until ready to eat.  You can then just spoon the lime curd on a sugar or butter cookie if you desire, or do as I do, eat it on it’s own with a spoon!  Just decadent!

spring time appetizer – crab, shrimp and avocado salad with finger lime caviar

shrimp, crab and avocado appetizer

shrimp, crab and avocado appetizer

The first signs of spring signal the arrival of fresh snow crab here in Montreal, which means it’s a great time for crab cakes or one of my favourite combination of ingredients, a salad of crab, shrimp and avocado.   Now there are many different interpretations of these three ingredients but here’s a fresh take which will be a lot more exciting for your tastebuds.

You can also add another level of texture to this recipe by topping the salad with finger lime caviar beads.  The finger lime is a cylindrical citrus fruit originating from Australia.  The fruit is filled with caviar beads of pink or green color, which has a juice that is acidic and similar to that of a lime.  They are not easy to find because of its Australian origin, however the availability of the finger lime is expanding as they are now being grown and harvested in California.  Adding finger limes to this recipe is a lot more fun than a lime wedge as the little beads pop and burst and ouze lime juice as you eat them.

finger lime caviar

finger lime caviar

This recipe is easy as 1, 2, 3, as it only requires cutting and mixing the ingredients.  The only time-consuming effort in this recipe is picking the crab meat from fresh cooked crab shells.  However you can skip this step and save yourself some time by buying fresh lump crabmeat from the grocery store that is pre-packaged and pasteurized.  Obviously you wouldn’t use this stuff for a seafood platter however it’s perfect for this type of salad or a crab cake.  When refrigerated and unopened this pasteurized crab meat can last up to a year or so, however when opened it has to be eaten within 3 to 5 days.

Recipe serves 2

ingredients:

  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced and few sprigs for garnish
  • ½ jalapeno chile, minced
  • ½ shallot, finely minced
  • salt and ground pepper
  • 4 – 6 cooked medium sized shrimps, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup fresh crabmeat, picked and shredded (or pasteurized lump crabmeat)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • finger lime caviar from 2 finger limes (optional)
  • lime wedges for serving
crab, shrimp and avocado appetizer

crab, shrimp and avocado appetizer

  1. In a medium sized bowl mix diced mango, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno and shallot.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add shrimp and crabmeat to bowl and combine.
  3. In small serving vessels or bowls first layer crab mixture, then spoon avocado on top and garnish with finger lime caviar or lime wedge if finger limes are not available.  Then top with a cilantro sprigs and serve immediately.

Voila!  Makes for an easy appetizer anytime of the week.

Easy microwave green onion jasmine rice

Love the jasmine rice but want to take it to another level. Try green onion rice.  Here’s a super easy rice recipe which is all done in the microwave.   This green onion jasmine rice is a great accompaniment to anything Asian, such as seen in my previous post, Asian beef short ribs.

I’m not one to use the microwave for much, except for melting butter, however I do like this recipe because it’s so simple and it goes a little further than just plain white rice.  In this one you just need a bowl, a microwave and plastic wrap!

green onion jasmine rice

green onion jasmine rice

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced white and light green portions
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Finely chop the green onions and mix them in a large microwavable bowl with the oil to form a paste.  Add the rice to the boil with the water and salt.  Cover the bowl tightly with microwave plastic wrap.
  2. Microwave at 100% power for 5 minutes.  Then microwave at 50% power for another 5 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove bowl from microwave and let rice rest covered for 5 additional minutes.
  4. When ready remove plastic wrap and serve!

That’s it!  I knew there was a reason to keep the microwave!

An asian take to the braised short ribs

There’s still snow on the ground here in Montreal, so sadly it’s not BBQ weather just yet, which means that we’re still braising our meat!  So once again we’re taking out the Dutch oven.

This time, the short ribs are braised Asian-style.  It’s got a little spice and a little sweetness and that combination makes this one extremely popular amongst our friends who have sampled them.  And we know this because there’s never any leftovers as everyone has asked for seconds and the plates are wiped clean!

This is another great option for a dinner party, as with all braised meats, they are even better tasting prepared a day ahead.  It’s also an easy prep, only requires one pot, in this case, a Dutch oven. These can simply be served on a bed of rice and a bold red wine will go extraordinarily well.

asian braised short ribs

asian braised short ribs

Serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ½ lbs (2 kg) beef short ribs, cut Korean-style
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 4 pieces, halved lengthwise and crushed with a meat pounder
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chile garlic sauce (Siracha), if you like it very spicy feel free to add more Siracha
  • green onion, finely chopped for garnish
asian short ribs with green onion rice

asian short ribs with green onion rice

  1. Preheat oven to 350oF (180oC).
  2. On a plate, stir together flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Dry the short ribs with a paper towel and coat them all with the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.
  3. Heat the canola oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Then cook the short ribs in the oil, turning occasionally, until browned for about 15 minutes.  Remove ribs from the Dutch oven and set aside.
  4. In the Dutch oven, add the garlic, green onions, ginger, red pepper flakes and lemongrass and sauté for about 1 minutes, until fragrant.
  5. Pour in beef broth to deglaze the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Then stir in the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and chile-garlic sauce.  Bring to a boil.
  6. Cover Dutch oven and transfer to oven and cook until the ribs are tender, between 2 hours and 2 ½ hours.
  7. When ribs are ready, place Dutch oven on stove and remove ribs and place aside. Then remove bones and lemongrass from pan and discard.  Separate fat from sauce, using a fat separator and return sauce and ribs to Dutch oven.  If you happen to only serve them the next day you can skip the fat separator and just refrigerate them and before reheating the short ribs just remove the congealed fat from surface of the short ribs.
  8. When ready to serve, just simply place a few ribs over white rice and spoon sauce over ribs and rice.  You can also add on top some finely chopped green onions for garnish.

In the above photos we have served the asian short ribs with green onion rice, which goes particularly well with the ribs.  This is a super easy rice which can be prepared in the microwave oven, yep, the microwave oven!   The recipe for the green onion rice will be posted following this post.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!