Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Try spicy dry rubs and fruit salsas to add sizzle n’ shake to meat and fish

Strap on your dancing shoes, cast a sultry look at that wallflower of a fish before you and give it your best shimmy n’ shake. Rub it down with a spicy dry rub, then grill, roast or bake it and top the hot little number with some fresh and saucy fruit salsa. Snap your fingers Latino style and say “cha, cha, cha” to your new dinner partners.

If your fish, chicken, pork, or beef dishes are dragging their feet on your dinner plate these days, jazz them up with a little sizzling action; introduce them to herb and spice rubs and pair them with some zingy fruit salsas. Before you know it you’ll be stealing the show serving zesty “Ooh-la-la” crowd-pleasing dishes without the drama of transfats and mondo-calories that trip up many cream-covered entrées!

Spicy dry rubs cling to meat and fish—helping them to brown and become crispy when cooked! Rubs are as simple as the two-step to make; just mix together a few herbs, spices and salt; then rub the mixture all over the food before grilling, roasting or baking. Fruit salsas pair well with just about any spice-rubbed leading entrée—especially grilled or baked fish. Try a salsa fusion of mango, pineapple, peach, or papaya, peppers, parsley or cilantro and a splash of guava or lime juice to give a distinctive twist to cod, halibut, salmon, chicken, pork or beef.

For spotlight-worthy fruit salsa, follow these tips:

· Chop ingredients coarsely, keep them raw.

· Chop herbs with scissors to keep them fresh and recognizable.

· Don’t use a food processor or you may wind up serving a fruit porridge.

· Raw onions should be finely chopped, rinsed under cold water and sprinkled with a citrus juice to mellow the onion’s strong flavour.

· Add onion last and don’t let ready-to-go salsa sit on the sidelines for too long –that onion will steal the limelight and spoil the graceful fruit flavours!

· Need more kick? Improvise and add a dash of tequila or rum to the mix.

· For best flavour, serve freshly-made salsa right away.

· Allow 2-4 tablespoons per serving.

Mix and match these simple dry rubs and fruit salsas to spice up your weeknight dinner entreés. Bon appetit!


Simple Curry Rub

Excellent for salmon, halibut or cod.

1 tbsp curry powder

¼ tsp cayenne

1 tbsp maple syrup

Mix together curry and cayenne. Brush maple syrup on fish. Sprinkle curry mixture on top. Bake at 425F for 20-25 min or until fish flakes at the thickest part. Serve with pineapple, mango, peach or melon salsa.

Brown Sugar Cumin Rub

Perfect with pork, chicken or fish.

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp olive oil

Mix together all ingredients and rub on pork or chicken. Grill, broil or bake until done. Serve with a Mango or Papaya Salsa.

Tandoori Rub

1 ½ tsp EACH garlic powder and paprika

1 tsp EACH cayenne, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger and salt

¼ tsp EACH ground cardamom and ground cinnamon

Mix together all ingredients and rub on fish, chicken, pork or beef. Grill, broil or bake until done.

Jamaican Rub

4 tsp ground allspice

1 tbsp EACH dried thyme and paprika

1 tsp EACH cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, salt

¼ tsp black pepper

Mix together all ingredients and rub on chicken or fish. Grill, broil or bake until done.

Mexican Rub

2 tbsp hot Mexican chilli powder

1 tsp EACH cumin, dried oregano, garlic powder and salt

¼ tsp ground cloves

Mix together all ingredients and rub on fish, chicken, pork or beef. Grill, broil or bake until done.

Fruit Salsas:

Pineapple Salsa

1 14 oz can pineapples cubes or fresh pineapple, cubed

2 tbsp reserved pineapple liquid

½ cup diced red pepper

2 tbsp sliced red onion

2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp fresh lime or lemon juice

¼ tsp salt

Drain pineapple and reserve 2 tbsp of liquid. Prepare other ingredients. Add pineapple and reserved liquid. Serve with salmon or halibut.

Mango Salsa

1 large mango, peeled and diced

1 tbsp onion, chopped

½ red pepper, chopped

2 tbsp lime juice

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients. Serve at once with pork or beef or fish.

Melon Fruit Salsa

Great with any grilled fish!

1 1/2 c. finely diced cantaloupe or casaba melon
1 1/2 c. finely diced honeydew melon
1 1/2 c. finely diced crenshaw melon
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or mint
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced or 1/4 tsp. cayenne

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate. Serve on the side, well chilled, with grilled fish.

Peach Salsa

2 cups chopped, peeled fresh peaches

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

3 tbsp limejuice

2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped, seeded fresh jalapeno pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro

1/2 tsp sugar

In a medium mixing bowl stir together peaches, onion, limejuice, peppers, garlic, cilantro, and sugar.

Peach Papaya Salsa

1 peach, pitted, peeled and finely chopped

1 papaya, halved, seeded, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp rice vinegar

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp white pepper

In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the peach, papaya, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, honey, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, ginger, cayenne, salt and pepper. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Buon Appetito: Pasta to the rescue for dinner tonight!

Your family has launched the first-round assault of the “What’s for dinner?” interrogation and you have no clue what you’re serving tonight. Deploy this strategy: assign the interrogators to kitchen duty and tell them you’re having “Pasta Rescuitto” questa sera. This tactic will serve to divert them while you seek out pasta, and canned tomatoes or prepared sauce, frozen meatballs or shrimp, cheese, nuts and a few spicy veggies for a topping. Announce to the troops that EDT (estimated dinner time) is in 30 minutes sharp when you will be tabling a delightful pasta result. Now, envision yourself as a creative, svelte-like “Pasta La Vista Baby” and give yourself a healthy pat on the back for dodging the takeout option.

Whether you’re preparing a swanky feast or dash n’ dine meal, pasta is a convenient and nutritious entrée everyone loves. Even carb-counting diners can rest assured, pasta is a “good” slow-release and low glycemic index carb which some nutritionists think may help us live longer and improve our physical and cognitive performance. It may also play a key role in preventing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and certain cancers. In addition, pasta contains plenty of protein, iron, B-vitamins; riboflavin, niacin and thiamine, is fortified with folic acid and a good source of fibre. Many varieties of wholesome pasta, from whole wheat to spinach to sun dried tomatoe, are now available in the pasta or organic aisles at grocery and bulk food stores.

On a proud Canadian flag-waving note, our prairie farmers grow Canada Western Amber Durum wheat—the main ingredient for the best pasta in the world! Italy even has a law stating that only durum wheat flour can be used in the production of pasta in their country. Laws like that make our spaghetti western farmers very happy and explain why Canada is the world’s largest exporter of durum, holding 50 to 60 per cent of the world’s market share in any given year.

Tip your chef hat to a Canadian grain farmer and try these delicious pasta recipes. Buon appetito!

Fettucine Gorgonzola

1 pkg fettucine (for 4-6 servings)

¼ cup butter

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup white wine

1 ¼ cups half and half cream

½ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup Gorgonzola, crumbled*

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Tip: Toast nuts for 3-4 minutes at 325F. Watch them—they burn easily!

Have all ingredients measured and prepared. Cook fettucine until firm to the bite. Meanwhile, heat butter in large skillet then add the garlic and sauté until light brown. Add wine and simmer for two minutes.* Add cream and cook on medium heat until cream begins to bubble, about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheese. Toss sauce with cooked fettucine and place in pasta bowls. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

*Option: Omit Gorgonzola. Add one 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered, with the wine.

Penne with Smoked Salmon and Green Onions

375 g Penne (for 4 servings)

1 tbsp butter

4 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 jar (16 oz/435 ml) Classico Alfredo di Capri Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Sauce

4 oz sliced smoked salmon, cut into strips

Chopped parsley or chives, optional

Cook penne to package directions. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add green onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce and simmer (do not boil), stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes. Toss penne with sauce and serve in pasta bowls with salmon and chives, if using, on top.

Cannelloni with Ricotta Cheese, Spinach and Currants

Serves 6-8. This recipe is a bit of work but well worth the effort! It can be made ahead, refrigerated and cooked the next day.

1 250 g box oven-ready cannelloni tubes

3 tbsp currants

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach

1 tbsp olive oil

¼ c onions

4 tbsp chopped proscuitto (optional)

2 garlic cloves

1 c ricotta cheese

¾ grated parmesan cheese (for filling)

¼ c grated parmesan cheese (for topping)

1/3 toasted pine nuts

1 large egg, beaten

1 435 ml jar Classico Sun-dried Tomato & Alfredo Sauce OR Classico Four Cheese Alfredo Sauce

1/3 cup milk

1 c shredded Mozzarella cheese

Soak currants in warm water for 20 min. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile cook spinach in a microwave dish (covered) for 7 min. Drain well and set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and minced proscuitto and cook until brown. Stir in garlic. Cook for just 30 sec. Stir in spinach and cook for 2 min. Let this mixture cool and then blend in drained currants, ricotta cheese, ¾ c grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in egg. Mix well. Pour just enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 13x9” lasagna baking dish. Add 1/3 cup milk to jar and shake well and reserve. Stuff oven-ready cannelloni tubes (use the end of a dinner spoon to push in the filling) and lay the tubes in the dish side-by-side. Pour remaining sauce over top of tubes. You’ll use about 2/3 of the box of tubes. If necessary, to ensure all the pasta is covered with sauce, add a bit of water or milk to the rest of the sauce in to jar, shake well to mix and pour this over all the tubes. Top with 1 c shredded mozzarella. Cover with foil. Bake at 350F covered for 30 min at. Remove foil and sprinkle with ¼ c grated Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for another 15 min until golden. Let rest for 5 min before serving.
Looking for an edible, long lasting, road-worthy, portable holiday gift to send to junior’s teachers or perhaps a far-flung friend in East Africa via Canada Post? Holiday shipping deadlines are fast approaching! Explore no further. Follow Caesar and Columbus’ command and say Hello to biscotti boot camp. This hard-as-a-rock, dippable, shippable snack with a shelf-life of infinity is suitable for troops and teachers alike. Columbus rationed biscotti to his crew on board his sailing vessels and Newfoundland fishermen to this day delight in dipping their “hard-tack” (hard bread) in tea. Let me break it to you, biscotti is super easy to create a la maison.

Biscotti is derived from the Latin word “Bis” for twice and “Coctum” (cotto), meaning baked. This twice-baked, hard cookie served as a dietary staple for the Roman Legions and many seafarers throughout history being famous for its super-duper indestructible powers during transport, everlasting shelf life and nourishing qualities for troops on the go. Biscotti’s real credit goes to a crafty Tuscan baker who perfected the crunchy, dry mixture by adding almonds and suggesting the handy snack be dipped in the local sweet wine. Today, Canadians from coast to coast delight in dipping their biscotti in coffee, tea, cider or hot chocolate and even sweet wine. Take the plunge and try these biscotti recipes at home. I can't decide which is my favourite but since the Candy Cane variety struck such a cute pose, I chose it to be first:

Candy Cane Biscotti

1/2 cup butter softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes (Tip: Use large candy canes and grind them up in a food processor. Pu on your ear muffs first. It's a very noisy activity!)

For glaze (optional)

¼ cup crushed candy canes

¼ cup red decorating icing

Heat oven to 350. Combine butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until creamy. Add eggs; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and baking powder; continue beating until well mixed. Stir in crushed candy. Divide dough into fourths on lightly floured surface. Shape each fourth into 9 x 1 1/2 inch round logs with lightly floured hands. Place logs 3 inches apart onto lightly greased or parchment paper lined large cookie sheet.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are cracked and ends just start to turn light brown. Remove from oven; reduce temperature to 325. Cool logs 10 minutes on cookie sheet.

Carefully remove logs to cutting surface. Cut each log into 1/2 inch slices with sharp serrated knife. [Discard ends] Arrange pieces on same cookie sheet, cut-side down.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning once, or until cookies are light golden brown and crisp on both sides. Place onto cool rack; cool completely. Makes 24 biscotti.

Optional glaze:

Place cooled biscotti on wax paper. Warm ¼ cup red decorating icing in the microwave to a runny consistency. Drizzle glaze over top in a zigzag pattern with a fork. Dip each cookie in crushed candy canes. Allow glaze and topping to set before storing in an airtight container for up to one month, or freeze for several months.

Gingerbread biscotti

1 cup whole or slivered almonds, toasted
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup butter
1/2 cup dark molasses,
1/4 cup fresh ginger; minced
3 eggs
3 cups flour

1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, molasses, and ginger until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and almonds. Add to egg mixture; stir to blend. On prepared baking sheets, use well-floured hands to pat dough into 2 logs, 2 inches in diameter. Bake until browned at edges and springy to touch, about 25 minutes; switch positions of pans halfway through baking. Let loaves stand on baking sheets until cool to touch, then using a bread knife cut into slices on an angle. Place slices on cookie sheet and return to oven and bake at 350 F. until cookies are brown, 15 to 18 minutes longer; switch positions of pans halfway through baking. Transfer biscotti to racks and let cool completely. Serve, or store airtight up to 1 month; freeze for longer storage. Makes 24 pieces.

Holiday biscotti

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chopped candied red cherries
1/4 cup chopped candied green cherries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Egg wash: (optional)
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in almond extract. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in candied cherries, white chocolate chips, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into two 10-inch long by 3-inch wide loaves. Place loaves on prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Optional. In a small bowl, beat together 1 egg and 1 tbsp water. Brush each loaf with egg wash. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool loaves for 10 minutes and then with a very sharp serrated knife cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices cut side down on cookie sheet and return to even for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Makes 24 biscotti.