Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ha Sikil Pak - Mayan Toasted Pumpkin Seed Dip

My husband and I went to Mexico with another couple a few years ago, while there we were fortunate enough to experience some of the local cuisine.  We ate in restaurants where they did not speak a word of english and we pathetically attempted to communicate with them by means of a Spanish English dictionary and phrase book.  One night we ended up at a local seafood restaurant and ended up as part of a birthday party!  It was quite an experience.  While we were there we discovered Ha Sikil Pak and we were instantly hooked.  We would order this dip almost daily, with a margarita of course.

This is my version of that dip.


1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 whole tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped


Preheat BBQ to high.

While the BBQ is heating up take a skillet on the stove over medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds.  Once brown and crisp set aside.

Take the two whole tomatoes and the jalapeno and char them on the BBQ.  Remove from heat when they have started to blacken. (alternately, you can use the same skillet you toasted the pumpkin seeds in to char the tomatoes and jalapeno)

Using a food processor grind the pumpkin seeds and salt into a course powder.

Remove the core and stems from the tomatoes and jalapeno.  Add to the pumpkin seed powder and pour in the water.  Blend until just combined.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with cilantro.

Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips.

Pulled Pork Tacos

Recently my husband and I purchased half of a pig from a local organic farmer.  This was the first time we have invested in half of an animal.  I remember when I was a child our parents purchased half of a cow, and it seemed like we were eating ground beef forever!  So, I wasn't sure how we would do in this endeavour, but we wanted to give it a try.

With our half of a pig came an assortment of cuts; chops, ground pork, tenderloin, bacon, peameal, sausage, roasts, hooves and shoulder.  Surprisingly enough we have already gone through a good portion of the pork.  I have thoroughly enjoyed having all of this pork in our freezer.  It just takes planning to make sure we thaw something for dinner.  The best part, for myself as a foodie, is having cuts of meat that I would not typically purchase on their own.  This has given me reason to get creative and have some fun.

As with most people, our lives get busy as the weather gets nicer.  This past weekend we actually had a weekend with little going on, so I thought I would pull out a pork shoulder for Sunday night dinner.

What better way to prepare a pork shoulder than to smoke it, pull it and put it in tacos!

*To do pulled pork well, you need to take at least two days to prepare it.  Give yourself lots of time, it is well worth the wait.


1 pork shoulder, thawed if frozen
2 cups applewood chips

Brine Ingredients

4 cups apple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pickling salt
1/4 cup molasses

Rub Ingredients

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds

Sauce Ingredients

1/3 of the rub
1/3 cup beer
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon molasses

Tortilla Ingredients

Maseca Instant Corn Masa Mix (follow instruction on the bag - just add water)


Start by combining the brine ingredients in a large bowl or container that will fit the pork shoulder.  Once combined place the pork into the brine, submerge if possible (if you cannot submerge it, turn the meat over halfway through to allow both sides to sit in the brine).  Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.  In a pinch you can use a syringe to inject brine into the shoulder, but I would recommend letting it sit for as long as possible it will make the meat more tender and flavourful.

Prepare the rub.  In a skillet over medium high heat toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds.  This brings out the flavour and aroma.  Once toasted dump into a mortar and grind with a pestle.  Add the remaining rub ingredients and mix well.  Set aside a bowl with 1/3 of the rub and save it for the sauce.  The remaining 2/3 will be used to rub the pork shoulder.

Soak applewood chips.

After you have allowed the pork enough time in the brine remove it and pat it dry.

Apply the rub (bowl with 2/3) all over the shoulder.  Once covered place in a large resealable bag and refrigerate for 10-12 hours.

Bring the meat to room temperature.  While you are doing this get the bbq started!  I followed the instructions on the below link to set up our charcoal bbq.  I also scattered applewood chips on top of the charcoal.


When the meat is at room temperature place it on the grill and begin to cook.  Slow and low!

Cook the pork until it is 190 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once it is cooked allow the meat to settle and cool down before you pull it.  I let it sit for about 30-45 minutes.

While you are waiting prepare the sauce. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour into a small sauce pan and cook over medium high heat until it begins to thicken.  Set aside.

Then prepare your tortillas following the instructions on the bag.

Using a fork or your fingers to pull the pork apart into small bite size pieces.  Toss with sauce.

Serve on corn tortillas with salsa and guacamole.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grilled Whole Rainbow Trout Served with Lemon & Chive Creme Fresh

Rainbow Trout is my favourite fish to eat.  It is tender, flaky and moist.  I have fond memories of eating fresh whole Rainbow Trout right out of the lake.  I've spent many summer days fishing and feasting on fresh fish that was cooked only moments after being caught.  Having said that you can imagine how excited I was when my Mom and her boyfriend showed up after a weekend of fishing with a fresh Rainbow Trout for us!


1 whole Rainbow Trout, gutted and cleaned
1 lemon, sliced
1 small shallot, sliced
4 sprigs dill
4 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon sunflower oil
fresh ground pepper and coarse salt


Heat the bbq to the highest temperature.  Use 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil to oil the bbq grill.

While Grill is heating up prepare the fish.  Start by washing and drying the fish.  Rub the outside of the fish with 1 tablespoon of oil, this will prevent it from sticking to the grill.

Season the fish with salt & pepper, inside and out.  Stuff fish with lemons, dill, parsley and shallots.

Place the fish on the hot grill.  You should only touch the fish twice after you put it on the grill, once to flip it and once to remove it from the heat.  BBQ for about 7 minutes per side.

Remove from heat.

Once the fish is cooked the skin and bones will remove easily.

Plate the fillets and top with Lemon & Chive Creme Fresh (recipe below).

Lemon & Chive Creme Fresh 


2 tablespoons creme fresh
1/4 lemon, juiced
4 chives, sliced


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Asparagus Hunt

Inspired by Kira's post at Bedrock & Brambles, I decided to take my family on an asparagus hunt of our own.  We went to an area of the forest where we have seen asparagus growing in the past and started looking for last year's dead asparagus stalks.

Once we found last year's dead stalks it was easy to find this year's fresh crop.  The overgrown dead stalks are where you'll find the fresh tips popping through.  By digging through some of the foliage we were able to find enough spears for dinner.   Some of them were white, since they had not been exposed to the sun.  Green or white, they are both delicious!

 Grilled Fresh Asparagus Salad with Tomato & Basil


12-15 asparagus spears
1/2 red onion, cut into large slices
2 tomatoes, cut into large cubes
5-10 pieces fresh basil
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
coarse salt & fresh ground pepper to taste


Preheat bbq to high heat.  

Toss Asparagus and red onion with olive oil and salt & pepper.  Place on a grill 
vegetable basket and bbq for 5-10 minutes or until cooked (every bbq will be slightly different).  

Place in a serving bowl and top with tomatoes, basil, lemon juice and salt & pepper.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pistachio & Sesame Dukkah Roasted Cauliflower

I mentioned in a previous post that I cannot get enough of pistachios these days.  I am finding as many ways as I can to use them when cooking. I love dukkah, which is an Egyptian spice blend of seeds, nuts and spices.  A perfect fit!  I used pistachios in a dukkah paste to marinate cauliflower and it turned out perfectly.


1 head cauliflower, portioned into florets
1/4 cup pistachios, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small skillet over medium high heat toast the pistachios and sesame seeds and set aside.  In the same skillet toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds until fragrant.

Put cumin, coriander, fennel, salt & pepper into a mortar and pestle.  Crush until it becomes a powder.

Put seasoning into a large bowl and add pistachios, sesame seeds and olive oil.  Mix until combined.

Toss in the cauliflower to coat.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower begins to brown.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fiddleheads and Fennel with Bacon and Chives

Fresh spring fiddleheads are one of my favourite green vegetables.  Fiddleheads are the curled ends of a wild Ostrich Fern. They are only available in the spring and are absolutely divine!  I cooked them in bacon grease with fennel, which gave them a wonderful flavour.  


40-50 fiddleheads, washed and brown fuzz removed
1 fennel bulb, tops removed and sliced
5 slices bacon, cut into lardons
2 cloves garlic, diced
coarse salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chives, sliced


In a large saucepan over medium heat cook bacon.  Once browned place on a paper towel and set aside.

In the same saucepan with the bacon grease add fennel and garlic.  Saute for 2-3 minutes before adding the fiddleheads, salt & pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, plate and top with chives.    

Asparagus with Wild Ramps & Shallots

The local asparagus is finally here!  Which means the nice weather is just around the corner.  My mother in law brought some wild ramps down from her place, in Bracebridge, and I was really excited to use them.  It was great pairing them with the local asparagus and shallots.  Spring is in the air!


1 bunch asparagus, washed and bottoms snapped off
handful of wild ramps, sliced
2 small shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
coarse salt & fresh ground pepper to taste


In a large saucepan over medium heat add butter.  Once melted add shallots and garlic and saute for a few minutes.  

Add asparagus to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes.  

Squeeze lemon juice into the pan and add ramps.  Once lightly cooked, about 1 minute, remove from heat and serve.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Quinoa & Kale Salad with Chia & Pumpkin Seeds


1 cup quinoa, cooked (still warm)
1 cup kale, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup red cabbage, sliced
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons chia
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1/3 cup white wine vinaigrette


Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and toss with white wine vinaigrette.

White Wine Vinaigrette


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste


Put all ingredients into a mason jar.  Screw on the lid, shake and pour over salad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Seared Chicken Breasts with Purple Potatoes, Peas and Carrots

The spring weather has arrived and I wanted to make something fresh to celebrate.  This dish is incredibly easy to make, very colourful and and fresh tasting.


2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 onion, sliced
5-6 purple potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
1 cup peas

1 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 stalk rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350  degrees Fahrenheit.

In a greased cast iron skillet over medium high heat add sunflower oil.  Once heated sear chicken breasts, until browned on each side then set aside.

Add onions and potatoes to the pan and saute until lightly browned, but still hard on the inside.  Add garlic and carrots and saute for another 2-3 minutes.  Add peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

While sauteing the vegetables, in a separate bowl mix the wine, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, salt & pepper and set aside.

Add the vinaigrette to the pan and place chicken breasts on top.

Put cast iron skillet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.