Archive for November, 2011

This recipe from the February 2008 issue of Bon Appetit features a delicious sauce of shallots, Armagnac, prunes and thyme. Brown the chicken and remove it from the pan, leaving a lovely fond in the bottom. Add the shallots, Armagnac (I used regular brandy, which was fine), stock, prunes and thyme and bring to a boil. Add the chicken back in and simmer until cooked through. Remove the chicken again, stir vinegar into sauce, season and pour the sauce over the chicken. This is a tasty weeknight meal and would also be great for a casual dinner party.

Avoiding additives and preservatives

The items in this recipe that could contain additives and preservatives include the prunes, chicken broth, and sherry wine vinegar. Look for prunes without sulfites added and an additive-free stock such as Imagine brand. Instead of sherry wine vinegar, try a balsamic vinegar containing only naturally occurring sulfites. I use Acetaia La Bonissima Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Green). It is reasonably priced and imported by Sarafino in Uxbridge. You can find a list of where to buy Sarafino products in Ontario at

Boil prunes in Armagnac

Brown chicken well on all sides

Brown shallots

Add broth, prunes and thyme sprigs

Return chicken to pan and simmer until cooked

Chicken with Shallots, Prunes and Armagnac


1 cup large pitted prunes (about 20)

2/3 cup Armagnac or other brandy, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 4-pound cut-up free-range chicken

12 large shallots, peeled

1 ¼ cups organic chicken broth

3 large fresh thyme sprigs plus 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon Sherry wine vinegar


Boil prunes with 1/3 cup Armagnac in small saucepan until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add to skillet, skin side down; cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings. Add shallots; cook until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/3 cup Armagnac; boil 30 seconds, scraping up browned bits. Add broth, prunes, and thyme sprigs; bring to boil. Add chicken in single layer, skin side up, and any accumulated juices. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 17 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate.

Stir vinegar into sauce; simmer until thickened, 3 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with chopped thyme. Serves 4.

From the February 2008 issue of Bon Appetit

Now that we’re in the apartment for the winter, I no longer have access to a barbecue. For a year-round barbecuing person, this has been a challenge. However, it has provided an opportunity to experiment with the oven. And with the smoke detector.

This recipe for pan-fried steak is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Cooking with Jamie. The recipe calls for one-inch-thick sirloin steaks, but I have also used rib-eyes, with good results. You can make a pan sauce or not. This is my recipe for Brussels sprouts and squash and it couldn’t be easier – just toss the vegetables with oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 30 minutes.

You may think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, but if you haven’t tried roasting them, this recipe may change your mind. Roasting brings out their nutty flavour, and, unlike what happens when they are boiled or steamed, they don’t turn that insipid shade of green.

You can cook this dinner in about 45 minutes, including preheating the oven. It’s not exactly a meat-and-potatoes meal, but it’s close, and just as satisfying.

Toss sprouts and squash with oil, salt and pepper

Fry steak in a hot pan, about 8 minutes for medium-rare

Pan-fried steak with sprouts and squash

To avoid additives and preservatives in the sauce, use colour-free butter (such as Gay Lea unsalted) and a low-sulfite wine.


For the steak and pan sauce

2 x 7 oz sirloin or rib-eye steaks, 1-inch thick, fat scored

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil

2 tbsp butter

2 shallots or 1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced

A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked

6 oz. Chianti or other red wine

Extra-virgin olive oil

For the sprouts and squash

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved and trimmed

1 lb. buttercup or other dry squash, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ tsp each salt and pepper

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss Brussels sprouts and squash with oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer, with the cut side of the sprouts down. Roast in oven, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until tender and starting to brown.

Meanwhile, heat heavy frying pan, large enough to cook both steaks at once without the touching. Season steaks with salt and pepper and brush them with olive oil. Using tongs, hold the steaks fatty-edge down in the frying pan to render and colour the fat. When the fat is golden (about 2 minutes), fry the steaks for 8 minutes in total for medium-rare, turning them every minute. Remove from pan to a plate to rest, covered loosely with foil.

Turn the heat down and add a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Fry the shallots and thyme for 4 minutes, then add the wine and reduce by half. Pour in the resting juices from the meat, add the remaining butter and take the pan off the heat. Stir around to emulsify. Taste, season and serve with the steak. Serves 2.

Adapted from Cooking with Jamie

If you love spicy food, you’ll love this Sri Lankan Devil’s Chicken from the October 2011 issue of Canadian Living. Drumsticks marinate briefly in salt and turmeric before being browned. The heat comes from a tomato-vinegar-cayenne-garlic sauce, dried hot peppers and fresh hot peppers. I used dried cayenne peppers, fresh cayenne peppers and a habanero, but you could use jalapenos or hot banana peppers if you want to tone down the heat. The recipe calls for curry leaves but I could not find them; the recipe was great without them. Don’t substitute curry powder, as its flavour is much different than that of curry leaves. This recipe is a keeper – spicy and delicious!

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, make sure the vinegar, tomato paste, turmeric and paprika don’t contain colour, sulfites or other artificial ingredients.

Marinate drumsticks in salt and turmeric

Grind dried hot peppers

Chop hot peppers, scallions and add a cinnamon stick

Make tomato-vinegar-cayenne-garlic-paprika sauce

Brown drumsticks well

Saute onions, peppers and spices

Return chicken to pan

Simmer until the chicken is done

Sri Lankan Devil's Chicken


8 chicken drumsticks

¾ tsp (4 mL) salt

½ tsp (2 mL) turmeric

¼ cup (50 mL) malt vinegar or cider vinegar

4 tsp (18 mL) tomato paste

2 tsp (10 mL) granulated sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) cayenne pepper

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ tsp (2 mL) hot paprika

5 dried red hot pepper

3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil

2 cups (500 mL) chopped onion

3 green onions, cut in large chunks

1 red finger hot pepper, thinly sliced

1 green finger hot pepper, thinly sliced

10 fresh curry leaves

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups (500 mL) chopped tomato


Pat chicken dry. Combine chicken, three-quarters of the salt, and the turmeric; cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Stir together vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic, paprika, remaining salt and ¼ cup water. In mortar with pestle, pound dried hot peppers until broken. Set hot peppers and vinegar mixture aside separately.

In wok or large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium heat; brown chicken, in batches if necessary, about 15 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Increase heat to medium-high; add remaining oil to pan. Sauté chopped onion until golden, about 5 minutes. Add pounded hot peppers; stir in green onions, red and green hot peppers, curry leaves and cinnamon; cook until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes.

Add tomato; return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan. Stir in vinegar mixture; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

From the October 2011 issue of Canadian Living

I recently purchased a copy of Essential Pépin, Jacques Pépin’s new cookbook. It features more than 700 of his favourite recipes from his 60-year career, updated for today’s cooks. It also includes a three-hour DVD that shows Pépin demonstrating cooking techniques. I have been sampling a few recipes from it (and my friend Allan Stanley just received his copy, so I’m looking forward to hearing what he makes). The best recipe I have made so far is this Lamb Couscous, which is wonderful. It features a delicious harissa sauce, melt-in-your mouth lamb, and fig-studded couscous. It’s a delicious meal to share on a chilly fall night.

I used my own recipe for harissa; it follows the Pépin version. To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, make the harissa from scratch and make sure the chickpeas are all-natural (such as President’s Choice Blue Menu brand). Make sure the butter does not contain colour (such as Gay Lea unsalted butter) and that the figs are sulfite-free (I used Aurora brand for this recipe).

Make the spicy harissa from scratch

Simmer the lamb in water and spices

Meanwhile, cut up the vegetables

Add the vegetables to the lamb

Simmer the lamb and vegetables together until they are tender

Stir figs and couscous to coat with butter before adding water

Lamb Cousous



2 ounces dried Ancho chiles (6-8)

5 cups water

8 garlic cloves

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

(Ingredients for alternate version:

4 tbsp sweet paprika

2 chipotle in adobo, minced, plus 1 tsp adobo sauce

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 tsp ground cumin

4 tsp ground caraway

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing)


1½ lbs very lean boneless lamb, preferably from the shank or shoulder, cut into 1½ inch chunks.

3 cups water

5 garlic cloves

1 piece ginger (about the size of the combined garlic cloves), peeled

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp homemade or store-bought harissa, or to taste

1 large onion, 8 oz., sliced

8 oz. kohlrabi or large white turnips (about 2), peeled and cut into 1½ inch chunks

1 small butternut squash (about 12 oz.), halved, peeled, seeded and cut into 1½ inch chunks

1 small eggplant (about 8 oz.), trimmed and cut into 1½ inch chunks

2 carrots (about 3 oz.), peeled and cut into 1½ inch chunks

1 ripe tomato (about 8 oz.), halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice

1 medium zucchini (about 6 oz.), trimmed and cut into 1½ inch chunks

1 16-oz. can chickpeas (don’t discard liquid in can)


1¾ cups water

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 2/3 tbsp (1/3 stick) unsalted butter

2 cups instant couscous

4 oz. (about ¾ cup) dried figs, but into ½-inch pieces

Homemade or store-bought harissa for serving


For Harissa

Drop the chiles into a bowl with the water. Set a plate on top to hold the chiles underwater and let them soak for at least 3 hours or overnight. Remove the chiles from the water; reserve ½ cup of the soaking water. Pull out and discard the stems and seeds and cut the chiles into 1-inch pieces. Place some of the chile pieces in a mini-chop or blender with some of the garlic, some of the oil, and a little of the reserved chile-soaking water and process until pureed. Remove to a bowl. Process (in batches if necessary) the remainder of the peppers with the remainder of the garlic, oil, and soaking liquid and combine with the puree in the bowl. Add the tomato paste, salt and cayenne, mix well and put in a jar.

(If making alternate recipe, simply combine all ingredients)

For Stew

Put the lamb in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot and add the water.

Puree the garlic cloves and ginger in a mini-chop or food processor (you should have about ¼ cup) and add to the Dutch oven, along with the cumin, salt, tomato paste and 2 tbsp harissa. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil gently, covered, for 45 minutes.

Add the onion, kohlrabi or turnips, butternut squash, eggplant and carrots, return to aboil, and boil gently for 15 minutes. Add the tomato, zucchini and chickpeas, with their liquid, return to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes longer. The stew can be made ahead to this point and reheated before serving.

For the Couscous

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a larger saucepan. Add the couscous and stir until the grains are coated with butter. Stir in the figs, the mix in the seasoned boiling water. Stir well, cover, and set aside for about 10 minutes.

At serving time, reheat the stew if necessary. Pour 1 cup of broth from the hot stew into a serving bowl and add about 3 tbsp harissa (depending on how much heat you want). Stir well and place the harissa on the table so guests can add it to the stew if they wish.

Fluff the couscous and mount it on individual plates. Make a well in the centre of each mound and fill with a few pieces of meat and vegetables and some of the juices. Serves 4.

From Essential Pépin

There must be thousands of recipes for paella. Some use seafood only, some are made with seafood and chicken and others include seafood, chicken and sausage. Some use Arborio rice and others long-grain rice. The common ingredient in most recipes is saffron. However, Bill is allergic to saffron, so I substitute turmeric, which works quite well. This recipe is adapted from Canadian Living’s Best One-Dish Meals. I used chicken drumsticks and clams, and added red pepper, Hot Italian sausage and jalapeno for colour and heat. The recipe below also includes shrimp.

Dredge chicken in flour before browning

Brown chicken well and set aside

Soften vegetables and add stock and tomatoes

Stir in rice and return chicken and sausage to pan

Nestle clams in rice

Cover and cook until clams are open; discard any that stay closed

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use all-natural chicken stock (I use Imagine brand), all-natural sausages and canned tomatoes with no artificial ingredients (such as Unico).


12 mussel or clams

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch each salt and pepper

2 ½ lbs. chicken pieces

½ lb Hot Italian sausage

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 jalapeno, minced

½ tsp saffron threads (or substitute turmeric)

1 cup hot chicken stock

1 28-oz. can tomatoes

½ tsp dried oregano

1 cup long-grain rice

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups frozen peas

Lemon wedges for garnish


Bring water to boil in saucepan or skillet. Add sausages and simmer for 5 minutes to render excess fat. Remove sausages from water and, when cook, remove casings and slice sausages into ½-inch pieces.

Scrub mussels under running water and remove any beards. Discard any that do not close when tapped. If using clams, soak them in cool water for at least 10 minutes so that they disgorge any sand inside. Lift them out with a spider or slotted spoon. Discard any that do not close when tapped. Set aside.

In shallow dish, combine flour, salt and pepper; toss chicken in mixture to coat lightly.

In large deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown chicken for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside. Add sausage to pan and brown for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.

Drain off all but 3 tbsp fat from pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic and peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes or until softened. Dissolve saffron in stock; add to pan. Stir in tomatoes and oregano; bring to boil. Stir in rice. Return chicken to pan.

Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced. Nestle shrimp and mussels in rice; cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open. If using clams, cook for only 5-10 minutes; discard any that do not open.

Stir in peas; cover and let stand for 1-2 minutes until heated through. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serves 8.

Adapted from Canadian Living’s Best One-Dish Meals

The October 2011 issue of Real Simple provides recipes for four weeks of easy dinners. Some I wouldn’t want to try (salami and Brussels sprouts pizza – no thank you) but several are very good, including Pork Chops with Roasted Beets and Oranges. Pork chops are quickly pan fried and served with beets and oranges tossed with arugula (three of my favourite things). I cheated a little bit on the prep, in that I thought peeling and cutting up beets before roasting them would be very messy. Instead, I roasted the whole beets earlier in the day, then peeled them, cut them into wedges and kept them in the fridge until dinnertime. I then warmed them through in the microwave; you could also add them to the oranges while they are roasting. I also added a little feta to the salad. Be careful not to overcook the chops, or they will become tough.

Some news I’d like to share – a recent Eye for a Recipe post was included in Bon Appetit’s “What People Are Cooking” blog. You can view it at

Season pork chops with oregano, thyme, salt and pepper

Toss roasted beets and oranges with arugula; I also added feta cheese

I served the chops and vegetables with roasted mini potatoes

Everything in this recipe is natural, so no need to find additive-free ingredients.


1 pound beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (to roast whole beets in advance, see directions below)

4 tablespoons olive oil

kosher salt and black pepper

2 oranges, cut into large chunks

6 cups baby arugula (5 ounces)

4 bone-in pork chops (1 inch thick; about 2 pounds total)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme


To roast whole beets, wrap them individually in foil, place on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. Large beets may take longer to cook through. Unwrap beets and insert a sharp knife to ensure they are tender all the way through. When beets are cool enough to handle, rub off skins with a paper towel. Cut peeled beets into wedges and refrigerate until needed.

If cooking the beets according to the recipe, heat oven to 450° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the beets with 3 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast until beginning to soften, 13 to 15 minutes. Add the oranges to the baking sheet and roast, tossing once, until the beets and oranges are tender, 15 to 17 minutes more (if you have pre-roasted the beets, warm them in the microwave or oven and add at this stage). Add the beets and oranges to the arugula and toss to combine .

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the pork with the oregano, thyme, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes per side. Serve with the beets and oranges. Serves 4.

From the October 2011 issue of Real Simple