Monday, October 24, 2011

Laura Calder's Party Slaw!

I had the great pleasure of having a six-course French dinner with Laura Calder last week......with 80 other guests. It was a sold out event, hosted by Barbara-Jo of Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks, for Laura's Vancouver launch of her latest cookbook, Dinner Chez Moi: The Fine Art of Feeding Friends.
Did you know: Laura loves to draw so her latest cookbook Dinner Chez Moi is filled with her cute and whimsical sketches.
Held at Le Crocodile, in one of the city's most revered restaurants, my good friend, Debbie, and I feasted on six courses of scrumptious French fare. The recipes from all six courses were borrowed from Laura's cookbook including buttery onion, blue cheese and walnut tartlette, duck confit citrus reduction, carrot and cheddar cheese souffle, just to name a few. The menu was good sampling of luxurious meals nestled inside Dinner Chez Moi.
A Food Network host of "French Food at Home", I've always admired how Laura approached French cooking - with simple delicious elegance. She introduced me to fennel and how it tastes wonderful uncooked with fresh oranges and that eggs are just as lovely for dinner baked with tuna in a phyllo pastry. So needless to say, I was thrilled to finally have dinner with her, even if it was with 80 other people.

We also had the honour of being the first guests to meet her. It was a shared carpe diem moment for Debbie and I w
hen we miscalculated the start time for the dinner and realized we were an an hour early. No guests were around, not even a waiter in sight, but we felt inclined to interrupt Laura as she sat solo enjoying a glass of white wine before the flurry of guests arrived.

She warmly greeted us and humoured me as I took photos of her with my iphone while asking her about her favorite dishes. We chatted for 15 minutes and learned
Dinner Chez Moi includes many dishes that go beyond the France border. Laura did recommend the "party slaw" for Candice's Cusina which I made over the weekend for my boyfriend and I. We both can attest that this salad is a beautiful bounty of colours and textures with bold fresh Asian flavours that can be enjoyed as an appetizer or hardy main course. So try it and I'm sure you'll fall in love with my new favorite salad discovery.

1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage, large ribs removed
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel
A handful of broccoli sprouts, pulled apart
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
2 generous handfuls of shredded fresh mint
Salt & pepper
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cups roasted, salted cashews, chopped

1. Place the carrots, cabbage and fennel in a large bowl. Scatter over the sprouts and toss.
2. Whisk the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt & pepper.
3. When ready to serve, drizzle dressing then add mint, green onions and cashews. Toss, serve and party!
Try this: Add crumbled feta cheese, pan fried hard-tofu and sliced avocado for added delight to this party slaw.
Recipe adapted from Dinner Chez Moi

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maduros Plantanos (sautéed sweet plantains)

I was introduced to maduros plantanos and tostones (twice-fried unripened plantains) when visiting a Cuban restaurant in Florida. I instantly fell in love with these little golden wedges and knew it was my mission to search high and low to find these back home in Vancouver, BC.

So what exactly is a plantain?
Plantains are used in many Caribbean dishes and treated as a vegetable and not a fruit like it's cousin, the banana. Plantains are rich in starch but low in sugar content, making it a good source of carbohydrates. They're considered the "potatoes" of the Caribbean, yummy!!
Did you know: Plantains, unlike bananas, are always cooked and rarely eaten raw, even when they're ripe. The reasons are because of their low moisture, high starch content and firm texture making them unpalpable to eat raw.
Just this week, my colleague, Veronica, who's originally from Guatemala brought some plantains to the office. Sensing my excitement, she gave me a mini cooking lesson and pan fried them for the office to immediately enjoy.

I was so delighted to learn how easy to was to cook maduros and that plantains can be found in mo
st grocery stores in my neighborhood. So after work that day, I bought some plantains and tested Veronica's recipe at home that night. Success!! Now I'm sharing with you that they're quick and simple to cook and most importantly, eat. Delicioso!!


- 2 very ripe plantains (the plantain skin will look brownish black)
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil

- 1-2 tbsp white sugar (sprinkling)
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Drizzle olive oil when the skillet is hot.
2. Peel the plantains then cut at an angle, about 1/2" thick.
3. Add plantain to skillet and brown each side, about 1-2 minutes per side.
4. Once plantains are caramelized, remove from skillet. Then shower with sugar and toasted sesame seeds.

Try this: You can jazz-up maduros as a dessert by drizzling over them with scrumptious dark chocolate sauce. Or switch it up with some savory goodness by serving them along side a plate of rice with some spicy chorizo sausages and fried eggs. Yummers!!