Wednesday, July 18, 2012

recipe: citrus olive tapenade and chipotle hummus

Back in March, I made the trek down to the Niagara Region to have dinner out with my good friend Katie.  Both Katie and I studied Hotel & Food Administration at the University of Guelph and just like me, Katie’s a “foodie” who’s always up for a great meal.

Katie took me to a restaurant in Fonthill called “20 20 Bar & Grill”.  It offers a little bit of everything so it was definitely tough deciding what to order – everything sounded so good.  We settled on calamari (my fav.) and the mezze dipping platter, which Katie adores.  If you’ve never heard of a mezze platter, it can be described as a small selection of dishes served in the Mediterranean and Middle East for lunch or dinner – very similar to an Italian antipasti platter.

This mezze platter did not disappoint – and truthfully, we could have shared this alone and been completely satisfied (even considering we were both pregnant at the time!)  The platter consisted of the following: homemade tzatziki, hummus, olive tapenade, grilled pita wedges, crostini, goat cheese, parmesan, cured meats, sun-dried tomatoes, spiced olives, marinated vegetables and roasted garlic.  It was delicious and a lot of fun to eat.

Although the platter consists of quite a few items, it’s really easy to put together and is a perfect summertime appetizer or substantial snack to serve to guests.  I’ve prepared a mezze platter for get-togethers in the past – I love that I can prepare it in advance and that it doesn’t require any heating.  I prefer to make my own dips (see recipes below), but you can certainly buy them from your favourite store to save yourself some time (and dishes to wash).

Citrus Olive Tapenade


·         1 (one) cup good-quality whole black olives, pitted
·         1 (one) tablespoon capers
·         2 (two) cloves garlic, minced
·         2-3 (two to three) tablespoons good-quality, fruity olive oil
·         1 (one) teaspoon orange zest
·         freshly ground pepper to taste

1.       Put the garlic into the bowl of a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until finely chopped.
2.       Add all other ingredients and blitz using on and off turns (note:  a slightly chunky texture is ideal).

Chipotle Hummus


·         2 (two) garlic cloves, peeled
·         1 (one) 16 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
·         ¼ (one-quarter) cup fresh lemon juice
·         1 (one) teaspoon ground cumin
·         1 (one) tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
·         ¼ (one-quarter) cup chipotle flavoured olive oil plus additional for drizzling
(note:  you can substitute regular extra-virgin olive oil if desired)

·         salt and pepper, to taste


·         Put the garlic into the bowl of a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until chopped.
·         Add all other ingredients except olive oil and blitz for about a minute.
·         With the machine running, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream, until smooth.
·         Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

recipe: achiote chicken skewers with guava sauce

To help work my way through Chef School at George Brown, I assisted cooking classes at various schools in Toronto, including many classes featuring Chef Pam McDonald.  A particularly memorable class that I thoroughly enjoyed was called “Menu from Mexico” – it received rave reviews.  Pam started the evening by teaching the class how to make a squash and chestnut soup with chipotle cream.  The main course followed, which consisted of achiote chicken skewers with guava sauce & a green salad with fried tortilla strips, diced watermelon and queso fresco.  The students were literally licking their dessert plates – as the crepes with bananas, cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce) and ice cream was a big winner that evening.

I love preparing (and eating) theme-based menus such as this one.  With a three month old baby and a busy four year old at home, there is no chance that I’ll be heading to Mexico anytime soon!  But preparing this menu (or at least part of it) is the next best thing to getting away.

 Achiote Chicken Skewers with Guava Sauce

Note:  for best results chicken should marinate overnight


·        1½ (one-and-one-half) cups fresh lime juice
·        5 (five) cloves garlic, minced
·        1 (one) tablespoon achiote paste (available at Latin food stores)
·        1½ (one-and-one-half) teaspoons dried oregano
·        1½ (one-and-one-half) teaspoons ground cumin
·        2½ (two-and-one-half) pounds skinless, boneless chicken (thigh meat, cut into one-inch pieces)
·        3 (three) jalapeno chilis
·        1 (one) twenty-ounce jar of guava shells in syrup, strained, 5 tablespoons of syrup reserved, shells pureed (available at Latin food stores)
·        1 (one) tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
·        skewers, metal or bamboo


1.      Blend one cup lime juice, garlic, achiote paste, oregano and cumin in processor until smooth.  Season marinade to taste with salt and pepper.  Place marinade in a medium bowl.  Add chicken, stir to coat.  Cover and refrigerate chicken overnight.  If using bamboo skewers, soak skewers overnight.

2.      Preheat oven to 400 F.  Place chilis on a small baking sheet.  Roast until soft, about 20 minutes.  Stem and seed chilis.  Transfer chilis to processor.  Add pureed guava, reserved guava syrup, cilantro and remaining half-cup lime juice.  Process until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer to medium-sized bowl.

3.      Prepare barbeque to medium-high heat.  Remove chicken from marinade. Divide chicken among about 18 skewers.  Grill until chicken is cooked, turning once, about 7-9 minutes.  Serve with the reserved guava sauce.

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