Monthly Archives: June 2011

Turkey Tonnato

I named my blog “Salt and Serenity” because I need to have a judicious amount of both on a daily basis. It helps to keep me balanced and sane. Last week I moved up to my cottage for the summer. You would think that by now I would be drenched in serenity. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead of looking at this all day long:

I am looking at this:

You see, just before I moved up here I made the switch from PC to Mac. So my days have been filled with trying to learn how to use my Mac. That cool guy on the commercial made it sound like it would be all fun and games. Sure, fun and games until I can’t find all my documents. Then I just want to poke Mr Cool Guy”s eyes out!

Yes, serenity is in short supply here at the cottage this week. The nice woman at the Apple store promised me a short learning curve. Perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but I am having a heck of a time editing my pictures and creating new files. Nothing works the same anymore. Things keep disappearing off my screen and I have no clue how to get them back. I opened my trash bin yesterday, only to discover a file of photos I had been trying to find for over an hour.  I have no idea how they got in there.

So, all this to say that this week, I had neither the time nor the inclination to experiment with anything new in the kitchen. There would be 8 people at the table for dinner on Friday night and I needed a dish I could cook on auto-pilot, as all my brain cells were being consumed by my Mac.

Turkey Tonnato to the rescue! I found this recipe in Gourmet Magazine (a moment of silence please!) 10 years ago this month. It has stood the test of time. I can’t think of too many things that still seem stylish and appropriate 10 years later. Certainly today I would not wear the fashions from the early 2000’s. Trucker hats, sweat suits, low-rise jeans, belly baring tops and daisy duke shorts just don’t make the grade in 2011. But turkey tonnato is still the perfect summer dish. Think of it as the summer food equivalent to white jeans. A timeless classic.

Turkey tonnato is a spin on the classic Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato. It is basically chilled veal in a tuna sauce. The turkey version involves poaching a whole turkey breast in water and vegetables. Then the turkey chills overnight in the broth, where is soaks up all the liquid and remains moist and juicy. Canned tuna, mayo, olive oil, anchovy paste, and lemon juice are blended into a smooth sauce. While the combination may sound a bit strange,” turkey with tuna sauce”, the flavours really work. The turkey is slightly bland and the tuna sauce is tangy.

In the classic Italian version, each slice of cold veal is dipped and coated in the sauce before plating. This idea came about before anyone realized the artery clogging properties of mayo! In this lighter version, the sauce is served on the side and you can decide for yourself just how many arteries you wish to clog.

What I love most about this dish, besides the taste, is that it can be made ahead of time. The day before you plan to serve it, poach the turkey breast and make the sauce. The next day, all you have left to do is slice the turkey and cook the potatoes and beans.

After an overnight cooling in the broth, the turkey is ready to be sliced. Slicing the turkey breast is simple if you remove the breast from the bone first. Then remove the skin and just slice across each breast into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Basil is a tender herb and bruises easily. The best way to cut the basil is to stack the leaves, roll them into a cigar shape and slice across into thin strips. This is known as a basil chiffonade.

Wishing you all a serene week!

To print the recipe for Turkey Tonnato, click here.

Doing the Gombey Smash

It is always such a startling revelation for me to discover that foods I previously thought I hated, I now actually really like. And, it seems to be happening with more frequency as I age. Perhaps it’s a side effect of Botox use? (Only kidding!)

It began about 15 years ago, with coffee. I thought I didn’t like coffee, but my friend Brigitte introduced me to a big bowl filled with hot steamed milk and foam, with just a tiny bit of coffee and 2 spoonfuls of sugar. What a gateway that was. Within no time at all I was drinking a huge bowl of espresso, with just a touch of steamed milk and a mere 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. A few years ago I joined the dark side and began eating, and loving, cilantro. Then I discovered the joy of Brussels sprouts. I love them raw, sliced thinly on the mandoline, with silvered almonds, Pecorino Romano cheese, lemon juice and olive oil.  Then there was the discovery of my love for walnuts and hazelnuts. Walnuts used to send shivers up and down my spine, but now, I love them. I think I was philosophically opposed to hazelnuts because Giada uses them or Nutella in every recipe she makes. Then I had them sprinkled over a salad of green beans, thinly sliced raw mushrooms, parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil. Whoa, talk about taste sensations.

All this to say, that I have just discovered another new edible love. It happened while on holiday with my 5 siblings, 1 niece and mother. We took my mom to Bermuda to celebrate her 75th birthday. I discussed the issues leading up to this journey in my last post. If you read it, or if you have parents and/or siblings, then you will completely understand what I am about to divulge to you. Somehow, as adults, when we get together with our parents and/or siblings, we revert back to childhood patterns and behaviours.  I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with the analysis of this phenomenon, but suffice it to say, old jealousies and petty annoyances rear their ugly heads. Let’s just say, that alcohol helped to soften some of these sharp edges.

On our second night in Bermuda, we met in the bar for cocktails before dinner. I love to be with my sisters for many reasons. The fact that three of them love Prosecco, like I do, makes cocktail time much more celebratory. It always feels more festive to order a whole bottle of Prosecco rather than just a glass, like I usually do. The fourth sister ordered a “Gombey Smash.”My mom ordered a glass of water. My brother ordered a gin and tonic. I think he needed to display some testosterone with all these women! My almost 11-year-old niece ordered a ginger ale.

When the drinks came, the sister with the Gombey Smash started licking her lips and making mmmmm noises. Of course I had to taste. She was right! It was fantastic. Fruity, slightly tangy and loaded with my favourite flavour, coconut. I looked at the cocktail menu to see what was in this concoction. Pineapple juice, orange juice, apricot brandy and Malibu rum. RUM?? I don’t like rum. Apparently I do like Malibu rum. A lot!

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be with my mom and all my siblings on such a happy occasion. We had never taken a holiday together and it was very special. Now, we just have to hope that the surgery we perform on my 11-year-old niece, to remove her memories of all conversations she may have overheard while on the holiday, goes well! After all, what happens in Bermuda, stays in Bermuda.

Mix up a big batch of this drink at your next family gathering and soon you will all be doing the Gombey Smash!

To print the recipe for Gombey Smash, click here.

Asian Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

Two weeks ago, I heard my bathing suit calling for me, well not actually calling, more like mocking me, from the bottom drawer of my closet. It was daring me to pull it up over the pasty white flesh of my legs and then over the lumpy bumpy flesh of my hips and belly. Aaaagh! Can there be anything more scary than putting a bathing suit back on after a winter of consuming comfort foods?

Last December, basking in the warmth and love of a family celebration (my mom’s 75th birthday), my 5 siblings (4 sisters and 1 brother) and I decided it would be a great idea to take mom away on a little trip to celebrate this milestone. There were lots of phone calls and e-mails back and forth as we tried to figure out where and when to go. We almost had a BBM (Blackberry Messenger) family group formed, which would have made communication so easy, but then my brother had to go and join the dark side… he bought an iPhone!  Just between you and me, I think he did it on purpose so we would stop BBMing him.

Choosing when to go was no easy feat. Two of my sisters are school teachers so taking time off during the school year is challenging. My brother is an accountant and January-April is a special period of hell for him, also known as tax season. To complicate matters, we decided that no children or spouses were to be included on this trip. Just mom and her kids. So child and pet care arrangements had to be made. Finally a long weekend in June was found to be was agreeable to all.

We decided on Bermuda as it was a short flight for all and the weather would be lovely in June. A little bit of sightseeing and some beach/pool time suited everyone. Thing seemed to be moving along quite well until it was time to decide who would room with whom. It has been at least 35 years since my older sister and I shared a room and I was not that keen on doing it again any time soon! Finally rooming arrangements were figured out, with just a few insults, snide remarks and residual hurt feelings flung about.

Then it was time to choose seats on the plane. There was quite a scurry and commotion about who would sit with mom on the plane. I will not disclose whether the direction of the scurry was towards or away from mom. Finally all the arrangements were made and just the waiting and packing remained. With less than a week to go, I mustered up the courage to try on bathing suits. That’s when the realization hit me. Time to start eating a little bit lighter, although I was doubtful that a week of light eating could undo the damage of a carb loaded winter.

I had seen a recipe in the June issue of  Bon Appetit that called for serving a chicken stir fry in a lettuce wrap. They looked perfect for a light weeknight dinner. I decided to bulk them up a bit with the addition of lots of vegetables. I settled on a mixture of mushrooms (shitake, white button and cremini), carrots, snow peas and yellow peppers. A little bit of garlic, ginger and cilantro would help to bring it all together.

Vegetables were done, now onto the chicken. Many years ago, when working at Dinah’s Cupboard, a food shop in Toronto, I learned a trick to create a tender and juicy chicken stir-fry. Dinah called it the “velvet glove” treatment. The chicken is given a protective coating before stir-frying. The best coating is a mixture of cornstarch, egg white and rice wine vinegar. I think of it as a sort of sun block for chickens!

Since my daughter is a vegetarian, I also prepared some tofu. I cooked the vegetables separately from the chicken and tofu. Begin with some ginger, garlic and green onion, then add the mushrooms. They will take about 5-7 minutes to give off their moisture and cook down and brown. The carrots, snow peas and peppers are added at the very end, so that they are heated through briefly but still retain their crunch.

Boston lettuce and hearts of romaine make a really nice wrapper. We finished the wraps off with some sweet chilli sauce for heat, some cilantro for its brightness and some cashews for added crunch.

To print the recipe for Asian Chicken and Lettuce Wraps, click here.

Coconut Curry Cashews

I used to think I didn’t like the flavour of curry. And then, a few years ago, my good friend Mrs. Grizzly (that’s just my nickname for her!) brought these spiced cashews to my cottage as a little gift. After gobbling down most of the bag, I discovered that,  say… I  like curry! I do like it! I have since branched out and made Roasted Halibut Curry and Bobby Flay’s Country Captain Chicken, from Throwdown.

Then, last week I was reading the June issue of Martha Stewart Living and I came across a recipe for Coconut Curry Cashews. I am like a fish attracted to sparkly lures when I see the word coconut. I go right for it and can’t think about anything else. Of course I had to make these. (Just a little side note here, I had let my subscription to MSL lapse about a year ago because I was not finding anything inspiring in there. But I picked up the June issue at the supermarket last week and I found so many things I want to try.)

I headed to the bulk food store to get some cashews. There were three cashew bins in a row. The first had cashew pieces. The second held whole cashews and the third was filled with jumbo cashews. Ever wonder why a whole cashew tastes better than a half. And why jumbo cashews taste better than regular? Just one of life’s little mysteries I guess. So I bit the bullet and bought the jumbos. (salted, of course!) I had some unsweetened flaked coconut at home from nutsonline. You could also use shredded coconut for this recipe, but the flaked is a little more luxurious.

Melt some butter, whisk in curry powder and then add honey, sugar and water.

Pour mixture onto cashews, mix well and spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes. Top with coconut and bake for an additional 7 minutes until all is golden.

It all baked together into a beautifully shellacked sheet of cashew brittle. Each and every cashew is perfectly and completely coated. After it cooled, I broke it into little bite sized pieces and tasted. This is buttery, toasty, crispy goodness with a kick of curry. It is highly addictive. You will find yourself eating one cluster, then another and then another until  finally, your hand reaches the bottom of an empty bag. You will be hooked.

To print the recipe for Coconut Curry Cashews, click here.