Author Archives: saltandserenity

Dukkah Crusted Salmon

2-platesThis week, I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the Toronto Blue Jays or this salmon recipe. But, let’s put aside baseball and talk about Dukkah Crusted Salmon. Dukkah is a mid-east nut and spice mixture, chockfull of crunchy hazelnuts, pistachios and sesame seeds, scented with cumin, coriander and nigella seeds. dukkah-ingredientsA food processor makes quick work of the nuts and spices. dukkahI have waxed poetic about dukkah in this space before. (Grilled Flatbread with Dukkah, Roasted Asparagus with Dukkah). It is such a versatile mixture. My version of dukkah crusted salmon was inspired by Donna Hay’s recipe. To use the dukkah alone as a crust would be too heavy and overpowering. Donna suggests lightening up the coating by mixing in some puffed amaranth cereal. Too lazy to go to the store to hunt down puffed amaranth, I decided that Rice Krispies would be an excellent substitute.ready-for-crusting-1coating-fish-in-dukkah The fragrant crunchy coating yields way to meltingly tender rich salmon. Guys, this is my new favourite way to eat salmon.

Click here to print recipe for Dukkah-Crusted-Salmon.


Go Jays Go!!

Irish Soda Bread

with-teaIf you happened to have been visiting Ireland during the first week of September this year, and noticed a shortage of butter, I apologize. My bad. That was me, eating my way through Galway, Killarney and Dublin, one loaf of bread at a time, slathered with Irish butter and salt.bread-and-butterMost folks go to Ireland to drink Guinness or Irish Whiskey. When the customs officer asked us the purpose of our visit I think I shocked him when I divulged I was going for the butter.

What makes Irish butter so good? Turns out that the key to their delicious butter is grass. Over two thirds of Irish land is dedicated to farming and agriculture.  80% of this land is used to grow grass, hence the country’s nickname, “The Emerald Isle”. Irish cows graze freely on grass for 10 months a year. emerald-isleIrish butter has a deep golden colour, owing to the beta carotene in grass. Contrast that to North America, where most dairy cows are fed a diet comprised of primarily corn and soybeans. This produces a paler coloured butter, less rich and creamy than Irish butter. Creamy and sweet with a pure clean butter flavour and silky texture, Irish butter is the gold standard. The most well-known brand of Irish butter is Kerrygold. Luckily for us, it’s widely available here at home.kerrygold-vs-north-american-butterI discovered the joys of Irish soda bread and butter on our very first morning.  We landed in Dublin after flying all night and rented a car to drive to Galway, on the west coast. We stopped halfway through our 3 hour drive for our first full Irish breakfast. My plate arrived piled high with eggs, sausages, bacon, potatoes and tomatoes. All very delicious, but I quickly lost interest and abandoned it once I took my first bite of the soda bread, thickly spread with salted butter and jam.

Turns out that almost every restaurant bakes their own soda bread and the variations seemed endless. My rule for bread eating is, that unless it’s stellar, I try not to waste the calories. I was powerless to resist all that amazing bread, and it goes without saying that the butter put me in my happy place.

Irish soda bread boasts a craggy intensely crunchy crust and a dense chewy interior. There are many different versions and variations, but the traditional recipe consists of flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The power of baking soda is activated by the acid in the buttermilk. 

My version is adapted from Clodagh McKenna‘s book Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. She uses equal parts of white all-purpose and whole wheat flours. I loaded up my loaf with golden flax seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and raisins.

Irish butter, flaky sea salt and tart cherry jam make excellent accompaniments to the bread. Any leftover is delicious toasted all week long!butter-salt-and-jam

Click here to print recipe for Irish-soda-bread.




“Everything” Holiday Challah

3-challahs-on-wooden-boardI have been making the same holiday challah for at least 15 years now. Everyone in the family loves it and looks forward to it. It’s possible I risk a mutiny if I dare to bake a different recipe. Yet, when I saw this challah in Uri Scheft’s book “Breaking Breads” I was enchanted. It looked like an everything bagel! I had to make it. Since Rosh Hashanah doesn’t start until Sunday night, I decided to do a test run for Friday night dinner at my son’s house.

Uri’s dough is much leaner than mine. Mine contains more eggs and oil. One recipe uses a kilogram (7 cups) of all-purpose flour. It’s enough to make 3 small challahs. A scale will be your best friend for dividing the dough. divide-into-3Each piece of dough gets further divided into 3 pieces and rolled out into 14 inch ropes.14-inch-ropesI like to start my braid in the center and work out toward both ends. Braid loosely. if the braids begin to stick to each other, give them a light dusting of flour. Wrap the braid into a circle, with a hole in the center. I found attaching the ends a bit challenging. I just sort of squeezed them together. Cover the challahs and let them double in size.

Now comes the fun part. Get all your toppings ready. I used sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, golden flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and nigella (black onion) seeds. I finished it off with a scatter of maldon sea salt flakes. toppings Brush the braid with egg.brushing-with-eggHave fun with the toppings.looks-like-an-everything-bagelInsert a small ovenproof bowl in the center so that the hole does not get filled in when dough bakes.ready-for-ovenBake at 400°F for about 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Serve with honey in the middle for dipping.baked-with-honey-in-cernterOr serve the honey on the side for drizzling. a-drizzle-of-honeyThis challah dough is much denser than mine.A very different, but delicious challah experience. It really did remind me of an everything bagel. They are just so freaking adorable. We took a vote and decided to make both kinds of challah for our Rosh Hashanah lunch on Monday. I’ll let you know what everyone says!

Click here to print recipe for Everything-Holiday-Challah.

A Sweet New Year with Honey Sticks

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins next Sunday night. We have 20 coming for lunch next Monday and I have been busy planning my menu. I wanted to do something creative and pretty for the table setting, somehow incorporating honey which we dip apples in to signify our wish for a sweet new year.

There is no shortage of inspiration on Pinterest. I loved these honey dipper place cards and thought these place cards, tied to the cutlery were just adorable. In theory, I really like the idea of place cards. They are a great way to dress up a table. In practice however, in my family at least, no one really sits where they are told. On my husband’s side of the family, they just ignore the place cards and sit where they want. On my side, we at least attempt to be polite about it. Someone, quietly goes into the dining room, before the meal and rearranges the place cards to suit their preferences. (Not mentioning any names here!). So no place cards at my house.

My problem with those spiral wooden honey dippers is the drippy mess they make all over the table. When I did an online search of honey dippers, I discovered these honey sticks. They are the perfect size and I am hoping they will be quite tidy. I ordered 2 varieties, wildflower and blackberry. honey-sticksI created these stickers using the Avery online label design program.  It’s very user friendly and has many design options. I used these 2 inch round glossy labels  and stuck them on some scalloped round cardboard gift tags I found at Michaels craft store. I tied everything up with a bright red ribbon.

I’ll put one at each place setting. Everyone can sit where they want! Wishing you all a sweet and healthy new year.table-setting




Apple Custard Cake

sliced-cakeI have a recipe for an apple caramel cake that is outstanding. But some occasions (maybe breakfast if you’re my husband) call for a simpler cake. This cake is perfect for those times. This is a dense cake. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I mean dense in the best possible sense. This is yellow cake at it’s finest. Owing to butter, eggs, whole milk and sour cream it has a compact velvety texture.

My dad would have described this cake as plain. And he would have meant it as a great compliment. He liked subtle flavours, nothing too sweet, ornate or fancy. The inspiration for this cake comes from Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook. Sarabeth knows good breakfast!

The first tweak I made to the original recipe was to toast the sugar. Stella Parks over at Serious Eats convinced me to give it a try. The bottom line is that toasting sugar in the oven tames sugar’s sweetness and the longer you toast it, the more intense the caramel flavour will be. Check out her article if food science is your jam.

I toasted my sugar for about 2 1/2 hours. The toasted sugar is on the right. I tasted both, side by side and did find that the toasted sugar tasted less sweet. You can toast 4 pounds at one time and it will keep forever, just like white sugar. toasted-sugarStart with a 9 inch tube pan (also called an angel food cake pan). Butter and flour the pan very well.brushing-panI made this cake twice last week. The first time I made it, I found it too plain. (Sorry dad!). On the second go-round I added an additional layer of apples and coated the apple slices in cinnamon-sugar.

Half the batter goes into the pan. Smooth it out.smoothing-batterI used the first Honeycrisp apples of the fall season! Pink Lady or Granny Smith would also be great choices.slicing-applesTop batter with cinnamon apples.arranging-applesRepeat with a second layer of batter and cinnamon apples. Then drizzle with custard mixture.drizzling-custardResist the urge to turn the cake out of the pan until it has completely cooled. Your patience will be handsomely rewarded. 3-slicesThe ribbon of cinnamon coated apples that runs through the center of this cake is quite

Click here to print recipe for Apple-Custard-Cake.