Tag Archives: sandwiches

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma

chicken, onions and pitaI live in Ottawa, while my mom, brother and four sisters all live in Toronto. I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I would like to. Admittedly, we have become a little lazy about communicating with each other. These days, it’s mostly emails and texts and very few phone calls.

Last week I got an email from my brother. The subject line read, “Mom passed!!” My heart stopped. Logically I knew that my brother would never tell me that mom died in an email. But in the heat of the moment, I got nervous, and for good reason. My family and I have a bit of a sketchy history when it comes to communicating about death.

When I was in University, I came home one weekend for a visit. I asked my sister where Heidi, our dog, was. Apparently, my parents had put her down a month ago, and no one remembered to tell me. I was also the very last one of my siblings to know that my dad died, although to be fair, the signs were there.

You will be relieved to know that mom did not die. The body of the text read: “Mom passed her drivers test today. 2 more yrs of driving at least. Wish her Mazel Tov!” My mom is 82 years old. In  Ontario, after the age of 80, you must take a test every 2 years to ensure that you are still fit to drive. I fired off an email to my brother with the subject line, Don’t send an email with the heading “Mom passed”. It could be misinterpreted.” Then I promptly called my mom to say congrats and I love you. For the record, all my sisters had momentary heart failure and my brother properly apologized. 

The recipe for this chicken shawarma came to my attention via a text from my baby sister. She is always sending me links to different recipes she thinks I would like. She said she’d never read a recipe with so many positive reviews.

Recipes are like rumours. You must always consider the source. This recipe is from an impeccable source, Sam Sifton, food editor of The New York Times. If you don’t already subscribe to cooking.nytimes.comget on it right away! It is one of the best food websites. Their Mobile App is fantastic. Not only can you save and categorize their database of over 18,000 recipes, you can also save non-NYT recipes to your recipe box. I finally have a way to save all the online recipes I am inspired by, in one place. Genius! Subscribing to their daily newsletter is free, but they charge $5 US per month for the App.

Boneless skinless chicken thighs are bathed in a highly flavourful marinade.spice rubLet the thighs marinate for up to 12 hours in the fridge. If you’re short on time, even an hour will still produce spectacular results. ready to marinateAdd a quartered red onion to the sheet pan and bake the whole thing off for 30-40 minutes. ready for roastingIf you have time, mix up some great sides to go with the shawarma. I made an Israeli salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and cilantro and dressed it simply with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I doctored up some store-bought hummus with a sprinkle of smoked paprika,  toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of good olive oil. I thinned some tahini with lemon juice and hot water for a drizzling sauce. I also added some charred corn slaw that I had leftover from last night’s dinner. Sour dills and hot sauce are more than welcome to join this party.all the fixins Stuff everything into a pita pocket or lay it flat and roll it up. Whichever way you choose to go, make sure you have plenty of napkins to catch all the drips. This is messy eating at its finest. stuffedflat to roll

Click here to print Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma.

make your own 1

Spiced Lamb Meatball Pita Pockets

pitas on wooden cutting boardOne of my favourite sources of inspiration for what to blog about next is my friend Marla. She is always trying new recipes and has a real knack for finding delicious ones. She was the one that turned me on to these spiced lamb meatballs from the November 2016 issue of Bon Appetit. I decided to adapt the recipe to create pita pockets.

I started with making a romesco (nut and red pepper) sauce to spread on the pita, alongside some store-bought hummus. It takes some time to make, but I loved the tangy, spicy bright flavour it added to the sandwich. I used a combination of hazelnuts and almonds for the nuts portion of the sauce. For the peppers, I used both jarred roasted red sweet peppers and a dried whole chile pepper.Romesco sauce ingredientsThe nuts and bread get toasted. They are used to thicken the sauce.toasting nuts and breadA quick blitz in the blender or food processor finishes the romesco sauce. It can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge. It is also delicious on a chicken sandwich or mixed in with some hot pasta.finished romesco sauceThe meatballs come together quickly. Paprika and cumin and coriander seeds add a warm earthy note, while fresh cilantro and parsley add a vibrant freshness. meatball ingredientsfrying meatballs

Click here to print recipe for Spiced Lamb Meatball Pita Pockets.

one pita ready for dinner


Roasted Cauliflower Tuna Melts

cauliflower tuna melt 1 625 sqApple orchards, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, whatever your version of autumn joy is, I hope you’re out there, savoring the season. Have you heard about leaf peeping?  My niece Rachel, who is up on all the latest trends, informed me about it. She lives in Seattle now, but grew up in Florida. I told her that those of us who live in the Northeast have been peeping for years!

As for me, my fall bliss involves cauliflower. I’m having as bit of a love affair with it this autumn. But who can blame me when stunning beauties like these keep popping up at the market. Three colours 2A tuna melt is my default go-to when I return home from holidays and the cupboard is bare. I always have some kind of bread in the freezer, a can of tuna in the pantry and a small wedge of cheddar in the fridge. Bonus points if the cheese is mold-free and the tuna is packed in olive oil.

Truthfully, even the humblest of ingredients are more special when served on toast, and this fact is celebrated in Jill Donenfeld’s new book, Better on Toast. I took her Cauliflower Melts recipe and tarted them up with the addition of Italian tuna in olive oil. brushing with olive oilSlice the cauliflower into slabs, brush with garlic kissed olive oil and roast until golden brown.
time to assemblePistachios add crunch and golden raisins add a welcome hit of sweetness. Tuna in olive oil just tastes better than water packed tuna. Look for a Spanish or Italian brand if you can find it. Unlike water packed tuna, which can be dry, olive oil packed tuna is exceptionally moist, so no mayo is needed. If you have access to some really good artisan bread, go for it. Slice thickly please and give it a light toasting before assembling.start with good breadstart with lightly toasted breadLay on roasted cauliflowergolden raisins and pistachiosI love the addition of nutty Gruyere cheese, but feel free to use cheddar or any great melting cheese. adding gruyere cheesemeltedHot and bubbly, these are hearty knife and fork sandwiches, that help soften that abrupt hard landing that inevitably occurs when coming home after a holiday.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Tuna Melts.

cauliflower tuna melt 2 sq

Killer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

ready 625 sqSome days, it seems like the world is covered in jagged, sharp edges. Nothing goes smoothly and everything irritates you. When you wake up on the dark side of the mattress, plan on having this grilled cheese sandwich for dinner.

Gooey, crispy, salty and buttery, it comforts like nothing else can.

This sandwich is based on the “Grilled Cheese with a Twist” I ate at Milk Truck’s Smorgasburg location a few years ago. Crafted from aged Wisconsin gruyere, champagne vinegar pickled onions and  whole grain Dijon mustard on Blue Ribbon Bakery Jewish Rye, it was a revelation for me. I have put caramelized onions in my grilled cheese before, but never pickled onions. The sharp tang of the vinegar cut right through the rich fatty cheese and created such flavour balance.

I substituted shallots for onions, because they are sweeter and milder. pickled shallots For my version, I decided upon a combo of cheeses. I used mild, buttery Fontina because It melts like a dream and gives you a really ooey gooey center. Gruyere adds really earthy, nutty flavours to the sandwich. And, rounding out my cheese trifecta was classic mild cheddar. Don’t be tempted to use “old” or “sharp” cheddar for this. It is too dry and crumbly to melt properly.making sandwiches 2A smear of Dijon mustard adds an unexpected tang. I also added a layer of thinly sliced Honeycrisp apple. It added a welcome crunch and tart-sweet component. If you are lucky enough to live in Ottawa, please, please, please, use Rideau Bakery rye bread!

You get much more even browning when you butter the bread, rather than melting the butter into the pan. A very light sprinkling of salt on the buttered bread, before cooking, adds a bonus oomph! But feel free to leave it out if that’s how you roll. I promise not to judge. The key is to cook it low and slow, so that you get it brown and toasty on the outside and completely melted in the center. A lid on the pan will help with thoroughly melting the cheese.cooking


sliced closeup

Click here to print recipe for Killer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

on black platter

#41. Whole Wheat Bread gets rescued!


This week in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge we tackle whole wheat bread.  I had been warned by fellow challengers that this bread was not a favourite.  One of the best things about participating in this challenge is the fraternity we have created.  We share our successes and failures (not that we have had too many of those!) as well as our knowledge.  I have discovered that bread bakers are a very generous people by nature.  They are willing to help one another and share what they have learned along the way. 

Mags shared her tip of adding vital wheat gluten to the dough to improve it.  Txfarmer shared 6 wonderful tips (including a longer autolyse time, double fermentation as well as longer kneading times) with us on how to improve this bread on our google group page.  As I read these helpful hints, I felt grateful to belong to such a giving group of bread freaks. 

Of course, by the time I actually got to baking this bread, several weeks later, my aging brain completely forgot about these helpful hints.   So I have no one to blame, but myself,  for my less than stellar results.  

Although this was the 41st bread in our challenge, this was actually the first time I had formed my bread into a “sandwich loaf” and baked it in a loaf pan.  Although this had been suggested as an option for many of the breads in this  book, I had always resisted, thinking that using a loaf pan made the bread look a little too uniform in shape and thus institutional and not artisnal or homemade.  My misshapen wonky hand formed loaves were made with love and no one could mistake them for factory bread!  However, I figured that shaping into a loaf to be baked in a loaf pan was another skill I should master before this challenge was over, so I went for it.

My little institutional bricks needed about 90 minutes of proofing before they crested up over the sides of the pan and were ready for baking.

The loaves baked for about 40 minutes and then I patiently waited the requisite 2 hours for them to cool so I could slice and taste.

Oggi was right.  This bread was dry and crumbly.  And it was bland too, just like Sally said.  I was planning to serve this bread for dinner but was not exactly thrilled with the results.  This bread needed something to wake it up!  I whipped up a batch of smoked paprika mayo (garlic, lime juice and smoked paprika mixed with plain light mayo).   I sprinkled some chicken breasts with chipotle chile powder and grilled and sliced them up.  I caramelized some onions in olive oil.  I sliced some Kumato tomatoes and washed some leaf lettuce.

Killer chipotle chicken sandwiches with smoked paprika mayo!!