Tag Archives: Yogurt

Breakfast Toast with Labneh, Roasted Strawberries and Hazelnuts

I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast everyday, for about 5 years, until I get bored of it (clearly I don’t get bored very easily!) While I haven’t totally given up on my Double Coconut Granola with yogurt and fruit, I am having a brief, but passionate, dalliance with labneh.

Labneh, also called “yogurt cheese”, originated in The Middle-East thousands of years ago. It continues to be a daily staple there, showing up for breakfast drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of za’atar to dip your pita into, as a spread for sandwiches at lunch and in mezze platters at cocktail hour. It is made by straining the whey off yogurt, past the point of even Greek yogurt. Thick and tangy, it is extremely smooth, delicious and very versatile. 

If you have a Middle-Eastern market near you, they often sell it. In Ottawa they make excellent labneh at Damas Supermarket. If you can’t find it, you can make it easily at home. Just mix a bit of salt and fresh lemon juice into plain yogurt. Place it in a strainer lined with cheesecloth, set over a large bowl, to catch the whey. Put it into the fridge to 24-48 hours. If you are planning to use it as a dip, 24 hours will be sufficient. If you want to use it as a spread, 48 hours will give you a thicker product. I have tried straining Greek yogurt as well as regular yogurt, and I prefer the final texture of plain regular yogurt. Just use full fat yogurt. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

I decided to pair my morning labneh with strawberries, toasted hazelnuts andf a drizzle of honey. Winter strawberries need a bit of help. I sliced them in half, mixed them with a spoonful of sugar and roasted them for 30 minutes. Leftover roasted berries will keep in the fridge for a week. Toast up your bread of choice. Something dense, and seedy to hold up to the weight of the labneh would be a good idea. Finish with a drizzle of your favourite honey and get ready to face the day.

Click here to print recipe for Breakfast Toast with Labneh, Roasted Strawberries and Hazelnuts.

Barbari Flatbread

with burrata and tomatoes
I was first introduced to Barbari bread at Byblos, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant in Toronto. I have baked many different loaves of bread from all over the world, but I had never encountered Barbari. I became a little obsessed with wanting to recreate it.

Barbari bread is a type of Iranian flatbread. It is fairly thick and more commonly known as Persian Flatbread in North America. Neighbourhood bakeries in Iran bake this bread three times a day for their customers. A typical Iranian breakfast begins with hot sweet tea followed by barbari with feta or salted butter and jam. Kids are greeted with barbari, feta, walnuts and fresh herbs for their after-school snack. Beats Oreos any day of the week!

If you have never baked with yeast before, don’t be scared. I’ll walk you through what you need to know. There are 2 types of yeast commonly available at the supermarket, Rapid Rise and  Active Dry yeast (also called Traditional). Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in water before using while rapid rise yeast can be mixed right into the dough. I like to use the active dry yeast because I can see that it is indeed active when I watch it bubble up in the water. Always check the expiry date on the package.

The key is to make sure the water is at the right temperature, between 95°F -115°F. Any hotter and it will kill the yeast, and any cooler and the yeast will take a very long time to activate. Get the water to the perfect temperatureI usually stir a teaspoon of sugar into my water to give the yeast something to help activate it. Yeast uses sugar as food. It takes a few minutes for the yeast to activate.Yeast is activeThe dough comes together in a stand mixer in about 6-8 minutes. Then set the dough aside to rise for about an hour.

This recipe makes 2 flatbreads. They are easily formed by shaping the dough into two 9 inch logs and then gently stretching each into a 14×5 inch rectangle. To prevent the bread from puffing up too much in the oven, drag your fingers (or the handle of a long wooden spoon) to press five lengthwise grooves into the dough.dragging channelsBefore baking the bread is brushed with the special glaze made from flour, sugar, oil, and water. It sort of looks like wallpaper paste. This glaze, known as “roomal” is an ancient solution to “steaming” your oven. The roomal adds additional moisture directly to the surface of the bread as it bakes, allowing it to rise fully. It has the added advantage of giving the crust a satiny shine. brushing on pasteI sprinkled my first loaf with sesame seeds, nigella seeds, and salt.  sesame, nigella and saltI gave the second loaf a generous sprinkle of za’atar.  zaatarI prepared a batch of honey roasted tomatoeshoney roasted tomatoes I served the sesame and nigella flatbread with burrata cheese, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. Don’t forget a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, please.drizzling olive oilI did a more typical Iranian topping for the za’atar flatbread.  I doctored up some storebought labneh with pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds. Labneh (Middle Eastern strained yogurt) is similar to Greek yogurt but thicker in consistency, almost like soft cream cheese. It’s tangier and creamier than yogurt. If you can’t find it, it’s easy to make your own. labne, pom molasses and walnutsI spread the flatbread with labneh, scattered some toasted walnuts and fresh mint on top and finished it with an extra drizzle of pomegranate molasses. wedge with labne, pom molasses and walnuts

Click here to print recipe for Barbari Bread.



Granola Bark

3 bowlsIf you’re one of those people that pick all the big clumps of granola out of the bag, leaving the little crumbs for the rest of your family, then this granola bark is for you.broken into piecesThe recipe comes from the cookbook Tartine All Day, by pastry chef Elizabeth Prueitt. She and her husband, bread baker extraordinaire, Chad Robertson, are the owners of the Tartine Bread empire in San Francisco.

I recently sorted through all my cookbooks and got rid of a big pile that just didn’t bring me joy anymore. I wasn’t planning to buy any new ones.  We’re in declutter mode around here these days. But I’m happily willing to make room for this book on my shelf. It is filled with inspiration for way we want to eat now, melding new ingredients with old techniques. These are the recipes that Prueitt cooks for her family everyday.

Start by gathering the dry ingredients. Rolled oats (not quick cooking), pumpkin seeds, unsweetened coconut, golden flax seed, sesame seeds, cinnamon, whole almonds and ground almonds (almond flour). Feel free to substitute other seeds and nuts. Chia seeds and sunflower seeds would be good. Pecans instead of almonds would be delicious. For Nutella fans, try using hazelnut flour instead of the almond flour.Dry ingredientschopping almondsFor the liquid ingredients, maple syrup is simmered with water, coconut sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves. Prueitt calls for vegetable or olive oil, but I used coconut oil. The final liquid ingredient is an egg white, which helps make the granola bark extra crispy.Liquid ingredientsall mixedspreading out barkBefore baking, it is important to press the granola quite firmly into the pan. The easiest way to do this is to cover the granola with a sheet of parchment paper and press a second pan over the  bark.
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Once baked and cooled, break bark into big pieces and pile them into a big glass jar and set it on the counter for snacking.
in a jarOr crumble it up into your yogurt for breakfast.one bowl

Click here to print recipe for Granola Bark.

with a latte

Pistachio Crusted Halibut and Feeling Like an Imposter.

At the beginning of April, I dashed off a hurried post about Alice’s New Classic Macaroons. I was rushing because I had a million things to do to get ready to travel to Toronto for Passover. I flew to Toronto on a Friday morning. Just before we took off, I checked my Blackberry to see if there were any messages for me. My inbox was empty. An hour later, when we landed, I turned my Blackberry back on and was shocked to see that I had over 76 emails in my inbox.

My first thought was that someone near and dear to me had been in a terrible accident or had a fatal heart attack. But as I scrolled through the messages, I realized that none of them were from anyone I knew. Most of them were from strangers telling me that they liked my latest post on macaroons.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how all these people had seen this post. In a normal day, I usually get about 225 hits on my blog. When I checked my blog stats later that day I was gobsmacked to see that over 2900 people had viewed my latest post. Yikes, I’d gone viral. Visions of book deals and television appearances began dancing in my head! I slowly floated down to earth when I realized what had happened. I had been “Freshly Pressed.” My blog host is WordPress. Each weekday, about ten new blog posts from over 450,000 posts are selected to be featured on the Freshly Pressed section of their WordPress.com homepage. I was one of the chosen!

For the next two weeks, each day, my Blackberry pinged repeatedly to tell me that I had another new follower. For those of you who don’t know what this means, simply put, a follower is someone who as decided that they like your blog so much that they want to be notified by e-mail every time you post a new blog entry. I must admit it was a bit unsettling to discover that that all these new people were “following” me. It was hard to resist the urge to look over my shoulder for them. I felt like such an imposter. These people were following me and I had nowhere to lead them.

Eventually I got over myself and posted a lovely entry about Farinata. Then I was gearing up to write about pistachio crusted halibut and somehow managed to injure my back. Unable to sit or stand without pain shooting down my leg, I crawled into bed. I found myself wishing, for the very first time in my life, that I had been born a male. Sitting down to pee was so painful. I have perfected the semi squat with very minimal splash. Thinking about patenting this position!

I’m not sure if it is a pinched nerve or a disc problem. I had an MRI today so I should get more information soon. I am on day 7 of bed rest and am finally able to prop myself up to type, so I thought I’d share this yummy halibut recipe with you.

I have been making this recipe for several years now. It is my go to recipe for any white fish. I never seem to tire of eating it. The crunch of the pistachio and cornmeal crust contrast so perfectly with the moist flaky halibut. The tangy yogurt-cucumber sauce is a perfect accompaniment. This recipe was created by the incredible grillmeister, Chris Schlesinger . His book “Thrill of the Grill” is like a grilling bible to many.

The fish is served with a spicy yogurt sauce. The heat in this cooling yogurt sauce comes from Maras pepper, a dried Turkish red pepper, that has a medium balanced lingering heat. I was unable to find it, so I used Aleppo pepper instead. Aleppo peppers come from Syria and they pack a moderate heat, with fruity undertones, mildly reminiscent of cumin. You could also put in a pinch of cayenne. The remaining sauce ingredients are lemon, yogurt, dill, scallions and cucumber. I like to remove the seeds from the cucumber, as they make the sauce too watery. A small teaspoon makes seed removal quite easy.

The pistachios for the crust need to be chopped quite fine or you will have problems getting the coating to stick to the fish. The halibut gets soaked in milk for about 30 minutes before breading. This is done to get rid any really strong fish odours. While halibut is mild, unless you live next to the ocean, chances are you are not buying just caught fish. The milk soak just refreshes the fish, sort of like when we shower after working out, to refresh us.

The fish goes into a hot pan coated with some olive oil. Once it is browned on both sides, it gets popped into a hot oven for the last bit of cooking.

Click here to print recipe for Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with Spicy Yogurt.

Double Coconut Granola

I have a confession to make. I have a bit of a cookbook crush. I’m not sure there is such a thing, but if there is, I have it. Melissa Clark’s new book, “Cook This Now”, is aptly named. As I leafed through this book, I felt compelled to run to the kitchen and create almost every recipe in the book, immediately. This is not a glossy photo filled coffee table book. There are some colour photos, but the stories she tells, the descriptions of the food and the recipes themselves make glossy photos totally unnecessary.

I have come to be a granola lover fairly late in life. When it comes to breakfast, I am a creature of habit. I tend to eat the same breakfast every morning for several years in a row, until I start to feel bored. First it was Cheerios and bananas. Sometimes I would get a little wild and crazy and have multi-grain Cheerios instead of the original. Then I switched over to Rideau Bakery rye bread, toasted, with salted whipped butter and sour cherry jam. Next, it was Quaker Oats Squares, with blueberries in the summer and bananas in the winter. From there I moved onto oatmeal, sweetened with a hint of maple syrup.

And then, everything changed when fat-free plain Greek yogurt became widely available at my local supermarket last year. I mixed the yogurt with some berries and then crumbled a Dad’s oatmeal cookie on top. The crunch and sweetness of the cookie was a wonderful complement to the creamy, tangy yogurt. A new breakfast routine was born.

Then, last fall when I was away on holiday in Italy there were no Dad’s oatmeal cookies to crumble on my yogurt. I sprinkled some granola on top and was shocked at how good it was. This granola had big clumps and was chock full of almonds, seeds, oats, raisins and coconut. When I tried to get the recipe I discovered it was not home-made, but was Kellogg’s Fruit and Nut Granola. I was unable to find it at home and have been dreaming about it ever since. I frequently save different granola recipes to try out, but then when I look at them again, they just don’t appeal to me.  But when I read through Melissa’s granola recipe I thought I might have found a contender.

To be honest, she had me hooked when I read the title. DOUBLE COCONUT! My girlfriend Sandy says that coconut is one of those polarizing ingredients. People either love it or hate it. I happen to love it. Without a doubt, Joanne Yolles’ coconut cream pie from Scaramouche restaurant in Toronto would be my last meal request.

The first coconut in this granola recipe comes from what Melissa calls “Coconut Chips”.  Essentially, these are just large flakes of unsweetened dried coconut. Shredded won’t be the same, you need to seek out the large flakes. I buy mine locally at the bulk food store.

The second form of coconut is coconut oil. Melissa calls for virgin coconut oil. When I went shopping I just picked the first coconut oil off the shelf, which was organic expeller pressed coconut oil. Upon doing a little bit of research, I learned that Expeller Pressed Coconut oil is less expensive than Virgin Coconut Oil, and because it goes through a steam deodorizing process the taste is very bland, unlike Virgin Coconut Oil which retains the odor and taste of fresh coconuts. If you don’t want the coconut flavour to be overwhelming, go for the expeller pressed. I used the expeller pressed, but will definitely seek out the virgin for my next batch, to really amp up the coconut flavour.

I was really shocked (and thrilled) to learn some of the health benefits of coconut oil, not the least of which is that it aids in weight loss. Apparently it contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. Not that I really understand what short and medium chain fatty acids are, but I am happy to be delusional in thinking that eating large handfuls of this granola will help me lose weight! Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which is a key ingredient in breast milk. Now really, could you get any healthier than mother’s milk?

The coconut oil is solid and must be melted before using. To be honest, it looks more like a cream to rub all over the body for moisturizing. The original recipe called for pecans but I used almonds instead.

Rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt round out the ingredient list.

Use your hands to toss everything together, then spread it out on a baking sheet.

It takes about 40 -45 minutes to bake, and you should toss it every 10 minutes for even browning.

This granola is like a party in your mouth! It has the perfect balance of flavours and textures. Slightly salty with great crunch from the almonds and pumpkin seeds, some chewiness from the dried cherries and coconut, and a hint of maple and cinnamon, this granola makes me very happy! Mornings just got a whole lot better around here!

Click here to print the recipe for Double Coconut Granola.