Monday, April 27, 2009

Apple Cider Vinegar: From headaches, to salads!

Apple Cider Vinegar: From headaches, to salads!
By: Chef Cristian

I am very interested in the effects that foods can have on the body, and am always excited when I get to experiment with their effectiveness. I moved from Toronto to the Tampa Bay area in Florida. It's been said that Florida has 360 days of sunshine per year, and although it's a welcome change from the Canadian climate, I have been finding that the heat is quite something to get used to! Especially since I've been getting headaches (from too much heat and loss of minerals through sweat). So I decided to be my own Guinea Pig and try to see if a natural solution was to be found.

I never take drugs, but I do pay attention to how some of them work. I could have easily taken some Aspirin or Tylenol to get rid of my headache, but would never want to rely on man-made drugs to survive the Florida heat. So I started to search for a natural food that would have the same effect and would relieve my headache.

When you sweat a lot, your body loses vital salts and electrolytes. So I started by taking some salt and potassium pills to try to replenish the loss. And although they sometimes work, the headache was still there. I knew that I had not kept myself hydrated properly over the past few days and it would probably take more than some salt and water to get my body back to normal in this heat (it's not even summer here yet!). A drug like Aspirin is a type of acid, and from what I understand, its main effect in getting rid of pain is the fact that it thins out your blood. So in order to thin out my blood and get rid of this headache without using drugs I was looking for a food that is very acidic and contains lots of minerals. So I started to rummage through my kitchen and finally found some organic apple cider vinegar in my fridge. This seemed to fit the description. I diluted a couple of tablespoons in a glass of water and chugged the disgusting mixture down. Low and behold! The headache had dissipated and was gone within a few minutes!

After a few pain-free hours, the headache came back slightly, so I decided to try the vinegar again - this time, with half a teaspoon of baking soda to mellow out the acid and see if it would still work. So I mixed approximately one tablespoon of vinegar in 6 ounces of water, added a half a teaspoon of baking soda and drank it while it was still fizzing. Headache was gone in 5 minutes, and my neck muscles felt more relaxed. It worked again!

So my conclusion is that the apple cider vinegar has just enough acidity to thin your blood, and just enough minerals and electrolytes. Which combined, worked like a pain relief drug to get rid of my headache and relax the muscles in that area. And apparently, it works even when you mix a little baking soda to mellow out the PH.

I would like to make this ingredient taste good for you. So I will include a couple of recipes so that you can get rid of your heat headache and enjoy it at the same time!

Headache Buster Salad Dressing:

- 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- Pinch of Himalayan, or Raw Sea Salt to taste (sea and Himalayan salts tend to have more mineral content than regular iodized table salts)
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp of Dijon Mustard
- Pinch of Cayenne Pepper (also known to be a natural pain killer)
- 1 Clove of Finely Minced Garlic
- 1 Tsp of Dried Parsley Flakes

Mix together and keep in a squirt bottle. Shake well and pour onto your favourite salads. It feels good to eat a nice, fresh salad on a hot day! This keeps your electrolytes in and may prevent, or aleviate, a heat headache. This will keep in your fridge for a few weeks.

Headache Buster Apple Tea Cocktail!

- 1 Cup of Apple Cider or Apple Juice
- 1 Cup of Iced Tea (sweetened)
- 2 Tbsp of Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Ice Cubes
- Cocktail Shaker

Pour all these ingredients into a cocktail shaker with some ice and then serve in a Martini glass. Enjoy this in the backyard with a cocky smile as the Sun looks down!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Macadamia Crusted Black Grouper with Jasmin Coconut Rice
By: Chef Cristian

This meal was inspired by a client of mine who lived in Hawaii for many years and requested a cooking lesson with a Hawaiian theme. I immediately asked myself what I could prepare with Macadamia nuts, and came up with this recipe. I like using these nuts because of their high monounsaturated fat content, which happens to be very healthy for you. I also think it's a great tasting nut, and pairs well with the aroma or garlic and parsley.

I will be using a fresh Black Grouper fillet from the Gulf of Mexico. But you can substitute any white ocean fish that you like.

YIELD: 4 Portions

- 4 Black Grouper Fillets
- Half a tin of Macadamia Nuts
- 1/2 cup of Parsley
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- Olive Oil
- 1 lemon or 2 Limes cut into wedges

Ingredients for Jasmin Coconut Rice:
- 2 Cups of Jasmin Rice
- Water
- 1 Cup of Coconut Milk (you can buy this canned if you don't have it fresh)
- Tsp of Salt


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all of the ingredients. This means that you mix, chop, cut, and dice everything that you're going to need! For this recipe you should prepare:
- Minced Macadamia Nuts
- Minced Parsley
- Minced Garlic

2. Pre-heat your oven to 400. Have a baking sheet ready (preferably non-stick). You can put non-stick tin foil on your pan and rub it with a little vegetable oil so the fish won't stick to the pan.

3. Mix the Macadamia Nut, Parsley and Garlic and swirl about 1/4 cup of olive oil into the mixture. Mix well.

4. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on the fish fillets. Then put the macadamia nut mixture on the fillets by pressing down with your hands or a spatula to make a crust that covers the top of the fish fillet. The crust doesn't have to be thick.

5. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until fish easily flakes. Make sure not to burn the Macadamia Nut crust.

6. Serve with Coconut Rice (Directions Below)

NOTE: This fish goes great with some fresh lemon or lime squeezed on it once you're ready to eat it!

Coconut Rice Directions:

1. Add 2 cups of Jasmin Rice to rice cooker or rice pot. Add 1 cup of Coconut Milk and 1 cup of water to rice. Add a teaspoon of salt. Stir once.

1a. If using a slow cooker, place the lid on, and turn the cooker on. Wait for the rice to be ready.

1b. If using a rice pot, bring the rice and coconut water to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn the temperature down to low heat and cover with a lid. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Do not uncover while rice is cooking. Enjoy.

NOTE: In Hawaii you would be looked upon as a foreigner for eating rice with butter! Traditionally, it's OK to squirt some Soy Sauce on it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What do I do with this avocado?

What do I do with this avocado?
by: Chef Cristian

You were walking down the produce isle and spotted a mob of people busily squeezing a case of avocados. So naturally, you got in there and started squeezing some yourself. You noticed that some were rock-hard, and you put them back. Others were way too soft and smelled a little rank. Those went back too. But this one, oh yes! This one! Glorious leathery skin, nice heavy weight, and its semi-soft flesh gave in reluctantly to your gentle squeeze. So you whisked it away and gave it a good home on your kitchen table. Now what?

I could tell you many things about the avocado. I could tell you that the ancient Aztecs called it ahuacatl (testicle). I could tell you that the Jamaicans call it the Alligator Pear due to it's tough reptilian-like skin. I could also tell you that the Berkley Campus of the University of California claims to have the oldest avocado tree dated back to 1879. But I'm sure you're hungry, and that avocado is strutting around your kitchen making you look weak in front of the other food! So let's get down to business.

I'm going to give you four quick ways to enjoy that avocado. And I will also give you a couple of tips that you may find helpful!

To ripen an avocado faster, place it in a paper bag. When an avocado is ripe, place it in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. If you have too many, you can mash them and freeze them, adding one tbsp of lemon juice per avocado so they don't turn brown. A zip lock bag works perfectly for this. Thaw it out in the fridge, or run the bag under warm water if you're in hurry.

Avocado Guacamole:
The ingredients can be minced with a knife, but you can do it faster with a food processor. Mash a couple of avocados in a bowl with a fork, and add some minced parsley, garlic (2 cloves), and half a red pepper (minced). Add salt and pepper to taste and mix a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil in there. A squirt of lemon juice keeps it from turning brown. Add minced hot chilies if you like it spicy!

Avocado Toast:
Toast your favourite piece of bread, spread butter on it, spread a generous amount of ripe avocado, and sprinkle some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. This brings back memories of breakfast in Tobago!

Avocado with Mary-Rose Sauce:
Slice some avocado and arrange the slices on a plate along with slices of fresh tomato. Mix one part Mayonnaise, and one part Tomato Ketchup with a squirt of hot sauce. Pour sauce over the avocado and tomato and you're done. You can also reward yourself for being such a good avocado picker by adding freshly boiled Tiger Shrimp!

Avocado Milk Shake:
Yes, that's right. Avocados are used in many countries as part of delicious sweet drinks and desserts. And this one is one of my favourite summer recipes. In a blender, pour 2 cups of milk, 2 large scoops of vanilla ice cream, and 2 large avocados and 3 Tbsp of Cane Sugar. Blend and serve in tall glass. Top with whipped cream and chopped mint (optional) and enjoy! If it's not sweet enough for you, add a couple of tbsp of sugar or condensed milk to taste.

Now, go show that avocado who's the boss! And invite some friends (they might bring you more avocados).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Choosing Between Nuclear Oranges, and Organic Apples

Choosing Between Nuclear Oranges, and Organic Apples
By: Chef Cristian

With all this talk about Organic foods versus Genetically Modified and Irradiated foods, people are still left wondering, "What am I eating?". Most of us can agree that not enough research has been conducted on the effects of eating genetically-modified (GM) foods. We simply have not been eating this stuff long enough to know the true effects that it may have on our genetic make-up. For example, geneticists have come up with something they call "Bt-corn". It's a corn plant that they have genetically modified to produce it's own poison - yes, that's right, the corn makes its own insecticide. So when bugs eat it, they die. Although it's sold as "safe for human consumption" I am still left wondering if a product like this would be safe over time.

Irradiated produce is given low doses of radiation at the time it's harvested to kill off any insects, and fungus. Would you be comfortable feeding this to your family? Being a Chef, I always try to find the healthiest foods for my family and my clients, and I try to stick to Organic and conventional produce. I find that a little pesticide washes off a lot easier than radiation or genetically manipulated DNA!

You may be the type of person that buys produce in the "Organic" section with the confidence that you're feeding your family a safe-to-eat product. But how do you really know? Well, luckily there is a way to know exactly what type of produce you are feeding your family.

Every fruit and vegetable you buy at your local grocery store has a PLU code (Price Look Up) printed somewhere on the product packaging, or on the product pricing tag. This PLU is used by the food industry (and your grocery store) to identify what type of produce it is, how it was treated and where it came from. And now you can use it too.

How to read PLU codes:

  • Conventional Produce has a four digit number starting in 4. Bananas, for example, might be 4042.
  • GM, or Genetically Modified produce has an 8 in front of the four digit number. GM Bananas would be 84042.
  • Organic produce has a 9 in front of the four digit number. Organic bananas would be 94042.
  • Irradiated produce has a four digit code that starts in 3. So irradiated bananas would be 3042.
Now that you know how the food industry labels its products, you can shop with more confidence and feed your family what you originally intended them to eat.

Calorie Counting Is Not For Rocket Scientists Anymore!

Calorie Counting is Not for Rocket Scientists Anymore!
By: Chef Cristian

The basic tools of losing weight are actually quite simple, as long as you understand the mathematics of weight loss and weight gain. I have written this article to show you how you can use the mathematics of calories to reach and maintain your ideal body weight.

A calorie is a unit of energy. Simply stated, each food will furnish your body with a different amount of energy. We measure this energy in units called Calories. For example, a small apple will have less calories than a big bacon cheeseburger. Your body needs a certain amount of food energy each day to stay healthy. If you feed your body too many calories, it probably gains weight. If you don't feed your body enough calories, your body loses weight. So how many calories do you need each day?

Thanks to Scientists with horn-rimmed glasses and dateless Friday nights, certain formulas were invented a while back. And although they were invented by smart people, these formulas are easy to use. You will use this formula to figure out how many calories your body needs in order to stay the same. This is called the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). The BMR is just the amount of calories that your body needs to eat in order to stay the same weight (not gain or lose weight) each day. Once we figure out the BMR we can then plan how many calories you will need to eat in order to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current body weight. I would like you to keep in mind that one pound of fat is made up of 3500 calories. This will become useful to you in a moment.

Here are both BMR formulas for men and women:

  • Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )

  • Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in year )
Now that you know what your BMR is, you will need to go a step further. Different people do different types of activities throughout the day. Some of you are athletes and some of you are couch potatoes! So if both of you have the same BMR, you will still need different amount of calories to have your bodies stay the same weight.

Here is the activity level formula:

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

  • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

  • If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

  • If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Now that you know a more exact BMR, we can go on to the weight loss part. So let's say that your BMR was 2000 calories, and after doing the activity formula you found yourself being lightly active and your BMR is now calculated to be 2400. Now you know that if you want to stay the same weight, you eat 2400 calories per day. But I know that most of you want to lose weight, so this is how you do it.

Doctors recommend that a safe rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 Lbs of weight per week. They also say that you should not cut out more than 1000 calories from your BMR. Always consult your doctor before beginning a calorie restricted diet. With that being said, let's do a plan for you to lose weight.

We will use the example of a Larry who has a BMR of 2400 calories per day. We know Larry wants to lose 2 Lbs per week. We know that each pound of fat is made up of 3500 calories, so two pounds of fat would be 7000 calories. This means that Larry would have to eat 7000 calories less for the week if he wants to lose 2 Lbs. This can be done by having 1000 less calories each day. So the daily amount of calories that Larry would need would be 1400 calories. If Larry finds that it's too hard to cut out 1000 calories from his diet each day, he can eat more calories BUT he must now exercise more. For example, he could cut only 500 calories per day from his food intake (instead of 1000), and go to the gym and burn the other 500 calories by running on the treadmill. It's actually recommended that you mix diet and exercise together for best results. If you cut too many calories from your diet, your body goes into starvation mode and slows down your metabolism. You do not want your body to do this, so you should balance exercise and diet.

Now that you know how many calories you will need to eat in order to lose weight, how do you calculate the amount of food to eat? Luckily for you, almost every food product comes with nutritional information printed on the package which tells you how many calories per portion the food is worth. For example, a can of tuna might say 240 Calories per Cup. And your bag of rice might say that it's 140 calories per Cup. You will need to start calculating food portions, and although it may get annoying, it will ensure that you reach your weight goals. There are calorie guides you can buy at you local bookstore, and there are a great many resources that can be found on the internet which tell you the caloric values of each food.

Although the formulas are all laid out for you, some of you still may find it too tedious to keep track of how many calories you are eating every day. In this case, I recommend hiring a personal chef that will be able to measure out your food portions to create your ideal calorie diet. I have helped many clients with their weight loss goals by saving them time and providing them with carefully portioned meals. I hope that you have found this article helpful!

Coq au Vin Recipe

Coq au Vin Recipe
By: Chef Cristian

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish that translates simply to "Chicken with Wine". Although it's not for the calorie concious, it's certainly good for your soul! Rich sauce, pearl onions and the unmistakable aroma of herbs and bacon bring this chicken dish together. This is a good opportunity to use some of that left over cooking wine, and to use fresh herbs.

For this recipe you can use either white or dark chicken meat. I prefer dark meat because it's moist and more flavourful than white meat. But if you have picky guests, you can cut up a whole chicken into quarters and serve them white meat.

If I was serving this dish for a dinner party, I would roast some Cornish Game Hens (what the French call "Poussin") and serve this sauce over them for a fabulously French dish! No need to wear your Beret, this dish should Frenchify your evening all by itself!

- 4 Chicken Leg Quarters (or a whole chicken cut into 4 quarters)
- 2 Cups of Red Wine (or any left over wine you have around your kitchen)
- 2 Cups of Chicken Stock
- 1 Cup of Pearl Onions
- 1/2 Lb of Smoked Bacon
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Sprig of Thyme
- Parsley
- 1 Cup of Small Button Mushrooms
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- Flour
- Vegetable Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tsp of Paprika


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means, chopping, dicing, peeling, slicing, washing, everything you're going to need. You will prepare the following:
- Make the stock (either from scratch or from bullion) and keep it warm.
- Cut your chicken up into quarters if using a whole chiken and keep the skin on.
- Wash the mushrooms and, if small, keep them whole.
- Chop some parsley for garnish.
- Thaw the pearl onions if you bought them frozen.
- Mince the garlic cloves.

2. For the classic French recipe, you would first blanch (quickly boil) the bacon before slicing it. This takes some of the salty taste away. But I enjoy the full taste of the bacon, so I omit this step. Slice the bacon into thin slices called "Lardons". Add these to the pot and begin to cook them. Do this until some of the fat begins to render out of them, about 7 minutes.

3. Add the chicken to the pot and make sure to fry both sides. Do this for another 5 minutes.

4. Add the pearl onions, bay leaves, thyme, paprika and mushrooms. Add some salt to the chicken. This will help to bring the flavour out. Cook together for another 5-7 minutes.

5. Add the wine, stock and garlic and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

6. Mix a Roux in a small bowl by combining one cup of flour with enough oil to form a paste the same consistency as toothpaste. Mixing this with a fork works well. You will use this mixture to thicken the sauce.

7. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot. You will be left with the sauce gently simmering. With a whisk, start adding a bit of roux and mixing it thoroughly until the sauce is thick enough for you liking. Use small amounts of roux at a time so that you don't over-thicken the sauce. Mix the roux into the sauce quickly using a whisk so that you don't get any lumps. Once you have reached your desired thickness, adjust the salt and pepper to taste and add the chicken back to the sauce. Cook for another 10-15 minutes on med low heat.
8. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaves and sprig of thyme from the sauce. Sprinkle with fresh Parsley. You can serve this dish with creamy mashed potato, fragrant rice pilaf or any starchy side that will absorb the sauce. Bon appetit!

Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe (using slow cooker)

By: Chef Cristian

Braising is an excellent method of cooking when working with tough meats. Braising is classically done by, first, browning the meat on all sides on a hot skillet. This helps to seal the moisture inside the meat. The meat is then placed in a pot with a lid and is cooked with a small amount of liquid for a long time at low heat. This method of cooking results in a juicy, tender dish with rich flavour and moisture.

For this particular recipe I will be using a slow cooker, or “crockpot”. This is an appliance which cooks food at very low temperatures for a very long time.

This recipe is very similar to my Osso Bucco recipe (Braised Beef Shanks) and you can substitue Beef or Veal Shanks for the Lamb and make a tasty Osso Bucco.
I would serve this dish with creamy mashed potatoes if cooking this dish at home. But if I was trying to wow a crowd (I wouldn’t have to try hard with this dish) I would serve it on a bed of Spatzle or Pearled Barley with Herbs, which would absorb much of the rich sauce. As for a wine pairing; Any wine that you enjoy is the perfect wine! However, a bold Red Wine such as Shiraz or Merlot would go quite nicely with this saucy dish.

6 Lamb Shanks
3 to 4 Cups of Beef Stock
3 Tbsp of Tomato Paste
2 to 3 Cups of Red Wine
2 Large Bay Leaves
A pinch of dried Rosemarry, Oregano and Thyme
1 Medium Onion Diced
3 Celery Stalks Sliced
2 Medium Carrots Diced
Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means that you mix, chop, cut, dice, and prepare everything you’re going to need! For this recipe you should have ready to go:
- Prepared Beef Stock
- Tomato Paste Ready to go
- Diced Vegetables

2. Add the lamb shanks, beef stock, bay leaves, red wine, and dried herbs to the slow cooker and cover with lid.

3. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 7 hours. Once you have placed the lid on the slow cooker and turned it on, do not uncover it. The slow cooker takes a long time to heat up and you could lose much of that heat by uncovering it. Once the lamb is cooked. Take the shanks out of the slow cooker and keep them on the side while you work on the sauce. Keep all the liquid that is in the slow cooker. You are about to make a sauce with it.

4. Bring a sauce pot to medium heat, add a small amount of vegetable oil and start to cook the diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook for about 15 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add the liquid from the slow cooker into the sauce pot. Add the 3 Tbsp of Tomato Paste and mix with a whisk or spoon. Bring to a simmer.

5. While you are waiting for the sauce to simmer, add a cup of flour to a bowl and add vegetable oil to it. Mix it with a fork. Add just enough vegetable oil to the flour so that it creates a paste the consistency of tooth paste. This is called a roux and it will be used to thicken your sauce.
Once the sauce has come to a simmer, turn the heat down low and begin to add the roux with a whisk (make sure to mix thoroughly and quickly). Add a little roux at a time until desired thickness has been reached in the sauce (you don't have to use all the roux). Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cook sauce at low heat for another 15 minutes. Once the sauce is ready, combine the shanks and the sauce together and enjoy with your favourite side dish such as: Mashed Potato, Pearled Barley or Spatzle.

Spanish Seafood Paella with Jasmin Rice Recipe

Spanish Seafood Paella with Jasmin Rice
By: Chef Cristian

When I find fresh Seafood, the first word that comes to my mind is "Paella!". This dish brings back childhood memories, and after all these years it's still one of those dishes that I find exciting to cook and delicious to eat.

A Paella is a baked (or charcoal simmered) rice dish typical of Spain. The basic Paella would be a white rice simmered in saffron infused stock, sauteed onions and peppers. From this versatile base people started coming up with all sorts of different variations. You can add anything from chicken wings to the classic mixture of seafood to this dish. Maybe that's why after all these years I still find the Paella an exciting dish to prepare. You can always add different ingredients to it.

In this recipe I will be using fresh seafood as the main flavouring ingredients. I will also be using Jasmine rice to add an exotic scent to this dish. I was out of White Rice one day, and decided to use Jasmin Rice instead. To my surprise, it turned out to be a fantastic combination of scents and flavour. I hope you will agree with me!
Make sure that you have a roasting pan with a lid that you can use, both, on the stove and in the oven.

NOTE: When buying Shrimp, you will often see numbers such as 8/12, 16/20, 31/40, etc writen on the package. That means "Shrimp Per Pound". So the smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. For example, in a package of 8/12 shrimp, it would only take 8 to 12 shrimp to make a pound. Whereas it would take 31 to 40 Shrimp to make up a pound in a bag of smaller Shrimp.

YIELD: 6-8 portions

2 Cups of Jasmin Rice
4 Cups of Chicken, or Fish Stock (I used Fish Stock)
1 Lb of Tiger Shrimp shelled and deveined (I used size 21-24)
1 Lb of Squid cleaned and cut into rings
.5 Lb of your favourite fish fillet cut into 1 inch cubes (I used Cod Fillets)
(optional) 1 Lb of cleaned Mussels and/or Pasta Clams
.5 Lb of Sea Scallops
1 large Spanish Onion Diced
2 Large Red Bell Peppers Diced
1/2 cup of peas
1 handfull of chopped Parsley
1/3 cup of Manzanilla Olives with Pimentos Chopped
2 Tbsp of Capers
3 cloves of Garlic minced
Very fragrant olive oil (I recommend Greek or Portuguese olive oil)
Salt and Pepper to taste


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means that you mix, chop, cut, dice, and prepare everything you’re going to need! For this recipe you should prepare:
- The fish or chicken stock
- The seafood should be prepared and stored in fridge until ready to cook
- Diced Onions, Olives, Peppers and Minced Garlic

2. Place roasting pan on stovetop (if it's large, you may have to use two burners at the same time) and bring to med high heat. Pre-heat oven to 360 degrees.

3. Add enough olive oil to slightly coat the bottom surface of the pan and add the onions, peppers, garlic, capers, olives and parsley. Sautee the vegetables for 10-15 mins until the onions become translucent. Keep things moving with a wooden spoon to avoid burning the garlic.

4. Add all the seafood and sautee for another 15 minutes until it has released all its liquid. You will see the pan start to fill up with water. These are the juices of the seafood and will be one of the main flavourings of this dish. At this point you can add the pinch of saffron. Notice the color change to a nice yellow or orange.

5. Add the rice followed by the stock and the peas. Adjust the salt and pepper (make sure it's very flavourful). Bring to a simmer. As soon as it starts to simmer, give it one big stir, place the lid on the roasting pan and place it in the oven. Cook for 30-40 mins. Do not open lid during this time.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and open up the lid. Add a couple of swirls of olive oil and stir once. Let the paella rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Dried Porcini Mushroom and Boursin Cheese Risotto

Dried Porcini and Boursin Risotto
By: Chef Cristian

Risotto is like a white canvas. It's a creamy and satisfying base which allows itself to be painted by a chef's immagination. It's not something I like to have too often, but it's certainly a dish I look forward to making. And each time, I like to re-create it, as I would a painting, with a new combination of ingredients. Dried Mushrooms develop an unmistakable earthy flavour which I think is perfect for flavouring a creamy risotto. I will also be adding a creamy, garlicky Boursin cheese just before serving it!

Risotto cookery is not hard - but you do have to follow a few rules. 1) You must use a very starchy rice (Arborio Rice) that will develop that typical creaminess that risotto is renown for. 2) Don't walk away from your risotto. You must be able to stay with it through the cooking process. Those of you with commitment issues might want to try an easier dish! 3) Risotto should be served immediately for best texture. I wouldn't serve a risotto to guests that is older than 15-20 minutes. (although I have found that microwaving the next day with a little water, does bring it back a lot of its creaminess... but don't tell anyone!)

Yields: 3-4 portions

- 1.5 cups of Arborio Rice
- 4-5 cups of Mushroom or Chicken Stock (it's ok if you make too much)
- 2 Shallots
- 1 Cup of dried Porcini Mushrooms
- 1/2 Cup Minced Pancetta or Bacon (optional)
- 1 Cup of regular White Mushrooms
- 1/3 Cup of fresh Chopped Parsley
- White wine of choice
- 1 little box of Boursin Cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means, chopping, dicing, peeling, slicing, washing, everything you're going to need. You will prepare the following:
- Make the stock (either from scratch or from bullion) and keep it warm
- Dice Shallots
- Soak the dried mushrooms in a little bowl with water until they get soft (keep the water)
- Slice the pancetta or bacon into thin slivers
- Chop up the white mushrooms into pieces
- Wash and chop the parsley

2. Put a cooking pot on the stove and bring it up to med high heat. Pour in a swirl or two of olive oil. Add the Shallots, and Bacon and sautee until the shallots are translucent and you have rendered most of the fat out of the bacon. About 10-12 mins.

3. Add the white mushrooms and the parsley and sautee for another 5 minutes or until the
mushrooms start to release some of their liquid.

4. Add the Arborio Rice and stir immediately so that it doesn't burn. You can let the rice toast for a minute. After this, add about a 1/2 to full cup of white wine and stir for another minute. Add the Porcini Mushrooms and the brown water that has formed in the bowl (make sure that there is no silt or sand in the bowl. Dried mushrooms will sometimes have sand stuck to them. If this is the case, it's better not to use the liquid in the bowl.)

5. Now comes the technical part - Add stock just enough to slightly cover the rice and bring it to a simmer. For the next 25 minutes you will keep adding stock slowly and stirring the risotto. Always keep just enough stock in the risotto to just barely cover the top layer of rice, don't drown it. You want to keep this at a temperature where the dish is gently simmering (not boiling violently). You will notice that the rice absorbs a lot of stock, so keep adding when you see it getting low on stock, and keep stiring often so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. At the end of the 25 minutes you want a rice that is soft when you bite through it (some people like it a tiny bit hard in the middle - this is called "al dente"). As soon as you have a creamy and soft rice take it off the heat. At this point, add as much Boursin cheese as you like and stir it in quickly so that it incorporates into the creamy risotto. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!