Fusili Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Seared Giant Shrimp

Fusili Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Seared Giant Shrimp
Time: 25 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2

8 giant black tiger shrimp, raw, peeled
5 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 clove garlic
1 cup chopped, canned Italian tomatoes
1-2 tsp. hot pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro plus a few sprigs for decoration
Slivered Parmesan cheese
2 cups fusili pasta
4 1/2 cups water for boiling

Place the peeled, raw shrimp in a bowl and add 2 tbsp. olive oil and a little salt. Set aside.

In a medium to saucepan, bring the 4 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir and boil on medium heat until "al dente" - cooked but firm. Drain out the water and return the pasta to the saucepan. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the shallot and garlic to a small saucepan with 1 tbsp. olive oil, saute until transparent, add the tomatoes, cilantro, pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then add this mixture to the pasta, combining well.
Heat a grilling pan until very hot. Add 4 shrimp and quickly sear on all sides. About a minute each side - don't over cook them! Set on a plate, and repeat with the rest of the shrimp.
Serve pasta and tomato sauce in a shallow bowl, topped with shrimp, some sprigs of cilantro and slivered parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

Mapled Goat Cheese & Crisp Serrano Ham Appetizers

Mapled Goat Cheese with Crisp Serrano Ham Appetizers
Time: 35 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2-4

4 slices of goat cheese (semi-soft) keeping the rind on
4 generous wafer thin slices of Serrano ham*
1/4 cup real Maple Syrup
4 slices of fresh baguette

Heat oven to 450o.
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll up the Serrano ham into small rosettes, and place on the baking sheet - if you have some left over, just place them alongside. Bake for about 10 minutes - careful not to burn them. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring the maple syrup to a boil and let it boil gently (careful not to let it boil over!) until it has reduced to half the volume.
Using a toothpick, dip the sliced cheese in the maple syrup to coat all over, then place on one slice each on top of a slice of baguette. Spear the rolled Serrano and place on top of the cheese and serve. (If you have any left over syrup you can drizzle a little on top of each).

*Serrano Ham is a dried, cured Spanish ham that is similar to Prosciutto, but less salty. You can substitute Serrano with Prosciutto if you prefer.

Easy (and lighter) Eggplant Parmigiano

Easy (and lighter) Eggplant Parmigiano
Time: 1 hour
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2-3

1 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise (about 1/4" thick)
1 tbsp. olive oil plus about 2 more for grilling
1/2 lb ground veal
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried Oregano
2 cups chopped, canned Italian tomatoes
2 cups shredded Italian cheeses (such as Parmesan, Provolone, Mozarella etc.)

Heat oven to 400o.
In a medium saucepan, saute the shallot and garlic in 1 tbsp. olive oil until transparent, add the ground veal, combine well, then simmer until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Set aside.
Spray a grilling pan lightly with oil, and sear two or three eggplant slices on each side, setting aside on a plate while you sear the rest.
Lightly grease a deep oven dish with a bit of oil.
Lay half the eggplant slices on the bottom. Add the veal mixture, top with half the cheese, and half the tomatoes. Lay the rest of the eggplant slices on the top and spoon with the remaining tomatoes and cheese. (I do not add any salt to the canned tomatoes, because they usually have enough already. But you can if you wish).
Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until it's bubbling and golden on the top. 
Serve immediately.

Gazpacho Verrines

Gazpacho Verrines, served with chopped cucumbers, plain yogurt
and a slice of grilled Chorico and Rosemary bread stick
Time: 20 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 4

Follow our recipe for  Gazpacho
For the verrines recipe, I placed the Gazpacho in the blender to create a smooth puree.

You will also need 1/4 English cucumber (seedless), chopped small
4 heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt or sour cream
4 slices of Chorico (Portuguese, Spanish, or whatever you fancy)
1 slice country bread, cut into thin strips
Oil for spraying or brushing
1/2 tsp. dried Rosemary
Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 400o.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, and lay the chorico slices on one side. Bread strips on the other. Spray or brush the bread lightly with a neutral oil and sprinkle with Rosemary and a pinch of salt. Bake until golden.

Place a tsp. of chopped cucumber at the bottom of each verrine, top with a tablespoon of yogurt, followed by the gazpacho puree. Serve with a slice of grilled chorico and a bread stick.

If you don't have any "verrines" you can use a small glass, or even a short wine glass ! Get creative !

Chocolate-Tia Maria Cakes with Vanilla Foam and Orange Brittle

Chocolate-Tia Maria Cakes with Vanilla Foam and Orange Brittle
Time: Less than an hour
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2

1 large juice orange
5 tbsp. cane sugar
1 tsp. warm water
3/4 cup heavy cooking cream (not whipping cream!)
1/2 tsp. real vanilla essence
2 tsp. icing sugar
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsalted butter
2 oz. Tia Maria (coffee liquor)
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. flour, sifted
Butter for tins/ramekins

Grate the peel from the orange in strips, into a small saucepan with 3 tbsp. of the cane sugar, and 1 tsp. warm water. Turn burner on high and boil the mixture, stirring with a metal spoon until it reaches candy stage.About 5 minutes. (If you don't have a candy thermometer, the mixture will turn dark golden and when you dip a metal spoon and lift it out of the pot, the mixture will harden as it drips). Remove from heat immediately and quickly spoon equal amounts in whatever shape you like, onto cold parchment paper. Set aside to cool.
Pour the cream into a small bowl, add the icing sugar and the vanilla and whisk until it forms a thick foam. Refrigerate. 
Heat oven to 400o.
Grease two small tins or ramekins (about 3" in diameter) then line with a strip of parchment - ensuring the parchment is at least 1" higher than the tops of the ramekins.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate (on low heat). Remove from heat and add the remaining sugar, Tia Maria and blend well. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk. Drizzle with flour and whisk lightly. Pour even amounts into the ramekins and bake until puffed and a little cracked on top. About 20 minutes. (Bake for less time if you want the centers molten.)
To serve: Gently remove the cakes from the ramekins, spoon generous amounts of vanilla foam over the top and garnish each one with an orange brittle. Serve warm or cold.

Breaded Chicken Thighs stuffed with Asparagus and Cambozola

Breaded Chicken Thighs, stuffed with Asparagus and Cambozola Cheese
(Served with purple potato & carrot puree)
Time: Approx. 1 hour
Effort: Easy
Serves: 4

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs - split open
12 green asparagus stalks, blanched
6 - 2" pieces Cambozola cheese*
1 cup pre-sifted white flour
2 eggs beaten
1 cup plain bread crumbs
Neutral oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste
String to tie up chicken thighs

Lay the chicken thighs on a board, facing up. Add a piece of cheese and 2 asparagus stalks in the center of each thigh, then roll up and tie the ends with cooking string. Season with salt.

Arrange two large pieces of parchment paper on your counter and spread out the flour and bread crumbs on each piece. Place a bowl in between each paper, with the beaten eggs.
Coat the thighs generously with flour then dip into the egg mixture, then coat with bread crumbs and pat them with your palms to make sure the crumbs are well adhered. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

In a deep skillet, heat the oil until reasonably hot. Add 2-3 pieces of chicken and fry until golden. Turn and fry again. (Ensure the oil is not too hot or the outside will be cooked and this inside will be rare - which you don't want!) Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve immediately. 
This dish is even great served cold with a green salad !

*Cambozola is cow's milk cheese that is a combination of a French soft-ripened triple cream cheese and Italian Gorgonzola. (Courtesy Wikipedia).

Picture courtesy of tumblr.com

This is where it all happens... an inside look into Jump Into My Kitchen !

This is where the creativity flows.....with my 4 furry sous-chefs watching... !

Kitchen island & hanging pot rack with lights, with our eldest girl, Tipper, always close by !
Stainless steel mosaic backsplash - neutral and so easy to clean!
My apron :)
Personally designed knife rack makes them all accessible.
White ceramic sink - like in the old days - they're the best!

View from the kitchen into the open-space living room/dining  room.
(I made the valance)

This is my little piece of heaven...where I spend 95% of my time !
Hope you've enjoyed the tour!

Seared Salmon and Arugula Salad with Toasted Maple Medley and Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

Seared Salmon and Arugula Salad
with Toasted Maple Medley and Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette
Time: 20 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 1

1 Atlantic salmon filet, skinned (about 4 oz.) cut horizontally into strips
Neutral oil for spraying or brushing
1/3 cup Toasted Maple Medley*
2 tbsp. Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette*
1 cup fresh Arugula 
A pinch of fine sea salt

Arrange the arugula on a dinner plate.
Season the salmon strips with a pinch of fine sea salt.
Spray or brush a grilling pan with oil and place on high heat until very hot.
Add the salmon strips and sear on each side for about 1-2 minutes, or until the meat has changed colour.
Arrange the seared salmon strips neatly over the arugula.
Drizzle with the Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette, then sprinkle the Toasted Maple Medley over the top.

*See previous recipes for the Toasted Maple Medley & the Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
Time: 15 minutes
Effort: Easy
Yields: 250ml / 8 oz.

1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
1/4 cup real Maple syrup
Fine Sea Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups neutral oil (Canola, Safflower etc.)

In a medium size bowl combine all the ingredients except the oil, using a wire whisk. 
While whisking vigorously drizzle in the oil until it is well blended and forms a creamy emulsion. Pour into a jar or squeeze bottle and store in the refrigerator for later use.

Maple Toasted Medley of Croutons, Bacon and Pecans

Maple Toasted Medley of Croutons, Bacon and Pecans
Time: 20 minutes approx.
Effort: Easy
Serves: Makes approx. 3 cups

1 cup day old crusty bread cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup chopped bacon
1 cup pre-toasted pecans*
2 tbsp. neutral oil (Canola, Safflower etc.)
1/2 cup real maple syrup

Using a large skillet, heat the oil until piping hot. Add the bacon, and fry until almost crispy. Add the bread cubes and toss with the bacon to ensure they are coated in the oil and bacon residue. Lower the heat to medium high, and fry until the croutons are golden. Add the pecans and maple syrup. Blend all the ingredients and fry again for about 2 minutes. Careful because it can burn easily (mine got a bit burned...I'll be more careful next time!). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with lots of paper towels to soak up the grease. Once cooled, serve on top of your favorite salad, pancakes, waffles, ice cream...whatever you like! Or, store in a tightly sealed tupperware in the refrigerator until required. (Re-heat to maintain crispness).

*Toasted Pecans
Heat oven to 400o.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and layer with whole pecans. Bake for about 5 minutes or until golden, turn them, bake again for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Store in an airtight tupperware or jar until needed.

Shrimp & Spinach Stacks with Red Pepper Sauce

Shrimp & Spinach Stacks with Red Pepper Sauce
(served with sliced boiled potatoes & beets with a drizzle of evoo & balsamic vinegar pearls)
Time: Prep +/- 35 minutes; Bake time 20 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2

2 cups blanched spinach leaves, drained and chopped
6 raw black tiger shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 extra large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. herbed butter *(see next recipe)
1 whole red pepper, chopped
Olive oil as needed
Fine Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Special equipment: 2 ring moulds 3" in diameter

To blanch spinach: place spinach leaves in boiling water with a bit of salt and boil for 1 minute. Strain and using your hands, squeeze out all the liquid - spinach has lots of it! Chop coarsely and set aside in a bowl.
Melt 1 tbsp. herbed butter in a small saucepan and saute the shrimp (all of them) until pink, about 2 minutes - careful not to overcook! Remove them from the pan onto a board, keeping the butter. Coarsely chop all the shrimp except the 2 extra large ones. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of herbed butter to the pan and melt on low. Finely chop the red pepper and add to the melted butter, increasing the heat to medium. Saute until the peppers are cooked. Remove from heat and season with fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Using a hand blender, puree the peppers, adding a litte olive oil as you blend (approx. 1 tbsp). 
Heat oven to 400o.
Grease the ring moulds with a little olive or neutral oil and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. 
Spoon in 1/4 of the chopped spinach into each mould, pressing down with the back of a metal spoon. Spoon in 1/2 the chopped shrimp in to each one, and press down again, then add the remaining spinach into each mould, pressing firmly down with the back of a spoon. Spread a little of the red pepper puree on top of each one, and top with an extra large shrimp. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and lift off each mould with a spatula on to dinner plate. To un-mould, lift the moulds gently upwards. Serve hot or cold with a swirl of red pepper puree and your favorite salad. 

Jump Into My Kitchen: Oriental Filet Mignon with Crisp Kataifi and Shrim...

Jump Into My Kitchen: Oriental Filet Mignon with Crisp Kataifi and Shrim...: Oriental Filet Mignon on Crisp Kataifi with Shrimp Tempura Time: Prep. 30-40 mins.; Cook: 30-40 mins. Effort: Medium Serves: 2 Ingre...

Oriental Filet Mignon with Crisp Kataifi and Shrimp Tempura

Oriental Filet Mignon on Crisp Kataifi with Shrimp Tempura
Time: Prep. 30-40 mins.; Cook: 30-40 mins.
Effort: Medium
Serves: 2

2 filet mignon steaks, about 1 " thick
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp. each: Light soy sauce, Raw Honey, Hoisin Sauce
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
4 sweet water shrimp with tails on (available at most Asian markets)
2 egg whites, whisked
2-3 tbsp. corn starch
1 cup panko (Oriental bread bread crumbs)
4-5 oz. Kataifi pastry (shredded phyllo)
Oil for frying, brushing and grilling (a neutral oil such as Safflower is best)

Combine the first three ingredients in a shallow dish and add the filet mignon steaks. Spoon the marinade over them until they are well covered, set aside for about 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. 
Heat oven to 400o. 
Line a baking sheet with parchment, and divide the kataifi into two neat rounds. Drizzle lightly with a neutral oil, and bake until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the corn starch, whisked egg whites and panko in separate bowls.
Roll each shrimp first in the corn starch, then in the egg whites and the in the panko. Pat them firmly with your palms to make sure the panko sticks well. Set aside on paper towels on a plate or tray. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp.
Fill a large deep skillet with oil (such as Safflower or Canola), enough to cover the shrimp when frying. 
Turn BBQ to high. Meanwhile, heat oil in frying pan until very hot, and fry the shrimp, turning once or twice, for about 2 minutes until golden. Place back on paper towels and set aside in a lightly warmed oven. 
When BBQ is very hot, remove steaks from marinade and grill on high for about 3-4 minutes on each side. While the steaks are grilling, add the rice vinegar, garlic, pepper flakes and ginger to the remaining marinade, and warm it up in a small saucepan until boiling, then set aside.
To serve: On each dinner plate place one mound of kataifi, topped by sliced filet mignon, drizzle with 2 spoonfuls of marinade and top with 2 fried shrimp. Serve with your favorite steamed vegetable(s) or stir fry. 

Tangy Lemon Chicken with Zucchini Spaghetti

Tangy Lemon Chicken with Zucchini Spaghetti
Time: 45 minutes or less
Effort: Easy
Serves: 4
Special Equipment: Mandolin, Lemon Zester, Steamer basket

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, cubed
3 shallots, thinly sliced 
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 whole lemon 
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1/4 cooking cream (optional)
Water if necessary
Fine sea salt
Coarse ground pepper
3-4 zucchini, washed

Using a zester, peel the lemon rind into a small bowl, then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into another small bowl and set aside. 

Add 1 tbsp. olive oil and two thirds of the sliced shallots to a medium saucepan and saute until golden. Add the chicken cubes and saute until slightly golden. Reduce the heat to medium, add 1/2 the lemon rind and all the juice, salt and a generous amount of pepper. Cover and simmer gently - stirring from time to time. (You may want to add a little water). 
Meanwhile, in a very small skillet at 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and fry the remaining sliced shallots until crisp. Set aside.
Using a mandolin, cut the zucchini into thin "spaghetti" and place in a steamer basket over a medium/large saucepan filled with a little water on the bottom. Steam for approx. 2 minutes - no longer than that otherwise they will become mushy. 
Remove from steamer basket, drain out the water and place the "spaghetti" back in the saucepan with 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and a little salt. Cover and set aside.
Add the cream and parsley to the chicken and adjust seasoning to taste.
To serve, place equal amounts of "spaghetti" on 4 plates, topped with a heaping spoonful of chicken and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Decorate plates with a few slices of crisp shallots. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Vinegar "Caviar"

Balsamic Vinegar Caviar
Time: 30 mins. rest time, 30 mins. prep time (approx)
Effort: Easy - but you need patience!
Yield: Approx. 1/2 cup

The method used in this simple recipe is known as "basic spherification" or "gelification", which nowadays is common in what is called molecular cuisine. It is actually extremely easy to make, and can be made with any liquid of your choice - the options and uses are endless - from appetizers, to salads to cocktails! All you need is a little patience and creativity! Once prepared, these little gems can be stored in the refrigerator for several days and will definitely impress your guests! (Keep in mind, the longer they are stored the more solid they will become.) 

3/4 cup Balsamic vinegar - red or white
5g. powdered Agar-agar
1 1/2 cups vegetable or olive oil
Water for rinsing
Special tool: 1 pipette or eye-dropper

Pour the oil into a tall glass and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, combine the agar with the vinegar in a small saucepan over medium/high heat and bring to a boil.
Remove the oil from the freezer, and fill the pipette with vinegar mixture. Using steady pressure drop droplets of the vinegar into the oil - be sure to be about 1" above the oil for the droplets to form perfect spheres. They will eventually sink to the bottom. Keep doing so until you have used up all the vinegar. Sieve out the "caviar" and gently rinse with cold water then place in a jar, or bowl if you plan to use them right away. The remaining oil can be re-used for later.

- If you don't want to use all the vinegar mixture at once, you can store it and reheat again for later use.
- Be sure to use steady gentle pressure when squeezing out the droplets from the pipette otherwise you will get air bubbles and they won't form into spheres.
- The caviar does not have to be rinsed if you plan to serve them on a salad with olive oil.
Serving Suggestions for Balsamic Vinegar Caviar:
- On salads with olive oil, salt & pepper
- On sliced tomatoes with some evoo
- On fish or meat carpaccio or as decoration alongside your favorite sushi

Have fun and experiment !