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Valentine Express (January 21, 2015)

Zucchini Fries
Smoked Salmon Tortilla Spirals
Tuna Steak on Spaghetti Squash
Molly Stevens' Roasted Fennel, Red Onion and Orange Salad
Chocolate Fondant Mug Cake

Valentine's Day is coming and you have no time to cook for your honey,

No problem! We've got some incredibly fast and easy recipes that will have you serving a special little meal that you pulled together in no time! You ccan come home from work and whip up a fast gourmet meal... using very few ingredients! That will leave you lots of time to make this uh, a more romantic, special evening!

We cruised around looking for gourmet three-ingredient dishes, and found the delightful blog, Peas Love Carrots, written by Mathea Tanner. She comes by this honestly, as culinary pursuits were ever-present in the house that Mathea grew up in. Born to a Greek-American mother and French-Irish father with roots in the American South, there was always an assortment of dishes from apple pie to tzatziki being made. Tanner is currently a freelance writer/photographer.

Bonnie Stern comes to the rescue again too. In Bonnie Stern Appetizers, she gives us wonderful fresh starters, many of which can be whipped up in minutes. As one of Canada's most popular and beloved food personalities Bonnie has authored twelve bestselling cookbooks, won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award, hosted two national TV shows and writes food columns. She somehow found time in between her growing family to own and operate the Bonnie Stern School of Cooking!

Instant gratification! Mug Cakes by Lene Knudsen gives us over 30 quick and delicious sweet treats that you have in your hot little hands in less than 5 minutes. Sigh, old favourites such as lemon, carrot, and a bevy of chocolate delights, and updated treats such as green tea and raspberries or blueberry and ricotta cakes! Go ahead, you deserve the rewards!

All Recipes is a wonderful site that delivers all the time! We use them frequently for new ideas, what to do with leftovers and any other food questions. Take a look, you'll be hooked.

Molly Stevens does a terrific job with Food 52, her excellent blog. She does recipes of course, plus fun contests, menus and gorgeous photos. Need something new for your next party? How about a bagel and cream cheese strata, or a New England spider cake! Take a look here, but beware: you'll be on line for hours with Molly!

On today's menu:

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Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

From comes this quick and easy recipe for baked zucchini fries, which easily doubles as an appetizer or side dish. Just two of you? Make the full recipe, as you'll be snarfing these down with your favourite dip... or try a tomato coulis or spicy ranch dressing on the side.

Makes 4 servings

  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 zucchinis – ends trimmed, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch strips
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220C°). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Stir bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together in a shallow bowl. Whisk eggs in a separate shallow bowl.
  3. Working in batches, dip zucchini strips into egg mixture, shake to remove any excess, and roll strips in bread crumb mixture to coat. Transfer coated zucchini strips to the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake zucchini fries in the preheated oven, turning once, until golden and crisp, 20 to 24 minutes.

Tony's wine recommendation:
dry sparkling wine, unoaked Chardonnay

While the fries are baking, whip up this...



Smoked Salmon Tortilla Spirals

Smoked Salmon Tortilla Spirals

From Bonnie Stern's Appetizers an old favourite, and no wonder. Quick, easy and luxurious! Also goes together in minutes,

Makes approximately 32 spirals

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp Russian-style mustard
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise or sour cream
  • 4× 9-inch flour tortillas
  • 12 oz smoked salmon, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 8 Boston lettuce leaves or fresh spinach
  1. Cream together cream cheese, mustard and mayonnaise.
  2. Arrange tortillas on counter and spread evenly with cheese spread.
  3. Arrange smoked salmon on top of cheese. Leave about 1-inch border at top covered just with chase so that the rolls will adhere better.
  4. Sprinkle salmon with dill and chives. Arrange lettuce on top.
  5. Roll tortillas up tightly, pressing firmly to seal. Wrap well and refrigerates until ready to serve. Trim off ends of rolls (eat them!) and then cut off each roll into 8 to 10 slices. Serve, spiral side up, on shredded lettuce.

Tony's wine recommendation:
dry Riesling, dry Gewurztraminer



Tuna Steak on Spaghetti Squash

Tuna Steak on Spaghetti Squash

Mathea Tanner is such fun! We followed her 10 day challenge to herself to create 3 ingredient recipes, and pulled it all off beautifully. You have to take a look at peas love carrots for the whole hilarious (and very successful) story, and you'll be doing this recipe tomorrow for sure. Tanner comments, "...tuna steaks with a roasted garlic/peppercorn crust... turned out as luscious as filet mignon, but with a balanced lightness that married well with the squash. I hope you try this, it's surprisingly good." We did, and we agree!

3 Ingredients...

  • 2 tuna steaks
  • 1 spaghetti squash – cut in half and seeded
  • 8 cloves of garlic, roasted 

What to do with it all...

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place squash face up on middle rack of oven and roast for 45 minutes or until fork tender – remove and allow to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to handle, begin using a fork to pull flesh out in ribbon-like "spaghetti."
  4. Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof sauté pan on medium-high and add half of the squash "spaghetti."
  5. Sauté on medium-high for a couple of minutes, shaping like a pancake, then flip and repeat.
  6. Remove to a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  7. Repeat process with second half of squash and set aside.
  8. Turn on your oven's broiler to high.
  9. Mash roasted garlic with a fork and add a tablespoon of roughly cracked peppercorns and sea salt to taste.
  10. Press the garlic/pepper paste to each of the tuna steaks on one side.
  11. Heat your ovenproof sauté pan again on medium-high heat with more olive oil.
  12. Add steaks, naked side down and sear for a few moments, shaking to ensure it does not stick to bottom.
  13. Remove from stove and place under broiler for 2–4 minutes depending on your broiler – you want the steaks to be just barely cooked on the outside, very pink in the middle.
  14. Place one squash pancake on each plate and slice tuna steaks into medallions and serve on top of pancakes.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chardonnay; chilled Beaujolais



Molly Stevens' Roasted Fennel, Red Onion and Orange Salad

Molly Stevens' Roasted Fennel, Red Onion and Orange Salad

On her delightful blog Food 25, Kristen Miglore adapted this recipe which she loves, saying "Three of our winter standbys – an orange, an onion, and a fennel bulb – walk into an oven together, and morph into a warm winter salad that virtually resses itself." It's worth the time, so do it ahead, refrigerate, then warm in the oven while you're serving appetizers! Makes a beautiful colourful side to the tuna and spaghetti squash.

Serves 4

  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 pound untrimmed)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 small navel orange, scrubbed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400°F (375°F convection). Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (this prevents the oranges from sticking to the pan).
  2. Trim the fronds from the fennel. Stand a bulb on its base on the cutting board and cut it in half lengthwise, cutting from the core end to the stem end. (If the bulb is more oblong than round, as some are, you will create two halves that are thinner and flatter rather than thicker and bulbous.) Use a paring knife to remove most of the core from each half (no need to get it all out). Lay each half flat on the cutting surface and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick crescent-shaped slices. Toss onto the baking sheet and repeat with the second fennel bulb if you have two.
  3. Cut the onion in half, cutting from root to stem end. Peel and remove the root end from both halves. Slice the onion halves crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons and add to the fennel.
  4. Next, slice about 1½ inches off each end of the orange and reserve (you'll use these later to squeeze over the salad). Stand the orange up on one cut end and cut it lengthwise in half, and then cut each half lengthwise in half again, leaving you with 4 pieces. Arrange each quarter with cut side down and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick quarter-moon-shaped pieces.
  5. Add the orange to the fennel and onion. Drizzle the olive oil on top and season well with salt and plenty of pepper. Toss to coat and arrange as best you can in an even layer on the baking sheet.
  6. Roast, stirring with a spatula after 15 minutes to ensure even cooking and again every 10 minutes or so. The vegetables close to the edge of the pan will brown more quickly than those in the center, so stirring and then shaking the pan to restore an even layer helps everything cook at the same rate. Continue roasting until the vegetables and orange are tender and the outer edges are beginning to caramelize, 25 to 45 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a serving dish (I like to use a wide, shallow bowl). Let cool for at least 15 minutes or to room temperature. Squeeze the juice from one of the reserved orange ends over the salad and taste. If it tastes a little flat, add a pinch of salt and squeeze the other orange piece over it. Drizzle with a little of your best olive oil and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Sauvignon Blanc or Soave



Chocolate Fondant Mug Cake

Chocolate Fondant Mug Cake

Invite your sweetie into the kitchen to watch you perform magic with mugs and a microwave! We went for the whipped cream on top...

Instant gratification from Mug Cakes by Lene Knudsen, which has more chocolate mug cakes, including one for Nutella cake... sigh. Happy Valentine's Day!

Makes 1 cake (double ingredients for 2!)

  • 1 thin slice of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 square of milk chocolate
  • Raspberries
  • Small meringues or whipped cream
  1. Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave for 10 seconds (800 watts).
  2. In a mug: beat in one by one the egg, sugar, vanilla sugar, melted butter and cocoa.
  3. Cook in the microwave for 1 minute (800 watts).
  4. Decorate with the square of milk chocolate, chopped, a few raspberries and a small meringue or a dollop of whipped cream.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Banyuls, Tawny Port



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Random House Canada and Hardie Grant Books, Australia and London for Mug Cakes Lene Knudsen. © 2013 Hachette Livre. Text © Lene Knudsen. Photography © Richard Boutin.

All Recipes for Baked-Zucchini-Fries recipe and photo: All rights reserved © 2014

Peas Love Carrots for Tuna Steak on Spaghetti Squash:

Food 52 Blog by Kristen Miglore for Molly Stevens' Roasted Fennel, Red Onion, and Orange Salad, adapted slightly from All About Roasting: A New Approach to A Classic Art (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011).


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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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