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The World on a Plate (January 10, 2002)

A couple of weeks ago we were headed for a matinee performance at Canadian Stage on Toronto's Front Street, and decided to go a bit early for some lunch in the downtown neighbourhood. While there are lots of good restaurants in the area, we wanted something a bit different and wandered over to the Novotel Toronto Centre hotel, just one block south of the theaters. Their light, airy restaurant, Café Nicole, is right off the lobby, and the colourful menu spoke a truly international language! We were quickly seated and then the trouble began... What, or where, on earth to choose!

Oh, sure, you can have a BLT with all the trimmings, but why not go for Moroccan Chicken Sandwich instead? We did, and shared that along with a Smoke'n Chicken Fettuccine. Ah, dessert... well, happily there was still room for the homemade Gingerbread with Dried Figs Apricot, Cherry and Brandy Compote, a perfect cold weather finish to this delightful meal!

It was all so convenient and tasty, and just what you'd hope that a good French Hotel in a truly international city would do! We'll be back soon, for there's a lot more to try! I've simply got to have the Chicken Suvendra and Ron, ever the carnivore, has his eye on the Caribbean Spice Rubbed Beef Tenderloin.

Good thing we've got a batch of season tickets in the area; we need the time to munch our way around the world at Novotel!

On today's menu:

Moroccan Chicken Sandwich

Who doesn't love Moroccan food, with those exotic flavours that combine so well into a warm, flavourful cuisine? This chicken sandwich makes marvelous use of those spices and fruits, and better still, it's quick and easy, and a great way to use leftover chicken!

Serves 2

2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cayenne
¼ sweet red pepper
2 Tbsp. dried apricots, chopped
2 Tbsp. almonds, chopped
¼ cup parsley, chopped
2 pita breads cut in half to form pockets
300 grams grilled chicken breast, sliced
mixed greens

Accompanying wine?
Tony Recommends...

an off-dry, full-bodied white wine - Riesling Spätlese, Viognier, dry Muscat.

Finely chop red pepper, dried apricots, almonds and parsley.

Mix above ingredients with yogurt and spices in a small bowl.

Fill each pita bread half with sliced baked chicken and apricot/walnut mixture.

Serve with mixed greens or tabouleh.

Smoke'n Chicken and Fettuccine

Well, we loved this pasta dish, and you will too. Plan ahead to marinate the chicken, but once you've got everything assembled, it's a truly last-minute dish. Better double the recipe, you and everyone else will want seconds! Yum.

Serves 4

2 deboned chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dan T's Inferno Smoked Cayenne-Chipotle Sauce

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, julienned
4 cloves garlic, roasted and mashed
1 red pepper, slivered
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, julienned
1/2 – 2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup Dan T's Inferno Smoked Cayenne-Chipotle Sauce

fettucine for 4

For the chicken: Combine olive oil and the Smoked Sauce and coat chicken, marinating for up to 2 hours, if you have the time.

Grill chicken on the barbecue for about 4 minutes or until done. Let stand 5 minutes and slice along the bias and reserve.

For the sauce: Sauté onions and peppers in olive oil for 3 minutes, until tender-crisp. Remove vegetables from pan. Add whipping cream, basil and garlic. Boil until reduced and thick.

Accompanying wine?
Tony Recommends...

a full-bodied red with a touch of sweetness – Zinfandel, Amarone, Primitivo.

Add the Smoked Sauce, chicken and sun dried tomatoes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Toss pasta with chicken and sauce and serve.

Gingerbread with Dried Fruit and Brandy Compote

What a lovely, moist gingerbread from this recipe! And while it stands alone, try it with the with brandy-spiked dried fruit compote recipe which follows. Come on, winter is in full swing, and this is just the dessert to serve everyone in front of the fireplace!

Serves 8

3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup light molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup hot water
4 ounces chopped crystallized ginger, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Combine melted butter and brown sugar in a large bowl.

Beat until well blended. Gradually beat in molasses. Beat in eggs.

Add dry ingredients and beat until well blended.

Gradually beat in hot water.

Stir in crystallized ginger.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake about 55 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on rack for 10 minutes. (Can be made ahead. Wrap in plastic. Let stand at room temperature)

Accompanying wine?
Tony Recommends...

sweet white or sparkling – Samos Muscat from Greece, Sauternes, or Asti Spumante.

Cut cake in wedges. Place on plates. Spoon some compote alongside each wedge.

Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and serve with dried fruit compote

Dried Fruit and Brandy Compote

What a gorgeous combination with the gingerbread! This fabulous compote needs to be done a few days in advance, but you'll keep it in your fridge to also serve over vanilla ice cream... Or sneak a few spoonfuls when you think no one is looking!

Serves 8

2½ cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
8 ounces dried figs, halved lengthwise
6 ounces dried apricots
4½ ounces dried tart cherries
¾ cup brandy
3 Tbsp. crystallized ginger

Combine water, sugar and cinnamon sticks in large saucepan.

Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add figs and simmer uncovered 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Mix in apricots, cherry and then brandy.

Return to heat and simmer uncovered for until all fruits are tender, about 10 minutes.

Accompanying wine?
Tony Recommends...

medium sweet white wine, Oloroso Sherry, white port – Late Harvest Riesling.

Remove from heat. Stir in crystallized ginger. Cool.

(Compote can be prepared 3–4 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate).

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Novotel Toronto Centre
45 The Esplanade (near Yonge St.)
Toronto M5E 1W2
phn: (416) 367-8900
fax: (416) 360-8285
Café Nicole: 416-367-8900

Canadian Stage Company
27 Front Street East

We wish to thank Dan Taylor for his food photography.

Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.




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