How can you beet a honey of a lamb with a drunken peach?

The menu this week is:

 Montebello Beet Soup      
 Cinnamon Lamb Chops with Agro-Dolce Eggplant
 Caramelized Ouzo spiked Peaches on Double Churn Vanilla Ice Cream

At this time of year root vegetables are available anywhere you shop for groceries. Most stores offer large bags        (5-10 lb / 2¼ – 4½ kg)) and these colourful treasures come in a variety of basket sizes at open markets. From carrots to parsnips, turnips to beets, leeks to onions, white/golden/purple potatoes to sweet potatoes, these vegetables are the backbone of any chef’s arsenal.
The hearty vegetables are vitamin and mineral rich and offer some of the most exquisite flavours desired by foodies.

Try to include some of these vegetables in your repertoire of recipes and you will discover that they lend themselves well to a multitude of applications.

Use your imagination, think about what has turned you on when remembering meals you have enjoyed somewhere in your memory bank and be adventurous. Try something new! Be brave! Your friends and family will revel in your successes and understand when the rare failure creeps into your offerings.

Enjoy! Have fun! Make cooking for friends and family a group experience! Cooking, whether for yourself or others, is a satisfying experience.

Now, as a chef, I believe that my responsibility is to share my knowledge and experience, to the best of my ability, to make your cooking foray as successful (and safe) as possible. The directions in recipes are sometimes not as helpful as they could be. Frequently we try a new recipe only to discover that, even though we read the instructions in advance and they seemed simple enough, partway through we discover that there was a step missing or there had to be a better way of doing this.

This week’s recipe for Montebello Beet Soup is a good example of this. An inexperienced cook would follow these instructions to the letter, giving no thought to the fact that a novice might not know that beets are a root crop and require scrubbing then cooking separately before being included in a recipe. Beets are hard and have a skin that must be removed. They must be cooked until the skins come off then added to a recipe. See: and remember, beets are very dense and hold onto heat for quite a while so be careful. Beets “bleed” and do stain so wear rubber/latex gloves when handling them and use a stainless steel pot to cook them in.

Photo by: Ryan Forbes Photography

Montebello Beet Soup

 ¾ lb fresh beets, diced (375 g)
1 potato, diced
1½ tsp olive oil (7 ml)
½ onion, chopped
½ tsp medium curry powder or curry paste (2 ml)
3 cups chicken stock, low fat/sodium (750 ml)
1½ tsp honey (7 ml)
1/8 tsp salt (0.5 ml)
2 tbsp sour cream (25 ml)
2 tbsp chives or green onions, finely chopped (25 ml)
In large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook beets, potatoes, onion and curry powder, stirring often, for about 8 minutes or until onions are softened. Add stock, honey and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
In blender or food processor, purée beet mixture, in batches, until smooth. (Soup can be prepared to this point and refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
Return soup to clean saucepan; heat until simmering. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each with dollop of sour cream, and chives (if using).
Serves: 4
Cinnamon Lamb Chops with Agro-Dolce Eggplant

1½ lb Lamb front (cut into 4 x ¾” chops by butcher) (1 kg)
2 tsp olive or canola oil (10 ml)

2 tsp ground cinnamon (10 ml)
2 tsp ground cumin (10 ml)
small pinch ground nutmeg
1¼ tsp ground roasted fennel seeds (6 ml)
2 tsp crushed red pepper seeds (10 ml)
2 tsp dried oregano (10 ml)
1 tbsp buckwheat honey, or maple syrup (18 ml)
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (2.5 ml)
1¼ tbsp olive or canola oil, more for pan frying (18 ml)
optional splash to taste of a liqueur such as Ouzo

Dressing over cooked lamb:
1¼ tbsp extra virgin olive oil (18 ml)
2/3 large lemon, juiced
¾ tsp dried rosemary (4 ml)
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp sea salt (2.5 ml)
to taste freshly ground black pepper

Agro-Dolce (Minted Sour) Baby Eggplant:
1 large eggplant
4 baby eggplants
2 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup sultana or golden raisins (or dried cranberries) (75 ml)
1 small clove garlic, grated
¼ tsp ground cinnamon, enough to dust or more to taste (1 ml)
¼ cup pitted black Calamata olives (80 ml)
¼ cup fresh coriander plus more for garnish (80 ml)
pinch white sugar
2/3 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts (150 ml)
1¼ tbsp extra virgin olive oil (18 ml)
2 tsp red wine or balsamic vinegar. or to taste (10 ml)

Cinnamon-Scented Lamb
1. Place the oil marinade ingredients in the bottom of a large rectangular glass dish*. Place the pieces of lamb in the marinade and leave in a cool place for one hour. *or in a zipper bag
2. In the meantime, prepare your dressing to drizzle over your lamb after it has cooked (these ingredients may be placed in a jar with a tight lid so that you can shake them later).
3. Start prepping your side dishes (recipes for ‘agro-dolce’ eggplant follows the lamb recipe. You will need to start cleaning, chopping and pan-frying the eggplant dish).
4. Remove lamb from oil marinade after 1 hour and pat away any moisture with paper towels. Discard the oil marinade.
5. Preheat a large heavy non-stick frying pan over high heat. Test heat by adding 1 tbsp of water to pan.
6. When the pan is hot enough to evaporate the water, carefully add 2 tsp olive or canola oil to the pan.
7. Add the lamb chops to the pan. You should hear them sizzle. If they don’t sizzle, then your pan is not hot enough and you need to remove them from the pan and wait. They must sizzle.
8. Cook 3¼ to 4 minutes on first side. After that, flip using tongs and continue to cook another 3½ to 4 minutes on the other side.
9. Place the lamb a serving platter and cover loosely with foil.
10. Shake the jar containing the lemon, olive oil and rosemary dressing. Pour carefully over the cooked chops. Sprinkle dish with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
11. Garnish with lemon slices, and freshly chopped herbs (mint, parsley oregano or all three).
Note: The finished platter looks very colourful – you have the deep purple of the stuffed baby eggplant and the deep green of the herbed eggplant filling.

Agro-Dolce Eggplant
** This is best made early in the day
1. With the aid of a small knife and a large metal spoon, scoop out the flesh of the 4 baby eggplants, being careful to keep the shells intact. Set the shells aside. You will use them for holding the cooked filling.
2. Peel the large eggplant. Discard skin.
3. In a large non-stick fry-pan over medium-high heat, fry the eggplant flesh with ½ cup olive oil or canola oil, with crushed garlic clove. Make sure your heat remains constant. Cool oil means the eggplant will absorb too much oil and be soggy.
4. When eggplant is cooked and lightly coloured, add sultanas or golden raisins. Cool on a platter.
5. To finish: Mix in a raw grated clove of garlic, a sprinkle of cinnamon, pitted Kalamata olives and chopped coriander leaves.
6. Add a generous drizzle each of fruity extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar (or red balsamic vinegar). Add a pinch of sugar.
7. At the last minute, fry ½ cup slivered almonds or, preferably, pine nuts until golden. Sprinkle liberally over top. Cool slightly and top with more fresh coriander.

Serves: 6 

 Caramelized Peaches Spiked with Ouzo served with Ice Cream

2 2/3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces (40 ml)
½ cup sugar (118 ml)
2/3 tsp vanilla extract (3.33 ml)
4 peaches, unpeeled
¾ pint ice cream (355 ml)
¼ cup Ouzo (60 ml)

Preheat oven to 400°F (204ºC). In a 9” x 13” (23cm x 33cm) baking dish, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and ¼ cup (60ml) water. Place the dish in the heating oven until the butter melts. Remove from oven and stir to combine.
Cut each peach in half and remove the pits. Arrange the peach halves in the dish cut-side down. Roast until the peaches are tender, about 20 minutes. If desired, slip the peach skins off and discard. Deglaze pan with Ouzo. stirring well.
Divide the warm peach halves among 4 bowls cut-side up, spoon the pan juices over the top, and serve with a scoop of the frozen yogourt.

Serves: 4

Nutritional Values:
Montebello Beet Soup
155 Calories, 33 Calories from Fat, 3.7g Total Fat, 1.1g Saturated Fat, 3mg Cholesterol, 264mg Sodium, 29.1g Carbohydrates, 4.6g Dietary Fibre, 16.7g Sugars, 5.5g Protein
Nutritional Grade: A-
Cinnamon Lamb Chops
387 Calories, 157 Calories from Fat, 17.5g Total Fat, 5.1g Saturated Fat, 153mg Cholesterol, 641mg Sodium, 7.5g Carbohydrates, 1.3g Dietary Fibre, 3.4g Sugars, 48.3g Protein
Nutritional Grade: B
Agro-Dolce Eggplant
336 Calories, 127 Calories from Fat, 14.1g Total Fat, 1.5g Saturated Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 75mg Sodium, 51.8g Carbohydrates, 25.0g Dietary Fibre, 23.5g Sugars, 10.5g Protein
Nutritional Grade: B+

Caramelized Peaches Spiked with Ouzo with Ice Cream
345 Calories, 125 Calories from Fat, 13.9g Total Fat, 8.6g Saturated Fat, 44mg Cholesterol, 98mg Sodium, 47.2g Carbohydrates, 1.9g Dietary Fibre, 44.8g Sugars, 2.9g Protein
Nutritional Grade: D-


Categories: Dinner for 4 for -$40


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