February 7, 2012

Walking Barefoot

Back in the spring I picked up Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. I must admit I was enticed by the photographs and the colour. If there isn’t a photograph, the page is a bright bold colour.

This book caters to one’s senses with a picture for every recipe, snippets with a backstory about the recipe and some tips for entertaining or whatever on the bright pages.

True to the title, these recipes are easy to prepare as there aren’t many complicated steps. Garten helps take a complex dish and makes it do-able. She even takes a twist on pancakes and blintzes in making them relatively effortlessly for a crowd.

Cooking seasonally is made easier as the book contains ingredients that are in season – lighter fare in summer and heartier in winter, tomatoes in summer and squash in winter. In Canada off-season produce can be expensive so it’s nice to have some ideas for using those not-so-popular vegetables.

Everything I had made was not just delicious, but fairly simple to put together.

roasted tomato caprese salad – Roasting the tomatoes put a nice spin on this classic salad

mustard roasted fish – Goes nice with something plain so you can enjoy the creamy mustard and capers

mache with warm brie and apples – Why hadn’t I thought of this before?!


easy sole meuniere – A nice lemony fish dish

maple roasted butternut squash – Just as good without the bacon


indonesian grilled swordfish – Mmmm what an interesting blend of flavours that doesn’t overpower the fish


oven roasted vegetables – These are best eaten right away and perfect to enjoy those spring veggies


parmesan roasted broccoli – So good The Honey served himself seconds


baked blintzes – Perfect for serving a large group for brunch


All the recipes below have been written using a gluten-free alternative (ie gf bread instead of baguette)

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad          (serves 6)
12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tbs balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
16 oz fresh mozzarella
12 fresh basil leaves, julienned

Arrange tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with the oilive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with garlic, sugar, 1 ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Roast for 2 hrs at 275° until the tomatoes begin to caramelize. Allow tomatoes to cool to room temperature. Cut mozzarella into slices less than ½ inch thick (and in half if the slices are larger than the tomatoes). Layer the tomatoes alternately with the cheese on a platter and scatter the basil on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Mustard Roasted Fish       (serves 4)
4-8oz fish fillets
Salt and pepper
8oz crème fraiche
3 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs whole grain mustard
2 tbs minced shallots
2 tsp drained capers

Place the fish fillets on a baking sheet or ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine the crème fraiche, mustards, shallots, capers, 1 tsp salt and ½ pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake fo 10-15 mins at 425°, depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve with some of the sauce from the pan spooned over top.

Mache with Warm Brie and Apples    (serves 4)
Slices of gluten-free bread (probably 2-3 slices per person)
12 oz brie, cut into 4 wedges
6 tbs honey
3 tbs roasted and salted pistachios (2 oz shelled pistachios)
4 oz mache leaves
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
3 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced

Place bread slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 6-8 mins, until crisp. Arrange the four wedges of brie snugly in a layer in a ceramic/glass baking dish. Drizzle honey over top, scatter the pistachios on top and bake for 3-5 mins, just until the brie begins to ooze. Place the mache in a large bowl and toss gently with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide salad on four plates and place a wedge of brie in the centre of each plate. Place a quarter of the apple slices on each place. Place 2-3 slices of toasted bread on each plate. Sprinkle plate with salt and pepper. Drizzle plates with honey leftover in baking dish.
*If you can’t find mache lettuce, any light lettuce would work just as well

Easy Sole Meuniere   (serves 2)
½ cup gluten-free flour
Salt and pepper
4 fresh sole fillets
6 tbs butter
1 tsp grated lemon zest
6 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs minced fresh parsley

Combine gluten-free flour, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper in a shallow plate. Pat the sole dry with a paper towel. Heat 3 tbs butter in a large pan over medium until it begins to brown. Dredge two fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 mins on each side. While the second side cooks, add ½ tsp of the lemon zest and 3 tbs of the lemon juice to the pan. Put the fish on ovenproof plates and pour the sauce over them. Put them in the oven at 200° to keep warm while repeating the process with the last two fillets. To serve, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash   (serves 6)
1 large butternut squash
1 head garlic, separated but not peeled
2 tbs olive oil
2 ½ tbs maple syrup
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
16 fresh sage leaves
Gluten-free bread for serving

Peel and seed squash and cut into ¾ -1 inch cubes. Place the squash and garlic cloves on a baking sheet in one layer. Toss with olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper and bake for 20-30 mins at 400°, turn once during baking. Sprinkle the pancetta and sage evenly over the squash and bake another 20-30 mins, until the squash and garlic are tender and caramelized. Season to taste and serve hot with gf bread for spreading the roasted garlic.
*To make this vegetarian I left out the pancetta. I also couldn’t find fresh sage and dried worked just as well.

Indonesian Grilled Swordfish    (serves 6)
1/3 cup gluten-free soy sauce
¼ cup canola oil, plus extra for the grill
2 tsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup minced ginger
2 tbs minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 tbs Dijon mustard
6 swordfish steaks

Combine gf soy sauce, canola oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, garlic and mustard in a bowl. Pour half the sauce in a low flat dish, place the fish in the dish and pour the remaining sauce over top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hrs.
Remove fish from the marinade and sprinkle the fish with salt. Place it on the grill (medium-hot) or pan and cook for 5 mins on each side, just until no longer pink in the middle. Place on a platter, cover with foil and allow the fish to rest for 10-15 mins.
*I used marlin steaks (less expensive and were easier to find). You could use whatever fish you like. Being winter I have no access to my BBQ and so did them on the stove. Still tastes delicious.

Oven Roasted Vegetables    (serves 6)
2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
1 lb small potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb string beans, trimmed
1 bunch thin asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Cut the fennel into 6 wedges, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact. Cut the potatoes in half and place both vegetables on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and toss. Roast the vegetables for 25-30 mins at 425°, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. Toss the beans and asparagus with the roasted vegetables and roast another 10-15 mins, until the green vegetables are tender. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli   (serves 6)
4-5 lbs broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbs julienned basil leaves

Cut the broccoli florets from the stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached, discarding the rest of the stalk. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head, pulling the florets apart. You should have 8 cups of florets. Place the florets on a sheet pan. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tbs olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes at 425°, until crisp-tender and the floret tips are browned. Remove from the oven and toss with 1 ½ tbs olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan and basil.

Baked Blintzes   (serves 8-10)
For the batter:
1 ¼ cup milk
2 tbs sour cream
4 tbs butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 extra large eggs
1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs baking powder
For the filling:
3 cups ricotta cheese
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 extra large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs grated lemon zest
2 tbs lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
Blueberry sauce

Butter a 9x13 inch cake pan. For the batter, place all the ingredients in a bowl and blend until smooth. Pour half the batter (about 1 ¾ cups) into the dish and bake for 10 mins at 350°, until set. For the filling, whisk together the ricotta, mascarpone, eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread the cheese filling over the baked pancake. Carefully spoon the remaining batter to cover the cheese. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 35-40 mins, until the top is lightly golden  and the filling is almost set. Remove from the oven and allow to stand 10-15 mins. To serve, cut the blintzes into squares with fruit sauce.
*I used an nice homemade rhubarb jam instead of the blueberry sauce and it was really good. Use any kind of fruit sauce or jam that you like.


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