Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Historic Old Mill Inn: Lunch Buffet on the Humber

Nestled along the thickly wooded slopes of the Humber River Valley, the historic Old Mill Inn offers a full-service spa and elegant fine dining with Executive Chef Martin Buehner at the helm. The iconic 4-star Tudor-style mill house hotel set amid beautiful gardens and just minutes from downtown Toronto, is famous for its traditional English afternoon tea which has been served since 1914 and features the customary cream, jam and scones. The Old Mill underwent a series of renovations in the early 1970s, with great attention made to authentically restore the original Dining Room, Garret and Humber Rooms. The old Print Room was restored and a new Tea Room added. Present-day proprietor Michael Kalmar took ownership of The Old Mill in 1991, and after significant restoration and reconstruction, The Old Mill reopened in 2001 with over 50 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites. During the week, The Old Mill serves an impressive luncheon buffet in the Inn's historic dining room, with restored flagstone floors and high wood beamed ceiling. With a wide selection of appetizers, salads, hot dishes and desserts, the Old Mill's luncheon buffet has something for everyone, including hot and cold seafood, smoked fish, pasta and carving station featuring a roasted pork loin and handsome prime rib of beef. Also featuring a fine à la carte menu, the prettiest spot to dine is in the bright and sunny Terrace Room overlooking the Inn's picturesque garden patio and gurgling water fountain. 

The Old Mill's outdoor garden patio

The bright and sunny Terrace Room overlooking the Inn's picturesque garden patio

Red Begonia Centrepiece

The Old Mill Grand Luncheon Buffet

Tomato and Bocconcini Salad

Chilled Poached Mussels

Smoked Salmon with capers

Poached Shrimp

Calamari with Asian Slaw

Selection of Fresh Fruit

Cheese Board

Plum and Streusel Tart

Shepherds Pie
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Martin Buehner

1 onion peeled and chopped
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lb minced beef
1 tbsp of bovril, dissolved in a little hot water
3 tbsp of worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs of thyme 
1 tsp tomato purée
3 carrots, peeled and diced
14 fl oz chicken stock
1 handful chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

3 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
7 fl oz single cream
4oz butter
1 large egg yolk 

In a large pan, gently sauté the onion in the vegetable oil for about 10 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the minced beef a little at a time and cook until browned. Then add the Bovril water, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, tomato purée, carrots, stock and season with some salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 50 minutes, then transfer to a pie dish ready for the mashed potato.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, then return to the pan and add the cream, butter, egg yolk and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Mash well, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover the mince mixture with the potato and run a fork over the top for decoration. Place in an oven preheated to 350°F for 20 minutes or until the potato is nicely browned.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve. You can prep this dish in advance, leave to cool and then reheat later, although will need more time in the oven — about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grilled Pork Chops with Rosemary & Lemon Zest

These moist and tender bone-in pork chops marinated in a fragrant mixture of fresh rosemary, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest for at least one hour before being grilled, are a succulent entrée, and delicious served along with grilled zucchini or local Ontario asparagus. Juicy and flavourful, grilled lean pork are relatively low in calories, have far less cholesterol than red meat, and are a rich source of protein, vital for ones overall health.

Grilled Pork Chops with Rosemary and Lemon Zest
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 bone-in pork loin chops, 3/4-inch thick

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, fresh rosemary, lemon zest and season with Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper. Pour the marinade over the pork and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, turning occasionally. Preheat an outdoor BBQ to medium high then grill the chops over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes per side or until a thermometer reads 145°F, then allow the meat to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sushi Kaji: Toronto's Ultimate Omakase

Omakase comes from the Japanese term "to trust", and dining Omakase-style means just that — allowing the chef to present a sampling of their favourite selections. Considered to be one of the top Omakase experiences in Toronto, Sushi Kaji has only 30 seats and reservations are absolutely required, often months in advance, with the best seats being those at the bar facing the open sushi prep area, where chef Mitsuhiro Kaji surgically slices through glistening slabs of fish flown in that morning directly from Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. Reserving a spot at the bar more than two months before, we were front row centre to the cooking theatre of chefs Kaji and Takeshi Okada, to savour Sushi Kaji's $130 12-course Omakase tasting menu which spans several hours and is prepared with only the freshest and highest quality seasonal ingredients — it’s impossible to be disappointed if you’re into the very best sashimi and sushi.

While Kaji is the undisputed maestro of the sushi and sashimi bar, the kitchen is Okada’s domain where he prepares zen-inspired courses which include his sensational Tuna and Avocado Spicy Salad with flash fried lotus root, Fried Chicken Katsutu with sweet onions, Grilled Ocean Trout with Brown Butter Yuzu Sauce and ultra-umami Wagyu Steak from Kagoshima. The fish and seafood are hand sliced by Chef Kaji, and garnished by his 'shefuashisutanto', or trusted chef's assistant, and served with Sushi Kaji's homemade soy sauce, guided by Chef Kaji's directions as to which sushi morsels to dip into the soy, and which not. A selection of sake and plum wines are a delightful accompaniment to the Omakase dining experience, which are only upstaged by Chef Kaji's playful personality, deft knife skills and the most wonderful fresh and flavourful fish — dōmo arigatō.

With an unspectacular exterior on the Queensway, Sushi Kaji is worth the drive 
to Etobicoke for Toronto's most celebrated Omakase

The modern interior with Chef Kaji at the helm

There are two Omakase menus and a succinct selection of Sake

A simple Zen-like place setting with napkin and chopsticks on lacquer tray

Japanese tea is served in handmade cups

Warm Okunhmatsu Sake

Tuna and Avocado Spicy Salad with flash fried lotus root was the first course of the Takumi Omakase

Fried Chicken Katsutu with sweet onions

A mound of steamed edamame is served with the Katsutu

Albacore Tuna Tatami served with grated daikon radish and broth

Sashimi with Moroccan Octopus, Japanese tuna, sea bream and amberjack served with wasabi 
and shiso leaves

Sea Bream with grated miso and micro greens 

Daikon, Carrot and Leaf Salad

Sesame Dressing for salad

Grilled Ocean Trout with Brown Butter Zuzu Sauce and Asparagus

While Chef Kaji slices the fish and prepare the sushi, his assistant is in charge of garnishing each piece, like the Japanese Spot Prawns

Japanese Spot Prawn Sushi

Chef Kaji slicing the fish for our sushi course

Flounder Sushi with julienned Shiso Leaf

Octopus Sushi with Garlic Sauce

Anago - saltwater eel - garnished with grated shiso and yuzu

Scallop Sushi

Chutoro, medium fatty tuna sushi

Mackerel with black garlic sauce

Wagyu Steak from Kagoshima 

Panacotta with Zuzu Sorbet

Iced Cream with red beans and fresh berries

Friday, June 23, 2017

Moroccan Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas & Veggies

Light, crunchy and slightly sweet with the addition of honey and dried cranberries in the broth as the quinoa cooks, this colourful Moroccan Quinoa Salad is the perfect side dish for a hot summer lunch or outdoor dinner. Tossed with a medley of diced vegetables, dried fruits, fresh herbs and exotic mixture of fragrant spices, the salad is entirely gluten-free for a low carb contribution to a healthy and delicious summer meal.

Moroccan Quinoa Salad 
Serves 6

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed in cold water
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup grated carrots 
1/2 cup seeded and diced English cucumber 
1/3 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine the quinoa, chicken broth, raisins, curry, cumin, coriander, honey and salt in a medium pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. Remove from the heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and allow to cool completely. After the quinoa has cooled, combine with all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chilled Creamy Avocado & Cucumber Soup and Crab

Creamy avocado and fresh cucumber partner exquisitely in this refreshing Chilled Avocado and Cucumber Soup, perfect as an elegant first course or light summer lunch on a hot afternoon. Low in carbs and high in savoury and sensory appeal, this delicious soup can be prepared well in advance and simply chilled until it's ready to be served. Just purée all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor with a dollop of crème fraîche and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and enjoy this tasty tribute to summer's abundant produce. Splurge with a garnish of cooked lobster, flaky crabmeat, or perhaps one or two large sautéed prawns, along with some chopped tomato, avocado and a shot of tabasco. Rich and creamy, this soup is best enjoyed in smaller portions, such as small bowls or shot glasses with a colourful array of festive garnishes to celebrate the season.

Chilled Avocado & Cucumber Soup with Crab
Serves 4

2 english cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium avocado, chopped
3 green onions, chopped 
1 cup buttermilk 
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream 
juice of 1 lime 
2 tbsp chopped cilantro 
1/4 tsp ground cumin 
salt, to taste 

2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 can cooked crabmeat 
Fresh ground white or black pepper

Place all the ingredients together in a blender and process until smooth. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours. To serve, pour the soup in decorative glasses or bowls, and garnish with chopped tomato, avocado, and flaked crabmeat with a grind a little fresh ground pepper to finish.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Whole Grilled Lavraki: Mediterranean Sea Bass

Lavraki is a Mediterranean sea bass, indigenous to the shores of Greece, and is considered a prized fish in Europe. In France, they are called Loup or Bar, the Spanish call them Robalo, and in Italy they are known as Spigola or, more commonly, as Bronzino. In Greece, Lavraki are a near mythical fish, ever elusive. In fact, when Greek journalists stumble upon a great story — snag that rare exclusive scoop — they call it a Lavraki. Stuffed with fresh herbs, lemon and sliced ginger this recipe for Whole Grilled Lavraki is easy to prepare and makes a gorgeous main dish, especially on a hot summer evening under the stars.   

Whole Grilled Lavraki
Serves 2

2 medium Lavraki, at room temperature - cleaned and scaled by your fishmonger
1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper
1 handful fresh mint and lemon thyme
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
2 lemons, one finely sliced and the other cut in half for grilling

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Light an outdoor grill or barbecue to high heat. Season the inside of the lavraki with salt and a few grindings of black pepper, and rub the outside with the olive oil and season well with kosher salt which will help ensure a wonderful crispy skin. Stuff with lemon slices, sliced ginger and sprigs of fresh mint and lemon thyme. Place the lavraki and lemon halves on a foil lined baking sheet for easy transport to the barbecue.

Grill the fish over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side, adding the lemon halves cut side down for the last 3-4 minutes. Serve the lavraki straight away, and garnish with the grilled lemon wedges for squeezing overtop of the fish.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Grilled Lamb & Vegetables with Arugula, Mint & Feta

Ideally suited for summer grilling, Rack of Lamb is one of my favourite cuts of meat, and when sliced into single or double chops and marinated in a fragrant elixir of garlic, fresh mint and rosemary, the flavours are positively intoxicating. Blended together in a food processor, and loosened with a little olive oil to produce a smooth paste, the marinade is simply massaged into the lamb chops and then abandoned to works it's magic for an hour or so. Grilled with a medley of mixed vegetables in a non-stick grill basket, they can be cooked beside one another then served as a sensational summer salad. Any combination of vegetables will do, but I love the colour and flavour of broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms and baby red onions garnished with a little feta once served. Easy, healthy and delicious, Grilled Lamb Chops with Wok-Grilled Vegetables make a fabulous summer meal when it's just too hot to do anything else.

New Zealand Rack of Lamb cut into individual chops and marinated with garlic, olive oil, 
fresh rosemary and mint

Grilled Lamb & Mixed Vegetables with Arugula, Mint and Greek Feta
Serves 2

1 rack of lamb, cut into single chops
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, pulled off the stem
2 tbsp fresh mint, plus an extra handful for garnish
3 tbsp olive oil
Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper
6 cups wild baby arugula

BBQ Wok-Grilled Vegetables with Feta:
1/4 head of broccoli, cut into small bite size pieces
4 large cremini mushrooms, cleaned and halved
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large shallot, skinned and quartered
3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 3-inch long pieces
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
2 oz Greek feta

Add the garlic and fresh herbs to a small food processor and blend to emulsify, then add the olive oil and blitz again until the marinade becomes a smooth paste. Pour the marinade into a shallow glass baking dish, then add the lamb chops and toss thoroughly to ensure all of the meat is well coated with the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours.

Return the lamb chops to room temperature before grilling. Meanwhile, place all of the chopped vegetables in large bowl and just before they are to be cooked, toss with a little olive oil and oregano, then set aside. 

Preheat the BBQ to high heat. When hot, pour the vegetables into a non-stick grilling basket and place on the grill. Cook while tossing the vegetables frequently for about 10-12 minutes, or until the vegetables are just done. To serve, spoon the grilled vegetables back into the bowl and then set aside and season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Grill the chops for 3 minutes per side for medium. To serve, lay the arugula on a large platter then spoon the grilled vegetables over top, then arrange the lamb chops on top and garnish with the feta cheese and the remaining whole mint. Season with a little Maldon salt and serve.