Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

Rainbow trout with shell pasta, veg, and white wine butter sauce

Rainbow trout (also known as Steelhead trout) is a beautiful, tasty North American fish related to salmon. It is found in fresh water lakes and rivers, as well as in the Pacific Ocean. Unlike its farmed counterparts, wild-caught rainbow trout has a pinky-orange colour (more orange than the pink farmed stuff) and a nutty flavour that works well with a variety of accompanying flavours. It is low calorie and rich in protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids are thought to prevent heart disease, and also play a key role in memory and cognitive function. This means rainbow trout is an excellent option for pregnant women, and adults wishing to reduce their risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, it is excellent brain food.

Because rainbow trout is related to salmon, it can be cooked in much the same way. In this recipe, I chose to steam my fish with the accompanying pasta and veg, in order to lock in as much of the beautiful flavours as possible.

When I’m cooking at home, I tend to utilize whatever I have on hand at the time. I had a bunch of produce that needed to be used up, and a small bit of shell pasta left that was the perfect amount to use as a side to my trout. If you have any vegetables in the fridge that are going to go bad soon, this is the perfect way to use them up.

It doesn’t really matter which vegetables you add to your dish, but the more colour and variety you can incorporate, the better! I used a green pepper, one and a half red peppers, some broccoli, and some cherry tomatoes for a bit of pop. The goal with veggies like peppers is to slice them as thinly as you can, and also keep them all about the same size so they cook at the same rate. This entire meal doesn’t take very long to cook, so if the slices are too thick they will not cook properly. With vegetables such as broccoli, just try to cut them down to about the same size as the pasta, to keep everything bite-friendly and uniform. I threw the cherry tomatoes in as-is, so they would blister a bit in the cooking process and pop in the mouth when eaten.

For ease in cooking, make sure to have all the veg prepped and ready to go before you begin. Start by boiling the pasta to just al-dente (remember it will be introduced to more liquid and cooking later, so if it is fully cooked to begin with it will definitely become mushy by the time it is done). Once the pasta is cooked, heat a pan with a good amount of butter, and sautee the veg and pasta together for a minute. Place the fish filets flesh-side down (skin-side up) on top of the pasta and veg, and pour a generous amount of wine (about 3/4 cup or so if cooking for 2-4) into the bottom of the pan. Quickly cover the pan, in order to allow the fish to cook and absorb the flavours of the wine and veg. The fish will cook quickly, so check on it after a few minutes. Once it has firmed up, remove it from the pan and place onto a baking sheet while the pasta and veg finish. The skin should slip easily off the fish once removed from the pan, the only tricky part is making sure the fish doesn’t fall apart when it is being taken out of the pan. Make sure the wine is properly cooked out before serving the pasta, as the taste of uncooked wine is really unappealing.  Before transferring the pasta to the plates, grate some parmigiano and asiago cheeses into the mix, and finish with a bit more butter if necessary. This is all the pasta and veg will be dressed with, so be a little bit generous with these ingredients.

To finish my plate, I like to drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil over the pasta and the fish. Soft herbs like basil, parsley or sage work nicely as garnish and additional flavouring.

I also garnished my fish with a savoury granola, which adds a great crunch and a bit more flavour. This granola mixture is easy to make, stores well, and can be used on top of salads as an alternative to nuts, amongst other things. I like to make a batch and just keep it on hand, to use as needed. To make the granola, mince garlic finely (1 to 2 cloves is plenty) and mix with oats, salt, some honey for sweetness, and a bit of canola oil. Lay it on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and bake in a 350F oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Remember to keep an eye on the granola so it doesn’t burn. Once it has turned a golden brown colour, remove from the oven and allow to cool before using. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Rainbow trout with Shell pasta and vegetables

You will need:

2 filets of rainbow trout

1 ½ cups shell pasta, cooked  al-dente

1 green pepper, finely sliced

1 red pepper, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely sliced

1 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces

8 cherry tomatoes

½ cup white wine

3 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup grated parmigian and asiago cheese

To garnish:

12 leaves of basil, sliced

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Savoury granola mixture (see below)

Method:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, heat the butter and cook the shallots and garlic for about 30 seconds until translucent. Add the peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and pasta, and toss together.
  2. Place the fish skin-side up on top of the pasta and veg. Immediately pour the wine into the pan (trying to get it to the bottom and avoiding pouring over the fish), and cover the pan.
  3. Cook fish for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet when done, and remove the skin before serving.
  4. Continue to cook pasta and veggies for a few more minutes, sautéing well and making sure all the alcohol is cooked out of the wine.
  5. Finish with a small amount of butter, and season with salt and pepper. Grate cheese over pasta mixture, and mix well to make sure it’s evenly coated.
  6. Place pasta and veggie mixture onto plates, and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and top with herbs.
  7. Place the fish over top of the pasta, and finish with a small amount of the granola mixture, and some more shaved parm if desired.
  8. Serve immediately.

Savoury Granola

You will need:

1 ½  cup oats

½ cup canola oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp honey

½ tbsp salt

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss together to ensure all the oats are evenly coated.
  2. Lay out evenly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.
  4. Allow to cool, and store in an airtight container.

Casual finger food ideas- Mini pizzas

Mini white pizzas with beschamel sauce, asiago and mozzarella

Mini pizzas are the perfect finger food for any casual gathering. Because of their small size, they are a much cuter and more delicate way to serve pizza, adding a level of sophistication while maintaining a laid-back feel. Most importantly, they are generally liked by children and adults, which make them perfect for a kid’s birthday party where adults will be present as well.
The nice thing about making your own pizza is that you are able to use whichever toppings you like. I usually like to have an assortment of pizzas, with either a red or a white sauce and different toppings. They can also be an excellent vegetarian option, so keep in mind that you may want to make some without meat.
Although tomato sauce, either home-made or from a jar, is the classic pizza topper, BBQ sauce or beschamel are also delicious. Try making an all-white pizza, with beschamel and a variety of cheeses such as mozzarella, asiago and chevre. Topped with chicken and herbs, they not only look beautiful but taste great too!
Keep in mind that, as these pizzas are fairly tiny, you will want to keep all your toppings small as well. Any meat or veg added to the pizza should be well chopped, to ensure that no big chunks take over the entire morsel. If using bacon, first render it until crispy and then crumble it. Likewise, when saucing the pizza, you really only need a teaspoon to distribute the sauce on the little crusts.
When putting the pizzas together, make sure your dough is properly docked. Docking is the act of poking holes into a raw crust, and is done to enable steam to escape while the crusts are baking, so that they don’t puff up. Once you have rolled out your dough and cut it to size, poke it evenly with a fork, making sure that the holes go all the way through.
These pizzas can be made well in advance, and stored in the freezer until ready to use. Shortly before serving, just pop them into a hot oven at 475F and cook for about 10 minutes.

Mini pizzas, before they hit the oven

Basic pizza dough

You will need:
2 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast
1 ½ cups bread flour
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp sugar

Method:
1. Stir the yeast into the flour.
2. Stir the remaining ingredients into the flour mixture. Knead with a dough hook on a standing mixer, or by hand, for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly stretchy.
3. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit in a warm place to rise for about half an hour.
4. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into four portions. The dough can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out thinly.
6. If making mini pizzas, use a round cookie cutter to cut evenly sized dough rounds.
7. Poke the dough with a fork, to ensure crust does not puff up in the oven.

Mini white pizzas with chicken and mushrooms

Mini white pizzas

You will need:
1-2 cups beschamel sauce (recipe below)
4 cups mozzarella cheese
2 cups asiago cheese
40 mini pizza crusts, docked
*options: add pieces of chicken, mushroom, or a small amount of goat cheese, and garnish with a small leaf of flat parsley.

Method:
1. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a small amount of beschamel and place in the center of each pizza crust. Smooth it over the entire surface.
2. Place a small amount of mozzarella and asiago on top of the sauced pizza dough, and add any other toppings you may be using. Try to limit your topping amounts, as the space on the tiny crusts is limited.
3. Bake at 475F for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and cheese is melted.

Beschamel:
You will need:
1 cup Half and Half
¼ onion
4 stems of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp all purpose flour

Method:
1. In a medium sized saucepan with a heavy bottom, heat Half and Half with the onion and herbs over medium heat. Once the milk has been warmed, immediately remove from heat and remove the onion and herbs with a slotted spoon.
2. In another saucepan, over medium-high heat, heat the butter until melted, and whisk in the flour to make a blonde roux. This should only take a few minutes.
3. Whisk the flavoured milk into the roux, making sure there are no lumps. Cook on low until thickened.

Mini pizzas with red sauce, bacon and mushroom

You will need:
40 mini pizza crusts
1 cup pizza sauce
4 cups mozzarella cheese
½ cup crumbled bacon
4 whole mushrooms, sliced thinly

Method:
1. Using a teaspoon, place a small amount of sauce in the middle of each pizza, and smooth over the entire surface.
2. Cover with cheese, 1 slice of mushroom, and a small amount of bacon.
3. Bake at 475F for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.

 

LIZZI’S FIRST TIP: Always Be Creative!

Hey everybody!

Entertaining and cooking great food are two things that really excite me! Luckily, they go hand in hand with eachother, and if you get the cooking part right, the entertaining is usually easier!

So, my lovlies, I bring you some sound advice today… Never stop being creative! A dish that creates a WOW factor at one party may seem tired and pedestrian to your guests if they find that it is your ONLY go-to party dish. If you are inviting a lot of the same people to your dinners and cocktail gatherings, make sure to mix up the menu from the previous times so that your guests don’t get bored! On a positive note, constantly switching up your menu means that you can challenge yourself in the kitchen and come up with great new concepts that will impress everyone, every time! Tres fab!

How does an entertaining diva come up with different food concepts every time, you ask? Easy! Just keep in touch with The Girl Next Door, and I will bring you amazingly simple recipes and meal ideas on the reg!

I am so excited to bring you amazing new ideas! Support local talent! Support local business! Support THE GIRL NEXT DOOR!

Eat well, live well, be well!

Yours truly,

Lizz Hill aka THE GIRL NEXT DOOR