Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

29 08 2008

Smoked salmon, cucumber and fresh dill make a refreshing light lunch or first course on hot summer days. Although summer is winding down, cucumbers and dill are abundant right now so give it a try on the next warm day.  The cucumber salad is also a great side dish to grilled or roasted salmon.

Crème fraîche is a thick, aged cream.  Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to find.  If you can’t get it for this recipe, you can used drained, plain yogurt or sour cream but adjust the seasonings because the flavour will not be quite the same.   It’s also possible to make your own. You can check out this link for more information on substitutions:

Crème Fraîche Substitute

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

The crème fraîche dressing can be made in advance but do not assemble the salad until just before serving because the cucumbers will start to give off liquid resulting in a soggy salad.

Makes 4 first course servings

  • About 5 oz. (140 g) smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (see note above for substitutions)
  • 2 Tablespoons shallot, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large English (Burpless) cucumber, cut into slices about 1/4″ thick (about 2-1/2 cups)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine  crème fraîche, chopped shallot, cider vinegar, sugar salt and chopped dill.  Stir to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.  
  2. Just before serving, mix the cucumbers with the crème fraîche dressing and toss to coat.  Top with smoked salmon and garnish with fresh dill.  Can be served family-style or plated individually.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!


Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad with fresh dill garnish




Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

28 08 2008


Zucchini is vegetable that a lot of people love to hate.  They grow very easily and by the end of the summer in farming areas, there are usually more zucchini than anyone can use!  Luckily it is very versatile – because it doesn’t have a strong flavour, it can be used in baked goods, pickles, savoury dishes or just eaten on its own.  

This bread is similar to a carrot cake.  The zucchini keeps the bread moist so the frosting is not necessary but it I urge you to try it because it really takes it over the top! The frosting can also be used on your favourite carrot cake as well.

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 loaf 


  • 1 cup cake and pastry flour (use all purpose flour if you don’t have it)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 1-1/2 medium zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional – Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a standard size loaf pan with a neutral oil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and sugar.  Stir until combined and spices are distributed throughout.
  3. In a separate small bowl, beat eggs vigorously with a whisk until they are frothy, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs to flour mixture.
  4. Add oil, vanilla and zucchini and mix until combined.  Add pecans and raisins and stir until combined.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pan.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Let bread cool completely before adding frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting

This is also perfect for carrot cake.  The recipe can easily be doubled.

Makes about 3/4 cup frosting (can easily be doubled)

  • 4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 of a block), softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 4 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl.  Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat ingredients until smooth, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.  
  2. Spread generously over cooled bread or your favourite cake.
Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting, cut into slices

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting, cut into slices

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!





26 08 2008

Exciting news!  In addition to regular updates here at The Seasonal Gourmet, I am now writing regular articles for as well (  All material on is original and different from what appears on this site so check it out!


Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Remove an Avocado Pit

26 08 2008

This week I’m going to demonstrate how to pit an avocado.  Avocados make a great accompaniment to Mexican and Latin inspired dishes which are perfect for summer meals.  I also enjoy sliced avocado in salads or sandwiches.  As a bonus, I have included a recipe for guacamole.  Pour yourself a margarita, whip up some guacamole and enjoy with your favourite corn chips!

How to Remove an Avocado Pit

1. Slice avocado lengthwise all the way around, cutting through to the pit


2. Twist the two halves and gently pull apart


3. Using a very sharp, large knife, carefully sink blade into the pit (you can also pry the pit out with a spoon)


4. Twist knife and pull pit out


5. Et voila - you are now ready to scoop out the avocado flesh or cut it into a dice


Guacamole is traditionally made in a molcajete – a large stone bowl with a stone masher that looks like a mortar and pestle set.  However, it is certainly not nessecary to make decent guacamole and you can easily make it in a bowl by mashing the avocado with a fork.  Haas avocados are the most readily available variety. Look for ones that are very dark green (almost black) and soft to the touch so they mash easily.


 Makes about 1 cup – can easily be doubled


  • 1 very ripe Haas avocado, pitted (see above)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced onion
  • 1/3 cup diced tomato (about 1 small tomato)
  • 1/4 hot sauce such as Tabasco (or more, to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 garlic clove, finely minced – optional (purists would probably not use garlic but I like it)
  • Optional: you can add a bit of chopped fresh cilantro but I usually leave it out because a lot of people dislike the flavour of cilantro!
  1. Pit avocado as detailed above.  Spoon the flesh out of each half into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Lightly mash the avocado with a fork.  Add remaining ingredients and continue to mash the mixture until everything is combined and it is the desired consistency (some people like it very smooth while others prefer it a bit chunky).  
  3. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve with your favourite dishes.


Bon Appetit and Enjoy!


Guacamole, served in a molcajete

Guacamole, served in a molcajete

Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta

21 08 2008

Because tomato season is so short, I’m trying to make as many tomato recipes as possible before they’re gone and we’re stuck with tasteless imports again.  I visited the farmer’s market today and picked up a variety of different tomatoes from plum to miniature heirlooms.   The plum tomatoes didn’t really look that great so I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted one and discovered that they were sweet and flavourful.

For this recipe, it’s important to use plum tomatoes because they have less liquid inside and won’t make the dough soggy.  It’s also imperative that you slice them very thinly or they won’t cook properly.  A mandoline is the best tool but a very sharp knife will also work.  You could serve small squares of this as an appetizer or serve larger portions with a salad for a main dish.

Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta

Makes approximately 8 appetizer sized servings


  • 1/2 package of puffed pastry, thawed
  • 1-1/2 cups thinly sliced plum tomatoes – approximately 6 plum tomatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano + extra for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together ricotta, garlic, 2 teaspoons oregano, thyme, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt and parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Roll puff pastry out to a rectangle about 9″ X 12″.
  4. Spread ricotta evenly over dough.  Top ricotta with tomato slices (some tomatoes may be overlapping or doubled).
  5. Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt and fresh oregano.
  6. Bake tart for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown along the edges and on the bottom. Cut into squares to serve.  Tip: a round pizza cutter is a good way to cut the tart cleanly but a sharp knife will work as well. 

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!


Caprese Salad

19 08 2008

Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese in Italian) is a classic summer salad that is very simple to put together.  The key to success with this salad is to use the very best ingredients you possibly can.  When you use tomatoes at their peak, good quality mozzarella and olive oil and fresh picked basil, it’s truly a special dish. However, if you use sub-par ingredients and poor quality tomatoes, it can be pretty mundane.  Save it for summertime – it just won’t be the same with January’s tomatoes!

This is not really even a recipe, just some guidelines on what to use for the best result.  I have shown some suggestions on how to compose your salad: stacked, as a chopped salad, layered on a platter or as stuffed tomatoes.  You could also toss the ingredients with pasta or layer them in a baguette for a refreshing summer sandwich.

Insalata Caprese 101



  • Ripe tomatoes, in the prime of their season.  Any type of tomato that is top quality will do – heirlooms are good, as are plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and cocktail tomatoes.


  • Fresh mozzarella – Buffalo mozzarella is preferable but cow will also work.  The best kinds can usually be found at a good cheese counter or shop and are kept in liquid.  Ask your cheesemonger for recommendations.  Avoid pre-packaged block mozzarella from the supermarket as it does not have the same flavour or texture.
  • Fresh Mozzarella Balls

  • Extra virgin olive oil – A decent olive oil is essential.  I typically use ones from Tuscany or Spain.






Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Fresh Basil.  The fresher the better, preferably from your own herb garden.  Don’t even think about using dried basil from a jar!
Fresh Basil

Fresh Basil


  • Sea Salt.  This adds the finishing touch and a salty crunch to your salad.
Sea Salt

Sea Salt


Putting it All Together

Now that you’ve assembled your ingredients, you can compose you salad however you choose.   Typically the tomatoes, basil and cheese are layered and then sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil.  How you assemble your salad may depend upon the occasion:


This is an impressive presentation for an elegant first course at a dinner party.  Slice a tomato into rounds, leaving the ‘lid’ in tact.  Slice a very thin sliver off the bottom piece so the tomato will sit upright without rolling over.  Layer a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf and repeat for all tomato slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

'Stacked' Caprese Salad

'Stacked' Caprese Salad



This is the quickest way to put together a caprese salad and is excellent for family style dinners.  Cut up tomatoes and mozzarella into chunks, chop up some basil leaf (see primer on How to chop herbs ) and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt and toss everything together in a large bowl.  Garnish with a basil leaf.

'Chopped' Caprese Salad

'Chopped' Caprese Salad



This is another good way to present the salad for buffet or family style dining.  Layer slices of tomato with the cheese and basil slivers.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Garnish with a basil leaf.

"Layered" Caprese Salad (made with heirloom tomatoes - they look green but are actually ripe)

'Layered' Caprese Salad (made with heirloom tomatoes - they look green but are actually ripe)



For cocktail parties, stuffing the tomato with the cheese and basil makes the perfect one-bite finger food.  Cut the top 1/4 off the top of a small cocktail or grape tomato.  Scoop the seeds and pulp out from inside and discard. Cut the mozzarella into small chunks and wrap each piece in basil leaf.  Stuff the mozzarella into the hollowed out tomato.  Drizzle stuffed tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt.

"Stuffed" Caprese Salad

'Stuffed' Caprese Salad


Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Chop Fresh Herbs

18 08 2008

Starting today, each week I’m going to pass along some of my favourite kitchen tips, from chopping fresh herbs to removing the casing from sausage.  Enjoy!

Chopping Leafy Fresh Herbs

When chopping leafy fresh herbs such as basil or sage, take all of the leaves and stack them together.  Roll the leaves up tightly, as though rolling a cigar.  Place on the cutting board and slice thinly.  Chop up the slices to the size required.  This technique is called chiffonade.

Apricot Jam

14 08 2008


This is a very quick version of an apricot spread that you can use on biscuits, toast or croissants to make your morning a little brighter.  I don’t even add any pectin – the fruit mixture just simmers down until it gets quite thick.  This makes only a small batch of jam and is intended to be eaten right away rather than canned.  For information on how to make large batches and prepare jars for canning, visit

Apricot Jam

Makes approximately 1 cup of jam    


  • 2 heaping cups of apricots (about 15 small apricots), quartered and pits removed
  • Pits from the apricots
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, place all ingredients (including pits). 
  2. Bring fruit mixture to a simmer and reduce heat so it is gently simmering (not a hard boil).  Simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until fruit has cooked down and started to thicken.
  3. Remove pits and discard.  Let jam cool and use on toast, etc.  Can be kept covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

News and Inspiration – August 10th, 2008…

10 08 2008

It’s now peak season for produce at the market.  Here are a few things to look out for when you’re shopping (based on availability in Southern Ontario, which will vary slightly in other regions):

  • Corn.  I bought some corn on the cob about a week and a half ago and it wasn’t great but the cobs I picked up yesterday were sweet and delicious.  Serving idea:  Cut kernels off the cob and stir into your favourite salsa for a sweet, raw crunch that’s delicious with corn chips. 

  • Tomatoes.  To be honest, so far I’ve found local tomatoes to be a bit disappointing.  Some of the smaller ones such as strawberry and cherry tomatoes have been quite flavourful but the field tomatoes I recently bought were a bit mealy and lacking in flavour.  Hopefully better ones will hit the market soon.  Serving idea: Toss some halved cherry tomatoes with cooked pasta, olive oil, torn basil leaf, salt and pepper and cubed fresh mozzarella.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • Peaches.  They are just starting to come into their own.  It’s been a wet season in Ontario peach country so they may be a bit slower than normal reaching their peak but after I let them sit for a day or two (on the counter – not in the fridge), they were quite juicy and sweet.  Serving idea: Halve peaches and discard pits.  Brush with a bit of honey and place cut side down on a hot grill.  Grill until lightly browned with grill marks.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.


  • Peppers.  Red, green and yellow peppers are just starting to turn up at farmer’s markets.  Often they are a bit misshapen and ugly compared to the perfect greenhouse specimens we usually see but they are not lacking in flavour.  The red and yellow peppers I picked up yesterday were very sweet.  Serving idea:  Saute strips of green, red and yellow peppers in a pan with sliced onions and a bit of oil and garlic.  Squeeze with fresh lime juice and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with grilled chicken or beef (omit for vegetarians), sliced avocado, salsa and sour cream in a warm flour tortilla.

  • Eggplant and zucchini.  Zucchini are abundant right now so I will be developing a few recipes to use them up (particularly for those of you in rural areas where zucchini can quickly get out of control and people will leave baskets of them on their neighbour’s doorsteps just to get rid of them!).  Servng idea: Cut zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers and onions into large chunks and toss with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Place in grilling pan (or a roasting pan for the oven) and grill or roast until vegetables begin to soften and brown around the edges.  Season with sea salt and your favourite fresh herbs before serving (thyme, oregano or basil are delicious). 

  • For Ontario home chefs (particularly those of you in the Greater Toronto Area): I recently discovered a fantastic gourmet store that features products primarily from Ontario, including oils, vinegars, meats, cheeses, produce, nuts and flour.   It’s called Culinarium and it is an excellent source for anyone in Ontario who is hoping to use local ingredients.  They carry Red Fife flour, which has become a favourite of chefs (JK Wine Bar in Toronto uses it).   I’m working on a couple of recipes using the flour so stay tuned.  The service at Culinarium is excellent: very friendly and they will let you sample virtually everything they keep in stock.  I picked up some flours, vinegar, oil, peanuts, dried cranberry and a bit of produce.   Their website is and they are located at 705 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ontario, phone: 647-430-7004.   

I’ve been exploring the farmer’s markets and doing a lot of experimentation in the kitchen so check back often for the latest in market news, gourmet finds and of course, new recipes with seasonal ingredients.  Have a great weekend and good eating!



Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

7 08 2008


Corn is one of my favourite vegetables.  The season for fresh corn is very brief in Canada so during the few weeks it’s available, I eat it as often as I can.  Simply roasted or boiled corn on the cob with butter, salt and pepper is a classic but it’s also wonderfully versatile as an ingredient in salads, pasta sauces or soups.  I developed this recipe as a way to showcase a few summer ingredients that we can only get for a short time so enjoy it while you can!   It’s also an excellent way to use up any leftover cooked corn (if there ever is such a thing – which is not too often in my house!)

Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Makes approximately 4 servings as a side dish

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)


  • 2-1/2 cups cooked corn, cut off the cobs (approximately 4 cobs)
  • 4 rashers bacon (optional – omit for vegetarians)
  • 10 to 12 mini tomatoes (such as cocktail, cherry, grape, etc.), cut in half
  • 3 Tablespoons red onion, cut into a fine dice
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, cut into a fine dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil leaf, for garnish
  1. Cook bacon until crisp.  Crumble into pieces and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add tomatoes, corn, onion and red pepper to bowl.  Drizzle with basil vinaigrette (see recipe below) and toss to coat.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with a basil leaf.

Basil Vinaigrette:

  • 4 Tablespoons neutral oil (such as canola or safflower)
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil (*see tip on how to chop basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt

*Tip for cutting basil leaf: Take a few large basil leaves and roll them up together very tightly, as though rolling a cigar.  With a sharp knife, cut through roll in thin strips.   Chop up strips into smaller pieces.

  1. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.  Use on corn salad or other summer salads.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!