Spice of Life
This weekend we’re celebrating the most important men in our lives – our dads, grandfathers, husbands, sons, partners, uncles, friends… If you’re planning a backyard barbecue, we’ve got some spectacular recipes for appetizers, salads, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and more…everything you need to make your party a smashing success!
Cooking with Martha: Pan Fried Halloumi with Fennel Salad
by: Martha Wright, Executive Chef, Stratus Restaurant
This is a great appetizer to serve “family style” on a platter in the middle of the table. It pairs well with roast chicken, grilled chicken skewers, grilled calamari, or even octopus if you are up to the challenge. You can always add some cooked chickpeas to the fennel ragout to make it a more substantial vegetarian meal. Think Mediterranean cooking.
I know I say it a lot, but get creative. Play around with ingredients, adding what you like, and omitting what you don’t like. Unless I’m baking, I always use recipes as a launching pad to get creative for meals at home.
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 medium Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed (optional)
- 12 pitted Kalamata olives, slivered (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
- 1/3 cup fresh mint, minced
- 1 x 8 oz. package halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4- to 3/8-inch-thick slices
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy, 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Add fennel, fennel seed, and onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften (but don’t let them brown) for 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low, add 1/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables soften completely, another 3 to 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat off, and stir in the olives, lemon zest, mint, and the remaining 1 tbsp oil. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- Set a large (preferably 12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (no oil is necessary) until hot, about 1 minute. Working in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan, cook the halloumi until golden in spots, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side of each slice is golden, about 2 minutes more. Reduce the heat as needed if the halloumi is browning too fast.
- Shingle the halloumi on a serving platter. Stir the compote and spoon half of it over the halloumi. Serve immediately with the remaining compote on the side.
Tip: Serve with slices of crusty bread warmed in the oven.
BBQ Tips: Grilled Watermelon Salad
by: Sean Vodden, Sous Chef and Team Canada BBQ Chef, Stratus Restaurant
Ready in just 20 minutes, make this grilled watermelon salad the star of your next backyard barbecue, even if you are just cooking for your family!
- 1 medium seedless watermelon
- 1/2 c amaretto
- 1/4 red onion
- 1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 c grape tomatoes
- 1/4 c toasted walnuts
- 1 x 5 oz bag arugula
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Light and scrape clean your favorite grill and set to 400F.
- Slice watermelon into approx. 1-inch thick slices.
- Remove outside rind (see tips below).
- Sprinkle amaretto evenly over all of your slices. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Peel red onion. Cut off a 1/4 piece. You can use more red onion if you’re a red onion fan.
- Grill off watermelon for 4 - 5 minutes per side. Don’t rush flipping the watermelon. Set aside.
- Grill red onion for approx. 5 - 7 minutes or until tender. Flip as needed.
- Transfer grilled watermelon and red onion.
- Dice red onion into small bite sized pieces.
- Slice watermelon into large cubes (see tips below).
- Combine all ingredients and toss gently.
- For a rustic salad, dice grilled watermelon into cubes of your choosing.
- For a more composed salad, cut the watermelon into 2 x 2 inch squares.
- You can create a delicious watermelon rind pickle with the discarded rinds.
Summer Cocktail: Spicy Caesar
by: Kyla Markland, Bar Manager, Stratus Restaurant
Spice up your Father’s Day (and treat your dad!) with these spectacular Spicy Caesars!
- 1.5 oz vodka
- 3 dashes of Tabasco hot sauce
- 4 - 5 dashes of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp of horseradish (optional)
- 1 tbsp of pickle juice (optional)
- 5 oz Clamato juice
- Lime wedge
- Celery salt
- Rim a tall chilled glass with a lime wedge.
- Garnish the rim with celery salt.
- Add ice to the glass and pour in all ingredients.
- Add black pepper and horseradish for an extra kick of spice.
- Garnish your cocktail with lime wedge, celery, and a pickled bean. Other options to add a fun splash to your Caesar might be a pepperette, pickled onion, crispy bacon, or even a prawn.
Enjoy and Happy Father’s Day!!
Fun Cooking with David: Strawberry Horchata
by: David Mendonca, Sous Chef, Oak Room
Horchata was created in Spain to combat spicy foods. Picture this: you’re at your local taco stand/in the kitchen and are about to dig into some tacos topped with a zinger of salsa. One bite and your face is fire-engine red and your mouth burning hot. Well, it’s a good thing you made this soothing drink!
- 1 ½ cups white rice, uncooked
- 7 cups water
- 1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
- 1 lb strawberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 can of condensed milk
- 1 can (14 oz) evaporated milk
- Fresh strawberries, for garnish
- Blend all ingredients together.
- Place through a strainer and refrigerate.
** This recipe is just a guide. You can change the ingredients as you would like. For example, use half almond milk instead of the full amount of water and/or honey instead of condensed milk.
Know Your Wine with Gaurav: Tasting Wine
by: Gaurav Ashwani, Assistant F&B Manager and Certified Sommelier WSET 3, Stratus Restaurant
Want to learn how to taste and evaluate a glass of wine like an expert? Easy! Pour 3oz (90ml) of wine and follow these basic 4 steps of wine tasting: look, smell, taste, and conclude.
Wine can be categorized as red, white, or rosé. The look of the wine not only shows the colour but also shows the intensity, age, and viscosity. To inspect the appearance, angle the glass over a white backdrop and inspect the colour, intensity, and hue at the rim of the glass. Swirl the wine to see the viscosity. The following information can be drawn from appearance:
Colour: The colour (or hue) of white wines range from almost colourless to gold and for red wines range from cherry-red to a deep ruby. The hue can give a fair idea of both grape variety and wine production. For instance, pinot noir grape gives cherry-red wines whereas merlot gives ruby-red wines.
Intensity: Observe the wine from the rim to the middle. The colour difference shows the age and wine production process. For example, young red wines show no change in colour from the centre to the rim, or show a lighter purple rim. Older red wines show a change of colour to orange or even brown, which develops first at the rim.
Viscosity: Viscous wines generally have higher alcohol and/or residual sugar.
The smell (or bouquet) is very important when analyzing a wine. This is best achieved by swirling the wine around the glass, releasing aroma compounds into the air. To effectively smell the wine, hold the glass just under your nose and sniff. Then swirl the wine once and smell again. This time, smell the wine longer and slower. Move your nose to different positions around the glass. Rich fruit aromas are generally found on the lower lip and floral aromas and other volatile aromas can be smelled on the upper lip of the glass. The wine aromas can be divided into the following three categories:
Primary Aromas: Primary aromas come from grape variety. Each variety has a range of possible fruit, floral, and herbal aromas. For example, the white wine variety Sauvignon Blanc often smells like gooseberry or fresh-cut grass.
Secondary Aromas: Secondary aromas come from winemaking, specifically, from reactions caused by wine yeast and bacteria. For example, the butter found in Chardonnay is from unique bacteria.
Tertiary Aromas: Tertiary aromas come from aging and controlled interaction with oxygen. For example, the nutty aromas of the red wine from Tempranillo grape variety comes from the American oak barrels used to age the wine.
Finally, the wine should be tasted, and the flavours considered in relation to the appearance and the bouquet, confirming the information previously gathered. To properly taste, sip the wine and try coating the whole mouth with a larger sip of wine followed by several smaller sips to isolate and pick out flavours. The wine palate can be broken down into fruit flavours, non–fruit flavours, minerality or earthiness, oak, oak spices, acid, sweetness, tannin, alcohol, body, and the length of the finish. Every wine characteristic can be felt at different part of the tongue. Sweetness is toward the front, acidity makes the mouth water, tannin is textural and dries the mouth, and alcohol feels like heat in the back of the throat. The balance of the wine, that is fruit: acid: tannin: alcohol and the length of finish are then assessed.
If the wine has been subject to oak treatment, then this should be in balance with the rest of the components. If the flavour remains on the palate for a long time, the wine is said to have a long finish and usually of high quality. If the flavour disappears as the wine is drunk, it is said to have a short finish and is of low quality.
Make a Conclusion:
Once the blueprint of the wine has been established and the jigsaw completed, we are in a position to form an educated conclusion on the grapes used, the climate, geographical origin/country, age/vintage, alcohol content, and quality. As wine tasting is very subjective and varies from person to person, you can conclude if you enjoy the wine, value for money, and which foods it would be suitable with.
Cooking with Neesha: Scallops
by: Neesha de Souza Miljanovic, Food & Beverage Manager, The HUB – kitchen and bar
Often viewed as a high-end dish, scallops aren’t as hard to cook as the chefs on Hell’s Kitchen make them out to be! My husband and I love this recipe at this time of year!
- 6 x Jumbo fresh scallops
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- Lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
- Salt & pepper (1 tsp each approx.)
- Pat dry scallops to remove any excess water.
- Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a large non-stick pan to high.
- Add olive oil.
- Put scallops in pan. Cook on high heat for 2 – 3 minutes then flip.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add butter and chopped garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add lemon juice and cook for 1 - 2 mins.
- Turn off heat.
- Add green onions.
- Feel free to add more salt/flavouring to taste.
Events in the Time of COVID
by: Samantha McLeod, Events Director, Stratus Restaurant
With much of the city still shut down due to COVID restrictions, finding fun and entertaining things to do are on the top of everyone’s minds. Here are a few ideas and activities that you may not realize are available to you in the city today:
Kayaking/Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)/Canoeing
The city has lifted restrictions on safer, individual sports including some water sports. Toronto’s Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre has opened up its rentals to online bookings this week. Ranging in price for rentals from 2 hrs to 4+ hrs, it is recommended you book in advance to ensure you have one waiting for you. Although the islands are still closed to the public, you can kayak across the channel and through the waterways of the islands for some great views of the city!
Private Boat Tours
If water sports aren’t your thing and you prefer to sit back and relax, consider booking a private tour of the city on the affordable Tiki Taxi. Enjoy a 1+ hr tour through the waterways of Toronto with up to 5 guests onboard in your group (6 if from the same household). Prices range from $150/hr for daytime or $160/hour for sunset. Book online here. Non-alcoholic drinks and food permitted.
The Toronto Zoo is still restricted to pedestrians, but you can now drive through the animal exhibits on a 45 minute safari from the safety of your car! You must book in advance online and tickets are being released monthly on a limited basis. Ticket prices vary per car depending on number of occupants. They sell out fast so keep your eye on the website to book your spot today!
The City of Toronto has opened up pedestrian/cyclist only pathways on weekends to encourage safe and distanced exercise free from cars. No Bike? No problem. Consider renting a Bike Share bicycle from one of many stations throughout the city. View locations and pricing here.
These street shutdowns include:
- Lake Shore Boulevard West (eastbound lanes only) from Windermere Avenue to Stadium Road.
- Lake Shore Boulevard East (eastbound lanes only) from Leslie Street to just south of Woodbine Avenue (Kew Beach Avenue).
- Bayview Avenue from Mill Street to Rosedale Valley Road, and River Street from Gerrard Street East to Bayview Avenue.
And of course, tune into our websites for daily online exercises and tips from our expert trainers. Take these exercises outdoors to your local park to enjoy the warm weather!