Chicken Livers with Polenta

livers 8This is our perfect comfort food. Feeling tired? Long day? Feeling sad and just need a warm hug? Chicken livers cooked with sausage or bacon, caramelized onions, tomatoes and stock that gets velvety as it reduces. Spoon this over creamy polenta, find a quaint english mystery show on Netflix… and chill.

We make this with bacon or sausage, depending what we have on hand. You can leave out the salty fatty pork component if you would like, but why? You can use wine or beer, but its just as good without. If you like mushrooms, you can add mushrooms. Feel the need for some healthy greens? Chop up a little kale and add it to the mix. The polenta is simple, quite basic, I usually add a little grated parm to the polenta, but it’s really good with smoked cheddar. Use whatever cheese you have on hand, or leave the cheese out all together. If you are avoiding dairy you can sub olive oil for the butter and skip the cheese.

Make sure you start the polenta before you start the livers because the longer the cornmeal has to cook the better.

Polenta

polenta 14 cups water

pinch of salt

1 cup cornmeal

2 tbsps butter

1/2 cup shredded parm, (or other cheese)

s+p to taste

 

  1. Put water in a heavy bottomed pot. Add salt, bring to a boil.
  2. Whisk the water to create a whirlpool, slowly pour in the cornmeal whisking the whole time. The mix should be the consistency of heavy cream. Don’t worry, it will thicken. Don’t keep adding cornmeal until it is thick, thats too much cornmeal.
  3. Bring cornmeal back to a boil and then turn down very low. Let simmer, stirring occasionally. If it gets too thick, add more water. If you have the patience, let this simmer for 45 minutes. The longer it cooks, the less gritty the cornmeal and the silkier the texture.
  4. Right before you serve, whisk in the butter, grated cheese and check the seasoning. You could also add chopped parsley, basil or other fresh herbs.

This is a great side dish for braised meats, chicken cacciatore or saucy sautéed vegetables. Try it with just a dollop of mascarpone and some chopped basil.

Chicken Livers

1/2 lb sausage or baconlivers 1

1 large onion, diced

1 clove garlic, miced

pinch of chilies

1 lb chicken livers

1 cup flour (optional)

1/4 cup wine or beer, optionalsliced garlic

2 cups chicken or beef stock

1 large tomato, diced

1/4 cup chopped green onions

s+p to taste

livers-4.jpg

 

 

  1. if you are using sausage, I like to use a mild italian sausage. If you like a little more heat, by all means, use a spicy sausage. If you are using bacon, slice it thick and cut it into 1/2 inch strips (or lardons).
  2. sauteé onions and sausage in a large heavy skillet until sausage is brown. add garlic and chili flakes and sauté one minute longer
  3. dust the chicken livers with flour. (if you are trying to avoid gluten, you can use corn flour or my favourite, chick pea flour. or you can skip this step altogether. The flour just helps give the livers a nice brown crust and thickens the sauce a bit)livers 5
  4. push all the sausage and onions to one side of pan. Shake any excess flour off the livers and place in pan. Now ignore them, walk away, don’t mess with them. People often spend too much time fiddling with food. If you keep fussing with the livers they won’t brown properly, you will tear the meat and make a murky grey mess. Leave the livers alone until the one side is nice and crisp and well browned. Then flip them over.
  5. livers 6Add the wine or beer if you want,  and reduce. Add the stock and reduce until sauce is creamy. Toss in  tomatoes and green onions and check the seasoning. Chicken Livers are best when just a little bit pink inside, if you over cook them they get chalky in texture.
  6. Serve livers on the polenta. Enjoy with a nice medium bodied red, like a valpolicella or a tempranillo or a dark malty beer.

Want to try something different? Check  Food 52
for this fun recipe for Buffalo Style Chicken Livers

Soup

zucchini2The turn in weather this week has me dreaming of soup and big mugs of tea and fresh baked bread slathered in butter. With our current tilt toward eating healthy, I’m getting the soup and tea. In fact, as I write this, I have peppermint tea in Alex’s ceramic mug. He loves this mug because it has a nice big handle, making it easy to grip with his big man hands (sausage fingers?) I love the mug, too. A little bit for the same reason but also because it’s his mug and I like drinking tea from it and feeling that quiet connection.

In addition to all the tea you can stand to drink, from any kind of mug, soup is considered a reasonably healthy choice, with some caveats. No cream. Minimal potatoes. Not too much bacon (or any, really). That’s about it, I think. Making soup flavourful and healthy is actually pretty straight-forward and you still feel satiated and full of love from it. I also like to make less-healthy soups which my daughters truly enjoy. And it makes me happy to feed them something so full of love and warmth.garlic

In case you haven’t noticed, I love soup. Which I find kind of funny because as a kid, I would have nothing to do with soup. I pretty much thought it was nonsense: a bowl of mystery textures waiting to torture me. Fortunately, I slowly moved through this particular neurosis and have come to fully embrace soup. I have soup preferences, mind you. For example, smooth soups are okay but chunky soups are the best. As Annie, a frequent customer at my cousins’ restaurant in Riding Mountain used to say in her thick Ukrainian accent, “I like tick soup, lots of juice”. It’s true, I do. I like my soup with lots going on it. And our youngest kid totally gets this and loves soup. She would eat it for every single meal. So, I make a lot of soup. And I think I’m pretty good at it. My dear friend Harry Paine, a brilliant cook among his other great skills, used to tell me my soups looked horrible but always tasted divine. He said I had the ability to make something out of nothing. I made 2 soups this week and I’m going to share the recipes – one is healthier than the other but they are both fabulous so enjoy!

cropped-onions.jpg

 

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek soup

2 tbsps olive oil

3 large beautiful leeks, thinly sliced cross-wise – as you near the dark green parts, peel back the tougher bits and keep slicing, until it’s all tough parts.

3 lbs potatoes, cut in half and then thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

stock to cover – about 1.5 litres

chili flakes

salt and pepper

1 whole lemon – zest the rind and juice it

  1. Put the sliced leeks in a colander and push the rings apart. Leeks hold a lot of dirt from growing so you want to take a few minutes to make sure they are well rinsed.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a big soup pot. Add the leeks and saute til soft. Add the potatoes,garlic, chili flakes and saute for a few minutes, getting a bit of char happening on some of the potatoes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stock and scrape the bottom of the pot to pull up all the yummy bits stuck to the bottom. Let simmer for 40 minutes, uncovered.
  4. Add lemon zest and lemon juice. Taste to decide if it needs more salt or pepper.

Sometimes, I will throw a can of corn into this soup because I know my girls love it and it adds a bit of colour. You can add it at any point.

Tomato Lentil Soup

lentil soup1/2 lb diced bacon or turkey bacon or diced sausage (this is totally optional – if not using bacon or sausage, you will need some canola or olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan before sautéing the veggies)

1 white onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs of celery, sliced (including the leaves, they are so good, especially in soups)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 zucchini, diced

1 cup cut green beans (or cabbage or cauliflower)

1 big can diced tomatoes or 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

2 cups cooked french lentils (brown or Puy – just not red lentils – boil them in stock, herbs and a tsp of butter until they are al dente)

1/2 tsp chili flakes

salt and pepper

chopped fresh basil or flat leaf parsley or both (and as much or as little as you like)

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Fry the bacon in the soup pot until crispy – depending on the size of the pot, you may need to do this in batches. If you put too much bacon in at once, it kind of struggles to get crispy – leave space between the pieces. If using bacon, start with a cold pot and heat it at medium high, this avoids the bacon burning or being burnt and soggy: truly a bacon disaster.
  2.  Once the bacon or sausage is nice and crispy, remove it from the pot and set aside. Drain off most of the fat, just leaving a coating on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Saute the onions over medium high heat until soft and just starting to turn brown, add celery, carrots and garlic. Add chili flakes, salt, pepper. Cook for another 1-2 minutes then add the zucchini. Continue to saute for a few minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, green beans and lentils. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Add the chopped herbs and the balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Dinner Party

I think our favourite type of event to cater is small dinner party in someone’s home. Between 8 to 12 people is the ideal size for an intimate gathering. Smaller events like this allow us  to give it the personal touch and  lets us have fun with the food. These events really allow us to customize the food to suit the tastes of the client and their guests. We had the privilege of catering an 8 person dinner last night.

This is the menu we served. The entire menu is dairy free and made with very little onion or garlic. This was the client’s preference.

If you have an event coming up, consider having it catered. Instead of being stuck in the kitchen over a hot stove, you can be enjoying your guests’ company.

Pass Arounds

smoked steelhead 2butternut squash with shitake and apple

crostini with arugula pesto, coppa and cherry Tomato

smoked steelhead cakes with spicy mint aioli
and smoked steelhead

 

Saladwalnuts

fresh fig, caramelized fennel, toasted walnuts and arugula
with a lemon balsamic vinaigrette

Entree

lentils

steelhead trout on green lentils with roasted nugget potatoes, green beans and cucumber remoulade

 

 

Dessert

coconut panna cotta with grilled peach granita, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, coconut, dried mango, fresh peaches,  fresh fig and mint

Butternut Squash with Shitake and Apple Appetizer

1 butternut squash

apple

1 cup shitake mushroom tops

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tart apple

lemon juice

olive oil

salt and pepper

1.I love how butternut squash has 2 parts, the top is shaped like a zucchini and is solid flesh. the bottom is round and is hollow, filled with seeds. This recipe uses both those parts. Try to find a squash with a skinny top so that when you slice it, it is a good appetizer size. To prepare, cut he top  and bottom off the squash. Cut the squash in half separating the skinny part from the round part. Peel the skinny part and slice into 1/4inch thick coins. Cut the round part in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the top coins in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes, until it starts to brown. Bake the bottom part for 30-40 minutes until soft.

2.slice shitake mushrooms tops, sauté in a little oil with garlic, add soy sauce and remove from heat.

3. Scoop the squash out of the bottom half of the squash, puree in a food processor until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper

4. slice apple into little matchsticks, toss with lemon.

5. To assemble, drop a teaspoon of warm squash puree onto each squash round. top with shitake mushrooms, garnish with apple matchsticks. This dish tastes like early autumn. Depending on how big the squash is, you should get around 12 canapes. You will probably have leftover puree which you can use for a veggie side dish or as the base of a soup.

Eating Clean, A Plan

Want to eat healthy but still want tasty meals and snacks? I know we do. Cook with us as we try to find cleaner, healthier options that are delicious and fun to make

Alex and I have a fun little side project going on. The past few years, we have sort of ignored our health in a significant way and gotten rounder and rounder. I think it’s a fair statement to say we’re both kind of done with that situation. I can get really nutty and super into a project like this and wind up burning myself and Alex out so I’ve taken a bit more of a measured approach to situation.

A few months ago, I connected with Dave and Megan at Midtown Barbell. Not long after I started, I had the major setback of our work lives being blown up so I kind of lost my way for a bit. With some gentle encouragement and a considerable amount of patience, Dave got me back in the gym. It’s hard and gross and I could seriously talk myself out of going every single day but I haven’t and I’m there, sweating and swearing and trying to keep my chin up.

This past weekend, Megan sent me a little food plan. It’s pretty straight forward:

The Plan

Breakfast:

3 eggs, ¾ cup of oatmeal, 1 tsp slivered almonds, 1 tsp butter

Lunch:

5 oz turkey or chicken or tuna

Dijon mustard or some sort of sugar free sauce

2 cups spinach

2 tbsps dressing

Handful of cashews

Dinner:

6 oz lean meat, 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1 baked yam, 1 tsp butter

Snacks:

½ small fruit, 1 oz cheese, 1 small handful of nuts

1 oz cheese, 36 calories worth of crackers

1 oz meat, 1 slice of bread, 1 tsp mayo

1 hardboiled egg

Small handful of grapes and nuts

No pop, no juice, no alcohol

I sat with this for a couple of days… it was the long weekend which means lots of cocktails and yummy food so the eating plan could wait. And it gave me time to consider what she had written out. I really dislike boring food. And this just strikes me as 10 days of boredom which will be hard to keep myself motivated through. So I’ve had enough time to think and I’ve come up with a few ideas about how to eat this lean protein, high vegetable plan with a little panache.

Here is how we interpreted it on one of those 10 days

3 scrambled eggs with 2 tomato slices

¾ cup steel cut oatmeal with a few blueberries

Lunch for Danielle turned out to be a store bought chicken, corn and hardboiled egg salad with a mustard/olive oil dressing. Alex had 2 leftover chicken thighs and a sliced tomato.

For snacks, I had some cucumber slices with 2 oz of cheese. 

Grapes

A few roasted almonds

And then for dinner, I made a pretty nice little schmammer:

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

 

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

yam schmammer1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalepeno, diced

1 very large or 2 regular yams, diced

4 cups of kale, stripped of stems and chopped

1lb ground turkey

2 tbsps chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsps oil, divided in 2

Salt and pepper to taste

At medium high, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add chili powder and cumin, let cook for 1 minute. Add the onion and saute until cooked through. Add garlic and jalepeno, cook for 1 minute.  Meanwhile, steam the yams in the microwave on high for 5 minutes with ½ cup of water. Drain off the water and add the yams to the onions. Cook for 5 minutes then add the chopped kale.

In a separate pan, heat up 1 tbsp of oil and add the ground turkey. Saute until cooked then add to the sweet potato mixture.

I wasn’t sure how this dish was going to go but it was delicious! So good. And I feel it is entirely in the spirit of the meal plan.

For the Love of Entertaining

 

floral centerpiece
A floral centerpiece from our own garden

We love to entertain. Full-on. From a few people sitting around a campfire drinking hot toddies and eating s’mores to an elegant five course dinner with all the details in place, we are deeply nourished by gathering with people and connecting over food and drinks.

When I was 18 years old, I met Alex’s family. At a dinner party. With a lot of cutlery. And glasses. I was super intimidated and freaked out. You see, I was raised in a different kind of world. A world in which tv trays made of hard cream coloured plastic with scenes of horses running through fields were tucked behind plates with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Where most parties meant paper plates and plastic cups because that made clean up easier. Where trays of oven fried chicken were balanced on the burners of the stove for a makeshift buffet dinner.  Not that there was anything bad or unpleasant about the food and dining experiences of my childhood. The food was all lovingly made, often by my grandmother and usually using chickens from the neighbours and vegetables from our gardens. And we had lots of parties. Family and friends gathered in our big house or at my great aunt’s (seriously) tiny house (her kitchen couldn’t handle a full-sized fridge, so it had a bar fridge!) And we ate and laughed and had fun.

It’s just that I did not know that dinner could involve two forks. Or cloth napkins folded to look like fans or birds. Or 3 glasses. When I met Alex’s mom, Aija, I believe she was at the apex of her hosting. For the first ten years, there were endless parties: dinner parties, themed parties, cake parties. You named it, there was a party for it. One Christmas, she hosted 19 parties. Who does that?! But it was a ton of fun. All these parties tapped into some deep part of me, into my creative and nurturing parts, and I fell in love. Pretty soon, we were hosting our own parties and helping Aija with some of her parties.I learned how to set a table with all the cutlery, and how to time the service of courses, and emergency repair a cake, and use the right glasses for port. I am always grateful for Aija sharing all of this knowledge with me and for the lessons in being a gracious and good host. I’ve carried this knowledge with me throughout my life, no matter what I’m doing, and although the port glass stuff doesn’t come up too often, the gracious host stuff comes up a lot.

neil dinner 1
The first of many courses

 

In this section of our website, we will be posting about parties we host or parties we cater or parties we would love to create. Enjoy the party and join the conversation! If you have any questions, thoughts, feelings about events please comment or send an email to chef@alexanderskitchen.ca or danielle@alexanderskitchen.ca

The Gift

Sometimes gifts arrive in the most curious of packages. So curious, in fact, that it can take a few moments to even recognize it as a gift. We’ve recently had the experience of receiving an expected, unrecognizable gift.

Our business was taken away from us.

Truly, did not see that coming. Six weeks before we were ousted, we had signed a lease on a new restaurant. We all met and planned and chatted excitedly about possibilities. And then, we were out. And, for awhile, it was ugly; the gift that causes waves of nausea, fear and confusion, is really, really hard to recognize as a gift.

But, as a bit of time passed, and we were able to start to see the glimmers of possibility. We began to experience a shift in our vision. Maybe we want to do more than run a restaurant? Alex and I have been in the restaurant and hospitality industry for a very long time. He has been a chef for 25 years, we opened our first restaurant together 15 years ago. We have catered every kind of event imaginable, from a 4 person private event under a tent where the guests arrived by boat to many 200 person sit-down weddings to 5,000 person dinners in a field. We have run an intimate, open-kitchen bistro, a fun and packed lounge, a butcher shop… We have toured and cooked. We have done tv, radio and magazine articles. We have cooked for our friend living with cancer and her celiac husband. We have said “yes” to every special request that came our way. We have mixed cocktails and grown our own veggies and herbs. We hosted our very first dinner party when we were 20 years old, complete with a theme and 4 courses. For years, we hosted a weekly Friday night dinner of about 20 people, where everyone threw $5 in a pot to cover the food costs (this was a few years ago…) and we sat in the glow of each other’s company and unpacked our long weeks together. We catered our own wedding. Seriously. For 30 years now, we have lived food, drinks, and hospitality. And for the past 15 years, we have focussed on running our own restaurants. Maybe the time has come to shift our gaze. To lean deeply into the parts of food culture which often get pushed to the side when running a busy place: writing about food, creating recipes, talking about cookbooks, spending time with farmers, hosting events. And talking with other people about it all.

For as long as I can remember, community has been key to our lives. Being connected to people and experiencing life together is so very important to us. We hope we are going to be able to create community here. We hope to answer questions, learn about so much, provide support, and have a really good chat. Our website is intended to be dynamic and engaged with the community. We will write about our food experiences, we will take pictures, talk, cook, laugh, love and share it all with you.

Food and community, what else is there?

Thank you for coming to our website.

#livewithlove