Nut Free Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Pesto Lemon Ricotta Crostini

I’ve always dreamed of being able to grow a beautiful garden full of vegetables and herbs that I can pick at my leisure. Being in Bermuda I definitely have the advantage of growing plants year round. Last year I headed to Brighton Nursery and picked out all the seedlings I wanted to grow: 4 types of lettuces, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, and all the herbs you would need in a kitchen. I was determined to nurture these babies into healthy plants! At first the jalapeño’s were doing great, I had harvested my first crop of cute little green peppers but the slugs eventually got to them and the happy peppers looked quite sad. The lettuces always tasted bitter and my tomato plants never grew past 2 feet. All the herbs however, great into healthy aromatic bushes! I knew I didn’t have a black thumb…it was more like a brown one!

Pesto Lemon Ricotta Crostini
Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

So this year, I thought I would up my gardening game and try growing some herbs from seeds. It was like a little science experiment in my kitchen window. I was so excited when I saw the little green spouts emerge from the soil. And because I was 50% sure that this project would survive I sowed way more basil than I really needed to grow. My brown thumb had succeeded again! So currently outside our doorstop in our little Bermuda apartment are giant bushes of healthy green basil plants.

Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Pesto is the obvious choice to me for what to make when you have an abundance of basil. For a while I didn’t even think about making the simple sauce because of Dan’s nut allergy and I just didn’t think it tasted the same without pine nuts. But toasted sunflower seeds turned out to be the perfect alternative. The last few times we’ve had company for dinner I made this easy pesto appetizer and it’s always a hit. The creamy lemony ricotta pairs perfectly with the zesty pesto and the touch of sweetness from the honey ties it all together.

Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Nut Free Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
2 cups of packed basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
2 cups of whole milk ricotta
drizzle of honey
sea salt
zest of one lemon
crusty baguette

Lightly toast sunflower seeds in a pan until golden. Combine basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and seeds in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until a smooth. Season with sea salt to taste.

Mix ricotta with lemon zest and set aside.

Cut baguette into thin slices and toast lightly. Spoon ricotta onto crostini, top with a dollop of pesto and drizzle the honey over to serve.

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt

For most of my childhood the only relationship I had with cauliflower was at holiday meals with my family and it was always served sautéed with an entire can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. It probably was actually a recipe for an easy casserole found on the can label, but somehow got lost in translation with my Chinese mother. So the result was the two ingredients simply heated up and mixed together. Don’t get me wrong, this dish is comfort food for me, it reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners of roast turkey and with sides of BBQ pork and rice.

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt
Harissa Paste

These days one my favourite way to prepare cauliflower is simply roasting the florets that have been tossed in olive oil and spices. A nod to a restaurant in Vancouver called Nuba, their version called Najib’s Special is deep fried until light and crispy, an appetizer I adored when I frequented their Kitsilano location. My go-to starter for those that are vegetarian/vegan/GF, it’s not overly filling, but is certainly satisfying when shared with friends.

PS: I think the French word for cauliflower sounds beautiful, it’s chou-fleur!

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt
Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt
Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt 
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon harissa paste
2-3 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
a squeeze of lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together until a smooth consistency in a small bowl.

1 large cauliflower head
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
a squeeze of lemon juice
parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 424 degrees. Cut cauliflower into large florets and toss with a few glugs of olive oil, spices, sea salt and pepper. Space the florets evenly on roasting pan. Roast for approximately 20-30 minutes until tender, set under broiler for another few minutes to brown. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley to serve. Drizzle tahini-harissa dressing over cauliflower reserving extra for dipping.

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf


Guess what?

Dan and I welcomed a new addition to our home in the form of a tiny four-legged tail wagging monster! His name is Ollie and he’s a working English springer spaniel and behind those adorable floppy ears hides tiny little devil horns. A rambunctious little guy, Ollie is like any young puppy…take your eyes off him for even one second and he’s bound to be up to no good! Chewed shoes aside, it’s hard not to adore his cuddly spaniel face, plus Ollie sure is smart! Within 3 weeks he’s learned a handful of tricks, including a crowd favourite of playing dead at the cue of Bang!

Artisan Boule Bread Loaf

Now that I’m a new Puppy Mama, I’ve realized how much work a pup can be.  I’ve only had family dogs growing up and my mom did all the grunt work of raising our little ankle biters. I was determined to crate train little Ollie the moment we knew we were getting him, dreaming of a perfectly behaved pooch. But alas, the crate training is coming along rather slow…he much rather be my little shadow in the kitchen, flopping down next to my feet wherever I go. Which can make my usual cooking prep a little annoying… or absolutely adorable!

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf
Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

Usually every week I’ll bake at least one type of bread (which I sometimes shamefully gorge on when alone). And since all my attention in the next few weeks will be making sure Ollie doesn’t get himself into trouble I wanted to bake something easy.  One of the simplest methods I have come across is from Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Yeast Salt. His Saturday Bread requires no kneading and only the four ingredients that the book is named after. The recipe does take some planning (about 6 hours from start to oven), but it doesn’t need much work, just the initial mixing, a few folds a proof, and voila! a crusty boule! So in between chasing after the little rascal, and putting in a few folds of this dough, I was still able to produce my weekly loaf…that I’ll now shamefully gorge on!

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf
Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

note:  It’s best to work with a kitchen scale, but I’ve provided approximate cup measurements for those without.

Saturday 50% Whole Wheat Boule
Adapted from Flour Water Yeast Salt
Makes 1 1/2 pound loaf

250g white flour (2 cups)
250 g whole wheat flour (2 cups)
760 g water (3 ¼ cups)
10 g sea salt (2 teaspoons)
1/2 tsp yeast

In a large tub, mix the flour and water with your hands until the water and flour are incorporated. Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes to let the flour absorb the water.

Sprinkle the salt and yeast over the top of the dough and mix with your wet hands by alternatively stretching it and pinching it to fully incorporate the yeast and salt. This should take about five minutes. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Fold the dough by picking up each side and stretching it, and folding it over the middle like a little package. Re-cover. Fold the dough again after 30 minutes and repeat. When the dough is triple its original volume, about 5 hours after mixing, it’s ready to be proofed.

Heavily flour a proofing basket. You can also use a mixing bowl lined with a lint free kitchen linen that has been heavily floured. Carefully shape the dough into a boule (ball), tucking the sides around tightly. Place the shape loaf seam side down in the proofing basket.

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 hour 15 min, or until the loaves are puffy (it’s about an hour for me in Bermuda). Here is a great tip on checking dough doneness by Ken Forkish that I came across on Karen’s Kitchen.

About 45 minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F and place a covered Dutch oven on the middle rack. Make sure your Dutch oven has a knob that is oven safe.

Invert the loaf carefully onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down. Being cautious not to let any body parts touch the side of the Dutch oven, use oven mitts to remove from the oven and remove the lid. Carefully place the loaf in the hot Dutch oven and replace the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes until medium dark brown. Check after 15 minutes in case your oven is hotter than normal.

Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Fried Fish Gua Bao “Sandwich”

Fried Fish Gua Bao
Fried Fish Gua Bao

If there is one thing you have to try while visiting Bermuda, it would definitely be a fish sandwich. Who would ever say no to crispy battered fish, sandwiched between a toasted loaf, dressed with crunchy slaw and creamy tarter? Whenever Dan and I have friends visiting, one of the must-do’s on the list for our guests is to take them to Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy for their famous fish sandwich. Piled high with crispy battered fish as tall as a fist, Art Mel’s sandwich really is a sight to see. Even my brother and his fiancée loved it so much they went twice in the week they were visiting.

Fried Fish Gua Bao is currently holding an Island wide contest with local restaurants in search of the best fish sandwich. 40 restaurants are participating and if your belt can stay notched in, you have until August 14th to try each one. Needless to say, Bermuda loves their fish sandwiches.

Fried Fish Gua Bao

In honour of’s contest, I decided to create my own version of a fish sandwich. I knew that I wanted to incorporate some of my Asian heritage into this endeavour and at first I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about it. I didn’t think slapping some Asian condiments on top of fish warranted enough creativity, so I started to think about the carb portion of the meal and a light bulb went off in my head. Ah ha! I can wrap the crispy deep fried fish in a Chinese mantou bun!

Slightly sweet and steamed to softness, I grew up on this dough in the form of barbecue pork buns where the filling is actually enclosed. Bao, in Chinese, literally means ‘to wrap’. So instead for this recipe, I was inspired by the Gau Bao, a Taiwanese street food item that has been in the limelight in the last few years due to trendy eateries such as Momofuku and Baohaus. With raisins kneaded into the dough, the bun has that same hint of sweetness that makes Bermuda’s Fish sandwiches one of a kind. Add tempura styled fried fish, zesty citrus slaw and spicy tarter and you have my spin on a fish sandwich. Part Bermuda and part Chinese, this is the Fried Fish Gua Bao!

Fried Fish Gua BaoFried Fish Gua Bao

Makes 8 small sandwiches
Raisin Mantou Bao 
Adapted from A Table for Two

300 g bread Flour (2 1/3 cups)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 tablespoons milk powder (optional)
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup water at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup raisins

Add the yeast to water and let it activate for 5 minutes until frothy. Add the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl of stand mixer with a dough hook and pour in the yeast water. Mix on low speed for 5-8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease the sides of a bowl and place the dough inside and cover with a towel. Let the dough rest for about 1 – 1 1/2 hour until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll the dough into a large rectangle. Shape the dough into large tight log. Using a knife, cut the log into 8 equal pieces about 70 grams each. Flatten and roll each piece until smooth and place onto a tray lined with parchment paper and let rest covered for another 30 minutes.

While resting, cut out 16 small squares of parchment paper.

Take each dough and with a rolling pin, roll into a long oval shape about 6″x 4”. Fold over the dough in half lengthwise and place a piece of parchment paper on the inside to prevent sticking. Place the bun on a second square of paper. Repeat with all 8 pieces and cover with a towel and let it proof for another 30 minutes.

Set up a steamer over simmering water on medium heat. Place the buns in the steamer with at least 1 1/2” space in between. Steam for 10 minutes in batches.

*Buns freeze well and just need to reheated in the microwave for serving.
Asian Slaw
1 medium carrot
half of a small white cabbage
half of a small purple cabbage
1 green onion
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Shred carrot and cabbages with a mandolin or slice thin with a knife. Slice green onion. Mix together and sprinkle in vinegar, lemon juice and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sriracha Tarter
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or more to taste)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish

Combine all ingredients for sauce and set aside.

Tempura Fried Fish
1 pound white fish sliced in small 2oz portions (wahoo, cod, tilapia, mahimahi) * always locally caught when available
squeeze of lemon juice
salt & pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 1/4 cup of cold seltzer water
oil for frying
cilantro leaves for garnish

Marinate fish with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt & pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Set aside for 20 minutes while you prepare the batter.

Mix together flour, corn starch, pinch of salt, pinch of cayenne, and seltzer water. Whisk to combine.

Drain the fish pieces and pat dry with a paper towel.

Line a plate with paper towels and in a large heavy pot or cast iron pan heat about 1/2 inch of oil medium heat until 360c.

Dredge the fish pieces in the batter and carefully drop into the hot oil, careful not to crowd the fish by cooking in several batches. Monitor the temperature of the oil throughout the fry, keeping it at least 360. Fry until crisp, light and golden brown about 3 minutes each side. Remove and place on lined plates.

To assemble, remove paper from the bun and peel it open. Slater a good amount of tarter sauce on the inside of each steamed bun. Layer the slaw and hot fried fish and garnish with a handful of cilantro.

Cup Match Popsicles – Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

So who would’ve thought that this tiny country shuts down entirely for a weekend in the summer in the name of a cricket match where one side of the island plays the other side of the island? As many here would say, “only in Bermuda!” This is Cup Match: a public holiday where all of Bermuda enjoys a four day celebration of camping, boating, swimming, eating and of course, cricket!

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry
Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry
An island wide celebration of it’s Emancipation Day, the annual game dates back to the late 1800’s, where the friendly game was played during picnics between men from Somerset and St. George’s. Every year, before the start of the holiday, fans can be seen sporting their chosen team’s colours – red and royal blue for Somerset and light blue and navy for St George’s. This year the match is held in St. George’s, the oldest English town in the New World. If cricket watching isn’t your thing, you can try your luck and gamble on a game of Crown and Anchor, where many locals take advantage of the relaxed gambling laws during the holiday. Other weekend festivities include a beach party on Horseshoe Bay, one of the more famous Bermuda beaches, as well many reggae and soca concerts throughout the evenings. To cap it all off, Sunday is the annual Non-Mariners Race and boat raft up in Mangrove Bay.

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

In celebration of Cup Match, I made these fun fruity popsicles in Cup Match colours. It took me a while to figure out what flavors to choose, with so many blue shades between the two teams, there are only so many blue hued foods that exist! So pick your side to cheer for and keep cool in the August humidity…Dan and I are on team St George’s, but with these two delicious popsicles, it’ll be hard to choose! Have a Happy Cup Match everyone!

Triple Berry and Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry

Coconut Blue Mint Blackberry
Makes 4 Popsicles

Half can of full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons of sugar
Bunch of mint leaves
1 cup blackberries
2 tablespoon simple syrup* to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Blue food colouring

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coconut milk, sugar, and mint leaves. Cook stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover and let steep and cool down for at least an hour. Strain to remove mint leaves. Add 1 drop of blue food colouring and stir to combine.

In a blender or processor, puree blackberries and add lemon juice and simple syrup to desired sweetness. Add 5 drops of blue food colouring and stir to combine.

Pour the coconut mixture into half of the popsicle mold with the stick inserted and freeze until slightly firm, 1-2 hours. After the coconut layer is slightly firm, pour in the blackberry mixture. Freeze tray for 4 hours until set.

Triple Berry Popsicle
Makes 4 Popsicles

1 cup raspberries
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons simple syrup

Puree strawberries and raspberries in a blender or processor. Add simple syrup and lemon juice. Adjust sweetness according to taste.

Pour berry mix into popsicle mold and then add in a few blueberries. Using the stick or mold top, push the blueberries down and to the sides of the mold. Freeze tray for at least 4 hours until set.

Simple Syrup

To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from stove to cool.