Chili Spiced Chocolate Cake

chocolate ancho cake resizedI love celebrating my birthday. The gathering of friends and family around a big dinner table to enjoy the meal of my choice and a delicious dessert of birthday cake with candles and singing. Oh it’s so much fun!

chocolate ancho cake - from top resized

My birthday cake of choice is an angel food cake with berries and whipped cream. I’ve picked it every year since I was a kid. But this year, I decided to change it up. I was craving a rich decadent chocolate cake. This cake in particular is made without flour to create a dense fudgy cake that fulfills any chocolate craving. It also pairs bitter chocolate harmoniously with the sweet fruity notes in spicy ancho chili pepper to create a perfectly deep chocolatey treat. Garnished with a dollop of citrusy lime whipped cream, this Chili Spiced Chocolate Cake is the perfect dessert to impress guests or a special birthday person.

Indulge and enjoy!

chocolate ancho cake - piece resized

Chili Spiced Chocolate Cake
Makes an 8 inch cake

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped                                                                      1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes                                                                            3/4 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                   3 large eggs                                                                                                                    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder                                                                                  1-1/2 Tbsp ancho chili powder – no need to be nervous about the amount of ancho chili powder added, the rich chocolate will mellow out its spicy flavour

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter an 8 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the buttered pan with parchment paper and grease with butter.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate with butter until smooth. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs and whisk well.

Sift cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and sprinkle with ancho chili powder. Whisk until just combined. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the cake has formed a crust.

Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for 5-10 minutes. Invert cake onto a serving plate and let cool completely. Sprinkle with cocoa powder. Serve each slice of decadent cake with a dollop or two of lime whipped cream.

Lime Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream                                                                                                   Zest from 1 lime                                                                                                                   1 Tbsp icing sugar

Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the whipping cream, lime zest and icing sugar until light and fluffy.

A Bite of Spring: Mini Lemon Curd Cheesecakes

lemon curd 2
It’s finally starting to feel like spring. The sun does more than just peek through the clouds. You enjoy and curse the birds churping way too early in the morning. You dress in layers to stay warm in the chilly shade, yet take off the coat to soak up the warmth of the sunny afternoon. It’s time to come out of hibernation. Spring has this amazing ability to get our engines revving and inspire renewed fervor to tackle life.

Being food lovers, Desiree and I were chatting the other day about how spring also has this ability to tantalize our tastebuds to shift from the comforts of hearty winter to  colourful and lighter fare. We desire the fresh flavours of sunshine and start dreaming of home grown delights from the garden. While we’re still a ways away from enjoying the rich flavours of locally grown produce, we like to indulge in seasonal fare from afar, mainly citrus fruits. At this time of year, we love to whip up a batch of lemon curd to fill in the gap until we can enjoy local berries. It’s fresh, fruity and so delicious. We like it stirred into plain yogurt, drizzled on granola or just eaten by the spoonful. It’s also scrumptious with frozen berries, spread on freshly baked scones and paired with cheese and bread. There are so many delicious ways to enjoy lemon curd.

For a treat during an evening with my girlfriends, I decided to swirl lemon curd into mini cheesecakes. It received an A+ and many requests for the recipe. I’ve made a few batches since and they seem to disappear more quickly than I can make them. Mini cheesecakes are quicker and easier to make than a full cheesecake and make bite-size treats perfect for any party, holiday celebration or tea with friends. Even lemon curd is super easy to make. I like to use another Heather’s (if it’s made by a Heather, it’s gotta be good!) lemon curd recipe from Missing Goat Farm. You can even make it in the microwave in under 5 minutes. Yes, that’s right: the microwave! Here’s the recipe from My Baking Addiction.

lemons in green bowl (juiced) 2

lemon curd cheesecake - no muffin liner

Mini Lemon Curd Cheesecakes
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes

crust
3/4 cup almonds
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 Tbsp melted butter

filling
8 oz/225 g cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup lemon curd

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a regular muffin tin with muffin liners.
Place almonds in a food processor and pulse until almonds are mostly ground. If you prefer, you can substitute 1 cup of almond meal in place of grinding your own whole almonds. I like to grind the whole natural almonds for the coarser crumb and for the extra flavour from their skin. Transfer ground almonds to a bowl and stir in sugar and ground ginger. Stir in the melted butter until the ground almond mixture is moist.
Place a spoonful of the almond mixture into each of the muffin liners. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to pack down the crust. Pop them in the oven for 5-6 minutes to bake the crust.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until well combined and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Divide cheesecake filling among the muffin cups. Add a dollop of lemon curd and use a knife to swirl the lemon curd into the cheesecake filling.
Bake for 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to enjoy. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to allow cheesecakes to come to room temperature. (They taste even more delicious this way.) You can serve the cheesecakes with additional lemon curd if you like.

lemon curd cheesecake - lemons

Gluten Free? Be Grain Aware: Buckwheat Crackers (Plus a Contest!)

buckwheat crackers - close up

It’s no surprise that the most common question we’ve been asked this month is all about the gluten-free diet: “Is it healthy?” “Should I start following a gluten-free diet?” “Is wheat really that unhealthy for me?”

Let’s start from the beginning. One of the key principles of a healthy diet is enjoying a wide variety of different foods – we can’t get all of the nutrients we need from a single food or food group. From a safety standpoint, eating just a single food from any food group may also pose harm and, when it comes to your taste buds, enjoying a variety of healthy foods beats boredom. So, yes eating mostly wheat 6 times a day – especially in its most processed form – is not considered healthy.

In the North American diet, we might eat wheat cereal or a wheat muffin for breakfast; munch a wheat bread sandwich for lunch; wheat crackers for a snack and wheat pasta for dinner with wheat garlic toast. Wow! I’d say that’s a lot of wheat. And that’s just the obvious wheat sources. What you might not know is that many common pre-made and packaged products, everything from salad dressings to flavoured rice dishes, also have wheat added. When you add it all up, there’s almost no variety in our grain choices.

To add insult to injury, we almost always choose the most processed form of wheat: white pasta, white bread, white goodies, white baked goods, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumours: white just doesn’t cut it when it comes to nutrition and health. White grains have had their nutritious bran and germ removed from the whole grain kernel, also removing essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals. You’re missing out on a whole lot when you choose white over whole grain.

What about our typical portion sizes of these nutritional zeros? They’re huge! It’s just too much white flour for our bodies to deal with.

Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance (perhaps 10% of us, according to some recent data), there’s no need to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

However, for good health, it is essential to:
1. Upgrade to truly whole grain wheat (think wheat berries, sprouted grain bread, 100% whole grain pasta etc.).
2. Eat a variety of different grains including gluten-free grains, so you’re not eating wheat 6 times a day. Hello barley, rye and buckwheat!
3. Be aware of your portion sizes. This isn’t your last meal ever! If you are hungry later, you can have more.

Our collective taste buds are accustomed to the mild flavour of white wheat. Rather than making major changes overnight, give your taste buds a little time to adjust to the richer flavour of whole grains. Start with half white and half whole grain if you need to. Upgrading slowly will give your taste buds some time to adjust to the new flavour of whole grains and make it easier for you to make changes that lead to longterm habits. This works well with homemade baked goods like muffins, pasta, 60% whole wheat bread, light rye bread or a combo of white and wild rice. You can also combine a few different grains like quinoa, rice, millet, barley and buckwheat to create a tasty alternative to rice. Grain mixes like this are also more readily available at the grocery store.

We’ve created a nutty whole grain cracker that uses the whole buckwheat groat or kernel. Buckwheat, despite the name, has nothing to do with wheat and is actually a seed – not a grain. These crackers are fairly easy to make and perfect for everyday eating or to wow your guests at a party. It’s naturally gluten-free but versatile, so you can make it with half all-purpose wheat flour and half buckwheat flour if you’re just starting to get to know whole grains.

buckwheat crackers - rosemary

Rosemary Buckwheat Crackers

1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

buckwheat crackers - asiago

Asiago Buckwheat Crackers

1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Asiago cheese, finely grated
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a food processor, grind buckwheat groats to a fine texture. Some coarse pieces in the flour are fine. One cup of buckwheat groats will make 1 cup + 2 Tbsp of flour. Measure 1 cup of flour for the crackers and save the remaining 2 Tbsp for dusting and rolling.

Place 1 cup of the ground buckwheat groats in a large bowl. Stir in baking powder, salt and spices to mix well. Stir in cheese if making the Asiago crackers.

Pour in the oil and stir until well combined. Add water and stir until the dough comes together. The dough will be moist.

Flour hands, rolling-pin and counter. Split dough in two pieces. Pat down one piece of dough using your hands into a square shape. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness using a rolling-pin. Cut dough into 2 inch squares or rectangle shapes using a ravioli cutter, knife or bench scraper. Transfer crackers to a parchment lined baking sheet using a spatula or bench scraper. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until just starting to brown on the edges. Store in an airtight container or cookie jar for 2 weeks….if they last that long!

Both recipes will make about 30 crackers.

Our First Contest of 2013!

To help ring in the New Year, we want to connect with you on our Facebook Page! It’s the easy way to stay connected to everything we are doing on the blog. We have a whole grains gift basket to give away (within North America only) to everyone who likes our Facebook page by February 1st.

Thanks to the Healthy Grains Institute for providing some goodies for the gift basket. The Healthy Grains Institute did not compensate us for this post or have input into the content…they just generously provided some treats for you!

Campfire Treats for Canada Day

Who doesn’t love the sticky, gooey, sweet and creamy s’more? There are some things that just can’t be improved upon – memories are made sitting around a campfire after a day of fresh air and relaxation, enjoying the warm glow while holding a meditative gaze over toasting marshmallows. Everyone has their signature toast: some like just a light amber while others like to char the outside to reveal the molten cream underneath. While there is nothing better than campfire s’mores, there is something much better than store-bought marshmallows. Think homemade. Candy can be tricky but nothing could be simpler than a marshmallow. I am certainly not the pastry chef of this dynamic duo but even I got it right the first try. My first go-round at les macarons, not so much.

I am not going to lie…this is not exactly health food. But we all need a treat every now and then and making marshmallows at home means you control the quality of ingredients. I am not a fan of corn syrup so I substituted agave with great results. You could also use honey if you prefer. You won’t end up with a perfectly white marshmallow but a soft off-white which is beautiful in its own right. So as you get prepared for your long weekend camping trip, consider adding  Coconut Ginger Dream S’mores and Fiery Cinnamon S’mores to the menu for this Canada Day. And if you aren’t lucky enough to be heading out of the city, make them anyway. Sit on your deck, plug in some nature sounds on your iPod, close your eyes and pretend.

Fiery Cinnamon S’mores
Feeds a crowd…a great s’more for the less sugar-inclined.

1 pkg graham crackers (note: Kinnikinnick makes a lovely gluten free version)
2 100g bars of chili pepper chocolate  (I used Lindt)
1 recipe Cinnamon Marshmallows (below)

Coconut Ginger Dream S’mores
Feeds a crowd…these are the sweeter s’more

1 pkg Nairn’s Stem Ginger Oat Cakes (I like these better than store-bought ginger snaps, also wheat free)
2 100g bars 85% cacao chocolate (I used Lindt; trust me on the 85%, it cuts the sweetness)
1 recipe Dreamy Coconut Marshmallows (below)

If you are near a campfire, you know what to do.

Otherwise, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble s’mores on a cookie sheet and bake for just a minute or two, until everything starts to get melty and delicious. Consume with abandon.

Cinnamon Marshmallows

This is a classic French marshmallow: like perfect little pillows of spicy sweet goodness. Makes 32 large or 64 small marshmallows

1 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
4 pkg gelatin

3 cups sugar
1 cup good quality agave syrup
1 cup water
1/4 tsp sea salt

rice starch or potato starch for dusting
vegetable oil

Line two 8 inch or one 9 x 13 inch square pan with tin foil and grease with a mild vegetable oil like almond or grape seed.

In a stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment and a large bowl, pour in the water and mix in the cinnamon. Sprinkle with the gelatine and allow to sit while you prepare the candy syrup.

Attach a candy thermometer to a medium sized pot and add the sugar, syrup, water and salt and stir through. Bring to a boil and cook until the soft ball stage, between 234 and 240 degrees. As the syrup gets hotter, reduce temperature a bit so that you don’t wind up with a hot overflowing mess of burning sugar syrup. Let’s just say that I speak from experience. When making candy, do not attempt to multitask.

When the syrup reaches temperature, start the stand mixer at about speed 6. Start slowly and carefully pouring syrup down the side of the bowl and watch out for splashes. As splash risk decreases, increase the beater speed to 8 and finally 10. Continue beating until mixture is very stiff and sticky when you test it. The longer you beat it, the more air you will incorporate, about 10-20 minutes. The mixture should be larger than when you first started.

Pour mixture into the oiled pans, using an oiled spatula to smooth the surface if necessary and let sit undisturbed on the counter for 24 hours.

Sift starch onto the surface and then carefully turn out onto a board. Carefully peel the foil away, using your fingers to pry the foil off the marshmallow gently and starch this surface. Cut with an oiled knife and starch all exposed surfaces as you cut.

Keeps for weeks in an airtight container.

Dreamy Coconut Marshmallows
Makes 32 large or 64 small marshmallows

1 cup coconut milk (the tinned variety)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp freshly grated lime zest
4 pkg gelatin

3 cups sugar
1 cup good quality agave syrup
1 cup water
1/4 tsp sea salt

unsweetened shredded coconut and rice starch or potato starch for dusting
vegetable oil

Line two 8 inch or one 9 x 13 inch square pan with tin foil and grease with a mild vegetable oil like almond or grape seed.

In a stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment and a large bowl, pour in the coconut milk and sprinkle with the gelatine. Allow to sit while you prepare the candy syrup.

Attach a candy thermometer to a medium sized pot and add the sugar, syrup, water and salt and stir through. Bring to a boil and cook until the soft ball stage, between 234 and 240 degrees. As the syrup gets hotter, reduce temperature a bit so that you don’t wind up with a hot overflowing mess of burning sugar syrup. Let’s just say that I speak from experience. When making candy, do not attempt to multitask.

When the syrup reaches temperature, start the stand mixer at about speed 6. Start slowly and carefully pouring syrup down the side of the bowl and watch out for splashes. As splash risk decreases, increase the beater speed to 8 and finally 10. Continue beating until mixture is stiff and sticky when you test it, about 10 – 20 minutes. The mixture will not expand as much if you are using coconut milk.

Pour mixture into the oiled pans, using an oiled spatula to smooth the surface if necessary and let sit undisturbed on the counter for 24 hours. Because of the density of the coconut milk, you will notice air bubbles escaping. This recipe does not make as fluffy of a marshmallow and the fat in the coconut milk greatly enhances the sweetness.

Variations: If you want a milder, fluffier marshmallow, use light coconut milk or for a classic recipe (albeit a much milder flavour) use coconut water instead of coconut milk.

Mix 1 cup coconut with 1/4 cup starch and use this mixture to press onto all surfaces as you cut. Sift starch mixture onto the surface and then carefully turn out onto a board. Carefully peel the foil away, using your fingers to pry the foil off the marshmallow gently and starch this surface. Cut with an oiled knife and starch all exposed surfaces as you cut.

Keeps for weeks in an airtight container.

The inspiration for the marshmallows came from the summer edition of Edible Vancouver magazine. If you are looking for a delicious way to use those local strawberries, they have an amazing strawberry marshmallow recipe, which I used as technique guidance for the recipes here.

Fresh Sheet…Strawberries

How long have Heather and I been waiting for plump, blushing berries! Their siren call begins in early spring, as the armies of southern farmed “straw”berries (because they taste more like straw than actual berries!) start invading our stores.

There is very little to compare to the delicate perfume of a freshly picked local berry. These little gems explode with flavour and are an incredibly precious gift of summer. Last summer, we waited and waited for strawberry season because the cold spring did little to welcome summer’s shy beauty to the table. Miraculously, despite the less than summery weather, local strawberries are popping up at the farmer’s markets and local stores this week.

And while blueberries seem to get all of the superfood hype, strawberries are no shrinking violet in the nutrition department. Thanks to their generous helping of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, strawberries help to protect your heart by protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage; they help moderate blood sugars and even support your own natural blush with all of that skin-loving vitamin C.

When selecting strawberries, give them a sniff – they should smell sweetly of strawberries (of course!). Look for shiny, plump berries without any traces of mould. Strawberries are incredibly delicate and perishable so carry home carefully and refrigerate immediately. Never wash strawberries until just prior to use; otherwise, they will become mushy.

So to begin, a little amuse bouche…

I love the taste of strawberries and balsamic but because not everyone embraces the richly sweet and acidic flavour of balsamic vinegar at dessert, I thought we could spin the winning combination for a luscious appetizer with local chèvre.

Balsamic Strawberry Treats
1 cup washed and quartered local strawberries
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar (for a spicy treat, try Nonna Pia’s Chili Lime Balsamic Reduction)
1/2 cup local chèvre, I like Happy Days
12 whole grain crisps, such as Raincoast Crisps or Martin’s Marvelous for a gluten free version

Combine strawberries and balsamic in a small bowl and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the crisps evenly with chèvre and then top with strawberries. So simple! Summer is no time to be stressing out in the kitchen. Enjoy these on the patio with a glass of a summery white or rose (Joie Farm is one of my favourites!).

Fresh Sheet…Chickpeas Part III

When the weather warms up, I can hardly resist the urge to eat mezze-style: a patio in the sunshine, assorted delicacies to nibble at one’s leisure, delicately arranged on a platter and supplemented by perhaps a glass (or two) of chilled rose.

This salad blends all the elements of spring – the brightness of citrus, the earthiness of chickpeas and tahini, the vibrant green of pea shoots and parsley and the sharp, cleansing bite of radishes. Enjoy in good company and linger for the afternoon…

Middle Eastern Salad with Chick Pea Croutons
Makes 4 small salads or 2 meal size salads. 

1 cup pea shoots
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup kalamata olives
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup sliced radishes
2 cups chopped cucumber

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the chick pea croutons (see recipe below) and set aside. Toss the first 6 salad ingredients together in a bowl. In a jam jar or sealable container, mix remaining ingredients together. Dress the salad right before serving and top with croutons. Croutons and dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance; note that garlic flavours will intensify as dressing rests.



Chickpea Croutons

1 medium carrot, grated
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1-19 oz/540 ml can chick peas, drained and rinsed or 2 cups of cooked chick peas
1/4 cup hemp hearts
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a food processor, combine grated carrot, spices, olive oil, lemon juice and water. Pulse until carrot is coarsely pureed.Add chick peas and hemp hearts and pulse a few times to combine ingredients, but not puree the chick peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Create croutons by forming about 2 teaspoons of the chick pea mixture into balls or square shapes. Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone nonstick mat or parchment paper. Bake until golden, approximately 30 minutes, turning baking sheet once through baking. Allow to cool.

The Fresh Sheet…Fennel

I must admit that I warmed to fennel a bit late in the game. My grandmother has long used fennel leaves in her caldo verde (Portuguese green soup) but otherwise I couldn’t see much use for it in cooking. I had mistakenly lumped it into the “why bother?” category with celery and iceberg lettuce. Then a few years ago I had a particularly crisp, sophisticated and refreshing shaved fennel salad at Salt Tasting Lounge in Gastown and I had a serious change of heart.

With a texture similar to celery and a delicate anise-like flavour, fennel is not just a fancy garnish. Fennel has a long history of use in ancient Greek, Roman and Ayurvedic cultures as a medicinal plant. The seeds, leaves and bulbs of the fennel plant are all edible. Candy coated fennel seeds are commonly consumed after an Indian meal as a digestive aid and anti-flatulent. Fennel tea is commonly given to nursing mothers and it helps ease gas in babies; fennel is a primary component of gripe water. We know that colourful pigments are one clue to anti-oxidant power but so are aromatic essential oils. Fennel is a potent anti-inflammatory, rich in vitamin C and plenty of phytochemicals including rutin and kaempferols. The potassium in fennel helps to regulate blood pressure and assist with fluid balance in the body; the high potassium content may explain fennel’s traditional use as encouraging urination. Fennel is also great for the bones: one cup of raw fennel has 42 mg of calcium and 15 mg of magnesium.

Choose fennel with clean, firm bulbs that are free of blemishes. Any flowering on the stalks tells you that the bulb is past its prime, so move on! Available now, fennel is a wonderful vegetable to carry you through to spring. Enjoy it raw for its crisp refreshing taste while the weather is warm. Through the winter, roast it for a mellow, sweet treat to lift the flavour of other root vegetables.

Fennel, Mint and Feta Spaghetti

Make your plate look nice...grab pasta with tongs and twist gently as you place it on the plate!

Since it was a scorcher I didn’t feel like heating up the kitchen too much so I thought I would keep the oven (and me!) cool by creating a simple summer pasta. This is “fancy” food for everyday. By the time you boil water and cook the pasta, dinner is done. You come out smelling like a licorice-scented rose. Laugh in the face of midweek entertaining and tell your guests you took the afternoon off to cook.

340 g package of spaghetti ( I used corn pasta for a wheat and gluten-free option)
1 garlic clove, very finely minced
1/2, 28 g package of fresh mint plus a few sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup walnut halves, chopped
1 cup crumbled light feta
pinch salt + more to finish
dash dried chili flakes
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1 medium fennel bulb, finely sliced or shaved
1 wedge of lemon

Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, create the feta pesto. In a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, mint and walnuts with a pinch of salt. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just mash the ingredients in a large bowl with the back of a wooden spoon.

Note: because the garlic in this recipe is raw, mince it very well lest someone get a large fire-y chunk of garlic. If you really don’t like raw garlic, gently saute it in a teaspoon of olive oil before adding to the mixture.

Then place the mixture in a large bowl (if you didn’t already) and mash in the feta, chili flakes and olive oil. Set aside.

Shave the fennel on a mandolin or finely slice and set aside. Twiddle thumbs.
(If you prefer, you could gently saute the fennel with the garlic and add to the feta mixture.)

When pasta is cooked, add to feta mixture and combine gently. Then plate each portion and top with a generous handful of the shaved fennel. Enjoy! Serves 4

A note about my latest obsession…the japanese spiral mandolin. This ingenious invention makes creating delicately shaved vegetables a snap. Just insert the veg onto the handle and spin a ridiculous amount of veg in 60 seconds. And, unlike the cumbersome food processor, this thing also cleans up in 60 seconds. Vegetable lovers, meet your new best friend.