Sweet Summer Salad (With a Kick!)

I will readily admit that I’m not the cook in my relationship. I can cook and do on occasion, but by and large my boyfriend handles that part. When I do cook, maybe because of the fact that it’s not an everyday occurrence, I like to get as creative as possible. Last night, I made a salad (that I personally think is a keeper). It has some fantastic flavours within it – sweet, caramelized pears juxtaposed with blue cheese, and Dijon chicken breast. It’s the perfect meal for a warm summer night, best enjoyed on a balcony or in a backyard.

sweet summer salad

What You’ll Need (Ingredients):

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

2 large, ripe Bartlett pears (halved, cored and thinly sliced)

Blue cheese (crumbled)

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 medium shallot, minced

1 cup olive oil

Honey (to taste)

Baby arugula (or mixed greens or lettuce)

Walnuts, roasted (optional)

What to Do:

For Chicken Breast

1. In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil and half the minced shallot.

minced shallots

2. In a Ziploc bag, place your chicken breasts and the mixture above, close, and shake well to coat.

3. Leave overnight in your fridge, or at least for a few hours to allow for the chicken to marinade.

4. Set oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven heats up, pan sear the chicken breast for about a minute on each side, in an oven-friendly pan. Place the pan with the chicken into the oven and allow to cook for 20 minutes (or until juices run clear).

5. Remove from oven, slice, and allow to cool.

For the Salad:

1. In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil and half the minced shallot. Set aside.

2. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. While pan heats, carefully coat each pear slice with enough honey to thinly cover both sides.

4. Place the coated pear slices into the heated pan and allow to fry until they are slightly caramelized on both sides.

pears

5. Coat arugula in the olive oil/Dijon/shallot mixture until it is well covered.

6. Plate a handful of arugula with the chicken overtop and the pears on the side. Sprinkle with blue cheese and walnuts to taste.

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Loving…

I think we can all agree that the last two weeks have been intense from a “WTF is happening in the world!?” perspective. This weekend will be all about taking it easy, calm, and hopefully enjoying some warmer weather.

Listening:

This song completely makes me think of the Arctic Monkeys, right down to the British accent when singing. Love the altern-rock-punk vibe of this band overall.

Reading:

I’m trying to stockpile a whole bunch of recipes I want to try out this summer, and, as a result, have been spending a lot of time on Spoon Fork Bacon. These ladies do it right – great recipe ideas (like this and this), fantastic photography, and a really fun vibe to their site.

spoonforkbacon

Dreaming:

Of a time when this ridiculous warm-cold-sleet-rain will turn to nothing but warmth so I can crack out the summer attire and commence sitting on patios. Oh, and so I can lounge here…

Planning:

Mother’s Day! It’s coming up on the 12th!

Happy Friday!

Beer

That got your attention, didn’t it? Since Groundhog Willie didn’t see his shadow this year, and we can expect an early spring (even if the weather today indicates otherwise), I figured it would be a good time to call out some of the best places in the city to get beer – especially when patio season rolls around.

Toronto (and the surrounding area) is actually great for microbrews – Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, Spearhead, Creemore, Amsterdam, Great Lakes…there’s a ton to choose from at local restaurants and the LCBO. If you haven’t, I recommend giving any of these a try. Not only are you getting a refreshing beverage, but you’re supporting local businesses that are truly creating great products.

Some local goodies: Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, and Spearhead

Some local goodies: Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, and Spearhead

With that, I have my top 5 spots to get tasty and unique microbrews:

1) C’est What

Definitely love this bar. It’s in a great area (St. Lawrence Market), with lots to see and do. This place has a ton of great beers on tap and they create their own in-house brews to boot. They have ales (like the hilariously-coined “Big Butt Smoked Dark Ale”), wheat beers (“Mother Pucker’s Ginger Wheat”), and other unique concoctions like a Caraway beer and a Cask ale. A good place to go on rainy days (they don’t have a patio), or if you’re looking for pre/post-dinner drinks when you’re in that area.

2) Bar Volo

Table 7 at Bar Volo has a drawer. People can leave things/notes in it. It's fun.

Table 7 at Bar Volo has a drawer. People can leave things/notes in it. It’s fun.

Bar Volo is hands down my go-to for a no-frills pint of beer. They have an ever-changing and amazing selection of beers you’ve likely never heard of, their servers really know their beer (i.e. they can give me beers that match my description of “something a little hoppy, but not too hoppy and that tastes good but isn’t fruity, and I don’t like Hoegaarden”) and they have awesome charcuterie and cheese platters to go along with your brews. Their patio is open during the spring and summer, and offers a nice little oasis in the heart of the city.

3) Bellwoods Brewery

I already sung its praises here, but it warrants repeating – great location, good beer and a fun front-facing patio!

4) Granite Brewery

Patio: check. In-house brew selection: check. Good location: check (for now). The Granite Brewery is one of my favourite places in midtown to grab a drink (along with the Rose and Crown, which has shockingly good pad thai!). The patio is awesome in the summer, and their beer selection has something for everyone. As a bonus, you’re getting beer you can’t get anywhere else so it really has that “Cheers” feel to it.

5) Millstreet Brewpub

Mmmmill street...

Mmmmill street…

Mill Street is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Goes down smooth, it’s kind of like the quintessential Toronto drink. The Mill Street Brewpub is located in the Distillery District – a fantastic place with exposed brick walls, quirky little stores, and some great restaurants. It’s a wonderful spot to spend a Saturday during the summer, topping it off with a drink on the Mill Street patio at dusk.