THE BLOG

The Main Ingredients Challenge #4: Multicultural Meal (Chef's Meal)

10/08/2013 05:20 EDT | Updated 12/18/2013 06:15 EST

Travelling for me is not only a way to unwind and turn off the engine but also my greatest source of culinary inspiration. There are times when I've had to come up with so many new recipes on the fly that I literally think "That's it! I can't think of one more recipe!" Then we take a trip; I get inspired by the smells, colours and techniques of a new city, and -- shazam! -- I'm back at the stove top.

The one thing that I keep coming back to is the appreciation for the enormous variety of ingredients available in markets, stalls and on shelves across this incredible land. It's one of the few places on the planet where this multicultural cloth is woven so seamlessly. Where we can sit at a table with French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and Bangladeshi ingredients and we may not even realize it.

This week's challenge is a way to celebrate this multicultural menu and use our twelve chosen ingredients in an ethnic way with a breakfast, lunch or dinner. I've chosen to make dinner and put my spin on some Italian specialties.

To put a spin on or be inspired by a cuisine of a certain country you first need to understand it. Be curious about it. The essence of Italian cuisine is in its simplicity and quality of ingredients, so I'm applying that theory to a simple combination of fall ingredients that isn't really traditional.

Turkey Scallopini with Apples and Sage

The Main Ingredients II: Chef's Meal 4

The Main Ingredients used (both recipes):

• Apples

• Cauliflower

• Ricotta cheese

• Edamame

• Squash

• Turkey

Scallopini is a cutlet often made of veal but why not try it with turkey? I didn't say it was going to be classic! Furthermore, I was thinking of the flavours of a turkey stuffing without all the starch. Best of all, you can make this dish in about 20 minutes. The Granny Smith apple is my favourite for this recipe because it's tart and doesn't inject too many sweet notes into this savoury plate.

Ingredient list:

• 450 gm (1 lb.) turkey breast fillets (scalloppini) pounded about ¼ inch thick (4 pieces)

• Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

• Flour for dredging

• 5 ml (1 tsp.) fresh sage, chopped

• 25 ml (2 tbsp.) olive oil

• 1 Granny Smith apple, diced

• Juice of ½ lemon

• 60 ml (¼ cup) low sodium chicken stock

Preparation: Season turkey with pepper and rub with chopped sage. Coat lightly on both sides in flour. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet, over medium high heat. Pan-fry the turkey slices until golden, about 1 minute. Flip slices and brown on other side for another 1 minute, until golden and firm. Transfer to a plate.

Return same pan to medium heat and add remaining olive oil and the diced apples. Sauté for 2 minutes until apples are golden and still slightly firm. Add the lemon juice and chicken stock and simmer for 2 minutes, just to cook through and reduce sauce.

Return the turkey slices to sauce and simmer for 1 more minute just to ensure turkey is fully cooked.

Makes 4 servings

The Verdict: I love turkey more in its variety of cuts than as a whole bird and I've had to convince my husband that he does also. To my surprise, he is discovering the comfort in this less festive version because it's very moist and comes together in a flash. Oh, and there are not too many dishes to clean up -- his department.

Bowtie pasta with squash, ricotta and cauliflower

Italians will make pasta with just about anything, even other starches like potatoes. With my interpretation I wanted to continue the fall theme by combining the squash with allspice and the cauliflower. The ricotta adds some protein and gives the whole dish a creamy texture. This dish is best served once made.

Ingredient list:

• 250 grams (½ package) bowtie pasta

• 45 ml (3 tbsp.) olive oil

• 125 ml (½ cup) diced butternut squash

• 1 sprig rosemary

• 2 large cloves garlic, chopped

• 2 ml (1/2 tsp.) chili flakes or fresh chopped chilies

• Pinch ground allspice

• 125 ml (½ cup) low sodium chicken stock

• 250 ml (1 cup) cauliflower florets

• 125 ml (1/2 cup) shelled, frozen edamame beans

• 80 ml (1/3 cup) low fat ricotta cheese

• 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped

• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

• 50 ml (¼ cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation: Cook pasta in boiling water for about 8-10 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté squash with rosemary, garlic, chili and allspice until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and edamame and season with freshly cracked black pepper. Simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain pasta and toss with vegetable sauce. Add the ricotta, basil and Parmesan. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately with turkey scallopini.

Makes 4 servings

The Verdict: Being the official cook at home, for friends and family, gives me the advantage of knowing everyone's preferences. Or is it a liability? Because in my head I start editing a recipe before I've even cooked it, thinking they would prefer it another way instead. I think even my Italian friends would find this whimsical combination of pasta squash, cauliflower and edamame very satisfying. My husband was not sold on the first mouthful, mostly because it's not a classic Italian interpretation but he's soon heading over for a refill. Buon Appetito!