Roasted Red Peppers

Peperoni Arrostiti

Roasting peppers has always been a family affair in my house. For a day or two in the Fall we all worked together. My father barbecued about 2 bushels full, my siblings and I peeled and my mom portion the peppers for freezing.Throughout the year, mom would dip into our pepper reserves, making some of my favourite meals.


To this day I consider red peppers my go-to snack, often served as an appetizer-style meal. Recently, I ate peppers with creamy  cheese, thinly sliced prosciutto, olives and a tin of smoked oysters.


The secret to perfect roasted red peppers is to set the peppers in a tight container, such as a bag or covered bowl, once they’re cooked. They will steam and the skin will peel off much easier.


Roasted Red Peppers

  • Servings: 2 appetizers
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  • 1 lb (500g) red bell peppers, rinsed and dried (about 4 large)
  • 2 Tbsp  (30 mL) olive oil (approximately)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Rinse red peppers, pat dry, and place them on a baking sheet.
  2. Broil about 4 inches from the heat until the skin blackens in parts and the peppers are tender– about 30 to 40 minutes– turning with tongs 2 to 3 times until peppers evenly browned.
  3. Transfer peppers to a paper/plastic bag or a bowl and seal/cover them. Leave for about 30 minutes.
  4. When cool enough to handle, scrape off the skin with a knife and seed. Cut peppers into thin slices, about 1/2 inch strips. Place them into a bowl and toss with about 2Tbsp (30 mL) of the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Can be served immediately as-is or refrigerated and enjoyed later. Warm up (if desired) and toss before using.




Mom’s Tomato Sauce

Sugo di pomodoro

My mom’s tomato sauce tastes like comfort and love. Each time I visit, she’s quick to start the sauce simmering. Soon the air is heavy with the sweet smell of garlic, basil, and tomatoes and I can finally relax. It’s the scent of my childhood, an escape from my everyday worries.


She’s been refining and improving her sauce for longer than I’ve been alive. In all that time she hasn’t forgotten what’s most important: quality ingredients. Tomatoes are key and she cans her own each Fall. That’s a story for another blog post, but thankfully there are good quality canned tomatoes available in grocery stores. And don’t skimp on olive oil while you’re there!

This recipe is for her everyday tomato sauce (delicious in its own right), but on Sundays she makes a special sauce. Soffritto, a mix of diced celery, carrot, and onion, is added to saute with the garlic for more flavour. She’ll also add meat and her Braciole di vitello al sugo for a real treat.

The dash of baking soda is added at the end to correct for acidity. Mom insists that even the sweetest tomatoes have some acidity.


Mom's Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 4
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  • 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 to 5 sprigs of fresh basil or 1 tsp (5 mL) dried basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking soda (optional)


  1. Puree whole tomatoes in a blender or food mill.
  2. In a 2 or 3 quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic for 3-5 minutes, until golden all over. Add the pureed tomatoes and basil, cook partially covered, for about 20 minutes. Stir frequently and adjust heat to prevent burning. Sauce will be reduced and thickened.
  3. Add tomato paste, salt and pepper, stirring after each addition. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, when the sauce begins to splatter add about 1 cup (250 mL) water. Return to a boil and reduce heat to maintain sauce at a low boil, cook for about 15  to 20 minutes further. Stir every few minutes or as needed.
  4. Add up to 1 cup (250 mL), additional water, to sauce. During cooking, water will evaporate and sauce will thicken. Simmer to desired consistency. If using, add baking soda to sauce and mix well, cook for 3 to 5 minutes further. Taste sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 30 minutes before serving over pasta noodles, if desired. Can be used immediately. Refrigerate for about 3 to 4 days or freeze for future use.


Orange Cake

My friend Serilia spends a few months each year among her family’s 7,000 orange trees, so you can understand why I was excited to taste her orange cake. Serilia knows her oranges and her cake was intense in colour and flavour.


She shared her secrets, and with a bit of tweaking, it’s a simple dessert with a punch of citrus to help you celebrate spring in style.


Oranges are high in vitamins, help lower cholesterol and have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Most of that comes from the peel and white pulp of the orange. More reason to use and eat whole oranges whenever you can.

Look for thin skinned, meaty oranges for best results.


For an adult version, replace some of the orange juice with orange liqueur, Cointreau or Grand Marnier.


Orange Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
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  • 2 oranges, about 1 lb (500 g), ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
  • Icing sugar (optional)

Sunshine Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup  (60 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) fresh orange juice


  1. Quarter the oranges and remove seeds. Transfer orange pieces to a food processor, add oil and eggs and process until smooth and light coloured.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder.
  3. Pour the orange batter over the flour mixture in mixing bowl and stir until well combined and smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch, baking pan. Bake in 375F (190C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean and the cake is firm to a light touch. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.  If using, dust the serving dish with icing sugar. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and turn the cake onto the serving dish.
  4. To make the sunshine sauce: Bring the sugar, lemon and orange juices to boil over medium-high heat in a small heavy saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the syrup thickens and reduces. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  5. Using the back of a wooden spoon, make holes in the top of the cake. Drizzle the sauce over-top and set aside for 30 minutes or until the cake soaks up the sauce. Serve.



Tropical Ceviche

Remember the polar vortex of 2014-15? I still have nightmares. Thankfully this year was plenty warm, though a trip south helped the healing process. One of the foods that caught my attention while on vacation was Ceviche, a raw fish and fruit mix appetizer. It can be a main course as well, but I find it great as a snack.


You can use any fresh fish, though deciding between papaya and avocado puts you in the middle of a heated, nationalistic debate among some South American countries. Try both if you’re feeling adventurous.


My Peruvian friends don’t add any fruit. They add Aji Limo chile, a hot pepper from Lima, Peru. The Aji Limo adds a lemony, spicy flavor that makes it distinctly Peruvian and pairs nicely with fish and coriander. If you can’t find the Limo chile pepper, substitute any hot pepper that you like. The Peruvians also add sweet potato and corn as side dishes, so don’t be afraid to experiment.


If your seafood, octopus or squid is frozen, it will taste better if it’s cooked until tender before mixing with the other ingredients. Ceviche is quick and easy recipe that can mostly be prepared ahead of time–just mix the ingredients and add the lime juice before eating.



  • Servings: 4
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  • 2 cups (500 mL) chopped raw skinless fresh fish fillets or seafood, diced  (salmon, tuna or shrimp) or a combination
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) lime juice (about 6 limes)
  • 1 hot chile pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mango or papaya, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • Black pepper
  • 6 to 8 large lettuce leaves
  • 1 small sweet potato, cooked and diced (optional)
  • 1 cup (250 L) cooked sweet corn (optional)
  1. In a large serving bowl place fish (and seafood, if using) and onion; toss with about 2 tbsp (30 mL) of lime juice, reserve remaining lime juice to add at the end.
  2. Add chile pepper and 1/4 cup (60 mL) of cilantro and 1/4 cup (60 mL) of mango and mix ingredients well. Reserve remaining 1/4 cup (60 mL) of cilantro and mango to serve with ceviche.
  3. Add salt, pepper and additional lime juice to taste.
  4. Serve ceviche immediately on a bed lettuce with cilantro and mango alongside, to be added to  taste. Serve the sweet potato and corn alongside if desired.