Inspiration from dinner out for recipes at home

Inspiration comes from many different avenues of life. During the summer it is important to get together with friends, relax and enjoy all life has to offer. I indeed did just that this past weekend by taking a couple of evenings to go out and venture into this great region we live in and have dinner with friends. I love cooking for friends but I admit that going out for a nice meal is always a fun thing to do. Especially in the summer there seems to be such a wide variety of menu options that restaurants showcase with fresh local ingredients and delicious flavours. 
My husband and I met up with friends in Kitchener our first evening out for dinner at The Village Creperie & Bistro. A quaint little place that showcased their specials on a chalkboard and had big windows in the front to look onto the quiet street. It was peaceful and elegant, a perfect place to meet up and have dinner with friends. Now as the name implies crepes play a large role in the menu but there are also tons of other options like the crunchy and delicate potato croquettes and a beef carpaccio that half of the table enjoyed! I decided to have a chicken chimichurri savoury crepe that was filling and hit the spot. Not to mention the fresh fruit crepe I enjoyed flambeed at the end of my meal. There is always a spectacular feeling about your dessert set all a flames! We left very happy and filled and myself, inspired with flavours and recipe ideas.
On to the next dinner out, here in Guelph. Delhi Street Bistro which I had wanted to have dinner at in a long while. I finally got the chance with a good friend to enjoy what was recommended food and perfect atmosphere to catch up and enjoy a great conversation. This small cozy restaurant made my evening. With flavour inspirations within each dish I continued to make mental notes of different textures and uses of simple fresh ingredients to create these beautiful plates.
They also served one of my favourite Ontario wines a Tawse Reisling, so I knew I would be in for a treat. The crisp exterior of the crispy shrimp with lentils set the tone and excitement for the rest of my meal. I also had to taste the foie gras mousse and croquettes, which were a lobster and scallop combination that night-yummy! I went with a seafood meal this night and enjoyed the seared scallops that had the sweet crisp corn that Ontario has to offer and went perfectly with the slight heat of the chipotle in the dish too. Tonight dessert was a bit richer and the molten lava cake and creme brulee won the challenge and continued the inspiration for me to recreate delicious dishes at home. 
The saying goes if someone else makes you dinner it always tastes better and indeed this night, me not having to make dinner was an extra special treat. The evening was only made more complete when Luke Philp, the chef and owner of the bistro came out and chatted with us, as he had with the other guests there that night. And wouldn’t you do that at home if you were having people over for dinner? I know I certainly do. 
So after all these delicious dishes I enjoyed, not only did I have a fun time out and enjoyed great company I refreshed my palate and got some inspiration from others that keeps me going and continue to create and have fun in my kitchen as I hope you do when you go out. Take the time to bring home some inspiration next time you go out for dinner, you might be surprised at what you create. Here are a couple of recipes that inspired me to get in my kitchen and cook!

Crème Brulee

One of my all time favourite desserts from restaurants is easy to recreate at home. You can add your own twists like a touch of orange or cinnamon right into the custard for a unique variation.

2 cups (500 mL) 35% whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) homogenized milk1 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) vanilla paste
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated or light brown sugar

In a saucepan, bring cream, milk and vanilla bean to boil. Remove vanilla bean and cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and return to milk mixture. 

In a bowl, whisk sugar and egg yolks until smooth. Pour some of the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk gently. Pour in remaining mixture and whisk until well combined.

Place six 1 cup (250 mL) ovenproof ramekins into large roasting pan. Pour or ladle egg and cream mixture evenly into ramekins. Place in 325F (160C) oven and add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake for about 45 minutes or until set on top and still jiggly in centre. Remove from oven and water bath. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm and cold. 

Topping: Place ramekins on large baking sheet and sprinkle sugar evenly over top of each crème brulee and broil about 4 inches (10 cm) from top, for about 3 minutes or until sugar is melted and golden. Let cool slightly to harden before serving. Alternatively, use a mini brulee or kitchen torch to melt and brown the sugar before serving. Let harden and cool slightly before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Tip: If using vanilla paste, whisk it into the egg and sugar mixture.
For a richer, more dense creamy filling use whipping cream for the milk and continue with recipe.

Easy Sweet and Savoury Crepes 

This easy crepe recipe from the Egg Farmers of Ontario is perfect to make ahead and stuff with your favourite fillings - sweet or savory! Here is a version of both for you to try right in your own kitchen.

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
3 eggs
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) milk
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter, melted

Chicken and Garlic Filling:
5 tbsp (75 mL) butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) fresh thyme, chopped or 3/4 tsp (4 mL) thyme leaves, dried
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) shredded rotisserie chicken
1/3 cup (75 mL) herb and garlic cream cheese
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh parsley, chopped

Crepes:  In a bowl, combine flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and melted butter. Whisk egg mixture into flour mixture until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Strain mixture into a clean bowl.

Heat a small non-stick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat.  Brush pan with some oil. Pour approximately 1/4 cup (50 mL) batter into the centre of the pan, swirling pan to coat. Cook for about 1 minute or until bottom is a light golden colour. Flip and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to plate. Repeat with remaining batter. (Make-ahead: Stack crepes between waxed paper, wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Chicken and Garlic Filling:  In a skillet, melt 3 tbsp (45 mL) of the butter over medium high heat with garlic and thyme.  Add chicken and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until heated through.  Stir in cream cheese until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and divide the chicken mixture into centre of each crepe and fold over.  Place in shallow casserole dish, overlapping slightly.  Melt remaining 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter and drizzle over stuffed crepes.  Place in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Makes 14 to 16 small crepes.

Variations:  Garlic Shrimp Filling
5 tbsp (75 mL) butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) fresh thyme, chopped or 3/4 tsp (4 mL) thyme leaves, dried
1 lb (450 g) small shrimp, thawed
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh parsley, chopped
In a skillet, melt butter over medium high heat with garlic and thyme.  Add shrimp.  Cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from heat and divide the shrimp mixture into centre of each crepe and fold over.  Place in a shallow casserole dish, overlapping slightly.  Bake at 350 F (180 C) for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Chocolate and Strawberry Filling:
4 oz (125 g) milk chocolate, semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups (500 mL) fresh strawberries, quartered
1/2 tsp (2 mL) icing sugar
Ground cinnamon (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)
Sprinkle chocolate along centre of each crepe and top with strawberries. Roll up and place in shallow casserole dish. Place in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through and chocolate is melted. Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon, if using, and dollop with whipped cream, if desired before serving.

Tip: You can substitute 3 cups (750 mL) frozen sliced strawberries, thawed, for the fresh strawberries.


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