Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pantry dinners #1

After the holidays, DH and I got into a cleaning frenzy - putting away the Christmas decorations, filing papers away, throwing away clutter that somehow builds up over time.  However, there was one area that I pantry.  I have a fairly deep pantry cabinet, which means I tend to forget what canned goods I have lurking back there.  So in the spirit of out with the old & in with the new, I'm on a mission to cook meals using whatever I have in my pantry / fridge / freezer.  I can buy some fresh ingredients, but each meal has to use something from the pantry. 

Today's first attempt:

Broiled Rainbow Trout Fillet with a Warm Chickpea Salad

  • 2 frozen trout fillets
  • 1 can chick peas, rinsed & drained
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic,minced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 C frozen corn
  • 1 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place fillets in an ovenproof pan.  Sprinkle fillets with salt + pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until cooked.
  • Meanwhile in a medium saute pan, soften garlic and onion in olive oil.
  • Add drained chickpeas, cumin, chili pepper flakes, salt+pepper.  Saute for a few minutes and then add corn.  Saute for a few minutes more and then add lemon juice. 
  • Serve broiled fish and chickpea salad with steamed rice.  Optional - add a dollop of tzatziki to the chickpea salad before serving.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It took me 10hrs to make a 12hr Bolognese

When SlantYYZ first alerted me to this recipe for a slow cooked bolognese - I scoffed.  12hrs effort for a pasta sauce?! You're a madman, I tell you!  Downright batty!  Open up a jar of Prego and be done with it.

As I read through the recipe and the logic behind it, I became more and more intrigued.  Could slow simmering for 6+ hours really impact flavor that much?  And using star anise as a flavoring, as oppose to the usual oregano.  Interesting.  Very, very interesting.

Soon I was hooked.  I had to try and make this sauce.  Each day that I didn't make this sauce was spent in agonizing anticipation.  Realistically, I knew I couldn't attempt this without knowing I had at least a full day to spend in the kitchen.  And considering the holiday season is hectic, when could I find a day that I could devote to this recipe?  Finally, that day came.  I woke up early and carefully diced, minced and measured, devoutly following the recipe. after 6hrs of slow simmering in the oven, I got impatient (and hungry).  The sauce wasn't reducing quickly enough in the oven.  So I cheated and moved it to the stove.  It took another hour or so before it was at the desired consistency.

I served it on spaghettini with grated Parmesan cheese.  DH could barely wait before I could take a photo (granted, it was almost 8pm by now so he was HUNGRY).  The end result was a melt in your mouth sauce with a nice beefy flavor.  Very tasty.  Very rich.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Weeknight Dinner

When I first saw this recipe on Chubby Hubby's blog a year ago, I knew I had to try it.  The name alone was enticing enough.  I've made these ribs several times, both in the oven as well as using a crock pot.  It's simple and quick to assemble, the difficult part is waiting.  Chubby Hubby recommends waiting 1 to 3 days before devouring the ribs (good luck!).  This time I made them in the evening and reheated them the next day for dinner, serving it with some steamed broccoli and steamed rice w/ a little furikake mixed in.

Pork Riblets Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a starter

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup sliced shallots
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 slab baby back ribs (1.75 to 2 lbs) sawed lengthwise in half

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Spread the sugar in the bottom of a wide heavy-based skillet. Pour over 1/4 cup of the water and the lemon juice. Let it sit for a minute. Then heat over medium heat until the sugar begins to liquefy. Reduce the heat the medium low and let the caramel boil until it turns red.
  • Remove it from the heat and slowly pour 1/4 cup water and the fish sauce into the caramel. Return to the heat and stir. Let boil for a few minutes, until the sauce is smooth and a bit thick. 
  • Add the shallots, garlic and pepper and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Separate the pork ribs into individual riblets by cutting down between the bones. Add them to the caramel sauce, stir to coat. 
  • Cover and braise in oven, stirring every 15 minutes with tongs, for 2 - 21/2 hours. Don't let the caramel sauce boil. 
  • The ribs are done when they have become tender enough to pull easily away from the bone and are a deep mahogany colour. 
  • At this point, you can serve them or store them. If you want to store them, let them cool and then store in the fridge for 1 to 3 days. To reheat, pop them in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Real Men Eat Quiche

Today we had an impromptu brunch with DH's best friend - a5lo.  DH needed help moving some drywall into the basement and I'm no help with stuff like that (those things are HEAVY).  So to thank him I decided to make lunch for the three of us.  I wanted to make something that was quick, relatively simple and somewhat healthy.  I also wanted to make dessert, since having guests over is my only excuse to bake.

Nothing says Sunday brunch like quiche!  I made 2 types of quiche (bacon & mushroom, spinach & onion), salad and an apple almond tart.  I normally like to make everything from scratch, but when I'm in a hurry I do take shortcuts.  Making homemade pie crusts and puff pastry tastes better but is also time consuming.  So for today's meal I used store bought pie crust and frozen puff pastry.  It's excellent - gives the homemade vibe but is super easy to use.

I served the apple almond tart with a scoop of caramelized white chocolate ice cream.  If I wanted to get fancy, I'd glaze the tart w/ some apple jelly or drizzle it w/ dulce de leche.  But this is brunch, its supposed to be easy.

a5lo - a bachelor who doesn't cook often - was very happy with the meal and even happier when I sent him home with leftovers.  It was great to see him and  I was happy I didn't have to lift any drywall :)

Bacon & Mushroom Quiche

  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 3C mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • 1C shredded fontina cheese
  • 1C milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust, unrolled and thawed
  • Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.
  • Cook bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy.  Drain on paper towels.
  • Remove most of rendered fat from pan.  Saute shallots until translucent.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until soft, add salt+pepper.  Cool slightly.
  • Whisk together eggs and mlk.
  • Press pie crust into pie plate - add cheese, mushroom mixture and bacon.  Fill with egg mixture.
  • Bake in oven for 25-30min until set.  Let cool for 10-15min before serving.

Apple & Almond Tart

  • 2-3 tart apples (e.g. Gala)
  • 1 1/2C ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1/4C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4C heavy cream
  • 10" x 10" puff pastry sheet
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • Whisk together almond flour and sugar in a medium bowl
  • In another bowl, whisk egg, vanilla and salt.  Mix in half of almond mixture.  Mix in heavy cream and then remaining almond flour.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3hrs.
  • Preheat oven to 430F degreess
  • Peel and slice apples thinly, set aside
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out puff pastry sheet and score a 3/4" border around the edge.
  • Spread almond mixture on puff pastry and cover with a layer apple slices.  Dust apples with nutmeg, cinnamon and a light sprinkling of raw sugar.
  • Bake in the oven for 30min until lightly browned.  Allow to cool for 15min and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Slow food Sundays

On Sundays, I like slow food. I usually spend Sundays doing chores around the house, catching up on some work and watching some trashy tv. That's why Sundays are the perfect time to make something special, something that takes a little longer to make but is well worth the wait. So today I started off with breakfast - a puffed apple pancake baked in the oven. I picked up some wild blueberries at the market yesterday so I sprinkled some on top before putting it on the oven. I think next time I'll try making it with pears - we have a pear tree in the backyard which means I have lots of pears on hand.
After breakfast, I started dinner. Cooking is easy, as long as you're prepared. Mise en place - get all your ingredients ready and prepped before you start. I know it sounds easy and I'm sure you've heard it before, but its the secret to cooking. Since I had extra Guinness on hand after yesterday's Chocolate Guinness cupcakes, I decided to make some stew. Braising is one of my favorite cooking methods - slow cook in a low oven until tender. And stew is so easy and versatile, you don't even need a recipe. DH loves veggies so I usually use 3x as much vegetables to protein. I served today's stew with mashed potatoes made with cream, chives, butter & garlic. A heart healthy meal this is not. But hey, I don't eat like this every day! This stew would be just as good made with lamb or veal shanks.

Beef stew
Feel free to substitute veggies or meat as you prefer. Can be served with mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, rice, or crusty bread.

  • 3lb short ribs (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 2-3 chopped carrots
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 2-3 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2C cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2C flour
  • 2C red wine
  • 2C stout (e.g. Guinness)
  • 1C beef stock
  • 1T grainy mustard
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary & thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Preheat oven to 325F
  • In a plastic bag, mix flour & salt+pepper
  • Add meat and shake to coat
  • In a Dutch oven, add 3T oil and heat to medium high. Add a few pieces of meat and brown. Remove browned meat and set aside. Continue until all meat is properly browned.
  • Once all meat is browned, lower heat to medium and add onions to the pot. Cook until translucent and add garlic and rest of vegetables.
  • Add red wine and bring to a simmer. Add the meat back to the pot, along with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer.
  • Move pot into oven and braise until tender, 3-4 hrs.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Let them eat cake (and ice cream)

Its been a while since I've been inspired to cook. I think its because I haven't been entertaining much lately. Our house is in a constant state of flux - renovation madness. That coupled with the slew of house guests we've had, I've been burnt out.

So when we decided to have a gal's day yesterday, I was excited to get in the kitchen! Mo_par & Blarkness both have a sweet tooth, which gave me the perfect excuse to put my ice cream maker and oven to work. I've been meaning to make David Lebovitz's caramelized white chocolate so this was a perfect opportunity. For some reason, it took almost 3hrs for the white chocolate to caramelize (I blame it on my oven). I'm not a huge white chocolate fan but caramelizing it definitely punched up the flavor very similar to dulce de leche. Yummy! I ended up making it into Caramelized White Chocolate ice cream. I also made some Mint Chocolate ice cream, since this is DH's favorite flavor. To go along with the ice creams, I made some cupcakes - Chocolate Guinness cupcakes w/ Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting.

Mo_par & Blarkness have never been to St. Lawrence Market. So we decided to start our day with a trip to the market. I [heart] St. Lawrence Market - its very easy to find inspiration when you're surrounded by pints of wild blueberries, purple peppers, patty pan squash and slabs of smoked bacon [sadly, no zucchini flowers for sale...the search continues]. We started off with chicken & eggplant sandwiches from Mustachios [I prefer these to any sandwich from Calfornia Sandwiches...I really don't understand what the hype is all about], then walked around the market buying ingredients for Sunday dinner.

Afterwards they came to back to my place and watched an FNL marathon while playing video games and eating ice cream & cupcakes. Glad they came over, can't wait for the next gals day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where's the beef?

I go through phases when I cook. I can spend a week making Indian dishes every night and then the following week its all about pasta. Sometimes Southern, sometimes Polish, maybe Korean. Who knows where my mood will take me. I like variety. This is evident if you look into my fridge - I have everything from Korean fermented soy bean paste to mint sauce. And believe it or not, I do use it all!

More often than not, I go back to my childhood and cook the dishes I ate growing up. Chicken adobo, pancit canton, longanisa, mechado, corned beef, the list goes on. When I get the urge to cook these things, I do the logical thing and pick up the phone to call my mother. Like most mothers, her recipes include "a little bit of this", "some of that". Everything is "to taste". So its up to me to guess at measurements.

Today I decided to make bistek - marinated beef slow cooked with onions. My mother made this often during the week, when she was short on time. (honestly, how she managed to work every day and get dinner on the table every night at 6pm is beyond me!) Enjoy!

Note: Quantities are approximate and "to taste"

Filipino Bistek
serves 4

  • 1 lb thin sliced eye of round, cut into portions
  • 1/2C dark mushroom soy sauce
  • 2T calimansi juice (can substitute lemon and/or lime)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2C water
  • 2 medium onions, thickly sliced
  • 3T oil
  • In a bowl, add beef, soy sauce, calamansi juice, garlic, salt + pepper. Marinate in the fridge, up to 4hrs.
  • In a saute pan on medium high heat, add oil.
  • Quickly brown slices of beef on each side, set aside.
  • When all beef slices have been browned, add it back to the pan along with leftover marinade and water.
  • Simmer on medium low until beef is tender. If it happens the sauce has reduced too quickly and the beef is still tough, add a little more water and continue to simmer.
  • Once the beef is tender, add the sliced onions and cook until they're just translucent
  • Serve with rice