Monday, August 1, 2011

Beef Tacos

My Grandfather is doing well after he broke his femur. I was there tending to his garden and leaving my wife to look after ours on her own for 2 weeks. I am back and excited to be back in my own kitchen after that unexpected pause.

My friend's birthday was while I was gone and since I had to leave kind of a sudden, she was good with the idea of me cooking her dinner. Of course I think it was the Chocolate Lava cakes that she was after though. So, being a belated birthday, I figured I would go out and make a special dinner.

One thing I really miss about having my mexican friends close by is the food. I remember my friends Laura and Rosie cooking all day sometimes and they would make floutas, tomales, and tacitos, with salsa verde, and other hot sauces that should have a warning label. But the most remarkable thing is to see corn tacos being made by mexicans, they have a system and it is dizzying. Looks kinda simple until you try it. It definitely takes practice to get them looking like tacos.

Well, I found a very good, and less messy alternative. The market around the corner sells pre-made corn tortillas. Not as good as Laura's but definitely better than my last attempt. My friends used to make shredded pork and chicken for the tacos that was stewed for hours, so I thought beef done the same way would be great.

1 green onion diced fine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves diced
salt and pepper
1 bottle red ale
1/4 cup olive oil

1 kilo (just over 2 lbs) Blade roast
1 large onion chopped
2 stocks celery chopped
1 shallot
1 large green onion finely chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp of each cumin and paprika
pinch of cinnamon
2 ripe tomatoes
3 cups beef broth (approx.)
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

First, I marinated the beef (good old reliable blade roast) overnight with parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, oliver oil, a red ale and a hot pepper that was given to me that is black on the outside, reddish on the inside and probably has a name other than really damn hot pepper. Then the next day, take beef, pat excess moisture off with paper towel and cube into large pieces. Sear the beef (with just enough oil to coat the bottom) in batches not to crowd the pan and brown each side. I like to cook the onions half way through to remove the brown bits on the pan before they burn, adding a little beef stock to dilute the brown bits. Place onions aside
add a little more oil and continue searing beef until all is browned. Place beef in large pot, add onions, celery, shallots, and after a minute the garlic. Cover 3/4 with beef broth adding spices and 2 ripe tomatoes, with hot sauce and Balsamic. Bring to a light boil and then simmer on low for no less than 2 1/2 hours or when able to take a fork to shred the beef. Remove beef and thicken remaining broth, once shredded add beef back to thickened sauce.

To shred the beef:
Using 2 forks, take a piece and hold it with one fork, and then scrape the piece with the other fork until you are left with shreds of beef, then repeat through the remaining pieces.

Corn (or if you prefer flour) tortillas
Shredded beef
Good crumbly feta
Chopped cilantro
diced tomatoes
sautéed red peppers and onion
shredded carrots
sliced green onions
good hot sauce

Dress tacos and enjoy, and if I missed a topping that you like, go ahead and add it, tacos are meant to be custom made. Simply put all the fixings you like and let everyone fix their own.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

East vs West: 2 different sushis

Hi everyone,
Ok so it has been a long time since I wrote. In my wife's family most of the birthdays are in April or May, work got supper busy and didn't let up, and well I went to Ireland for my late honeymoon. Recently I quit the IT world to follow my passion of good home cooked dinners, and started my own business of teaching and sharing how that can be done. First order of business is to find those who want to cook, but don't know where to start. I am creating a ebook to cover the most basics, and then subsequent editions to follow, to hone skills and master good food.

In my life a lot of good came from family dinners, a lot of sharing and talking happened while feeding a common need. It was a time where no matter what the war between siblings or parents was, there was a cease fire long enough to enjoy a meal. When family that we hadn't seen in a while came to town, it was time for a special dinner, so in my eyes food was a way to bring people together.

That being said, I wanted to start where I left off, Sushi. The last post was that of a first attempt at sushi, and the second time around I tried to take a staple and make it a bit special. Making a good sushi rice is key to this and bellow is a recipe for Sushi rice. I took the ever-so-basic but ever-so-lovely California roll and taking the same ingredients inverted it to make what I am going to call the PEI roll. I call it the PEI roll since it is as opposite of California as it gets and it has a friendly piece of smoked salmon. Both are easy to make and you will want to start making sushi yourself too.

Sushi rice:
1 cup short grain rice (Kohuko Rose is my fav)
*1-1 1/4 cup water (for rice maker use higher amount for stove top use lesser amount)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder

For a rice maker put rice and water in machine and let sit for 20 mins powered off. Then cook as normal.

*for stovetop, get a pan with snug fitting lid and enough tin foil to cover top of pot. Put rice and water together and let sit off the heat for 20 mins. Wrap the top of pot with tinfoil and place lid on top ensuring air tight seal. Turn on high heat for about 3 mins and drop heat to low for another 15 mins without opening. When done the water should be gone and the rice just a bit al-dente.

When rice is done either method, get a non metal bowl and put rice in it. Mix the garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sugar and salt together in a separate dish and then stir into rice a part at a time mixing into rice and separating the rice at the same time, so you don't get mushy rice.

California Roll (8 pieces):
1 sheet of Nori
1/3 cup of sushi rice
1/4 cup imitation crab meat shredded
1/4 avocado sliced
1 tbsp mayo
1/4 tsp wasabi paste
pinch of garlic powder
1/3 of a cucumber julienned

Mix garlic powder wasabi paste and mayo together. Take Nori sheet and place on either sushi roller or a sheet of plastic wrap and spread rice on it thin enough to cover nori leaving about one cm (1/2 inch) strip on the top with no rice. Place crab, cucumber and avocado about 1/3 of the way from the bottom of nori sheet in a row across, then spread mayo beside ingredients. Lightly wet bare strip, then roll carefully and tightly pressing into shape as you roll towards moisten part. Start slicing by cutting in 1/2. then cut each piece into half again, repeat one more time to make 8 even pieces.

PEI Roll:
1 sheet of Nori
1/3 cup of sushi rice
3-4 slices cold smoked salmon
1/4 cup imitation crab meat shredded
1/4 avocado sliced
1 tbsp mayo
1/4 tsp wasabi paste
pinch of garlic powder
1/3 of a cucumber julienned

You will need the plastic wrap here, spread the rice thinly but enough to cover nori sheet without leaving gap. Invert so that rice is directly on the plastic wrap and top the same as you would a california roll. Roll tightly using plastic wrap. Remove enough plastic wrap to evenly place smoked salmon, then re-wrap to press smoked salmon on top. Start slicing by cutting in 1/2. then cut each piece into half again, repeat one more time to make 8 even pieces.

These were a hit at my house, hope these work for you. Coming up on Nights Around the Table, some of our culinary highlights from Ireland which is making local it's obsession.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The sushi experiment: The Grasshopper Roll

I am a big fan of sushi, and a big fan of do it myself so it wasn't long before I attempted to make my own. I always left it to the experts because I didn't want to get sick and I didn't know that sushi grade fish is so readily available at fish mongers. When I lived in Vancouver, I never really thought about making my own because I could just go down the street and there was at least 2 good sushi restaurants in minutes from where I lived. The Fish was always fresh and tasty. Then I moved to Montreal, and well until recently, I couldn't find good sushi, most of it is either over-priced or mediocre. A while back when I was looking for a good piece of salmon for tartare I found that all the fish at my fish mongers was sushi grade (well in the display). That got the wheels turning, but still intimidated it took me a while to try making my own rice and wrapping a roll or two.

I was going to my local fish monger to get some fresh Haddock for fish and chips, and in front of me was a bag of Kokuho rose rice (the best short grain rice). Living with Korean roommates for 4 years I remember that brand as the best sticky rice. My friends used that for Korean sushi (Gimbap). So now I needed a good fish, and the fish monger recommended Talapia. I never would have guessed that Talapia was good raw. Talapia worked well because it has a firm flesh which makes it easy to slice thin for sashimi. It has a mild flavour and goes with things that won't over power it. I used some papaya, cucumber and carrots which worked well.

Being a beginner on the whole sushi thing I came up with the name of my new roll from the Kung fu series. I called it the grasshopper because it is not complete, with patience I will be able to perfect it, and I thought it was funny. So that said, sushi was good but I need to keep practicing and I will keep you posted.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Best Lasagna

One of the ultimately great tasting things on this planet is melted cheese. So what better dish to make if you like melted cheese than a traditional beef lasagna. I Love lasagna for many different reasons. I love pasta, a great meat sauce, and the many layers coming together plus it doesn't hurt that there is a very generous layer of melted cheese.

For me a beef lasagna must have: a good meat sauce with mushrooms, good noodles, ricotta cheese, and a blend of melting cheeses, parmesan and cheddar. My wife taught me a trick that is very much worth mentioning and that is adding a light dusting of garlic powder in with the cheese layer. It gives your cheese layer a bit of extra oomph.

I know that out there everyone is looking for a quick and easy 30 minute weekday meal, and it is good to have for those weekdays where that's all the time you have, this isn't one of them. There are ready to bake noodles and other shortcuts that can be used, but flavour takes time. I have been taking the time to make my homemade pasta, and I wanted to try making lasagna with fresh pasta. I am glad I did because using fresh pasta (once made and rolled out of course) was just as easy as the ready bake. Once you get the hang of making pasta it is actually fairly easy to do, and you will not go back to the store bought dry packaged stuff again. If you can't take the time, try to at least find fresh pasta sheets at the market, the difference will shock you!

Now the ingredients you use in your lasagna are very important because of the different layers you will notice each of the ingredients more. Organic and fresh is key here, and because of the focus on the dairy try to find a good ricotta (it is the one that your family or guests will notice most). Lasagna pretty much goes against the trends of quick, easy, healthy and affordable, but that's what makes it so irresistible. So go out and live a little, and take the time to make something memorable.

For 8 portions of memories you will need:
1 onion finely diced
2 medium carrots finely diced
2 celery stocks finely diced
1/2 pint of favourite mushrooms (I love cremini because they are more earthy)
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
3 big cloves garlic minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coarsely chopped fennel seeds
1/4 tsp + pinch for dusting- garlic powder
3 tbsp olive oil
S&P to taste
1/4 red wine (something you would drink)
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups diced tomatoes (fresh if in season or canned other wise)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1 lb. fresh pasta cut to fit you baking dish (for other types of Lasagna noodles follow directions on the box)
400 grams of good ricotta
350 grams of shredded cheese a mix of mozzarella, provolone (or other stringy cheeses), parmesan and a bit of cheddar

To make the sauce:

Start of by browning the beef at medium to medium high heat in a large pot. Then put off to the side. Add oil to pan and start to sweat the onions, and when they are softened, about 2 -3 minutes add the diced carrots and celery. Brown together adding mushrooms when the rest of the vegetables are almost brown. Seasoning with salt and pepper, then start to add the dry spices. When you can smell the spices, add the garlic and beef. then add the red wine and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Then add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock. Let simmer for 30 mins uncovered. Add the diced tomatoes and let simmer for another 10 mins. Season to taste, depending on the tomatoes you may need more of the dried spices or a bit more salt and pepper.

To bring it all together:
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Skim a bit of the liquid from the meat sauce and line the baking dish with it. Lay down first layer of pasta to cover dish, then a generous layer of meat sauce on top, then pasta. Keep layering until you are 1/2" from the top of the dish, spread a layer of ricotta top with a thin layer of sauce and pasta. Then top with cheese blend and dust with garlic powder. Bake about 25 minutes on a baking sheet (so you don't have to scrape cheese of the bottom of your oven) for fresh pasta, and follow directions for other types of pasta.

Let cool for about a minute or two then serve and enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top-Chef leek and potato cream soup:

About a month back I came across the Top Chef University online. I love the show and since Tom Colicchio is involved it couldn’t be too bad. For those of you who live on Mars, Top Chef is a Reality Cooking Competition, with various challenges, like The Apprentice for Foodies. Anyway for $100 couldn’t hurt to try it out, so I did. I have gone through the basics section, and it was just that, kind of like the Dummy Series of books (a reference for the rest of us). Now I am in soups, which I am pretty good at but I got a new recipe, and a different way of making leek and potato.

As anyone who has read my previous post will see this is night and day different. I like my soup French style where texture is important, I like consumes and puréed soups more that rustic ones, but this soup is amongst chowders as one of my few exceptions. This soup is super easy to make as well which is good to make in a short time on a weekday night (now I gave away that secret, my wife is going to have me to make it more often).

So what you will need: (Adapted from Top Chef University)

5 or so strips of bacon cut into lardons. + 2 strips for garnish
1 shallot diced
3 cloves of garlic smashed
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
2 medium leeks sliced (white parts only)
2 russet potatoes ¼ inch cube
2 Cups cooking cream
2 cups Chicken stock
2 green onions tops only sliced on bias (Garnish)

Heat pot you are doing soup in to medium heat and start cooking bacon for garnish. Half way through add lardons and slowly brown. When the strips are cooked, remove and place on a paper towel to soak up the extra grease. Add shallots, and leeks and let soften, then add garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Add the potatoes (a little oil or butter if potatoes are sticking) and cook for 3-5 minutes before adding the cream. Cook on high for 2-3 minutes to reduce the cream, add stock and simmer until potatoes are fork tender. S&P to taste and garnish with bacon and green onion.

You can change it up to your tastes, maybe add croutons or hot sauce, but it is fine the way it is. Enjoy…

Monday, February 21, 2011

Roast Beef with Roasted Vegetables on Rye.

I have always been a big fan of a good roast beef sandwich, and on homemade rye bread, it is almost as good as a Rueben. My favourite bread growing up was rye. There was this bakery that had a great rye bread, although it was a good walk (about 20 minutes each way), I would probably go once every couple weeks or so for my parents, when ever we had stew. Once I started making my own bread, it wasn't long before I learnt how to make rye bread. Well when you have a good bread, you have a great base to experiment with sandwiches.

I find that good sandwiches aren't always easy to come by, with the exception of a new sandwich only shop opened up near my work. Its a small chain that has put the focus on sandwiches and doing them well, but they are a little expensive. I love a good sandwich and since they are not always easy to find, I experiment with my own.

This experiment went well. I normally wouldn't have made this roasted vegetable sandwich with beef but my wife and I had roast beef for dinner yesterday. I took a gamble and well as long as you don't forget the mustard its a well balanced sandwich. I find that it balances the sweet caramelized vegetables well.

What you will need:

Roasted vegetables:
3 bell peppers ( I used 2 red and 1 orange)
1 med onion sliced into thing rings
1 Eggplant (aubergine) sliced
1 head of garlic
olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice eggplant (aubergine) into about 1/4 inch slices, and place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt to bring out the excess moisture. Slice each of the peppers into 4 flat pieces. Slice onions carefully across the top to make thin circular slices (try to keep in tact) and place on a large foil lined cookie sheet with peppers(you may need separate trays). Take a sheet of foil out big enough to wrap head of garlic, slice top of garlic so each clove's top is cut off. Place garlic open part up, brush top with olive oil, season with S&P and wrap in foil. With a paper towel wipe off eggplant, then brush both sides with olive oil. Season with S&P and place back on cookie sheet. Bake for about 1 hour or until caramelized, the onions go from nothing to burnt rather quick so keep an eye on them. Eggplant needs only about 45 mins and turn everything (except the garlic) about 1/2 way in.
Let cool and chop. mix all vegetables together with garlic.

For sandwich:
2 slices of your favourite rye bread (you can substitute any bread you like)
3 Tbsp (or more) of the Vegetable mix
3 or 4 thin slices of Roast beef
Cheddar cheese
favourite mustard to taste
mayo (optional)

Adding grilled vegetables is a great way to add some flavour to any sandwich, I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The 10 for 5 Finale: Chocolate Lava Cakes

Let me start of by saying that I have had plenty of requests for these little gems. These are perfect for all chocoholics, and so easy to make. Now my original recipe calls for six ingredients and after a painful sacrifice I dropped the only ingredient I could, vanilla. This was tough because vanilla is like salt of the desert world, and I don't think I make anything that a little vanilla wouldn't make better. But for the sake of the challenge I dropped it, and it worked out pretty good. I do recommend adding a splash of vanilla but as I was pleasantly surprised it can hold up without it.

This was a great challenge and I am happy that I got a chance to participate, as I said in a previous post it got me in touch with some old favourites. But another thing that this challenge did for me was to think about simplifying my new favourites and really appreciate what each of the ingredients bring to the dish. Thank you Julie (Rosie + Tart) for putting this together, it has been a lot of fun.

Enough of the blabbing, this is what you will need: (4 portions)
8 oz dark chocolate (make it as good as you can afford)
1 Stick (1/2 cup) Butter (I never said it was low-fat)
4 eggs
4 Tbsp Brown sugar
4 Tbsp Cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 400 F and butter 4- 8 oz ramekins and then coat with white sugar. In a double boiler melt chocolate and butter together. Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl. Let chocolate cool a bit but not harden, then mix together with egg mix. Using a deep sided baking dish place the ramekins in and fill 1/2 way with water, then bake for about 12 minutes from room temperature, or about 20 from the fridge.
When you pull these out of the oven slide a knife around the edges (while still hot so use oven mitts or a cloth) and invert on a plate. Enjoy, and whoever you make these for will invite themselves over for dessert.

10 for 5: Leek and Potato soup

The weather lately has been gloomy and mucky, and when it gets that way, I love digging into a nice bowl of soup or stew. I had 4 cups left of my own chicken stock, that I recently made, I wanted to use for something good. To keep in spirit of the “10 with 5” challenge, I came out with a soup just for the challenge, but it has made it on our list of favourites. When you see how simple this was you will be making this one of your favourites too.

What you will need:

Oil (enough to coat leeks)

1 large leek chopped and rinsed very well

4 med potatoes chopped

4 cups chicken stock

4 cloves Garlic minced

Small handful fresh chopped parsley

S&P to taste

In a large pot take leeks and sauté them in a little oil. Add potatoes and soften. Add garlic and chicken stock. Cook until potatoes are mashable (about 20-30 minutes) and then puree the mix. Season with S&P and add chopped parsley at the end for a fresh finish.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

10 for 5: Rice Pilaff

Coming to an end on the 10 for 5 challenge and I have got to say it has been fun. I have been able to take a more simplistic look at my favourite recipes, and push my creativity further than I normally would. I even reintroduced old favourites to my table, that I had forgotten about in my search of trying new things.

Rice Pilaff is what I made before I knew about risotto. The only real difference in the recipe is the cooking method, and of course the final result. Rice pilaff is a lower maintenance rice dish that cooks fluffy and tasty every time.

All you need for a simple pilaff is:
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarian dish)
1 clove garlic
1 medium size onion diced
2 tbsp butter (an a bit of oil so the butter doesn't burn)
S&P to taste

In a large skillet heat oil and butter together. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add rice and saute until evenly coated in butter, then add the stock and bring to a soft boil. Meanwhile lightly grease a baking dish and crush the garlic. Combine garlic and rice mixture in baking dish, cover tightly with foil and then place in oven for 40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, taste and add S&P.

* Little trick * If you have a glass baking dish you can see when the liquid is absorbed so that you don't lower the temperature of your oven by opening it often.

This works as a great weekday side dish. There are many add-ins and variations you can do with this, like adding peas or your favourite vegetable. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An unbelievable 10 for 5:Mushroom Risotto

A while ago, I made a mushroom risotto for a dinner party and discovered that it is one of my wife's favourite dishes. I think I got it out of one of my Jamie Oliver books and I was surprised when I counted and was easily able to cut it down to 5 ingredients.

Risotto is an Italian way of cooking the rice (Riso) that makes for a creamy rice dish, that when cooked proper still has a bit of a bite. Risotto can be made with other grains, so feel free to substitute with barley or quinoa (quinoa however soaks up a lot of liquid, make sure to use low sodium stock or mix half and half with water). For an authentic Italian version use Arborio rice.

Risotto is actually not difficult to make it just takes your undivided attention and a good stirring arm. Although easy, keep in mind you need to make sure your stock is hot, and that you keep stirring. Best thing to do is get everything ready and measured (Mise en Place) before you start, so that you don't need to divert your attention. This includes sauteing the mushrooms.

You will need:
3-4 cups hot chicken stock
2+1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp Vegetable or Olive oil (to mix with butter to prevent from burning)
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup arborio rice
3 tbsp parmesan cheese
S&P to taste.

In a medium sauce pan, saute mushrooms with 1/2 oil and 1 tbsp butter. Remove mushrooms and set aside to be added later. Use left over oil to saute the rice, just until coated in oil. Then start adding the stock, 1 ladle full at a time. Let the stock absorb before adding more, then keep stirring and adding stock until the rice is a creamy texture and looks like porridge (about 30 mins total).
At that stage turn off the heat add mushrooms, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Serve quickly, as risotto is best shortly after it's made and not for long after. Once you get the hang of it, there are many variations that you can try. Let me know how it goes, and let me know what other types of risotto you make.

Monday, February 7, 2011

10 with 5: Buttermilk Biscuits

I love biscuits (scones) and I make a variety of them, the usual ones that I make are not a 5 ingredient recipe, but I was able to tweak them a bit to fit. The original recipe came from Anna Olson. I was trying to find an impressive dessert for a dinner date (for my now wife), and I wanted something light to serve with my fresh berry compot. It was a succes and I kept making that version. But when I counted the ingredients in my raisin biscuits, and found I was 2 ingredients over. I just bought some buttermilk for muffins, and pancakes and thought maybe I can make a more savory scone if I drop the sugar, and raisins. The buttermilk and a bit of extra salt made the difference as well as a very tasty biscuit.

One thing to mention when making these really easy biscuits, keep the butter really cold and the less you work the dough the flakier the biscuits. The butter should not be fully incorporated as it creates little air pockets, and refrigerating the dough before use will also help. After all it’s mostly the butter doing the work here.

So you will need:

3 Cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Baking powder
¾ Cup cold butter cut into cubes
1 cup Buttermilk (an extra 2 Tbsp for brushing-optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix dry ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl, and then mix in butter (until consistency of course meal). Slowly add buttermilk until dough forms. Lightly flour work surface and rolling pin and roll out to about ½ inch thick and cut in ½ and then each 1” wide. Place on a lightly floured cookie sheet, each spaced by 1” and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Take them to the next level by incorporating (a sixth ingredient)½ a cup of grated cheddar. Hope you like them as much as we did…

Sunday, February 6, 2011

10 for 5: Salsa

The 10 for 5 Challenge is tougher than I thought at this time of the year. The ingredients are not as inspiring in the heart of a Canadian winter. I was really excited to find tomatoes that looked red and some great fresh cilantro. Now my usual salsa recipe has a few more ingredients the challenge of 5 ingredients or less was that of sacrifice (which I don't do well). I had to be a little more creative to cut ingredients but still make it worth having.

I normally have shallots and garlic in my salsa, so I gave on shallots and kept the garlic. Now another thing I did differently was I used lemon juice instead of lime and zest, which works, but do yourself the favour and go for a sixth ingredient, add the zest of a lime in addition to the juice and you will be in heaven. Although I did miss the shallots, it was a fun experiment.

You will need: (makes about 2 cups)
6 roma tomatoes diced
1 clove of garlic purée
juice of 1 lime or 1/2 of a lemon
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 0r 2 jalapeño ( or other hot pepper to taste)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by dicing up the tomatoes and then add the rest to the same bowl. Let rest for min 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mature. Then get your favourite tortilla chips and enjoy.

How hot do you like your salsa? For my salsa I sometimes use habanero peppers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

10 for 5: Tartar Sauce

I was making breaded fish sticks from scratch, and thought what a good 5 or less recipe. When I was a kid I found out that tartar sauce was pretty much relish and mayo, which I never forgot. Now that my tastes have developed, so has my version of tartar sauce. I really don’t have the same one twice as I get different inspirations or have different things in the fridge. Sometimes I add capers, or even roasted red peppers, chopped dill, or whatever catches my eye. This time for the sake of 5 ingredients I kept it simple.

You will need: (for 2 people)

2 Tbsp Mayo

1 Tbsp sweet relish

Juice of ½ a lemon

Clove of garlic (grated or puréed)

Your choice of either hot sauce or paprika, to taste

S&P to taste

For the super simple directions: Mix all the ingredients together. That’s it! Try adding different things mix and match, add more relish, or mayo, add chopped dill pickles instead. It is a very forgiving and personal sauce.

Be Creative and let me know what different variations you come up with.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

10 for 5: Shrimp Tempura

My wife and I had friends over last night and one of our friends has a gluten intolerance. I challenged myself to come up with a gluten free or at least very reduced meal since the last time she was over we had pizza (not too easy on the glutens). I watch cooking shows like others watch American Idol. Particularly Iron Chef America, where I am quite often seeing someone whip together a tempura batter of sorts. Then every time I see the soda water come out I think Tempura. Usually they use cornstarch and soda water, well if that is the case there is no gluten, but I prefer the flavour of rice flour to cornstarch.

This recipe unfortunately is not precise as it depends on judgement, but it is super easy.

You will need: (for 4)
1 lb. (30-40 size) shrimp (I used Pacific White)
about 2 cups of rice flour
1 egg
1/8 tsp baking powder (a good pinch)
1 -2 cups (very cold) Soda water *
Vegetable oil for frying (you will need enough for a deep frier or 2-3 inches deep in a med sauce pan)

In a medium sized mixing bowl beat together egg, flour, baking powder and a bit of soda water, adding a bit at a time until the consistency of crêpe batter. Clean and shell Shrimp, then dry off with a paper towel. Meanwhile warm oil to 350 F. You can tell the oil is hot enough when you take a drop of the batter and put it in the oil, if it doesn't sink all the way before coming back up it is perfect. If it sits on the bottom before rising its not hot enough, and if it stays on the top it is too hot. If you want to be 100% sure use a candy/frier thermometer. When the oil is ready, start dipping shrimp into batter, shake excess and carefully place in oil. Do small batches of no more than ten. After a minute or so they should be done, you will see the pink of the shrimp through the light golden batter. Garnish how you like but nothing beats a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we did...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

10 for 5: Perogie Meal.

Yesterday, My wife was not home for dinner so I was only cooking for myself. There are some simple pleasures that I like once and a while and good tasty greasy food is one of them. My wife likes a more balanced less fat meal, but once and a while I love my comfort food.

I love good perogies, and really the meal is not complete without bacon,fried onions and sour cream. Since I am doing the 10 for 5 challenge I figured why not write this one down.

This is an easy and tasty meal, and not too many dishes. I am counting the perogies as one ingredient because they are so available. With Perogies, you get what you pay for. If you have a Polish or Ukrainian deli near you they usually have hand made perogies which make a huge difference from the frozen ones you get at the market. This meal depends on the quality of the ingredients, so make it count.

For the meal you will need: (For 2 people)
16-20 small perogies (Hand made are usually bigger and you will need 1/2 as many)
6 slices of bacon sliced into 1/2 strips
1/2 onion sliced thin
4 tbsp or more sour cream
1 1/2 tbsp water to render bacon

Start by slicing bacon into strips, then render in a little water for an even browning. once bacon is cooked place on paper towel to soak up some extra fat. Fry onions in bacon fat. Meanwhile, if using frozen perogies boil until they start to float or if using fresh skip this step. Then fry until golden brown on both sides in bacon fat. Serve with Sour cream, bacon and onions.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do...

Monday, January 17, 2011

10 under 5: Hot Lemon Tea

Unfortunately over the last week I have been really sick. I don't get sick very often but when I do, I really do. I am not big on taking drugs for a cold so when I can I have my own little remedies that I have picked up along the way. This is one of my favourites, its a spicy rendition of some store bought lemon medicated tea that shall remain nameless. Very simple, and easy enough to make when you are sick and don't feel like doing anything.

Aside from a familiar mug, you will need:
1/4 cup Lemon juice ( fresh squeezed is best)
1 Tbsp honey (this is the time to pull out your fanciest, tastiest stuff)
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
enough hot water to fill your favourite mug
Ground or grated ginger

All you need to do is squeeze lemon into mug or measure out lemon juice and pour it into your mug. Add your favourite honey, after all when your sick is the perfect time to treat yourself to some wildflower, or blueberry flower honey. Great fresh ginger and add a pinch of ground cayenne pepper to the mug. Pour hot water to fill the mug and enjoy.

Since there is no medication in it, this drink can also be enjoyed when you are not sick. Until the next post take care.

Monday, January 10, 2011

10 recipes with 5 ingredients

Ok so here is the deal;
Over the next month I will be coming up with 10 recipes that have 5 or less ingredients (not including S & P) and blogging about them. Since I will be continuing to post other things during this time (until Feb 14th) I will be distinguishing the 10 with 5 posts with "10 under 5:" in the title of each of them.

Wish me luck! and for a list of the competitors click the badge above...

Holiday food- Part 3: Crab and goat cheese tortellini

A new tradition for me the last couple years, since I met my wife has been a potluck with her father’s family. I love good pot luck, and when it’s a family who all cook so well it is an honour to be a part of it. This year I wanted to do something different, I got a pasta maker and I hadn’t used it in a while now I needed something that stood out. I thought about how often do you see tortellini for Christmas? Not to mention crab and goat cheese filled?

Ok so will warn all my readers here…This is a bit time consuming and a bit of hard work but so very worth it all.

First you will need to start out by making fresh sheets of pasta. To do this you can use regular Canadian flour or the best one to use is fine semolina flour. Sorry American followers but your wheat flour is not as strong and you will probably need to use bread flour (which has higher gluten) or semolina. Semolina is the best because it has more gluten and provides a stronger final product.

Take 2 cups of flour and mound it on your work surface creating a well large enough for wet ingredients. Break 3 eggs into well and add 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and pinch of salt. Slowly start to incorporate the liquid into the flour until a dough holds together. You will have left over flour so stop when you can form a ball.

Knead dough for 10 to 15 minutes to work the glutens and creates a smooth, and slightly stretchy dough. Divide in 2 and form disks. Wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of an hour to relax the glutens. When ready to work with the dough, roll out one disk at a time. I suggest using a pasta machine if you have one, but you can roll the pasta by hand as well. Start off by rolling the dough thin enough to fit into the machine on the thickest setting. Roll through once take dough fold both ends into the middle, then fold over like a book (four fold method). Roll a bit to fit in machine and repeat this another couple times. This step builds strength in the dough.

Now the dough is ready to thin out. Keep running the sheet through each time changing the setting one thinner until you are at the thinnest. Once the sheet is thin enough, sprinkle with flour and then take either a circle cookie-cutter or a glass with a small opening (about a 2 inch diameter) and try to get as many circles as you can of the dough (as you can’t use the scraps). Cover what you are not working on with a moist towel so that the pasta doesn’t dry. Brush the ones that you are working with water to help seal.

Take ¼ tsp of the filling of your choice and place in the center of each round. Fold over, seal all around the stuffing. Take the 2 corners along the folded (straight) edge, and pinch together to form tortellini shape. If it doesn’t stick, moisten the area lightly and try again. If you are not eating within a couple days, the tortellini can be frozen until needed.

Crab and goat cheese filling:
1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic
2 leaves of tarragon chopped fine
½ a medium red pepper finely diced
2 cans of crabmeat
2 tbsp olive oil.
1 cup quality soft goat cheese
S&P to taste (goat cheese varies in saltiness so wait to add salt)

Soften shallots and peppers in frying pan with oil. Add the garlic, tarragon and crab meat. Allow to warm up. Stir in goat cheese then remove from heat. Season with S & P, and cool before using.

These make awesome tortellini but the possibilities are endless. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holiday Food - Part 2: Gingerbread trees and men.

Something that I started last year and has become an interesting tradition is cookies. I hadn't made many cookies except for peanut butter and chocolate chip in the past as I didn't see myself as too much of a baker. But as everything else in my kitchen, it's only a matter of time before I get the craving to try making something new, or to try and find out how to make the things I love. Last year I started with something I always loved, shortbread. Now shortbread is not too difficult, but it does take a little finesse. When I did a marble pinwheel by adding cocoa to 1/2 of the batter, layering it, rolling it up and cutting it into slices, I had a bit more confidence in the baking department. Instantly I wanted to try baking more and more.

This year I went with Gingerbread cookies, and not necessarily for the difficulty level but to me that and shortbread are the essence of Christmas baked goods. I was going to make a few different types as I was making a decorative tin of cookies for a secret santa gift, but the recipe I found made so many cookies I had my own gingerbread army. I also looked around for a good royal icing recipe and I will give you both, it's not too late to make gingerbread cookies.

Gingerbread cookies:
6 cups of flour
1 1/2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cup (vegetable) shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup molasses
1 lg egg
1/4 cup buttermilk

Combine 5 1/2 cups of flour with the baking soda, spices and salt. Cream the butter, shortening, sugar and Molasses together beat in egg and buttermilk. Add flour in stages, using the additional 1/2 cup if needed. Mix until no longer sticky and forms stiff dough. Divide dough into 3 and form into disks. Wrap and chill until use (min 1 hour) working with 1 disk at a time.

Roll out to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of cling wrap (easier clean up and doesn't stick), and then using a floured cookie cutter cut out cookies. Bake for 12 mins in a 350 F oven. Let cool in tray for 5 mins before fully cooling on wire racks. Makes 50-60 4"X 2" cookies.

Royal Icing:
2 egg whites
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 cups icing sugar

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form add just a small pinch of salt to help hold volume. Add lemon juice and slowly incorporate icing sugar until thick icing forms (you should be able to drizzle lines that will stay on the surface of the icing).

Thicken with more icing sugar and thin with more egg whites.
I played around with food colouring for the christmas trees but use your imagination, the sky is the limit.

let me know how they go...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday Food - Part 1: Tourtiere

There were a couple things I remember about Christmas at my Grandma’s and I associated those with French-Canadian traditional food. My grandparents spent many years as snowbirds (Canadians who live in the southern states during winter-Part time Americans), so I don’t remember too many Christmas dinners there. One thing that left an impression was tourtiere. Tourtiere is a meat pie made with pork and beef or veal, and as I later found out, it’s traditionally eaten for réveillon (big dinners on Christmas Eve and/or New Years Eve).

It always seemed a mystery and I had this belief that it was a lot more complex to make than it was. That was until I saw Laura Caulder do a version of it on her show. It was an awakening of sorts to realize that the hard part was the crust not the filling. Well as I was a good procrastinator I put it off year after year, until my wife’s dad invited us over for his annual tourtiere production (15-20 pies). I was now more motivated to try my own.

This year I stopped procrastinating and even researched how to make the best crust. I did try to make a crust and the first one didn’t work, I will try again, but since I was in a bit of a time crunch I bought pre-made dough at the store that worked just as good. Nowadays, you can find store bought dough, or even prepared crusts that are almost as good as homemade, and a lot less hassle. If you are short on time or just don’t want the bother it is perfectly fine to buy it.

Recipes for tourtiere vary from family to family, and well I always add my own touch to recipes. Here goes the start of the Hurley tourtiere recipe:

Makes 3 pies:
1 Kg(2 1/5 lbs) ground pork, veal and beef. *In Montreal they sell it mixed together-but you may have to buy separately. If you buy it separate be sure there is a bit more beef than pork.
2 Cups potatoes diced
1 cup fine to coarse breadcrumbs (I used panko-but any unseasoned ones would work)
4 cups Chicken stock
1 onion finely diced
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp Olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
¼ tsp smoked paprika ( I have a good Hungarian paprika that I use)
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp sage
Pinch of cloves
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat large pot with olive oil on Medium heat. Soften onions until translucent, and then add garlic, bay leaves and spices. Heat for no more that 20 seconds before adding stock so that garlic doesn’t burn. Add potatoes and bring to a boil, then remove bay leaves and add uncooked meat to stock. Simmer for 20 minutes (or until meat is no longer pink) skimming fat as it cooks. Stir in breadcrumbs and turn off the heat. Cool and let sit in fridge overnight before using.

If using uncooked pie dough:
Roll to a thickness of 2mm (1/16th inch) a bottom and top for 3 pie pans. And cook at 190 C (375 F) for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Using Precooked pie crust:
Follow directions on package.

This is a traditional dish but it doesn’t have to be Christmas to enjoy this dish, could be just to try making something new. What kind of traditional food did you make this year? Let me know in the comments section.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Phew Made it out alive...

The Holidays are now behind us, and frankly as much as I like the Christmas season, I am happy to go back to a normal pace and pack away Christmas just like the retailers have already done. The last month was a fun whirlwind of gingerbread, tourtieres, pasta, holiday meals, company and a ton of additional cooking. I loved it, but now time to relax a little, and eat a bit lighter for a while.

Now what I didn't get around to was updating those who are following my kitchen Hi jinx. I neglegted to keep the blog up to date while I was busy cooking up a storm, so over the next week I will be adding a few posts to catch up.

Things to come over the next week (not nessesarily in order):

Gingerbread men, trees, and decorating.
Homemade pasta
Tortellinis with crab and goat cheese filling
New Griddle and the breakfast test.

Look out for these posts coming soon, or check me out on foodista

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