Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Granola Part 2

Last night I wanted to bake a cake, but I had no butter. That will be for me to do tonight...
As I already had my hands in the kitchen, I decided to make some more granola.

I changed up the ingredients a bit - omitted the hazelnuts and pecans - added pumpkin seeds, millet, dried cranberries and figs. This is such a great breakfast. Here is my granola in the warm glow of our house this morning.

This is one of my favourite corners, bits and pieces of such lovely people... I have Marie-Eve to thank for finding a chair, art from Meaghan, flowers from Teena, books from so many friends, memories of dinners and laughter. I am so thankful to be surrounded by amazing people, and to be in good health.

Marie-Eve, spring is here, new beginnings.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bacon Caramel and a tale of the wild wild west

As I was cutting the caramel to take the picture, I have to confess that I must have eaten about 4 pieces. In my mind, I am not a 'sweet' person, but rather salty. Then I start thinking... Yup, I do eat the leftover crème brûlées in the fridge at work, for breakfast. I have no remorse eating cake as the first meal of my day either. Maybe I am a bit upside down: I just feel I don't need dessert after dinner.

I guess the caramels in my tummy this morning felt just right because there is bacon in it. Bacon is morning food.

These are really easy to do, they just take a bit of time and attention. You can let your mind wander into an afternoon fantasy as you stare at the caramel, waiting for it to reach the right temperature. The recipe is at the end of the post...

I made these for the Victoire Wild West party, 4 hours that I didn't see go by. I was quite worried that I would not have enough food (so I came overly prepared), or that the fryer would blow up in my face (yes, the fear of fryers...), or that I would set someone on fire with the blowtorch... But none of that happened. I was on the nose for food, we even had a bit to ourselves:

Marie-Camille, Nick and I snacking on the first batch of corn fritters, these were just too big to pass around...

I met a lovely artist whom I have admired for quite awhile now, here is Geneviève with the late night smores:

We had some live entertainement in the basement for a couple of minutes:

I really admire people who choose to make a living out of catering, I only do this once or twice a year for friends - I am always worried to forget things, thus, little lists:

This was a very pleasant evening, I met some new people, tried my best not to crawl under the counters and really enjoyed some mini pulled pork sandwiches with y'all!

Bacon Caramels

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup butter

1 cup heavy cream, divide into two equal portions

1/4 cup maple syrup

Cook your bacon to a crisp. I had about 15 strips of double smoked from Aubrey's for a double recipe of the caramel. Blot with paper towels to remove the extra fat and cut into pieces.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. Combine all the other ingredients in a sauce pan with high sides as the caramel will bubble up. Stir to combine. Set on medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until 240*, this should take about 15 minutes. Remove from the stove and carefully stir in the remaining 1/2 cup cream. The temperature will go back down to about 230*. Place back on the heat and continue to cook to 245*. Immediately remove from heat and stir in a portion of the crispy bacon. Pour the caramel into a buttered dish, scatter the remaining bacon on top and give it a little stir if you want the bacon to sink in. Let set for at least 3 hours before cutting.

I used a 9x13 pan for a double recipe, so 8x8 would be perfect for a simple. Last time I did these I put parchment paper in my dish, I found that this helped to get the caramel out - I simply lifted the paper out and lay the caramel on a cutting board. It works well with a buttered dish too, you just have to wait for the caramel to reach room temp to cut it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How to cater for 100 guests on your own

Ok. Maybe it will be only 75. I don't know, but I am ready.

Tomorrow, Victoire is celebrating the opening of their Wellington West boutique and have asked me to do the food. I would sell my soul for beautiful dresses, and they have tons, and that is exactly why I do this. That, and the fact that I love Katie and Régine - they dance, they laugh, they are so outgoing. Often, I wish I was just like that. But for now, I would rather be hidden in a basement, slaving over food that will make many tummies joyous. I dance in secret on Esquivel songs in my head wearing my polka dot apron.

Come and see the new shop, dance on a fantastic soundtrack, meet Katherine, Régine, Shasha and the gang + eat, just a tiny bit. I will be hiding in the basement (really, but I am pretty sure you can come down and see me) and preparing...

Mini corndogs with a yummy spicy maple mustard
Guacamole and grilled veggie quesadillas
Miniature Beau's Beer pulled pork sandwiches
Teeny-tiny cornbread
Corn fritters, corn fritters and corn fritters
Vegetables boxes with ranch dressing
Smores on a stick
BACON caramels. yes, BACON caramels.

Makin' caramel... Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Granola my love

I've always really loved granola and yoghurt for breakfast but I've rarely found a granola that I loved... They are often too sweet, not enough clusters, not enough crunch, pretty much only oats.

Making your own rocks, that's all I can say.

3 cups good quality rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 sliced natural almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp golden flaxseed
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup dried fruit (I used dates and Thompson raisins)
1/2 cup wheat germ

Preheat the oven to 300. Stir together everything, spread out on a cookie sheet, and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10. Monitor closely and ensure it does not overcook, it should be just golden. Let cool without stirring for 30 minutes, it will form clusters. Store in airtight containers - should be about 4 liters.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chewy Carob Granola Bars

It is so hard for us not to eat all of these...
We discovered that we both really like carob. I used to eat it by the handful when I was a teenager, better than chocolate.

These bars are so delicious.
I started with a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and omitted fruit, added grains, added carob, maple syrup... It is probably a far cousin of the Smitten bar, but I am positive hers taste as amazing.

I cut them, then let them cool and dry out a bit. We wanted to eat them so fast, they were a bit too tender. A day later, they are perfect.

The ingredients I got at Sol, a natural food store next to my house- it is perfect as you can buy most ingredients in bulk. I also bought goodies to make granola (a post to come soon...) If you ever come to Aylmer, you should stop by this place... all is so inexpensive. The grand total for all my nuts, grains, oats + organic yoghurt and preserves was under $20.

I found golden flax seeds, I was so excited.

Chewy Granola Bars

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup carob chips
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup golden flax seed
1/4 cup sesame seed

Preheat the oven 325F. Line a 8x8x2 baking dish with parchment paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl and combine with the dry. Spread in the baking dish, pressing down for the mixture to spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, the sides should become golden. Let cool, cut into bars. Let dry for a few hours and then wrap individually.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mini Veggie Corn Dog

I get really excited around fried foods.
We don't eat a lot of it, so it is always a treat. And since I have gone back to kickboxing and started running again, I have no worries - gimme those corn dogs!

These are another test for the Victoire Wild West party, they turned out really nice. As we are doing a 95% vegetarian party, these are veggie dogs - I was am not used to the texture, I found them mushy. I may add a crunchy component to the batter, flaxseed?

If anyone can suggest good veggie dogs, please do so!! Tell me where you get them in Ottawa. The ones I bought at Herb and Spice were in a package of 6 and they were 'chili flavor' (I did not notice as I bought them and thank goodness, because regular ones must have been bland!)

Corn Dog Batter
Good for one package of 8 sausages (I had a lot of leftover for 6 slim veggie dogs)

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp grainy mustard
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the egg, butter, buttermilk, grainy mustard and baking soda. Mix until everything is smooth and well blended.

Dry the sausages well and put on a stick. Dip into the batter and fry until golden.

Mini Buns

I was so pleased at how these turned out.
The recipe was easy, quick and it seems like it would be hard to mess up.
Victoire Wild Wild Party Test #3.

I have always wanted to find a bun recipe that didn't require 3 risings, I am not one to spend the whole day waiting for something to happen - I want results quickly.

I kept the buns pretty simple as they will be holding pulled pork, the filling has to be the star.
I will redo the bread this summer and try to put more ingredients in, try to push the limits.

Mini White Buns

1 1/4 cups whole milk
6 Tbsps fat (I put 4 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp veggie shortening - the recipe called for shortening only)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 (1/4 oz.) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsps)

Egg wash + sesame seeds for finish

Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as milk simmers, remove from heat and stir in shortening and butter until melted. Set aside to cool slightly (to about 105°F to 115°F if you have a thermometer - if not, let's say your fingers can go in but it is still a bit hot...).

Add warm milk mixture and remaining ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix on lowest speed until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball, about 1 minute. Add flour if necessary - I added 2 tsp, you will see the result instantly.

Increase speed to medium low and mix until dough is smooth and springy, about 6 minutes. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, add dough, and turn to coat in oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and turn onto a clean surface. Divide dough into the number of pieces that you wish. Shape each piece into a smooth, round bun (keep the rest covered with the towel as you work). Place on an ungreased baking sheet (or lined with parchment). Set buns aside in a warm area until slightly risen and puffy (they will not double in size), about 20-30 minutes. Brush with egg wash and sesame seeds before putting in the oven.

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange the rack in the middle. When buns have risen, bake in the oven until they are golden brown, crusty, about 10 minutes for minis. Remove from the oven, transfer to a rack, and let cool before serving.

As a guide, mine were about as small as a large olive before they had risen. I shape the buns as I would pizza dough - always bringing the dough in and then finishing it by twisting the end. Maybe I should start doing little videos to show this... Simon has been wanting to do that for awhile.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

mini corn bread

As I said in a previous post, I am not too familiar with Southern Food. Corn bread I have tasted a few times, it was generally too sweet and too dry for my liking...

I read a lot of recipes and played around with a few, combined, added ingredients.
I am still not convinced that this alone will be a bite for the Victoire Wild West Party - it needs a little kick. Dipped in chili? Served with a dollop of whipped cream with lime and cilantro?

These were quite better than what I had tasted before, I had never had cornbread with corn in it - I like that the sweetness comes from a little burst of vegetable rather than from the bread itself.

Vegetable Cheddar Mini Corn bread
Makes 12 mini muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup milk
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the muffin tins
1/2cup extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 scallion, chopped (white and green parts), plus extra for garnish
1 seeded and minced fresh jalapeno pepper (or less)
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
1/3 cup frozen or fresh corn

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don't over mix. Mix in most of the cheddar, the scallion, jalapenos, bell pepper and corn and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. While the mixture is resting, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your muffin tins.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar and the extra scallion. Bake for 20 to 25minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Strawberry Morning

Good morning everyone. It's Friday. Week just flew by...
This recipe + strawberries cooked in maple sugar.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Smores on a Stick!

Isn't this the cutest thing ever??? I was so happy to eat it.

I will be preparing a ton of food bites for my lovely friends at Victoire.
The girls want a Wild West themed evening, how fun is that?!!

Southern food is not my thing, so I do admit this is a bit of a challenge - you will be seeing a lot of testing in the weeks to come! And, I am not a caterer... so I have to think things out a bit more.

The smores idea came from campfires - I wanted something that hip cowgirls would eat.
I modified a graham cracker recipe to make them a tad softer (so that I could punch the stick through) I will be doing these with large marshmallows and blow torching them right before they are offered to the hungry folks of Wellington West!

Soft Graham Crackers

2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup honey + 2 Tbsp
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal, as you would for a pie crust. Add add the milk and honey mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It might be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide in half. Pat each half into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon. Line 2-4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface. Working with one packet of dough at a time, roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thick. If the dough is sticky, sprinkle on more flour. Measure the edges of the dough. Cut into the desired shape. Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until browned and slightly golden on the sides. Rotate the sheets halfway through baking to ensure even baking.

Monday, March 15, 2010

For the Love of Beets... again and again and again.

I remember that I was somewhat intrigued by beets when I was younger.
We did not really eat any at home, so I pretty much only saw them at Christmas. And I wasn't sure I liked them. I liked the colour though, they were just like jewels.

Some years ago, when I started my job, I thought I had found my soulmate. Tara, the girl I was replacing, was chomping on a big bowl of beets. Just plain beets. Yummers.

I love buying them in summer when they are all these beautiful colours, but I also like buying them at the grocery store... They are often local, and so cheap!

I love eating beets with goat cheese (mixed with lemon rind) or feta. Here is a simple vinaigrette that pairs so well...

Maple and apple cider dressing

1/2 cup canola oil or light tasting olive oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 French shallot
Salt and pepper

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coq au Vin, Yukon and Celery Root mash

Lately, I have been taking the time to reconnect with friends.
I am usually so wrapped up in projects, struggling every spare moment to make art, consumed by images in my mind that need to find their way on a canvas.

I put that aside for the last 2-3 months and frankly, it has done wonders. I don't remember the last time that I was so excited by a season change - I usually don't see it coming. I am having dinner with friends about 2 nights a week, I can't believe it has been years since I have seen some of them - it barely seems like more than 6 months, all is going so fast. You need to slow down life.

Two very dear friends from grade school came over for dinner. I wanted something 'hostess friendly', a meal that I did not need to tend to... The solution was a coq au vin. I had never done this myself, it was easy and I did all the prep in about 45 minutes. Did the mash beforehand too, and prepped all my veggies to be roasted.

I bought the chicken at Aubrey's in the market, it was surprisingly inexpensive and bonus, it was wrapped in paper, doesn't that make you smile? I can't remember the last time my chicken, even organic and grain fed, seemed so exciting.

I cut the chicken into 8 pieces and left some skin on as recommended by Candice who gave me the recipe. It can also be done with chicken breasts if you don't want the hassle of cutting up a bird - but frankly, it is worth it to get a good pair of scissors and do it, you will have more flavour.

I added and modified (because I just can't help myself...), don't be afraid to do the same... taste taste taste and adjust.

Coq au Vin

1 large chicken cut into 8 pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 slices bacon
1/3 cup brandy
3 cloves garlic
1 lb pearl onions, peeled
2 cups button mushrooms, halved
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf, thyme and parsley - tied together
1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped
2 shallots, finely minced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp cold butter

Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Chop into small pieces and put aside for later.

Coat the chicken pieces in the flour. Add the pearl onions to the pan and fry until they begin to brown. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken to the hot pan and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes, add the Tbsp of butter to the mushrooms. Once browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

Place the chicken back into the sauté pan, pour the brandy over the chicken and ignite (I am always scared of doing this, so I cook it down...). Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, shallots, bayleaf, mustard, red wine, chicken stock, tomatoes, herbs and balsamic vinegar. Allow the chicken to cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

(This was enough time for me to shower and dress ha ha!)

Remove the chicken from the pan. On high heat, reduce the sauce until it reaches a heavy cream consistency. Swirl in the cold butter. Add the chicken, onions and mushrooms back to the pan, heat gently until hot and serve!!

Yukon and Celery Root Mash

6-7 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 large celery root, chopped into large pieces
Butter and cream to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes and celery root until soft. Drain, mash and return to the pan. Cook to remove all moisture. Add he cream, butter and salt & pepper before serving

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rustic Lemon Tart

Today, I deeply craved a lemony dessert - the good news is, I can make my own!
My favourite tends to be rustic-style lemon tart, although I love lemon meringue (maybe because I get to use a torch...)

I tend to prefer a sugar dough for this, but you may use a flaky dough recipe. The flaky dough does not need to be prebaked - the sugar dough will. Baking science, don't ask me, that's just the way it is...

This recipe is so simple, can't fail. If you try it and it craps out on you, you need to come over to my house so that I can figure out what you did!

Rustic Lemon Tart

3 lemons, zested, juiced (you will need a touch more than 1/3 cup, I find that is perfect!)
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
200 ml whipping cream

that's it for ingredients. simple eh?

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the eggs on high until fluffy and starting to change in color. Slowly add the sugar until doubled in volume. It will be pale yellow. Turn down the speed to low (not to splatter yourself!) and add the lemon juice + zest. Then add the cream.

Pour into pie shell. Cook in a hot preheated oven (400) for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 300 for about 20 minutes. Check on the tart, it should be golden on top and not jiggle in the center.

This is usually enough for one deep dish pie. I could not find my deep dish pie shell, I must have left it at someone's house (if you have it, please tell me, ha!ha!). I made a rectangular tart and a round one - the rectangular tart cooked quite faster.

So I guess this is the way to go if you want to offer one as a gift... Teena and Derrick, you like lemon?

Simple Pizza

I worked in a cute little pizza shop for almost four years. After 2 or 3 weeks, I was already tired of eating pizza for lunch - imagine by the end. I did not eat any for years after that, and even today (10 years later...) when Simon wants to go there, I hesitate. But it is always so good.

When we make it at home, sometimes we are simple (like last night - oregano leaves, olives, onions) and sometimes it is ingredient overload... It usually starts with too much bacon.

Pizza Sauce

14oz tomato puree (half a large can), good quality
2 sundried tomatoes, minced
1 onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red pepper, finely minced
red pepper flakes or chilies, to taste
Olive oil

Cook the onions in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and red pepper, cook for a few minutes more. Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer for 30 minutes, adding water to thin it out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tofu, Veggies, Brown Rice...and the Best Dressing Ever.

I get fixated on certain food items. This dressing for the rice I have eaten so much of - I have prepared rice and veggies many times just as an excuse to eat it.

Oddly, for me, it works well only with brown rice. I like to add sunflower seeds and tamari almonds for extra crunch. As for vegetables, roasted carrots are great, flowery greens also (like brocoli). I roasted some carrots, green and red peppers, zucchini, rapini in a bit of sesame oil and salt.

The tofu I marinated for 20 minutes in a mix of soy, tamari and sambal olek.

I hope I get the proportions right for the dressing for those of you who will actually try it at home!!! Give me feedback.

Sesame Ginger Dressing

3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
1 1/2 inch ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 apple cider vinegar
White and black sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients except sesame seeds in a blender. Mix in sesame seeds before serving.

Crispy Potato Roast

It is difficult to make potatoes exciting. Mash. Bake. Roast. Mash. This was a nice change.

I craved roast chicken, and what better side than crispy roasted potatoes! I also redid the absolutely superb zucchini salad - I swear, this is my new favourite and I will have zucchini growing in the garden this year because of it.

Crispy Potato Roast

6-7 yellow fleshed potatoes, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/3 cup butter
Fresh thyme

Mix all the ingredients together, arrange nicely in a round plate and put in a hot oven for 45 minutes. Take out of the oven and brush with butter, cook for another 30 minutes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tofu Pockets with Peanut Sauce

As requested, the tofu pocket recipe.
These incredibly delicious little bundles of scrumptiousness were inspired by an appetizer that I had at Cafe Asean in New York. I did them for two lovely guests not so long ago, and decided to redo them today for lunch, with a few tweaks...

And these changes made them soooooo much better!
These were quite simple at Cafe Asean, and at that moment, nothing could have satisfied me more.
Today, I wanted fresh herbs, spice.

I started by doing my peanut sauce, letting it warm through as I cut all my veggies, then set them aside. I did not have cucumber, that would have been really nice... I did the tofu pockets last so that they would be warm for me to eat - and instead of using canola oil, I used sesame, major improvement.

Again, if you have a mandolin, use it! It will save you a lot of time.

Tofu Pockets with Peanut Sauce

4 fried tofu squares (a package contains 4, look in the fridges in the Asian stores)
1 carrot, cut into matchstick
1/2 red pepper, thin slices
Small handful of sugar snap peas, thinly sliced
2 handfuls of sprouts
Lime leaf, Thai basil, mint - finely chopped
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
Squeeze of lime

1/2 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp sambal
3/4 cup water
Coarsely chopped peanuts

Mix the cut vegetables with the canola oil, soy sauce and lime - this will be the stuffing for your tofu pockets.

Mix all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Add more water if needed. Add chopped peanuts into the sauce right before serving.

For the tofu pockets: Make a cavity in the tofu cubes. Fry them on a griddle. That's it! My guess is that there are more ways than one to make pockets... If you feel too lazy, slicing the cube and frying the pieces would work just as well.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Papaya Salad

When I am feeling a bit under the weather, I eat vegetables, a lot of vegetables.
For lunch today, a light papaya salad. I loooove papaya salad. A mix of crunch, sweet, spicy, salty.

I prepare my veggies with a mandolin slicer. I cut my knuckles once with one, and have been careful ever since... Always be attentive even if you feel confident, it is still extremely sharp. It is worth the $30 though, you can slice everything quickly and in very even slices.

Papaya Salad

Half a papaya
1 carrot
1 red pepper
1 green onion
Big handful of honey peas
Big handful of cilantro
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
4 dashes fish sauce
2 Tbsp sambal (I like it spicy, tone it down if you are unsure)
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 chunk of palm sugar (you can replace with a bit of white sugar)
1/4 or less of canola oil

Cut all the vegetables and mix the rest of the ingredients.

Last night's dinner, a Simon special request, crispy noodles.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wild Mushroom Stuffed Tortellinis

I think I will have a new rule : if you come to my house to eat, you have to learn to make a part of the meal.
My guest last night was so excited at the idea of making pasta from scratch, and she was so happy when she left with her container of goodies - it was wonderful not only to share a meal, but to share the experience.

Isabel, my very best friend from high school, and I eat together quite a bit... I am lucky to have such a trusted friend.
When we met, we were both quite nerdy, went to an all girl school, had very very long hair and shared a passion for aggressive music - the other girls didn't really have an opinion on music (ok, maybe one other or two did...). For us, it was essential though, the center of our teenage universe. Slowly, our group got bigger, but I never spoke about music with any other. No other came to concerts with us. No other was as excited about a new cd coming out. My partner in music and ... science? Frog dissection anyone?

We started our evening with a snack, guacamole. (Recipe at the bottom of the page)

I was quite concerned with Isabel's choice of red nachos, but there were organic, so the color must have been natural (I guess I am not a risk taker for that! Plain color = more healthy. Maybe not!) They were really good and not too salty.

Then we got into the pasta making.
Slowly working in the flour.

Kneading away.

The perfect dough!

Shaping the pasta...

Stuffed with a mix of pleurote, shiitake, king eryngii, and cute little yellow ones... (with parmesan, garlic, shallots and ricotta)

A delicious mix of cream sauce, fresh Shiitake mushroom and wild mushroom stuffed tortellinis!

As we finished our plates, we started talking dessert... We had none. But wait a minute! Egg whites + maple sugar + blow torch?

Meringue topped strawberries. Sweet little ending.

For the guacamole

2 ripe avocadoes, mashed
1 lime
1 tsp cumin, toasted and freshly ground
1 clove garlic, mashed
cilantro, chopped

Mix together all the ingredients. We used only half the lime because it was very juicy.
Cilantro is optional and always a nice addition - but we had none...

Click here for the pasta recipe

For the sauce

3 French shallots, minced
2 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushroom (we had fresh Shiitake)
1 cup white wine
1 cup cream
1/2 cup parmesan, grated

Saute the shallots in butter on medium-high heat. Add the mushroom, saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for one minute more, then add the wine. Let reduce for about 4-5 minutes, then turn the heat down. Add the cream and parmesan.

Quinoa Shepherds Pie

Shepherds Pie is King in the Québécois répertoire of recipes.
Every household has their way of doing it. There are books about the origin and all are searching for the authentic recipe. There is also a big mystery about the name we give it in Québec: Pâté Chinois.

I had a Shepherds-Pie-O-Thon in the last few days.
I made some for us at home for the first time this year.
We ate it on Monday night. Had leftovers for lunch on Tuesday.
We were invited to Simon's parents Tuesday night - we ate some there too! AND, for us to laugh about this even more, his dad ate some in a restaurant for lunch.

Some are creamy (the use of creamed corn only, smooth potato mash), some are dry (peas and carrots, no creamed corn, plain potato mash...). Simon's mom sprinkles bacon on top of hers (YUM!!!).

For good conscience, I try to cut down on meat in mine. I do about half quinoa and half lean Angus beef. So that the 'meat' may be a bit more exciting, I let it simmer in chicken stock, it makes a flavourful sauce. I like to have chunks of corn, so I mix it in with the creamed corn -
I said bid adieu to all the summer corn that I had frozen :(

Spring, come quick!!!

Quinoa and Beef Shepherds Pie

1 yellow onion, diced
1 ribs celery, diced
1 lb lean Angus beef
3/4 cup Quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
1 can of creamed corn
1 cup corn kernels
a TON of mashed potatoes (I like to put butter, milk and an egg yolk in mine)

Cook you meat with the onion and celery. Add the chicken stock, simmer for 15 minutes. Add the quinoa, simmer until most of the stock has been absorbed.

Layer the beef, the corn and the potatoes and put in the oven until top of mashed potatoes are crispy and whole pie is warmed through.

Dear Francophone readers, I should have the French version of the blog running this weekend: Steak-Blé-D'Inde-Patates!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pork with apples

Pork. Apples. Onions.
Total comfort food.
We eat this dish a lot, it is incredibly simple, heck, Simon could probably do it. ha.ha.

I received a lovely maple vinegar for my birthday and was waiting for the right moment to use it.
It is labeled as 'sweet and sour', the company doing it is PicBois. Delightful and original.

In Ottawa, you can buy it at The Piggy Market. It seems like no one in Hull/Aylmer/Gatineau is yet carrying it (at least not from the Pic Bois website)

If you don't feel like making your way over there, you can deglaze with Calvados, or brandy, or a mix of white wine, apple cider and a bit of maple. Maple is somewhat like bacon, makes it all taste better!

As for the cut of meat, you can do it with regular chops - I would then simply cook them in the pan along with the apples and onions.

Apple Pork

4 chops, I like bone in, as a roast.
1 yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup Pic Bois Maple vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp butter
2 apples, I prefer Royal Gala, quartered
2 white onion, sliced
1/2 cup white wine

Season the pork with salt and pepper, let it come to room temp. In a pan, cook the diced yellow onion until caramelized, set aside. Heat a tiny bit of oil in a skillet and sear the pork. Add the caramelized onion to the skillet and deglaze with the Pic Bois Maple Vinegar, add the garlic. Transfer to an oven safe dish and cook at 350, uncovered, fat side up, for about 45 minutes. Check internal temperature periodically from this point until it reaches 155, you do not want it to overcook.

In the pan that cooked the yellow onion, add some more butter. On low-medium heat, cook the slices of onion and apple for about 4-5 minutes without flipping or moving. Turn, cook another 4 minutes and add the white wine. Let bubble until syrupy.

When roast is cooked, set aside on a cutting board for 5 minutes to let rest before cutting. Strain the Maple Vinegar into the apple mix, pushing down on the onion and garlic bits to get all the flavour. Serve over the pork with the apples and onion slices.

Curried Tofu Dumplings, Mint Yoghurt

This was a food filled weekend! Dinner with friends, cookies, yummy breakfasts, using up leftovers and preparing some dishes for busy nights ahead... I will soon post my shepherds pie and a lovely bone-in pork dish.

One thing that really obsesses me is waste. I can focus for hours on how to creatively use up leftovers - this weekend's obsession was tofu and dumpling wrappers. I didn't want to go for the same flavour profile as I did this week (Cilantro, Thai Basil, Lemongrass, Ginger...), instead, I went for curry, cumin, turmeric.

I used up all the dumpling wrappers and still had some leftover mixture - luckily, I also had some phyllo pastry in the freezer, so I did some phyllo triangles for a later snack.

Curried Tofu Mixture
can be used for samosas, phyllo purses or dumplings

1 cube tofu
1 large potato, cooked and cut into small dice
1 carrot, small dice
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
Large handfull of corn (I still had some frozen from the summer, yum!)
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp curry
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp sambal

Chop up your veggies and work the tofu with your hands until it becomes as small as peas. Heat some oil in a shallow pan, add the cumin, sauté for a few minutes. Add the onion and carrot, cook for 3-4 minutes, onion should have color and carrot should be tender. Add all the other ingredients, mix well and saute from time to time. I like to let it rest for a minute at a time so that it gets crunchy.

Stuff the dumplings with the mixture and cook the way you prefer. Serve with yoghurt and mint, I prefer thick and high fat content yoghurts like Méditerranée & Organic Meadows.
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