Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Indian Dinner

I clearly love cooking. I come home tired from standing all day cooking at work, and I still want to cook and try new recipes for dinner. Things are a bit different now that I'm working so much, like I'm making slightly simpler things, and making bigger batches of it so that it lasts longer. But I'm definitely still having fun.

Last night, we had an Indian meal of lamb buttermilk curry and rice pudding. Both were laborious in that I had to stand by the stove to regularly stir the pots, but otherwise, very easy dishes. The lamb was good, but nothing particularly memorable for me. The rice pudding, on the other hand, was outstanding. The texture was really smooth, and I love the taste of cardamom, so I thought the flavour was perfect.

Lamb in Coriander, Black Cardamom, and Buttermilk Curry
Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 6 servings
Print recipe

2 lbs lamb leg, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
10 cloves
seeds from 8 black cardamom pods
2 tsp salt
2/3 cup water
1 medium potato, cubed
  1. Pour buttermilk into a large mixing bowl. Add lamb and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

  2. In a mortar, lightly pound coriander seeds to crack the seeds in half.

  3. In a pot, heat oil over medium heat.

  4. Add cumin seeds. Allow seeds to sizzle for about 15 seconds.

  5. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.

  6. Add coriander, chili powder, cloves, black cardamom, and salt. Stir well and cook for 3 minutes.

  7. Add marinated meat with all the buttermilk. Add water. Stir continuously and bring to a boil.

  8. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook, stirring regularly, for about an hour.

  9. Add potatoes. Cover and cook for another hour, or until meat is tender. Make sure meat is covered in liquid, so add more water if necessary.

  10. Remove cloves before serving, or remember to expect them in your meal.

  11. Serve with plain basmati rice.

Rice Pudding
Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 3 servings
Print recipe

4 green cardamom pods
1/4 cup basmati rice
4 cups homogenized milk
1/3 cup sugar
chopped raw unsalted almonds, for garnish
  1. Lightly pound green cardamoms and peel off the pods.

  2. Place seeds into a medium pot.

  3. Add rice and milk. Bring to a boil over medium low heat.

  4. Simmer for about 70 minutes. Stir gently and regularly (this is very important). As the rice and milk cook, the consistency will become more and more like pudding. If the milk begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, stir more often or turn down the heat slightly. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot if it has scorched otherwise the pudding will have a burnt taste.

  5. Remove from heat and add sugar. Stir well.

  6. Sprinkle almonds over the pudding just before serving.

  7. Can be served hot, warm, or cold.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

No real story behind these muffins. I just wanted something that I could eat for dessert and for breakfast tomorrow morning on my way to work. These fit the bill, and I used up the buttermilk in the fridge.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 12 muffins (I cut recipe in half and made 12 mini muffins)
Print recipe

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk, milk, or yogurt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1 1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.

  2. Grease muffin pan or line with paper cups.

  3. In one bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

  4. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and lemon zest.

  5. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Mix together with a few light strokes until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.

  6. Fold blueberries into batter.

  7. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.

  8. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar before baking.

  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Less Healthy Dinner

Since we've been eating at home so much, I haven't gotten my usual fix of unhealthy deep fried food, especially french fries, my favourite. So I decided to just make it myself - dinner last night was chicken fingers and fries.

I wasn't a huge fan of the fries. They just weren't crispy enough. But the chicken fingers were amazing. The crust was tasty and it stuck right to the meat, unlike some other breading I've done. And the chicken was cooked perfectly. Definitely a keeper.

Chicken Fingers
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 4 servings
Print recipe

1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 pound chicken tenders
  1. In one bowl, whisk together egg, milk, oil, and water.

  2. In another bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

  3. One at a time, coat the chicken tenders in the milk mixture and then roll in the flour mixture.

  4. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. (At this point, chicken can be refrigerated for several hours before cooking.)

  5. Preheat oven to 450F.

  6. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large, deep, heavy pot to 375F.

  7. Bake chicken for 15 minutes.

  8. A few at a time, place chicken in the oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

  9. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Whole Wheat Pizza

We bought some whole wheat flour on the weekend and I'm still trying to improve my pizza dough recipe, so making whole wheat pizza seemed like the perfect meal. I was pretty happy with the texture of the dough, but it was just a tad too whole wheat-y for me. I adjusted the recipe below to use a little less whole wheat flour than I did.

We made two different pizzas. One was crushed grape tomatoes, chili flakes, and shallots, topped with arugula tossed with balsamic and olive oil and pecorino-romano cheese.

The second was sliced vine tomatoes, asparagus and green onion dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, goat cheese, and salmon (to use up some of the leftovers from the healthy dinner). Both were very tasty.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 2 10-inch crusts
Print recipe

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
8/9 cup warm water (105-115F)
1 1/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (optional)
  1. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl.

  2. Sprinkle the yeast into the water. Let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the flours, olive oil, salt, and sugar. Mix to combine all the ingredients.

  4. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

  5. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil.

  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

  7. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat oven to 475F.

  8. Punch the dough down and divide it in half.

  9. Shape each piece into a ball and let it rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes.

  10. Flatten each ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 10-inch round, rolling and stretching the dough.

  11. Dust a pizza paddle with cornmeal before placing dough on paddle.

  12. Use your fingers to push dents in the surface of the dough, to prevent bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes.

  13. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil to prevent toppings from making the crust soggy.

  14. Top with desired toppings.

  15. Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until crust is golden.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Glass City

Today was my first shift at my new job - I now work part-time as a cook at the Glass City Cafe.

Applying to jobs was somewhat frustrating because I have a pretty weak resume and I don't have many connections in the industry yet. I applied to a few jobs at restaurants that I like to eat at and got no response. The posting for Glass City was perfect for me because they wanted applicants to apply in person at the restaurant. When I dropped my resume off, I was able to explain my situation, and the person I met seemed to like me immediately, which I think really helped me get the job.

The main requirement I was looking for in a job was something busy because I hate being bored at work. So I was a little nervous applying because I've walked by the restaurant a number of times and have never really noticed it busy. At my first interview, I wasn't entirely convinced about the job because it sounded like I was only going to be making salads and sandwiches, but the second interview with the regional chef was a lot better. He thought it would be a perfect job for me while I'm in school because it isn't super demanding, but I would get to cook with fresh ingredients, which is definitely better than working at a pub just throwing things into the deep fryer.

I showed up to work this morning at 6:30. It was extremely difficult waking up that early considering I've been sleeping in for the last three months. It was a training day, so basically I shadowed someone who does the same thing I'll be doing.

There are two stations - sandwiches and salads. I was on sandwich station, which also does breakfast, soup, and a couple of other random dishes. The first task in the morning is to go through the prep list and see what food is low and needs to be replenished. We prepared a whole bunch of sandwiches until about 9 when people came in and started ordering breakfast. It was so much fun getting the orders and learning how to cook and plate all the dishes. I made omelettes, scrambled eggs, eggs over easy, and for lunch, paninis, quesadillas, and pizzas. There's also lots of cooking prep to do in between rushes.

So far, I think the chef might be right in that the job should fit in perfectly with school. I'll be working two nights a week and one weekend morning, which is my ideal schedule. And work is busy enough to keep me occupied, but not so busy that I'll be exhausted doing both work and school. I also really like how small the restaurant is, so once I'm comfortable with my station, hopefully I'll be able to learn all the other aspects of a restaurant. So I'm definitely happy with how things worked out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Healthy Dinner

My cousin came over for dinner and the hockey game last night. By request, I made a healthy dinner in the form of salmon en papillote with rice and asparagus, salad, whole wheat bread, and peach frozen yogurt. It was delicious. But the best part was that I made the salmon and frozen yogurt early in the day, leaving very little to do at the last minute.

Salmon en Papillote
Inspired by recipe on foodnetwork.com
Yield: 3 servings
Print recipe

3 servings of salmon fillet
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
3 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of oregano
3 tbsp butter
6 slices of lemon
3 tbsp white wine
salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (parcels can be made up to 6 hours in advance and chilled).

  2. Cut 3 squares of parchment paper. Fold the squares in half to make a crease, then open up.

  3. On one half, near the crease, arrange pepper slices.

  4. Place salmon on top of pepper slices.

  5. Top with shallots, herbs, butter, lemon slices, and wine. Season with salt and pepper.

  6. To create the parcel, fold empty half of parchment over the food. Starting at a folded end, make a small fold in the paper, folding on an angle.

  7. Make the next fold so that the crease overlaps with the first fold to create a seal.

  8. Continue with these small folds, working around the seafood, until you get to the end.

  9. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until parcels inflate.

  10. Cut open parcels and serve immediately.

Peach Frozen Yogurt
Yield: 6-8 servings
Print recipe

2 cups sliced peaches
2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
  1. Place peaches in blender and puree until smooth.

  2. Add yogurt and sugar. Blend until combined.

  3. Turn ice cream machine on and pour liquid into freezer bowl.

  4. Let mix until thickened, about 25 minutes.

  5. Serve immediately or place in air tight container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cocoa Wafer Sandwiches

A went golfing last weekend, and I made a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for the guys to eat as a snack during the game. I guess they liked them because the box was empty when he came home.

We often make ice cream sandwiches at work, so I was inspired to try these sandwich cookies (kind of like homemade oreos) for A to bring to this weekend's golf game.

Cocoa Wafer Sandwiches
Adapted from Sugar by Anna Olson
Yield: 2 dozen sandwiches
Print recipe

Icing Filling
1 egg white
2 cups icing sugar
2-3 drops vanilla extract or peppermint extract
  1. Put egg white in a bowl.

  2. Beat in icing sugar, a few tablespoonsful at a time, until a soft dough forms.

  3. Continue to add remaining icing sugar until dough is no longer sticky.

  4. Mix in extract.

Cocoa Wafer Cookies
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
  1. Beat butter until smooth and fluffy.

  2. Stir in icing sugar and cocoa powder.

  3. Stir in vanilla, egg yolk, and milk.

  4. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Blend until incorporated.

  5. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

  6. Preheat oven to 325F.

  7. Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar.

  8. Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into desired shapes.

  9. Place cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

  10. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until the cookies can be lifted easily away from the parchment.

  11. Using an offset spatula, immediately transfer the cookies to rack to cool.

  12. To fill cookies, roll a teaspoon of icing filling into a ball and flatten a little.

  13. Sandwich between 2 cookies and press together to push icing to edges.

Friday, April 16, 2010

White Bread - Sponge Starter

I've graduated from the straight dough method of making bread to the sponge method. And what a difference it made. This was the best loaf I've made so far.

In the straight dough method, all the ingredients are mixed together to form a dough that is ready to knead. In the sponge, or indirect method, small quantities of the main ingredients are combined and allowed to ferment before the rest of the ingredients are added. The best European-style breads are made using the sponge method, and the process results in more texture and flavour in the loaves made from it.

Essentially, the night before I actually baked the bread, I made a sponge, or a starter. It's a mixture of a small amount of flour, water, and yeast, and I put it in the fridge overnight to ferment. It was really easy to do and really only took a few extra minutes over the straight dough method.

I've heard stories of bread bakers who have had their starters for years (this is especially true of sourdough starters). Once you make one, you can keep it on hand and keep "feeding" it with flour and water indefinitely. Using the starter really does make a huge difference in the crust and the texture of the bread. I'll have to experiment with keeping my starter alive for longer than one day and see how that works.

White Bread - Sponge Starter
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 loaf
Print recipe

Sponge Starter
Yield: 1/2 cup
(Make the night before you want to eat the bread.)

1/4 cup warm water (100F)
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3/8 cup bread flour
  1. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl.

  2. Sprinkle the yeast into the water. Let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the flour.

  4. Stir rapidly with a clean wooden spoon until you notice elastic strands pulling away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes.

  5. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (14 hours) until bubbly and tripled in volume.

  6. Once it has tripled in volume, it must be used immediately to make bread or be fed with 3/8 cup of bread flour and 1/4 cup of water to keep yeast from starving.

White Bread - Sponge Starter
1/2 cup sponge starter
1 cup warm water (105F - 115F if starter is coming straight from refrigerator, 75F otherwise)
2 1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 tbsp salt
  1. Combine the sponge starter, water, and flour in a large bowl.

  2. Mix until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.

  3. Sprinkle in salt.

  4. Adjust consistency of dough by adding flour or water. The dough should feel sticky to the touch, but should not actually stick to your hands.

  5. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

  6. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil.

  7. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (6 hours at room temperature, 3 hours if warmer).

  8. Shape into a thick baguette.

  9. Transfer the dough, seam side down, to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  10. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 to 4 hours.

  11. Preheat the oven to 450F.

  12. Score the loaf using a sharp knife, one diagonal slash along the length of the loaf. The slash should be about 1/2 inch deep.

  13. Using a spray bottle, spritz the walls of the preheated oven. Wait 1 minute. Then quickly slide the loaves into the oven.

  14. Wait 2 minutes and spritz the oven walls again.

  15. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

  16. Let cool slightly, then move loaf to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Blueberry Chutney and Potato and Leek Galette

This may have been the best meal I've ever made. The duck was moist and tender, the blueberry chutney paired perfectly with the duck, and the potato and leek galette was so elegant and tasty.

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Blueberry Chutney
Adapted from recipe on foodnetwork.com
Yield: 3 servings
Print recipe

Pan Roasted Duck Breasts
2 duck breasts
salt and pepper
  1. With a sharp knife, score the duck fat. Do not cut into the meat.

  2. Season the duck with salt and pepper.

  3. Warm a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.

  4. Place duck breasts, fat side down, into the pan.

  5. Cook for 4-5 minutes to render the fat.

  6. Turn the duck breasts over, and reduce heat to medium.

  7. Cook for 6-7 minutes for medium rare.

  8. Let the duck rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Blueberry Chutney
Yield: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 small onion, minced
2 tsp ginger, grated
juice of half a lemon
  1. Combine sugar and vinegars in a medium pot.

  2. Place over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  3. Add blueberries, onion, ginger, and lemon juice.

  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes.

Potato and Leek Galette
Adapted from recipe on marthastewart.com
Yield: 6-8 servings
Print recipe

4 white potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced thinly crosswise, well washed
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1/3 cup gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1/3 cup jack cheese, coarsely grated
salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.

  2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

  3. Brush parchment paper with a quarter of the melted butter.

  4. Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes to 1/8-inch thick.

  5. Arrange the sliced potatoes in a circular pattern, overlapping the slices, in the prepared pan.

  6. Brush potato layer with another quarter of the melted butter.

  7. Season with salt and pepper.

  8. Sprinkle with half the leeks and half of each of the cheeses.

  9. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, butter, salt and pepper, and remaining leek and cheese.

  10. Top with remaining potatoes and butter. Season with salt and pepper.

  11. Using a spatula, press the galette down firmly.

  12. Bake until potatoes are tender, about 45-50 minutes.

  13. Let cool slightly, then run a knife around the edge of the pan.

  14. Invert galette onto a plate. Remove parchment paper.

  15. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asian-Inspired Dinner

I have always wanted to make my own dumplings. It's just like making perogies, which I've made before, but with totally different ingredients. I've only made perogies a couple of times, and while it's pretty time-consuming, I really enjoy it. It's a great rainy day activity - you can throw on some tunes and spend the afternoon making a huge batch to freeze for another day.

I went to T&T to buy ground pork and some dumpling wrappers. I was surprised to find quite a selection of wrappers - round, square, wonton, gyoza, etc. I decided on the gyoza wrappers, which worked out perfectly. The dough was really nice and fresh, and I only used maybe a third of package, so I froze the rest. And, as you can tell from the picture, after cooking, it turned out exactly like gyozas you can get in restaurants, but tastier.

I wanted to eat something other than the gyoza, so I also made Vietnamese spring rolls. They are super easy to make and you can put anything you want inside. It's really satisfying to make meals that we typically only eat at restaurants, have them turn out really great, and be able to control the ingredients and flavours at the same time.

Pork Gyoza
Print recipe

Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 20 dumplings

1/2 lb lean ground pork
2 tbsp leeks, finely chopped
1/4 cup Chinese cabbage, finely chopped
2 tbsp green onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
20 round gyoza skins
  1. Combine all ingredients except gyoza skins together in a large bowl.

  2. Stir vigorously with a fork to break up the meat. If the mixture seems loose, add more cornstarch.

  3. Place 1 packed tablespoon of the filling in the center of each of the skins.

  4. Brush the edge with water and fold in half to make a half-moon shape. Press out the air and seal edges together well.

  5. Place sealed dumpling on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  6. To cook, add a few dumplings into a pot of boiling water, stir gently to prevent sticking, return to a boil, and boil for 7 minutes.

  7. Remove with a strainer and repeat with remaining dumplings.

  8. Serve immediately with soy ginger dipping sauce.

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, February 2010
Yield: 1/2 cup

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped
  1. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 6 rolls
Print recipe

1/2 lb lean ground pork
1/2 large carrot, shredded
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro
1 cup rice noodles
6 sheets rice paper
  1. In a medium pan, cook the ground pork. Set aside.

  2. In a medium pot, cook the rice noodles as directed on the package. Set aside.

  3. Fill a large bowl with hot water. Have a kitchen towel in front of you.

  4. Soak one sheet of rice paper in the hot water, immersing it completely. As soon as it becomes pliable, 1 or 2 minutes, carefully remove it and lay it flat on the towel.

  5. Place one-sixth of the cooked noodles, carrots, sprouts, mint, cilantro, and pork along the center of the rice paper.

  6. Fold the sides of the rice paper over the filling, then roll up tightly into a neat cylinder.

  7. Set seam side down on a large platter. Cover with a damp towel to keep moist.

  8. Repeat with remaining rice paper and ingredients.

  9. Serve immediately with sweet chili dipping sauce.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mushroom Risotto

Another random ingredient A bought me was chanterelles. I decided to buy a bunch of other varieties of mushroom and make risotto. Served with pan-fried halibut and some veggies, it made for a very fancy dinner.

I have made risotto before with store-bought chicken stock, but this was the first time I tried using home-made stock instead. It made a world of difference in the taste - definitely worth the extra effort of making stock from scratch.

Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 4 servings
Print recipe

2 cups raw mushrooms
2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, minced
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup + 1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Soak any dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes.

  2. Drain, reserving the liquid.

  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  4. Add mushrooms and shallots and cook until lightly browned.

  5. Add mushroom soaking liquid and boil it down to nothing.

  6. Add 1/4 cup of white wine and boil it down to nothing.

  7. Remove mushrooms from heat and set aside.

  8. Meanwhile, have chicken stock simmering over medium heat.

  9. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter.

  10. Add onion and cook until soft and clear.

  11. Increase heat to medium and stir in rice. Cook, stirring often, until the rice is chalky in appearance, about 3 minutes.

  12. Add 1/4 cup of white wine and stir until absorbed.

  13. Add the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, and simmer and stir continuously until absorbed.

  14. Fold in mushroom mixture when there is 1/2 cup of stock left.

  15. When all stock has been used, rice should be tender, but still have some "bite."

  16. Fold in parmesan cheese.

  17. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  18. Serve immediately.

Marinated Mozzarella Salad

A twist on the traditional caprese salad - marinating the mozzarella first. It adds a whole new dimension to the taste of the cheese with the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. I forgot to add it last night, but I think some fresh basil would be excellent.

Marinated Mozzarella Salad
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 2 servings
Print recipe

4 medium mozzarella balls, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
12 black peppercorns
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 medium tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  1. In a medium skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat.

  2. Add garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, salt, and red pepper flakes.

  3. Cook for 2 minutes and then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature.

  4. Pour oil over mozzarella pieces. Let stand at room temperature for several hours.

  5. To serve, remove mozzarella from oil and toss with tomato and basil. Drizzle lightly with marinating oil.

  6. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Squid - Two Ways

We had some squid in our freezer from the last time we had hot pot. I had been wanting to make calamari for a while, and then I saw Anna Olson make a chilled seafood salad that looked really good, so I saved some of the squid for the salad.

Chilled Seafood Salad
Inspired by this recipe by Anna Olson
Yield: 3 servings
Print recipe

1 whole squid, cleaned
12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup soba noodles, cooked and chilled
1 head endive lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup tomato, diced
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp mint, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper
  1. Grill squid and shrimp on both sides until cooked, about 3 minutes per side. (I cooked both in a pan on the stove and it worked fine.)

  2. Cut squid into rings.

  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl except soba noodles.

  4. Season to taste.

  5. To plate, grab small handful of noodles and spin like opening a jar to keep noodles tidy and create height. Place noodles in center of plate. Top with remaining ingredients, with shrimp at the very top.

  6. Serve immediately.

Ginger Calamari
Adapted from Michael Symon's recipe, printed in The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
Yield: 3 servings
Print recipe

1 whole squid, cleaned
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup ginger ale
3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp ground black pepper
oil for frying
  1. Cut squid into rings.

  2. Toss with ginger. Let sit for 1 to 4 hours in a small container.

  3. Add ginger ale and let marinate overnight.

  4. Combine flour and pepper.

  5. Toss calamari with flour mixture to coat.

  6. In a high-sided pan, heat an inch of oil to 365F.

  7. Gently place a few calamari rings in the oil and deep-fry until golden brown, about 1 or 2 minutes per piece.

  8. After removing from oil, place on a plate lined with paper towel. Salt the hot calamari.

  9. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

I've been meaning to make lemon poppy seed pound cake ever since we came back from Tofino. Our bed and breakfast host served this one morning and it was delicious, so I had to try making it for myself.

The recipe from the Joy of Cooking was really straightforward, so it was easy to put together in about 15 minutes. I absolutely love freshly baked cake, I mean nothing beats baked goods straight from the oven, so I could hardly wait for it to cool to have a taste. I probably took it out of the oven an hour ago and I've already had two slices - the lemon flavour and the tiny amount of crunch from the poppy seeds is perfect.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 loaf
Print recipe

3 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp lemon zest
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. In one bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, poppy seeds, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt.

  3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and lemon juice.

  4. Add melted butter and half of egg mixture to flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.

  5. Add the remaining egg mixture in 2 parts, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.

  6. Pour into a greased loaf pan.

  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Lentil Curry

Another thing I've never really tried cooking at home is lentils. I briefly looked for a recipe for lentils, and I was surprised to find not much variety - most recipes were for lentil soups and curries. I made this curry from Vij's cookbook, which was delicious, but I'll definitely be looking for different ways to cook up the bag of lentils I bought.

The book says this is often an accompaniment to the evening meal, meant to be served as a side dish, but we ate it with basmati rice and some vegetables as our whole dinner.

Green lentils almost fully dissolve in water when cooked whereas red lentils maintain their shape. The combination of equal amounts of green and red lentils give a nice texture to the dish.

Lentil Curry
Adapted from Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
Yield: 6 servings
Print recipe

1/2 cup green lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger, grated
3/4 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  1. Place lentils, water, salt, and turmeric in a large pot and stir.

  2. Bring lentils to a boil, then stir and cover most of the pot with the lid.

  3. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

  4. While the lentils are cooking, melt the butter in a shallow frying pan over medium heat.

  5. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for 15 seconds.

  6. Add onions and saute until brown, about 5 minutes.

  7. Add ginger, tomatoes, and cayenne and saute, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes or until the oil glistens on top.

  8. Pour masala into the pot with the hot cooked lentils and stir well.

  9. Just before serving, stir in cilantro.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit on Endive Spears

As a way to keep me motivated to try new things, A sometimes buys random ingredients and then I have to come up with ways to use them. It's a bit like Iron Chef I guess. For example, this weekend, we came home from the grocery store with endive spears.

I knew I wanted to do an appetizer with them, using the endive as a little cup/spoon. This is what I came up with:

It's basically a cooked shrimp, a slice of avocado, a grapefruit segment, and a bit of a cocktail sauce mixture on an endive spear. The flavour combination sounds a little strange, but surprisingly works really well together, and I think the colours are beautiful. It was harder than I thought to keep the ingredients standing up, so next time, I might chop everything up and mix it all together.

Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit on Endive Spears
Yield: 12 filled spears
Print recipe

1 tbsp prepared horseradish, or to taste
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp butter
12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and pepper
1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 heads endive
  1. To make the cocktail sauce, mix horseradish, mayonnaise, and ketchup together.

  2. Cook the shrimp in melted butter until just pink, about 4 minutes.

  3. Cut the end off each head of endive.

  4. Peel individual leaves of endive and place on a plate.

  5. Spoon a teaspoon of cocktail sauce onto each endive leaf.

  6. Top with one shrimp, one slice of avocado, and one grapefruit segment.

  7. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lamb Sausage

Again, inspired by some lamb sausage made at work, I tried making my own at home. I had no idea what was in the lamb mixture at work, so I had to go to the internet for ingredient ideas, but what I did learn at work was how to roll the sausages, which was probably the more helpful part.

I thought the sausages were really tasty. My main problem was making them a bit too thick so they took a really long time to cook through when cooking them in a fry pan, so I could try poaching them next time. They would also be great as burgers.

Lamb Sausage
Yield: 6 thick sausages
Print recipe

2 lbs ground lamb
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

  2. Cook a small amount of the mixture to test taste and seasoning.

  3. Moisten the work surface and then cover with a large piece of plastic wrap. Pat it down so that it sticks to the work surface.

  4. Cut a square piece of plastic wrap and place on top of the one stuck to the work surface.

  5. Place lamb mixture into a piping bag. Pipe a 1-inch thick tube of the mixture along the bottom of the square plastic wrap, leaving an inch of plastic wrap on the bottom and 2 inches on the sides.

  6. Roll the plastic wrap over the mixture tightly to form a cylinder. Twist the ends like a tootsie roll and continue to roll the cylinder tighter using the plastic wrap stuck to the work surface to make rolling easier.

  7. Tightly wrap the whole sausage with more plastic wrap to keep the ends from untwisting.

  8. Repeat with remaining mixture.

  9. Refrigerate sausages for an hour to set.

  10. Cook in a nonstick fry pan on medium-low heat until browned on the outside and cooked through inside.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Marble Sugar Cookies

I haven't made rolled cookies in a while, so I thought I would try them again. This is a really simple recipe and can actually be changed very slightly to make many different types of cookies. I made marble cookies and kept a few as plain sugar cookies.

Marble Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Print recipe

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 ounce melted and cooled semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  1. Cream butter, sugar, and salt together until very fluffy and well blended.

  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined.

  3. Add flour and beat in until just combined.

  4. Take one quarter of the dough and mix in the melted chocolate.

  5. Divide the chocolate dough into 6 portions and press into the remaining three quarters of dough. Knead the doughs together slightly to create a marbled effect.

  6. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

  7. Preheat oven to 375F.

  8. Lightly flour the work surface.

  9. Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into desired shapes.

  10. Place cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

  11. Bake 5 to 6 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges.

  12. Using an offset spatula, immediately transfer the cookies to rack to cool.

Rye Bread

I'm having lots of fun trying out different breads, different flours, and different loaf shapes. I bought organic rye flour to try rye bread. Rye flour has a low gluten content, so the more rye flour used, the denser the finished bread. I used almost the maximum amount of rye flour called for in the recipe because I like dense bread. This loaf was shaped into a thick baguette, or a batard.

I saw a rye bread recipe that incorporated caraway seeds into the loaf, which would have been good had I remembered to add them, but even without, it was delicious. Traditional rye breads of Europe are made with a starter, but the recipe posted below uses the straight dough method. It is essentially the same as the white bread recipe, but substitutes some rye flour for bread flour and includes the caraway seeds. It also explains a bit about the shaping.

Rye Bread
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 loaf
Print recipe

1 cup warm water (115F to 125F)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) quick-rising active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup rye flour
2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp caraway seeds, plus more for top of loaf
  1. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl.

  2. Sprinkle the yeast into the water. Let stand for a minute. Yeast should froth a little.

  3. Add the sugar, salt, and melted butter.

  4. Add the rye flour and 1 1/4 cups of the bread flour. Stir gently.

  5. Begin kneading the dough in the bowl. Add caraway seeds.

  6. Gradually add in 1/4 cup at a time of the remaining bread flour. The dough should be moist but not sticky.

  7. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic.

  8. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil.

  9. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75F to 80F) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

  10. Punch the dough down and knead slightly.

  11. Shape the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.

  12. Fold the long sides of the dough into the middle, overlapping slightly. Press the seam to seal. Pull and shape the ends gently to make the loaf slightly egg-shaped.

  13. Transfer the dough, seam side down, to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  14. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

  15. Score the loaf using a sharp knife. The slashes should be about 1/2 inch deep.

  16. Brush the loaf with egg wash (egg white mixed with water) and sprinkle caraway seeds on top.

  17. Preheat the oven to 450F.

  18. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes.

  19. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

  20. Let cool slightly, then move loaf to a rack to cool completely.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Butter-Poached Prawns with Cauliflower Israeli Couscous

I saw this dish made on the Martha Stewart show by chef Maria Hines of the Seattle restaurant Tilth. It's always inspiring to me to see the work of female chefs, and the dish looked absolutely amazing, so I had to try it. She used spot prawns, a pretty trendy ingredient here on the west coast right now, and even incorporated the roe into the poaching liquid. I made it just using regular frozen prawns and thought they were delicious, so I can't even imagine how good it must be using fresh spot prawns and their roe.

Butter-Poached Prawns with Cauliflower Israeli Couscous
Adapted from recipe by Maria Hines
Yield: 4 servings
Print recipe

1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
1 cup packed mint leaves
1 tsp harissa or sambal
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Add parsley leaves to large pot of boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Drain and pat dry.

  2. Place parsley leaves into the jar of a blender along with the cilantro, mint, harissa, garlic, and lemon juice.

  3. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil. Blend until ingredients are pureed.

  4. Set aside.

Cauliflower Puree and Israeli Couscous
3 cups bite-size cauliflower florets
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.

  2. Add cauliflower florets and cook until tender but still crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Drain the florets but reserve the cooking liquid.

  4. Place half the florets in the jar of a blender. With the motor running, add 1 cup of cooking liquid. Blend until the cauliflower is pureed and the consistency of thick gravy. Set aside.

  5. Cook the Israeli couscous according to package directions. Set aside.

  6. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.

  7. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

  8. Add the remaining florets and cook until the edges begin to brown and caramelize, about 3 to 5 minutes.

  9. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

  10. Add parsley and chives.

  11. Combine with cooked Israeli couscous. Set aside.

20 prawns, peeled and deveined, roe reserved
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
4 tbsp butter
  1. Place parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and tie to enclose.

  2. Place cream into a medium saucepan. Add herb sachet.

  3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.

  4. Remove sachet.

  5. Add butter and whisk until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

  6. Add reserved roe and stir to combine.

  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add prawns. Cook just until flesh turns pink, about 4 minutes.

  8. To serve, spoon cauliflower puree into the center of each plate. Spoon charmoula around the cauliflower puree. Spoon couscous mixture on top of puree. Top with the prawn. Spoon some of the poaching liquid over the prawns. Garnish with cilantro, parsley, mint, and chives.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Raw Salmon - Two Ways

I often buy sushi salmon and just cut it into sashimi slices and serve it with seasoned Japanese rice, mostly because it is so easy and it tastes so good. Since I'm exploring new recipes, I thought it was time to spice up our regular raw salmon dinner, so I made salmon tartare and salmon carpaccio.

The tartare was only ok for me. Unfortunately, the salmon flavour got overpowered by the green onion I used in place of chive. I will have to try it again to improve on it. The carpaccio, on the other hand, was amazing - I wouldn't change a thing.

Salmon Tartare
Yield: 2 servings
Print recipe

6 oz sushi grade salmon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped (I used green onion, and this is not a good substitution)
1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
zest and juice of half a lime
  1. With a sharp knife, mince the salmon fillet. Do not use a food processor.

  2. Combine salmon with remaining ingredients, except lime (it will "cook" the salmon).

  3. Let chill for 30 minutes.

  4. Just before serving, add lime zest and juice.

  5. Serve immediately.

Salmon Carpaccio
Adapted from this post on La Tartine Gourmande
Yield: 2 servings
Print recipe

6 oz sushi grade salmon
1/8 fennel bulb
1 tsp fennel leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp mint, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp capers
1 tbsp olive oil
fennel leaves, for garnish
  1. Use a mandoline to slice the fennel very thinly.

  2. Combine fennel slices with fennel leaves, mint, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.

  3. Refrigerate mixture for 1 hour.

  4. Wrap salmon in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes for ease of slicing.

  5. Just before serving, take salmon out of freezer and slice thinly.

  6. To serve, arrange salmon slices on plate, top with fennel slices, then sprinkle with olive oil. Add capers and garnish with fennel leaves.

  7. Serve immediately.