06 December 2010

Finally a shrimp taco

I have been trying to whip up some shrimp tacos for weeks. For a variety of reasons, including not really cooking much in the last two weeks, there has been no shrimp tacos. But tonight, the stars aligned and shrimp tacos there were!

It was a total shortcut day though! So we had a bag of pre-cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp in the freezer that we got on super special somewhere. Anyway, they were easy to deal with and I just defrosted in a bit of water, pulled the tails off and we were ready to roll on that front. Whipped a cup of frozen tomato-chipotle sauce out of the freezer, put it in the frying pan and brought it to the boil. Popped the shrimp in there for a few minutes and that was all ready.

Had a couple of avocados in the fridge and had picked up a few tomatillos at the store yesterday, so whipped up a bit of a tomatillo-avocacdo salsa. Not my usual as the garlic, onions, and tomatillos all went in raw instead of with a bit of a roast on as usual. I just did not have the energy. There was also no cilantro around, so that got left out and my fresh jalapenos had gone mouldy (did I mention about not being in the kitchen much lately!) Anyway used a couple of the tiny dried chiles that I bought in Israel and that are mighty potent.

Served it all with some green rice (regular rice cooked with a tomatillo boullion cube in the water) and fresh corn tortillas purchased in the market over the weekend. Delicious and spicy!

Now for the final cleanup to get the kitchen back to that not-lived-in look that the realtors like so much!

05 December 2010

Good Day for Food.

It was a good day for food.  It was not as good of a day for photos, selling our house, or getting rid of this cold, BUT, this is a no whining zone, so back to the food!

We had to be out of the house so we decided to go out to brunch, something we used to do a lot but stopped for some reason...

Today's pick was Fire on the East Side, which is a nice walk from the house.  There was quite a wait, which was fine since we had to kill time anyway.  We chatted in the entry and waited for a table to open up.  Once it did, we cozied in, G ordered a martini of some sort and I had a mimosa.  Delish.

The brunch menu is really varied, and everything looked really good.  I ordered the Southwest Omelet (or something) and added chicken.  (Am I weird that I absolutely LOVE chicken and eggs together?)  It came with a small side salad and a small amount of french fries.  That is the ULTIMATE for me.  I always want a bit of of both.  Anyway...

There it is!  It was really fantastic, with chicken, salsa, guacamole, and fried tortilla strips on top.  I really enjoyed it.

We walked around a bit after that, and made our way slowly to Whole Foods to pick up supplies for dinner.

Tonight's dinner came from Bon Appetit magazine.  I read it last night and immediately decided that I had to fix it straight-away!  Dinner was Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms.  I knew that in the past I had bought some awesome turkey italian sausage from Whole Foods, but wouldn't ya know it, but NOPE, no italian sausage other than the pork variety.  So I thought, hey, that's okay...I can make my own (because it had to be out of the casing anyway..).

I bought some ground turkey, and all the rest of the fixings... I mixed the turkey with paprika, pepper, salt, fennel seed, ground fennel, and crushed red pepper flakes.  It was FANTASTIC!

So here is the finished dish... two issues with this photo.  The first issue, I took it on my iPhone.  The second issue, it's total and complete crap and I have no ability to adjust it's crapiness.  But nevertheless, I persevere because it's just that important....

But gosh, this was so delicious.  And it features one of my new favourite things, FENNEL!  I have hated fennel all my life because of it's licorice flavour.  But a few weeks ago, I had roasted fennel on a sandwich and I just loved it.  So it made this recipe a double must try!

Anyway, I sauteed the sliced fennel with mushrooms and the sausage I made.  I added garlic, then whipping cream and chicken broth and let it cook.  Then some spinach.  Mix with the cooked tortellini.

Next time, and there absolutely WILL be a next time because it's freaking delicious, I will not make it with tortellini because ti's just way too much.  A nice orechiette would be fantastic and will be the likely choice next time because the cheese tortellini is just so heavy.  I highly recommend it, though, and it cooks super super fast so it would be a good weeknight dinner.  Go on, try it!!!

27 November 2010

Lunch of Champions.

It's been a bit quiet around here lately, and a bit since I've posted.  We've had a lot going on, nothing bad, but just really busy and all that jazz.  But there are exciting things on the horizon including the launch of the new Weight Watchers on Monday!  Yippie!  I am about 8 pounds away from where I would ideally like to be, and I am hoping that the new WW will help get me there... So wait for that stuff.  (But that all being said, it's almost a year since I hit my WW goal weight and I have stayed at or under that weight.  Yeah for me!!!!)

ANYWAY... enough of that crap.

Today, G and I had to vacate the premises so that someone could fall in love with our condo and offer us a bazillion dollars cash for it.  We hadn't eaten and had spent all morning making our home perfect, so we decided to treat ourselves.  Little did we know the major treat that was in store for us!!!!

Oh yes, my son.  Off to Ronscevalles to eat some Polish food!  Yippie!

And the Polish Platter for Two was the way to go.  And there it is!  Two schnitzels, four potato pancakes, TEN pierogies, two cabbage rolls, and a BUNCH of salads....

Oh yeaaashhhh.... beets, cole slaw and pickles.

Aren't those pics great?  Ha ha, they are from my silly phone.  I just can't seem to take a good photo with it.  I am lame.

But whatever... Chopin Restaurant is a winner, at least in my book.  I am not saying that it's everybody's cup of tea, or that it's the best or most authentic necessarily because honestly, I have no idea.  BUT, I will say that it was super duper great to have a nice meal and a relaxing moment amidst the chaos of getting our home ready for sale.

Chopin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

11 November 2010

Ancho-guajillo enchilada sauce

I love guajillo chiles because they are such a deep, robust red and colour whatever you add them to so beautifully. I had also just bought some anchos because I like them and realized I'd not cooked with them in some time. So sitting in the kitchen I had both and wanted to use them to whip up a dinner for some old friends who were visiting from England and to whom I had promised Mexican food.

It took some searching but i finally found a recipe that gave me some guidance on putting together an ancho-guajillo enchilada sauce. It was a bit of work but did yield a rich red sauce that wasn't too spicy.

Ancho-guajillo enchilada sauce
  • 3-4 each of guajillo and ancho chiles
  • 1 med. onion quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 0.5 tbsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2.5-3 cups canned tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Soften the chiles by first roasting them for 10 to 15 seconds on each side on the comal or a hot, dry frying pan. Then pop them into a small pot of boiling water while you do the rest of the preparations. Once they are soft, put them in a blender.

Dry roast the garlic cloves and onion on the comal. Peel and add to a blender. Also put the tomatoes in the blender.

If you have whole spices, it's best to use them and grind them up just before you need them. If you have pre-ground, that's fine too. Add the cumin, coriander, and oregano also to the blender.

Add one cup of liquid to the blender (can be 1 cup of chicken stock or a combo of chicken stock and some of the chile water. The more chile water you use, the hotter your sauce will be). Puree until quite smooth.

Sieve the tomato/chile mixture into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push as much liquid through the seive as you can. You should be left with some bits of skin and seeds once you've got all your sauce through. Just toss that stuff.

Heat the oil in a medium pot and add the tomato/chile mixture so you get some sizzle. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. The sauce should become a deeper red and still be quite runny. If it gets a bit too thick add some water or chicken stock to thin it out. Once it's all nice, you can go ahead and make your enchiladas.

We used left-over turkey that we had frozen after Thanksgiving. Mix it all up with some of the enchilada sauce so it's covered but not too saucy. I also didn't have the usual corn tortillas at home but had seen someone at the Brick Works market making them that morning so ordered up a dozen from her. They were good but at $1 a tortilla, not really the most cost-effective way to go! Basically once you've got the meat sauced up, just dip each tortilla in the sauce to make it soft, put a spoonful of meat inside, roll it up and place in a baking dish. Once you've got the baking dish full of rolls, cover with the rest of the sauche and top it with cheese (I used queso fresco, which I think is great but it doesn't get all melty like some other types of cheeses). Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes.

30 October 2010

oh that versatile sweet potato

The end of the season with our CSA box yielded quite a lot of sweet potatoes and never one to pass up a challenge of finding a new use for whatever we have in plenty, I thought I'd try a sweet potato biscuit. J had read a recipe for one in one of the many food mags she gets but after a lengthy search, we could not find it so I turned to the trusty internet and voila, Martha Stewart had a recipe.

I have never really made biscuits from scratch before but I was determined. So on a Saturday morning before heading out to the Brick Works market to meet some friends, I got busy in the kitchen. While they did taste really good - not to greasy and not to potatoey - they were not as fluffy as Ms. Stewart's appear in the picture on the recipe page. Nonetheless, throw some sweet butter on those babies right after you take them out of the oven and they are quite heavenly.

This picture is terrible - they did come out in a relatively nice golden colour - who knows what was going on with the lights and the camera on this one!

27 October 2010

Fresh never tasted better

I was spoiled during my trip to Mexico earlier this year when I was able to eat freshly made tortillas every day. Coming back to Toronto and having only the option of pre-packaged was disappointing. It's a lot easier to find fresh flour tortillas but corn ones were elusive. So imagine how thrilled I was to happen upon La Tortilleria the other day.

I was working at home that day and decided to take advantage of the nice weather by going for a ride on my scooter to get some lunch in Kensington Market. Lunch, in case you were wondering, was a Jamaican goat patty, which I love. As I was heading back to my scooter I spied the sign of the tortilla shop on Augusta Ave. near Baldwin. I had to go in. It's only been there a month or so and is apparently a chain. They serve up Mexican food (which I did not try) and, of course, make fresh tortillas. They have white, blue, and yellow corn. I got the yellow as there's no blue available on weekdays, I was told.

They were still hot and wrapped in newsprint for the trip home. I could barely wait to taste them . . . they were absolutely delicious and not very expensive: $1.75 for that big pile you see in the photo. Of course, they didn't all get eaten the first day and still a few days later, after being kept in a ziploc in the fridge, they were still fresh tasting. I could tell they were going a little stale when they started to fall apart like the packaged oneswhen you tried to wrap some food in 'em. But that was five or six days, and at that point they are still better than the store-bought ones. So a great find and I hope the tortilleria stays in business!

22 October 2010

Oh what a beautiful cupcake

J really wanted red velvet cupcakes for her birthday, so who am I to say no even if it's way out of my comfort zone to make 'em.

I used the recipe from the Hummingbird Cafe cookbook, which was a present from a friend for my birthday. I followed the instructions religiously but was worried the batter was too dense. Same deal with the cream cheese frosting, which didn't look like it was coming together. But it all worked out well and the cupcakes were delicious. My frosting job wasn't too professional but as they say, it's what's inside that counts.

17 October 2010

Toronto Restaurants!

I love Toronto.  It's positively the best city to live in, and it's even better to eat in!

One night, after a particularly harrowing day, french fries were calling my name.  Shwarma was calling G's name.  What's a girl to do?  Shwarma fries!!!!

Crazy.  This is some random shwarma place on Yonge street, and the meat was reallllllly fatty.  I know some people like pork belly and all that kind of fatty meat, but I just don't go for it.  I find the texture of fat to be really off-putting.  So while an interesting idea, better shwarma would've made it.  But fries and hummus... oh yeah baby.

We also had a lovely feast at the Lahore Tikka House.  Now the first time I ate there, I had curry which made me very sick.  But I've been back and fallen in absolute LOVE with their grilled meat platters.

Yep.  It was as good as it looks!  So, on that plate is a MOUNTAIN of rice, cooked perfectly.  Then topped with this marinated beef that absolutely makes me salivate to think about with some chicken tikka.  On top of that, yes, there is grilled onion and peppers and carrots and schtuff.  It's so tasty, and an absolutely GINORMOUS portion.  I can't remember how much it cost, but it's somewhere under $20.  If you've never been to the Lahore Tikka House, you're in for an experience.

More Food From Other Bloggers.

About three years ago, G and I went to Ireland.  I may have mentioned it at the time.

I did poor research on good food in Ireland, and therefore we ended up not having the best meals while there.  Until Galway Bay and this amazing sweet potato and lentil curry with brown rice that totally rocked my clock.  It was like the first good meal I had had in weeks, it seemed, and I absolutely SNARFED it!

I was in heaven.  Shortly after that, I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchens blog for a very similar dish.  And I was so excited and vowed to make it the very next week!

Fast forward three years and look at our house full to the brim with sweet potatoes, and that vow finally made its way to the dinner table!

It's not pretty.  No it surely isn't.  But it was goooooooood.  It is full of veggie goodness, and with a serving of brown rice was a very fibre rich bowl of yum. The swiss chard was delicious, but I honestly think I could have doubled the amount.  We have an enormous amount leftover, and will likely have leftovers tomorrow and Monday for lunch!  Goooo fibre!

I made a few changes to the recipe, which again, you can find here... mostly just added more curry powder and left out the cilantro because I am not a huge fan (though I think a little bit would have been nice)... and I forgot to add the nuts or chopped scallions, so whoopsie daisy, but yeah, it's a definite keeper.

16 October 2010

Easy Peasy Pudding.

As G has been hellbent on turning our humble home into a Mexican restaurant, I have been relieved of spending too much time in the kitchen lately.  This has worked out well for me, as I was training for the Scotia Half-Marathon and was too tired to do much of anything!  (I did run the half, and I did do well, thank you for asking!!!)

G was travelling for business recently and I was hankering for something sweet and spongy.  I am not a huge sweets eater, but I can be convinced from time to time to partake in cake, so I searched the internet for a little recipe I had seen some time ago for a microwave sponge.  And I found it!

Alex Rushmer, of Masterchef fame, made this delicious Microwave Sponge Cake that I knew was perfect for me!  So, I halved the recipe and made use of what was in the house... that would mean some nasty-ass I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spread that G bought on sale, flour, and some lovely orange marmalade...

So.  I halved the recipe but neglected to half the cooking time.  D'oh!  It was quite overdone, but also quite delicious!  And super easy... 25g flour, 25g butter, 25g sugar, mixed together with half an egg (I used egg beaters) and poofed onto a generous amount of jam, jelly, or in this case marmalade.  Microwave about 2 minutes or so until it's all ready to go.  Flip out onto a plate and enjoy!!!

I really enjoyed it and will make it again soon, I am sure of it.  :)  Alex's blog is great, with lots of neat recipes.  I was surprised that he didn't win Masterchef, but Dhruv was amazing, as well!  I really liked that season of Masterchef!

10 October 2010

A touch of the south

It is Thanksgiving here this weekend and this house was full of sweet potatoes, so what to do but make something that I've not done before. Sweet potato pie rang my bell as it has that bit of the south that I find attractive!!

Once again I lazed out by using pre-made pie crust but that is life, man! The filling was actually really easy to make though. Boil up some sweet potatoes then mash them up with butter, loads of sugar, some evaporated milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and eggs. Pour the filling in the shell and pop it ij the oven for an hour or so. It made the apartment smell like heaven. Haven't eaten it yet though so let's hope it's taste and wonderful as it smells.

09 October 2010

A vegetatation sensation

I have not been around the homestead very much lately with work travel taking me all over. As a result, we've had a bit of a buildup from our veg boxes. There is currently a surfeit of carrots and sweet potatoes, which I will deal with later on. However, I did manage to make a dent in all of it with last night's dinner: leek and gruyere tart and some squash soup.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a double helping and that week included what is known as delicata or sweet potato squash. Here it is inside and out.

I've not used or eaten it before and didn't know what to expect. But I marshalled on and hoped my extensive kitchen experience and general know-it-allness would keep me afloat. So I cut it up and started by roasting for about an hour with just a bit of salt. Once it was softened, I took it out of the oven and removed the skin and went ahead with my plan for slightly spicy roasted squash soup.

Roasted delicata chipotle soup (4-6 servings)
  • 2 small or 1 large delicata/sweet potato squash roasted and peeled
  • 1 dried chipotle, seeds removed and sliced thinly.
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • few tablespoons of sour cream
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
In a medium-sized pot, saute the garlic and onion in the butter or oil until it is soft. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Then lower heat to medium-low and add pieces of squash, nutmeg, chipotle, and salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. Check seasonings. Serve with a little dollop of sour cream.

The other half of the dinner didn't seem all that complicated but somehow it all took forever. It was pretty delicious and used up the whole lot of baby leeks I had on hand but next time I might make my own pastry as the frozen pie shell I used was a bit too greasy. But here's my recipe.

Leek & gruyere tart
  • Some leeks (I had about 10 or 12 baby leeks of various sizes and it was about right)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (I used some from our window herb garden)
  • salt & pepper
  • 75 grams of gruyere, grated
  • 1 frozen pie crust thawed out
Preheat the oven to 400F.

Cut the leeks into 2 cm rounds and rinse well (discard the dark green end leaves). Saute the leeks and thyme in a frying pan until they are soft, probably about 15 minutes or so.

Lay the softened pie crust out flat on a piece of parchement paper and put half the cheese in the middle of it (leaving about 5 cm around the edge uncovered). Then spread the leeks on top of that and finish it off with the rest of the cheese. Slowly fold the edges of the pie crust up until you have a nice round tart with an open middle so the cheese can get all nice and brown and crispy. Slide the tart and paper onto a baking tray and put in the oven for about 25 minutes until the pastry turns a lovely golden brown.

It is rich but also very yummy. We ate the soup and tart together. I also roasted a few grape tomatoes which added a sweet, sweet extra to the whole affair. The tart is enough for 4 people if you add a salad or eat lots of the soup. I, however, managed to eat a half by myself, no problemo! Both of these recipes are adapted from about 50 things I looked at on the internet, so let me know if you try either one and how you liked it.

27 September 2010

Good but surely not fast

It's been a while since I've had the time to make anything in the kitchen. Eating out has it's high points but I miss the home cooking. I took a quick jaunt to the grocery store at lunch today and there was ground turkey on sale. So I bought some and the ideas for dinner started percolating. At home were still the remainders of our last food box (didn't get one this week because we just couldn't make it to the farm to pick it up) that included some corn and carrots. Also in the house were potatoes, onions. Hmm . . . sounds like the fixings for a cottage pie, or is that a shepherd's pie.

Turkey cottage pie (4-5 servings)
  • 1 pound extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (I cut 'em off the cob but you can use frozen)
  • 2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp flour
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • splosh of milk
  • 2 oz of cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
Peel and cut the potato into 1/2-inch squares and boil until soft. Once ready, drain water and add milk, cheese, and salt & pepper and make a lovely bit of mash.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Chop the remaining vegetables up quite finely. Saute onion and carrot in olive oil. Add turkey and brown. Add garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add peas and corn along with the worchestershire sauce, thyme, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Let it all simmer away for about 10 or so minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add a bit more stock if it boils away. Add the flour and stir to thicken the mixture.

Put the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish that's been sprayed with a bit of cooking spray. Cover the meat mixture with the mashed potatoes and make a groovy little design in it with a fork. Cook in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the peaks you've made in the mash turn golden brown.

Eat it up!

26 September 2010

Powered by smoothies

Well it's been a bit busy so not had much time for blogging (or cooking much) lately. The busy-ness quotient doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon either but hopefully HOT will not suffer too much!

Today was a big day in our house. J ran her first half marathon and it was quite a success with her finishing a few minutes under her goal time. Three cheers for the first person in my family who has ever accomplished such a feat.

Keen to have me involved . . . or to motivate by butt or whatever . . . J signed me up to do the 5K that was also part of the running festivities on Toronto's waterfront today. I did get out there and motored through it (walking with great vigour rather than running - except for that exciting last 100 metres where I turned on the running jets).

Well after dropping J off at 6 a.m. or so this morning, I came back to get ready for my events for the day. I'm never really sure what to eat before this kind of thing, not to mention there is not a huge selection of stuff in the house right now. So after a gander into the refrigerator, I settled upon a delicious and nutritious smoothie to power the day. And it was very, very tasty and was more than enough to get me through.

Here's the recipe - or rather the ingredients as all you do is put them together and waz it all up:

1/2 banana
bunch of frozen strawberries
1 heaping teaspoon of Dagoba hot chocolate powder with chiles
3 tablespoons of Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon of honey
enough 1% milk to cover the whole lot and make it as liquid as you prefer

I'm always interested to know what people eat and drink before they excercise - run, play soccer, whatever. Comment if you've got any thoughts.

13 September 2010

Flower power

One of the ingredients I was most enamoured with using while learning the finer points of Mexican cuisine is squash blossoms. I love eating flowers, I don't know why but it seems very decadent. So every opportunity to eat flowers, I take. But usually, like nasturtiums, they are eaten raw. The squash blossom is often cooked.

Over the weekend, J & I attended the 70th birthday party of my sister-in-law's mother. They live on a farm north of Barrie and while we were sipping tea from delicate china cups, my nephew discoved a patch of squash that he took me over to see. There were many varieties of squash bearing many fruits, so to speak. But also many blossoms were showing their pretty yellow faces. I was asked if I wanted some of the squash but said I'd really rather have the blossoms. After a few odd looks, I was given permission to pick some, so I did!

Tonight we took a break from the film festival - neither of us were keen to see the Nicole Kidman movie we had on the schedule - so I wanted to make something with the blosssoms. They are delicate and don't really last long so they had to be used ASAP. My first plan was soup but J was not keen. I had had squash blossom quesadillas while in Puebla, Mexico, so that became the plan!

First thing is to clean and ready the squash blossoms. Here they are ready for dinner.

They are pretty easy to put together, so here's my recipe.

Squash blossom quesadillas
  • 6 flour tortillas
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • dozen or so squash blossoms (cleaned)
  • 1/3 cup cheddar cheese - grated
  • 1/3 cup queso fresco - grated/cut into little squares
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • olive oil

Roast the poblano pepper under the broiler until the skin bubbles. Take it out and put it in a plastic bag for about 10 minutes. Remove it from the bag and peel off the skin and remove the seeds. Slice it into thin strips.

Finely chop the onion and the garlic (which you can dry roast if you're feeling energetic). Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the garlic, onion, and poblanos. Saute until everything is soft and lovely. Add the blossoms and cook for another few minutes until they are fully wilted.

Put 1/3 of each of the cheeses and the mixture on a tortilla. Top with another tortilla and then fry in tiny bit of oil in the frying pan. Flip when one side is browned. Cut into four. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

I served it with some of my homemade salsa and a bit of guacamole. Mmm. Mmm. Good.

11 September 2010

All Sephardi, all the time

My Aunty Dianna from Israel is visiting and we had her over for lunch today. She's a tough old bird and I wanted to impress with some traditional Sephardi foods. So the main course was my mainstay of albondigas and rice. You can't go wrong with the good old meatball in sauce. No worries there, it's a tried and true recipe that is one of the faves in this house. But that was not enough to impress. So I had to come up with something else . . . well we had a few eggplants in our veggie box plus still quite a few tomatoes left over so I thought I might try something with them. I decided to give pastelikos a go. These are little pies that can be made with a variety of stuffings, one of which is eggplant (or berenjena as they like to say in Ladino). I have never made them before. I have not had a granny or an old aunty show me how. I was flying without a net on this one because without the wisdom of ages, the old cookbook from the shul in Salisbury/Harare does not always have enough info to guarantee success, especially when there is pastry involved. But I would not be deterred from my mission to impress so on I soldiered.

Yesterday afternoon I prepared the filling - gomo de handrajo - which is basically onion, eggplant, and tomato cooked for about an hour and a half into a soft pulp and then with some fresh parsley added.
The complicated part of the operation is making the pastry and the little cups to hold all that tastiness. The recipe calls for boiling oil, water, and salt together and then mixing it all together with flour and kneading into a "firm dough." All well and good if you know what it's supposed to feel like, not so useful if you don't. So mine ended up being a bit soft and my cups, when shaped from a ball with the thumb were not sitting up. J suggested using a muffin tin and all was saved by that bit of brilliance. So pastry was put in muffin cups, filling was added, and little lids were made and dipped in sesame seeds.

Putting on the lids is a bit of a mission as well but I figured out some system that actually got the lid and cup pastry to seal, so good news there. The tops are supposed to have a delicate frill design created by some subtle knife work but I was under a tight time constraint and this was not a road I was willing to go down this day. Here they are on their way to being ready for the oven.

Into a 400F oven for 40 minutes until golden brown and presto!!

Things of beauty, I tell ya!!! Aunty Dianna had two with minimal commentary on how they could have been better (her main issue was that there was no cheese inside). As she doesn't really eat a lot, the fact she consumed two pastelikos and a full plate of albondigas and rice made me feel pretty good about the whole affair. And now, I have conquered the fear of pasteliko preparation. I will make them again (probably not soon, but I know I can now!).

07 September 2010

More bounty

It is tomato time, there is not doubt! Went out over the weekend and picked a half a bushel of tomatoes including some beautiful yellow ones and sweet sweet grape tomatoes. Many of the heirloom tomatoes were already done but we did find a good selection of romas and they are the stars of this show! Monday was a holiday and what better way to spend it than making a whack of salsa. Here's the little red beauties readying for the oven for some roasting.

While the tomatoes were getting all delicious, I dry roasted some garlic on the comal. All dark and sweet.

And then roasted some serrano and poblano peppers.
There was lots of stuff to pull together - cilantro, veggies, salt, garlic, onion - and then it all got wazzed up in the blender. It's always a bit of a balancing act in our kitchen with limited counter space!

A couple of weeks ago, we acquired a Le Crueset dutch oven. Hadn't used it yet but needed a big pot to use for the canning of the salsa. So it got its maiden voyage. Here the jars are getting all clean.
After about four hours of all this action, about 16 jars of roasted tomato-serrano salsa stood proud.

31 August 2010

Tinga de pollo or how to make the most out of a giant bag of tomatoes

I have not mentioned it yet but last week, el presidente-of-the-company-that-used-to-own-me-but-doesn't-anymore gave me a giant sac of tomatoes from his farm. I can't say how much exactly but many kilos of tomatoes and they were all pretty much ripe and needed to be dealt with shortly. So I spent a number of late nights in the kitchen and brewed up a few sauces.

The first one was a relatively traditional tomato sauce for pasta. I enjoy the roasted tomato sauce the best but don't have a flame of any kind for the roasting so decided to mix some cultures and Mexicanize (if you can even believe it!) the proceedings. Essentially I roasted the tomatoes and the garlic on the comal so they were all nice and charred up and then went about making the sauce in an ordinary way - with some onion, salt, pepper, oregano and basil (from my window garden). Cooked it for a while and then just bottled it up.

I have not tried it yet so don't have any verdict on how it worked out. The taste out of the pot while cooking seems to point to good news . . . .

The next night I used up a whole whack more of the tomatoes and made a big batch of roasted tomato and chipotle sauce. It is my favourite sauce and I like to eat it in many ways. It was one of the first introductions to the beauty of Mexican cooking that I got from, you guessed it, Rick Bayless. Now I make it all the time and I had been waiting for the good tomatoes to start rolling in. So I made a lot. Gave some to el presidente and kept the rest.

Having some fresh sauce on hand, I decided to make a tinga de pollo. In this case, it's shredded chicken (let's just buy one already cooked, it is a weeknight!) along with shredded onion and potato. Cook up the potato and onion, shred about half the chicken and add it along with a cup or so of the sauce and you have an absolutely outstanding dish. You can use this inside tacos, on tostadas or sopes, or just eat it straight up. I toasted a few tortillas and layered them up with some sour cream, chopped white onion, sliced avocado, and freshly chopped tomato. What a feast.

Tomatoes pure and simple

It is tomato season and this year's tomatoes are just spectacular. I have been partaking of the bountiful harvest in many ways (posts to come) but one of my absolute favourites is also the most simple.

My dad always ate tomatoes like this and why mess with a good thing, I say. All you're seeing here is a beautiful ripe tomato sliced as thinly as possible (a good knife goes a long way in this situation), layered with a little salt, pepper, and good quality olive oil on top of a piece of crispy toast. Nothing could be easier or more delicious. A great way to start the day.

22 August 2010

2 for 1 roasts

Metro had some eye of round and outside round roasts on 2-for-1 special this week, so I thought I'd drop by and see what was what. The thing about shopping at the store that's right in the confines of Ryerson University is that they have lots of smaller sized cuts of meat, which is great if you're cooking for just a few people rather than a whole family. So I managed to find a couple of smallish roasts, being quite chuffed to get the deal.

Apparently with the eye of round, some people cook them in the oven but they are also okay as a pot roast. As a someone who hearts her pressure cooker, I decided to go the pot roast route as you can really get a lot of flavours in there and you don't have to have the oven on for ages! Oh and just in case, I've not shared my great pressure cooker with you, here's a pic of her. It's a Futura brand and I love it because it has the easiest and least scary pressure valve that I've ever seen on a pressure cooker. And it is pretty easy to clean.

Once you've prepared everything - sauteed some onions and garlic, browned the meat, then added beef stock, a bay leaf, some thyme, and - it takes about 40 minutes of cooking time (maybe a little less). While it was cooking I cut up some carrots and fingerling potatoes that we got from our Cooopers' Farm box this week. I added them after the 40 minutes and let them get up to pressure and cook for another eight minutes. Then I made a gravy by thickening and reducing the sauce, adding some sliced up mushrooms and a little bit of worchestershire sauce for a bit of zing. It all came together very nicely and the potatoes were just out of this world!! And there were lots so J could carbo-load before her 10K race that she was going to run the next morning!

We also got heirloom tomatoes and beets in the box this week. And never one to pass up a chance for a beet salad, made one to go with our lovely Friday night roast dinner. This one had some soft goat's milk cheese and candied walnuts to go with the beets, onions, and tomatoes. Delicious and I roasted enough so we can have a rerun of this fab salad again.

I was up at Cooper's Farm this past week and they assure me that they are growing poblano peppers, which I am thrilled about. We'll be doing some of our picking soon as the tomatoes and tomatillos are ready to roll. I have purchased new canning bottles and salsas are on their way!! Can't wait.

18 August 2010

Getting tippy with it

I recently bottled some chipotle en conserva and there was quite a bit of sauce left over once I had put most of the conserva into bottles. I kept the saucy onions that were left over and figured I'd use all that juicy goodness as a base to cook up something spicy in the pressure cooker. Well tonight was that night and I decided to make sirloin tips in chipotle sauce.

I obviously used sirloin tips and the leftover conserva sauce. I also added a poblano and a couple of cloves of garlic, dry roasted on the comal. I browned the meat and added everything else to it in the pressure cooker and cooked it for 15 minutes. I wanted to use up some other vegetables that were in the fridge so cut up and added a zuke and a combination of beet greens and swiss chard after I opened the pressure cooker. Let the veggies boil in the sauce for a a few minutes and presto, a quick and delicious meal. J had said she wanted polenta so I kind of obliged. We only had white corn meal but I made it up and managed to get a pretty good consistency.

The meat come out nice and tender. I really enjoyed the flavour of the greens, which were stronger than spinach. And all of that sauce, which was a little sweet as the conserva was made with quite a bit of sugar as it's supposed to be kind of marmalade-y, absorbed by the polenta. Mmm, mmm. Served the whole thing with a small salad of lettuce, tomato, onions, cilantro and a lime vinaigrette. Salad brought the whole thing together, aha! :)

15 August 2010

What's Cookin'?

As you've seen, G's been cooking up all manner of Mexican food goodness here lately, it's been great!  It's been fantastic having a Mexican restaurant in my own home, even though it means I haven't been cooking all that much... it's not just that G's been having a blast in the kitchen, but I seem to have lost a bit of my cooking mojo.  The will to eat is there, don't get me wrong, but there's not a ton of enthusiasm for the process of making that food!

But tonight, G's away and dinner is on my own.  So I decided to serve myself up a classic... low-fat mac n cheese with a little hamburger patty.

I thought to take the photo about half-way through, hence the manky state of my hamburger patty!  I made the mac n cheese with 1% milk, no butter, low-fat cheddar, a bit of parmesan, and a laughing cow cheese combined with some smart brand macaroni.  It was so creamy!  Hard to believe it's about 9 points for the whole dinner!  (The single serving bowls are the ONLY way I can make mac n cheese without eating the whole pan!

Since I've been training for the half marathon, creeping up my weekly mileage, I find that my appetite is coming and going with some ferocity.  I am either not at all hungry or starving.  No in-between.  The other night, with no dinner plan in sight, G and I used one of her previous successes in a new and exciting way.  Chorizo Potato Hash with Eggs!


Really good!  I made this one, sauteeing some chorizo (President's Choice Chorizo is AWESOME) then adding an onion for a bit, then adding some mostly cooked boiled potato cubes.  Stir it around with some salt and pepper and smoked paprika and then spread out to cover the skillet.  Crack in eggs, cover, cook for about 7 minutes or until the egg is as you like it (these were a bit too done, really), then serve.  Really delicious and a very satisfying dinner in about 30 minutes.  

And, just because I think this picture is cute, here's Bello sleeping on the couch like a goof...

What a silly boy!

So all in all, in this part of the world, it's been a good few months.  Still going strong on the Weight Watchers, running three times a week, and just overall trying to keep my good humour.  The humidity the last week or so has brought some crazy headaches, but other than that, I can't complain.  (And along those lines, my cardiologist gave me the thumbs up on Friday, and notice that I don't need to come back for a follow-up for 9-12 months!  Go me!)  

How's your summer/winter going?

14 August 2010

This is what a popsicle is all about

Recently we went up to Muskoka for the weekend and had a very relaxing getaway which involved lots of sitting by the lake relaxing and reading magzines. One such magazine was the latest issue of Saveur, The Greece Issue. So of course, I instantly ended up at the one thing Mexican in the issue. It is my destiny! So what was this fascinating article about . . . well popsicles of course!

According the article, paletas, or Mexican popsicles, are a speciality of the town of Tocumbo in the southwestern state of Mochoacan. They fresh-fruit dense and come in an array of fantastic flavours, including chile-flecked ones, which always excites me. My interest was piqued and I decided I had to try to make some.

Anywho, got a whack of strawberries in our food box this week so decided to try my hand at making a paleta of my own. The family coming over for dinner was a good excuse to make a bunch of popsicles! I did not use the Saveur recipe, which has cream in it but a straightforward strawberries, sugar, and lime juice combo. I will definitely be making the mango-chile ones in the future but for now . . .

The strawberry ones were fantastic. Best pospsicle. EVER!!

Strawberry paletas
  • 3.5 cups of chopped up strawberries
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (I put too much by mistake and they were fine but a little less sweet would be OK so I'd use this amount)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
Waz up the strawberries in a blender. Then pour it into a fine strainer over a bowl and press through all the good stuff while leaving the little seeds etc behind. Add the sugar and lime juice to the strawberry juice, stir until the sugar is all dissolved. Pour into popsicle holders and freeze for at least three hours.

12 August 2010

So good you should bottle it

One of the big benefits of being able to work at home on occassion is that I get to spend the hour between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. doing something other than sitting in traffic being anxious. This morning I used it to start making chipotle en conserva - basically a chile-garlic-onion marmalade that is delicious as a condiment and also as a base for some meat dishes. We made it at cooking school and I've been jonesing to make some ever since I got home.

I've had the ingredients sitting around for ages so this morning I decided to put it all together.

Chipotle en conserva
(From Mexican Home Cooking School)
  • 10-16 dried chipotles (I prefer moritas)
  • some bay leaves (from my parents' garden)
  • four heads of garlic (mostly from our CSA farm box)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (also from the farm)
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme (also from the farm)
  • 1 large cone piloncillo (Mexican sugar)
  • 1/2 cup of cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 onions
Add everything but the onion to 6 cups of salted water. Simmer partially for an hour. Take off the heat and let sit overnight (in this case I did it in the morning. let it sit all day, and then finished it in the evening). Slice the onions very fine, add to the pot and then simmer for another half an hour or so. Put into sterlized jars and refrigerate.

According to Dona Elena, it'll keep in the fridge for a year if you always use a clean spoon when dipping in to use it.

It was fun and made the house smell really good. This made about six little bottles plus I had some leftover sauce and onions once I ran out of chipotles. I think I'll see if I can use it to braise some ribs or something in the pressure cooker and use it in tacos or something . . . we shall see, we shall see.

09 August 2010

They deserve a mention

My friend P makes the most awesome waffles in the world. When he used to live in the same apartment building as me, he often made waffles for us on Sunday mornings and the beauty was I could just ride the elevator in my jammies. Well he and his partner live some distance away now but we occasionally go to visit and sometimes stay overnight. Last weekend we headed out to the Cambridge area to see them and had a great bonfire in their backyard on Saturday night. And on Sunday morning, some beautiful (and I am told virtuous) waffles with fresh blueberries were served for breakfast. I think P is still using the same trusty waffle maker. Delicious!!!!!!!

Getting the job done

Mondays really are just the most exhausting days. So often dinner does not get made on Monday nights . . . it more often gets acquired, shall we say. But tonight even though neither of us really felt like cooking, there was some food in the house and we could pull something together. I realized we had some chorizo and a whole whack of potatoes that had come in the past few weeks in our veggie box. Also last week in da box, we got our first jalapenos from the farm.

This is all adding up to something Mexican, as you can well imagine.

I read somewhere about potato-chorizo tacos. I imagine it was Rick Bayliss related but hey, I could just pull these together, I did not need to resort to a recipe. So easy peasy. Took two large potatoes and cut 'em up into tiny squares and tossed them in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes until they got soft. Then I took some chorizo and also some onion and chopped them up into little bits. Heated a frying pan and got the chorizo and onions frying up nicely. Once the potatoes were cooked and drained, they got tossed into the frying pan with the other stuff. I added a bit of oil, a sprinkling of salt, a smattering of smokey paprika, and a little bit of garlic and just let it fry for a bit. Kind of mushed up the potato and chorizo, let it brown a bit and that's that for that.

Along with it, made a little avocado-tomatillo salsa. While the potatoes were boiling, just put a couple of fresh tomatillos in the boiling water for a few minutes until they were soft. Then took an avocado, a jalapeno, a dry roasted garlic glove, and the tomatillos and blended it all up together. Presto, you've got some lovely salsa.

If you want, grate a bit of cheese, chop up some onion, some more jalapeno, or some lettuce or whatever. Use them as garnish. We used flour tortillas because it's what we had in the house, so just warmed them in the microwave for a few minutes. Put all the ingredients together in a lovely little hand-holdable package and enjoy : )


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