Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chinese Beef with Broccoli

I'm trying to do a cheap grocery shopping week in preparation for Saturday's cooking extravaganza. I had some neglected broccoli (I can't seem to resist broccoli or cauliflower when it's cheap!) and leftover scallions sitting in the fridge and decided this recipe would be a good way to use up both. The recipe was a little fussy (stir-frying in batches so the beef browns instead of steams, cooking the broccoli separately first, marinating the beef for an hour). I also found the amount of oil excessive. This recipe is supposed to be a healthier alternative to deep-frying the beef, but it's still a lot of oil. I did not end up using the full 1/2 cup.

As far as changes go, I stuck to the recipe fairly well. I cheated and used pre-sliced fondue meat from Maison du Roti. My bunch of broccoli was less than 900 and I used 2 scallions instead of one. I also substituted rice noodles for rice (cooking them in the broccoli water to add a little extra flavour and save on time/pots). The key to this recipe is having everything ready before you start cooking. The end result is tasty ... although anything with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine would probably be tasty. Next time around I might try to find a way to make it quicker/easier and more of a weeknight meal. This serves 4 ... unless you go back for seconds.

One year ago today: Asparagus, Oka, Pine Nuts, and Lemon Pasta (Where has all the good Providence Oka gone? The last two times I've bought it, it's been sadly disappointing!)

Chinese Beef with Broccoli (adapted from Gourmet Today)

450g flank steak, cut in half and crosswise into 1/8 inch thick slices (or fondue meat)
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp rice wine, divided
2 tsp sesame oil, divided
3 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1 tbsp 2 tsp chopped garlic, divided
2 tsp sugar, divided
900g broccoli, cut into florets, stems peel and sliced
1/3 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 cup peanut oil, divided (I used much less)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 scallion, finely chopped
Serve with: white rice (or noodles)

1. Put steak in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce, water, 1 tbsp rice wine, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp garlic, and 1 tsp sugar. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli and blanch until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Drain, shock with cold water to stop the cooking.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together stock, oyster sauce, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch.
4. Drain beef in a colander, gently pressing on beef.
5. Heat a 14" flat bottomed wok over high heat. Pour 3 tbsp peanut oil down side and swirl to coat. Add 1/4 of beef, spreading it in one layer. Cook until it begins to brown, about 30 seconds. Stir-fry until meat is just browned, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate. Wipe wok and cook remaining 3 batches in same manner, adding 1 tbsp oil for each batch (wiping seemed too dangerous to me, so I just added more oil as needed).
6. Pour remaining 2 tbsp peanut oil on wok (I went lighter on this). Add ginger, scallions, and 1 tbsp garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 1 minute.
7. Add broccoli and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
8. Add beef an stock mixture and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 2 minutes.
9. Serve with rice or noodles.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese

Despite my best attempts at menu planning and trying not to waste food, I often find myself getting near the end of the week staring at vegetables or herbs in my fridge that are about to go bad. I couldn't resist arugula at the store this week and had planned on pairing a nice arugula salad with the SK blue cheese potato tart. Somehow the tart didn't happen. When I saw SK post a recipe calling for both arugula and fresh mint (leftover from this week's celeriac and lentils), it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use up all those greens withering in my fridge. The dish is good, not exceptional, but it comes together easily. SK's version passes on the arugula, but I thought it added a nice flavour to the dish. I went to the store knowing I needed to buy red wine vinegar, but once again I forgot while I was there, so I ended up using balsamic again because my white wine vinegar isn't very good quality.

One year ago today: Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and Feta

Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit)

3/4 cup French green lentils
6 cups peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash (1-inch cubes) (from about a 2-pound squash)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 cups baby arugula
1 cup soft crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus additional to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash cubes with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika and salt. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet and roast 20 minutes. Flip pieces and roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Cool.
2. Meanwhile, soak lentils for 10 minutes in a small bowl, then drain. Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water, then drain and cool.
3. Combine lentils and squash with arugula, goat cheese, mint, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper and extra vinegar, if desired.

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

This is an adaptation of cupcakes I made previously. Ever since I saw the previews for Sex and the City 2, I knew it needed to be a girly bad movie night and what bad movie night would be complete without cupcakes? Given the theme, they needed to be cosmopolitan cupcakes. Sadly, the movie turned out to be one of the worst movies (I can't think of a worse one at the moment) I've ever seen, but at least the cupcakes were good! The cake part turned out slightly dry ... maybe a little more oil next time? The frosting, however, was perfect (which is good because I used 8 eggs making it after breaking a yolk in the whites on the 4th egg the first time around ... arg!).

One year ago today: Lemon Yogurt Cake

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

Cake Portion
1 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, separated
5 melted frozen cranberry juice concentrate
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into large bowl. Beat in vegetable oil, egg yolks, cranberry juice, Cointreau and lime zest.
3. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in another large bowl. Using clean dry beaters, beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites.
4. Fill muffin tins with batter. Cook for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Soaking liquid
1/4 cup melted frozen cranberry concentrate
2 tbsp Cointreau
2 tbsp lime juice

1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl.
2. Brush on cupcakes.

Cosmopolitan frosting
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp Cointreau
1/4 cup melted frozen cranberry concentrate
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Place the stand mixer bowl over a simmering pot of water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk the sugar and egg whites until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture registers 160 degrees with a candy thermometer.
2. Place bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until the mixture is cool and holds stiff, glossy peaks (approximately 10 minutes).
3. Change to the paddle attachment and beat in one tablespoon of butter at a time on medium. The mixture might appear curdled but keep going, it will pull back together.
4. Add lime juice, Cointreau, cranberry juice, and vanilla. Increase speed to high and beat until the frosting reincorporates and is smooth and fluffy (approximately 10 minutes).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kung Pao Chicken (Revisited)

There are points in time when you realize you've become a cooking snob. Oh how far I've come from the days when Hamburger Helper was probably the height of what I would cook. Two things today make me feel a bit ... different. First, while discussing bourbon pumpkin cheesecake at work and how I'd like to try it, assuming everyone knew I was talking about a recipe (especially after mentioning Smitten Kitchen) and not a local bakery (for the record, I'll happily make this and share if someone wants to bring me 2 tbsp bourbon ... sadly that's what's stopping me atm!). Second, looking at a recipe in a Chinese cookbook I have and thinking to myself ... and the best part of this recipe is it's things you usually have on hand. Since when are 2 types of soy sauce, rice wine, dried chiles, and sesame oil things people usually have on hand? Right ...

On to the recipe changes ... I omitted the Sichuan pepper because I didn't feel like going on a hunt and my red chiles were Thai, not Sichuan. Other than that, I stuck faithfully to the recipe. For a more Americanized version of Kung Pao chicken, try this one. This version is a little less sweet and more spicy (although I might've been heavy handed with the chiles).

One year ago today: Carnitas with Ninfa's Green Sauce

Kung Pao Chicken (adapted from Land of Plenty)

2 boneless chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic
2 inches ginger (or so, about the same amount as garlic)
5 scallions, white parts only
2 tbsp peanut oil
generous handful of dried red chiles (I should've maybe done slightly less generous)
2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
2 1/4 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
3 tsp sugar
1 1/8 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 tsp black Chinese vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp water

1. Cut the chicken into 1/2 inch strips, then cut these into small cubes. Place in small bowl and mix in marinade ingredients.
2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger. Chop scallions into chunks as long as their diameter.
3. Snip chiles in half or into 2-inch sections. Discard as many seeds as possible.
4. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
5. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chiles and stir-fry until they are crisp and oil is spicy and fragrant (I took starting to cough when inhaling the fumes coming off the wok as a sign of fragrance).
6. Add the chicken and fry, stirring constantly.
7. As soon as the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and scallions and continue to stir-fry until fragrant and the meat is cooked through.
8. Stir the sauce and add it to the wok, continuing to stir and toss.
9. As soon as the sauce is thick and shiny, add the peanuts, stir in, and serve.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint

Apparently, I tried celeriac for the first time a year ago. It's such an ugly vegetable, but I've become quite fond of it.
It's strange, I mean to make more meat, but I still find myself oddly drawn to vegetarian food ... and it doesn't help that Ottolenghi's Plenty is a gorgeous cookbook. I scaled this recipe in half after realizing that my small celeriac was half the size of the one the recipe called for (thank you for using weights and the scale!). The original also calls for hazelnut oil and red wine vinegar. I didn't feel like investing in hazelnut oil and assumed I had red wine vinegar (nope, only white wine and rice wine), so I stuck with a good quality olive oil and balsamic. If you have hazelnut, add 1.5 tbsp of it to the dish. I'm sure it would be better with hazelnut oil and red wine vinegar, but it's delicious even without it. The scaled down version is below and serves two.

Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint (adapted from Ottolenghi's Plenty)

30g whole hazelnuts (with skin on)
100g French green lentils
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 small celeriac (325g), peeled and cut into chips
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or balsalmic)
2 tbsp chopped mint
salt and black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 275F. Scatter hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Let them cool, then roughly chop.
2. Combine lentils, water, bay leaf, and thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, cook the celeriac in boiling salted water for 8 - 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.
4. In a medium bowl, mix the hot lentils with olive oil, vinegar, black pepper and salt to taste.
5. Add celeriac and stir. Adjust seasoning if needed.
6. Stir in half of the mint and half the hazelnuts. Garnish with the remaining mint and hazelnuts.

Tomato, Semolina, and Coriander Soup

This is a surprisingly hearty stew, perfect for a chilly day. The only major change I made was to substitute a large can of San Marzano tomatoes for 500g peeled and chopped tomatoes (and in the process ended up adding about 200g extra tomato-ey goodness). To me, this tastes like a fall and winter soup ... definitely not peak tomato season! I also blended the soup before adding the semolina to make the texture a little bit smoother. You could skip this step, but I like a smooth soup. The water in this recipe may seem like a lot, but once the semolina is added, the soup gets ridiculously thick. Make sure you use a pot big enough to handle all the liquid. Finally, I used corn semolina because that's what I had in the cupboard. Corn + tomatoes just seems to make sense to me, but you could certainly use regular. I ate this with fresh bread to dip and garnished with a bit of aged cheddar cheese. It's excellent without the cheese, but I needed more dairy!

One other note, this cook book was published in the UK, so most of the ingredients are measured by weight, not volume. I'm making good use of my new kitchen scale with this book and finding it much easier than using cup measurements. My apologies in advance though if it makes the recipes more difficult to follow. You can always try to ask me for equivalents.

Tomato, Semolina, and Coriander Soup (from Plenty by Ottolenghi)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp chopped thyme
50g cilantro, chopped and divided
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 796ml can San Marzano tomatoes (see note above)
6 cups of water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
150g semolina (I used corn)
salt and black pepper
cheese for garnish, entirely optional
bread for dipping, entirely optional

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot (or large dutch oven). Add onion, celery, ground coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, and half of the cilantro. Saute until the onion is golden and soft (this should smell amazing).
2. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.
3. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few more minutes.
4. Add the water and sugar, bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes.
5. With an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth (optional).
6. Add the semolina in a slow stream as you whisk vigorously.
7. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to avoid large lumps.
8. Before serving, add additional water if necessary and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with remaining cilantro.

Pearl Couscous with Olives, Tomatoes, and Feta (revisited)

Before leaving to go on a Halloween costume hunt yesterday, I realized I need a quick lunch. Of course, I'd finished off any leftovers I had the day before and I don't tend to keep quick meals on hand. I decided I was in the mood for pearl couscous and I knew I had a tiny bit of leftover feta that would pair nicely with it. As I peered into the open fridge, I also found olives and sundried tomatoes. I started throwing everything together for a quick lunch when I began to realize that what I was making seemed vaguely familiar. The funny thing is, I think this version of the recipe is easier AND more flavourful. I had a friend complain before she added feta to the original (she was making it directly from the SK version) that it didn't have enough flavour, but with this method, you cook the couscous with the sundried tomatoes and olives giving the couscous much more flavour than just pouring a tomato sauce on the couscous at the end and tossing it with olives. I didn't have any fresh herbs on hand, but I would've added basil if I'd had some. I also didn't add any salt to this dish as I thought it got enough from the chicken stock, olives, and feta, but feel free to salt. You'll also note the couscous is cooked slightly differently, based on general directions from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

The amounts below made one portion for me. If you're serving it as a side, it should be enough for two portions.

Pearl Couscous with Olives, Tomatoes, and Feta (revisited)

1/2 cup pearl couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sundried tomatoes, chopped (maybe 1/4 cup)
Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (approx 1/4 cup?)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp chicken stock
black pepper, 3 grinds (or to taste)
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese (or to taste)
chopped basil if you have any (I didn't)

1. In a small saucepan, heat oil. Brown pearl couscous in the oil for a few minutes.
2. Add garlic and cook until garlic is browned.
3. Add sundried tomatoes, olives, chicken stock, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.
4. Remove heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
5. Serve couscous. Sprinkle with feta cheese and fresh herbs if you have any.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cranberry, Caramel, and Almond Tart

I can't seem to resist those 99 cent bags of cranberries. If you're using fresh for this recipe, stick them in the freezer while you're starting the caramel so that the caramel holds up better. I didn't like this recipe quite as much as the Cranberry and Almond Paste tart from Les Copains d'Abord, but it's good and relatively easy to make as long as you're patient!

One year ago: Dutch Winter Stew

Cranberry, Caramel, and Almond Tart (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Maury Rubin)

1 9" tart shell
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 cups unblanched sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat. (or do this in a microwave)
2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
3. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.
4. Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the tart shell mounding toward the center.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.
6. Carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

My friend gave me this recipe over the summer and I kept meaning to make it and forgetting (and I was out of quinoa! how'd that happen?). I skipped on the scallions because I didn't have them on hand, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. When I read it, I thought it needed cheese ... maybe feta? I did try it without the cheese and it was good, but I think it's better with cheese (as most things are). If you have access to queso fresco or oaxaca cheese, either one of those would probably work even better than feta, but feta's easy to find!

One year ago: My first quiche (and apparently the first snow of the year ... thank goodness it's warmer this year!)

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa (from epicurious)

2 teaspoons grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup quinoa
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (I used 2/3 cups dried beans, soaked and then cooked + 1/2 tsp epazote)
2 medium tomatoes, diced (I used 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
feta/queso fresco/oaxaca cheese to taste

1. Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
2. Bring quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium pot to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff.
3. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

This is a great way to enjoy all of those fresh cranberries that are available right now. I subbed extract for the vanilla bean, but otherwise kept faithful to the original.

One year ago today (wow, the first time I can do this!): Pork Strips with Asian Style Green Beans

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally Gourmet)

1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
2. Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
3. Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Beat together 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
5. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl.
6. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.
7. Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the cranberries and smooth them with as gentle of a hand as possible.
8. Blend remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
9. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Celebration Yellow Rice

This rice is amazing and the colour is beautiful. Serve with Beef Rendang. Once again, I substituted lime zest for kaffir lime leaves. I know it's not the same, but I'm going to go with it being close enough for now!

The recipe cautions against halving, because the aromatics won't be submerged in the liquid. I didn't have a full 2 cups of rice in the pantry (and didn't want to make a 4th food shopping trip in one day!), so I 3/4th the recipe and didn't have difficulty with submersion. Original is included below.

Celebration Yellow Rice (adapted from Cradle of Flavor)

2 cups jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp kosher salt
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, knotted*
zest of one lime

1. In a bowl, combine water and turmeric. Stir to combine.
2. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine rice, turmeric-water, coconut milk, salt, lemongrass, and lime zest. Stir well to combine, submerging the lemongrass.
3. Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent the rice from scorching. Allow to boil for 15 seconds. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting and cover pot with lid. Cook for 15 minutes.
4. Remove pot from heat, keeping cover on for 10 minutes.
5. Open pots, remove lemongrass, and fluff with fork.

*To knot the lemongrass, cut off the hard, brown bottom end of the stalk and an inch or so of the green top. Peel away the tough outermost 2 - 3 sheaths of the stalk. With the base of a knife handle, smack the stalk down until the plant is pliant. Finally, tie the stalk in a knot.

Beef Rendang

My one complaint about this dish is that it didn't come out quite as tender as I would've hoped. I was expecting something that would fall apart with a fork, but didn't get that ... which I'm sure is my fault somehow (maybe slightly better beef next time?). The flavour is amazing though. I made a few substitutions, but for the most part, they were suggested by the book or optional. The only unofficial substitution I made was lime zest for kaffir lime leaves. At some point I'll go on a hunt for leaves ...

One other gripe, the original recipe calls for 5 - 20 fresh red Holland chiles. The Holland chiles at my Val-Mont were huge (much bigger than the picture in the book), so I cut it down to 3 and can't imagine using more. It definitely still had a kick, so use your judgement with the chiles and if you're heat averse, you might want to scale back even more. My shallots are also apparently bigger than what this book is based of. The recipe calls for 6, but going based on weight, I only used 4.

Beef Rendang (adapted from Cradle of Flavor)

Flavoring Paste
1 whole nutmeg, cracked open
5 whole cloves
4 shallots (140g), chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 fresh red Holland chiles, stemmed and chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp sliced or grated ginger (I keep my ginger frozen and find it easier to grate)
5 unsalted macadamia nuts
900g beef chuck, cut into cubes
2 1/2 cups coconut milk (buy 2 cans and use the 2nd can remnants on the rice or side)
3 stalks fresh lemongrass, tied into a knot*
1 piece cinnamon stick, 4 inches long
zest of two limes
1 tsp kosher salt

1. To make flavoring past, place nutmeg and cloves in a small food processor and pulse until ground to a dusty powder, about 2 minutes.
2. To the ground spices, add shallots, garlic, chiles, turmeric, ginger, and macadamia nuts. Pulse until you have a chunky-smooth paste.
3. In a 12-inch skillet, mix the beef and flavoring paste until well combined.
4. Add coconut milk, lemongrass, cinnamon, lime zest, and salt to beef. Stir well to combine and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 - 3 hours or until the liquid has reduced by 95%. Stir every 15 minutes or so to prevent sticking.
6. When all the liquid has evaporated, reduce heat to low. Stir every 5 minutes. Cook until the beef is the color of roasted coffee beans (10 - 20 minutes longer).
7. Discard the cinnamon and lemongrass. Allow beef to rest 30 minutes before serving.

*To knot the lemongrass, cut off the hard, brown bottom end of the stalk and an inch or so of the green top. Peel away the tough outermost 2 - 3 sheaths of the stalk. With the base of a knife handle, smack the stalk down until the plant is pliant. Finally, tie the stalk in a knot.

Apple and Cheddar Scones

I think I'm going to have to get over my scone prejudice. These are delicious (although not quite as cheesy as I was expecting!). I made no changes to the recipe. Click on the link if you'd like a non-stand mixer version. One word of warning ... this isn't a quick recipe, but it's worth it.

Apple and Cheddar Scones (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from The Perfect Finish)

2 firm tart apples
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (85 grams)unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup (65 grams) sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs

1. Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Peel and core apples, then cut them into 16 chunks.
3. Place apples in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Leave oven on.
4. Cool apples completely in fridge.
5. Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
6. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix.
7. Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges.
8. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.
9. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
10. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Blogiversary and 2009 Recap ... 10 Months Late

I can hardly believe it's been a year of random musings, ramblings, and of course recipes. I don't usually stick with projects long-term, but this one has been surprisingly rewarding and tasty. At the end of last year/beginning of this year, I really should've put together a list of my favourites from the year ... the whole year-end review thing. I'll do it at the end of this year, but what about those recipes from the end of 2009? There's some gems in there that I don't want to get forgotten. Moreover, at this point I have a better idea of what's put in lasting memories instead of just a one-hit wonder (and a few recipes that seemed good at the time, but have been replaced by new favourites). So without further ado, my list of 2009 recipes that I still find amazing.

Easy Buttermilk Cake - Quick, easy, adaptable, and delicious. This is the perfect cake when you need something fast, but tasty. The last time I made it, I added chopped walnuts to the top. Beware, this one disappears fast.
Cheese Enchiladas - I constantly adapt this recipe, but the original is still amazing. This recipe helped get me past a major Tex-Mex withdrawal.
Mexican Rice - I'd tried so many variations on Mexican rice without success (just cook rice with salsa!), but this one works. Best of all, it's easy.
Mint Brownies - I've made a lot of brownies over the past year, but this one remains at the top of my absolute best list. These are rich and minty, what more could you want? (unless you're in a raspberry cheesecake mood!)
Pasta Milano - This recipe is still my go-to recipe when I want to impress. Best of all, it's simple and perfect when you're having people over for dinner as it only gets better the longer you let it simmer.
Aunt Mary's Craisin Blue Cheese Salad - I've lost count of how many times I've made this or a variation on it.
Ninfa's Green Sauce - It's like a slightly spicy, smooth guacamole dip. You could serve it with other things, but I prefer it just with chips.
Tomato and Sausage Risotto - I fell in love with risottos over the past year and have made so many variations, but this one remains my favourite.
Potato Soup - The perfect soup for a cold day. It might be closer to mashed potatoes in soup form. I think I've only made it once, but will be rectifying that soon!
Macaroni and Cheese - I think I've only made this once, but I've eaten it many times and seen it in people's lunches at work. This remains my favourite dish from Thanksgiving 2009.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Refried Bean Enchiladas

I wasn't planning on posting this because it's an adaptation of a recipe I've made so many times before on here, but then two of my co-workers threatened to steal my leftovers at lunch. It's also nothing short of comfort food for me. The most time intensive part of this recipe is making the corn tortillas. The recipe I used came off of the bag of corn flour I had sitting in my cabinet (200g corn flour + 100g wheat flour + 1 cup warm water, combine, let rest for 30 minutes, then make 8 tortillas). You can use store-bought, but I think they're better fresh. While the dough is resting, you have plenty of time to make the salsa, grate the cheese, and unload the dishwasher. Ideally, I suppose you would make your own refried beans, but I've never been completely happy with mine and have had a can sitting in my cabinet for entirely too long. Is it odd that I had everything on hand to make this recipe except the cheddar cheese?

Refried Bean Enchiladas

8 corn tortillas (homemade or bought)
1 recipe tomatillo sauce (or 2 cups of your favourite sauce from the store or chili gravy)
1 can refried beans
3 cups grated cheddar cheeses (I used an aged white cheddar)

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
2. Heat the tortillas one at a time in a small skillet. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated.
3. Pour 1/2 cup of tomatillo sauce in a baking pan.
4. Take a tortilla, put 1 - 2 tbsp of refried beans and 1 - 2 tbsp of cheese in the center and roll it (basically as much as you can and still roll it).
5. Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down.
6. Continue with remaining tortillas.
7. If you have refried beans left over, spread it over the tortillas. Take remaining tomatillo sauce, and pour it over the rolled tortillas.
8. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
9. Bake for 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly, cheese is melted, and dish is heated through. (If you like a slightly browned top, you can also turn the broiler on for a minute or two.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cauliflower Gratin

I know I just made something similar to this, but I couldn't resist the purple cauliflower at the Val-Mont. I wanted to do something cheesy with it, but I couldn't bring myself to repeat the recipe, so consider the other version more refined ... and this more of a macaroni and cheese, except with cauliflower!

Cauliflower Gratin (from Smitten Kitchen, originally Ina Garten)

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk (feel free to cheat and microwave)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
4. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened (much longer than one minute ... or at least mine took a while to get there and I thought the one minute was misleading).
5. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.
6. Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish.
7. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.
8. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top.
9. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
10. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce

I was worried this dish might end up too sweet after reading reviews, but the final result was nothing short of delicious. I made a few changes - simmering for longer, skipping on the thickener, Malbec instead of Cabernet, and parsnips for half of the carrots - and the final result was amazing. I expected to have leftovers after having friends over for dinner, but was sadly disappointed after everyone went for seconds. I suppose there are bigger problems to have though ... next Canadian Thanksgiving I'll just have to remember to cook more food!

Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce (from

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 kg boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon (or Malbec)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained (or plain and add some dried spices)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce*
2 bay leaves
250g slender carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
250g slender parsnips, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.
2. Add meat to pot; sauté until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. (You may have to do this in batches and then do the onion separately after the meat.)
3. Push meat to sides of pot (or remove entirely). Reduce heat to medium; add 2 tablespoons oil to pot. Add onions; sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
4. Mix meat into onions (or re-add). Add 1 cup wine, tomatoes with juices, hoisin sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to boil.
5. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally (I upped this to roughly 2 hours).
6. Add carrots, parsnips, and 1 cup wine. Cover; simmer 30 minutes (or an hour - 1.5 hours), stirring occasionally.
7. Uncover, increase heat to high; boil until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer.
8. Discard bay leaves. Season stew with salt and pepper.

Caramel Apple Blackout Cake

I'm in love with a dessert blog that's not Smitten Kitchen. Often, I look at a recipe on Desserts for Breakfast and think it looks nothing short of amazing, but then I realize that even with my craziness, I don't have the patience to make it. I couldn't resist this recipe when I first saw it and it was only after a couple of reads that I even realized it's a vegan recipe. I de-veganized slightly (who could pass on butter? and I just couldn't bring myself to buy almond milk, although I think it might make this even better). This recipe wasn't as sweet as I imagined it from the pictures, but it certainly disappeared quickly. Definitely worth making.

Caramel Apple Blackout Cake (from Desserts for Breakfast)

2 large tart apples (e.g., Granny Smith)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbspn water
2 Tbspn butter
coarse sea salt
1 cup milk
1 tspn apple cider vinegar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tspn vanilla extract

1. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 7" round cake pan (with at least 2" tall sides). Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper and grease again.
2. Peel, core, and slice the apples into chunks about 1/8-1/4" thick. Set aside.
3. In a light-colored saucepan (preferably with tall sides), combine the sugar and water. Stir to make sure the sugar is completely damp.
4. Over high heat, cook the sugar, without stirring but swirling the pan, until it reaches a light golden caramel color. Remove from heat immediately and stir in the butter until the caramel is smooth. Be careful--the mixture will sputter!
5. Pour the caramel into the bottom of the prepared cake pan and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. Then, line the bottom with apple chunks, packing them in as tight as possible.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If desired, line the outside of the cake pan with bake-even strips.
7. In the mixer bowl, combine the almond milk and cider vinegar, stirring briefly. Let sit for a few minutes until the milk is curdled.
8. Meanwhile, sift together the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl.
9. Once the milk is curdled, add the sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract to the mixer bowl and beat until frothy.
10. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two stages, beating thoroughly between each addition. After the final addition, beat the batter until smooth but do not overmix.
11. Pour the batter over the the apples in the prepared pan and tap the cake pan gently against the counter to allow the batter to settle.
12. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until set and the top of the cake springs back when gently touched. (If you use the toothpick test, be forewarned that the toothpick won't come out completely clean when the cake is done.)
13. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack for ten minutes. Then, turn the cake out of the pan. (Don't forget to do this, as inverting the cake will allow the caramel to soak down into the cake!) Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lemon and Cranberry Scones

I couldn't resist the fresh bags of cranberries in stores right now and remembered a scone recipe that I had been meaning to try. These are delicious ... for scones. I'm still not sold on scones, but they're good! Now to find some more cranberry recipes ...

Lemon and Cranberry Scones (from Smitten Kitchen ... adapted from Gourmet)

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons additional if using fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (82g) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries, chopped coarse
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. With a vegetable peeler remove the zest from lemons and chop fine, reserving lemons for another use. (I just used a microplane.)
3. In a food processor pulse flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal and transfer to a large bowl. (I used a pastry blender.)
4. In a small bowl toss together fresh cranberries and 3 tablespoons sugar and stir into flour mixture. If using dried fruit, add to flour mixture.
5. In another small bowl lightly beat egg and yolk and stir in cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.
6. On a well-floured surface with floured hands pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter) and with a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary.
7. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Linguine with Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto

I scribbled this down from a Bon Appetit magazine (I think) while waiting for my dinner date to come pick me up in San Francisco. The only major change I made to this was to slow roast the tomatoes overnight. It seemed much less maintenance than the original. This comes together quite easily and quickly (except for the slow roasting) and was delicious.

Linguine with Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1.25 kg tomatoes, halved
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves
5 tbsp almonds
1/2 tsp dried pepper
450g linguine
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place tomato halves cut side up on a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tbsp oregano, salt, and pepper. Add garlic to sheet, unpeeled. Bake at 225F overnight or until well-dried.
2. Toast almonds (and if desired, reheat tomatoes) at 350F for 5 - 10 minutes being careful not to burn them.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.
4. While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor, blend peeled roasted garlic, 2/3 of tomatoes, 4 tbsp almonds, and dried pepper flakes. Add 5 tbsp oil and season to taste.
5. Chop remaining tomatoes and almonds.
6. Add reserved 1/2 cup pasta water to the pesto and mix well.
7. Toss drained pasta with the pesto, chopped tomatoes and almonds, and parmesan cheese to taste.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce

Were you beginning to worry that I'd abandoned this endeavor? I've had a hard time getting myself to cook since I've returned from San Francisco. The food there was amazing and for the first time, I wasn't at all happy to be returning to Montreal. I spent the first three days back sulking and trying to remember what I loved about this chilly, grey city. Then I spent three days begrudgingly remembering all of the things that I adore here. Finally, I'd come around, but the urge to cook was still missing ... and it was the weekend with too much to do!

This is an easy first step back from a cookbook I bought shortly before leaving and haven't had a chance to use yet. I only used 360g of beef (I wanted to use some of the ground beef, lamb, and veal combo packs I'd seen at the Metro previously, but sadly there was none available today!), but kept all of the other ingredient levels the same (well with only 1 onion). I thought the spice level worked well, so you may want to double or triple the spices when you make it. I wasn't entirely sure what were meant by fiery peppers and didn't feel like buying peppers, so I just used some dried peppers I had in my cabinet.

According to the book, this is the Moroccan version and should be served with rice.

Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce (from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

Meat Balls
1 kg ground beef or lamb (I only used 360g)
2 medium onions, finely chopped (I reduced to 1 with the reduced meat)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (I grated fresh and may have used slightly more)
salt and pepper
1 large can whole tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
3 small fiery peppers, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne

1. Pull all ingredients for the meat balls together in a bowl and work to a smooth paste. Roll into small balls the size of large marbles.
2. To make the sauce, heat the tomatoes in oil and break up with a spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Drop in the meat balls and if necessary add enough water to cover.
4. Simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until they are done and water has reduced.