Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bolognese Risotto

I haven't been very excited about cooking lately (probably thanks to the mid-winter blues), so any meal that can be made using something from the freezer is a plus. Even better is when the relatively easy meals are delicious. Granted this relies on something that was time intensive to make at one point, but as long as you make a big batch the first time around, you might as well enjoy the fruits of your labour for a while.

I added a little extra white wine, used chicken broth instead of meat, and mixed arborio rice with pearl barley (note to self: verify amounts before going to the store and assuming you don't need more), but otherwise stayed true to the recipe.

Bolognese Risotto (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

5 cups meat broth (or chicken)
1 1/4 cups bolognese meat sauce
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

1. Bring the broth to a simmer.
2. In a broad, sturdy pot, heat meat sauce to medium and bring to a simmer.
3. Add rice to meat sauce and stir thoroughly for 1 minute until grains coated well.
4. Add 1/2 cup broth and cook the rice, adding more broth after it evaporates and stirring regularly.
5. Cook the rice until it is tender, but firm with no more liquid remaining in the pot.
6. Off heat, swirl in butter and Parmesan and stir until cheese melts. Add salt if necessary.

Whole Wheat Jam Muffins

One of the many trials of winter is the lack of fresh fruit. Right now, I am craving fresh local raspberries, strawberries, and wild blueberries. I could do muffins with frozen fruit, but it's just not the same as cooking with fresh and snacking as you go. While I was in Alabama, I found a recipe for maple crunch muffins that I wanted to try, but I never have granola in the house and I keep forgetting to buy it. Instead, I went searching for another maple muffin this morning and found this recipe. It's not super-maple-y, but it does come together easily. Best of all, it only calls for ingredients that I almost always have on hand.

I scaled this recipe down and ended up with enough batter for 8 muffins. The scaled recipe is below.

Whole Wheat Jam Muffins (found online, originally from The Ultimate Muffin Book)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 teaspoons jam (I used strawberry, but was wishing I had blueberry)

1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line muffin tin.
2 Whisk the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.
3 In a large bowl, whisk the egg until lightly beaten, then whisk in the honey and maple syrup until smooth, about 30 seconds.
4. Whisk in the milk, oil, and vanilla.
5. Finally, stir in the prepared flour mixture until incorporated.
6. Fill the prepared tins one-third full. Add 1 tsp jam to each muffin. Top with rest of batter.
7. Bake for 22 minutes, or until the muffins have rounded, cracked tops and a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
8. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently rock each muffin back and forth to release and remove it from the pan. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes more on the rack before serving. (If you have the discipline for this.)

Beer Cheese Soup

Aka comfort food in a bowl. When I lived in Austin, I dated a guy from Michigan and he introduced me to the wonderful concept of beer cheese soup. Think of it as cheese fondue, except with a beer base instead of wine and best served in a bread bowl with extra bread for dunking. At the time I was first introduced to this soup, I didn't really cook (unless you count browning ground beef and adding hamburger helper mix ... scary, no?), so I never picked up the recipe. Occasionally, over the years I've tried to replicate it, but I get distracted by fancier recipes that have a mirepoix or something else. This week while at work, I saw a recipe posted by a Dutch blogger that included bacon, corn, and onion. It was then that I decided I needed to go back and make the original with no extras, just a smooth and creamy soup. Be warned, this is not a healthy meal, but it is comforting and it does have calcium! It's also quick and easy (once you get done grating all that cheese). The better the cheese the better the soup, so I used some aged cheddar.

One year ago: Another cheesy soup, Cauliflower and Camembert Soup

Beer Cheese Soup (from Sargento)

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups milk
1 cup beer (I generally use a blonde/pilsner)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups (225g) shredded cheddar cheese
fresh baguette or bread bowls

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat.
2. Stir in flour until smooth; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Stir in milk, beer, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.
4. Heat to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. (The soup should thicken up quite a bit.)
5. Stir in cheese until melted. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with bread.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Index Reorganization

The bitter cold has given me the perfect opportunity to stay indoors. It is currently -22C (feels like -34C) in my fair city and although the sunshine looked promising out the window, there's not a chance I'm venturing outdoors. Instead, I'm correcting something that's been bugging me for a while ... the recipe index! While it worked when I only had 100 or 150 recipe, it's become an unwieldy behemoth that's a pain to update. When I pasted the code into Word, I discovered it's up to 51 pages (granted Word spaces it more, but still!). Instead, I'm now separating out the index so there's less scrolling and adding some new categories. I'm also removing some sections (such as Favourites) that just don't seem to be working for me when I update. I hope you find it as helpful as I do!

The new indices are to the left, above the search box. I haven't quite finished. I still need to finish with the beverages, side dishes, and breads, but I'm calling it a night for the blog.

Texas Red Chili

Since I've moved to Canada, I've been served some odd things that have been labeled chili. Meat with beans, bell peppers, and ... corn? It's not to say that Canadian chili isn't good (especially Maison du Roti's chili!), it's just not what I think of as chili. When I started explaining traditional Texas red to people, I got some strange looks. No beans? No tomatoes? The anti-bean contingent was more enthusiastic about these strange ideas. The pro-vegetable contingent was a little more skeptical. After last night, I think I've convinced some people of the goodness of Texas red. Of course, the only downside is I have no leftovers to make a Frito pie with today! Frito chips covered with chili and shredded cheese is a great way to eat chili.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe. I ran out of ancho chiles so I ended up substituting half ancho chile powder for the ancho chiles. Sadly, I am now completely out of my Texas ancho reserves and need to go hunting through the Latin American grocery stores now. I couldn't locate beef suet (although I didn't search very hard), so I used bacon grease to brown the meat. I was briefly tempted to use duck fat given how available it is here, but I resisted! You could also just use oil, but bacon grease makes everything better ... and then there's bacon to snack on! I cooked this in the slow cooker because I was using my Dutch oven to make the other chili recipe. I needed more liquid because I hadn't soaked as many chiles and was paranoid about burning the meat, so I used beer for the extra liquid (and then later a cornstarch slurry to thicken it back up). I'm including the stove guidelines below, but feel free to dump in the slow cooker after browning and let it simmer away for the day! Finally, the original suggests making a day ahead and then reheating. I'm sure it's better as it gives the flavours more time to meld, but I didn't do this and I have no leftovers to test my theory on.

Frank X. Tolbert's Original Bowl of Red (from Texas Home Cooking)

Notes from Texas Home Cooking, "One pundit said that if chili were a religion, A Bowl of Red would be its Bible and Frank X. Tolbert its Moses."

12 dried ancho chiles / 12 tbsp ancho chile powder
1.5kg lean beef chuck, cut into thumb-sized pieces
57g beef suet / 3 tbsp bacon grease from 4 cooked bacon slices / 3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano (I used Mexican)
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp tabasco sauce
2 or more cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp masa harina

1. Break off steams of the chiles and remove the seeds. Place chiles in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the chiles, reserving the simmering water.
3. Place the chiles and a bit of their cooking liquid in a blender. Puree to make a smooth, thin paste. (If using only powder, mix with just a tiny bit of water).
4. Pour the chile puree into a Dutch oven (or slow cooker).
5. In a heavy skillet, sear the meat in batches using the fat of your choice. Transfer meat to the dish with your chile puree.
6. Pour in enough of the chile cooking liquid to cover the meat by about 2 inches if using a Dutch oven. (If using a wide slow cooker, you probably just want to cover the meat. If you don't have enough chile cooking liquid because you used powder, you can add beer, broth, or water.)
7. If using a slow-cooker, simmer on low for 6 - 8 hours adding additional spices 1 hour in and masa harina during the last 30 minutes to 1 hour.
8. If using a Dutch oven, bring chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the chili 30 minutes.
9. Remove chili from heat and stir in cumin, oregano, cayenne, tabasco sauce, garlic, and salt. Return to heat and resume simmering for 45 minutes, keeping the lid on except to stir occasionally. Add more chile liquid only if you think the mixture will burn.
10. Add the masa harina. Cover chili and simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.
11. Remove chili from heat and refrigerate overnight. Skim fat before reheating and serve hot.

Cook's Illustrated Chili

I was too focused on eating the Texas red chili last night, so I haven't tried this slightly blasphemous version of chili yet, but it got good reviews, so I'm going ahead and posting this.

I tried to follow the recipe fairly closely, but I ran out of ancho chiles and ancho chile powder while making the Texas red (my stash from Texas no less!), so I followed the suggested guidelines and substituted 1/2 cup commercial chile powder (slightly less because I was trying to make sure I didn't make it too spicy for the Canadians and I made the paste in the same blender I'd used for the other chile so I had some ancho paste left in there). Luckily, I had arbol chiles on hand, but if not you can use cayenne pepper. I made this in the oven as suggested, but I think it would also be a perfect slow-cooker dish.

Cook's Illustrated Chili

1 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over
6 dried ancho chiles stems and seeds removed and torn into 1 inch pieces / 6 tbsp ancho chile powder / 1/2 cup commercial chile powder
2 - 4 dried arbol chiles stems and seeds removed / 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp cornmeal
2 tsp dried oregano (I used Mexican)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 medium onions, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (2 cups)
3 small jalapenos, stems and seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (~4 tsps)
1 (398mL) can diced tomatoes
2 tsps light molasses
1.6 kg blade steak (or chuck-eye roast) trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 bottle mild lager

1. Combine 3 tbsp salt, 4 quarts water, and beans in large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well.
2. If using ancho chiles, place chiles in 12" skillet over medium-high heat, toast, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 4 - 6 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.
3. If using chile powder, add powder to food processor.
4. Add arbol chiles (or cayenne), cornmeal, oregano, cumin, cocoa, and 1/2 tsp salt to food processor. Process until finely ground, about 2 minutes (skip if not using chiles). With processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup broth until a smooth paste forms, about 45 seconds. Transfer paste to a small bowl.
5. Place onions in empty food processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped. Add jalapenos and pulse until consistency of chunky salsa.
6. Preheat oven to 300F.
7. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring, until moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened, 7 - 9 minutes.
8. Add garlic to Dutch oven and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
9. Add chili paste, tomatoes, and molasses to Dutch oven and stir until thoroughly combined.
10. Add remaining 2 cups broth and drained beans to Dutch oven, reduce heat and simmer.
11. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Pat beef dry and season with 1 tsp salt.
12. Add half of beef to skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to Dutch oven.
13. Add 1/2 of beer to skillet, scraping to loosen browned bits, and bring to simmer. Pour into Dutch oven.
14. Repeat steps 11 - 13 with second half of beef.
15. Stir to combine ingredients in Dutch oven and return to a simmer.
16. Cover Dutch oven and transfer to oven. Cook until meat and beans are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Let stand, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir and season to taste before serving.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Muffins

These were originally bread, but muffins are so much more convenient to eat and I have a soft spot for savoury muffins. I cut the recipe in half and used fresh rosemary because I had some fresh rosemary sitting in my freezer. You could go heavier on the add-ins and I'm tempted to try some feta in this next time. Either way, it's a fun base that (for me at least) uses pantry ingredients.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Muffins (adapted from

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary (I used 1 sprig fresh)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (or more) drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, reserving 1 tablespoon of the oil
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup (or more) chopped pitted Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leaved)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins (the recipe made 9 for me).
2. Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the salt, and the sugar.
3. In a small skillet cook the garlic with the rosemary and the pepper in the reserved oil from the sun-dried tomatoes over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened and fragrant but not brown.
4. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, the butter, and the garlic mixture, add the flour mixture, and stir the batter until it is just combined.
5. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, the olives, the parsley, and the Parmesan, divide the batter among lined muffin tins, and bake the muffins in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 25 minutes (approximate, I don't remember how long I cooked them, just that it was less than the original 40 minutes for the bread!), or until a tester comes out clean.

Double-Shot Mocha Cupcakes

I don't request dessert recipes often, but one bite of these cupcakes and I was hooked. Thankfully, it was a love and olive oil recipe, so I didn't even have to wait impatiently for someone to send me the recipe! Even more thankfully, I have a couple of leftover mini-cupcakes sitting in my fridge right now.

Double-Shot Mocha Cupcakes (from Love and Olive Oil)

1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or 1/2 ground coffee
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brewed coffee (cooled)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a microwave safe bowl, heat coconut milk until hot (but not boiling). Stir in espresso powder. If you don't have espresso powder, put coffee grounds into a fine sieve. Pour coconut milk over grounds and allow to seep through. You will end up with a few grounds in your milk this way, but it won't affect the final product.
3. Whisk sugar, oil, and vanilla extract in to coffee mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add to wet ingredients and beat until no lumps remain (or very few remain).
6. Pour into liners, filling each with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Bake 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
7. For frosting, sift together powdered sugar, cocoa.
8. Cream butter and add to sugar mixture slowly.
9. Add salt, and coffee. Beat 2 minutes.
10. Add vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Tomato, Pesto, Mozzarella Salad

Another recipe borrowed from a friend. I had people over for a potluck last night and when I went to get seconds of this salad, I realized it was gone (as were the enchiladas)! Given that salad isn't the first thing you'd expect to disappear, I think that's a fairly good sign. The original also has beans and while I appreciate beans, I don't really see them adding much here.

Tomato, Pesto, Mozzarella Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3/4 to 1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound peak-season tomatoes (SK prefers roma for this because they’re less wet, but other varieties also work), diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup pesto (or a handful of slivered basil plus 1/4 cup olive oil)
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix and season and then reseason again to adjust to your taste.
2. Eat at once or keep it in the fridge up to a few days (really, it will depend on how fresh your mozzarella is; the made-daily stuff is only good for a day or two, most others will last nearly a week).

Espresso Black Bean Stew

I'm doing something I don't normally do and posting a few recipes I didn't make, but have on hand, ate, enjoyed, and don't want to lose/forget about. Officially, this is called chili, but it tastes so unlike anything I'm used to as chili that I had to change the name! It's delicious though and easy to make. I'm putting the original recipe here, when I make it, I'll probably add some cumin and epazote just because I can't leave well enough alone (maybe 1 tsp epazote and 1 tbsp cumin?). The smokiness of ancho chili powder also seems perfect for this dish, so if you have access to it, I'd recommend trying.

One year ago: Scrambled Eggs with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Cheese

Espresso Black Bean Stew/Chili (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups chopped tomato (if canned, don't drain)
1/2 to 1 cup freshly brewed espresso/1 to 2 cups brewed coffee/2 tbsp espresso powder
2 tbsp chili powder (see header for suggestions)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar/3 tbsp molasses
one 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 pound dried black beans, soaked
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
3. Stir in tomato, espresso, brown sugar/molasses, chili powder (and other spices if using), cinnamon, and beans. Add enough water to cover.
4. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook stirring occasionally until bean start to soften, about 30 - 40 minutes.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Continue cooking until beans are tender, 45 minutes - 1.5 hours longer. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Green Curry Shrimp with Rice

This blog posting could also be entitled The Best Laid Plans. Despite my best plans, a recipe I've been eager to make (a variation on butter chicken) still waits in my cookbook for its turn. My plan all week was to make it on Wednesday night, but that plan was derailed by a migraine, followed by a work dinner the next night, followed by the sudden realization on Friday night that I should stop ignoring my body and admit that I'm sick (sadly missing out on an event I'd been looking forward to!), and as Saturday rolled around I decided to go with something much more simple that could be made with ingredients I had on hand.

I simplified this recipe quite a bit. Perhaps the original is better (almost certainly), but this version is easier. And today (actually yesterday given that I couldn't actually get the post finished yesterday), when I'm still feeling slightly under the weather, easier wins out by a mile (kilometer?).

A few caveats about the recipe. The sauce is delicious, but a bit on the water side. You might want to let it reduce longer or else cut back on the chicken broth even more (the recipe below is already reduced!). Second, I made this with rice noodles, but the method they give for cooking the noodles isn't really conducive to good noodles and given how watery the sauce is, I'm going to suggest pairing it with regular rice. YMMV.

One Year Ago: Mastering the poached egg ... or almost eggs benedict

Green Curry Shrimp with Rice (adapted from

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 heaping tablespoons bottled Asian green curry paste (mine was probably closer to 3)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 (13- to 14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat)
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (see notes above)
750g peeled and deveined large shrimp (I used less)
2 to 3 teaspoons Asian fish sauce, or to taste
cooked rice

1. In a large, deep frying pan, heat 1 tbsp or so of coconut cream (the thick part of the coconut milk) over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, curry paste, sugar, salt and turmeric and allow to cook until mixture begins to stick to pot and smells fragrant, 8-10 minutes.
2. Add coconut milk and broth and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3 2/3 cups, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Add shrimp to sauce and simmer, stirring, until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in fish sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Ladle shrimp and sauce over rice.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato Gnocchi with Porcini Mushroom Broth

I will freely admit that gnocchi intimidates me. I've read too many horror stories of the difficulty of making gnocchi, so it remains one of the few dishes that seems worth it to me to eat out at an Italian restaurant. Over the break, I resolved to give it a try. The Hazan book has a nice long introduction and detailed steps, so perhaps it's time.

On Friday, I ran across a post on foodgawker that seemed too good to pass up. Gnocchi made of sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta with a morel mushroom broth and gorgonzola foam. The photos were beautiful. I decided this might be an easier first attempt with gnocchi as it didn't involve potatoes (and I think I was right). The gnocchi was good, but the mushroom broth was outstanding. I didn't have morel mushrooms, so I used porcini. The broth is simple to make, so I can see it being used with fresh fettuccine or dumplings. My only disappointment with this recipe was the gorgonzola foam. Some of these were likely user error (The pot I saved for it was too small. I started using the immersion blender so it foamed well before the cheese was melted and the milk heated. I removed it from heat, realized my error and tried to melt the cheese into the milk and transfer the dish to a larger bowl, but then I couldn't get it to re-foam. Making it again, I might just stick to a thicker gorgonzola cream sauce or skip it entirely as the broth and gnocchi are good enough to stand of their own.)

This recipe comes together surprisingly quickly. The gnocchi and foam can both be made while the broth is coming to a boil and simmering.

Other changes to the recipe besides the use of porcini and gorgonzola foam failure were using plain sun-dried tomatoes (without herbs) because they're so much cheaper. I added herbs to the mixture. I also messed up and added the flour into the food processor with the rest of the ingredients and then required extra flour when hand mixing the gnocchi dough. I might try it the proper way next time, but doing everything at once in the food processor did make life easier!

One Year Ago: Another sun-dried tomato recipe ... although what was I doing cooking with fresh cherry tomatoes in January?? Red Pesto Penne with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cheese

Sun-dried Tomato Gnocchi with Porcini Mushroom Broth (adapted from 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures)

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup flour
mushroom broth
2 cups stock (I used chicken)
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I assumed this meant light)
1 sprig rosemary
Gorgonzola foam (see cautionary notes above)
2 cups fat free milk (I used 2%)
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1. Make broth Grind the dried porcini mushrooms into a fine powder in a spice or a coffee grinder (I used a regular food processor). Place in a pot, along with stock. Bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add mirin, soy sauce and a sprig of rosemary. Continue to boil for a few minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour. Strain.
2. Make gnocchi In a food processor, mix ricotta cheese, egg, and sun-dried tomatoes to blend. Season with salt, pepper, and spices.
3. In a large bowl, stir the sun-dried tomato ricotta mixture with flour. Then knead the dough gently with your hands to form a ball. Sprinkle with a little more flour if necessary. Divide the dough in small balls. Roll each into a thin "rope". Slice into 1-inch pieces and flick them with a fork.
4. Boil water in a large pot to boil. Salt and add the gnocchi. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the gnocchi float to the top. Drain gently.
5. Make Gorgonzola foam (see caution notes above) Place milk and Gorgonzola cheese in a small saucepan over medium heat. Start whisking the mixture and continue to whisk fast until the foam starts to form at the top (can also use the immersion blender). Do not allow the milk-gorgonzola mixture to boil. After enough foam has formed, take the saucepan off the heat, an continue to whisk until the amount of foam has doubled.
6. Assemble Ladle the desired amount of porcini mushroom broth onto each plate. Arrange the gnocchi all around and carefully spoon the Gorgonzola foam on top of the gnocchi.

Vanilla Pudding

Saturday was a day of rest and relaxation, for catching up on reading and on cooking. By mid-afternoon, I was halfway through my book and craving something sweet (the clear downside of baking is you get used to sweets). Not really in the mood for something heavy, I aimlessly went to smitten kitchen for inspiration and found it instantly in a new post on vanilla pudding. I'm not sure I've ever had homemade pudding and I had no idea how it's even made. Pudding is (was more accurately now) something that comes in tiny plastic tubs when you're sick or small cardboard boxes when your grandma makes it. Surprisingly, pudding is fairly simple to make ... it just requires time and patience to set. I had everything on hand, so by dinner time, I had homemade pudding. Delicious!

Vanilla Pudding (from Smitten Kitchen)

2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided (I used 2%)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum

1. Bring 2 cups of the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
3. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup milk, a little at a time so lumps do not form, then whisk in the egg.
4. Once milk is boiling, very gradually add it to the cornstarch mixture in the bowl, whisking the whole time.
5. Return the mixture back to the saucepan, stirring constantly with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon.
6. Once it comes to a simmer, cook it for one minute longer (which will cook the cornstarch and egg fully and also thicken the mixture noticeably).
7. Stir in vanilla extract and rum and divide pudding among 6 dishes.
8. Chill in refrigerator until fully set, about 2 hours.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pad Thai

I ran across this recipe ages ago, but I couldn't locate tamarind, so I mentally filed it away for future use. Last summer, I ran across tamarind while browsing through Folie en Vrac on Mont Royal (a wonderful little grocery store!). For some reason, which I will regret, I didn't immediately make this recipe and instead I sat on it for months until a craving for pad thai hit. I didn't measure much at all while making this recipe, so I'm going to give you the proportions Use Real Butter shared. I made this only with shrimp, but you could do chicken or tofu instead ... or all three!

For the chili powder, you can use paprika or Thai chili powder. I used cayenne chili powder.

Pad Thai
(Chez Pim's recipe with a little help from Use Real Butter)
The recipe below makes 6 - 8 servings. I cut down on the main ingredients to only make 2 servings.

vegetable oil (for frying)
4 cloves minced garlic (about 1/2+ clove per serving)
sauce (see below) (about 1/4 cup per serving)
500g rice noodles
6 eggs (1 egg per serving)
450g shrimp, peeled and deveined (4-6 shrimp per serving)
1 cup ground peanuts (1-2 tbsps per serving)
3-4 cups bean sprouts (1/2 cup per serving)
1 cup garlic chives or green onions, chopped (2 tbsps per serving)
more sprouts (garnish)
fresh limes (garnish)

1/2 cup tamarind paste
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder (to taste)

1. Make the tamarind paste: If you have block tamarind, soak the block in 4 cups of hot water in a large bowl. Mesh the tamarind and water together and let sit until the water cool down enough not to burn your hands. Stick your hands into the bowl and work the tamarind and water together until the consistency is a bit looser than room-temperature ketchup. Add more warm water if needed. Then, strain the mixture to remove the pits and tough membranes from the tamarind pulp. Any extra can be kept in a glass jar in the fridge for quite some time.
2. Soak the noodles: Chez Pim's instructions for soaking the noodles are as follows: "Don’t soak until the noodle is soft enough to eat, or it will turn into mush in the wok. Just do it until it’s pliable and almost edible, like very al dente pasta, then drain well." I found lots of different advice online with some people saying always soak in cold water for an hour or so to others suggesting hot tap water. The box I had suggested 20 minutes with hot tap water. I ended up going with about 10 minutes of soaking in hot tap water based on taste.
3. Make sauce: Over a low flame, heat the tamarind, fish sauce, and brown sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the chili powder a teaspoon at a time to desired spiciness. Adjust levels of tamarind, fish sauce, and sugar to taste. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Turn off the heat (keep sauce warm).
4. Cook the pad thai 1-2 servings at a time. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in wok or large frying pan over high heat.
5. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sauce, and a pinch of garlic.
6. Stir around and add about 2 cups of loosely packed of rice noodles plus 1/4 cup of sauce to the pan and stir vigorously until the noodles soften. If it dries out, you can add some water.
7. Push the noodles to the side and crack an egg into the pan. Let the egg cook for 10 seconds and then toss the noodles and egg together in the pan.
8. Drop 4-6 shrimp, a couple of tablespoons of ground peanuts, a heaping tablespoon of turnip, and 1/2 cup of sprouts into the pan. Stir fry until the shrimp are just cooked (very fast – about a minute).
9. Toss in the green onions or garlic chives and remove from heat.
10. Serve hot with more sprouts, ground peanuts, and lime wedges for garnish.

Minestrina Tricolore - Potato Soup with Carrots and Celery

This week my office mate admonished me for only having one recipe posted so far this month. I reminded her that we were only 6 days into the month and I'd barely be home, so she forgave me, but I'll warn you now that I may be slow in posting this winter. We'll see!

I made this recipe before leaving for my mini-vacation, mainly because I wanted to use up as much of the potatoes, celery, and carrots that I could before leaving. Non-new year's resolution: waste less food. This soup is thinner than I prefer, but it's good. I froze it all before I left and it was nice to have some homemade soup to come back to.

One Year Ago: Spinach Quiche

Minestrina Tricolore - Potato Soup with Carrots and Celery (from Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

680g potatoes
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp onion chopped fine
3 tbsp carrot chopped fine
3 tbsp celery chopped fine
5 tbsp freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 cup milk
2 cups meat broth (I used chicken)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
crostini (I omitted, but it would be a nice addition)

1. Peel potatoes and cut into small pieces. Place in a soup pot with enough water to cover, put a lid on the pot, and turn heat to medium high. Boil until tender, then puree. Set aside.
2. Put butter, oil, and chopped onion in a skillet at medium heat. Saute until onion is a pale gold.
3. Add carrot and celery and cook about 2 minutes, stirring. (You want them to stay crisp.)
4. Transfer skillet contents to the pot with potatoes. Turn heat to medium and add parmesan, milk, and broth. Stir and cook for several minutes until fat is floating on the surface. Don't let the soup get thicker than cream. Salt to taste.
5. Remove from heat, add parsley, ladle into individual bowls. Serve with additional parmesan and crostini.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Greek-Style Penne with Lamb, Parsnips, Cinnamon, and Tomatoes

This is a recipe that sounds far fancier than it is. It probably could've benefited from a little more simmering, but it's satisfying and relatively quick once you finish chopping all of those parsnips. I substituted ground beef for the lamb because the Metro decided it didn't want to stock ground beef the day I was in the store and added some sliced kalamata olives and fresh mint to add to the Greek taste.

Happy New Year.

One year ago: Corn and Black Bean Tamale Pie

Greek-Style Penne with Lamb, Parsnips, Cinnamon, and Tomatoes (adapted from

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 very large onion, halved through root end, cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick 340g medium parsnips, peeled, cut on slight diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 garlic cloves, minced
225g ground lamb (or beef or veal)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 regular-sized cans diced tomatoes in juice
340g ounces penne
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Crumbled feta cheese
Sliced kalamata olives

1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and parsnips and sauté until slightly softened and deep golden brown around edges, about 9 minutes.
3. Add garlic; stir 1 minute.
4. Add lamb and sauté until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon, about 2 minutes.
5. Stir in cinnamon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
6. Add tomatoes with juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.
8. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid (I didn't need the extra liquid, but I was using canned whole Italian tomatoes). Return pasta to pot.
9. Add lamb mixture and enough cooking liquid to moisten; toss.
10. Add parsley and mint. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with feta and olives.