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Archive for November, 2014

Recently we watched Chef on video. It was a bit long, but the happy ending made it totally worth it and we resulted with The Cuban sandwich for dinner, which is always a win/win for me! We had most of the fixin’s from the Parrillada Mixta we created for the progressive dinner and some ordinary staples like, French stick, dill pickles, cheese and onion confit. It made for a very tasty meal.

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My baguette turned out rather thin but it still had that delicious chewy texture that French baguette should have.

Cubano (adapted from Chef, the movie)

Makes 4 small sandwiches (about 8-10 cm or 3-4″ long)

Ingredients:

  • 4 smallish portions of baguette
  • 4 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 4 tbsp onion confit
  • thinly sliced leftover steak, to cover one side of bread
  • thinly sliced Argentine Chorizo, to cover one half of bread
  • 8 thinly sliced pieces of cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
  • 4-6 thinly sliced dill pickles (depending on the size of the pickle)
  • Butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat your double sided grill (like a panini) until smoking hot.
  2. Slice each baguette in half and reserve the top half.
  3. On the bottom half, spread 1 tbsp of onion confit on each slice.
  4. Layer the thinly sliced meat, then sausage, then dill pickles and lastly the cheese.
  5. On the top half, smear 1 tbsp yellow mustard on each slice.
  6. Top the sandwich.
  7. Grill the sandwich so that it’s heated all the way through and the cheese has melted. Eat immediately.
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Perfectly grilled so that meat is hot, the cheese is melted and the bread is delicious.

Notes:

  • For the baguette, I used this recipe. It was very labour and time intensive but the result of the texture was perfect!
  • For the onion confit, I used this tried and true recipe.
  • The meat is generally slow cooked with a variety of spices and the onion confit is not a usual component of a Cubano, so that’s why I called it ‘adapted’
  • Even though the sandwiches were small, they were very filling and I would say one would have done us just fine. Yes, we’re pigs.

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The long one’s are mild and the short one’s are hot!

Remember the group of neighbours with whom we share a progressive dinner from time to time? Well, we’ve had two such dinners since my last post about them, one was at the cottage of one of the neighbours and the other was just a couple of weeks ago back in the city. The one at the cottage had a European theme and because we had it at the cottage, we left it pretty loose for interpretation and it was fantastic! We were in charge of the hors d’œuvres and appetizers and because it was held dock-side we did an antipasto platter with lots of meat, cheese and roasted vegetables. We snacked on them for a few hours while the Bœuff Bourguignon simmered in the kitchen. For dessert, the other neighbour had the most incredible S’mores with belgian chocolate bars and decadent chocolate chip cookies (instead of graham crackers) by the fire pit. We slipped in dessert just before the skies opened and the rain poured and poured!

The most recent progressive dinner had Latin America as the theme and boy did it ROCK! We started with Cassava and cheese fritters, delicious empanadas and of course, nachos with guacamole and salsa. JT and I had the main and we went all out. I wanted Argentinian because I just love how they adore their meat! I made home-made Argentine Chorizo, we grilled steaks AND ribs! (OK, I confess, I just really wanted to make sausage and that’s why I picked this platter!) We also roasted small yellow potatoes (we were going to have Fried Papas Criollas but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it) and stir-fried a variety of coloured peppers; I even caramelized some onions in case someone wanted to eat Choripan (chorizo in french bread with caramelized onions and peppers) and of course we had Chimichurri sauce (both hot and not!). We had WAY too much food and now we’re enjoying variations of this feast for lunches, dinners and snacks! Dessert was a very tasty and refreshing lime ice cream.

The Argentine Chorizo sausage recipe is slightly different than other Latin American recipes in that it contains nutmeg; it’s not a lot but it does give it a slightly different flavour. I used this recipe with some minor alterations. What I didn’t skimp on was the garlic, it seems like a lot, but it’s not and it’s totally worth it! I made a sweet version and a hot version (sweet was longer and hot were the short ones) and I think both went over excellent. Even though I did use some pork belly, it was still a little dry but more than a couple of people said they preferred it to a greasy sausage. I know I will experiment with other flavours in the near future (like spinach, chicken and feta for example!)

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We grilled steaks, ribs and home-made sausages!

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It was a meat-lovers heaven.

Argentine Chorizo

Makes about 6 mild Chorizo (15 cm or 6″ long) and about 10 hot Chorizo (8 cm or 3″ long)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine (we used this wine)
  • 1 entire head of garlic
  • 5 whole cloves, crushed
  • hog casings
  • 1 kg of pork
  • 400 g of beef
  • 150 g pork belly
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp (heaping) nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp hot chilli pepper flakes (reserve for hot portion)

Directions:

  1. On low heat, gently boil the wine with the whole head of garlic and crushed garlic for 15 to 20 minutes and allow to cool. Strain and reserve the liquid (discard the garlic) should be about 1/2-3/4 cup.
  2. Cut the pork, beef and pork belly into small cubes and pass through the meat grinder set on coarse grind. Mix meat with hands until well blended.
  3. Pour the cooled wine over meat mixture and mix thoroughly. Combine all of the spices together with the exception of the hot chilli pepper flakes and sprinkle over meat mixture. Add the finely chopped garlic and mix into meat well. Divide the meat into two equal portions and set one portion aside. Over the second portion, sprinkle the hot chilli pepper flakes and mix well with hands. Refrigerate both hot and mild sausage meats overnight to allow flavours to develope and mature.
  4. Prepare your sausage casing by rinsing in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Any unused portions may be resalted with seasalt and frozen for future use.
  5. Untangle a reasonable portion of the casing and feed it onto the sausage stuffer attachment, tie a knot at the end. Then in small portions, slowly feed the meat mixture through the sausage stuffer into the casing making sure that it’s relatively evenly filled (it should really fill on its own). Tie off the other end and twist into portion sizes. Poke a lot of small holes throughout the sausage to allow any air bubbles to dissipate (this step will also prevent the sausage from bursting open when grilling). Allow the sausage rest in the refrigerator uncovered for 2- 3 days before cooking or freezing. Once the casing has time to dry out, you should be able to cut the sausages into individual pieces without unravelling the casing.
  6. Grill on a charcoal grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes or until internal temperature is 71° C or 160° F. Serve hot off the grill with french stick and mustard.
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This is the natural casing. Someone on-line said it smelled really bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to smell it.

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The meat fills into the casing relatively easily. In fact, you hardly need to help it.

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This is a really long sausage.

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This is the sausage twisted into portions. I made two sizes so I could easily tell which one was hot. As the sausage dries in the fridge, the twisted ends will also dry out and be strong enough to cut through without it unravelling..

Notes:

  • Whenever I grind meat, I always prepare a medium-sized bowl which I submerged in an ice bath to ensure the meat remains cool as I work it through the grinder. My hands are always cold, so I don’t worry about mixing the meat but if your hands are hot, you may wish to use a wooden spoon.
  • To gage how much casing you’ll need, just tell the butcher how much meat you have, I had about 2 kg (4.4 lb) and he portioned out the casings which ended up to be about 2X too much. He suggested I could salt it and freeze it for next time. Casing are not expensive.

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Remember my dear friend Angela invited me to a taping of the Canadian lifestyle show called Steven & Chris about a month ago? Well, she kindly invited me to another one in October and you’ll never guess who the special guest was! Jamie Oliver! He is as friendly and charming as you would imagine. They had a little question session during the show and my friend Angela had an on-camera question about how he balances his family life with such a busy schedule and his answer was quite surprising; he gave all the credit to the three ladies who manage his life and he even went as far as to say that he just shows up where-ever he is supposed to be! He is very humble but cheeky at the same time. Someone asked how long it takes him to write a cookbook and he said he reserves a year to do it during which he does nothing else. We were thoroughly entertained and as a super bonus, we received his new cookbook Jamie’s Comfort Food as a gift!

Jamie Oliver clowning around.

Jamie Oliver clowning around. Who would have thought that I’d be working in that very kitchen a few weeks later?

Here are a few pics of our very cool time watching the show being taped at the CBC building downtown. By the way, my food styling segment will air Thursday, November 20th at 2pm on CBC.

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Jamie made a stuffed bun recipe from the book and he handed out samples to a few lucky people~

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Getting ready for the questions.

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A sneaky camera man was looking at a woman’s phone as she was texting during a break.

A Review of Jamie’s Comfort Food. Scrumptious, Happy, Classics: 

The book is a beautiful collection of 115 world-wide comfort foods with Jamie’s usual fresh spin on it. It’s a hard-cover, perfect bound book, wrapped in orange fabric with lay flat binding which doesn’t exactly lay flat. The fabric may not have been the best choice for a cookbook. The recipes are divided into slightly less obvious chapters, such as Nostalgia, Good Mood Foods and Ritual to name a few, but the index at the end is alphabetical and it is easy to find what you are looking for. The recipes are traditionally laid out with the instructions in sentence form. I left my cookbook on the dining table to avoid getting it messy in the kitchen and it was difficult to keep track of where I left off in the instructions, I prefer numbered instructions. I found an error in the Chicken Tikka Masala recipe where three ingredients were listed as part of the marinade but half should have been reserved for the sauce (which was listed separately). Usually ingredients listed that are used in two preparations in a recipe are listed as “xxx, divided”. It won’t stop me from making a few other recipes, but I’ll be sure to proofread first.  A real bonus of this book is that every recipe shows the calorie count per serving and at the end of the book, each one has nutritional facts for Calories, Fat, Saturated Fats, Carbs and Sugar so that you may make informed decisions when deciding to make a recipe. This book is definitely gift-worthy and for $37.99 Canadian is quite reasonable considering every recipe has at least one beautiful photo but more like a few. As well, there are a few lovely family photos and some of Jamie cooking dispersed throughout the book, so it’s fun to flip through while sipping on a glass of wine, even if you don’t intend to make anything from it.

During our cottage closing weekend in early October, I took the cookbook and all the ingredients and to make Jamie’s Chicken Tikka Masala! What a dish, full of flavour and all of those warm, comforting spices you would associate with Indian cuisine. JT heard Jamie in a CBC interview saying that Chicken Tikka Masala is now rivaling Fish and Chips as the most popular food in Britain right now. It’s no wonder, this Chicken Tikka Masala totally rocks and I urge you to make it. The nutritional facts for this recipe read a little worse than I prefer at 415 calories, 21 g of fat, 10.8 of which are saturated per serving, so I modified the recipe to make it a wee bit healthier, for the real deal, please click here or purchase Jamie’s book.

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I made the dish again at home, it was equally as good the second time around!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 8.

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp each, sweet paprika, smoked paprika and garam masala (see recipe below)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 6 cloves of garlic, grated finely
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 each red and green chilies thickly sliced
  • 800 g boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions for the marinade:

  1. Heat the dry spices in a frying pan until you can smell them. Put into a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Combine all of the ingredient up to and including the yogurt. Mix well.
  3. Cut the chicken breasts into similarly sized chunks about 2-3 cm (1 inch) cubbed.
  4. Rub the marinade into the chicken cubes and then string them onto a meat skewer alternating themwith a thickly sliced chili. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove excess marinade and reserve in the refrigerator. Grill chicken until nice and “golden and gnarly on all sides”*

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 2 sweet onions, sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of cilantro stalks, chopped finely (reserve leaves for garnish)
  • 1 tsp each, sweet paprika, smoked paprika and garam masala (see recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • 500 mL chopped tomatoes (canned is fine, I used San Marino)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk (or 2 tbsp coconut milk powder and 1/2 cup water)
  • Remainder of the marinade after you have cooked the chicken.

Directions for the Sauce:

  1. Dissolve the bouillon cube in about 1 cup of boiling water.
  2. In a small splash of olive oil or cooking spray, cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic, the dry spices and stir until you can smell them then add the ground almonds and toast lightly. Add the cilantro stalks and cook for a few minutes. Add the dissolved bouillon cube and coconut milk and cook for a further 20 minutes. Using a stick blender, blend this smooth then add the chopped tomatoes and the left over marinade and simmer for 20 more minutes.
  3. Serve with home-made Naan or Basmati rice.

WARNING: You’d best portion this dish out for left-overs before serving because you won’t be able to stop eating. It’s that good!

Garam Masala (recipe from HeartSmart flavours of India by Krishna Jamal, 1998)

  • 4 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • Directions for the Garam Masala:

    1. When ready to use in a recipe, heat a large heavy bottomed, unoiled skillet, heat combined spices until fragrant. Allow to cool before use. Store in a cool, dry place.
    2. Notes:

      • Left overs are delicious spread onto a fajita shell and dotted with bocconcini cheese, topped with another fajita shell and grilled like a quesadilla. Serve with a cucumber mint raita.
      • Although there seems to be a lot of garlic, it’s not overly garlicy, so definitely don’t skimp.

      chixtikmasalanutfacts

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      This is the cottage version of the dish. Very tasty indeed.

      ChickenTikkaMasala2_Blog Here we go, bad winter lighting.[/caption

      *from the cookbook

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I have a fatalistic attitude about life, everything happens for a reason, it’s not luck, it was meant to happen that way. During the Second World War in Budapest, my grandmother, Mom and Mom’s older sister were going to spend a lazy Sunday morning at home instead of going to church, when at the last minute, my grandmother decided that they would go and they scrambled out the door. Hours later they returned to find that their apartment building had been levelled by a bomb and they were spared. Fate: just not their time. During that same war, my grandmother had made arrangements to take the girls by train to the countryside to visit her sisters. They were all packed, on their way and just as they approached the platform my grandmother stopped in her tracks and announced that they would not go and they turned back to their apartment. Later that day that train was also a casualty of the war and everyone parished. Fate: again it just wasn’t their time.
Years ago, my little brother begged and begged my parents to get a Citizen Band Radio, they finally relented my brother set up his ‘base’. I dabbled with it from time to time and I ended up speaking to a lovely young man who’s handle was Blue Magic. Yup, you guessed it, that was JT. Fate: we were meant to meet and be together.
Do you remember that about a month or so ago my dear friend Angela (the lovely lady who puts on those fab themed dinner parties) invited me to a Steven & Chris show? Well, last week I actually worked, food styled for that very show! Yes indeed! (do you see it? It’s Fate). It’s for an upcoming show so I’ll link to it when it airs. I cooked sticky Asian spiced sticky ribs, twice baked stuffed potatoes and some chocolate squares. I also got to meet Steven & Chris! Steven actually recognized me from when I was I in the audience! Can you believe it? They tape two shows per day with about 100 people in the audience for each show! He gave me a big hug. It was an amazing experience and I’m so happy to tell you that the guys are sweet and kind, the crew is professional, courteous and super friendly. I left my cards all around so I’m hoping I’ll be called again.

A few months ago, my niece Laura passed the Bar and became a lawyer, the first in our family! We are all so proud of her. We invited them (Laura and beau) over for a celebration dinner and she asked that I cook WW friendly. Dessert can be challenging so when I saw Sissi’s fabulous plum tart recipe, I knew it was going to be the celebration dessert. Plus, I was able to get wonderful blue plums at a Farmers Market on the way home from the cottage (you see that that is fate too, didn’t you?). Thank you Sissi, I served it with sweetened Greek yogurt and it was delicious and beautiful too.

 

Plum Tart

Makes 1 tart about 20 cm or 8 inches in diametre.

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These are delicious locally grown plums.

Ingredients:

  • 450 g blue plums
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 3 tbsp oatmeal
  • 3 Phyllo pastry sheets
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C or 350°F
  2. Prepare a small 20 cm or 8 inch spring form pan by placing a circle of parchment on the bottom that comes up over the sides. Brush parchment with olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Cut each plum in half and remove the stone. Continue until all the plums are done.
  4. Lay all three phyllo sheets in front of you. Brush the top one with the melted butter. Fold in each corner into the centre and then fold in between each corner to make a circle.Repeat brushing and folding the other two sheets around the first one.
  5. Lay the phyllo bundle into the bottom of the spring form pan so the sides come up about 2.5cm or 1 inch. It should be crinkly, it’s prettier that way.
  6. Sprinkle half of the sugar and the oatmeal on the pastry bottom. Begin to lay the plums in a circular fashion. When complete, sprinkle with remain sugar.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until plums a fork tender. If the sides are baking too quickly, cover sides with foil.
  8. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top.
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The pastry crisps up very nicely.

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It’s quite a lovely treat.

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Notes:

  • I added the oatmeal to help absorb any liquid the plums might release during baking.
  • As Sissi mentioned, you may increase or decrease the sugar to your taste.
  • This tart would be gorgeous using any stone fruit like nectarines or even sliced peaches.
  • I’m excited to try a savoury version next.

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