Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Asian Salmon with Broccoli and Snap Peas

This week at the grocery store I bought my very first frozen fish. It was a 4 pack of salmon steaks for 4.99$ ... much, MUCH better priced than buying fresh at $19.00 for the same amount (eeeeeeep!). I think that the choice was obvious! This is a really tasty, zippy little dish that, if you're a salmon lover, you've got to try. Remember when you're steaming your veggies not to over do em' because you want those guys to keep their crunch factor. I thought that the water chestnuts were a really nice touch. If you're wondering what these are, they're the small, round little white guys in the picture. Water chestnuts are not actually nuts at all, but rather aquatic vegetables that grow in muddy marshes. They're very popular in Chinese dishes and you can buy them in most grocery stores. They come in small cans similar to tuna and cost under a dollar. Bon appétit!

serves 2
a large handful of broccolini or broccoli rabe
1 x 8-oz can of water chestnuts
a large handful of sugar snap peas
2 salmon fillets, skin on, scaled and bones removed

For the sauce:
a thumb-sized piece of ginger root
1 clove of garlic
1/2 a fresh red chile
1 scallion
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon

1. Get rice going on the stove. Next, prepare your dressing - peel and grate the ginger and thinly the clove of garlic into a small bowl. Finely slice your chili and scallion and add them to the bowl with the soy sauce and olive oil. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into the bowl. Mix together with a spoon and set aside (I blended mine with a hand blender for a really nice, smooth effect).   

2. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When oil is ready, add fish to pan. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. The fish will probably only take about 5 minutes to cook. Try not overcook it or it can get dry and fall-aparty. When it's finished cooking, turn the heat down low until ready to serve.

3. While the fish is cooking, steam your veggies. If you have a steamer basket, add water to a saucepan just below the level of the basket. If you don't have a steamer, a metal colander in a pot will work just as well - simply add water about half way up the saucepan and lay the colander over the water (veggies should not be in the water, but rather on top of it). Put water on high heat to boil. Trim the ends off the broccolini, drain water chestnuts and washed sugar snap peas and add to steamer. Cover with aluminum foil and scrunch tightly around the edges to seal the steam in. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

Serve your salmon:
4. Cover your plate with rice. Next, add the cooked salmon, then the broccoli and snap peas, followed by the water chestnuts. Give the dressing a quick stir and drizzle it over the top. Serve with the remaining lemon half, cut into wedges, for squeezing over top. Enjoy!

- recipe cred to Jamie Oliver

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mango Chutney Brie Burgers

One of Jerms' and I's most favourite things to do on a Sunday night is to cook up some homemade burgers, grab some of the most saltiest and vinegaryist chips we can find and sit down to an evening of 'dinner and a movie'. Last night I was finally able to show him my most favourite movie from growing up, Stand By Me (special shout out to you special ladies who also love SBM and a good S&V chip).

The idea for this particular burger sprang forth from a fridge purge and was DELICIOUS. How can you really go wrong with brie on anything? I mean really?
I thought that I would share a few ideas for some pretty easy ways to clean up your burgers. Hamburgers do have a pretty bad rap for being unhealthy, but that's really not true. What makes them 'junk' food is buying them from 'junk' restaurants.  First thing I always recommend is: make your own. It is not at all hard to make your own hamburgers and you will save yourself a boatload of money, flavour and calories if you're counting. There are lots of recipes online for making your own burgers with mixed spices, egg, crackers/bread crumbs etc. but we prefer just simple seasoned hamburger meat.

A couple of other ideas for cleaning up your burgers:
- choose lean ground beef as much as possible
- cut the mayo and butter and serve up with a big plate of greens
- whole wheat buns
- cooking in a skillet is the easiest way to make your burgers, but I recommend either bar-b-que'ing or broiling them because the fat either drops through on to the coals and produces an amazing smoky flavour on a grill or drops in to a drip tray under a broiler.

Bon appétit!

To make your own burgers:
1lb/500g ground sirloin
Salt and pepper to season (or better yet, Adobo)
Brie Cheese
Mango Chutney
Red onion
Whole wheat buns

1. Evenly divide meat into 4 portions. DO NOT OVERWORK YOUR MEAT. Trust me. Try to handle it as little as possible. This will prevent your burgers from getting tough and gritty and this way they will stay nice and moist. With a light touch, gently form each one into a ball, then shape into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. With thumb, make a 1/4-inch-deep indentation in the center of each (this prevents burgers from getting rounded tops during grilling). Transfer to a plate; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 1 day.

2. Heat grill to high (it should be difficult to hold your hand above the grates). Moisten a folded paper towel with vegetable oil; grasp with tongs, and quickly wipe over the grates.

3. Generously season patties on both sides with salt, pepper and Adobo. Place patties on grill; cover, and cook to desired doneness, 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

4. Just before the burgers are ready, toast the inside of the buns under a broiler or over a grill or in a toaster.

5. Serve up your burgers the way you like them. As I'm suggesting in this post, with a slice of brie cheese, topped with mango chutney and some red onion and greens. Mmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicken Korma Curry

 I think that it's fair to say that Jeremy and I are on a great, big curry cooking adventure.  We are currently cooking our way through Jamie Oliver's chapter on "Easy Curries" from Food Revolution. There is definitely a higher level of complexity with the spice combinations and the instructions for how to grind and toast them, so these recipes are not for the faint of heart.  I'm learning that a true curry dish does not use "curry powder" but rather has you dive in to toasting and mixing various different spices to make your own 'curry' or, 'mixture'.  You may not have all of the necessary ingredients on hand to make your own paste, but, if you are keen to start making your own, I highly recommend you seek them out. If you want to start easy, just pick up some Korma or mild curry paste, such as Patak's.  I've listed the recipe for making your own paste first, followed by the recipe for the dish itself. Bon appétit!

Straight from the cookbook: 
"This is a much-loved curry. It's got a slightly milder, creamier taste than other curries, which makes it a great one for kids to try. Because I love fresh chillies I've added one here, but if you want to keep the flavours nice and mild, feel free to leave it out. Thigh meat is cheaper and tastier than breast meat, so you can use better-quality chicken if price is an issue. But if you prefer breast meat, use that instead. Kormas are also delicious made with shrimp."

* Ingredients for making your own Chicken Korma PASTE
2 cloves garlic / a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger / 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper / 1 tsp. garam masala / 1/2 tsp. sea salt / 2 tbs. peanut oil / 1 tbs. tomato paste / 2 fresh green chillies (try your chili to test how hot it is!) / 3 tbs. unsweetened shredded coconut / 2 tbs. almond flour / a small bunch of fresh cilantro
Spices for toasting: 2 tsp. cumin seeds (we used plain cumin) / 1 tsp. coriander seeds  

Directions: "toast" your cumin and coriander seeds by placing them in a small frying pan and cooking on medium for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Then throw everything in to a food processor and pulse. Easy!

Ingredients for making your Chicken Korma DISH:
800g skinless and boneless chicken thighs or breasts, preferably free-range or organic
2 medium onions
1 fresh green chilli, optional
Patak's Korma paste is a good
substitute for making your own 
thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
1 can of chickpeas
groundnut or vegetable oil
knob of butter
½ x 290g jar of Pataks korma curry paste (or make your own or listed above)*
1 can of coconut milk
small handful flaked almonds plus extra for serving
2 heaped tbsp shredded coconut
sea salt and frshly ground black pepper
natural yogurt (for serving)
1 lemon

Directions for making your Chicken Korma DISH:
1. Cut the chicken into 1" cubes. Peel, half and thinly slice the onion. Peel and finely mince the ginger. Seed and thinly slice the chili if using. Clean and stem the cilantro, reserving the leaves for service, and chopping the stems very finely for inclusion in the curry.

2. Put a large saute pan on high heat and add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken (in batches if necessary so that you don't overcrowd the pan), season with salt and pepper, and cook until nicely browned on all sides, remove from the pan and reserve. Dump out any excess fat, then add the onion, ginger, cilantro stems, and chili (if using) to the pan with the butter, and cook until golden in color, about 8-10 minutes.

3. Add the curry paste, coconut milk, chick peas, half of the almonds, shredded coconut and chicken to the pan. Add about a 1/2 can worth of water to the mix to loosen it a little. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about 1/2 hour. Check for seasoning before serving, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

4. Serve with some nice fluffy rice and/or naan, topped with a dollop of yogurt, some sliced almonds, and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves. Pass wedges of lemon at the table to squeeze over the top if you like.

- recipe cred to Jamie Oliver

Lighter Fare on Kitchen Favourites

I thought that I would pass along my Everyday Food email link from today because I thought that many of you would be keen to read up on their suggestions for lightening up some classic cold-weather comfort foods. They have a great slideshow style recipe collection of a bunch of cleaned up dishes like beef tacos, lasagna, buttermilk-baked chicken, and sloppy joes (a dish which I recently found myself trying to describe to an Iranian friend of mine!). Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Strawberry Banana Smoothies - Yummo.

 Mmmmmmmmmmm smoothies. What a delicious way to get a ton of fruit in one, easy serving. I am definitely on the smoothie bandwagon and highly recommend it for folks that have trouble getting their daily servings of fruit (and dairy for that matter). An easy way to make smoothies is to invest in a 'magic bullet' style blender that lets you prepare, blend and drink all of your ingredients in one container.  I find that I'm much more motivated to prepare a smoothie if I don't have to lug out the big blender and have to wash the thing afterwards.

A quick tip: buy fruit when it's on sale and freeze it in a big zip-lock freezer bag. Fresh fruit like strawberries, blackberries, mango, melon, pineapple and blueberries can all be bought ahead and frozen. To make your life much easier, DO NOT WASH THE FRUIT before you freeze it. This will prevent the fruit from sticking together (berries are especially prone to chunking together). You can prepare melon balls, slices of peaches or chunks of pineapple in the same way as the bacon I did up a few posts ago. Toss all your fruit in the same freezer bag and you've got fresh, frozen mixed fruit for future smoothies. Just be sure to wash your fruit before you blend it. So easy. So yummy. Bon appétit!

1 banana
5-6 large frozen strawberries
1 tsp. honey
1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
1 cup of milk

Directions: blend and enjoy!

Baked Creamy Leeks with Pork Chops and Greens

I have been looking forward to trying these baked creamy leeks for a little while now. I love a good leek. Who doesn't?  I decided to pair them with a nice hearty pork chop and side salad with grapes and feta cheese. Of interest is that, according to my doctor and contrary to all of the TV commercials, pork is actually considered a RED meat. Dr. Eveleigh says that red meat = animals on all fours whereas white meat = animals that fly and swim. According to our Canadian Food Guide, we should only be eating red meat about once a week. I was really surprised by this! Instead, we're encouraged to eat tofu, lentils, beans and other alternatives.  For this week though, on with the pork chops...

We like a pretty non-fuss kind of pork chop - just throw em' in the pan with a dab of olive oil and a sprinkle of Adobo seasoning and you're all set to go. I know that I have blogged about Adobo seasoning before, but if you're new, I'm quite happy to share one of my favourite cooking secrets with you. "Adobo" is Spanish for 'sauce' or 'marinade' but it is also a brand name by Goya for an all-purpose seasoning that you can buy at most grocery stores. It's delicious, easy, can be thrown on anything and comes highly recommended by yours truly. 

Final comments on the leeks: they were delicious. Super creamy, bold tastes and a really elegant side dish. I used some leftover raclette cheese instead of mozzarella so the dish was pretty darn intense. If you like strong tasting cheese, go for it! If not, stick with a milder cheese as suggested. Bon appetit! 

Directions for the baked leeks:
3 medium leeks, trimmed, washed, and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
some fresh thyme, if you have some, the leaves off one sprig, chopped
1 cup grated Mozzarella or Cheddar cheese, divided (I used raclette cheese instead as had some leftover)
3/4 cup half and half or full cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.

2. To prepare the leeks, cut the really dark green tops off of them. Then slice in halfway lengthwise not quite to the root end. Then turn and slice lengthwise again (so you’ve sliced them in quarters, but they’re all still attached at the root). Wash under running water to remove any dirt and grit. Then slice crosswise so you end up with a rough dice. (Alternately, you can slice off the root end, chop them up and rinse really well in a colander.)

3. Heat a large pan over medium high heat and add the butter and oil. Add the garlic and cook just a minute and then add the leeks and thyme. . Stir and cook for about 10 minutes until the leaks have softened up a bit. Salt and pepper the leeks to taste, then stir half the cheese and the half and half. Mix it together and transfer to a small baking dish.

4. Top with the rest of the cheese and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
Tada! Final product: Baked Creamy Leeks