Saturday, 12 December 2015

Gone to the Grocery store

I'm taking some time off over the holidays.  See you in the new year!


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Grilled Romaine Heart, bacon and blue cheese Finger Salad



This is a great "Man's salad" to serve guys that won't eat salads. Sell them on the bacon and blue cheese.  Plus, you get to grill lettuce.  How crazy is that!

I always see these packages of romaine heart lettuce in the store and think "Who's eating this much caesar salad?"  So I started looking into what else you can use this stuff for.  This recipe is based on one I found at Saveur.com and it was an instant classic.

Ingredients:

6 strips Bacon
5 Romaine lettuce hearts
4 oz Blue Cheese
5 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Ground Black Pepper and Salt to taste

Directions:

The Bacon:

  • Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, turning once for about 10 minutes. Until it's crispy and the fat is rendered.  Keep about 2 Tbsp of this "drippings" (fat) for later.
  • Remove the bacon to a plate to cool.  Once cool, crumble it into small pieces.  
  • Place the drippings in a small bowl and add the 2 tbsp Olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk until smooth and set aside for later...


Prep the lettuce: 

  • Cut a thin slice of the root end to remove any brown parts; but not too much as you want the lettuce to stay together.
  • Slice the lettuce in half length wise.  Remove any lose leaves.  It is preferable to have a nice tight lettuce heart.
  • I like to drizzle olive oil over the lettuce as this point.  Not too much (unless you are from the Mediterranean).
Now to the BBQ:

  • Heat your BBQ up beyond medium heat.  Oil the grill with something like grape seed oil.  
  • Place the lettuce cut side down on the grill until slightly charred and then turn over.  The leaves will be slightly wilted, about 3-4 minutes depending on heat.  Watch it close.
  • Remove from grill and place on a serving tray with cut side up (this will catch all the goodness to come!)
  • Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the dripping dressing, and crumble the blue cheese and bacon of the top.




This makes a great appy or side salad to many dishes.  You can pick it up to eat or use a knife and fork.

Personally anytime you get to grill something that you never would have thought to grill its awesome. Remember that blue cheese goes great with Port.  Maybe have a desert that brings in a hint of blue cheese and serve a glass of Port.  Oh Ya!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Wild Boar Sausage Pasta



Sometimes you see something and you say " I just gotta have that!!"
Walking through the Cioffis butcher shop on Hastings near Boundary Road I saw these Wild Boar Sausages in the freezer section.  I didn't know what I was going to do with them but I'd think of something.  I've had Wild Boar Prosciutto before and it was so flavourful I had to try these sausages.  I blame my fascination with wild boar on my grade 7 English teacher that made us read "The Lord of the Flies."

Feeds about 4 - 6, takes about an hour.

Ingredients

1 lb wild boar sausages
1 1/2 lbs fresh kale
4 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups tomato puree (blend a large can of crushed tomatoes)
1/2 cup dry red wine
ground salt and pepper
2 cups pasta ( I use Truroots Organic Gluten-Free Penne Pasta from Costco)
Crushed red chilli flakes to taste

Directions



  • Peel casings off sausages. Break into small pieces,
  • Trim heavy stems from kale and keep the leaves, rinse.  Chop kale leaves


  • Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 4 -5 quart heavy skillet, salute pan or casserole. 
  • Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring over medium heat until softened.
  • Add sausages and cook, stirring, until they begin to brown.

  • Add about 1/3 of the kale and when it has wilted, continue adding kale until all has wilted.

starting to wilt the kale

  • Stir in tomato puree and wine
  • Simmer over low heat about 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper, cover and continue simmering.


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente (follow package instructions) about 8 minutes.
  • Drain well and add to kale mixture.
  • Add remaining olive oil and fold ingredients together
  • Add chili flakes and more salt if needed, Stir a little more 
  • Serve and yum it up!


It was a quick throw together on a Tuesday night after work for this meal.  The kale was from the garden, I took the sausage out of the freezer in the morning and it was go time when we got home.  We had a nice Pinot Noir with this and it really set it off right, especially for a Tuesday night!  No flies to "Lord" over with this recipe!

This recipe was based on pasta with wild boar sausage and kale from the New York Times Cooking section.  Thank you.



Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Blackened Catfish with Peppers






My first experience with catfish was catching one while fishing for pickerel.  I landed this crazy looking fish with smooth milky black skin and whiskers.  I was probably 8 years old and fishing from shore.  I ran and showed my Dad and asked what it was.  He gave a great belly laugh and said "you caught a catfish, I didn't know there were any in this lake."
Can we eat it? I asked.
"Sure can.  They are really good eating"

So I ran into the cottage to show my Mom that I caught this cool fish.  She jumped and pointed at me..."Get that ugly fish out of MY kitchen!"  Needless to say I was disappointed.  But my Dad and I cleaned it outside and fried it up.  I was sold!  It is a delicate white flesh that was delicious. Since then on principle I order catfish whenever I see it on a menu and am virtually never disappointed.

I was raised in Southern Ontario and in the summers lived in a cottage on a lake.  My Mom's reaction is probably partly my fault.  I would bring frogs and snakes home in my pockets and sometimes she'd find turtles in my closet.

My wife Lesli and I took a holiday in Florida and when we were in the grocery store I saw catfish fillets.  First time for everything.  I knew I had to try my hand at cooking it again.  This is the recipe that I have worked out over the years.



Catfish
3-4 catfish fillets
The rule of thumb is that smaller fillets are better than big ones.  In Vancouver they are all medium to small.  I only saw big ones in Florida.

Marinade
Marinade 1/2 hour or more
1/4 cup white wine
1tbsp olive oil
salt / pepper to taste
2 -3 whole lime juice (no lemon)
( I used to use 1 whole lemon juiced and 1 whole lime juiced)
3-4 cloves garlic pressed

Peppers
4 different coloured peppers cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch strips 
Grape seed oil or olive oil 
3-4 cloves garlic pressed
1-2 tsp crushed hot red pepper  seeds
2 shallots cut fine

Directions


  • Cook the peppers first.  Remove the peppers after finished cooking.  Fry fish in same pan as peppers for approximately 5 minutes a side.
  • Warm oil, with shallots and garlic then slowly satay until cooked.  20-40 minutes.
Add garlic and shallots to warm oil
Slightly caramelize Shallots 





















  • Put oil in large cast iron pan with sliced shallots and 3 cloves of pressed garlic.  Saute until starting to caramelise on medium heat.  About5-8 minutes.
Slice Peppers thin
A Full Pan of Peppers!





















  • Then add sliced peppers and another tbsp of oil.  Add the Turn the heat down to medium-low and saute slowly for about 30-45 minutes until soft and the pan is getting blackened but not so hot that it is burning or smoking.  Turn the pan down lower if needed, it will just take a little longer- this part really can't be rushed.
Take it Slow
Blackened Build up of Goodness





















  • I start the rice side dish while the peppers are cooking because this can take 20+ minutes.  Long Grain & Wild Rice with Mushrooms is our favourite with this recipe.  Hey, I don't have to make Fancy Pants things every time :)
  • Take the pepper out and put them on plates and place in a warmed oven to keep warm.
Flaky Side Down First
Frying 2nd Side for 5 minutes






















  • Turn the heat up on the pan to medium.  Arrange the catfish in the pan with the flaky side down first. You will see the marinate drip of the fish and bubble and blacken as it cooks.  Fry for 5 minutes then flip over and cook another 5 minutes.  DON'T over cook!  It will look opaque when cook and not clear.  If its over cooked it will get chewy- yuck!
  • Plate the catfish and rice on the warm plates with the peppers.  The rice is nice because the peppers can be very hot sometimes depending on the amount of crushed red pepper seeds you use.


Even if you never make catfish at home, do yourself a favour and order it at a restaurant.  You will be thankful.  Just check to see if the cook has frogs or snakes in their pockets, then again, live on the wild side!

















Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Chanterelle Mushroom & Caramelized Shallot Risotto


Ever since reading about Stuart Woods' character Stone Barrington making risotto I have wanted to try making this dish.  It sounded exotic and difficult to make and he always... got some if you know what I mean.  Fingers crossed.

Once again I followed the instructions like a good boy and was rewarded.  I recommend you do the same.  I got this recipe from Adventures in Cooking, check out her amazing photos too. 


Here is a link to some things to be aware of when cooking risotto and mistakes to avoid.
Expensive tasty mushrooms


Ingredients


5 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chopped chanterelles (can substitute button mushrooms) 
[I used 3 cups chanterelles and 1 cup brown button]
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2/3 cup grated gruyere
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper





Mushroom Risotto and Italian Seasoned Tenderloin


  • First caramelize the shallots. Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat in the butter. Reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking them until they turn golden brown, (about 40 minutes), stirring every 10 minutes and more frequently towards the end of cooking to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

  • Warm the stock now in a different pan, to be added later

  • In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. 

  • Add the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, 

  • then add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more, 


Adding mushrooms to garlic and oil
Mushrooms after 5 minutes






















  • Add the rice and stir constantly for 2 minutes, 




Mixing in the Rice for 2 minutes

  •  then add the wine and 2 cups of the stock, 
  • Continue cooking and stirring until most of the stock is absorbed, then add another cup of stock and keep stirring until it is mostly absorbed. Repeat this process until you have used all the stock, 

Adding the wine and 2 cups chicken stock
Keep adding stock...1 cup at a time




Ready to add cheese etc

  • Once the risotto is thick and creamy, add the caramelized shallots, cream, cheeses, herbs, and spices and stir until incorporated and all the cheese has melted,

Everything mixed in and cheese melted
Cheese, herbs and spices ready to go!




  • Remove from heat and taste, add more salt if necessary. 

  • Serve immediately.

  • Get some.




Wine Pairing
We had an interesting Chardonnay from Culmina Winery in Oliver BC.  It had a wonderful nose and brought out the cream I think we could have drank this wine all night long.  We also sampled a Pinot Noir from See Ya Later Ranch also a BC wine.  The Pinot Noir brought out the earthiness of the mushrooms for a completely different experience.  When I served it with the beef tenderloin I paired it with the BC liquor store recommendation of a French Pinot Noir Bourgogne Pinot Noir - Louis Latour.  I found this wine excellent, smooth multi layered and without an alcohol taste.  I would recommend it as a wine pairing.





Here's to getting some...Risotto!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Mussels in Garlic White Wine Sauce


This is a great tasting recipe that you will want bread with to sop up the great sauce.  As my wife said on her first bite: This is Super awesome!  You are definitely going to have to make this again.

Having visited my Uncle Don's cabin cruiser in Victoria, BC, when I was a boy it took me a long time to appreciate eating mussels.  Mussels were something that grew on the hull of boats and ships.  You dry docked the boat and scrapped them off and filled big garbage bags one after the other and then threw them away.  The thought of eating them was not even a remote possibility.  Oh how things change.

Living on the West Coast of BC we are blessed with fresh sea food.  I sent my agreeable wife out to pick up mussels at the Lobsterman on Granville Island during her lunch on a Friday so we could start the weekend right.  Lesli is a Registered Massage Therapist so she knows muscles (teehee).

I used this recipe I found on the web at abeautifulbite.com and didn't change a thing except halving the recipe.


Restaurant Style Mussels With Garlic Wine Sauce
Author: Melanie
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: American
Prep time:  15 mins
Cook time:  10 mins
Total time:  25 mins
Restaurant style mussels at home. All of the flavor at a fraction of the price.
Ingredients
  • 4 lbs mussels
  • 3 Tbsps butter
  • 3 Tbsps olive oil
  • ½ cup shallots, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced ( I used a green heirloom tomato out of our garden)
  • ½ Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1¼ cup white wine 
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsps lemon juice
  • 2 tsps kosher salt
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • A few good cranks of fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
Instructions
  1. Dump mussels into a large bowl and cover with cool water. Set aside.
  2. In a large heavy pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Cook shallots until translucent. About three minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. About another minute or two.
  3. Add tomatoes, thyme, white wine, broth, lemon juice, salt, red pepper and black pepper. Turn up heat to medium high and allow to come to a boil.
  4. Add mussels and cover. Cook for eight to ten minutes. Shake pan every now and again to move mussels around.
  5. Pour into bowl and garnish with parsley and lemon zest. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up garlic wine sauce.
Plating


We had a very interesting Chardonnay from Culmina Winery that blew our socks off.  Then we paired it with the Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto I made for the main.  Oooooh life is good.  

The aftermath
I can't help but think of all those mussels we threw away when I was a kid, such a shame.  I know better now though ;)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Arugula Corn Salad


Growing up in Southern Ontario and now being close to Chilliwack, corn is something I look forward to in the summer.  Fresh sweet corn.  So much better than The Green Giant can offer.  Makes me think about parties in fields with raging fires and dozens of cobs of corn in massive pots.  Nothing tastes of summer like fresh corn.

This is a great summer salad, but I think I might try it all year.  Initially I though this is the perfect "man salad."  I know that sounds sexist but how many men do you know that get excited about salad?  Especially about making a salad? This is really limited thinking and goes back to my iceberg lettuce days as a kid.  This is a flavourful hearty salad, not to be confused with a bland weak salad.  Perfect to add to a  (Cuban) sandwich, pasta or hamburger meal that just needs good friend to lean on.


Ingredients


  • 3 cobs of corn husked
  • 3 bell peppers of various colours (red, orange, yellow)
  • Arugula (can use mixed greens in a pinch or to add)
  • 1/4 red onion sliced thin (less if you want, but it adds for sure)
  • Feta cheese (small container or big if you want)
  • Balsamic vinegar (drizzle over for dressing)
  • Olive oil (drizzle over for dressing and for corn and peppers)

Directions

  • Heat BBQ to medium - high heat
  • Husk the corn cobs, lightly rub in some olive oil and place on BBQ.  Turn corn every 3 minutes or so to browned in places.  This can take anywhere from 7-9 minutes depending on heat.  Take of heat, set aside to cool.  Then cut kernels off with a knife.  Put into a large serving bowl.

  • Cut peppers in half and take out the seeds.  Cover in a thin coat of olive oil.
  • Place peppers on BBQ cut side down for the first 3 minutes, then turn over for another 5-7 minutes until charred a little.  The charring is not burning; but extra flavour!
  • Cover in a bowl with plastic wrap over them to steam them - it makes the skin easier to peel off.  Wait about 10 minutes for the steam to do its job.  Now peel the skin of the peppers and chop into 1 cm squares.  Add to serving bowl.

Peeling skins




  • Add arugula - no stems
  • Add thinly sliced red onion (not a whole onion)
  • Crumble in feta cheese
  • Mix all ingredients together with your hands and refrigerate
  • Add balsamic vinegar (I used a strawberry one with surprisingly good results) and olive oil on top when ready to serve


This is a real crowd pleaser because there is so much great flavour.  I've found that people always want seconds of this salad.  That surprised me time and again!    This went excellent with my first blog post: Cuban sandwiches.  I'm also serving it with left over mushroom risotto.  Sometimes you can mix and match, just like socks ;)