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Archive for the ‘Meat dishes’ Category

The Nine Course Affair

Speaking of birthdays…….

From time to time, the Chef and I like to put on “special dinners”.  Usually consisting of  a several coarse tasting menu.  He does most of the cooking, while I do the arranging, the shopping, the decor and the clean up.  And if I’m lucky, sometimes I actually am allowed to make a dish or two myself!

 

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First Course:

Seared Tuna, Avocado and Red Pepper Sushi

I have to admit, the Chef does a nice sushi, which is good because I only ever eat sushi at home, what with the shell-fish allergy, eating it in restaurants is just too high risk.

 

Sushi

 

Second Course:

Belgian Endive and Mini Kale Pancakes topped with Smoked Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts

This was a tasty one.

They don’t show up that well in this picture, but I made mini versions of my famous Kale Pancakes.  Then to add some freshness to it all, they were alternated with leaves of Belgium endive.  Then both were topped with a small slice of smoked Gorgonzola cheese and a chunk of candied walnut.

We often enjoy this as an anytime snack.

 

endive & kale pancake

 

 

Third Course:

Beet Carpaccio Salad with Arugula, Blood Orange and Shaved Boursin Cheese

I really like beets, so I always encourage the Chef to somehow incorporate them into our special dinners.

So on this occasion, he thinly sliced both red and golden cooked beets.  Then topped them with super thing slices of Boursin Cheese, ( I’ll tell you another time about how he does that, because if you have ever dealt with Boursin, you know that slicing it in any way isn’t easy!) slices of blood orange, arugula and then drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Very refreshing.

Beet Salad

 

 

Course Number Four:

Halibut  “Fish and Chips”

This was a whimsical item.  The “fish and chips” refers to the halibut being roasted with grated yam on top and then drizzled in a balsamic dressing.   The yams form and nice crust (chips) and keep the halibut moist (fish) and then vinegar on top.

Halibut

 

 

Course Number Five:

Spinach and Pine Nut Stuffed Chicken Breast with roasted Celeriac Puree and marinated Red Cabbage

I hate to be judgemental, but I think this one was my favorite dish of the night.  The chicken was moist and flavourful, the celeriac both sweet and earthy at the same time and the crunch sourness of the cabbage just all really worked well together.  Oh and I didn’t even mention the delicious grainy mustard sauce in the title ( made it too long to look good on the page)!

 

Stuffed chicken

 

Course number six:

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

I actually got to make this course myself.  It is a favorite of mine to make and to eat and it often shows up on our special dinner menus.  But I can’t take the credit for it.

It is blatantly stolen from the menu at celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant, Bottega.

We tasted it there awhile back and I was determined to recreate it.  But luckily for me, they were generous enough to just post the recipe on-line!

So please do try it out for yourself.  It is surprisingly wonderful.

Brussel sprout salad

 

Course number seven:

Mediterranean Lamb & Bell Pepper Kebobs with Cous Cous and Kaffir Lime Leaf Scented Demi-Glace

It is a little joke we have with the birthday guest.  Inevitably whenever we go to her place for dinner, she serves lamb!  So it only seemed fitting that there should be a little lamb on her birthday party menu. The startlingly delicious item in this dish was the Kaffir lime leaves.

They don’t really show in the picture but they were in the sauce.  At this point in the evening ( course seven) sticking one’s fingers in the food and pulling out the lime leaves and sucking on them was clearly NOT frowned upon.  What a delightful taste, the tart lime flavour mixed with the luscious demi glaze.

 

Lamb

 

Course number eight:

Cheese & Apple

It seems we were just too delirious by this point to actually remember to take a picture.

We had retired to the lounge for a little reprieve before moving on to desert but just wanted to add this extra little treat to the mix.

Norwegian Ski Queen cheese, is just a delightful thing to try.  Although it is a cheese, it would remind you more of a really rich version of those caramel square candies that we used to get a Halloween. Perhaps those crossed with butter or some other unbearably delicious creamy substance.  You really do need to try it.  We find it in the speciality cheese section of most major grocery stores.

So our eighth course was slices of Ski Queen matched with slices of Ambrosia Apples lightly dusted with fresh cracked black pepper.

Really nice.

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Course number nine:

Raw Chocolate Tart topped with Pomegranate accompanied with fresh chunks Pineapple and Chocolate dipped Candied Ginger.

I also got to make this one!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I like to startle people from time to time with my “raw” dishes.  So after a somewhat decadent night so far, I thought why not toss in something a little healthy to end the evening and leave us feeling good about ourselves!?

 

Cake

 

It was a very successful evening.  Good times all round.

Stay tuned for when the next one happens.  Who knows, YOU might even get invited!

 

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What the Fig?

Our friends have a spectacular fig tree in their back yard.

So when they asked if we’d like some fresh figs to play with, the answer was “of course!”

But then what?

Now don’t get me wrong, Figs are GREAT for you!!  Click here to read all the cool things!

But what to do with fresh figs?  I notice they don’t have a very long shelf life once plucked from the tree, which makes me wonder how the ones we get in the supermarket from California manage to make it this far looking that good??

So here is what I came up with over the course of three days:

 

Note "fig leaf" in background.

Note “fig leaf” in background.

 

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Figs in Smoothies!

No brainer.

Chalk full of fibre and goodness without being overly sweet!

 

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Little fig pizzas:

Super simple.

Take your favorite pita ( or in this case naan bread), or if you are feeling particularly ambitious your own homemade pizza crust……

Add:

  • carmelized onions
  • slices of fresh fig
  • crumbled blue cheese ( or goat cheese but blue is nice with the fig)
  • pine nuts

Put it in the oven till the cheese melts and the figs wilt.

Top with a bit of fresh arugula if you have it.   ( I didn’t but would have like it!)

 

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Next item up is a little more hearty.

Fall is just around the corner so I thought I’d practice a dish that would go well on a cooler day.

“Lamb, Lentil and Fig Stew”!

Again, so easy, but SO satisfying.

In a large pan or Dutch oven :

  • Saute one large onion

Then add cubed lamb meat and cook till browned on all sides.

Then add:

  • 1 cup of rinsed green lentils
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 inch minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • OR  1 tsp curry powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all until everything is well coated.  Then add enough water to just cover everything.

Let simmer till lentils are almost done add more water if needed.

Then add 3 – 4 chopped fresh figs!

Let simmer a while longer till lentils are done and figs have melted down into the stew.

Serve in your favorite way!

Shown here over a bit of mash potato and a little steamed broccoli on the side!

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Did the trick and wasn’t at all sweet, but had the little “Je ne sais quoi”!!

 

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Along with the fresh figs we also received a jar of home made Fig Chutney from our friends.  We only had a twelve pack of figs to deal with, they had the whole TREE so preserves are a great way to go!!

 

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And what better would Fig Chutney go with than Grilled Pork Chops with Roasted Veg??

This was really tasty!!

 

 

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And last but not least, you need to have at least ONE dessert item on the list!!  I mean it IS fruit after all!!

So I whipped up a little fig cake.

I pretty much made the same recipe as my once famous “Pluot Skillet Cake” and just substituted the pluots with figs!

Totally did the trick!

 

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So there you have it, Fig-o-lisious!!

What do you do with YOUR figs??

A little taste of comfort

It’s that time of year again.

When all we want is to snuggle up with something warm and comforting to put in our bellies!

This remains one of my Fall / Winter favorites.

Give it a try and see what I mean.

Click here for instructions

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Cranberry Glazed Sausage

I usually reserve these ones for special occasions.

Or at the very least, near holidays where cranberries are more appropriate!

But hey, why not live a little!!

Cranberry glazed sausage

Cranberry glazed sausage

It is terribly simple really and it was quite by accident that I ever made them.  I think I found myself with some overly dry sausage one Christmas morning and wanted moisten them up a little and the idea made sense.

Fry up a batch of your favorite breakfast sausage and then when they are as good as done, give them a generous splash of cranberry juice, or even the “cranberry cocktail” type stuff.  But I would advise against the jelly in a can type stuff.

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Bring the liquid to a boil and just keep stirring everything around until the liquid is almost evaporated and you are left with a sticky, tasty goo on your sausages.

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Okay, maybe “goo” isn’t the best word, but it is a little thicker than regular glaze.

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Serve with your favorite breakfast food…….like French toast maybe.

But I realized as I wrote  this that I see no real good reason to limit the idea to only breakfast sausage.   In fact I think this might work really well on turkey sausage for instance!!

Because it is cranberry and a little bit tart, it has a really nice balance and isn’t too sweet so it can work with other sweet or savory items!

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I don’t think you will be sorry.

Spicy Meatball Soup

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I can’t help it. This time of year I just like eating warm comforting things. And now that the holiday season is behind us, there seems to be even less time than usual.  You come in after a busy day and you just want something fast and satisfying. But before you call the pizza guy…..maybe give something like this a try first. On this particular week night I had the idea that I was just going to whip up a batch of my tried and true “Favorite Soup“. Which is usually made with chicken or tofu as the base, but I didn’t have either of those on hand. But what I DID have was some some left over ground meat from making Kofte two nights before. And if you have been following this blog for any time now, you know I am a great believer of making “clean up the fridge” food!

Start by getting your broth going.

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2-3 cloves chopped garlic
  • aprox 1 inch knob of ginger chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped ( optional)
  • 1 celery stock finely chopped ( optional)

In your dutch oven or large pot, get these things going with a bit of olive oil.  Cook them till they are wilty and sweaty looking.

Then add some spices in no particular order and PLEASE feel free to add, omit and change amounts…it is YOUR easy soup!

But rule of thumb about 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of each

  • cumin
  • ground coriander
  • chili flakes
  • curry powder or turmeric
  • garam masala

And then

  • 1 -2 tbsp natural peanut butter ( or other nut butters)

Work these all into the cooking vegetables.

Then add a generous splash of

  • rice wine vinegar
  • soy sauce/tamari/Bragg

Stir those in, let them get acquainted then add

  • aprox 4 cups water or stock of your choice

Bring it all to  boil then turn it down to low, put the lid on it and let it simmer.

Meanwhile

You want to get your meatballs done.   And again, use what YOU have available but try keeping in the flavour range of what you have used in your broth.

I basically used all the same spices in both things.  So a shot in the pot and a shot in the meatball bowl!

So you will need

  • ground meat ( whatever you like)
  • 1-2 cloves finely (super fine) chopped garlic
  • 1 -2 chopped green onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup binder like bread crumbs, panko etc
  • handful of fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • assortment of spices from above

Squeeze that all up together and then roll into nice, slightly smaller than golf ball, size balls.

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Then you want to pan fry them first and add to the soup after, other wise, there is a good chance they will get soggy and break up…..which is fine too…..but I like to keep them in tack.

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So while those are cooking, you can now add some other stuff to your soup.  And here is where the “clean out the fridge” element comes into it.   More or less chop up and add whatever say greens you might want.  I used spinach and some savoy cabbage,  but kale would do nicely or chard.

And then I added some nice sliced up cremini mushrooms.  But you want to add these fairly close to the end so they retain a little bit of texture.

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Then for convenience sake, I like to use the old college favorite ramen noodles!  But I always toss out the package of weird who knows what that come with them and just use the noodles.  But feel free to use something else, or nothing at all.

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I really don’t like trying to fight with getting the noodles back out of the soup pot once I’ve put them in so instead I add one packet per person to the soup bowl first.

Top with the boiling hot soup and then cover with an upside down plate or something like that and let sit for about 10 minutes until the noodles absorb the liquid.

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Then make sure the noodles are done by giving a bit of a stir with a chop stick to loosen them up.   Then add the cooked meat balls to the top and any sort of  additional topping you might want, like chopped green onion or cilantro and some chopped peanut or a sprinkle of sesame seeds…..whatever you like to jazz it up.

And then just before eating, squeeze a shot of fresh lemon juice on top to help brighten the flavours AND give you a little shot of vitamin C!!

Enjoy!

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A better kind of sausage

So I am going into month two now of the “no gluten” experiment.

I really miss bread and the “gluten-free” stuff really just doesn’t cut it.  I mean I know they mean well but, I only eat it when desperate and only as toast!

But it is really hard to avoid stuff with flour in it!  It’s everywhere in everything!

I personally am a fan of sausage but it is an item them often has gluten in it if you aren’t careful.  And even when they don’t have gluten, they often have stuff like…..oh I don’t know…..SUGAR!!

So I decided, I’ll show em and just make my own damn sausage!

Now don’t get too excited, I didn’t go out and get a sausage stuffing machine or anything.  It hasn’t come to that just yet.

But it proved to be really quite easy and surprisingly tasty!

Here’s what I did.

In the food processor chop up:

  • 3 – 5 gloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 -2 green onions
  • 1/2 red bell pepper

Grind those up first and alone before adding anything else so they are nice and fine.

Then add:

  • 1 pound ( properly treat) ground pork ( I used lean but less lean will make it more “sausage like”)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chick pea flour

Grind all that up till well mixed.

Then add the flavoring of your choice, I was going for sorta Mediterranean so I used:

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chili flakes ( less or more if you like)
  • 1 tsp “Greek spice mix”

When whiz em up some more till everything is nice and blended in.

Then, on a parchment covered tray, make patties or balls of your choice.  I made mine sorta “slider size”.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes, then take them out and turn them over and give them another 15 minutes or until you are sure they are done.

Use at your discretion!

I paired them with some rice and some cabbage fried up with onion and a bit of tomato sauce.

Now that you mention it, does seem a little like “deconstructed  cabbage roll”!

Ha!

Sure were good and gluten-free!

A new twist on “Pork n Beans”

The weather finally took a turn.

Hasn’t rained since June and now it hasn’t stopped raining for three days!

Time to get back to some more “stick to the ribs” kinda food to help with the beginning of the hibernation process!

This dish is certainly NOT your gramma’s Pork & Beans by any means.

I started with the basic concept of my old favorite go to dish Nelson’s Beans but then added a few twists and turns.

Pork n Beans

Heat a  heavy skillet, add a little olive oil and then:

Sear off one pork tenderloin, quickly cooking on all sides.

Once it is done on all sides ( don’t forget the ends) add:

  • 1 large onion sliced in full rounds
  • 2 – 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 bell pepper of your choice
  • 1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper

Keep stirring till the vegetable are well sweated then add some favorite spices:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp smokie paprika

Mix those in well to your cooking veg, working around the pork.

Then add 1 tin of crushed or diced tomato AND 1 tin of tomato paste.

And then add a little water if there wasn’t enough juice in the tomatoes.

Stir that all well and then put a lid on it for about 10 minutes till it is all well heated and the pork cooked.

Then the last thing you will add is one or two ( depending on how much you are making) tins of beans.  Nelson’s beans call for Pinto but for this I just used navy.

Stir them in well to everything else and heat for another 5 minutes.

When you are ready to go to the plate, remove the pork loin from the beans.

Slice the pork into nice attractive disks.

Spoon out a few spoonfuls of beans on to the plate of your choice and then top with a few rounds  of pork and then sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a good squeeze of lime juice!!

Now THAT is a stick to your ribs kind of dinner!!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This one is a great summer time crowd pleaser and great for a bar b que.   They are also very versatile because you can literally stuff them with anything.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

But today I have done them with a spicy Italian sausage filling.   Here’s how it goes based on enough for two mushrooms:

  • Portobello mushrooms, cleaned up and stem removed
  • mushroom stems finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage meat
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 bell pepper diced small ( I used red and yellow for colour)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

Mix up very well.  I just use my hands to which is much easier than mixing with a spoon!  Once the mixture is mixed take half of it and jam it into the mushroom cap.  Make sure it is well stuffed and then push it down some more and smooth it out till it is well in there and not over flowing.

Repeat with the other.

Place in a casserole dish and cover with tin foil and put in a 350 oven for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Now if it were me, I would do this regardless of whether or not I was bar b queuing them, just to make sure they are well cooked.   They can always be finished on the BB or reheated there.   But I guess it is up to you and your confidence in the BB situation.

After the suggested cooking time, remove tin foil.   I then topped with some grated smokie cheddar ( or cheese of your choice) and put them under the broiler for 5 – 10 minutes till the cheese melts and starts to brown a little.

Serve with your favorite sides!

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These really are easily made for anyone though.   You could use ground beef instead or a combo of rice and lentils and veg and or all kinds of combos!   I would suggest if you aren’t using something as “juicy” as sausage to put a few drops of olive oil in the bottom of the mushroom before adding other fillings so that it doesn’t become too dry.

You could probably have a different stuffed mushroom every night for an entire summer and never have the same one twice!

Let me know if you come up with any wild ones!

Just Because

I don’t really have a very good reason for writing this particular post other than the fact that I have a nice picture to go with it.

The Chef always seems to be very concerned about what I will have for “lunch”.  I haven’t the heart to tell him that most days I don’t actually eat “lunch”  per say.

But he made me these lovely sandwiches.

Don’t you find that sandwiches ALWAYS taste better when someone else makes them??

And don’t sandwiches somehow taste better when presented nicely, with fancy toothpicks and condiments.

Maybe it’s a childhood thing, from when we used to get cute crustless gems.

I don’t know.

Enjoy your sandwich.

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a damn fine sandwich

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A Soup Accident

Let this be a cautionary tale to all who venture into the culinary world.  Not only to those of you who feel that you know your way around, but especially to those who are timid in the kitchen.   For let it be known, that it doesn’t matter HOW good of a cook you think you are, mistakes CAN happen!

I had the day off and it was a bit miserable out so I didn’t really feel like venturing out to the store and thought that a nice soothing bowl of soup would be in order.

I always have the usual suspects on hand, carrots, onions, celery, the base of any good soup.   I also had some nice cremini mushrooms to use up and had a nice jar of split yellow peas.

So I set out to make a nice curried split pea mushroom soup.

Into the Dutch oven tossed diced:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks celery ( leafy ones if you have them)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

I stirred those and let them cook till they became a bit wilted.  Then I added:

  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup rinsed yellow split peas
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp curry powder

This was stirred well and cooked for a few minutes then I added about:

  • 3 -4 cups of water ( or enough to completely submerge everything else)

Stir again, bring to a boil then turn down to a lower temperature to simmer.

Simple soup.

But  I felt I would be a little more ambitious because I thought this is what we will have for dinner so I better make it a little more substantial.

So I called The Chef at work.  “Hey, do you have any meat in the freezer?”

Whenever we eat roasts or whatever, and there are left overs ( rarely but it happens) The Chef wraps them up and tosses them in the freezer for “your soup”.  

I am often just as guilty with brocoli butts or ends of asparagus, wrapped up and tossed in the freezer.

So our freezer is filled with a lot of weird little frozen bags of stuff waiting to become “soup stock”.

“Yes, there is a bag with a few beef short ribs in there, just enough to beef up some soup.”  The Chef replied

I hung up the phone and went to the freezer.  I grabbed the first bag I found of hard brown squares.  Perfect.  I unwrapped it and dropped the frozen together hunk into the already simmering soup.  Didn’t matter that they were frozen solid, they would thaw quickly and cook up in the soup. 

I went on about my business.

About a half hour later I went back to stir the soup and make sure the meat had loosened up so I could stir it properly through the soup.

Imagine my surprise, when there was NO meat to be found!!!    What the WHAT??

“Oh no” I thought as I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.   That wasn’t the short ribs was it?

From time to time The Chef will go all “Haute Cuisine” on me and will spend the day making the Fancy French Stuff!

For instance, he will spend a day, painstakingly making demi glace.  A process cooking meat down and down further to make an exquisite nectar used in fancy sauces.   Then he will put it into ice-cube trays and freeze it for later use.   Do you see where I’m going with this??

This is the kind of stuff that only a cube or two would be required to add eminence flavour to your dish.

So yeah….I dumped a WHOLE bag of frozen demi glace cubes into my soup.

Is that a problem you ask?   Well, firstly I just wasted a very precious product in plain old soup and I just made the soup SUPER rich!

Oh well.

I kept digging in the freezer and finally found the meat I was looking for.  Good thing, because now with the rich beef flavour of the soup, I might as well actually have meat in it!!

I have to admit, it was some fine tasting soup but………I’m gonna be in trouble when The Chef goes to use his demi glace!!

Anniversary Dinner

Now don’t get me wrong, I like going out to restaurants as much as the next person, but when you have a live in Chef sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense to go out!!

The Chef and I were celebrating our anniversary this weekend so he was nice enough to “whip me up” a little something for my dinner!!

We started with an appetizer of beet and goat cheese pin wheel terrine with basil infused oil.

Beet and goat cheese pin wheels

Colourful and light.

Then a lovely salad of arugula  with a beautiful refreshing oil and lemon dressing and shaves of Parmesan cheese.

Arugula salad with lemon, oil and shaved Parmesan cheese

For the main course we had beef and asparagus rouladen topped with gorgonzola cheese, accompanied by pured roasted celeriac topped with Boursin cheese and roasted root vegetables with topped with Blue cheese.

Beef and asparagus rouladen with roasted celeriac, root vegetables and three cheeses

Scurmp-delly-ishes!!!

Needless to say, with all the flavours and textures going on there, it only seemed appropriate to have a nice simple dessert.

Strawberries macerated in sugar and balsamic vinegar with Greek yogurt, with a sprig of mint and a shard of dark chocolate!

macerated strawberries with Greek yogurt and mint

Good time had by all!

Road side surprise

This past weekend the Chef and I headed “up island”  ( that’s what they call pretty much anywhere that isn’t Victoria, or more North than where ever you happened to live on the island!) to do a little family visiting.

We usually only make one stop on the way, to get gas at the place where it is always cheaper and to get a coffee at Tim Hortons  ( for my non Canadian friends, that is an essential part of Canadian culture!).   But due to timing and what have you, we found ourself needing to stop for a meal of some sort.

We didn’t want to venture too far off the highway and lose too much time, so we pulled over into a strip mall in the city of Nanaimo.  There were a few choices that seem to have sprouted up in most mall parking lots across the land, but we settled on a place called “Original Joe’s“.

I have seen one in a local mall parking lot, but it had never come up for us to have a chance to try it.

We were very pleasantly surprised.  We were expecting your typical parking lot style family restaurant or roadhouse type thing but it was much more inviting.

They had a simple, but nice menu and we both very much enjoyed our choices!

The Chef is very partial to a place called J & L Drive-IN in Port Alberni.  He loves it cause you can get a hot dog ON your hamburger!!

So imagine his delight when he found a similar product at Original Joe’s!!  Only this one came with a fancy sausage of some kind and two delicious sides, garlic roasted mash potato, topped with crispy onions and a tasty Caesar salad.

Big burger

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I got the fish tacos, a dish I have recently become quite fond of and these ones did NOT disappoint.  Full of fresh toppings and a nice side salad.  I was very pleased.

Fish tacos

And then the Chef ordered something called “chocolate therapy”.  It was an ooy gooy moulton chocolate cake type thing with chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream.  I tried to take a picture but it didn’t work so well….too  decedant for even the camera!!

“Chocolate Therapy”

So if you find yourself in need of a bite and you see an Original Joe’s, give it a try.

Philosophy – where’s the meat?

I have noticed that most of my posts of late haven’t contained any meat.

Could be that I am influenced by the large vegan audience I seem to have.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that following a vegan or vegetarian diet is great for those who CHOOSE it.  There are some great health benefits and sustainable living elements to a plant-based diet.

But I will also have to point out, that from my training, there can be a place for animal products in the diet as well.

I believe it should be an individual choice.   You must eat what makes you feel best, physically and morally.

I believe you should make the choices based on the philosophy that I live by “Do the best you can with what you’ve got!”

Be that economically, geographically or food  availability or your  preparations skills or what sort of space or equipment you have.

The best tool is knowledge.

Try to eat as much real food from as close to its real form as possible.

And eat with gratitude.

I am extremely grateful for the beautiful Sunday dinner, including meat, that the Chef made for us last night!

Braised short ribs with seasonal veg

South West Supper

We very much enjoy the taste of the South West around our house.  Even if we DO live in the North West.  Maybe that’s why?

Tonight I have made a South West beef stew, a South West salad and some South West corn bread muffins.  All together, you have a South West Supper!

I started with the stew so it would have some time to get acquainted.   I have to warn you that this stew will seem remarkably similar to chili.  That’s cause it most is the same only instead of ground beef I used stewing beef.

So in your dutch oven, brown in a few splashes of oil:

  • cubes of stewing beef dredged in a little flour ( or whatever protein you are into)

Once they are browned on all sides, remove to a resting bowl.   Then add to the pot:

  • 1 large onion sliced and or cubed
  • 1/2 of 1 large red pepper cubed
  • 1 small carrot cubed

Try to keep all of these things the same size of cube for consistency.

Cook these till they are nice and sweaty looking and then add:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika ( smoky adds more flavour)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes ( depending on your tolerance)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves minced fresh garlic

Feel free to use more or less of anything depending on your taste.

Mix those into the vegetables well, then return the meat to the pot with any juices that may have collected.  Stir it all well.

Then add:

  • 1 small tin tomato paste
  • aprox 1 cup water or stock

Stir, cover and let come up to a boil, stir again and turn down to a simmer.

Shortly before serving add:

  • 1/2 can rinsed black beans

Stir in and turn off heat.

South West Stew

While your stew is simmering you can put together your South West Salad.

Add together is a bowl:

  • the other half of the can or black beans
  • 1/2 a can of nibblet corn ( keep other half for corn bread)
  • the other half of the red pepper diced ( same size as corn and beans)
  • 2 green onions ( green part only) sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 large handful of fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Toss all that together.

Just before serving add:

  • 1 ripe avocado diced
  • juice of 1 whole lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • S & P to taste

Toss again and serve.

South West Salad

Put these two dishes together with some nice corn bread muffins to soak up the sauce and you’ve got yourself a tasty South West Supper!

South West Supper

Ulla La

This last week The Chef and I had the opportunity to go to Victoria, BC restaurant Ulla.

Ulla caught my attention when it was voted one of the “Top 10 New Restaurants in Canada for 2011 by Enroute Magazine ( Air Canada’s in flight Magazine)

I can’t even really tell you when exactly it opened, but I know it is still considered a fairly “new” restaurant in town. 

Unfortunately like most places these days, restaurants seem to come and go before you even get a chance to try them, but I’d only heard good things about Ulla so I thought we best get at it.

I really liked the vibe upon entering.  It is kind of trendy but not too hipster.  I’d say it seats about 40 depending on the configuration.  But I liked that it was spacious enough that you didn’t feel like you were in everybodie’s business.

Rumour has it, the menu changes frequently because they are really on board with the currently popular practice of eating seasonally and locally.  Both things I am all for!

I’ve had many reports about the polenta fries with truffle mayonnaise.  So we decided to jump in with that right away.

Polenta with truffle mayo

They are actually more of a polenta square but regardless of their shape, they are delicious and I could easily just sit down to a glass of wine and a few plates of those and be very content!

With that we also got the salad of beets, yogurt cream, apple jelly, almond crisp, citrus puree, raspberry vinaigrette.

Beet salad

I really liked this.  So many interesting tastes and textures.

Then it was time for our main courses.

The Chef ordered the short rib steak, mushroom and veal cannelloni, poached endive, crunchy cipollini onions, red wine jus.   Which he very much enjoyed.

Short ribs with veal cannelloni

I ordered the lamb four ways; leg, sausage, lacquered press, bacon, cipollini,  turnip, French beans,herb puree, lamb jus.

The plate was beautiful and I wanted to love it.  I started right away with the little squares of lamb bacon, but I found them desperately salty and gave them away to the Chef.  But I thought that it was just because it was, you know, bacon.

Lamb four ways

But then I went on to the other three lamb products and regret to report that I found them all way too salty for my taste.  But in their defence, the Chef is always accusing me of “under seasoning”.  I cook with too much salt myself so perhaps it is just my palette.

The texture of lamb was wonderful melt in your mouth and all of the vegetable products were superb.   So don’t let my saltiness put you off.

Then then we ordered dessert.  We usually “share” because I don’t care for too much sweet but then it usually leads to someone feeling unsatisfied with their portion.  And then we were going to each order something different and try each others, but no one wanted to be the one who didn’t order the chocolate thing.  So be BOTH ordered the chocolate cake, rice crispy crunch, dulce de leche cream, aerated chocolate, chocolate soil.  Why ruin a perfectly lovely evening with chocolate envy??

Over all it was a very enjoyable meal and evening in general.  

If you live here and haven’t gone, I’d recommend trying it.   If you don’t live here and find yourself in town, it’s worth the trip!

Lamb and lentil stew

We get good lamb around these parts.

It is my feeling that if you are going to eat meat, then you need to at least eat the best quality of products.  From farms that treat the animals ethically and under the best circumstances.

And I am also of the feeling that you can eat meat, without having to eat a LOT of meat.

This lamb and lentil stew is a perfect example of that.

I started with a fairly small amount of meat, about a pound, cut into bite size chunks and brown them in your Dutch oven in a little olive oil.

Once well browned, all a large onion coarsely sliced and or chopped so that you have nice big pieces.

Stir those in with the lamb meat.  Cook until then are wilted down and even a little brown is okay because it adds flavour.

Then add about a cup of rinsed green lentils and stir them into the mix.

Now add the flavouring.  This is what I used, but feel free to come up with your own:

  • 2-3 minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smokey paprika
  • six dried dates finely chopped

Add all of these and mix in well.  Then add:

  • one can of tomato paste

Stir in to coat everything well.

Then add about 4 cups of water or stock of your choice.

Stir well and then put on high and cover till it comes up to the boil.  Then turn down to a low simmer.

The longer you can leave it the better, but keep checking it and adding more liquid if you need it.   Cook until the lentils are tender and you have a nice thick sauce.

We had it on a bed of couscous.

Very comforting.

Pot Roast – Vegans look away

Doesn’t it sound romantic?

They always seemed to be making “pot roast” on all those shows from the 60’s.  Laura Petry and Mrs. Cleaver always had one on the go.  In fact, didn’t even Alice on the Brady Bunch always seemed to be worried about hers being over done?

Whatever the case, to me, pot roast just sounds homey.

But to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had one.  It wasn’t something my own mother cooked.  And quite frankly, I’m not even really sure what it is, other than the obvious of course.

So I asked the Chef what pot roast was made of?  Normally I enjoy his long lessons in the proper use of cuts of meat, but not necessarily at breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Whatever cut of meat you choose, it must be a braising cut.

Most meat is to be cooked one of two ways.  Wet or dry.  So like a steak would be cooked on dry heat and a pot roast with wet heat.  Make sense?

So after may lecture, I decided to go with a hunk of brisket.  Brisket is also what they make “smoked meat” with back in my home land of Montreal, home of the infamous “Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich”, but that’s something for another time.

I started with my hunk of meat in the roast pan on TOP of the stove. 

Hunk of meat

I got it really hot and then seared the meat on all sides to lock in the goodness.

Once it was nicely browned on all sides, I tossed in a few “aromatic” vegetables like celery, carrots and onions.  You could also add a few herbs and spices, but if I were you I’d look up a recipe for exactly what kind of flavour you are going for. 

I put in some pepper corns, some hot chili flakes, some dry mustard and a bit of pumpkin spice!!  I know, that’s crazy, but I wanted that “warm” flavour to it.

Pot roast ready to be braised

Then I added some home made vegetable stock I had, to about half way up the pan.  Then covered it tightly with tin foil and put it in a 350 degree oven.

Give yourself at least 4 or so hours to cook this puppy properly!   That’s why it’s a nice Sunday afternoon project and it makes the house smell very friendly.

I’d say every hour or so, take him out, turn him over and add more liquid if necessary.  Keep doing this till he looks good and done and starts to pull apart when you poke at him.  In the last half hour or so, I added about a half of a tin of tomato paste to the liquid to give the “sauce” a nice sort of bar b q look to it, but you don’t really need to do this unless you want to.

Braised beef pot roast

I served him up with some beautiful butter milk mash potato and some of the vegetables fished out of the bottom of the pan!

Pot roast with butter milk mash potato

This was a very comforting Sunday in February dinner.

The Very Next Day

Well obviously we couldn’t eat ALL that food at one seating!!  No matter HOW hard we tried!

So what to do with it the next day?

I mean after the compulsory turkey sandwiches and what have you, we still had to eat didn’t we??

So the Chef whipped up a wonderful dish with the left overs.  A fantastic Turkey Pot Pie!

He started by lining the bottom of the casserole dish with those cute little piped potatoes because those are made by making mash potato, piping them on to a tray and then baking them slightly so they keep their shape and get a nice toasty bottom.

So they made a nice base for “innards” that would go in on top.  

Next he diced up the roasted root vegetables and turkey meat into nice bite size or smaller chunks then added the left over gravy and mixed it all together and heated it in a pot on the stove.   Once that was done, he poured it over the potatoes in the dish, leaving space at the top for the puff pastry.

Now HERE is where things get crazy!

He gently removed the puff pastry coating off of the left over Beef Wellington.  Reheating Wellington doesn’t do justice, the meat will be over cooked and the pastry soggy.   But as it was the pastry was still perfectly good, not only that, but if you know what’s in a Beef Wellington, you’ll know that on top of the beef is a delicious layer of  “mushroom duxelle”  and then the residual beef flavours of course.

Then the pastry is added to the top of the cassarole and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes just to make sure everything is heated enough.

Voila!  A turkey pot pie the likes of which you’ve never tasted!  Layer upon layer of flavour!

Christmas dinner left over Turkey Pot Pie

But I know what you’re thinking.  He used up a whack of left overs for that one dish but what became of the beef?   Well don’t fret, that went to good use too.   He cut it up into small bits and with the left over UN-baked puff pastry from the fridge, made a whole bunch of mini party snack beef Wellington that he then froze and bagged up for my relatives to enjoy for weeks to come!!

Nothing went to waste!

The Main Event

Finally we reached the big day.  The day of the big feast.

Like we haven’t already eaten enough to replenish our fat stores for winter!  But you know, tis the season to over indulge!  And now that it is mid January and the turkey hangovers have finally subsided, I thought it might be okay to discuss it again.

My relatives that we were visiting in California for Christmas are originally from Scotland, so some of their Christmas feast traditions are a little different from our North American ones.

Most notably is that they don’t use bread in their stuffing, or dressing or whatever you call the stuff you put inside the turkey.  They use sausage meat.

I remember years ago when I first reconnected with these relatives after they moved to California, I hadn’t seen them in years since I had visited Scotland.  So I was coming to stay with them for the holidays this particular year and so they told me later that their biggest fear about my visit was that, God forbid, I might be a vegetarian!  The horror!

So I wasn’t that startled by the sausage stuffing.  Although I did find the addition of Beef Wellington and black pudding a bit of a surprise.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

  • Seared scallop and black pudding with mustard dressing

Main course

  • Roast turkey with sausage stuffing
  • Roasted root vegetables – beets, carrot, parsnips, celeriac
  • Piped potato
  • Beef Wellington
  • Home made cranberry sauce
  • gravy

Dessert

  • Chocolate cake and ice cream
  • Fruit flan sponge cake

All followed by the mandatory “lie down”!!  Why oh why do we do it to ourselves??

For some reason I don’t have any pictures of the appetizer course.   Perhaps it was because there was a lot of commotion at that time what with getting people settled and getting the event under way.

But more likely it’s because I didn’t partake of that particular course.  I don’t eat scallops anymore because I am allergic to shell fish.  And even though a scallop is technically a mollusk and not a shellfish, I’m not willing to risk it.  And then the black pudding, well, click on it to see the pictures of it, or google it yourself and then decide if it is something you would eat……..

But those at the table who either knew what it was and love it or didn’t know what it was so they ate it, all enjoyed it very much.  Perhaps I just don’t know what I am missing!!

Then it was time for the main event, all set out, serve yourself style.  Which is always dangerous when you let to your own accord.

Time to load up our plates

Piped potato and roasted root vegetables

Turkey, white meat and dark

The infamous sausage stuffing

The beautiful Beef Wellington

Add some gravy and cranberry and you have the full meal deal!

 
 
And then when it seemed that we couldn’t possibly eat any more.  We ate some more.
 
 

Chocolate cake

Fruit flan sponge cake

 
 
 
 

A fine time was had by all

On the eve of

When there aren’t any children in attendance for Christmas Eve, it really can become a free for all.

Somewhere deep inside you all of the rules and restrictions that were imposed upon you around Christmas as a child suddenly have the need to be disobeyed.

“Please can we open one present???”  

“No”

“Please can I eat some candy??”

“No”

“Please can we stay up late??”

“No”

So when you are a grown up……you can do whatever you WANT!!

My tradition with these particular relatives is that on Christmas Eve, instead of a dinner of any kind, I make a bunch of party snacks and we sit around and have a casual time eating them and having a drink or two.  Or as my Scottish cousin likes to say “Let’s have a wee Beaujolais!”  Which pretty much refers to all alcohol  beverages!

So the menu on this night was:

  • Beets with goat cheese and spicy sweet walnuts with a balsamic drizzle
  • Smoked salmon and boursin cheese on cucumber
  • Spicey sausage balls
  • Yam cakes
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Dates with bacon
  • Cheesey puff crackers
  • Caramelized onion tarts

Beets with goat cheese and spicy sweet walnuts:

Boil up a few red beets, skin on, until tender.  Let cool, peel and slice into 1/4 inch rounds and top with goat cheese and sprinkle with toasted ( or in my case I sweetened and spiced) walnuts and then drizzle with balsamic and oil.

Beets with goat cheese and walnut

 

 

Smoked salmon and boursin cheese on cucumber:

Exactly how it sounds.   Cream together some smoke salmon and boursin cheese and top it onto rounds of cucumber.  I cut one inch chucks on an angle and then hollowed out the centre so the salmon wouldn’t fall off.

Smoke salmon and boursin cheese on cucumber

 

Spicy sausage balls:

1 pound of bulk spicy sausage meat.  1 medium jalapeno pepper finely chopped.  1/2 cup corn niblits ( fresh, frozen or canned) 1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese, 1 cup of pre made biscuit mix.   Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and then form into balls.  Bake on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper until toasty brown.   I served this with a dipping sauce of sour cream with chipolte sauce.

Spicy sausage balls

 

 

Caramelized onion tarts:

One package of store-bought puff pastry, rolled out into 4×4 inch squares on to a baking sheet.  Meanwhile caramelize some onions and then further cook them down with a generous slosh of balsamic vinegar to sweeten them further.   Then top the squares of pastry with a few spoonfuls of onion mixture, a few of the spicy sweet walnuts ( or other nuts, pine nuts etc) and a light handful of grated cheese like a white cheddar or blue.  Then bake in the over according to instructions on the pastry package, or until the pastry puffs and the cheese melts.

Caramelized onion tart

The snacks were all a big hit.

Christmas Eve snacks

But contrary to what I believed about being a grown up on Christmas, there was one stick in the mud amongst us ( I won’t say WHO) who simply wouldn’t give in to the peer pressure and could not be persuaded to let us open our presents before bed!!  Imagine!  I mean we could stay up as late as we wanted and sleep in as long as we wanted, so why would there be rules about “Christmas morning”??

Oh well, some people just like tradition!

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