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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!!

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