Monday, March 31, 2014

Roasted Asparagus & Garlic Bisque

I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. – Henry David Thoreau

I bet you didn’t know this, but asparagus is a member of the lily family, some of whose other members are onions, leeks and garlic. If I remember correctly, you can also eat lily bulbs, but digging them from your flower bed would be pretty expensive and decadent. Some are cultivated and eaten widely in Asian countries. But I digress...

Asparagus spears are a great vegetable to eat as part of a heart-healthy diet because they contains no fat, no cholesterol and very little sodium. They provide essential vitamins and minerals without a lot of calories. There’s only about 20 calories per 5.3 oz, so they are very nutrient-rich. 

This recipe takes only a few ingredients.
But not all is rosy in the land of asparagus spears. They do have some – shall we say – interesting side effects.

First up: gas. Did you know it’s common to pass gas 14 times per day? Asparagus ups the ante, because it contains the carbohydrate raffinose that is notoriously difficult to digest. It’s due to a lack of a particular enzyme in our intestinal tract necessary to break it down. So the body has to ferment it to extract the nutrients.

Fun, eh? Raffinose is also contained in cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc) that make one gassy.

Next: odoriferous urine (otherwise known as stinky pee). Some people notice an odour to their urine within 15 minutes of eating asparagus. This odour is caused by a sulfur-containing amino acid that the body produces during the process of breaking down asparagus. 

Luckily not everyone seems to notice the change in urine smell. It’s still unclear why, but some possible reasons point to genetic factors playing a role in a) if it smells at all, or b) if you can smell it or not. Weird fact, yes?

But asparagus tastes so good. And it’s not like you eat it every day, so what’s a fart or two between friends? Oh, and some stinky pee.

This roasted vegetable bisque is unbelievably rich, with the potato giving it a great deal of body, the asparagus adding distinct flavour, as does the roasted garlic and the wine. All in all a delicious, yet nutrient-rich, bowl of fantastic-ness. (Eat it in the dark of you’re worried about the cream. Calories don’t count if you eat in the dark.)

If you prefer, you can substitute the cream with a can of evaporated milk. I often do that, unless the bisque is for a dinner party.

I do hope you try this recipe. I usually leave my bisques on the thick side if serving as a main course, but you can thin it slightly and stretch it into an elegant first course for guests.

Roasted Asparagus & Garlic Bisque
Roasting: 1 hour  | Final prep: 20 min  |  Serves 4-8
1 whole garlic head
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup coffee cream (or evaporated milk)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Timing note: Roast the vegetables at least 15 to 30 minutes before puréeing. This will allow them to cool enough to be handled. They can even be done up to 24 hours before and refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Keeping the vegetables separated, place each on their own rectangle of aluminum foil. Liberally sprinkle with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. 

Seal each foil package tightly, place on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour. Let cool before handling.

Reserve 1" of the  tips and set aside.
Cut the tips (1”) from the asparagus and set aside, then coarsely chop the remainder. Squeeze the roasted garlic into a 6 cup blender. Then add the potato, chopped asparagus and any juices and oil that may have collected in the foils while roasting. 

Then add the coffee cream and 1 cup of chicken stock. Purée the mixture until smooth. Pour into a soup pot. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and the white wine to the blender and pulse for a few seconds to mix any remaining purée into the liquid. Pour into the pot.

Check the thickness of the bisque. If desired, you can add another cup of chicken stock. (I did not.)

Finally, cut the reserved asparagus tips in half again and add to the pot.* Stir the soup together and then taste for seasoning. Adjust the salt and pepper if desired.

Slowly bring the bisque to just under a boil. Ladle into individual bowls and serve.

*Alternatively, for  more dramatic presentation, you can sprinkle the tips on top of the bisque once ladled into bowls.


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Friday, March 28, 2014

Pork, Spinach & Chickpea Stew

Frugality is for the vulgar. – Francois Rabelais

Well, then, I guess I’m vulgar. Or at least I try to be. I suppose, anyone who knows me personally would agree, but not for how the word is used above!

It’s hard to be frugal at the grocery store. Packaging is not geared toward a standard family. If you look closely, their packaging tries to make you buy either too little or too much.

This is what I mean: pork chops are usually packaged in 5; steaks in 3; shrimp (especially at Sobeys) in 3/4 of a pound. Divide those amounts into a standard family of two parents and two children, or equally annoying, a family of two. You can’t do it. 

Check almost any recipe using shrimp. You never see 3/4 of a pound as a listed quantity. The idea is to make you buy two packages for the recipe you want to make, and then a third to top up your "leftovers."

Costco is  different story altogether, to the opposite extreme. If you don’t have a family of 8 (as the saying goes in Nova Scotia) you’re sh*t out of luck. You really have leftovers if you shop there.

So most times you’re stuck buying two packages of whatever you’re after, or one way too big, and then having to deal with whatever you don’t use later on That’s why I threw together this recipe. It helps you deal with some of those leftovers. 

I’m really guilty of letting things “age” in the refrigerator until they need to be thrown out. It happens a lot and isn't very frugal of me. So any recipe that can help me deal with the contents of my refrigerator, and stretch a little meat into a full-on meal at the same time, is a keeper.

This one uses two pork chops to serve a family of four, and creates something that’s filling, nutritious and wonderful. Coincidentally, it also uses up leftovers from a package of fresh basil. The recipe couldn’t be simpler, and only takes one pot. So bonus all around.

Pork, Spinach & Chickpea Stew
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook 45 min  |  Serves 4 easily
2 thick-cut pork chops, whole
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, diced
28 fl oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp fresh oregano (1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder
19 oz can chickpeas, drained
4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cracked black pepper
buerre manie: 1 tbsp butter & 1 tbsp flour, kneaded
optional: grated parmesan

Place the whole pork chops, onion, garlic, tomatoes, stock and wine in a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the chops and dice the meat; then add it back to the pot. Add the drained chick peas, spinach, oregano, basil and chilli powder. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat again and let cook 15 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust.

Knead the flour and butter together. Stir into the pot and cook for a further minute or two until the stew juices are slightly thickened. (Making a beurre manie ensures your thickener doesn’t cause lumps – try it when making gravy.)

Ladle the stew into bowls and top with more cracked black pepper and parmesan if desired.


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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chicken Tropicana for wintry weather

All we need, really, is a change from a near frigid to a tropical attitude of mind. – Marjory Stoneman Douglas

No winter weather inside this pot. Nope. None at all.

We’re 24 hours away from what Environment Canada is calling a “weather bomb.” Apparently in a day and a half I will be looking out on a front yard that has up to 50 cm of snow. So much for spring.

Not a whole lot of ingredients have
to be bought.
Firmly in the "got lemons, make lemonade camp," this recipe will at least make you think of tropical places and summer fun. Sometimes the best cure for bad weather is to make the best of what you can do inside. Spring will come. I guarantee it.

Cooking is always therapeutic when a snowstorm hits. A tried and true favourite for me is to make bread. There’s something about the smell of homemade bread that can drive away even the deepest weather blues.

So is the smell of fried chicken. Double down with mango and pineapple and you’ve got a recipe that will make you entirely forget what’s going on outside.

There are a couple caveats with this recipe, but they both have the same basis: sugar. 

There’s a lot of natural sugar in pineapple and mango, so you can easily burn the chicken when you fry it after it’s marinated. Usually you can fry chicken on medium high or even high. Not this. Use medium temperature.

The same holds true when you are reducing the sauce. It can start to stick if you don’t stir it occasionally. So watch the pot.

This recipe takes a little while, but what else will you have to do while the snow is piling up?

The chicken marinating. Note the use of a glazed clay pot.
Chicken Tropicana
Marinade: 2 hours  |  Cook: 40 min  |  Serves 3-4
6-8 chicken thighs
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cups cubed mango, can be frozen
2 limes
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seed
1 L pineapple juice
salt and pepper, to taste
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 tsp sugar, optional
1/4 cup cilantro

Place the diced onion in the bottom of a non-reactive pan (non-metal). Layer the chicken on top, then the mango, chilli and cumin. 

Pour enough pineapple juice in to just come to the top of the chicken. Squeeze the juice from one lime on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Marinate for 2 hours on the kitchen counter, or overnight in refrigerator.

After marinating, remove the chicken and fry skin side up over medium heat in a sauté pan that has a lid. As the chicken fries, fat will render out. Cook until browned on both sides, but not cooked through. Watch that the chicken doesn’t burn. Remove to a plate.

Discard all the collected fat except for about 1 tablespoon. Add the marinade and tomatoes to the pan. Cover and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until the mangoes and tomatoes have softened. Add more pineapple juice as needed to keep it as a liquid.

Once the sauce has reduced to small into chunks, nestle the chicken into the sauce, cover and cook on medium-low for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove the cover, turn heat to medium and cook until sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Now is also the time to add the additional sugar if desired. Stir in the cilantro about 1 minute before serving. 

Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the remaining lime on top of the chicken. Serve with rice.


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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shrimp in Vermouth Cream Sauce

A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. – Samuel Johnson 

Deliciously satisfying, and ready in 20 minutes. This is always a winner.
This is a fantastic recipe, and also one that you can have on the table in less than half an hour. It's a godsend for anyone (like us lately) that are busier than a one-toothed man in a corn-on-the-cob eating contest. Although dining late is sometimes nice, having to do it every day gets to be tiresome. It also can interfere with your sleep. Not goof if your up late working and then up and at it again early the next morning.

Photo: Wiki CC
This recipe combines just-cooked shrimp with the intense flavor of tomato and vermouth. It's a wonderful combination. Vermouth is a perfect complement to seafood, if you didn't know…

Vermouth is a fortified wine that has been infused with herbs and/or roots. Wine has been infused with herbs for millennia. Although a 13th century German word, what we call vermouth today was first produced in the late 18th century in Italy and France. 

Vermouth was marketed as a medicinal drink in the 19th century. With an alcohol content hovering at 18% one can see why its consumption would make someone feel “better.” It wasn’t until later in the 1800s that it was used in classic cocktails like the martini.

Wine is used as the base for vermouth. Each manufacturer adds additional alcohol (sometimes in the form of aquavit) and their own special mixtures of herbs, roots, and barks. If you're brave, you can try to make your own, like I did. My recipe is here.

Vermouth is sold in two main types: sweet (red) and dry (white). Vermouth is an excellent substitute for white wine in cooking and is particularly good with seafood, as well as chicken and pork. When the alcohol is cooked away the flavour of the herbs remain.

Shrimp Linguine with Vermouth Cream Sauce
Let the sauce reduce before adding the shrimp.
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 10 min  |  Serves 4
1 lb shrimp
454 g linguine
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, cut in half and sliced very thin
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomato halves
1/4 cup vermouth (white)
1/4 cup tomato purée
1-1/2 cups whipping cream (plus extra, see recipe)
The shrimp have just been added. Only let them cook until pink.
Salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan

Bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cook according to package directions.

Heat butter in a sauté pan. Cook onion and garlic until beginning to brown. Add the vermouth, tomato purée and cream and let cook until thickened. It should be a little thicker than you think it should be. 

As the sun-dried tomatoes cook in the sauce it will take on a bright creamy orange colour.

Add the shrimp and cook until just through – no more than 5 minutes. They should just be pink. That may be even less than 5 minutes. Any more time and shrimp become tough.

Liquid will come out of the shrimp as they cook. If the sauce is still too thick you can thin it with a little more cream.

Serve the shrimp and sauce on the hot drained pasta with grated parmesan.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Old-Fashioned Hot Cross Buns and an old-fashioned rant

I prefer to choose which traditions to keep and which to let go. – Theodore Bikel

A pan of warm hot cross buns.

Yesterday a friend posted a link to a rant about how holidays and celebrations have started to go way over the top, and with it the expectations as to how they are to be celebrated. And I totally agree.

The dough before rising. Raisins will
fall our as you knead. Just tuck
them back in and continue on.
The gist of the “rant” (in the most positive meaning of the word) was that this mother’s kids were expecting the results of a visit from a leprechaun for the morning of St. Patrick’s Day. Of course(?), the expectation from the children was for bags of “gold” (candies) to be stashed around the house, and/or obligatory St. Patrick’s Day parties.

Huh? What has happened to us? Why is it that we feel the need to over-celebrate – or is it over do – every tiny holiday that pops up on the calendar? If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look on Pinterest for a truly guilt-laden experience. The link is here. I particularly like the green pee in the toilet and leprechaun footprints on the toilet seat. Go look.

As a parent did you do the utmost for your children to celebrate this “siginifcant” holiday? Really? Come on... really? When I was young (insert blah, blah, blah here) all we did was wear something green, even if you weren’t Irish. Or if you were a Catholic or Anglican, probably a church service. I have never had a green beer in my life. That’s a good way to ruin it, no?

After first rise.
This got me thinking about the next big holiday, and I don’t mean the Vernal Equinox on March 21, although I imagine there are parents and groups out there plotting how to send that day over the top as I write. I’m talking about Easter. You know, the one where most of us actually have a day off work.

I have read that we are raising a generation that has little empathy for others. The “Me” Generation. It’s due to a lot of factors, but to me prime among them are the lack of consequences to failure and the fulfilling of every need/desire of our little “tyrants.” Because, face it, that’s what many of them have become. It’s far easier in our busy days to just throw something at them to make the problem go away. The Art of Parenting has significantly diminished. In essence, the inmates have taken over the asylum.

I’m not here to denigrate how anyone celebrates holidays, but you do have to give your head a shake if you think that every minor celebration has to be turned into some sort of life-altering event. It’s too stressful, expensive and completely unnecessary.

Of course, Easter does go over the top, too, ranking right up there with Christmas and Halloween. Valentine’s Day is currently racing toward the finish line as well. One must remember that the real reason for Easter is a RELIGIOUS celebration (wether you are religious or not). A discourse on the Easter Bunny, eggs, candies and the like I will save for a later rant...

It’s pure, naked commercialism, folks. “They” want you to feel guilty if you don’t buy buy buy. If you don’t do significant damage to your bank account your heart is empty toward those you purport to love.

Can you remember anything – anything – you ever got for Easter? I thought not. So what does make celebrations memorable? Lets get back to the basics. I bet you can remember who attended your last Easter dinner and how you felt. 

One way to treat the holidays is to carry on real traditions, not ones manufactured by marketing gurus. By “real,” I mean ones you really will remember, ones your parents remember and probably even your grandparents. Consumerism wasn’t quite so rampant back then. We made do, often on very little. But we didn’t think we lacked anything.

Today’s recipe is a real reminder of Easter to me, and doesn’t take much in the way of time or money. And it’s one of those things you remember about the holiday and crave all year long. (Because they only make an appearance on Good Friday!)

Although not exactly the same, this recipe is very similar to one in my Great Aunt Hilda’s hand-written cookbook. That would date this to at the latest around 1960. How much earlier than that her recipe dates would be pure conjecture… 

Hot cross buns are never served as a dinner roll but as a “dessert,” due to the sweet egg dough, currants and (if you’re doing them right) copious amount of icing. The amount of currants and spice can be adjusted to your own liking. I find “store-bought” very frugal on both ingredients.

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion. They are believed to pre-date Christianity, although the first recorded use of the term "hot cross bun" was in 1733.

So, if you’re like me, and are “mad as hell and not going to take this any more,” perhaps step back a bit, refocus life, and enjoy a sweet bun, loaded with icing. But wait a while. Easter isn't for another month.

Old-Fashioned Hot Cross Buns
Prep: 20 min  |  Rise: 2-2.5 hours  |  Makes 8-12 buns
3/4 cup water, 110°F
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast 
1 cup dried currants
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp allspice (or nutmeg)
2 lg eggs 
3 cups white flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3 tsp coffee cream

Heat the water, powdered milk, butter and sugar in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the liquid reaches a temperature of 100°F. Do not exceed that temperature. If you do let the liquid cool down to 110° before adding the yeast (or you’ll kill it).

Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the liquid. Stir gently, cover and let sit for between 10-15 minutes to “proof.” At the end of the time the yeast should be creamy. If not, start again with fresh yeast.

Place the currants in a large bowl. Add the salt, cinnamon, allspice, eggs and proofed yeast liquid. Mix well and then add the flour. Stir until it comes together, then transfer to a board and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will still be “wet” but won’t stick to your hands or the board.

Place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled. This will take about 2 hours. (I didn't have as warm a spot as usual for my bread and my first rise was 2.5 hours...)

At the end of the rise, punch down and divide into 8-12 equal balls. 8 balls make good sized buns, 12 make the number of apostles… Arrange the balls in an 8” x 8” oven-proof dish. Let rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Just before baking cut a small cross in the top of each bun. This will hemp the icing stay on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (30 min if making 8). Remove from the oven and rub with butter. Let the buns cool for 10 minutes.

Mix together the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and cream. Place in a plastic bag, snip off the end, and squeeze a cross on the top of each bun.


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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Traditional Corned Beef & Cabbage

To be positive is to be mistaken at the top of one's voice. – Ambrose Bierce

I mixed some butter and fresh dill together for a slightly
non-traditional touch.

Many of us will be breaking out the corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day. It seems to be as much of a tradition as green beer and Irish soda bread. But is it really associated with the Irish at all? This is something I thought was true. But is it?

Corned beef is cured with "corns" of salt. Curing meat with salt is a very old culinary technique, dating back to the murky ancient times of both Europe and the Middle East.

That pink is because of nitrites. I have a recipe for non-nitrite
corned beef linked just below.
Corned beef really took off during the British Industrial Revolution, being a product that could be transported and used not only as food for long sea voyages but also as a trading commodity once port was made in North, South and Central America. 

Corned beef is thought to be traditional Irish food by North Americans. Corned beef is served in Ireland, but many Irish see it as a tourist commodity and not innately “Irish.” In Ireland pork is more commonly consumed than beef, and many view our North American association between Ireland and corned beef as crazy.

The most famous salted beef is kosher brisket, from the Jewish culinary tradition. It is widely believed that corned beef in America was eaten by the Irish because it was readily available to purchase from their Jewish co-immigrants. Both groups had large populations in New York City in the mid-1800 and 1900s.

So the association probably has more to do with commerce than culture. I recently read an excerpt from a “letter to the editor” by an Irish-American lady commenting on an article about the Irish-ness of corned beef. She grew up in Queens, NYC in the early part of the 1900s. From her recollection its consumption was actually made popular by New York bars. 

Bars offered a “free lunch,” consisting of corned beef, to Irish construction workers working on NYC skyscrapers. But the workers had to buy beer or whiskey to get the free lunch. Over time, corned beef became associated with the Irish in the USA.

After 2 hours, add the potatoes and carrots. It appears that
carrots float...
So the desire to serve corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day because it’s Irish is, at the end of the day, a load of blarney.

But it is tasty – if highly salty. So if you’re of the mind to serve up a chunk of the brined, pink delight, what follows is a very traditional Nova Scotia recipe. Just be warned, the pink colour comes of curing with sodium nitrite, which turns some people off. I have a recipe for making corned beef without nitrites here.

This recipe is how my mother made it, and probably her mother before her, and her mother too. So this stretches back into the late 1800s. 

Some cooks soak the corned beef before cooking to remove some of the salt, others do not. This dish takes very few ingredients, so is not expensive to make. Vinegar sprinkled on the beef and cabbage is a standard condiment with corned beef in many Nova Scotia homes.

Traditional Corned Beef & Cabbage
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook 2.5 hours  |  Serves 4-6
The cabbage wedges go in only for 10-15 minutes
right at the end.
1kg (2.2 lbs) boneless corned beef
1 medium green cabbage
4 large potatoes
4 large carrots
water (see recipe)
2 tsp cracked black pepper
white vinegar, for the table

Rinse the corned beef and place in a heavy pot with a well fitting lid. Add just enough water to cover the beef. Add the black pepper and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and let cook for 2 hours. While the meat cooks, peel the potatoes and carrots and cut into large pieces. Core and cut the cabbage into eight wedges.

After the 2 hours, add the potatoes and carrots. Bring the heat up to medium high, cover again and cook for 15 minutes. Then add the cabbage wedges, re-cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Remove the beef and slice against the grain. Serve with salt (taste first!!!) and white vinegar at the table. 


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Homemade Coconut Cream

One should not confuse the craving for life with endorsement of it. – Elias Canetti

To gild this particular lily, top with a dollop of whipped cream
and some toasted shredded coconut.

Cravings. Sweet delicious cravings... Sometimes they’re just too strong to ignore.

That was the case the other day with coconut cream pie. I was out for lunch in the country with my spouse, mother-in-law and aunt-in-law. (Is that even a word?). Regardless, a great crew to be with.

We ate a bit too much (for noon) and couldn’t rationalize buying one item on the menu we all commented on: homemade coconut cream pie. It sounded too good to resist. But to avoid rolling in pain at being too full, resist we did.

But all that really accomplished was to shift the craving to dinnertime. Luckily the two of us were heading back to the city. It would be easy to find a bakery selling coconut cream pie, right? Not so fast...

This is the eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch.
Interestingly, independent bakeries in the city are few and far between. Those that exist all seem to close on Saturday by 1 or 2pm. Certainly not a timeframe that answers the call for any non-planners, wishing to have something sweet on the table for a weekend feast.

Isn't that supposed to be "the thing" about city life? Everything is available to you at the drop of a hat?

We had to settle for a frozen pie from a large grocery chain. It looked better than the sad looking affair they sold as fresh in the bakery section. But even the (slightly) more attractive pie didn’t itch the spot we wanted scratched.

So the other night I decided to get to the heart of the matter and look up how to make coconut cream myself. It isn’t very difficult, and is quite quick to make.

This recipe is dual purpose. You essentially make a coconut pastry cream that is then either thinned a bit with cream for use in a pie, or folded together with whipped cream for a very, very satisfying pudding.

I was completely blown away with how easy – and fast – this was to make. I'll be doing it again.

Ready for the stovetop. Do not leave this alone. That's
the only thing you need to know.
Coconut Cream
Time: 10-12 min  |  Cool: 1 hour  |  Serves 4 to 6, or filling for one 9” pie
19 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
for pie: 3 tbsp heavy cream (32%)
for pudding: 1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff
for both: additional whipped cream and toasted coconut for on top

Toast the coconut in a 350°F oven, or in a dry frying pan, until slightly browned. Set aside.

Place the eggs in a medium-sized sauce pan and beat with a hand-held mixer until very frothy. Then add the sugar and beat until thickened and light in colour.

Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and beat in to the eggs. Then add the coconut milk, butter, vanilla, salt and toasted coconut.

Place the pot on the stove over medium high heat. Using a whisk, stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil, taking care that it doesn't "catch" on the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture is boiling, continue to cook for a further minute, whisking vigorously. 

Remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool on the counter for 15 minutes.

Pie: If using the cream for pie, whisk in 3 tablespoons of un-whipped heavy cream and pour into a pre-baked pie shell. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface of the cream to avoid a skin from forming. Chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Once cool and set, whip more cream for on top,. Sprinkle with additional toasted coconut and serve.

Pudding: Whip 1 cup of heavy cream and fold together with the coconut cream. Pour into individual ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid a skin. Chill for 1 hour (or serve at room temperature). Top with a dollop of whipped cream and more toasted coconut.


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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lemongrass Chilli Shrimp

I can make more generals, but horses cost money. – Abraham Lincoln

I took my last bag of shrimp from the freezer for this recipe. I imagine it will be some time until I have shrimp again.

It’s not because anything was wrong with them. It’s because it is getting increasingly difficult to rationalize buying them. They’re too expensive.

Shrimp used to go on sale at the grocery store, periodically. Now it seems far less often. One pound of frozen shrimp was between $8.99 and $9.99 normally, and when marked down would be about $5. Now they’re $9-10 on sale. A little too rich for my blood. I used to have 3-4 bags always in my freezer. Currently the count is zero.

So when using your last bag of “gold” you have to make something good, right? This recipe falls into that category.

As I have pontificated before, certain flavours make certain dishes “signature” to a specific cuisine.

Today my sights are trained on Thailand. That means some very specific ingredients: coconut milk, Thai red “bird’s eye” chillies, lemongrass, and fish sauce.

It’s easy to always have lemongrass and chillies on hand. Buy them and freeze them. That’s what I do, and have been for several years. They keep for a very long time.

Coconut milk should be a staple in any pantry. Canned, it just sits waiting to be used. Fish sauce keeps for a very, very long time, unrefrigerated. Truth be told I’ve had bottles well over a couple years old. I haven’t died.

Fish sauce can be an acquired taste. Butt it’s a staple flavour in many Southeast Asian cuisines, including Thai. It’s made from the fermentation of fish. Believe me, it tastes better than it sounds. It’s also something that, if it’s not there, you will miss.

You can look up about fish sauce if you want, but it’s not very appealing. Do so at your peril.

Remember me telling you a few days ago to buy unusual ingredients and find out how to use them later? Fish sauce is a prime example. Another is coconut oil. I bought a big container of 100% organic at Costco for cheap. It’s a solid at room temperature.

If you have them in your pantry your Asian food will never be the same.

I added my red pepper before reducing the sauce. If you would
like crispier pepper add it at the end as in the recipe.
Lemongrass Chilli Shrimp
Prep: 15 min  |  Cook: 12-15 min  |  Serves 4
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 lb shrimp, peeled
1 med onion, chopped large
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Thai red chillies, diced with seeds
1 stalk lemongrass, diced
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp turbinado sugar (or light brown)
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
1/3 lb snow peas, sliced in half
1 bunch green onions, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare all the ingredients before-hand. Cook some white rice while you make the main dish. It will be cooked when the sauce is finished (20 min).

Heat the coconut oil in a wok. Add the onion, garlic, chillies and lemongrass. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Then add the coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. Let cook until reduced to about half, 5 minutes. Then add the red pepper, snow peas, green onions and shrimp. Let cook until the shrimp are cooked through. This will take about 4 minutes.

Taste for salt and adjust. (Fish sauce is salty.) Add some pepper, stir and serve over rice.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below. Feel free to comment. I'll always try to respond. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is that you credit me and share a link back to the original.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tuscan Kale Stew

My philosophy of dating is to just fart right away. – Jenny McCarthy

I don’t eat enough cruciferous vegetables. Do you? Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, as are many other vegetables I don’t eat enough of – especially in winter.

The list of cruciferous vegetables is long. It includes some you would expect, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. But it also includes some you might not think of, such as turnip, watercress, radish and wasabi. So what do they have in common to fit the name?

Cruciferous vegetables are all in the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae). The family takes its name (it's Latin for "cross-bearing") from its four petal flowers, in the shape of a cross.

They also have one other thing in common: gas. To some people they can be extremely gas-inducing; others don’t suffer quite so much. This is caused by a type of sugar known as raffinose, that most people have difficulty digesting. Luckily there’s an up-side, unless you find farts funny. I know some who do...

After simmering for 2 hours. The pork becomes fork tender.
All cruciferous vegetables contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals, and fibre, although some have more than others.They also contain phytochemicals that may aid in detoxifying certain cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to cause harm in the body.

So all good. And gassy too.

This post also references something from my last post where I told you if you see something odd in the grocery store to buy it. I saw Tuscan kale. Gorgeous stuff.

Kale isn’t an odd ingredient to see, but "Tuscan kale" was, and sadly kale is too odd in our kitchens. It was its beauty that made me buy it. It called to be a star in a pot of something...

Tuscan Kale Stew
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook 2h 15 min | Serves 8
1 tbsp olive oil
600 g pork loin roast, 2” cubes
1 medium onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
300 g crimini mushrooms, quartered
28 fl. oz diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
A full pot of deliciousness.
1 tsp whole fennel seed
2 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tbsp fresh)
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 tbsp fresh)
1 tsp dried sage (or 1 tbsp fresh)
350 g penne
19 fl oz cannellini (or black) beans
1 bunch Tuscan kale, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a Dutch oven, brown the pork in the oil with the fennel seeds. Then add the onion, garlic and crimini mushrooms. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Then add the tomatoes with their liquid, the chicken stock, oregano, basil and sage. Add some pepper and salt, but not too much salt. Adjust that at the end of cooking.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and let cook, covered, for about 2 hours.

The add the pasta, bring back to a boil and let cook for the pasta’s recommended time minus 1 minute. Add the drained, washed black beans and chopped kale. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes.

Taste for salt and pepper, adjust and serve, with a lovely crusty country-style bread on the side.

This can be reheated easily. If doing so, add a little water as the pasta will absorb the liquid in the pot as it cools.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below. Feel free to comment. I'll always try to respond. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is that you credit me and share a link back to the original.