Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sirloin Tip Roast with Garden Salad

It was the smallest, cutest little roast I've ever seen. It was just a hair over 1 pound of Angus beef and it looked like an overgrown filet. It was $5.02 which is $2.51 per person for protein, well within my budget. I bought a large turnip because that was all they had.

I let the roast warm up on the counter for close to half an hour before seasoning it with my Beef Rub.  I seared it all round, inserted the meat thermometer and put it on a pan rack in the oven at 250º.  I immediately started on the turnip, they take a hour to cook. I cut off about a third of it for tonight and put the rest back in the fridge.  Now I'll have to be creative to use up the rest of it, that should be fun.

I peeled a carrot and put it in with the turnip. A little salt and cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.  Drain and mash, add butter and salt if needed and whip with a fork. Nothing special about the mashed potatoes.  I added only butter and salt.

The salad is fresh from the garden.  I picked the lettuce along with some oregano, chives and parsley.  A simple vinaigrette of olive oil/rice oil and balsamic vinegar. A pinch of salt, 1/8 tsp onion powder and mixed pepper. I whisked it up and added the chives, oregano and parsley.  Toss the salad in the dressing while adding some fresh grated parmesan. It tasted great.

The roast was a little tougher than I expected but it was full flavor.  Creamed horseradish condiment.  We have some horseradish in the garden but I haven't tried making my own yet.  Still suburban standard plating but I did remember to add chives and parsley this time. I butchered these last slices so they didn't lie nicely.  The other plate had a nice fan so I know I can do it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cajun Chicken on Rice

Straightforward cooking tonight.  I boned the breasts, seasoned them with my Cajun spice mix seared them in a frying pan and finished them in the oven at 375º for 30 minutes total cooking time.  The rice was plain basmati only salt and a little oil added. I still haven't gotten away from microwaving my vegetables but I take them out before they become mushy. I dressed them with butter, salt and a few drops of rice wine vinegar.

When the breasts were done I put them under foil while the vegetables finished.  Then I sliced them and put them on the rice.  The juice from the board I poured over both breasts and rice. Finally I poured fresh squeezed lemon over both breasts.  All of that brought surprising flavor to rice.

A fresh salsa over the chicken would have been nice but I made oatmeal cinnamon raisin cookies just before dinner so time was short. Bet you didn't know if you don't have two of those hundred dollar ceramic cookie sheets you can use a $10 pizza stone!


Everyone loves spaghetti the way their mother made it, assuming she could cook. Recipes don't matter so much since satisfaction is based more on emotional connection to childhood memories than what the food actually tastes like. That sounds a bit like the Food Whisperer but it is what I have observed on a small sample of people. Fortunately my mother's sauce can be turned into my partner's mother's sauce by changing one ingredient and adding two. I am presenting sauce the way my partner's mother made it since that is how I prepare ours.  If you want to taste the sauce my mother made, substitute tomato paste for the Aylmer tomato soup and leave out the carrot and ground pork. One final note, I usually use a green pepper but today red peppers were half the price of green so I bought red.  It works because I added ground pork, otherwise the pepper would have been too sweet for the meat.

135 gm or 1/3 lb ground pork
454 gm or 1 lb lean ground beef (Angus is better)
1 can Hunt's Tomato Sauce
1 can Aylmer Tomato Soup
1 carrot diced
1 stick celery diced
1 onion diced
1 bay leaf
1 green (or red) pepper diced
6 mushrooms sliced
2 cloves garlic smashed or finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt (leave out if tomato sauce has lots of salt)

Unfortunately the brands are important here.  No other tomato soup can be substituted, if you can't get Aylmer Tomato Soup then use tomato paste instead. For the tomato sauce, Hunt's is a premium brand in Canada but most any tomato sauce can be used. To differentiate my sauce I put effort into the fresh ingredients.  Canned food tastes the same no matter how carefully I open the can.

On medium heat, I start by browning the diced onion to golden then removing it from the pan, I keep adding oil so the pan doesn't dry out. Next I added the finely diced carrot. A few minutes later in went the diced celery followed by the red pepper. Cooked them till they sweat. Out they came and in went the mushrooms.  When they were seared out they came and in went the pork, beef, garlic and salt. I cooked most of the moisture off the meat then added back in the sweated ingredients the canned ingredients and the bay leaf.

Heat it up and let it simmer for at least an hour.  For the pasta I use Barilla if I can get it, otherwise I use Catelli. If I have all afternoon and nothing to do I'll make fresh pasta, but not today.  Top with fresh grated parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Southwest Chicken with Garden Salad

Simple southwest chicken with salad of fresh garden lettuce. I seared the chicken in a pan then finished it in the oven at 375º for 30 minutes total cooking time.  The rice is plain but I drizzled a little fresh lemon juice over each breast on the plate so the flavor was carried into the rice.

The lettuce is fresh from the garden,  crisp but tender. We both noticed the red tinged lettuce has a distinct bitter taste.  The chickens may get those plants.

The vinaigrette was a little less than half extra virgin olive oil for a total of 1 tablespoon of oil.  To that I added a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. Some salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. I also chopped up some fresh oregano and parsley which I stupidly put in the lettuce instead of the dressing, but it worked anyway.

It isn't terribly sophisticated but it tastes good and it can be on the plate in 31 minutes if you just can't wait. The meat will be slightly tastier if it reaches room temperature before being cooked and it will be moister if it can rest out of the oven. In any case, taste for time spent is hard to beat here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Snapper with Greek Salad

We had a tooth extraction in the family today so it had to be soft food for dinner.  What is softer than fish?  I bought a nice snapper filet and headed home. I decided to have a salad instead of cooked vegetables since I already had the ingredients.  I only needed to gather some oregano and parsley from the garden.

Straight up mashed potatoes and steamed carrots. Snapper Rub on the fish after deboning and trimming any skin.  Snapper skin tastes really fishy so if there are any little pieces left, trim them off.

The greek salad was standard.  Two tomatoes, 4 inches of cucumber, 8 olives, a thin slice of red onion, a chunk of feta cheese crumbled, 1 tablespoon oregano and parsley chopped. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, the juice of half a lime and a little salt. Toss and serve.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Southwest Chicken with Baklava for dessert

Toothache in the family today so I kept dinner basic.  I seasoned the chicken with Southwest Rub, seared it on the stove and put it in the oven.  Plain white rice and simply steamed vegetables with some butter.  While neither of us said, "mmmmm goooooood" we both cleaned our plates so it wasn't bad.

I took another stab at Baklava today too and it worked beautifully.  This time I used a 9x12 pan and 3/4 cup butter.  I also used a little more than 3/4 cup honey, a little extra cinnamon and a whole tablespoon lemon juice. This time I decided not to worry about the filo tearing and just laid it on and buttered it. I did 6 layers of filo then half the nuts and 6 layers filo then other half of nuts and finally 6 more sheets to use up the whole package of filo. Every sheet tore as I separated it but I just did the best I could and kept going. It worked perfectly, with 18 layers there is contiguous pastry in every piece so it holds together perfectly.  Store bought Baklava is always horribly sweet and mostly flavorless.  This is rich with butter and flavored with lemon and honey. It's hard to stop eating it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Leftover Pork Fried Rice

That loin of pork makes it's final appearance. I planned ahead and made rice the day before, one of very few times I've done that, but it was worth it!  I've tried making fried rice with freshly cooked rice and it just doesn't work.  I picked up a red pepper, mushrooms and Shanghai Bok Choi to go in the rice. I've never tried the Shanghai Bok Choi so I'm trusting that it doesn't have some noxious flavor. I diced and sliced everything before starting cooking which sure made cooking a lot easier.

First I browned the onions to golden color. Then I added the carrots and sweated them slightly before adding the finely diced red pepper.  Sweat that a bit before adding the mushrooms.  Finally add the meat and bok choi, then start adding soy sauce to the mix.  When everything is thoroughly sauced add the rice and toss together.

It was delicious!  More delicious than I usually get with the same technique, which gave me pause.  There was one small difference in the way this meal was prepared compared to the usual.  Fern was power washing the concrete deck and it was taking far longer than he planned.  As a result I had everything prepped and sitting on the counter for about an hour before I actually cooked it (the meat was already roasted). I noticed when I went up the stairs to start cooking that the smell of freshly cut vegetables left a sweetness hanging in the air.  It is clear to me now that having all ingredients at room temperature before cooking significantly improves flavor. I had been told to have everything at room temperature but never why. Now I know it makes a big difference in the final product.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Southwest Chicken with Mushroom White Wine Sauce

I like scalloped potatoes but my partner does not so they are a rare treat.  That also means I haven't had time to perfect my recipe. With that, here is how I put them together.  I sliced each potato in half lengthwise then thinly sliced each half.  I diced an onion and put it in the sauce pot to brown. When the onion was golden I separated it into two halves. I put a layer of potato in the scallop dish, some of the onion and salt and a sprinkle of flour. I added more layers till I had all the potatoes in then I added a little chicken stock for flavor, milk to almost cover them and a pad of butter.  I put them in a 400ºF oven for 30 minutes then turned it down to 375º for a further 30 minutes. I seasoned the chicken with my Southwest spice rub, seared it on one side, turned it over and popped it in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

The sauce started with the second half of the fried onion.  To that I added oil and sliced mushrooms and got a good sear on the mushrooms. Next some flour and oil and I cooked off the flour taste.  Then I added chicken stock and the rest of my white wine, about half an ounce.  Finally an ounce of milk and some salt, pepper and paprika. I let that simmer and reduce.

Frozen peas and a fresh carrot round out the plate.  The mushroom sauce was delicious and my partner said if I had put that sauce on the scalloped potatoes they would have been terrific.  As it was they were barely better than mashed. The Southwest Chicken with the mushroom sauce on it was definitely the star of the meal.  Taking all that into consideration my plating would have made more sense if the chicken was on the potatoes, then the sauce over all. Hopefully I'll remember that for next time.  Also I'll allow an hour and a half to prep and cook the scalloped potatoes next time. I know I can get more flavor in them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Molasses Brined Pork Loin

Late this morning I started brining that pork loin I had in the fridge.  I used

1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tbsp molasses
per cup water

I allowed 2 hours for the roast to cook so I readied my potatoes.  In the roasting pan I put the potatoes and drizzled oil over them.  I seasoned them with salt, mixed ground pepper and plenty of paprika. I cleared the center of the pan after tossing them and sat the roast on a trivet fat side up.  On the fat I laid 4 bay leaves, a couple of sprigs of thyme and finally rosemary on top. Inserted the meat thermometer and popped it all in the oven.

The carrots and broccoli I did in the microwave with just water and salt this time.  When they were done I drained them and added salt, butter and rice wine vinegar.  I wanted to see how it compared to lemon juice. It adds that acid tang that lemon does but it has a slightly sweet flavor so I wouldn't use it in every situation. Looked at another way, a lemon costs me 50 cents and the bottle of rice wine vinegar was given to me. So the meal before payday plan to use rice wine vinegar.

The condiment is my partner's Quebecois Ketchup.  Basically tomato, onion and pears. Now doesn't that sound delicious? I'll document it's making in the fall.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Salsa on Cajun Chicken

We'll be having nachos later so I made salsa this afternoon. I had chicken in the fridge for dinner so while I was making salsa it occurred to me that my Cajun spice would go really well with the salsa. Cajun chicken done on the BBQ served on brown rice, topped with salsa and sweet corn. The rest of last nights Greek salad on the side. It tasted even better than it looks. Here's how I produced it.


2 medium tomatoes diced, Roma are best
1 thin slice of red onion diced, or any sweeter onion
1 diced jalapeno seeds and membranes removed
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 shakes of cumin
pinch of salt
ground black or mixed pepper

I didn't dice my tomatoes finely enough so they rolled off the meat, do a better job next time Doug! The rice is my own blend of basmati brown and red rice with a little pot barley.  I cooked it with half water half chicken stock.  I started with half a cup of dry rice mix. To season I added 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and a pinch of salt. I topped it off with some fresh chives and put it on to cook. The corn was frozen but it was still nice and tasty with lots of butter.

The chicken breasts I seasoned and sprayed with oil then put on the BBQ for 25-30 minutes.  I lay them at an angle for 2 minutes, rotate for 2 minutes, turn over 2 minutes then rotate 2 minutes.  Then I put the breasts in the center of the BBQ to finish cooking.  I use the two end burners to sear and heat the BBQ but the center burner I leave off so the food cooks but doesn't dry out.

I remembered my chives finally and I made an attempt at presentation.  The flavor was all there from the heat of the Cajun to the tangy lime of the salsa and the comfort of the stock in the rice. Even the frozen corn managed to tasted good.

Souvlaki on Rice with Greek Salad

Borrowing a trick from the roast beef, I bought a pork loin roast and took two thick slices off to make dinner tonight. I'll brine the rest for roast pork. I cubed my slices into about 3/4 inch pieces and put them in a glass bowl. I added two cloves of fresh garlic, crushed and chopped. I chopped up about two tablespoons of fresh oregano, a teaspoon of chives and two tablespoons of parsley and added that with some oil and juice of half a lemon.  Salt and mixed peppers freshly ground along with some paprika. Stir that together and put it in the fridge for as long as possible. I'm using bamboo kebabs so I soak them in water for half an hour before use. This prevents the ends from burning off and it also makes the meat easier to slide off. So I set them up in water.

Next the rice.  I measured out two servings and the appropriate amount of water.  A teaspoon of oil, salt, garlic powder and a little onion powder.  I don't like to use pepper or anything dark that makes the rice look dirty, those can be in what goes on top of the rice, but it's nice to impart some flavor into the rice to heighten the whole dish. I laid a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley on top, covered the rice and put it on to cook. I lit the barbecue to warm it up. 

Greek salad was straightforward, dice up 2 tomatoes, 5 inches of English cucumber (you don't have to peel them) and a thin slice of red onion.  (About now I put the kebabs on the fire). Add to that in a bowl several black olives sliced, some chopped parsley and a chunk of feta cheese crumbled on top. A little extra virgin olive oil to polish the taste and scoop it into bowls.

I cooked the kebabs on low heat for about 3 or 4 minutes per side so about 15 minutes total time. They have a nice sear on them but they aren't dry. The rice was great, I'll do that again.  The kebabs were delicious and the Greek salad was a welcome break from Cesar salad.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Leftover Roast Beef Chili Con Carne

I decided to use up the roast beef in a new way, chili! I had some dried red kidney beans and pinto beans so I decided to use those.  I used the quick method, rinse off the beans in a sieve then cover them with water in a pot, a little salt and bring it to a boil. Boil 5 minutes then turn heat off and let them soak at least one hour, 2 is better.  After soaking I put the beans and soak water in a bowl.

In the pot I first browned a diced onion to golden then put in a carrot, celery stick and green pepper all finely diced.  I sweated these vegetables then added the meat to brown it.  When the meat had a sear I added the beans and water back in and added chicken stock to almost cover.  Finally a can of tomato sauce to cover the beans.  I brought it to a boil and simmered for more than 2 hours. The beans were still a little too firm so next time I'll allow 3 hours cooking time at least. For spice I added salt, mixed ground pepper, Mexican chili powder, cumin and fresh garlic.  I also added a jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed, to the pot along with 6 mushrooms sliced up.

I sliced half a baguette down the middle and buttered it then put it in a paper bag in the oven to warm. I served the chili in a bowl with white rice on the side.  Extra Old Cheddar on the chili and parsley over all.  It was very good so I'll try that again but allow more time to soak and cook the beans.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Snapper with Savoy Cabbage and Apples

Wow, chives and parsley, I'm smokin! I braised the cabbage in chicken stock with a little rice wine vinegar. Wine was better. I tried to get away with a gala apple but it was too sweet. Granny Smith would have been worth purchasing. I didn't cut the apple into small enough pieces and it really hurt the dish. I really like the cumin in the Snapper Rub and as you can see I used plenty.  More, to a point, is better. My potatoes were perfectly seasoned again today. That's two in a row!

For dessert I made oatmeal apricot cookies with a double dose of Madagascar vanilla.  Instead of $10 for 100ml at the grocery store, on line I got 1000ml top quality extract for $35. If you bake and make ice cream it saves a bundle.

Weeding Day Roast Beef

Actually I already got two meals out of this roast.  Day before yesterday I got an early start on dinner and peeled potatoes and covered them with water in a pot on the stove. Then I was called away for a few minutes and when I got back I put rice, water, salt and a little oil in a dish, loaded it in the microwave and pushed the rice button. Then I turned around and saw the potatoes sitting on the stove, doh! There's a little Homer Simpson in all of us. That's fine, I'll make fried rice tomorrow.

So that's how yesterday's menu was set, fried rice with ... something. I went to the store with an open mind and approached the meat counter.  Nothing in the Angus beef section on special.  Had chicken yesterday. The pork on special wasn't suitable for a stir fry.   There in the beef section was a beautiful 3 pound sirloin tip roast marked down from $12 to $8 but the Best Before date was still 3 days away. So I picked up the roast, fresh ginger and everything needed for a stir fry.

I sliced off enough beef from the end of the roast to make a stir fry and put it back in the fridge.  I made fried rice and ginger beef chop suey which were both really good, unfortunately I didn't photograph it.  On the other hand one stir fry looks surprisingly like the next. That was the first time I've taken meat off a roast before it's been roasted.  It worked quite well so I'll keep that in mind when there's a large roast on special.

Next day a friend came over to show us his new puppy and help with the garden so I invited him to stay for dinner.  I took the roast out of the fridge a half hour early while I collected oregano from the garden.  I brushed oil all over the roast then seasoned it well with Beef Rub.  I finely chopped my oregano and worked it into the rub all over the roast.  Next I seared the roast on all sides, inserted my meat thermometer and put it all in the oven at 250ºF. When it was done I put it on the cutting board covered in foil for about 20 minutes.

Turnip takes nearly an hour to cook so I diced it up and got it on the stove an hour before dinner.  I added 2 carrots sliced up about 20 minutes before the turnips were done.  Mashed potatoes in another pot and broccoli in the microwave. I should steam my vegetables but that adds an extra layer of complexity that I don't need. On the other hand, as I gain experience I should be able to add more complexity and stay on top of everything. So not using the microwave is part of the long term goal.

I added butter and salt to the turnip carrot mix and mashed it up.  Then I mashed the potatoes and added salt, butter and milk.  Butter, salt and pepper on the broccoli and served up the beef with creamed horseradish. I even managed to get some chives on for garnish. We all had a mouthwatering feast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Simple Southwest Chicken

I forgot to photograph it first but it was so good I had to stop and get a shot.  I seasoned the breast really well with Southwest Spice and sprinkled lemon juice over it on the plate. It was amazing. I finally managed to get just the right amount of salt in the potatoes and they were, for the first time, delicious. Broccoli, this time I used just water instead of stock and since there were no carrots it was a very bright broccoli flavor I haven't had in a while.  That's an important lesson, if I want to feature a vegetables flavor I should cook it alone. One of these days I'll remember I have chives knee deep in the garden.

Corned Beef with Savoy Cabbage

Nothing interesting was on special today at the grocery store so I decided on Corned Beef since it is raining outside.  What goes well with Corned Beef? Cabbage.  I went over to the cabbages and decided to try a savoy since they were small and 2 people can't usually eat a whole head of cabbage before it goes limp. I'd never tried savoy cabbage so I didn't know what it would be like. Hopefully not bitter and awful.  I looked up a few recipes and decided to braise then saute.

I got the corned beef on right away since it takes 3 hours to cook.  About an hour before dinner I started the potatoes and vegetables. I described mashed potatoes before so I'll skip it now.  The cabbage I cut in half and put half back in the fridge. The other half I cored and cut up into less than one inch pieces.  This I put in a large pot with an ounce of chicken stock, half an ounce of white wine and a pinch of salt.  I simmered the cabbage for 10 minutes then boiled away the liquid and added some oil and butter.  To that I added julienned orange pepper and slices of apple.

When the apple and pepper were cooked through I plated in suburban standard fashion and added some dijon mustard to the corned beef.  After the saute the savoy cabbage had practically disappeared but it's taste was still strong and satisfying.  I used sweet pepper because I had some left in the fridge but I think this dish would be just as good with carrot instead of pepper. Savoy cabbage is a welcome addition to my list of fresh vegetables that I can cook into something good. Isn't it nice not to see broccoli on my plate?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Southwest Curried Snapper

It was time for fish again and snapper was on sale so I bought 2 small fillets. I picked up an orange pepper to sweeten the curry and a couple of tomatoes I didn't need. First off get that whole grain rice cooking in half chicken stock half water with a dash of salt and a bit of oil. Dice an onion and get it browning for the curry.  Take the bones out of the fillets and season them with Southwest Spice Rub.

I diced up 4 small tomatoes but 2 would have been plenty.  I only used a quarter of the pepper.  When the onions were golden I stirred in a tablespoon of curry powder and a pinch of cayenne. Cook it a moment then add a little chicken stock and the orange pepper. When that had sweated I added the tomatoes.

The frying pan was hot so I dropped in the fillets.  I watch the texture of the fish change as it cooks and turn it when the middle of the thickest part is done. It doesn't take long for small snapper fillets.  I plated the rice, then the fish and the curry over top.  Steamed broccoli on the side.  Simple, tasty and different.

CornBreaded Pork Cutlet with white wine mushroom gravy

This started out as a simple meal. $3 worth of tenderized pork cutlet and frozen peas. A mushroom white wine sauce would be nice if I can get the cutlets crisp. I'll use up the last of the new potatoes and the peas and carrots I'll sauté with an onion and the last of the celery.

First I got out the potatoes, there weren't enough so I got a russet and scrubbed it.  I left the small potatoes whole and cut the larger ones into similar sized pieces.  The same with the russet. I covered them with water, added a little salt and put them on a cold burner for now.  I had to get further along in prepping before turning on the potatoes.

I put  a couple of tablespoons of corn flour in a plastic bag and added salt, mixed ground peppers and 1/4 tsp of mustard powder. I shook that up then added the pork cutlets to get them thoroughly coated. Next I needed to get the vegetables and sauce ready so I took a slice of an onion, diced it and put it in the sauce pan.  The rest I chopped into large pieces.  I peeled a couple of carrots and diced a stick of celery.  Lastly, I beat up an egg and get a bowl of corn meal or corn grits ready. Clean the mushrooms and slice them up.

Turn on the potatoes and start browning the diced onion for the sauce.  Put the diced carrots and frozen peas in a pan with some chicken stock and slowly cook off the stock. Get the meat frying pan well oiled and heating up.  Dip the meat in the egg then roll in the corn meal. I completely covered my hands in corn meal and egg but I go the chops coated and in the hot pan.  I had to keep tipping the pan occasionally to keep the center oiled.  Also I was using my 12" frying pan so I had to rotate the meat so both edges were in the middle of the pan enough to brown.

Next the mushrooms go in with the diced onion to brown.  The peas and carrots should be drying out so it's time to add oil and the onion and celery.  I had to keep tossing the vegetables and mushrooms to keep them from burning.  When the mushrooms were almost done I sprinkled some flour over them and cooked the flour taste off.  Next I added chicken stock, an ounce of white wine and an ounce of milk then and let it reduce gently.

I could see the cooked meat in the cutlet had reached the middle so I turned both cutlets over.  The potatoes were done so I drained them and added a slab of butter and a little salt. Some pepper into the vegetables and it's time to plate. The sauce was coming to the right consistency. I plated the cutlet, potatoes and vegetables.  I scissored some chives over the potatoes and added sauce over the cutlet.

The egg and corn meal on the cutlet formed a crunchy coating that kept moisture in and didn't get soggy under the sauce.  The vegetables were much better than usual so I should do that again when I have lots of time. This meal took me nearly 1.5 hours to put on the table and everything on the plate was delicious.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cajun Chicken with Onion Flower. Oh Ah!

I used a tablespoon of oil on the chicken and thoroughly seasoned it with my Cajun spice then popped it on the BBQ.  Ordinary mashed potatoes but this time I didn't over salt them! Microwaved the vegetables again but I did cut nice onion flowers for garnish!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Avocado Crab Salad with couscous and Greek Salad

Yesterday I had to take the ferry to Vancouver Island to see a specialist so I didn't get back till 5pm.  I didn't want a big meal but I needed something with plenty of vegetables in it. Maybe shrimp salad of some kind.  I stopped at the grocery store on the way home.  Imitation crab was on special.  It isn't as nice as fresh crab, but it's significantly cheaper and might just get by my partner if I tart it up nicely. Decades ago I had an avocado stuffed with fresh crab and alfalfa sprouts that was absolutely delicious so I decided to use that as my starting point for this salad.

By the time I got home I had decided to make 3 salads, greek salad, couscous and avocado crab salad. It took me over an hour to put together three salads so that answers my question "How would I do in Chopped on the Food Network?". I'd get chopped first. In my defense I was creating new dishes by tasting and adding what I thought would help as I went.  If I had a better repertoire of dishes I would have been able to work faster.

I put the couscous on first.  It's easy, bring a small amount of water to a boil, stir in couscous, let cool. The only thing you can do wrong is boil too much water away, leaving crunchy couscous. If so boil a little more water and add it a teaspoon at a time.

I started with a slice of red onion diced and put most in the greek bowl, a little in the couscous and a bit more in the crab. Next I finely diced 4 inches of english cucumber, the skin isn't bitter so it adds a nice dark green to the salad. I used the same technique on the cucumber as a chef would on an onion which worked well an inch and a half at a time. I put a little in the couscous pile, a little more in the crab and the bulk in the greek. I went to the garden and got fresh italian and curly parsley and some golden oregano. I chopped up the parsley and put a little in each of the crab and greek but the bulk of it in the couscous. The oregano I chopped up and put in the greek salad.

I diced up my tomatoes and added them with black olives to the greek.  I got out a chunk of feta and broke it in there also. I juiced a lime and added the juice to the couscous. Next I juiced a lemon and added half to each of the crab and greek bowls.  The acid has to be in the avocado salad first to keep it from turning black.  I had to use a teaspoon to get the avocado out of the skin then dice them up and quickly toss them in the crab citrus.  Finally the imitation crab and alfalfa sprouts were shredded into the crab bowl with a fork.  I chopped up a few chive flowers and stalks into the greek salad and a few green chives into the couscous and crab. To finish off a little extra virgin olive oil to 2/3 cooking oil gives a pleasant flavor.  I find pure extra virgin to be too overpowering on it's own.

It all worked really well.  The cucumber and onion in each salad unified the whole while each salad retained it's unique flavor profile.  We finished the leftovers for breakfast. It was delicious and the imitation crab wasn't a disappointment.

Garlic Ckicken

We had a big lunch out so we wanted something lighter for dinner.  Chicken fit the bill so I picked up a couple of breasts and a zucchini to go with.  The whole grain rice takes nearly an hour to cook so I put it on first.  I used half chicken stock half water for the liquid and added only salt and a teaspoon of oil.

After boning the breasts I shook them in a plastic bag with 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, half a teaspoon of poultry seasoning and some salt and ground mixed peppercorns. I seared both sides in a well oiled frying pan then put the pan into a 375ᵒ oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

The carrots were par boiled then put in cold water till I had some sear on the zucchini.  It didn't get enough because my partner doesn't like zucchini unless it has a good sear flavor developed and he didn't like this batch.  I tried to plate mine a little creatively, it doesn't look like my traditional suburban plate but it isn't all that sophisticated either. Some grated Parmesan on the chicken and some chives over the vegetables would have been nice.  Hopefully next time I'll remember to have them ready. Overall it was a tasty, fairly light meal.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sole Almondine

A friend helped weeding the garden today so I asked him to stay for dinner and also what would he like? Fish. He is from a humble background and any kind of sauce is a novelty he always enjoys. With that in mind I went off to the market.  Sole was on special and I had slivered almonds at home.  New potatoes were also on special so I bought a bag of those too.

I find that black pepper in a white sauce on white fish can look a little unappealing. This time I decided to try white pepper. I put flour, salt and white pepper in a plastic bag and shook all the fish to coat. The fish was cut up into pieces about the size of my spatula so they would be easy to turn. I fried them till they had a little color on each side.

I haven't been particularly happy with the results when I've tried to toast the almonds in butter, I get them too dark. This time I decided to do them right in the sauce pan.  I started with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, a pad of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour.  I cooked off the flour taste then added the almonds.  I continued to fry them until the flour and nuts took on a hint of color.  Then I added chicken stock to thin, an ounce of white wine and the juice of half a lemon.  I added a healthy pinch of salt and tasted. The deep flavor from the chicken stock overlaid with fruitiness of the wine, butter and almond and the tang of lemon, delicious!

The potatoes were just boiled then salted and buttered, chives I scissored over top on the plate. The vegetables I did in the microwave with an ounce of chicken stock.  I did my potatoes in the base of the steamer so I had to microwave the veggies.  I know I can get better flavor if I par boil them then dunk them in ice water to stop them cooking and fry them to finish, but I have to plan ahead to do that. In any case, our friend thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

Banada Bread and Chocolate Fudge

Bananas were on special so I loaded up and made Banana Bread.  While that was in the oven I made Chocolate Fudge.  I find that if I buy a bag of cookies I can easily sit in front of the tv and eat the whole thing, that's not good.  When I bake I have to go upstairs and cut another piece. Home baking also doesn't have concentrated fructose and fats which give store bought cookies an addictive quality.  A couple of homemade cookies are satisfying in a way that commercial baking avoids. After all, commercial bakeries want you to eat as much as possible, even if it kills you. A little short sighted I think.

Ham and Rocket Sandwich

Lunch.  I'm only putting this up because it is the first time I've used Rocket (arugula) extra-salad and undressed.  The light sesame flavor went well with the black forest ham. I didn't miss dressing, the sandwich had mustard and mayonnaise that seems to have been enough. I'm sure there are flavors rocket won't work with so I taste as I'm going when I'm not using a recipe, which is almost always. It was a very good sandwich.