Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cajun Basa

I am trying to decide where to do the bulk of my shopping. I used to shop at Save On Foods until Quality Foods opened. I remember I was happy to leave Save On but I couldn't remember why. My first shopping trip with a cart reminded me. First, I had to have a quarter coin so I could unlock a shopping cart. The shopping carts are huge. Now I remember.  Before the store was remodelled it had narrow aisles that were crammed with extra displays on the floor. The regular size carts were awkward to navigate around other carts and the floor displays. It was just too crowded.  Then they remodelled the store.  More floor space, wider aisles. It was finally a pleasure to shop there. Then they brought in larger jumbo carts that were even more awkward to get through the store. In the end, the wider aisles were crammed with even more floor displays and the larger carts were far more difficult to maneuver through the clutter. Using a shopping cart is a chore at Save On. 

So I tried out Safeway. I stopped shopping there because they were the newest, freshest, largest grocery store in town and had the prices to match. In the ensuing years I see their prices are now comparable to Save On so I can afford to go back. I tried some Basa which I seasoned with salt and my 

Cajun Spice Rub

2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp paprika 
1 1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp ground cloves

The original recipe called for salt but I found that I wasn't getting enough salt on the food that way so now I salt the meat directly just before seasoning with rub.

I fried the basa in plenty of oil, then spoiled the look by slopping tartar sauce all over it. I'll get plating one day. Corn and mashed potato fill out the plate. I noticed the basa was previously frozen after I chose it so I hoped it was good. It was a bit mushy but not bad. Frozen fish is always mushy it seems.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Southwest Chicken

I bought boneless chicken breasts from Mitchell's this time. Either they were extremely small chickens or the butcher left half the meat on the carcass.  It was about the same price as the other stores and didn't taste any different.  I prefer boning chicken myself because I do a better job and I make stock and use the skins for dog treats. Anyway, I seasoned the breasts with 

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

I also salted both sides of the breast. Fresh carrots and frozen peas microwaved and rice, also from the microwave, fill out the plate. I cooked them on the BBQ for about 15 minutes, half the usual time.  They were good. I was afraid they'd be dry because they're so thin but they were fine. I'm just used to larger breasts. On the other hand, smaller pieces of meat will suit Fern's sister better when she arrives next week.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rib Eye Steak from Mitchell's

It was late in the day so I decided to pick up dinner at Mitchell's, just a block away.  To my surprise their meat prices were lower than the butcher's. The meat was top notch so I think I'll shop there more often.

I used a fork to pierce the potatoes and cooked them in the microwave.  Then I wrapped them in foil with butter, salt and chives and put them on the BBQ to finish roasting. Steamed broccoli and fried mushrooms complete the plate.  The mushrooms are cooked in a little oil, some butter and salt.  I managed to get a steak with almost no fat for Fern so he was pleased and I got my own with a lump to roast up. I seasoned the steaks with salt and

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

Then they were cooked on the BBQ for 2x2x2x2 minutes to get the crossed grill marks. Not a heart healthy meal,  but a really tasty one! At least there's no sour cream.

Indonesian Satay Chicken

I like peanut sauce so chicken satay is a natural choice. I found this recipe online somewhere and it sounded good. Turned out my own invention was a bit better but this did teach me a little so it was a worthwhile exercise. I just noticed there is no salt in the recipe so that is probably why it was a disappointment. The salt in the soy sauce isn't enough.

Indonesian Satay 

3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 cloves garlic
black pepper
pinch of cumin
1 tbsp oil

Mix satay and marinate chicken in it for at least 20 minutes. (at least an hour really)
If chicken is cut into strips then thread the chicken onto skewers. If it's whole just put it on the BBQ. It takes 25-30 minutes to cook a boneless chicken breast. Maybe 7 minutes for skewers, depends entirely on thickness.

Peanut Sauce

1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

This sauce was a little better than mine but I think it could still be better. Chicken stock instead of water would pick it up a bit. Next time I'll try that. Ordinary rice and frozen peas fill out the plate. Not a bad effort but it does look a lot like gravy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Fresh from my Quality Foods rotting meat disaster I decided to give Save-On Foods meat department another try. I never had a problem with them before so hopefully they are still reasonably good. Save-On has changed the way they market their meat with everything now vacuum packed. No more sticky meat packages, so I guess that's better. I settled on a small boneless pork loin roast that I could slice into chops.  The roasts were all about the same size and all $5 so I chose the heaviest one and headed home.

I wanted to slice the roast into chops and cook them on the BBQ so it didn't make sense to brine the pork first.  The brine would prevent the meat from searing and sealing in the juices, or at least that's the way it looks to me. So I salted and seasoned the chops with mixed ground pepper and fired up the BBQ.  I put some rice on to cook and prepped the carrots and broccoli. 

Honey Mustard Sauce/Glaze

1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp honey

I put the seasoned chops on the BBQ for the usual 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they have nice grill marks.  Next I brush glaze over the chops and turn them over into the BBQ centre, off the heat, and brush the other side with glaze. I left them to finish cooking off the fire while I readied everything else for plating.  I had to drain the veggies and put salt and olive oil on them to finish them off. A little black pepper too. Got the chops off the BBQ onto plates to rest a moment before serving.

I plated the plain rice and vegetables beside the chops. I didn't put soy sauce on my rice as I was hoping to flavour it with juice from the meat. I didn't over cook the broccoli fortunately. I'm finally getting a handle on when to remove them from the steamer.

Rice and vegetables don't really need comment.  The pork chops almost speak for themselves.  Plump and juicy, they taste as good as they look. I had always put glazes on meat before cooking and was never really happy with the result.  Grilling the chops and finishing them with the glaze worked spectacularly. Juicy and full of flavour, this is definitely the way to BBQ pork chops.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Quality Foods Goes Down In Flames and Sirloin Steak from the Butcher

I thought the butcher's prices were pretty good when I was last in so when Quality Foods let me down yesterday, I was glad to have an alternative. What did Quality Foods do? Let's look back over the few years it's been open here in Powell River, BC. 
When it opened it was fresh and new and everything in it was wonderful.  Then I got some fishy tasting ham at the deli meat counter. So I started buying cold meats elsewhere. 
They have never been able to make pastry at Quality Foods so I never buy pies or pastries there. I did buy some doughnuts. They were disgusting. Dry and tasted of really cheap vanilla, awful! I took them back and the baker smiled broadly and said, "We don't make them. We bring them in frozen, repackage them and put them out."
"That's even worse! Not only can you not make doughnuts, you can't even buy good doughnuts! Some bakery!"
Then last week the meat manager was training a new girl when I walked by and he introduced me as their best customer.  I did shop there every day, but it did sound a little hyperbolic.
That brings us to yesterday.  I felt like pork so I looked over the counter and decided a boneless loin roast I could cut into chops was the best deal. It wasn't on clearance or anything, just another package of meat. I picked it up and headed home.

When I started preparing dinner I took the roast package out and set it on the counter. Cut the plastic back, took the roast and set it on the board.  A whiff of spoiled meat, not enough to disturb me. Started slicing the roast. I kept smelling that spoiled meat smell and I saw a black edge on the back side of the roast.  I turned it over and the back side of the roast was black and green rotting meat. The smell, terrible! 

I've been buying meat for 40 years and I've never encountered anything like this. We went back to Quality Foods to return it on our way out for dinner.  The girl at the service counter said, "That's awful, I'm really sorry." I simply didn't have words to express how I felt. Disgusted. Sickened. Horrified. I still feel sick if I think about it. Quality Foods finally managed to scare away their best customer.

Today I bought steaks from the butcher.  I bought the cheaper steaks but they looked nice.  I salted and seasoned with my Southwest Rub. I did them on the BBQ but they were really thick so I gave them two minutes extra on each side.  That did it, they were perfect. Carrots and broccoli in the steamer were finished with olive oil in the pan.  I did the baked potatoes in the microwave then wrapped them in foil with salt, pepper, butter and chives and put them on the BBQ to finish. The meat was the best we've had in a while. I wonder why?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prawns in Penne Pasta with Basil Tomato Sauce

It felt like a pasta night and I didn't feel like heavy beefy spaghetti.  I suggested prawns and pasta and everyone instantly agreed.  I went to the store and picked up some Mezzetta Bistro Tomato Basil Sauce. It's almost as good as making tomato sauce and soooooo much easier. I counted out enough prawns to feed three of us, 10 each and put them in a sieve. I sat them in cold water to thaw. I changed the water once to speed it up.  I fried the prawns in butter just till the outside was cooked then put them in the hot sauce to let them finish cooking while I drained the penne pasta. I poured the sauce and prawns over the pasta in the pot and mixed it all thoroughly. I plated the dish and topped with fresh grated parmesan.  I guess some fresh chopped basil over top would have been nice. It was very good. That sauce is expensive but it's steps above everything else except home made. 

Chicken Cordon Swiss

Ryan asked what chicken cordon bleu was so I decided to make it for dinner. I didn't make hollandaise sauce because I've made it for him before and I'm desperately trying to hold on to my waist size. I forgot to spray the panko with oil so it didn't brown as much as I wanted. The peas are about 1/4 fresh from the garden, filled out with frozen.  I made plain white rice which I plated with a little soy sauce.  

I put a skinless boneless chicken breast in a clear plastic bag skin/smooth side up on the counter.  Use the smooth side of meat mallet to flatten the chicken breast to 1/4 inch thick or 2 to 3 times original size. Remove breast from bag, turn over and place on counter smooth side down.  Lay lunch meat thin piece of black forest (or other) ham in centre of breast. Place 1 x 1/2 x 1/2 inch piece of swiss (or what you have) cheese at the bottom edge of the breast.  Roll the breast and ham around the cheese while tucking in the ends. Gently coat roll in flour, roll in milk then roll in panko. Place in pan, spray oil on panko so it will brown and cook in 350ºF oven for 30 minutes or until cheese leaks out. Serve plain as I have or with hollandaise or cheese or whatever sauce will taste good. Plate the roll on top of the sauce so the panko stays crunchy.

Ryan loved it.  It does make rather a large portion so I don't make it often, but I like it when I have it!

Butter Tarts

I made pastry for a Quiche and made butter tarts out of the remaining half of the dough. I baked the tarts first because they were done in 20 minutes.

On a well floured surface roll the dough out to 1/8th inch thickness and cut circles out of it.  I use a 500ml yoghurt container to cut the dough. It was the first thing I found that was about the right size.

Place the dough circles over the tart pan and press down into the form.  Prick the dough with a fork so it doesn't over rise.  Brush with butter to keep it crispy.  

Butter Tart Filling - twelve tarts

1/3 cup melted unsalted butter (I use salted anyway)
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup raisins

Combine and mix thoroughly.  Pour into shells and  put in 400ºF oven. Turn oven down to 350ºF and bake for 20 minutes.

I didn't have quite enough dough for twelve tarts so I made 10 and over filled them a little. Kevin had one and loved it. All the tarts were gone before bed time.

Prawn Quiche

I had twelve eggs from my two relentless layers. So, I thought, what can I make that uses lots of eggs? Quiche! Or as it's more easily understood here, Egg Pie with Shrimp!

Pie Pastry - One Double Crust Pie

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup lard
1 egg
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar

This makes enough pastry for two quiche. I only want to make one so I'll make butter tarts with the remaining dough. Beat together egg, water and vinegar.  Mix salt and flour, then cut the lard into the flour until it is the texture of coarse oatmeal. These small lumps of fat create the layers of flaky pastry. Add two thirds of the egg mixture and combine with a fork. Add more liquid as needed to take up all the flour but don't make the dough too wet. Once the dough can be formed into a ball, cover and put in the fridge for minimum thirty minutes. 

Cut ball of dough in half and return smaller half to the fridge.  On a well floured surface I roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness, sprinkling flour over top and around the sides as I go. When it is thin and wide enough to cover the whole pie plate.  I slide an icing knife under the dough to release it from the counter top. Place the rolling pin on the dough and lift the dough over the rolling pin, then gently roll the dough onto the pin. Unroll over the pie plate and lift the edges till the dough fills the bottom of the plate. Pierce the crust all around with a fork so it doesn't rise too much and brush melted butter all around so the filling won't make the crust soggy.

I diced an onion and caramelized it, added a finely chopped garlic clove and sweated it. I tossed in 8 to 10 prawns and cooked them just till they had colour but the centre was still raw. Let cool slightly.  In a four cup measure crack two cups eggs, add onion, garlic and prawns.  Add cream or milk to make three cups liquid.  Pour into pie shell and bake in preheated 400ºF oven for 30-40 minutes. When the centre doesn't jiggle it's done.

Kevin was over working in the garden so I went out to ask who wanted a piece of quiche for lunch.
"What's quiche?"
"egg pie."
"I'll try it."
"Wow, this is really good! It's got shrimp in it! Can I take a piece home with me?"
"of course."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Moose Burger with fries

Kevin gave us some more wild meat, ground moose this time.  Fern asked for burgers so I decided to do fries with that.  I used my 

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

With extra salt to season the meat.  Just tomato, onion and butter lettuce to dress the burger plus the usual condiments.

Finally Ryan cleaned his plate.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pork Cutlet

Fish or pork tonight. Nothing interesting at the fish counter and I think I'll make prawns tomorrow anyway.  A package of seasoned tenderized pork cutlets caught my eye.  Mostly because it had three pieces about the right size. I picked it and a few other things up and headed home.

I got potatoes peeled and on for mashed. I put the carrots in the steamer and cut up the broccoli.  I had a large frying pan with oil ready to go. When the potatoes were half done I started the pork.  I added more oil to the pork so it never got dry and scorched. It is served with Fern's Quebec style ketchup. (onion, pear, tomato)

I finished the veggies in olive oil and managed not to overcook the broccoli this time. I think the 'seasoned' part of the pork cutlet didn't include salt so it was a little bland. The ketchup helped that a lot.

Ryan ate almost everything on his plate so that was good to see. Fern said it was good, he doesn't usually like these things but I guess I prepared it well enough to over come his predilection. I'm glad everyone was happy because this meal can go together in 30 minutes if I move fast and stay organized. That is sure to come in handy at some point.

A Taco Fern Likes!!!!!!!

I like tacos. I like them swimming in sour cream. I like lots of tomatoes. I like avocados and guacamole. I even like refried beans. 

Ryan doesn't like tomatoes, sour cream, refried beans or avocado. 

Fern doesn't like beans or sour cream by itself.

How to make everyone happy? I have to design a meal that can be plated differently for each guest.

Since I can't put sour cream on the taco for Ryan and Fern isn't wild about it either, I should use something else. They both like cheese sauce so that's what I'll make.  The beans need something too.  I put sour cream and fresh lime juice in to liven them up.  The guacamole had sour cream, salt and lime juice in it.  The salad was chiffonade cut garden lettuce with some fresh chopped tomato on Fern's and my plates.  I drizzled olive oil and fresh lemon juice over the lettuce and tomato.  The tomato also got some black pepper.

For the meat I used lean ground Angus. I diced and caramelized an onion, then added a finely diced carrot.  Finally I added a finely diced stick of celery.  When it was all sweated nicely I added the ground Angus and some salt.  I broke the meat up as it cooked and when it was nicely browned I added two tablespoons taco seasoning and a quarter cup chicken stock. Then I simmered that down again so there was just a little moisture when it was put in the taco shell.

The cheese sauce was a pad of butter and teaspoon of flour cooked off. Then 1/4 cup or less chicken stock and 3/4 cup milk. I sliced about 100gm or 1/4 pound of sharp cheddar and put it in the sauce to melt.

I plated the cheese sauce, then the taco with more cheese sauce over top and the lettuce on the side. Refried beans on the other side. All the plates are the same at this point.  Next I added guacamole to Fern's and my plate and tomatoes to our lettuce. I drizzled oil and lemon juice over the salad and sprinkled fresh chopped parsley over all.

Once he had time to taste each component Fern surprised me by saying, "I would pay $15 in a restaurant for this meal. It's really good."

Wow! Fern has never liked a taco and he's never said he'd go to a Mexican restaurant. I'm blown away. Ryan almost liked his meal.  That's a victory for food! I loved my meal, I don't know why I didn't do this sooner? Maybe I didn't know how.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chicken Thighs Taste Better!

I was in the mood for chicken but the breasts were a bit pricey so I decided to have a go at some chicken thighs instead. The meat is supposed to taste better, so lets find out.

The peas are fresh from the garden but the carrot and potato are store bought. I started by boning the thighs.  On the underside there is a strand of fat/sinew running from end to end of the bone.  I cut down to the bone the length of the strand.  Then scrape the meat away from the bone all around.  I left the skins on this time.  It only took a few minutes do six of them.  

I put flour, salt, poultry seasoning, paprika, and fresh ground mixed pepper in a plastic bag and shook the chicken in it.  I laid the thighs in a frying pan with plenty of oil. Salt in a dry rub never seems to leave enough salt on the meat so I salted the upturned side of the chicken in the pan.

I got the potatoes on boiling first then put the carrots in the steamer.  I put the peas in the steamer when the meat was a bit more than half done.  The meat took longer to cook than expected so my vegetables were crunchless but tasted good.

I mashed the potatoes and added salt, butter and milk.  I finished the vegetables in extra virgin olive oil with a little salt and black pepper. The chicken was delicious. Moist and flavourful, more than chicken breasts offer. I'd say chicken thighs are just as easy to do as chicken breasts and the thighs taste better and are cheaper to boot.

My food costs contract again.  It's a good thang!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Laughing Oyster Again

We went to the Laughing Oyster for dinner the other night. Chef Dave wasn't there so the sous chef was in charge.  We had a new waitress this time as our usual table had a large party. When she came to the table she remarked, "Oh, and you're the gourmet?"

"I hadn't thought of myself that way, but yes, I guess I am a gourmet."
I gave her our order for dinner and off she went.

The calamari was cooked properly but the coating was mushy. I'm not sure if the batter was too wet or the oil not hot enough or some other problem, but it wasn't up to scratch.  Everyone else was happy with it so I didn't complain, but I've never had decent calamari when the sous chef is in charge.  My entrée arrived, halibut and spicy Thai prawns. The prawns had obvious freezer burn on the shells, I don't think fresh prawns can be had here so I use frozen prawns as well, but I take the shells off. The vegetables were unseasoned and bland.  The halibut was also bland.  I ordered halibut with spicy Thai prawns and the Thai sauce was the same one used at the buffet with the battered cod.  It's good, I like it, but I'd had it before.  I was hoping for a new experience. I think there was rice on the plate but if so, it wasn't remarkable enough to remember.

Wow! I never anticipated getting to the point that my food is better than the sous chef at my favourite restaurant, but that appears to be where I'm at. Everyone else was completely happy with their meal so it was just my better trained palette that noticed the deficiencies. Considering the sous chef was told this plate was for me and we are the best customers at this restaurant, I really expected better. Now I understand why Chef Gordon Ramsey gets so upset when the cooks don't turn out their best. I did give the waitress my run down of the meal and she told the sous chef, so hopefully next time it will be better. If not I'll tell Chef Dave he needs someone to expedite when he's away to keep the quality up. When I started down this learning to cook road I told Chef Dave that since no one else

Spaghetti and Ciabatta Bread

I felt like spaghetti so I picked up some angus ground lean and headed home.  The sauce was a diced onion sweated to golden then a carrot and stick of celery finely diced and sweated. I removed the vegetables from the pan and added the meat to brown.  When it was all browned I put the veggies back in and added a can of Hunt's tomato sauce and a can of Aylmer tomato soup.  Only Aylmer will do, it has a unique flavour.  I got a bay leaf from my new tree in the back yard. I grated some fresh parmesan for the top and put my Barilla pasta on to boil. (Barilla tastes best)

Earlier in the day I made easy 


1 liter bread flour/ about 4 cups ( I use all purpose flour but substitute 100ml of wheat gluten for flour )
450 ml water - 1.9 cups
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp xv olive oil

Mix flour/gluten, sugar and yeast. Add the water and salt. Use a fork to mix into a sticky mess. When all the flour is taken up keep pulling and stretching then slapping down over top of the dough, trapping air inside. Beat like this for 5 minutes. The recipe makes one loaf but I divide it into two loaves at this point. Pour the oil over the dough in the bowl or dough on parchment and brush it all over. Cover and put in a warm place to rise.  After an hour or when the dough doubles in size, Gently lift the loaves onto a floured baking sheet. Put in a 400°F oven for 40 minutes.

When the pasta was done I plated it all.  The ciabatta was wonderful.  Light with a really crunchy crust.  I finally succeeded at making bread! I think this was my fifth attempt. The pasta sauce was good as always.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Rib Eye Steak with Baked Potato and Raspberry Salad

I felt like a steak and I was near the butcher shop so I decided to check them out.  They had 8oz Angus rib eye steaks for $9 each.  That is pricey but it's cheaper than Quality Foods and it's trimmed beautifully.  Fern always complains when there is a lot of fat on a steak, he had no complaints about this one. There is a little bit of fat marbled in the meat but not much, just enough to add flavour. I salted and seasoned with 

Southwest Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

and did it on the BBQ. I cooked it for a minute to  a minute and a half then rotated it, flipped it and rotated it again.  The total cooking time was 5 to 6 minutes.

The potatoes I par cooked in the microwave then wrapped them in foil with butter, salt and chives then put them on the bun rack in the BBQ. I served mine with sour cream, chives and artificial bacon bits. (I confess, I like them)

Ryan doesn't like tomatoes so I had to be creative with the salad.  I settled on butter lettuce and raspberries from the garden and walnuts from the store.  The dressing was rice bran oil and rice vinegar with a little salt and mixed pepper. Whisk it up and toss the salad in it. Fresh and delicious.

The steak was amazing.  Butter tender and full of flavour. The baked potato, while ordinary, tasted great. The salad was surprisingly good, I'll make it again maybe with a little feta cheese.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sole with Almonds and lemon Sauce

Fern and Ryan both asked for sole for dinner. It is the easiest fish to cook so I don't mind it at all.  I made mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives instead of butter and milk.  Carrots and broccoli were done in the steamer. The fish is simply salted, dredged in flour and laid in a hot frying pan with plenty of oil.  It only takes a minute or two each side so have everything else ready before putting fish in oil.

When the broccoli and carrots were almost done I drained them and added extra virgin olive oil to their pot over medium low heat. The lemon sauce for fish is roux based.  I put a large pad of butter and 2 tsp of flour in a small sauce pan.  I cooked the flour taste off then added chicken stock to thin the roux into a sauce.  Then I added lemon juice and salt to taste. I put some blanched almonds in the toaster to brown slightly and plated them on the fish with sauce over top.

Fern loved the potatoes, Ryan didn't but he doesn't like so many foods it's ridiculous. He picks through his food like a seven year old, eating only what he likes. It's not his fault he grew up that way but I have no idea how to help him at this point in his life. 

I over did the broccoli just a little but the lemon sauce was spot on. I put too much sour cream in the potatoes so they were a bit too rich, but good. The fish was wonderful, as always. Only buy fresh sole, frozen sole cooks down into mush so don't try it. Don't worry about the bones, they are small enough to supply a little crunch in the meat without being a choking hazard.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pork Roast With Pan Gravy

I was thinking some kind of pork when I went to the store.  I was looking over the chops when one of the butchers came over and plopped a huge bone-in pork roast to clear for $3.50. Not per pound, that's for the whole thing. I'm far too cheap to pass up a special like that!

As soon as I got home I put the roast in a brine of 

Pork Brine - per cup water

1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp molasses

Immerse pork in brine and refrigerate as long as possible, up to 2 days. I gave it 3 or 4 hours. To roast I laid 5 bay leaves on the roast, a couple of sprigs of thyme and 3 sprigs of rosemary.

I only had 2 potatoes left and 3 diners so I made rice, which Ryan likes better anyway.  I picked some peas in the garden, about half I podded and the rest I cooked in the pod.  Still didn't have enough so I added the rest of my frozen green peas.  Still not enough!  I added some frozen corn and that finally looked like enough fibre for 3 people.

I slowly mixed 1 cup water into 1 tablespoon of flour to make a smooth suspension.  Then I poured that into the roasting pan on a med-low burner.  I had taken most of the fat off the roast so there wasn't as much as in the past. Pork fat tastes great but too much is just greasy. That wasn't enough flour so I put another teaspoon or two in a dry spot in the pan and whisked it into the gravy.  Drawing the gravy up to the flour and mixing on a dry spot worked great, no visible lumps.

There was no slicing or carving around the bones in the meat so I just hacked off hunks of meat.  I spooned a bit of gravy over the meat on the plate and added the rice and vegetables. A spoon of Fern's Ketchup beside the meat. The frozen peas and corn didn't detract too much from the rest of the meal The half fresh peas lifted the frozen a notch. It's definitely home cook plating but it had four star flavour! I wanted to say Michelin flavour (not the tires) but I've never eaten in a Michelin star restaurant so I wouldn't know when my food gets there, if ever.

Strip Loin With New Potatoes and Ciabatta

I was in the mood for beef so either burgers or steaks.  Ground beef was kind of pricey so I opted for three strip loins from Australia that were hopping around in the meat bin. I had new potatoes, carrots and broccoli in the fridge so it was a quick trip. I didn't even have to peel potatoes! Dinner was going to be so easy I decided to make a ciabatta. The recipe calls for 500gm of strong flour.  In North American that means bread flour.  I only stock all purpose flour so I replaced 50gm of all purpose with 50gm of vital wheat gluten. I just checked and the correct amount would have been two to three tablespoons where I used closer to half a cup extra gluten.  It didn't seem to hurt because it was the best bread I've made so far. It didn't feel like a brick when picked up.

Ciabatta Bread

500 gm/1 litre/4 cups Strong Flour (bread flour or all purpose with 2-3 tbsp replaced with wheat gluten)
450 ml/1.9 cups  water - tepid
1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

The recipe used both metric and US measures so I have also because there is no simple perfect conversion for the two amounts. 4 cups is more than 1 litre. No measuring cup is calibrated with 10ths of a cup so it's impossible to be perfect without an ml measuring cup. With all that said, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.

Mix flour, sugar and yeast. Add water then salt and I used a fork to mix into thick sticky dough. Beat the dough for 5 minutes pulling it out and slapping it down to trap air bubbles in the dough. I found this very sticky so I'll try using less water to see if a less sticky dough will still work fine. Also the loaf is too big to easily stretch and flop so I will cut the dough in half before rising next time. 

Pour or brush oil over dough, cover and let rise 1 hour or till double in size.  Scrape out onto parchment paper, pull one side out and flop it over the top of the loaf to trap more air in the middle. I found the dough was too big to easily handle so next time I'll cut the dough in half before rising and make two loafs. Bake the bread for 30-40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when knocked.

I was afraid the olive oil would become bitter baked at that high temperature but it tasted fine. I baked 35 minutes and it could have taken a few more although it was done all the way through.  The bread had a wonderful texture and taste so I'll probably make it again today.

The steaks I did on the BBQ over high heat.  First, season with salt and black pepper then, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they're done with lovely grill marks. The new potatoes were boiled and I steamed the carrots and broccoli.  I finished the vegetables in the pot with extra virgin olive oil cooked to delicious. A wonderful summer meal that was surprisingly easy to make.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Chicken Curry

I had coconut milk and pineapple chunks left over in the fridge so chicken curry was pretty much pre-ordained. First I boned the breasts to make chicken stock and fried the skins for the dogs. I put some basmati rice on to cook and got some fresh peas from the garden.  I diced and salted the chicken then tossed some flour over it.  I diced an onion and caramelized it then put the chicken in to brown. I added a little chicken fat from the skins.  I put two tablespoons of curry powder and a pinch of cayenne over the meat while it cooked.  Once it was uniformly browned I added an ounce of chicken stock, half a can each of coconut milk and pineapple chunks.  I reserved the pineapple sugar syrup but didn't use it. I cut the ends off the peas, cut them in half and put them in the simmering curry to cook.  By the time I had three plates with rice laid out the peas were done and I served the curry over the rice.

Everyone was busy shovelling food in their mouths so I took that as a sign that the food was really good. It certainly tasted that way to me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pork Chop with Honey Mustard Sauce

It was either a chicken or pork night. The chicken was pricey so I picked up 3 nice pork chops.  I also got some new potatoes and I had broccoli and carrots in the fridge. I seasoned the meat with salt, mixed pepper and mustard powder so there was a yellow hue on the meat when it went in the pan. The new potatoes were boiled and I steamed the vegetables.

I cooked the meat in a frying pan over medium+ heat.  It acquired a beautiful colour and crust on the outside.  I mixed up a bit of Maille dijon mustard (any brand will do) with a little honey.  Just enough honey to overcome the bitterness in the mustard. I learned something important about plating this time.  I plated my chop with the sauce over top because I knew I liked the sauce. For the other two diners I plated the sauce first then laid the chop on top of it.  It looked really great so I wish I'd done the same to my plate. I will next time for sure. In any case, it was a delicious meal.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Taco with Salsa, Guacamole and Refried Beans

I used generic taco seasoning from the grocery store.  I salted and browned the meat then added the seasoning and a little stock to carry the flavour into the meat.  The taco shell I warmed up in a frying pan with xv olive oil cooked in it. I put grated cheddar inside with the meat.  The guacamole is just avocado, salt and lime juice.  Ordinary sour cream. Butter lettuce chiffonade cut. That leaves just the 


3 ripe tomatoes
1 jalapeño 
slice of onion or green onion (this time I used chives)
cilantro ( I used parsley this time )
juice of half a lime
1/4 tsp cumin
black pepper

The refried beans were from a can but I added some lime juice to brighten them up.

It was a nice summer meal.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Prawns and Penne Pasta in Tomato Basil Sauce in one paragraph

I wasn't in the mood to do anything difficult so I settled on prawns and pasta.  I defrosted a bunch of prawns and took the tails off.  I had some diced red onion left from lunch so I used that to caramelize in the pan.  When the onion was taking on some colour I added three cloves of finely diced garlic. I took the onion and garlic out and put aside while I added the prawns with some salt.  I cook to colour on both sides but the inside isn't done yet. They finish cooking in the sauce and don't become rubbery. Remove from pan. I added our last can of last summers tomatoes to pan and cooked the water off while chopping up the tomatoes. I could have used the immersion blender but that's more washing up. I added the onion and garlic and a little salt.  When the pasta was done I added the prawns and chopped basil to the sauce and stirred them in.  Plate the pasta, pour sauce over top and garnish with parmesan cheese. Yum! (I was a bit shy on the sauce as I'm not used to cooking for three people but everyone cleaned their plate!)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Snapper with Rice Pilaf

I knew snapper was on special and it was time for fish so that's what I picked up.  I didn't have enough potatoes so I made ride pilaf.  Half water, half chicken stock with salt, pepper, chives and a bay leaf in with the rice.  I added a drop of rice vinegar but it didn't help and may have hurt.  I cleaned up the snapper.  I take all the bits of skin and white fat off that taste fishy and pull all the bones out with pliers. I thoroughly salt and season with my 

Snapper Rub

1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cumin

2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)

and lay the fish in plenty of hot oil.  I had the carrots steaming and put the peas in with them after the fish went in the pan.  

It was pretty good.  My rice pilaf leaves a lot to be desired. The dogs loved it!