Stirfried Eggplant and Bok Choy with Miso and Walnuts

Hi there. I was going to write a sentimental post about how much I loved my girl’s weekend away on the island but, for those of you who know me and those of you who can make an educated guess, that goes without saying. Instead, I am going to tell you about this fantastic dish we concocted to go along with some steamed halibut….

EggplantStirfry

Stir-fried Eggplant and Bok Choy with Miso and Walnuts
(entirely bastardized from Ottolenghi’s recipe which you can find here)

SAUCE

  • 2 Tbsp white miso
  • 1/2 c. veggie stock or dash
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 1 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sake (I used Chinese cooking sherry in a pinch) – this is optional

VEGGIES

  • 2 Tbsp sunflower oil (could use canola here, I am sure)
  • 2 eggplants
  • 6 baby bok choy separated into leaves, rinsed well and patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp frech ginger (read ahead – you will need some for the garnish too)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1/8 c walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

GARNISH

  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and cut into matchstick pieces
  • 3 spring onions, cut into thin strips and then placed in ice water (they get very crispy and curly)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, cut into matchstick pieces

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Honey Oat Bread

I am not one for a big list of New Year’s resolutions. Frankly, the only change I am capable of making after a week and a half of too much food and too much wine is my socks. Assuming I can still see my toes when I bend over, that is.

Instead, I like to reserve a bit of time at the end of the year imagining what a successful new year will look like. My vision of 2014 included, among other things, bread. Made by me. All by myself.

Tah dah!

HoneyOatBread_1

This recipe is a perfect introduction to the world of yeast and flour. It is easy, quick, and delivers ridiculously delicious results.

Honey Oat Bread
Originally published by Bon Apetit

  • 1 3/4 c. water
  • 1 Tbsp active yeast
  • 3/4 c. quick cooking rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 to 5 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sprinkle of rolled oats

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That’s what Friends are for – Baked Parmesan Chicken

Let’s talk a bit about friends. There are all kinds of friends; casual, situational, childhood, fair-weather. There are also those rare kindred spirits  you feel as if you’d known forever, even if the calendar says otherwise.

How are these bonds forged? How do you quantify the unquantifiable? Is it the fact that they are always game for that ridiculously early yoga class? Is it because they make a killer latte or that they aren’t stingy with the name of the hairdresser that makes them look so fabulous? Perhaps it’s because they willingly helped you both pack and unpack this summer? Maybe  it’s because their name appears on the donor list of every single fundraising mission you have embarked on?  Or is it because they are both a wine lover and a fearless co-chef? Passionate reader, loving mother, wisdom dispenser, career advisor….You all know who you are :)

It might also be the fact that they share every good recipe they come across. My most recent favourite is this  amazing baked chicken recipe that I am about to share with you, as everybody could use a good friend, right?

Baked Parmesan Chicken

Baked Parmesan Chicken
Original origins unknown – shared with me off a well-used piece of scrap paper

  • 2 lb chicken thighs/drumsticks, skin on
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne/chipotle/paprika – favour your preferred flavour profile
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley/oregano/thyme (see above)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

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Happy Accidents – Braised Kale with Coconut

I am not sure about the rest of you, but man….I hate Sunday nights. Monday morning and the school-lunches/can’t find my keys/stockings have a run in them/Mom-I-forgot-to-tell-you-but-I-need-ten-dollars-in-small-change is undeniably imminent.

In an effort to combat the Sunday night blues, I like to end the weekend with a meal that allows for some quality time in the kitchen – something that takes a bit of effort but pays big dividends. This week’s cooler weather had me in the mood for a hearty curry so out came my copy of Vij’s cookbook. I have made his recipe for “Family Chicken Curry” so many times that the book now obediently opens to that page by itself.

Suffice it to say that the curry was lovely, as was the cauliflower rice pilaff that I made to go with it. A totally unexpected surprise, however, was the kale. Now, this is where I should be telling you a cautionary tale about reading through the entire recipe before you make it. Had I read through the instructions, I would have realized that a) the spices and kale needed to be steeped in the coconut for 4 hours and b) that I was to grill the kale on a BBQ. Neither were going to happen at 6:00pm on a very chilly/windy Sunday night. This time my terrible habit of rushing headlong into things paid off as I improvised a bit with delicious results.

Coconut Braised Kale

Braised Kale with Coconut
based loosely on Grilled Coconut Kale by Vij

  • 2 bunches of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • juice of half a lemon

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Chocolate Chips (in Cookie Form)

Small confession; I am not a terribly skilled baker. Results are consistently middling to fair.

This, I blame on the fact our family doesn’t really enjoys cakes or cookies, etc. and therefore, I don’t get a tonne of practice. On the odd occasion I do get a request for something requiring the holy trinity of  butter/flour/sugar, a low-level sense of panic sets in. Is this going to be a re-run of “Tooth-Chipping Brownies”? Another episode of “Cake Masquerading as Doorstop”? I swear the term hot-mess was coined for my adventures in baking.

To compensate, I have managed to work out a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that is quick, simple, and seems to provide consistently good results. That may have something to do with the ridiculous amount of chocolate chips I cram into these cookies, but hey – I will take the wins where I can get them.

ChocoCookies_1

Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, not too soft
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or the whole bag – up to you)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (the quick cooking type)

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Lentils – with love

Each year, two of my very good friends and I host what has come to be known as “The Julia Dinner”. As you might have guessed, the menu is chosen from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first couple of years, we vowed to follow her instructions religiously and for the most part we did. Now in year four, we have found ourselves adapting slightly as we go; sometimes to suit our more modern palates but mostly to reduce the staggering amounts of butter that a 5 course meal accumulates.

This year, we went with a bistro themed menu. Mushroom Soup, Steak Tartare, Steamed Mussels and Crepes Suzette were among the offerings. Needless to say, it was a lot of food. Underscore a lot.

I tell you this because after nights like this, I need to make a peace offering to my digestive system. Something simple and healthy. Something that doesn’t take 16 steps to make. Something with no butter.

LentilSoup_1

This recipe comes courtesy of Melissa Clark. I modified it only slightly – adding a bit of zest during the cooking to bring out the lemon flavour and saving the salt to the end, as I have found that seasoning lentils with salt prior to cooking can affect their texture.

Lentil Soup with Lemon

  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 2 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • pinch of ground cayenne/paprika/chipotle (whatever your favourite flavour profile)
  • 6 cups of chicken stock (veggie if you prefer)
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • juice of one lemon, plus 1/2 tsp zest
  • chopped cilantro/mint/parsley to garnish

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Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots & Figs

I, like everyone else in North America right now, am a bit obsessed with Yottem Ottolenghi. My copy of “Jerusalem” is littered with so many post-it notes that it resembles something from “A Beautiful Mind”. I have turned to Yottem on many a special occasion and my sister’s birthday was no exception. After mixing and matching dishes from “Jerusalem” and “Plenty”, his vegetarian offering, I had it sorted. We would celebrate with a menu of Braised Quail with Dried Apricots, Steamed Rice with Herbs, and Roasted Beet And Fennel Salad.

The first time I make a dish, I normally follow the recipe religiously. However, when I caught myself pondering whether or not the spices would be better toasted, I knew I was going rogue.

Braised Cornish Game Hens with Apricots and Figs

Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots and Figs
(adapted from “Jerusalem”)

  • 2 Corish Game Hens, butterflied and halved down the breast bone. You can just as easily use a chicken, quartered.
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1.5 tsp dried chile flakes
  • 0.5 tsp coarse salt
  • healthy dose of ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/2 c dried figs, sliced
  • 1/8 c raisins
  • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tamarind paste
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 c water
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish

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Strawberry Cake – Hold the Cow (aka Dairy Free)

This post has as much to do with my family tree as it does food. You may need a flow chart to follow along…

I have a sister. She is a very, very, very lovely sister. She has a boyfriend. He is also lovely. Recently, he discovered that he is allergic to dairy. Not so lovely :(

Have I mentioned I also have two lovely cousins? It’s true. These two cousins also have lovely parents who were in town to help their children (the cousins) prepare for their upcoming adventure to Thailand. I wanted to make a cake to celebrate their visit but also wanted aforementioned boyfriend to be able to enjoy it. So I fired up the internet to see if there was such a thing as a dairy-free cake (I know, I know…I am new to this whole alternative diet thing).

I came across this recipe on the WholeFoods Market website. You can find the original here. I tweaked it slightly to compensate for the sad state of my pantry. The result; a very moist and flavourful cake. It was also a very pretty shade of pink if that matters.

Dairy Free Strawberry Cake

Dairy-Free Strawberry Cake

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. pureed strawberries – can use frozen but at this time of year, why would you?

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Peach and Ginger Salad Dressing

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OK – let’s make a deal. You pretend that the last 12 months or so of radio silence didn’t happen and I promise to be a bit more attentive. Sound good? Now that we have that bit of business out of the way, let’s talk about fruit.

Walking into the produce section at this time of year is almost too much to bear….in a good way. All those ripe and beautiful berries and luscious stone fruits just waiting to be taken home. My problem is indecisiveness. I truly can’t chose between the many offerings summer brings. The inevitable result is a fridge full of fruit that even the most ambitious of eaters just can’t get through.

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So, yesterday I was contemplating two orphaned peaches who’s best days were clearly behind them. I could have made a crisp but I really didn’t want to turn on the oven on such a beautiful day. I was also committed to bringing a salad to a picnic planned for that evening. Out came the food processor….

Peach & Ginger Salad Dressing

  • 3 very ripe peaches, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (wouldn’t recommend olive here – vegetable or grape seed will do nicely)
  • small pinch of salt

1) Blitz everything except the oil in the food processor or blender until you have a puree.  

2) On low, drizzle in your oil until emulsified. Taste and adjust accordingly. Depending on the sweetness of your fruit, you may want to fiddle with the amount of vinegar or honey.

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Rosemary-Chipotle Roasted Nuts

At Chez Wittmann, we like folks. We also like cocktails. We really like folks who like cocktails. Here is a little something to serve to your folks who like cocktails.

Rosemary-Chipotle Roasted Nuts
courtesy of Ina Gartner

QUICK NOTE TO START: All nuts in this recipe are unsalted and roasted to begin. Also, feel free to mix up the ratios however you would like – if cashews are your favourite but you are not a real almond fan, govern yourself accordingly.

  • 3 cups walnuts
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 cups almonds
  • 2 cups cashews
  • 1/4 neutral oil, canola is a good choice + some for baking sheets
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 4 tsp salt (divided)
  • 2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp chopped rosemary

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