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.
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
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
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)
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.
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)
I was feeling sort of French on Sunday. I think it was due to the fact that we finally made it to Pied-A-Terre, a beautiful restaurant down the street, the night before. So lovely….a sophisticated room with a menu to match. Definitely left me wanting more.
So there I was, Sunday, leafing through my cookbooks when I came across a recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse. Chicken? Really? I had always associated this dish with fish. However Ina Gartner (aka the Barefoot Contessa) had a different take on it. Now, totally confused, I decided to do some research. According to Wikipedia, bouillabaisse is derived from the Provencal Occitan (a dialect spoken in south of France/Spain) words “Bolhir” (to boil) and “Abaissar” (to simmer). So, it seems as though the term references the cooking method, as opposed to the ingredients. Mystery solved – although in hindsight, I don’t think I had ever bothered to translate bouillabaisse any further than “yummy fish soup”….tres french, non?
Adapted from Ina Garnter
3 lbs chicken (I used thighs but you can mix it up with whatever parts you like)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
coarse salt and pepper
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tsp saffron threads
1/8 c. pernod (I didn’t have any so I used cognac – equally as lovely, or you can skip it entirely)
1 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb yellow fleshed potatoes (I like Yukon Gold, but that’s just me)
Do meals call to you? An occasion presents itself and from somewhere in your stack of cookbooks or your grandmother’s recipes, you hear a meal…calling to you. Perhaps it is Eggs Benedict for a lazy Saturday brunch? BBQd ribs for the 4th of July? Spaghetti Carbonara on Wednesday? For me, it is quite frequently a chicken I hear calling for Sunday dinner. In the spring, you can poach it in milk, a la Jamie Oliver. In the summer, I like to butterfly the bird and grill with some lemon and rosemary. When the weather turns colder, it is a nice roast chicken with crispy skin straight from the oven that I hear.
In all honesty, this particular meal has called to me a lot over the years so I find myself looking for ways to mix it up a bit. A few Sundays ago, I tried a Moroccan roast chicken that I found on-line. It sounded so lovely…a paste of paprika and herbs rubbed under the skin with some lemons quartered and tucked away in the roasting pan. I am not sure if it was the recipe or user error, but let’s just say that this dish won’t be calling to me for a while. However, all was not lost as I salvaged the roasted lemons and turned them into the most beautiful dressing for my couscous…a true lemonade out of lemons occasion.
CousCous with Dates, Almonds and Roasted Lemon Dressing or what I fondly refer to as the “1/4 cup salad”
1 1/2 cups of couscous
3 cups of water
small pinch of salt
1/4 cup of pitted dates, cut into smallish pieces
1/4 cups of dried cranberries/blueberries/whatever you like
I have noticed, after many years of subscribing to (ahem) many cooking magazines that there seems to be recurrent themes that run throughout the year. You can count on the BBQ issues in your mailbox in late June or early July and the Thanksgiving dishes are on display in October (for which we Canadians are truly thankful). April delivers delicate dishes with things like pea tendrils and salmon fillets and November’s issues are guaranteed to include some very impressive holiday desserts. January has a theme too; it’s all about the new. New year, new trends, new ingredients, and so on. There is also a heavy dose of atonement for all of the over-indulging you did over the holidays, but that is sort of a separate post, isn’t it?
Sesame Noodles (with Chicken)
Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to their proclamations (Pie is the new cupcake…pass it on!) but there is one trend that I feel is worth paying attention to; flexitarianism. Wikipedia describes it very succinctly with this definition; “a term used to describe diets that are not vegetarian but include less meat than typical diets”. Many cooking magazines have been exercising this concept by showcasing dishes that are wonderful with/without meat. This is one of those dishes…just as great with or without the chicken. Be on the cutting edge, and try it out both ways.
Sesame Noodles (with Chicken) adapted from Gourmet Magazine
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional)
1 bell pepper (pick your favourite colour)
1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts chopped and separated
2 Tbsp sesame oil
Sesame Sauce (can also be used for sate….omit the water)
1/2 c smooth peanut butter (or you can try tahini, if you would like)
1/4 c soy sauce
2 Tbsp cooking sherry (or you can use red wine vinegar)
One of my least favourite smells is that of over-ripe bananas. I suspect that I am not the only person that has a deep aversion to it, as someone, long ago, caught a whiff of their the fruit bowl and decided that instead of throwing out the offending fruit, they would beat it to a pulp and turn it into a delicious treat (and thanks be to them).
I found myself with a few stinkers last night and decided to use them up. When I went to my pantry to gather the ingredients to make my Aunt Dee’s famous recipe, I discovered that the holiday baking season had left it in a state that Old Mother Hubbard could relate to. No white sugar, no butter and barely enough all purpose flour (did I mention that Aunt Dee was not the most health conscious baker I’ve ever met). It was time to improvise. I substituted whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose and turned to brown sugar instead of white. Vegetable oil replaced the melted butter. I also fiddled a bit with the baking powder/soda ratios to see if I could get a lighter loaf. I also added cinnamon, just because I like it.
Overall, very pleasing results. The bread had the perfect consistency and texture. Moist and a bit crumby and the brown sugar on the top was the perfect finishing touch. I would also recommend popping a slice in the toaster for a few minutes for a breakfast treat.
Brown Sugar Banana Bread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 over ripe bananas, mashed up beyond recognition
2 eggs, room temp
1/3 c canola oil
1/2 c brown sugar + some for sprinkling on top of loaf
If you were to judge my family’s food consumption by the amount of recipes I have posted in the last two months (none), you would suspect that we have all wasted away to nothing. The truth of the matter is not that I haven’t been doing a lot cooking, it’s that I haven’t been doing a lot of writing. The reasons (ahem, excuses) are many, but now that the school year is all but wrapped up and my new job is a little less new I am ready to document my adventures in the kitchen yet again.
A lot of the time, my menu is driven by my desire for a single thing or taste. Last night it was chorizo sausage. However, I also felt that this delicious Spanish sausage needed a new approach…you know, freshen it up for summer. And so, another variation on the potato salad was born:
I generally don’t advocate the preparation of anything with the word “sticky” in its description when feeding my children, but I will make an exception for this dish. It is so simple to prepare, taking about 25 minutes in total, leaving you plenty of time to wash off all of the sticky fingerprints left behind.
Sticky Lemon Chicken I believe this dish originated with Gordon Ramsay
8 chicken thighs (or whatever pieces your family prefers)
coarse salt and pepper
glug of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp of dried)
1 Tbsp of cooking sherry or red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp of soy sauce
3 Tbsp honey
1 lemon washed and cut into thin slices (remove the pits if you can)
I just learned that I am going to be a bachelorette for ten days…ten whole days. I have decided that since I have no one else’s culinary preferences to consider, I am making this for 9 of those ten days. Did I say ten days yet?