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….
Stir-fried Eggplant and Bok Choy with Miso and Walnuts
(entirely bastardized from Ottolenghi’s recipe which you can find here)
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
2 Tbsp sunflower oil (could use canola here, I am sure)
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
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)
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)
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 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
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)
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)
When I sit down to write a post, I usually figure out the recipe first, upload the photo and then turn my mind to writing the preamble. There is something funny about WordPress (or something funny about my limited skills with WordPress, I should say) that won’t allow you to insert text above a photo that is already loaded. I usually plug in some silly and random words before adding the photo so I don’t run into this problem. When I opened up this post to finish it off, I realize that my placeholder text read “yum, yum, yum, meat on a stick, yum, yum, yum”. Really, I don’t think I have much more to add.
Sirloin Kebabs with Mustard Soy Glaze adapted from a recipe by Lucy Waverman
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:
Someone older and wiser once told me that a good marriage was one “filled with compromises”. I am not sure if I totally agree with this bit of wisdom but I do know that there is a certain art to give and take. This is why I happily volunteered to organize the basement one recent Saturday morning as the weather began to warm up. In return, my husband donned the rubber gloves and took part in a ritual that dates back to the earliest days of man kind…the cleaning of the BBQ. Between you and me, I would declare myself the winner of that bargain.
Speaking of clean BBQs…now that I have one, I thought I should share one of my favourite grilling recipes with you. I actually posted this way back in August as a part of a menu (Dinner for 5 in Under an Hour) but it is so good and so simple that it needs it’s own entry.
Marinated Flank Steak with Pacific Rim Glaze Adapted from Saveur
1 c. teriyaki sauce
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/8 c. honey
1/3 c. fresh orange juice
2 Tsp. dark sesame oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and smashed (go for 2 if you love garlic as much as I do)
I am about to state a fact that many of you who read this blog may have concluded on your own. I cannot photograph food. Yes, I can point the camera in the general direction of my subject and even manage to push the button. I just can’t produce those small works of art that you will find on so many other blogs out there. If you go here, here, here, here, here and most decidedly here, you will see what I mean.
Worse than my poorly lit, slightly fuzzy efforts are the nights where I sit down to a great meal and realize that my camera is resting peacefully in its case, unbothered by my exploits in the kitchen. To be honest, there are some fantastic dishes that have gone unposted as I didn’t have time/completely forgot to document them visually. For example, the Chicken Masala with Cucumber Raita and Roasted Carrots with Cumin Seeds we had on Saturday was truly great. The Braised Fennel in Cream from last week was a hit. The Bolognese Sauce on Sunday was one of my best.
So…new policy. Photos or not, here I come.
A photo that has nothing to do with leeks or gorgonzola!
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Leeks & Gorgonzola adapted from Canadian Living
4 chicken boneless chicken breasts (with or without skin…your preference)
2 medium leeks, white & light green parts, washed and chopped into half moons
1/4 c. cooking sherry (or you can substitute chicken stock or even white wine)
1/4 crumbled gorgonzola TIP: put this in the freezer when you get home, it is easier to crumble when it is really cold.
1 heaping Tbsp of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
I kept my promise to make this on the weekend, and I am so glad I did. I added some bits and pieces to Mark Bittman’s original recipe (and therefore deviated from the minimalist intent of the original dish) but I think my additions were very frantically-scrape-the-last-morsels-from-the-dish-into-your-mouth-when-you-think-no-one-is-looking successful.
Sauteed Chickpeas with Chorizo, Spinach and Mozzarella Inspired by Mark Bittman
1/2 onion, medium dice
1 can of organic (they do taste better) chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
glug of olive oil
1 large Spanish chorizo sausage, chopped up into 1/2″ cubes
3 c. fresh spinach, you can chop this coarsely if you want…I didn’t bother
1 Tbsp. sherry
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped