Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Garden variety withdrawn

I miss the summer, I miss my garden, I miss fresh vegetables and the feeling that goes along with preparing food that I've grown myself. If I were to write a sternly worded letter right now it would probably go as follows.

Dear snow, piss off.
Kind regards,

On a more flowery note, grabbed a large bag of sweet basil the other day for one recipe and had more than enough basil leftover to make one wicked batch of pesto. What I love about pesto is the following; a) it's frickin' delicious, I can literally plow through a batch of it with a bag of tortilla chips in an evening, b) I have most of the ingredients in my kitchen at any time, and c) pesto is super easy to make. If you haven't made pesto before, follow along, if you have I would imagine you've already stopped reading. Check out the chips below, certified GF! If you don't know what GF stands for read on.

I've looked up and followed a pesto recipe once in my life, the rest of the time I just add ingredients until everything tastes right. So, rather than spell out a recipe boring measured portion by boring measured portion I'll give you a recipe like this: ensure that you have a blender or preferably a food processor at hand (it's pretty damn hard to make pesto without one).

Add the following ingredients into your food processor; basil, lots but not all of it; that may come in handy later. A splash of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, fresh garlic; add equal portions of parmesean cheese and nuts. I use cashews in my pesto because pretty much everyone I know acts like a five year old about pine nuts, which you would classically use in pesto. Cashews taste delicious anyway. Grind a little black pepper in and start blending. Take a taste, from a texture standpoint your pesto could have larger chunks of nuts, they're nice when it's being served as a spread for breads or crackers but in this instance you don't want it to be too oily. If you're using the pesto in say a pasta or a vegetarian cannelloni, which I have a great recipe for that I'm not sure if I've posted up here, you'll want it to be a little more oily. Use your taste to shape your pesto, maybe it needs more parm, or more nuts; don't think that you may screw it up because you can always add more of something to round it out. Have fun!

Tried FOOD SHOULD TASTE GOOD Brand tortilla chips; I'm three varieties in and I've been happy with what I've tried so far, they have quite a few flavours including chocolate (dare I try the questionable chocolate tortilla chip?). Oddly what I like most about these chips is the bag; that sounds awful but it's true. I'm a bit of a packaging nerd, I work with it, a lot. They have an entire section on every bag that lists symbols identifying what these chips are and what they are not. It's basically nutritional information for dummies but it jumps out at you immediately; for instance, these chips (the flavors I have at home) are Certified GF (Gluten Free, checked Google, the logo is much like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization logo), they are Kosher, cholesterol free, contain no MSG (although I don't think any chips I can buy now contain MSG), they're an essential source of whole grains, low sodium, and they're not genetically modified. A lot of handy information and no fine print, clever. Summary, these chips taste good and you can feel good about eating them!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Check it out

This site is pretty awesome, 1000 Awesome Things. Oddly enough a coffee commercial told me to check it, smart.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Food conservation

I'm excited to include pictures in this post, not sure why I haven't done so yet, I do have a camera...

I'm not a big fan of wasting food; I like new recipes but at the end of the week there are always ingredients leftover in the fridge waiting to go bad. Pasta sauce is a great way to get rid of over ripened tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms but there are quite a few recipes that can gobble up your leftover items. Quiche for example.
6 strips of prosciutto, 7 eggs, and 3 types of cheese = a good start
I went into my fridge and found what you see above: 7 eggs, soya milk (we don't normally have dairy milk), leftover Canadian Raclette cheese, Tommee De Groose Ile ripened semi soft cheese, Mouton Rouge sheeps milk cheese, 6 strips of prosciutto, 3 mushrooms, a couple green onions, the last of the fresh thyme and of course mixed baby greens.

So from the freezer I grabbed two pie shells and got to work, I'm not making the shells from scratch for a Saturday lunch.


everything above...
Please try a quiche with lots of raclette cheese it's very strong, I like it in soup and quiche because of it's flavor contrast. I wouldn't buy the other two cheeses again, they have a strong smell but weak taste.

In a small bowl mix 7 eggs and 1 cup of milk / soya milk. Cube up the cheese, you'll need about 100 g of something and mix it into the egg / milk mixture. Season with salt and pepper, I have a smoked salt flake that I like to use for quiche.

Cut up your fresh vegetables and add them as well as the leaves of the thyme into the base of the pie shells, add mixed greens, pour the egg mixture over top. garnish with some more course pepper, Tabasco if you like it spicy, and half strips of the prosciutto. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes at 400 degrees°. Enjoy!

Three meat Weekend

I sent this e-mail recipe list to a co-worker of mine for a get together she was having last weekend. She wanted to prepare three meats to please everyone and some simple sides to fill up the gaps. I hear it was a hit and what I like most is that these recipes are simple enough that you can prepare them all at the same time.

From: Benner
To: Y'all

Hey, here’s what I’m thinking:
Cedar Plank salmon, java steak with blue cheese medallions, and Rickards grilled chicken...

I’ll lay the meats out first and suggest some easy side vegetables, all grill themed all easy to clean up and not too labour intensive.

Cedar plank salmon
- 3 single portions of salmon, or 1 piece big enough for three people (remember your plank is 5 3/4” x 15”, that’s your max size)
- 1 cedar plank
- Fresh dill
- 2 fresh lemons
- Course pepper
- Course salt
Soak the plank in water for :30 minutes; oil plank with olive oil on both sides. Put the salmon on the plank, sprinkle with course salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of one half lemon overtop. Sprinkle sprigs of dill over the whole salmon also. Place the planked salmon in the barbecue at 250° cooking indirect for up to 40 minutes. Here’s the thing, the salmon will become less pink as it cooks to a point, it will also start to lose the white ribbons of fat between the meat (it’s basically melting). The more white you lose the more dry and flaky it get’s; if you’re fish is fresh and your guest like it moist aim for 30 minutes to 35. If you have a two knob grill put the fish on the low side where the burner is at min temp, have the other one on med-high. Use the burner that’s turned down to periodically heat the plank up and partially char the plank. When it’s done, remove the salmon and plank together, serve it right from the plank on a cutting board or platter, top with lemon slices and you’re golden. See pic.

Java steak and blue cheese butter medallions
- butter
- blue cheese
- before the steak take ¼ cup of butter and melt it until it’s workably creamy not a full liquid, the microwave is good for this in 8 second bursts. Take your creamy butter and work about 50 g of blue cheese into the butter. Put it in the fridge for 2 minutes, you want it like dough now because you’re going to take it out of the fridge and roll it into a tube in wax paper or tin foil. Then put your butter tube in the freezer.

- 4 top sirloin steaks
- ¼ cup of coffee course grind
- ¼ cup of brown sugar
- Course pepper 1 teaspoon
- Course salt 1 teaspoon
- 1 heaping tablespoon of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
Mix these things together in a bowl then rub your defrosted meat down with olive oil, rub in the spice rub above and let them sit on a plate at room temp for 15 minutes. Grill just like the perfect steak, top sirloin is like the filet but cheaper, it is perfect at medium doneness. Serve to your guests with the butter tube from above cut into butter medallions that melt overtop the steak.

Rickards Grilled Chicken
- the sauce recipe is from Rickards but 2 chicken breasts, one for you and one for the jealous people who want to try it.
- ¼ cup of course Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup of maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons of paprika (don’t be afraid to go heavy)
- 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
- 2 buds of minced or crushed garlic
- Course Pepper pinch
- Course salt pinch
Mix these together in a bowl, taste, add what is needed to make it more sweet, more saucy, less saucy, etc.. Put the chicken and the sauce in a Ziplock and let marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature, as always defrosted meat. Grill as you would always grill chicken breasts; remember to season your grids as it keeps the chicken from sticking. Grill for up to 25 minutes, you can cut to check to see if it’s done if you are not comfortable grilling chicken breasts.


Quinoa salad is delicious, I’ve attached a recipe (as this isn't an e-mail qunioa is posted below)

Grilled peppers, mushrooms and zucchini are delicious and have a one sentence recipe. Cut them into grillable pieces, put them in a Ziplock bag, add Italian salad dressing, let marinade for 10 minutes, grill for up to 8 minutes until they’re soft and seared; not black.

Good luck! Call me if you have questions.


Quick post,

Went to Martini's last night for dinner, for those of you that don't live in KW, Martini's is a member of The Charcoal Group, a group of restaurants that produce top notch food in well decorated sometimes ornate environments. Take for example Wildcraft's 2 story wine rack or the 42' TV's in front of your urinal in The Bauer Kitchen (not sure why they did that, there's no way that you can figure out what's on TV other than eye strain).
To the topic at hand; there is only really two reasons that I'm bringing up this restaurant experience.
1) The crème brûlée was prepared perfectly; wonderfully creamy texture, sugary shell and some nice flavor contrasts on the plate. By far the best crème brûlée I've had!
2) Just like Sole their risotto is boring.... Before I beat it up, the pan greens were a nice touch and the tomato fondue, not sure why it's called a fondue; it's more like a well seasoned sauce, anyway it was what made the risotto palpable. The risotto on the other hand was bland, unseasoned, nothing to write home about. But as before, what can you expect of a risotto that was made in less than fifteen minutes. No time to add enough stock to achieve the right amount of salty, no time to toast the rice, no time to make risotto with any love. I hate some of the compromises that need to be made to produce restaurant food. If you have an item such as risotto that needs time, attention, and patience to produce, please take the time to do it properly, I'll wait. Call the risotto a special so that you can make a lot of it throughout the night and take it down once you run out. I've cooked for a lot of dinner parties and a few large events and for my wow items that are meant to excite people, taking the time to make sure it's perfect is essential. Some people may grumble and have another oiled bread or satay skewer; however, having them savor that item when it arrives is well worth it. But I digress, more from the Cobb tomorrow.


Appetizer idea - Dirty vodka martini with three blue cheese stuffed olives, wowza! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The mysterious Quinoa

I’ve been a tardy blogger of late, truth be told I’ve been busy trying to get back into the swing of things since SLC and I’ve made little to no time to write. However, excuses are like Facebook accounts… Everybody got one.

Spent some time on a quest to find the best recipes involving quinoa. I tried quinoa for the first time a couple of weeks ago and thought it would be an amazing addition to this health, active, lifestyle thing, blah blah blah… This is what you need to know about quinoa. First and foremost quinoa is a pseudo cereal; it’s actually a member of the grass family. Quinoa is unusually high in protein about 12% - 18% and considered a complete protein as it offers a balance of essential amino acids. Plus, I like quinoa because it’s gluten free! (if you’ve read prior posts I’m trying to find gluten free ingredients and products that taste good and I think that quinoa, as an ingredient, gets one satisfied tongue up.) Simplest terms, quinoa, which you’re probably still struggling to pronounce is delicious and nutritious in a big way. Read the whole Wikipedia article if you’re interested in more on quinoa.

Moving on, I tried making a few variations on a quinoa salad. In my mind quinoa was akin to pasta and could be surrounded by the same ingredients as I would put into a cold pasta salad, not the case. I wasn’t really impressed; quinoa isn’t pasta and it just doesn’t fit the pasta salad mould. Quinoa has a lot of the texture characteristics of lentils, that’s the closest thing I can compare it to in my mouth’s mind. Luckily the angels of marketing delivered me a sign one day. As my significant other was shopping at the local Loblaws she noticed that quinoa had graced the cover of the Insiders Guide. Even better she suggested that I check the PC web site, as the Insider instructed, to find 10 quinoa recipes! Okay, I’ll do just that. So I did, and it was good. Check this link to find quinoa on Go to the bottom of the page and check out the new recipes tab.

I would suggest printing them to PDF; what I’ve tried so far is worth saving.

The PC quinoa salad which is featured is great and very good for you; I love the use of cranberries and edamame. Side note, the use of Edamame (code name soya bean) raised one question for me; I grew up in farm country surrounded by hundreds of acres of soya beans, why the hell am I paying $3.99 for a bag of beans that are grown locally every season. I hope that they’re at least Canadian beans but I find it hard to believe that they’re not ripping me off on a common staple. Moreover, I shop at a The Kitchener Farmers Market for a lot of my groceries and I can’t recall seeing anyone selling local or any soya beans... Weird… Need to check Saturday.

Anyway, PC quinoa salad = good!

Also tried the quinoa pancakes, they’re great! Things that you may notice that stand out about them. #1 I can only eat about 4 of them, because they are dense. #2 They’re really easy to cook; because they’re so dense they are much more firm and cook very quickly. #3 they come across as dry, I’m not sure if that’s my fault I could try to cook the quinoa longer, but it’s not a deal breaker. You may not like these if you don’t like to texture of quinoa but then again you’re probably not going to like any recipe that involves quinoa. In summation the only thing that you need to know about the quinoa pancakes is that they are more health than normal pancakes and taste damn near the same.  

Alright, I’m tired of typing quinoa for today. Possibly try cooking your way through the PC recipes; I have high hopes for some of them, especially the quinoa brownies and quinoa gratin.

BTW. Just tried out a Cobb grill today; I didn’t cook from their cookbook, wanted to try something of my own first. I love this grill, it’s head and shoulders above any small portable charcoal grill I’ve tried before. More to come on the Cobb I’d like to do a write up on one of their recipes straight out the book.