Monthly Archives: June 2015

Vodka Blush Sauce with Hot Italian Sausage over Polenta

Tonight’s supper was made with pre-made items out of my freezer and pantry and very little time. The results … amazing

Sorry for the less than stellar plating. I was hungry and the food was getting cold.

Vodka Blush Sauce with Hot Italian Sausages – serves 4

2 cups marinara sauce, smooth or chunky
1 cup whipping cream
2-4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tbsp vodka
4 raw hot** Italian sausages, slice into 1/4 inch rings
1 tsp vegetable oil

** You can use mild sausages if you like but the hot version makes your sauce sing with flavour over the polenta.

In a large saute pan, warm up the oil over medium high heat and add the raw Italian sausages. Fry until the sausage is cooked. Drain extra oil if desired.

Add the vodka and stir well until most of the alcohol has cooked off.

Add the diced cream cheese and 1/2 cup of whipping cream, mashing down the cream cheese until it ‘dissolves’ in the whipping cream.

Add the rest of the whipping cream and the marinara sauce and mix together until everything is warmed through.

Serve immediately over individual bowls or plates of polenta … or cooked pasta if you like.

Polenta – serves 4

3 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt (a bit more if you’re using home made stock)
1 cup fine cornmeal

Bring the stock and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Take the saucepan off the heat, and whisk in the cornmeal in a fine stream stirring continuously while you do so.

Continue cooking the polenta for 5-7 minutes (depends on how impatient you are to eat) while continuing to stir. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

General Tso’s Tofu and Tofu Miso Noodle Soup

I’m a proud carnivore but every once in a while I bring home a tub of tofu and make something relatively ‘healthy’ with it.

To date, “Mapo Tofu” is my favourite way of eating this soy product, though cubes of tofu added to miso or hot and sour soup are tasty as well.

NOTE: Baking is a healthier option in making this dish, than the one I chose, which was to shallow fry the sliced tofu planks in 1/2 inch of oil until browned on both sides, and then draining the fried tofu on paper towels.

General Tso’s Tofu over Rice

I’m including the healthier baking version of this recipe below.

Baked General Tso’s Tofu – serves 3

3 cups water with 2 tsp salt, boiling
12 oz block of firm or extra firm tofu
2 tsp oil, divided
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha (rooster) sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
1-2 tsp toasted sesame seeds and/or 2 sliced green onions, optional garnishes

Cooked white or brown rice, to serve

Prepping the tofu:

Drain the tofu and cut into 3/4 inch thick slices.

Lay the slices of tofu in a glass baking dish and pour the boiling salted water over the tofu. Let the tofu soak for 15 minutes. Drain, lay tofu on several sheets of paper towelling and cover with several more. Press gently to dry tofu as much as possible.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a cookie sheet with 1 tsp of your oil.

Arrange the tofu pieces on the cookie sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Mise en place for General Tso’s Tofu

While the tofu is cooking, combine brown sugar, hoisin sauce, sriracha, soy sauce and rice vinegar in one small bowl.

In another small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water.

Mince or grate ginger and garlic and set aside.

When tofu has cooked for 15 minutes, flip the tofu and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm 1 tsp of oil in a non-stick saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add ginger and garlic to the pan and cook for a minute or so. If the ginger and garlic sticks to the bottom of the pan, don’t be concerned.

Add the 1/4 cup water and as the water simmers, use a spatula to release the ginger and garlic from the bottom of the pan. Keep scraping until all of the ginger and garlic comes off of the bottom of the pan.

Add the brown sugar, hoisin sauce, sriracha, soy sauce and rice vinegar mixture. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to low until tofu is ready. Once the tofu is ready, add the corn starch mixture to the sauce and increase the heat to medium. Stir constantly until the sauce thickens and darkens.

Toss the tofu in the sauce to coat and serve over rice.

Tofu in Sauce

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or sliced green onion.

Tofu Miso Noodle Soup – seaweed, rice noodles, Sriracha sauce and green onion along with the fried tofu cubes

“Cuban-ized” Chimichurri Butter and Broiled Chimichurri Chicken

I’ve made chimichurri before, to serve with lamb, using flat-leaf Italian parsley, but now that I no longer find cilantro distasteful, I made another batch using JUST cilantro, a Cuban innovation, apparently. You may certainly use half parsley and half cilantro in the recipe below.

I rubbed about a tablespoon of the chimichurri butter all over each chicken breast including under the skin before broiling and the results were pretty amazing.

Chimichurri Butter

Chimichurri Butter – makes about 1 cup

1 stick of butter, salted or unsalted, softened to room temperature
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and spun dry
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
juice of 1/2 lime  (~1 tbsp)
1 tbsp red wine or apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp each)

In a food processor, combine the cilantro, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and vinegar. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add softened butter and salt and pepper and pulse again.

Taste and add additional salt and pepper and lime juice if desired.

Use chimichurri butter as a rub for chicken before broiling in the oven or over broiled steak and pork chops. About a tablespoon per chicken piece is plenty.

For a chimichurri dressing or sauce:

Omit the butter and empty the herb mixure from the food processor into a large glass bowl. Whisk olive oil into the mixture in a stream. You’ll need about 1/2 a cup depending on how ‘spoonable’ you want the dressing to be. If you mix together the oil and herb mixture in the food processor, you may form an emulsion with a white-ish colour. Tasty but not as attractive when serving.

Here, I spooned some of the dressing/sauce over roasted potatoes.

Basic Marinara Sauce and Seafood Medley Marinara over Fettuccine

If you’re fortunate enough to have the freezer space, make a batch of marinara sauce, portion it out in 1 or 2 cup amounts and you’ll have the start of many great meals at your fingertips. Need ideas? This Food Network web site has 50 of them to start you off.

There are as many marinara sauce recipes as there are households in Italy, as far as I can tell.

The recipe below is an adaptation of Giada de Laurentiis’ though I’ve made several additions, as well as greatly reducing the amount of extra virgin olive oil she uses (1/2 cup!!).

Pureed and more rustic versions of the marinara sauce

I decided to combine 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce posted below with some chicken stock to thin it down, 300 grams of a frozen seafood medley (shrimp, octopus, clams and squid) and 250 grams of cooked pasta for a fast meal for 3. I threw in 4 oz of diced cremini mushrooms left over from shopping for another dish though it wasn’t really necessary.

All that seafood looks delicious, doesn’t it?

The finished dish

Basic Marinara Sauce – makes 9 cups of sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 cups ground tomatoes
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 dried bay leaves
sugar, as needed

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the celery, carrots, garlic, and the salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, dried basil and dried oregano, and simmer partially covered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.

Remove and discard the bay leafs. Taste and if too acidic or bitter, add 1/2 tsp sugar, stir through and taste again, adding more if needed.

Season the tomato sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

If you like a bit of spice, you can add some dried red pepper flakes to the individual containers depending on the recipe you use the marinara for.

Cool, then cover and refrigerate. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead.) Rewarm over medium heat before using.

NOTE: You may choose to puree the sauce when cooled a bit for a more refined sauce. I did so with half the batch but kept the remainder more ‘rustic’ in texture.

Korean Inari Sushi (Yubu Chobap) and a more traditional version

Inari sushi or pockets of fried tofu are filled traditionally with sushi rice, as I’ve done here and here and somen noodles or non-traditionally with grains such as quinoa. You could even use couscous if you wished, I think.

It’s been ages since I made any however, and I keep running across a can of the pockets in my pantry. I did some net surfing and ran across a very tasty sounding Korean adaptation of the classic Japanese recipe.

You can use sushi rice for this recipe but the recipe I based this on used a medium grain Arborio rice which is used in Italy for risotto or even a Spanish paella. And, the rice is flavoured with a combination of sauteed and seasoned vegetables that make it suitable to serve as a side dish or even a single dish meal.

And here are some more traditional inari sushi I made last week with plain sushi rice and topped with spicy shredded fake crab legs, masago (capelin roe) and egg salad.

Korean Inari Sushi (Yubu Chobap)

1 can (16 pockets) or 1 package (20) seasoned frozen bean curd pockets

Rice – enough rice to fill 16 to 20 tofu pockets or as a side dish to serve 4-6 people

1 cup Arborio rice
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp rice vinegar

In a large bowl, rinse the rice several times in cold water, using your hand to stir the grains. Drain.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Stir in the salt and the drained rice. Stir, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer.

Cook for 20 minutes, stirring several times.

Remove from the heat and sprinkle the rice vinegar over the top, folding the vinegar gently through the rice with a spatula. Allow to cool, uncovered.

Seasoning Sauce for rice

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Vegetable Mixture – fills ~20 bean curd pockets

1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 medium (1/2 cup) carrot, minced
1 medium (1/2 cup) onion, minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
6-8 dried shiitakes; rehydrated, drained, and minced or 4 oz cremini mushrooms, minced
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine or mirin

Furikake for garnish or stir 2 tbsp into the rice and vegetable mixture at the end

NOTE: Instead of the mushrooms, you can use 1 green pepper or 4-6 green onions. For a meat version, use 1/4-1/2 pound ground beef.

Heat oil in large saute pan on medium high heat. Cook the carrots first for about 1-2 minutes, push aside and add the onions. Saute until the vegetable are tender. Make a well in the center, add the shiitakes and garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the sauce mixture to shiitakes and the Shaoxing wine. Mix all the vegetables together in the pan.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.

Mix together the rice, vegetables and furikake, if desired.

Fill the bean curd pockets with as much filling as you want!

Serve hot or at room temperature.