Monthly Archives: June 2016

Pine Nut Brittle and a Break

I  think I’m going to take a bit of a break … not sure how long though so I’ll leave you with a quick candy recipe post. This will give anyone reading a chance to catch up on earlier posts which they may have missed (hint) and give ME a chance to come up with some ideas for what to make during my two months of summer break.

POSSIBLE projects are mostly rehashes of things I haven’t made in ages … like cannoli shells, potstickers, pastas (I’ve been meaning to try a beet puree for colouring), yaki onigiri. (I may add more ideas here as they come to me. Right now I’m too hungry to think clearly.)

I had a brittle craving a while ago, but the only nuts in the house were pine nuts from my freezer, so that’s what I went with. Not cheap to make compared to something like a peanut brittle, but OH SO GOOD.

Pine Nut Brittle

A very simple basic brittle recipe using equal amounts by weight of sugar (100 g /1/2 cup sugar, 100 gm/1 cup pine nuts, 1 tsp butter, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of sea salt and a few finely minced fresh rosemary leaves).

I made a second batch in which I doubled the sugar and halved the nuts. It was good too and more economical on the nuts if that’s a concern. Here’s a picture of the two versions for comparison. At least I could spread out the 2nd batch of brittle more thinly on the sheet.

Meal Round-up

Breakfast of sourdough starter pancakes topped with macerated strawberries and maple syrup, eggs over easy and LOTS of bacon.

Various chicken dishes: a disappointing chicken kebab recipe which was transformed into a chicken shawarma wrap, a couple of ways to serve leftover shredded chicken mole

Leftover pea-meal bacon roast, mac and cheese and peas … all from the freezer

Potato salad with hardboiled eggs with my home made blender mayonnaise.

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Mixed Citrus Curd Redux and Sourdough Starter Crackers

In the last week, I’ve had some unexpected free time (no work calls) so I whipped up a batch of mixed citrus curd using my basic lemon curd recipe. You can use any kind of citrus juice to make a curd, or even something like a tart raspberry juice. I was very excited about using blood orange juice to make curd, about a year ago, cause I imagined the colour would be a vibrant reddish-brown but it ended up being more of an orange-brown. It still tasted delicious however.

For this mixed citrus curd, I used 2 tsp each of lemon, lime and orange zest and equal parts of the various citrus juices to make 1/2 cup. The result is an amazing and versatile treat. I decided to leave the zest in the curd.

I also made a batch of crackers with some leftover sourdough starter and for fun, experimented with various shapes and flavours. Clockwise from the top – round fennel seed topped, plain bars, square cayenne pepper and sesame seeds and diamond shaped cracked pepper and Grana Padano cheese crackers. I wanted to use whole wheat flour but all I had was about half a cup of fine semolina (#1) so I used that and enough all purpose flour to get a firm dough.

I used a recipe I found on line for the proportions of starter/flour and the baking times but only let my dough sit on the counter for 2 hrs (for the first 2 trays) and 3 hrs (for the last tray) as I didn’t really want it to get more sour.

After baking

CONCLUSION: I enjoyed the crackers but they’re not something I’d make regularly. Too much time and effort for something I can buy fairly cheaply … even though my crackers had no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Use whole wheat flour for more texture and a deeper colour if you have it handy.

Red Pepper Falafel: Baked versus Shallow Fried

Falafel are one of my favourite meatless mains. I haven’t had them in ages so recently, when I ended up with a beautiful red pepper in my veggie drawer, I decided to make a batch and incorporate a roasted red pepper puree into the mixture. I was reluctant to fry so I looked up baked falafel recipes.

And while I waited for the first batch to bake, I used the tried and true shallow frying method for the remaining mixture.

All of the falafel started out the same size but while the oven baked ones ended up rather flat and crispy, kind of like hockey pucks, the fried ones puffed up into plump, crispy balls with a soft and moist interior.

Baked falafel (on the left) for 20 min at 375 deg F and shallow fried (on the right) at ~ 350 deg F (#4 electric stove setting)

Mise en place – Soaked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cilantro and mint, onion and garlic, egg and roasted red pepper. Do NOT use canned chickpeas if you can avoid it. You want the texture of soaked chickpeas.

Falafel mixture – about 2 tbsp are shaped into walnut sized balls for baking or frying after being pressed lightly into a 1/2 inch thick patty.

Baked falafel – the parchment paper, as well as the tops of the patties, are sprayed lightly with a vegetable spray to help them brown

Flatter baked falafel

Shallow fried falafel plump up during cooking

Next time, I think I’d use more roasted red pepper puree and the Sriracha sauce the original recipe suggested for a ‘red’ falafel. To be honest, I forgot about the latter.

Fun Cooking … Roasts/Sides, Puddings, Condiments etc

As my LJ says, “Cooking is Fun … Really”.

You can make big flashy dishes like a rosemary and garlic rubbed boneless lamb shoulder roast ($4.99/lb)  …

… with roast veggies.

Or this bbq sauce glazed peameal bacon (Canadian bacon) roast  ($2.99/lb) …

… with sauteed spinach/pine nuts, baked potatoes/sliced onion and roasted asparagus.

But you can also make simple things like this rich and creamy home made blender mayonnaise without any artificial ingredients, to use in your egg, potato or tuna salads. It’s also a great base for an aioli with the addition of roasted and pureed garlic.

Or, a basic home made pudding like a classic chocolate, which I’ve posted in the past. (I’m reposting the recipe for convenience.) Spike it with rum, bourbon, whiskey or Grand Marnier or Cointreau for a grown up version.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding – serves 4

2 cups milk
3-4 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar (can increase from 1/4 to 1/3 cup if desired)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

Scald 1 1/2 cups of milk in a heavy saucepan (look for tiny bubbles around the edge).

Mix together the cornstarch, sugar, salt and cocoa, add the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and stir until well blended.

Stir in the scalded milk and blend well. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until thickened. Let the pudding boil for one minute while stirring briskly. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Stir in the vanilla, spoon into serving dishes.

And a butterscotch pudding variation.

Butterscotch Pudding Variation – serves 3

1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla

Scald 3/4 cup milk.

In a saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolk. Stir in 1/4 cup of cold milk until smooth.

Whisk in the warmed milk, very slowly. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook until thickened. Let the pudding boil for one minute while stirring briskly. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Whisk in the butter, a cube or two at a time until melted.

Whisk in the vanilla and then spoon into serving dishes.

Even a watermelon lemonade when your seedless watermelon turns out not to be as sweet as you hoped.

And remember that spaghetti meat sauce made with leftover odds and ends like green peppers and sauteed mushrooms? I tossed it with some large pasta shells. You can dress up the dish with grated Romano cheese or down with some leftover sweet and milky home made paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese).

My Sad Little Herbs

I started some Italian basil from seeds back in April, in egg cartons. They were transplanted into pots after they grew their first set of true leaves. The picture was taken 06/01.

ETA: 06/14 What the 3 pots above look like today.

In May, I seeded some Mammoth (top tray) and Thai (bottom tray) basil. But, between the temperature variations and my forgetful nature, I lost a LOT of the seedlings that you see below cause I didn’t thin them. I may have forgot to water them a few times during the REALLY hot weather after I put them outside too.

I even bought some small herb pots at the city market. And planted THEM in a timely fashion. Whether I end up with anything useful for my cooking is anyone’s guess.

Sage, 2 rosemary and a fragile thyme plant

Mint that overwintered in the pot (you need a flamethrower to kill these suckers) and an oregano plant

Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup and Cafe Bombon

I had planned on a Greek themed cooking weekend inspired by a package of phyllo dough in my freezer … galactoboureko and spanakotheropita and dolmathes. (I keep seeing those jars of brined grape leaves in the grocery store). I even wrote them down on a piece of paper.

And then I picked up a two pound package of fresh lean ground beef on sale at Freshco and decided to make albondigas (Mexican meatball) soup since my friend Spikesgirl58 had shared her recipe with me earlier in the week. Well, I started with her recipe.

And then I made a few changes.

Are you surprised?

I figure that about 90% of the recipe is hers.

I thawed the rest of the 1 pound package of home made Mexican chorizo to add to the meatball mixture, and picked up some other items on Saturday morning, including baby spinach, fresh cilantro and limes.

Spikesgirl’s Albondigas (Meatball) Soup – makes 6 – 8 main-dish servings

Meatballs – makes 40-44 meatballs, use half of the meatballs in soup below

1 1/2 – 2 pounds lean ground beef (or half beef and half raw chorizo sausage**)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1** – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro**, mint** and oregano), coarsely chopped
2 tbsp – 1/4 cup** rice

Soup

6 cups chicken stock
4 cups beef stock or consommé
1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican or Greek)
1 medium sized onion coarsely chopped
4 medium /6 small carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned with liquid (optional)
1/2** – 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
1/2** – 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1/2** – 3/4 pound baby spinach
2 to 3 limes, cut into wedges

** Amounts I used

Combine ground beef/chorizo, bread crumbs, rice, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped herbs, salt and egg. Form into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter (~2 tbsp).

In an 8 quart kettle, combine the chicken stock with the beef stock, onions and oregano.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Drop the meatballs into the stock.

Simmer meatballs for about 5 minutes, then spoon off any fat. (THIS IS IMPORTANT … I didn’t do it and ended up with a layer of fat on top of my soup.)

Add the carrots and potatoes. Continue simmering, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender to bite.

Meanwhile, clean spinach discarding the tough stems. Wash leaves and chop the large ones in half. Add to stock along with corn/peas and tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.

“Ladle into bowls and pass limes,” according to Spikesgirl.

* * *

I used the second pound of ground beef for some spaghetti sauce and threw in some other leftover items from my freezer including sauteed mushrooms and pureed tomatoes.

Cafe Bombon

I thought this coffee drink would pair well with a Mexican soup as it has Spanish/Mexican roots … being equal parts sweetened condensed milk topped with piping hot espresso. Serve in a tall clear glass with a spoon so your guests can admire the layers and then stir and sip this VERY sweet drink. It cools quickly by the way.

Basic Walnut Brownies and May Goodies

Sorry for the picspam. I wasn’t going to post the brownie recipe at all, just a soup recipe that I didn’t make until the beginning of June, but then I changed my mind about the brownie recipe. Then the post would have been HUGE, so I decided to throw all the May stuff in the same post.

Basic Walnut Brownies

Made with cocoa powder … just a touch overbaked. For the shiny crust, use melted chocolate/chocolate chips.

Basic Walnut Brownies – makes 16 squares

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter**, softened
pinch of salt
1 cup white granulated sugar, or brown sugar if preferred
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

** Margarine may be used though in that case, you don’t have to add the salt. You can also use salted butter if that’s your preference.

Extra butter to grease pan

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. Fahrenheit.

Grease an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan. (If you want pretty brownies, line your pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, one lengthwise and one crosswise, with some overhang so you can remove the brownies from the pan for cooling and cutting when cold.)

Cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well with each addition.

Stir in the cocoa powder and then the flour, baking powder and walnuts.

Pour into the greased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. (Mine were too dry at 30 minutes so you might want to start checking around 22 or 23 minutes, just in case.)

Let cool before cutting.

Odds and Ends

Spicy Korean Gochujang Beef and Noodles/Bulgogi

Beef and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce

Cinqo de Mayo burger

Pork Chops

Pork Ribs and fresh corn on the cob

Chicken and Leek Mapo TofuPork mapo tofu is delicious too. Try coating the tofu cubes in cornstarch and deep fry it for a bit of crunch. Broccoli is another vegetable option.

Sole fillets

Sausage, scrambled eggs and blackberry jam challah

Various Desserts

Espresso panna cotta … eat it right out of the glass

Orange Curd/Whipped Cream mini tart or mousse cup

Hybrid Brioche Cheddar Hamburger Buns/Rolls

I froze away some of my first sourdough starter, last year, and pulled out 2 oz which I rehydrated and fed a few days earlier.

Then, I made some rolls with it. I had intended to make hamburger buns but for some reason, changed my mind and ended up placing the dough balls into an oiled 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish and made rolls instead. Since I don’t have a scale accurate enough to weigh small quantities, I ended up with some large balls of dough and after removing the excess, ended up with enough dough to make a single perfect hamburger bun.

The bun makes a great sandwich. The crumb of the rolls is light and fluffy.

Hybrid Brioche Cheddar Cheese Hamburger Buns/Rolls – makes 2 1/2 lbs/1.1 kg dough, enough for 16 buns

1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
3/4 cup warm water (replace with water and 1 tbsp milk powder or 2 % milk for a brioche)
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup active sourdough starter
2 eggs, plus an extra egg for egg wash
~ 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 – 4 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Poppy or sesame seeds for topping (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, melted butter, 2 eggs and the sourdough starter.

Mix well with a large wooden spoon until you get a batter like consistency. Add the cheese and mix through. Gradually, add the rest of the flour, about half a cup at a time until the dough starts forming a ball in the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a floured working surface and add additional flour until you get a soft dough. Knead for about 10 minutes.

Turn dough out into an large oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, which will take about 1 -1 1/2 hrs.

Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and form into balls.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or brushing with vegetable oil. Spread out 8 balls of dough over each of the baking sheets so they’re at least 1 1/2 inches apart.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F.

Beat the extra egg with a tablespoon of cold water and, using a pastry brush, brush over the top of the buns. If using the dough for buns, after letting them rise, pat them down a bit, gently, to get a wider bun.

Sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds over the top of the buns if desired.

Bake the buns for 12-17 minutes or until the tops are a golden brown and the bottoms are browned as well.

Transfer to a cooling rack.