Monthly Archives: May 2018

Last Minute Sushi (Crab Stick and Avocado)

Shades of Deadpool

I want sushi.

What kind?

No sushi grade fish/seafood? No smoked salmon? No asparagus? Don’t want to make tamago? The bacon’s frozen solid?

Well, what DO you have?

A couple of avocados in the fridge and three fake crab sticks in the freezer.

Sigh!!

Ok …. I CAN do this.

This is the internal conversation I had with myself.

Luckily, the crab sticks thawed quickly when I submerged the plastic freezer bag in cold water.

I had to make a quick batch of seasoned rice vinegar (6 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp salt) cause I was almost out but otherwise, this is what I ended up with.

Four gunkan sushi (3 spicy crab stick, 1 guacamole) and Two crab stick and avocado temaki (hand rolls)

Prepping the strips of nori (1 1/2 inch or about 2 finger width) and the rice ovals (about a rounded soup spoon of rice) for the gunkan or battleship sushi

One crab stick, avocado and spicy Sriracha mayo futomaki (cause it was pretty fat)

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Cauliflower-Rice

Reducing or avoiding carbohydrates in the diet is important for many people so, even though I enjoy mashed potatoes, rice, noodles or spaetzle/nokedli as a base for a dish of roast or paprika chicken, I decided to finally try ‘rice’ made out of cauliflower. Since cauliflower is not one of my go-to vegetable options, I had some concerns.

It turns out that the concerns weren’t warranted. Buy the cauliflower when it’s on sale, prepare and freeze for a fast (<15 min) side dish from frozen.

Cauliflower head with green leaves and stem trimmed off.

Quarter the head of cauliflower and pulse each quarter until the florettes are broken down into coarse rice-sized and shaped pieces. Bag and freeze. No blanching necessary. Each bag held a bit over 300 gms … enough for 2 servings.

Mint Chimichurri Butter Maryland Chicken with Cauli-Rice

Paprika Chicken over Cauli-Rice

Basic Cauli-Rice – serves 2

300 gm cauliflower rice, frozen
1 tbsp sauteed onion
~1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil or drippings from roasted chicken

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, combine the oil or drippings with the sauteed onion.

Add the frozen cauliflower rice and break it up as much as possible. Add a tablespoon or two of water and cover with a lid. Let steam for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, break up the cauliflower, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top and combine the cauliflower with the oil/drippings. Cook for a few minutes until the ‘rice’ chunks are separate and have a bit of colour. Taste, adding more salt if needed and serve.

Steamed Artichokes with Chipotle Yum Yum Sauce

How hungry was the first person who tried geoduck, or the first person who ate a raw oyster?

I was thinking the same thing when I first ran across the artichoke. I watched video after video of the way to prepare (and eat) this vegetable, but it wasn’t until this past week, when I saw them on sale at the grocery store for 99 cents a piece, that I decided to actually buy and cook them myself. Of course, stuffed artichokes were the recipe I saw posted most often, but I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese in the house, and it’s not on this month’s grocery budget, so steamed artichokes seemed to be the way to go. Especially as I already had dip (leftover chipotle yum yum sauce) made to serve with them. Digging out the ‘choke’ on the raw artichokes also put me off.

(Over) Cooked artichokes, ready to eat with chipotle yum yum sauce

Things I forgot … you have to put your prepped artichokes in acidulated (lemon juice) water because, once cut, like with peeled apples, they’ll turn brown as they sit. And, it’s always a good idea to test the item you’re steaming BEFORE the maximum cooking time (25-30 min) suggested or you’ll over-cook it. Leave about an inch of the stem below the bulb as some of it is edible.

You can see the browning edges of the top (discarded) and the base already in the picture below. All the stuff on the top left is wastage from that one artichoke.

The inner side of each artichoke leaf is where you find the ‘meat’. In the second picture you can see the very small amount that was edible and scraped off with your bottom teeth. The amount of ‘meat’ increases as you get closer to the center. (Watching a video on how to eat an artichoke really helps I found.)

The hairy ‘choke’ under which you’ll find the tasty artichoke ‘heart’ needs to be scraped off.

The cleaned ‘heart’ … cut it up into small pieces, dip and enjoy the whole thing. It broke while I was cleaning because it was over steamed.

On the whole, my novice cooking attempt was successful and I don’t regret making it. I’d give myself a solid 6 out of 10 for the result. The taste of artichokes is pretty mild, mostly dependent on the dip you serve them with, so it shouldn’t turn anyone off from giving them a try. On the other hand, prep time and wastage before and after cooking may be more than you want to deal with. It’s not something I’d order if going out to eat with people I want to impress however. (I wouldn’t order lobster in those circumstances, either.)

More Wastage

In conclusion: Tasty and with a good texture, especially if you don’t over cook them but, if I have an artichoke craving in the future, I’ll buy canned artichoke hearts and add them to a dip.

Creamy Corn, Ham and Potato Chowder ver 3 (or is it 4)

I rarely make a soup the same way twice in a row. Like this ham and potato chowder. Usually, I use carrots as well as celery to give it added body and flavour. Sometimes I add cream. Sometimes it’s just milk. And the thickener may be flour or cornstarch. Sometimes, there’s no thickener except for the starch from the potatoes. For a change of flavour, I used dried thyme in this batch. It’s always good.

Creamy Corn, Ham and Potato Chowder

2 tbsp bacon fat or butter
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)
1 medium onion, small diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels or kernels cut from a couple of cobs of fresh corn
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups stock (chicken, vegetable or ham*)
1 1/2 cups whole milk (or 1 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup whipping cream**)
2 medium or 3 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes
7-8 oz (220 gm) leftover ham, 1/2 inch cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

* Ham stock used from boiling a smoked picnic shoulder ham with a tablespoon of pickling spices.
** I didn’t have any whole milk and I liked the richness that the whipping cream gave the chowder.

In a large saute pan over medium/medium high heat saute the onion in bacon fat or butter, until it’s translucent and starts picking up some colour on the edges. Add the diced garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Stir in the corn and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook for another couple of minutes. Gradually stir in the stock, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in potatoes.

Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes.

Stir in the ham, milk, salt and pepper, to taste, heat until the ham is warmed through. If the chowder is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately.

BBQ and Mint Chimichurri

I’ve had a beef/steak craving for a while and picked up a couple of rib steaks (cap off), as well as a tray of pork chops, also on sale this week, with a plan to barbecue. Unfortunately, with Friday and Saturday’s rain and thunderstorms, it took a post-supper lull on Saturday before I could finally throw a few things on the grill.

There’s nothing like chimichurri to dress a bbq’d steak or pork chops. I’ve used cilantro, mint and parsley to make it, in the past, but this batch just used mint and parsley. And for a veggie side … steamed artichokes with a chipotle yum yum sauce (leftovers) to dip into. I’ll share the pictures in a separate post

Mint Chimichurri – makes about 2/3 of a cup

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup fresh mint (spearmint) leaves, packed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, packed
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 tbsp olive oil**

** I used extra virgin olive oil since that’s all I had.

Place garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until finely chopped. Add the mint and parsley leaves and pulse until finely chopped.

In a medium sized bowl, add the vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes and stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the mint-parsley mixture and stir until well mixed. Stir in the olive oil.

Transfer to a glass jar, seal and refrigerate. The chimichurri will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Perfect to serve over steak, lamb or even roasted potatoes!

Steak, potatoes and mint chimichurri – I put the chimichurri on the potatoes for visual contrast though it’s generally served on top of your grilled meat.

Dessert was a couple of large cream puffs filled with chocolate Chantilly cream

Mixed bbq grill – Rib steak, Yukon gold potatoes, a package of hot dogs and a couple of pork chops

Enriched Duck Fat Dough … Hamburger/Slider Buns and Sticky Salted Caramel Walnut Rolls

Last weekend I did a lot of cooking so this weekend was baking time. Between the buns, rolls and pizzas, I’m going to be burning through a bunch of yeast and flour. Instead of using butter, I made a batch of enriched dough using duck fat, eggs and milk. You can use the same enriched ‘brioche style’ dough for various bakes, sweet or savoury.

Half of the dough (~ 2 lbs/ 900 gm) was shaped into eight 60 gm hamburger buns while the rest was rolled out into a rectangle, filled with a home made caramel sauce and chopped walnuts (use pecans if you have them) and sliced into rolls. The only change I made to my basic duck fat dough was to double the sugar content to two tablespoons.

Hamburger/Slider Buns

Each hamburger was made using 125 gm of extra lean ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper and a bit of onion powder. Nothing else … no bread, no milk, no eggs, no Worchestershire sauce. The plastic sour cream lid under the bun in the front left of the picture below was used to shape the raw burger patty. The sliders I made are a bit smaller than the commercial hamburger buns. Next time, I may use a bit more dough for my sliders … maybe up to 75-80 gm. I haven’t decided yet.

Sticky Salted Caramel Walnut Rolls

Dough rolled out to a 16″ by 10″ rectangle, spread with 1/4 cup of salted caramel sauce and about a cup of chopped walnuts, rolled up and cut into 2 inch wide rolls. (I’d probably cut back the nuts to 1/2 cup next time.) Baked at 350 deg F for 30-35 min. Once baked, more caramel sauce was poured over each roll.

While my camera battery was recharging, I couldn’t resist snacking on one of the rolls.

Picspam: Frozen Perogies and Fresh Strawberry Margarita

Making perogies from scratch isn’t as challenging as you’d think.

I’ve made them … once.

And they were delicious.

But sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to make them so you buy a bag of the frozen ones, especially when they’re on sale.

The default way to serve perogies is boiled, sauteed in butter/olive oil until golden brown

… and then topped with sauteed onions, crispy bacon and sour cream. A sprinkling of thinly sliced green onion for colour (and so you can pretend there’s something fresh and healthy on your plate).

But, you may want to switch things up every once in a while.

Home made or canned chili is a great topping.

Or bolognese. Or a duck ragu. How do you serve YOUR perogies?

And, because my strawberries were getting past the peak of their freshness … I pureed the remainder and made a fresh strawberry margarita. (If my blender was able to grind up ice, I’d have the slushy version of this delicious drink which I first had at the Regal Constellation in Toronto at a Toronto Trek convention.)

Coincidentally, it’s a nice Cinco de Mayo drink if you want something sweet.

Fresh Strawberry Margarita – serves 1

125-150 gm fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup tequila
2 tbsp Cointreau, Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Garnish
fresh strawberry and/or lime wedge
coarse salt for rimming glass
coarse sugar for rimming glass

Run a lime wedge around the rim of a tall glass, or a champagne coupe glass. Dip the glass into a shallow bowl with coarse salt (or sugar), to create a decorative rim. Set aside the glass.

Add all of the above ingredients, excepting the garnishes, to a blender and puree. Taste and add more lime juice or honey, to taste. Strain through a coarse strainer to make sure any chunks are gone.

Add a few ice cubes to a shaker, pour the margarita over the top, shake for a minute or two and then strain into the salt rimmed glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry that you’ve cut a slit into from the base, and/or a lime wedge.