Monthly Archives: November 2018

Cauliflower Tots

Tater tots, mini bites of grated and deep fried potatoes, are a convenience food that make a tasty and fast side dish. A healthier version may be made with “cauli-rice” …  cauliflower florettes briefly pulsed in a food processor. The recipe below is a simplified adaptation of the various techniques and ingredients found on line. Though I DID add a ‘variation’ that seemed more extravagant. I haven’t tried it yet. Mainly because I didn’t have either the bacon or the peppers on hand. However, I have two packages of raw cauli-rice in the freezer. Maybe I’ll make them for Christmas. Or New Years.

Baked Cauliflower Tots

Baked Cauliflower Tots – makes 10-12 ‘tots’, 4-6 per serving

2 cups/250 gm ‘riced’ cauliflower florettes*
1 large egg
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup raw onion, finely minced or 2 tbsp crispy fried onions
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs, plain or Italian seasoned
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray or vegetable oil

*Break down a whole head of cauliflower into florettes. In a food processor, 1/4 of a head at a time, briefly pulse the florettes until they’ve broken down into roughly rice kernel sized.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, with lid, and cook 1-2 minutes on high. Let cool enough to handle. Place the cooled cauli-rice into a fine weave tea towel and squeeze out the excess water. (NOTE: I managed to extract about 3 tbsp of liquid out of this batch.)

Spray a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon about 2 tbsp of the mixture in your hands and roll into small oval shaped tots.

Place on the cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Both sides should be nicely browned and firm but still retain some bounce.

Remove and serve as a side dish. Or, as an appetizer, serve with ketchup, pesto, hummus or your preferred dipping sauce.

For an even more decadent appetizer, stir in the items below.

Twice Baked Potato Variation: 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup finely minced bell pepper and 1/4 cup finely chopped crispy bacon

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Thai Green Pork Curry

I recently ran across an ice cream tub with the label “odds and ends” on it and popped it open to find the carefully wrapped remainder of a can of Masri brand green curry paste. I was debating which protein to pair it with and settled on some sliced boneless pork chops. The finished dish … Thai green pork curry served over basmati rice. I would have preferred jasmine rice but, unfortunately, didn’t have any.

Thai Green Pork Curry – serves 3

1 tbsp oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
350-400 gm boneless pork chops, thinly sliced
200 gm broccoli florettes (or diced eggplant, green beans, tops removed, asparagus, sliced into 2 inch pieces)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp Thai green curry paste
200 ml coconut milk (or a combination of the coconut milk and plain Balkan yogurt)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar, if needed

extra yogurt, for serving

Heat oil in a saute-pan to medium-high and saute the sliced onion and pork for 2-3 minutes or until the onion is golden and the pork has started to brown.

Add the vegetables, coconut milk (and yogurt, if used), brown sugar, soy and fish sauces. Cook for  12-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. If using broccoli, you might want to add the florettes for the last 7-10 minutes so they don’t overcook. (Like mine did.)

Taste and if the curry is too ‘hot’, add a tsp of white sugar to reduce that a bit. Serve over steamed jasmine or basmati rice.

Top with an extra dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Bread in an Hour (Cinnamon Rolls Too)

Sometimes you just need a loaf of bread in a hurry. So, a recipe that uses double the normal amount of yeast and is only proofed once, for bread in an hour, can come in handy. Especially when you can make both a plain sandwich loaf, or a batch of decadent cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese frosting, with the same recipe. And the crumb of both is nice and fluffy.

Slice of Sandwich Bread

Inside a Cinnamon Roll

Fast and Easy White Bread – ~900 gm/2 lb, makes 1 loaf, baked in a loaf pan (8 x 4 or 9 x 5 or 13″ Pullman) or 2 free form loaves, or 15 buns in a 9×13 inch baking dish

5 tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp/42 gm sugar
1 1/4 cup/296 gm warm water
1 – 1 1/2 tsp salt*
1/4 cup oil or cooled melted butter
3 – 3 1/2 cup (360 – 420 gm) all purpose unbleached flour

* Used 1 1/4 tsp

In a medium sized bowl, add the warm water and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the yeast, stir to moisten the yeast and let sit for about 3-5 min until foamy.

Add the oil (or melted butter), 1 cup of flour and the salt. Stir well until you have a smooth batter.

Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well. Continue adding the flour until you have a soft dough and you can’t stir in any more of the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, supple (and NOT sticky) dough.

Form your dough into a ball, cover with the bowl that you stirred the dough in, and let rest for 5 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax so that you can stretch it out.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Oil or grease your bread loaf pan.

Roll out your dough or gently pat it down with your hands until you’ve formed a rectangle about 10 inches x 14 inches. Roll up the dough, pinch the seam closed and place, seam down, into your prepared loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place, for 20 minutes or until double in size.

Brush the top of the loaf with an egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water) or some milk or cream, cut a slit in the top of the bread.

The dough below was only proofed for 20 minutes before being baked

Bake for approximately 20 – 30 minutes until done. (If you have an instant read thermometer check for a reading of 195 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cool before cutting.

Cinnamon Roll Adaptation

I decided to make a dozen cinnamon rolls so I used the dough above, patted/rolled it into a roughly 10 x 14 inch rectangle, spread it with the cinnamon roll filling below and then rolled it up with the seam pinched closed. Since I wanted big fat rolls, I cut the rolls one inch wide and crowded nine of the rolls into an 8×8 inch baking dish lined with parchment paper. The remaining three rolls were placed into a 6 muffin pan lined with large muffin papers. After proofing for 30 minutes, instead of 20, since I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted nice fluffy buns, I baked the risen rolls at 375 deg F in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until they were golden brown on top. When cooled the rolls were frosted with the cream cheese frosting below.

Cinnamon Roll Filling – enough filling for a 10×14 inch rectangle of dough

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, unpacked

Cream together the softened butter and cinnamon. Spread evenly over the dough for the cinnamon rolls. Leave a 1/2-1 inch uncovered at the long end. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the cinnamon butter. Roll up the dough, starting at the long end. Pinch the seam closed and turn the roll, seam side down. Cut about an inch wide and place into a buttered baking dish, or a muffin pan that has been buttered or lined with large muffin cups, and allow to proof until doubled.

Thick Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost a 9×13 inch pan of 15 cinnamon rolls

4 oz/115 gm cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
1/4 cup milk

In a medium sized bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth and softened. Beat in the icing sugar 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract, if using and then the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s of spreading consistency. Use to frost the cinnamon rolls.

NOTE: A half recipe will frost a dozen cinnamon rolls if you’re trying to cut back on the decadence.

Winner, Winner Chicken … Dinner to Start

A sale on whole, fresh chicken is almost as good as one on whole fresh turkeys. And it happens a lot more often. On this occasion, I came home with two whole chickens, about four pounds each for about sixteen dollars. I knew that I wanted to spatch-cock and roast one, but the other … that was decided by fate.

Roasted Spatch-Cocked Chicken – Yes, there ARE four wings in that picture.

Dinner – roasted chicken leg, mashed potatoes with drippings gravy and carrot coins

I cut up and poached the thighs and two half breasts from the second chicken along with half an onion, a carrot, a stick of celery and some aromatics and made chicken stock for the soup below.

Chicken Chile Verde Soup

(Take 2) Chicken Chile Verde Soup – serves 6

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced (substitute with 1/8 tsp garlic powder)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 -1/2 cup masa harina
1 1/2 cup green enchilada sauce
1 can (540 ml/2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced or 1 4 oz can diced green chiles (omitted)
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (2 thighs and 2 half breasts)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or old Cheddar cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature (optional)

Garnish: Additional grated cheese and crushed tortilla chips for topping, if desired

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chile powder and ground cumin and saute for a couple of minutes.

Add in the chicken broth.

Combine the water with the masa harina, whisking until smooth. Pour into the pot along with the  enchilada sauce, black beans, corn and jalapeno or green chiles. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until thickened.

Stir in the grated cheese and cream cheese. Cook until the cheese has melted, whisking if needed, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.

Note: This soup will get thicker upon standing. If you like a thinner soup, use the lesser amount of masa harina. I omitted the cream cheese because I needed it for something else but it gives the soup a very creamy, rich flavour.

There’s still a container of stock left so I made a batch of matzoh balls with the fat skimmed from the stock, after refrigerating it. I poached the matzoh balls in salted water and froze them away when they had cooled, making it easy to throw together the soup when I’m short of time … and hungry.

Pasta alla Caruso

I was going to do a giant post featuring the two chickens I bought a couple of weeks ago but I postponed it, again, for this Italian pasta dish featuring an item many people may not associate with Italy … chicken livers.

I love chicken livers and have had a craving for a while so I picked up two pounds on Saturday and set aside half a pound for use in this delicious dish that I ran across while net surfing a while ago.

Pasta alla Caruso is a chicken liver dish named in honour of the Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, who was said to love it, and a speciality of his home town of Naples. The Italian name, “Pasta Con Fegatini Di Pollo, Cipolle E Funghi” refers to the ingredients … chicken livers, San Marzano tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.

Pasta alla Caruso – serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb (225 gm) fresh chicken livers *
1/4 cup finely diced onion (or 2 tbsp sauted)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lb (225 gm) sliced mushrooms (half button and half cremini)
1 tsp dried herb mixture (equal parts dried parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine (Italian preferred ie Sangiovese)
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 /2 cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
salt and ground black pepper, as needed

* If you don’t like chicken livers, slice a zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, coat them with flour and deep-fry. Drain on paper towels and then use them in place of the fried chicken livers.

Garnish – grated Pecorino Roman (or Parmigiano Reggiano, if that’s all you have)

200 gm thick pasta cooked according to package directions ie fettuccine or linguine or even bucatini

Puree the plum tomatoes and set aside until needed.

Rinse and trim the chicken livers. Drain well and cut into 1/2 in (12-13 mm) wide strips.  Sprinkle about 1/8-1/4 tsp salt over the liver. Heat up the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the livers and fry over medium/medium-high heat until firm. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until needed.

Wipe out the saute pan, add the unsalted butter and saute the diced onion over medium heat until it’s started to pick up some colour.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the saute pan, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top, and saute them until they start getting golden brown but are still a bit firm. Add the dried herbs and stir through.

Add the tomato paste and fry for a few minutes until you’ve coated the onions/mushrooms and the mixture is fairly dry. Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and the pureed tomatoes and liquid. Cook, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and infused into the vegetables.

Add the cooked chicken livers and any juices that may have come out of them and stir through. Cook just until the chickens are warmed through. You don’t want them to get tough.

Taste the mixture and add whatever else you might need – some more salt, some ground pepper, or even a bit of lemon if the sauce seems a bit flat.

Divide the freshly cooked pasta between two plates, ladle half the sauce over each portion and grate the cheese over the top.

Serve with a glass of the red wine.

Enjoy!

The rest of the chicken livers were sauteed in vegetable oil with a sprinkle of salt, Hungarian paprika and a medium sized onion. Just like my mother used to make for me. There’s nothing like chicken livers over mashed potatoes or mamaliga (the Romanian version of polenta). At least, I think so.

Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.

Fast and Easy Chicken Chile Verde Enchiladas

I recently bought a couple of fresh, whole chickens on sale, and broke them down for several dishes. With a leftover cup of of shredded chicken (breast and thigh meat) and some odds and ends from the fridge and freezer, I made a small casserole dish of enchiladas.

Fast and Easy Chile Verde Enchiladas – makes 4 enchiladas

2 10 inch flour tortillas, cut in half

Enchilada Filling

1 cup shredded cooked chicken (breast and thighs)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature

Enchilada Topping

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chile verde enchilada sauce
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Garnishes – 2-3 thinly sliced green onions, hot sauce, diced avocado, salsa

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Lightly oil a small baking dish large enough to hold your enchiladas. For the filling, divide the chicken, cream cheese and cheddar cheese among the 4 tortillas. Roll up tightly and fit into the baking dish.

For the topping, combine the sour cream and enchilada sauce in a small bowl and spread over the top of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top and bake in the preheated oven until the topping is nicely browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. If you wish, turn on the broiler for 2-3 minutes for a browner crust.

Serve with a garnish of sliced green onions, diced avocados etc.