Category Archives: lunch

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

As close as I can get to an Irish meal to celebrate the occasion.

Corned beef brisket, colcannon and carrots.

I forgot to buy any beer but a nice pint glass of an Irish beer (is Harp beer good?) would be a nice accompaniment, I think. Dessert will be a slice of cran-apple pie though a piece of Irish “Brick” cake with some custard sauce might be more appropriate.

PS: I have some creamy potato-leek soup in the fridge but just wasn’t hungry enough to serve it.

Pasta For One: Pasta Alfredo

Continued from previous post.

Another pasta dish which is fast and easy to prepare and not that pricey, depending on the protein used.

Today’s post features shrimp and mushrooms. I like to pair a protein and a vegetable.

Basic Alfredo Recipe for One

90 gm pasta (fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti)
2 tbsp butter, extra virgin olive oil or equal parts of each
3-4 mushrooms, thickly sliced
100-125 gm raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh or dried parsley and more grated Parmesan for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add one tablespoon of butter and when it has melted and starts to bubble, add the mushrooms. Cook until golden brown on one side, turn and repeat with second side. Remove the mushrooms to a large bowl and reserve. Depending on how much butter remains in the pan, add a second tablespoon and when it melts, add the shrimp. Saute quickly, flipping over until both sides have begun to turn pink, then remove to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Add the minced garlic and saute briefly, stirring, until the garlic barely begins to pick up some colour, turn down the heat to medium and add the whipping cream and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the mixture starts to bubble, the cheese melts and the mixture begins to thicken. Add the cooked pasta, mushrooms and shrimp, stirring to coat with the Alfredo sauce.

Transfer to a plate and serve immediately garnished with some more grated Parmesan and parsley for colour.

Other options: chicken and asparagus or ham and green peas.

Pasta For One: Building on the Basics

The simplest Italian pasta dish is spaghetti aglio e olio, pasta with garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil. If you’re on a budget, this is an inexpensive dish when paired with a big bowl of soup and a salad.

But you can build on this basic dish if your budget is more generous.

Instead of olive oil, you can use butter (or use both) and add some leftover roasted chicken. Or shrimp if you’ve just been paid. A bit of shrimp (100 gm per portion) can make you feel like you’re dining out at a fancy Italian restaurant, especially if you add a glass of a dry white wine to your meal. Clams or mussels are other protein options. Or a nice piece of salmon. If you’re avoiding meat but still want some protein in your dish, add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas.

Add some jarred pasta sauce to the previous meal for a change in colour and flavour. And tomatoes are veggies, aren’t they? If you have tomatoes in your garden, dice up one and add that to the meal above. Grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half, are another option.

If you’re not in the mood for tomatoes, transform your aglio e olio into an Alfredo sauce with the addition of whipping cream and grated Parmesan cheese. Sometimes the cheese goes on sale and it freezes well, grated or ungrated.

Another option is to add some whipping cream to the tomato sauce. The result is a fancy ‘blush’ or pink sauce. You can add white wine to thin out a leftover Alfredo sauce if you’ve got some in the your cupboard or fridge. Vodka is another add-in to a blush sauce instead of the white wine.

And, if you’re a veggie fanatic, add blanched spinach or Swiss chard or kale to your pasta dish.

Kale is a bit on the bitter side so you may want to blanch it ahead of time or sautee it with your olive oil and garlic. Asparagus is another alternative. And, of course, you can sautee your favourite mushrooms in the olive oil until golden brown and remove them from the pan before adding your garlic, and return them to the pan along with your cooked and drained pasta to warm through.

Hawaiian Loco Moco Redux

Too lazy to make a real cooking post but I thought I’d share today’s lunch, a Hawaiian loco moco.

This version features a bowl of left over basmati rice (long grain, jasmine or sushi rice works too, as does couscous, quinoa or cauliflower rice), topped with a hamburger patty and canned Swiss Chalet beef gravy.

Add a fried sunny side up egg (white is set but the yolk is still runny). A little green onion for garnish.

Dig in.

Fast, easy and delicious.

PS: In Hawaii, a dinner plate also adds macaroni salad and coleslaw.

Menchi Katsu (Japanese Fried Hamburgers)

Some years ago, I made the Hungarian fried burgers/patties/balls called “fasirt”. These panko breaded and fried Japanese hamburgers, or “menchi katsu”, reminded me of them. They’re flavourful and the coating seals in the moisture making for a juicy patty.

I found the idea and basic recipe for these burgers on my favourite Japanese Youtube channel, TabiEats. I’ll post my rewritten version of the recipe at the bottom of the page.

Menchi Katsu – serves 2-3
from TabiEats

Meat patties
150 gm onion, diced, sauteed and cooled
300 gm ground beef, pork or a mixture of the two
1/3 tsp salt
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
pinch nutmeg, reduces smell of pork
couple of pinches of black pepper
1 egg

Coating
flour
1 egg, beaten
Panko

Side dish
thinly shredded cabbage
rice
sliced tomatoes

Combine ground beef with everything, except the sauteed onion, by hand until sticky. It will be a very soft mixture. Add the onions. Mix again for 3-5 minutes. If it seems too wet, you can add a bit of bread crumb but it shouldn’t be necessary.

Shape into 4-6 evenly sized patties. If the meat mixture is very sticky, you may oil your hands lightly to prevent that. Throw the meat patty from one hand to the other to firm up the patty by eliminating excess air.

Coat with flour (be gentle so the patty doesn’t fall apart), dip into beaten egg to coat and then generously roll in the Panko bread crumbs.

Shallow fry at 350 deg F about 2 1/2 min on each side.

(Strain and reuse the oil for stir frying.)

Serve with tonkatsu sauce, as part of a complete meal or “set”, or include in a bento lunch.

Delicious with a bowl of miso soup, a side of ramen noodles and steamed broccoli.

Sushi Rice Burger a la Mos Burger

NEWSFLASH: The Japanese fast food chain, Mos Burger, serves a hamburger on a rice bun.

I first heard about this dish on the Youtube channel, TabiEats, and was intrigued enough to give it a try. Especially after seeing a similar dish that they made, a grilled cheese sandwich, using a rice bun in place of sandwich bread. Searching Youtube revealed many other people who had the same idea. The Tasty channel, for example, presented four different versions of such a burger including, chicken karaage, shrimp tempura, teriyaki salmon and shrimp cake. I hope to give some of them a try in the future.

The following recipe was inspired by the TabiEats channel and is a written account of how I made it.

Japanese Rice Burger a la Mos Burger – serves 1

Additional ingredients

cooked hamburger patty
slice of cheese
mayonnaise (Kewpie or Hellman’s or Miracle Whip salad dressing)
thinly shredded lettuce
ketchup
mustard
crispy bacon (optional)
sliced pickle (optional)

Rice Burger Buns – makes 2 x ~4-inch rice patties

1 1/2 cups hot/freshly cooked Japanese sushi rice
2 tbsp cornstarch, sifted to eliminate lumps
salt, to taste (~1/8 tsp)

In a medium bowl, add the freshly cooked sushi rice and sift the cornstarch over the top. Cut the cornstarch in with a wet wooden or silicone spatula so as not to mash the rice grains. Season with salt to taste.

Line a 1 cup ramekin with a sheet of plastic food wrap leaving a generous amount of overhang to be able to fold over the plastic wrap around the rice bun. Add half the rice to the ramekin, pressing down firmly to form into an even patty. Remove the rice patty from the ramekin using the pastic wrap as a sling. Wrap the excess plastic around the patty. Repeat with a fresh sheet of plastic wrap and the remaining rice. Refrigerate the two rice patties for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat and add a tsp or so of vegetable oil to the pan. With a folded paper towel wipe the oil over the pan, leaving just a thin coating behind.

Remove the rice patties from the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap and toast the patties in the preheated saute pan until golden brown on both sides. Transfer the patties to a plate and assemble.

Brush the inside of both rice patties with a bit of mayonnaise. Top one of the patties with shredded lettuce, slice of cheese, bacon, the hamburger patty, ketchup, mustard and pickles.

Place the second patty, mayonnaise side down, on top, and serve.

Flaky, Buttery Pie Crust … Sweet and Savoury Fillings

Because you can never have ENOUGH pie crust recipes, I gave this one a try … half unsalted butter and half lard. The blogger who posted the recipe, used shortening, which I didn’t have, as she claims that using the two different fats takes advantage of the best characteristics of each.

Sweet Pie … apple and quince filling

I haven’t bought quinces in years and at the exorbitant price of the imported ones ($2.49 each), I wasn’t about to make a whole pie out of them. But, I was able to combine one perfectly poached quince (green bumpy looking fruit on the right in the picture below) with three Braeburn apples (on sale at $1.15 a pound) to produce a tasty filling to test out my latest pie crust recipe.

The pie recipe I used was based on this one with some changes. I’ve included it below so it’s all in one place.

Apple-Quince Pie – makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 6 generously or 8 more moderately

pie pastry, enough for a top and bottom crust

Poached Quinces

1-2 lg quinces, peeled and diced *
1 cup water
3-4 tbsp honey
pinch of salt

Rest of Filling

3-4 lg apples, peeled and diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

* 1 quince (~250 gm)
** 3 apples (~675 gm), Braeburns

Poaching the quince/s

Combine the water, sugar, salt and diced quince(s). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the quinces are crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit to a large bowl and let cool. Continue cooking the liquid, uncovered, until it reduces to about 1/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 500 deg F with a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf level.

Making the filling

In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the chopped apples to the bowl with the cooled quince. Sprinkle the sugar/flour/spice mixture over the fruit and gently stir in the thickened quince liquid. Pour the filling into the pie bottom.

Add the top crust, seal and crimp the edges. Cut slashes in the crust.

Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet, turn the heat down to 425 deg F and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 375 deg F and continue cooking until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, another 45-55 min.

Remove the pie pan to a cooling rack until it’s come to room temperature. Refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hrs and preferably overnight before cutting into the pie.

Savoury Tart … spinach and paneer (cheese) tart

Because I’m a cheap frugal home cook, I rolled out the trimmings from the apple and quince pie to form a top crust for a spinach and paneer tart. For the base, I used a mini pie shell from the freezer. It was made with the leftover pastry from my PREVIOUS pie bake … a nectarine crumble.

I wasn’t sure how much filling I would need so I threw together something that came out pretty well.

Spinach and Paneer Tart – makes 1 mini pie, enough for 2 generous servings

pie pastry, enough for a bottom crust, divided in half

1/2 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (~64 gm)
140 gm paneer cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
2 tbsp whipping cream, or regular milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit. Adjust the shelf in the oven so it’s at the lowest position. Place a baking sheet in the oven so that it will preheat as well.

Roll out the dough for the base. Line a disposable aluminum mini pie tin leaving about 1/2 inch of excess pastry. Roll out the top so there’s about an inch of excess pastry.

Assemble the filling ingredients. Fill the base, add the top crust, folding over and crimping closed. Cut several slits for the steam to escape.

Place the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

REVIEW: I found that the pie crust recipe lived up to its name … it IS both flaky and buttery. It’s easy to make, tasty and will remain in my recipe collection. The fillings of both the sweet and savoury variations were delicious as well.

Nikuman (Japanese Steamed Buns)

I still have a backlog of recipes/posts to share but got very excited about today’s bake so it jumped the queue. I’ve got several recipes for steamed buns (Chinese bao or Korean jjinppang) in my recipe archives but I went to my favourite YouTube channel, TabiEats, for a small batch of buns, especially as I was able to use up a container of leftover runza filling (shredded corned beef, sauteed red cabbage and shredded cheddar cheese) for them.

It’s also a very fast recipe … no yeast proofing, a few minutes to knead, 30 min bulk proof, shaping and a final 20 minutes to final proof. Steaming took only 15 minutes and my buns were ready to eat. I didn’t bother with the squid ink variation so I added a total of 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the dough in the kneading step.

Before proofing and after steaming

I had about 360 gm of dough so I divided it into six equal portions. There was a lot of filling (about 300 gm) but I shaped into tight balls and used it to fill the buns. There was a high filling (a bit under-seasoned) to bun ratio which was a plus.

REVIEW: Highly recommended recipe. There’s nothing I’d do differently.

Umeboshi Onigiri (Sour Plum Rice Balls)

Umeboshi are pickled sour ume, a fruit often identified as a plum though it is more closely related to the apricot. They are most commonly eaten with rice which mellows their salty and sour taste. Purple leaved perilla, which colours the ume red, is sometimes added during the salting process. A more modern preparation of umeboshi includes honey to slightly sweeten the finished fruit. I thought I’d dip my toe in the umeboshi pool so I bought the latter.

Recently, I visited a local Japanese grocery store and came home with some goodies including a container of the honey version of the umeboshi and made a batch of umeboshi onigiri.

Clockwise from the top: Adzuki beans, mochiko (sweet glutinous rice flour), katsuobushi (shaved dried bonito flakes) and umeboshi with honey. The sushi rice was purchased from my local grocery store chain because the price was better (8 kg for $13.99).

I DID make a traditional triangular shaped onigiri with the pitted umeboshi in the center but my preferred presentation was made by adding diced umeboshi to the cooked sushi rice and shaping the rice into rounds. Normally one shapes the onigiri using dampened hands sprinkled with salt to season and help in the preservation of the onigiri. However, the salty umeboshi added to the rice eliminates the need for the additional salt.

For the sushi rice cooking instructions, check out previous sushi and onigiri posts.

Whole and pitted umeboshi

Umeboshi onigiri served on home grown green perilla (shiso) leaves.

The onigiri may be wrapped in a half sheet of nori, along with a perilla leaf for flavour, wrapped with plastic food wrap and frozen for quick meals. Or, if you like your nori crispy, wrap the onigiri separately and add it to your lunch box/bento along with a half sheet of nori. You may serve the onigiri with a bit of soy sauce, if you prefer.

Spoiler Alert: Mochiko flour is an ingredient in a number of sweet or savoury Japanese treats. Just sayin’

Asparagus, Mushroom and Shrimp Fried Rice

I’ve been out of potatoes for about a week so when I thought about starch sides to pair with one of the several proteins in my freezer, pasta/noodles, quinoa and rice were among my options. I also wanted to use up the last few stalks of asparagus in my fridge. I finally decided on a Chinese classic … fried rice. Mainly because I had a pound of inexpensive white button mushrooms to pair with a scant half pound of large cooked, peeled and de-veined shrimp in my freezer.

I combined the elements of a couple of recipes I found on-line, mainly using one which featured mushrooms. The egg was added to extend the protein content.

RECIPE EDITED TO FIX GLARING TYPOS:

Asparagus, Mushroom and Shrimp Fried Rice Bowl

Asparagus, Mushroom and Shrimp Fried Rice – serves 3

~1/3 lb/177 gm peeled and de-veined cooked shrimp
1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice (or medium-grain)
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4-1 lb/340-454 gm white button mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
4-6 green onions including green tops, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup mixed vegetable (diced carrot, frozen peas, sliced asparagus)**
1/4 cup water, or as needed
1 egg, optional
1 tsp Asian sesame oil, for garnish
1-2 green onion tops, sliced thinly, for garnish

** equal parts diced carrot and sliced asparagus (3 stalks) used

Cook the long or medium grain rice the day before you plan on making this dish and refrigerate overnight.

In a large nonstick frying pan or wok, heat 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Turn down the heat to medium and in the same frying pan, heat another tbsp of vegetable oil. Add the red-pepper flakes, grated ginger, and green onions and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Raise the heat back to medium-high and add the mixed vegetables, stirring to char the vegetables for a minute or so. Add the water, cover, and let cook/steam about 5 minutes, to par cook the vegetables.

Push the vegetables to one side, and, if needed add a bit more oil to the pan in the empty spot. Add the rice to the area where you cleared the pan. Break up any rice clumps a bit and then sprinkle the salt and soy sauce over the rice. Stir to coat the rice evenly.

Add the mushrooms and cooked shrimp to the pan, stirring through until everything’s warm, another few minutes.

If adding an egg to the fried rice, again push the rice etc to one side leaving an empty area on one side. Break the egg into the space and let cook for a minute to set the white, then break up the egg yolk gently. Lift and turn the fried rice on top of the partially cooked egg. The heat from the rice will continue cooking the egg. Mix the egg through the rice.

Divide the fried rice among the serving bowls, making sure everyone gets an equal amount of the shrimp, and drizzle a bit of the sesame soil over the top.

Sprinkle green onion over the top for a garnish.