Category Archives: lunch

Pantry/Freezer Clearout – Hash Brown Patties

During the summer, my monthly discretionary budget is pretty strict, but I recently had to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul” due to some unexpected expenses. Which means that the pantry clear-out is even more important.

There was a large bag of frozen hash brown patties in the freezer with a paltry six patties left. What to do … what to do?

Bake the patties off first (20 min at 400 deg F) and then use your imagination.

If you’re cooking for a family of two to four, you can make all kinds of casserole dishes. Replace lasagna noodles with the patties for a potato lasagna and fill with sauteed veggies for a tasty Italian vegetarian option. However, the patties are also convenient for singles who don’t have a lot of time to whip up something filling.

I decided on Eggs Benedict (eggs are relatively cheap) on a potato patty with leftover Hollandaise. The sauce stands up to refrigeration far longer than the experts advise and with gentle reheating in the microwave just until you can spoon the sauce, you’ve got a great breakfast or lunch dish. Instead of ham, I used the last couple of slices of peameal bacon from the freezer. I had bought a peameal bacon roast on sale, a while ago, and sliced it myself into eight 3/8-1/2 inch slices and then portioned them for easy thawing, as needed.

Another option for the leftover Hollandaise: Add a couple of tablespoons of the cold Hollandaise to a serving of hot pasta. The heat of the pasta will melt the cold sauce creating a rich and creamy sauce. I like linguine, fettuccine or spaghetti.

The potato patties also make a tasty base for a pizza. I had some grated mozzarella cheese in the freezer and spooned on a couple of tablespoons of that spaghetti sauce that I got such a great deal on. A couple of fresh basil leaves from my sturdy Italian basil plant … and you’ve got a hash brown potato pizza Margherita.

Three patties down and three to go.

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Tipo 00 Flour Pizza Crust and Herbs Inside and Out

Last year I was feeling a bit adventurous so, along with my usual purchase of a 20 kg bag of Canadian all purpose flour ($19.99 including tax), I came home with a 1 kg bag of imported Italian Tipo 00 flour (Camino brand, $2.99). This is a very finely milled wheat flour often used for pizza dough and pasta, in Italy. This particular bag is listed as being made from soft wheat flour, though that’s not necessarily the case with all Tipo 00 flours.

I decided that, at that price, it better make some pretty amazing pizza dough.

And I kept putting off trying it out.

Until NOW … mostly because I want pizza and I’ve got less than a cup of all purpose flour in the house, and no intention of replacing my stash until some time in August.

NOTE: I calculated the protein content (5 gm per 42 gm of flour) at 11.9% confirming, that in this case, it IS a low protein flour.

Tipo 00 Flour Pizza Crust – makes enough dough for one 12 inch pizza

250 gm Tipo 00 flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant/bread machine yeast
140 gm room temperature water
1 1/2 tsp olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, add the flour and salt. Stir to mix through. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast, water and olive oil. Mix through with your finger tips until all the flour has been moistened and then gather together into a ball.

Transfer the ball of dough to a clean working surface and knead, without adding any additional flour, for 5 minutes. Cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead for another 3-5 minutes until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled medium sized bowl, turning the ball in the oil to lightly cover. Cover tightly with a sheet of food wrap and drape a towel over the bowl. Put the bowl of dough into a warm place and let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Degas the dough and round up into a ball, cover with the food wrap and then the towel and let the dough rest for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450-500 deg F about an hour before you want to bake your pizza.

Prepare your pizza baking sheet by sprinkling ground cornmeal lightly over the top. Stretch the dough onto your baking sheet. Top and place into the preheated oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the ingredients are cooked, the cheese is nice and bubbly and the underside and crust is golden brown. Remove the pizza to a cooling rack and let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting so that the cheese has a chance to set.

Trial 1: The dough weighed 403 gm and it took 13 1/2 minutes to bake the pizza. I estimate that the oven had only been at temp (500 deg F) for about 15-20 minutes. The next time, I’ll start preheating the oven as soon as the pizza dough is ready for its hour of rest instead of waiting half an hour.

Review: There were only a few big bubbles in the pizza crust but they WERE there. I have a couple ideas of ways in which to get more of those bubbles. The underside of the crust was crisp, relatively thin and golden brown and the pizza crust itself was nice and chewy. It’s a good pizza, similar in taste and texture to one available from a popular local pizza restaurant and delivery place. And a lot cheaper. I’d buy the flour again if it was a good price.

And, on a side note: I like using fresh herbs in my cooking but nurturing them is a chore.

Cause … I get bored.

And distracted … so I don’t use them at their peak. In any case, this is my current inventory of culinary herbs.

Inside

Italian Basil

Japanese shiso/ perilla (3 overcrowded pots) and a sad lavender plant

Outside

Mint and Thyme – with a couple of green onion bulbs that I transplanted after harvesting the tops a few times

Thai Basil and Sage

Korean Kimchi Pancake (Kimchi-jeon) Version 2

This adaptation of the last Korean pancake post may be considered heresy by fans of the authentic version, but I think it’s a great improvement in texture.

Korean Kimchi Pancake Version 2 – makes a single large 6 inch pancake (or two 4 inch diameter pancakes)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt (optional)
1 tbsp water
1 large egg
2-3 green onion tops, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup quick kimchi

1 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying the pancake

Preheat a large cast iron frying pan over medium heat.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Add the egg and water, using the fork to break up the egg and moisten the dry ingredients. Add the kimchi and green onion tops and combine briefly.

Add the oil to the frying pan and give it a quick swirl so as to coat the bottom of the pan.

Turn out the pancake batter into the middle of the frying pan and pat out into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Fry until bubbles start to break through to the top of the pancake and the edges are dry, two or three minutes should be enough. Using a spatula, carefully turn the pancake over and continue frying until the bottom is browned, and the pancake is cooked through, another minute or so.

Transfer onto a flat serving plate and cut into 1-inch squares.

Serve with the dipping sauce from the previous Korean pancake post.

Unlike the previously posted pancake which I found ‘gummy’, this one was fluffy and tender, like a regular pancake, while still retaining the flavour and crunchy texture of the kimchi-jeon.

Korean Kimchi Pancake (Kimchi-jeon)

This savoury pancake is usually made with chopped fermented kimchi, but I chose to use my home made quick ‘kimchi’ instead. Kimchi-jeon is similar to another savoury cabbage pancake I make and love … Japanese okonomiyaki … in many ways. It’s also similar to the Chinese green onion/scallion pancake that I’ve made.

Since I’ve never tasted the real deal, I’m not sure what the pancake SHOULD taste like, or the general texture desired. I incorporated elements from the various recipes found on line into one cohesive recipe, for my first attempt, and posted it below. Variations are found in the type of flour used (just all purpose or all purpose and rice flour) and in the inclusion of egg. In the vegan version, the only liquid used is water. I have even seen versions in which crumbled tofu or ground meat (pork) may be incorporated into the batter. In the latter case, leftover cooked ground meat may be used or the raw meat may be added directly to the batter, which then needs to be cooked a bit longer, in order to cook the meat through.

Other variations are in the size of the pancake made. Smaller, individual pancakes are more convenient if one wishes to freeze some away. For a family, a single larger pancake maybe be served in the pan it was fried in and eaten ‘pull-apart’ style. Or it may be cut into wedges or squares and served ‘appetizer’ style. A dipping sauce, similar to that used for pot stickers, is often used.

Korean Kimchi Pancake – I thought it was delicious if somewhat ‘gummy’ in texture, like the green onion pancake, even hot out of  the pan. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’m thinking of adding some baking powder to the pancake next time, as is done with the okonomiyaki, so it puffs up more.

Korean Kimchi Pancake (Kimchi-jeon) – makes two 4 inch pancakes

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water (reserve 1 tbsp water to add at the end if needed)
1 1/2 tbsp kimchi ‘juice’**
1/2 cup quick ‘kimchi’
2-3 green onion tops, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 green onion top, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish

1-2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying the pancake

Since the ‘kimchi’ that I made earlier was fairly dry, I made a kimchi ‘juice’ to incorporate into the batter for the pancakes.

Mise en place for the pancakes

Briefly whisk together the flour, water and kimchi juice. Fold in the kimchi and green onion tops. If the batter seems very thick, add the reserved tablespoon of water and stir through gently just until mixed in. (Stirring too long will develop gluten and may make your pancake tough.) Add additional water if needed, one tablespoon at a time.

Place a large cast iron frying pan on the stove and preheat at medium/medium-high. Add one tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan and, when hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of the pancake batter in a small mound on the pan, patting out to about 4 inches in diameter. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to fit 3-4 pancakes into the pan at a time. (If you’re not confident about cooking so many pancakes at one time, feel free to make them individually, adjusting the heat level as needed.)

When the pancakes seem almost totally set, flip over to the other side and cook until the second side is set. Then flip again, and finish cooking the first side for another minute. (NOTE: You want SOME charring but you don’t want to burn your pancakes. The sugar in the batter contributes to that charring. Start your pancakes on medium heat if you know your pan heats quickly and retains the heat. You can always turn it up a bit or cook the pancakes longer, if needed.)

Kimchi ‘juice’ – makes about 1/3 cup of juice

2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp gochujang (hotness level 3) **
pinch or two of ginger powder
pinch or two of garlic powder

** For my first attempt, I only added 1 tbsp of the gochujang to the juice. It was pretty spicy but tasty. I wouldn’t add more.

Whisk together and use as needed. The excess may be poured over the remaining quick ‘kimchi’.

Dipping Sauce

1 tsp Asian chili sauce, Sriracha or sambal oelek**
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil (reduced to 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp sugar (if using dark soy sauce, as I did, omit the sugar)
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

** What I used

Mix together until the sugar dissolves. Taste. If needed add more vinegar, soy sauce or sugar. Sprinkle some sliced green onions and/or sesame seeds on top … just to make it look pretty. 🙂

Asparagus and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Greek Yogurt

Work’s been good this past month so I was feeling a bit ‘spendy’ when I went grocery shopping.

My grocery list had ONE item on it … MILK … but I ended up spending $60 on various extras including a box of ice cream drumsticks. (SO bad … but it was a PROMO sale.)

I decided to skip replenishing my stock of potatoes so meals in the week ahead are going to feature pasta and rice side dishes. I was going to start with a chicken Alfredo. Unfortunately, it turned out that that carton of whipping cream that I was sure I had in the back of the fridge … wasn’t there.

Substitution time.

A fast search on the net and I ran across a recipe for an Alfredo sauce using Greek yogurt. I also added a couple of ounces of cream cheese and, of course, Parmesan cheese, to the sauce.

Greek yogurt … I had strained it previously because I wanted a nice thick yogurt for something else, so I had to add more pasta water than expected to thin it down enough for the recipe below.

The result was delicious, and I didn’t miss the whipping cream at all.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus and Chicken – serves 4

300 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta
1/2 pound (~230 gm) chicken breast, cubed**
1/2 pound (~230 gm) asparagus stalks, cut into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces

** I had a couple of chicken cutlets that I had prepped and frozen, so I used those.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water for use in the Alfredo sauce below. You’ll start with 1/4 cup but if your sauce tightens up you may need to add more.

NOTE: An easy way to cook your asparagus is to add it to the pot of pasta for the last 3 minutes of cooking time. It will be tender but still have a bit of crunch and retain its green colour.

Greek Yogurt Alfredo Sauce

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper (use white pepper if you want a whiter sauce)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine (or pasta water, vegetable broth or chicken broth; the broth will make the sauce less white)
2 oz (~60 gm) Philadelphia cream cheese, cubed
1 oz (~30 gm, 1/2 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Additional grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced chicken and asparagus and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top. Saute until the chicken is lightly golden and no longer pink inside and the asparagus is tender, but still a bit crunchy. Remove the chicken and asparagus to a small bowl and reserve.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium and add the minced garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the wine (or pasta water) and scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up the fond (bits of browned chicken and garlic). Whisk in the cubed cream cheese until it melts into a ‘sauce’. You may want to add a bit more pasta water at this point to help. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes to cool enough that the yogurt won’t curdle.

Whisk in the yogurt and the grated Parmesan cheese and then return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the reserved chicken and asparagus and stir constantly until the Parmesan is mostly melted into the sauce, 3-4 minutes. Do not let the sauce come to a simmer or boil as this could cause it to curdle.

Add the cooked pasta to the saute pan and stir so that the sauce will coat the pasta. Add additional pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.

Serve and garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Cauliflower-Rice Pizza Crust

Because Karen, of “Back Road Journal”, posed an interesting question about getting a pizza crust, using cauliflower rice, that was firm enough to pick up … and because I was bored, I decided to attempt a technique and recipe found here.

The recipe was scaled down to accommodate the reality that I only had 300 gm of cauliflower rice in the house. And it was frozen.

It’s possible that using fresh cauliflower, rather than frozen, may give you a drier cauliflower rice preparation to start with, and require less effort to get as much excess water out of your cooked cauliflower as possible. Instead of poaching/steaming the cauliflower, I used the microwave to cook the cauliflower rice directly from frozen.

Pick-upable Crust

Cauliflower Rice Pizza Crust for One – makes 1 16 1/2 cm (6 1/2 inch) diameter pizza crust

300 gm cauli-rice, frozen
1 tbsp beaten egg**
1 tbsp soft goat cheese (chevre) or cream cheese
1-2 pinches of salt
1/4 tsp dry oregano, rubbed between the palms of your hand to a powder

NOTE: One large egg has a volume of about 1/4 cups. Using 1/4 of an egg means that you use about 1 tbsp of well beaten egg.

Place frozen cauli-rice in a microwave safe container with lid. Cook on high for 5 minutes. With a fork break up the cauli-rice, replace the lid, and return to the microwave and cook on high for another 2 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit. Cover a metal baking dish or sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Let the cauli-rice cool for 5-10 min until it’s cool enough to handle. Transfer the cauli-rice to a sturdy linen towel and squeeze as much of the liquid as you can out of it. NOTE: I got about 160 ml (2/3 cup) of water out of the cauli-rice.

Transfer the cooled cauli-rice to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Transfer the cauli-rice ‘crust’ into the center of the parchment paper and pat out into a 16 1/2 cm (6 1/2 inch) diameter circle. It will be about 5 cm (1/3 inch) thick.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. With a spatula, flip the ‘crust’ over, in case of sticky areas, and add the toppings.

Crust Top and bottom

Return to the oven and bake 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the toppings are cooked.

Cut and serve immediately.

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)

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

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.

Chicken, Corn and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Recently I cooked up the last of my tri-colour quinoa and used part of it to make shrimp and Chinese sausage quinoa fried “rice”. I set aside a cup of the cooked quinoa and finally used it up this past weekend to stuff some sweet peppers that had been lingering in my vegetable crisper drawer.

Warning: Times and amounts in the recipe below are rough estimates based on scaling up the recipe for four people and your particular oven.

Chicken, Corn and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – serves 4, 2 pepper halves per person

1 small onion, small dice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 medium sweet peppers, orange, red or yellow
1/2 lb ground chicken, breasts, thighs or both
1/2-3/4 cup corn kernels (cut from one cob of corn)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2-3/4 cup marinara or spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper)
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
2-3 thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish

NOTE: The peppers and filling may be prepared and assembled the night before, covered and refrigerated and then baked the next day.

Cut the peppers in half, removing stems, ribs and seeds. Place into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat, saute the diced onion in the vegetable oil until the onions are translucent and just picking up some colour around the edges. Add the ground chicken, season with salt and pepper and saute until no long pink. Add the corn and cooked quinoa, mix through the chicken and onion and saute for a few minutes until warmed through.

Stir in half a cup of marinara sauce, mix thoroughly and, if it seems too dry, add a bit more of the marinara sauce. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Spoon the filling into the pepper halves. Add about 1/4 cups of water to the baking dish to help with cooking/steaming the peppers and cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. If you’ve refrigerated the dish, you’ll likely have to add an additional 10-15 minutes to the bake time.

Remove the foil and add about a tablespoon of cheese to the top of each stuffed pepper half. Return to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you want a bit more colour, you may turn on the broiler on high for a few minutes but, watch carefully, so that the cheese doesn’t burn. Serve while hot with a sprinkling of sliced green onion.