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It’s Turkey Time Again … Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving, 2017!

 

And, of course, dessert … cream puffs. I didn’t bother with any icing sugar etc. Just dived in.

PS: I made cranberry sauce but forgot to serve it with the meal. I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the rest of it later.

Turkey is something that I only cook a couple of times a year. Not because I don’t like it but because I buy a frozen 12-14 lb turkey, when it’s on sale, and for a single person, using up leftovers is even more challenging than for small families since I have to cook it all at once.

Turkey thawed and ready for butchering

Spatch-cocking is a good way to cut down on uneven turkey roasting. And removing the legs means when the breast is done, you can take it out of the oven, cover with foil and continue roasting the legs until they’re done.

Turkey Breast – nice and moist, 2 hrs at 350 deg F

Drumsticks

Turkey Thighs – skinned, de-boned, cut into big chunks and ground up in a food processor while still slightly frozen … or at least chilly

Turkey Tacos – Half a diced onion was sauteed in oil and/or schmaltz (chicken fat), then the ground turkey meat (~710 gm) was added and cooked until no longer pink. I added 1 tbsp of taco seasoning for every 454 g of meat and cooked it all for a few more minutes. The cooked meat mixture can be used for taco bowls or lettuce wraps.

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Tocană or What’s in a Name?

I remember my mom making a lot of stews when I was growing up because she could use ‘filler’ vegetables, especially potatoes, to stretch a small amount of meat to feed a hungry family of four, with lots of leftovers. Tocană was the word she used instead of stew, however, because, like many immigrants, she interspersed her English with a lot of Romanian words. I was never quite sure what they meant, and, sadly, didn’t always ask, but I managed to figure out the meaning of most of the words, in the context in which they were used.

PS: ‘Zamaă (zeamă)‘ was another tricky Romanian word, which meant ‘soup’, but seemed stew-like to me. Amusingly, in later years, the word ‘soupă’ became part of our family lexicon. And then there were ‘ciorbă’ and ‘bors’ which are types of soups. I may go into that in a future post.

When my brother married a Canadian-born Hungarian girl, she brought other food words into our conversations. Some were very familiar. Like ‘tokány’ which was similar enough to the Romanian word for a stew. But ‘porkolt‘ also refers to a stew. As does ‘paprikash’.

Porkolt, paprikash, and tokany … makes your head spin, doesn’t it? And then there’s ‘goulash’ which can be a soup OR a stew. But I won’t get into that in this post.

Romanian cooking terms almost seem easy in comparison. At least to me, they do.

Romanian pork stew with cornmeal mush and a fried egg

In my recent internet searches, I’ve learned that tocană ‘usually’ refers to a mutton/lamb stew. But my mom has never liked mutton so her tocană was usually made with pork, which seems to be the go-to Romanian meat. Beef was very rarely served at our house as it was not something my mom was that comfortable cooking, to be honest. (You do NOT want to know how she cooked a frozen t-bone steak.)

Anyway, getting back to the tocană, I debated on making a chicken (pui/gaina refering to a chicken/hen) or even a mushroom stew, but I settled for what I felt most comfortable cooking … a pork stew or ‘tocană cu carne de porc’.

One final language aside. Tocană is what you get in a restaurant. Tocăniță (the diminutive form, like saying ‘little tocană’)  is what your mom makes at home … with love.

Romanian pork stew with mashed potatoes

Tocăniță cu carne de porc (Romanian Pork Stew) – serves 3-4

600 gm pork, neck preferred but a boneless pork loin* works as well
2 tbsp finely diced pork fat or vegetable oil
1 large onion, small dice
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, small dice**
1/2 medium sweet pepper (red, yellow or orange), small dice**
1/2 cup chicken stock or water, more water as needed
1 tbsp sweet pepper paste or 1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot pepper paste or harissa or gochujang
1/2 teaspoon dried summer savoury or thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, to start
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Optional: 3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

Garnish: 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

* As my pork loin was pretty lean, I added about 2 tbsp of finely chopped pork fat trimmed from a pork shoulder, after I had seared it for red chile pulled pork

** This dish was often made in the winter when fresh vegetables weren’t available. Frugal housewives would dry and coarsely grind up various vegetables and use them in their soups and stews. If you have access to a dry vegetable soup mix, use 1-2 tsp, I used the carrots and sweet peppers instead.

Cut up the pork meat into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.

In a dutch oven, over medium-high heat, render the fat and use it to fry the pork, for about 10 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove the meat to a bowl and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook until it softens, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sweet peppers and the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the thyme, sweet pepper paste and the hot pepper paste and stir into the vegetables. Cook for another minute or so to cook the ‘raw’ taste out of the spices and liven up the herbs.

Add the chicken stock and use it to scrape up the fond (browned bits of flavour) on the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the browned pork, salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Your meat and vegetables should be just barely covered by liquid. If needed add up to a cup of water, cover with the lid and cook for about 30 minutes at medium heat. Check the meat for tenderness. It should fall apart and the mixture should not be dry but there should be a ‘sauce’ surrounding the meat and vegetables. If needed add some more water and continue cooking the pork with the lid on.

If using potatoes, add the cubed potatoes at this point, another cup of water or as needed to cover the potatoes, and about 1/2 tsp more salt, put the lid back on and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If you like a bit more heat, add more hot pepper paste.

When ready, sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over the top of the stew.

Serve with cornmeal mush/polenta or mashed potatoes (mamaligă sau piure de cartofi) if not using potatoes in the stew. Slices of a crusty bread are a tasty accompaniment to sop up any extra juices.

For a one bowl meal, stir diced boiled potatoes into your finished pork stew. This gives you the option of serving the stew itself in various ways and stew without the potatoes freeze better as the thawed potatoes don’t get too mealy.

Sour Cream White Bread and Spaghetti Sauce

I wanted to make a white sandwich bread and picked this sour cream white bread recipe found on “The Spruce” web site for something that was a bit different.

Sour cream replaces the egg, milk and butter found in many enriched bread recipes. The resulting bread was nice and fluffy and tasted great either served as an accompaniment to a bowl of pasta or with jam as a snack.

The bread is meant to be baked in a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan but the amount of dough I had (820 gm) seemed a bit excessive to me, so I made four (54 gm) buns with part of it. I didn’t bother using the egg white glaze suggested to give the loaf a glossy finish, though I did brush melted butter on the buns.

The dough rose beautifully during the bulk proofing in the oven with the light on, taking only one hour, and though my loaf shaping was a bit lacking, the final proofing took only 45 minutes and baked up golden brown. For some reason, I decided to slash the top of the loaf before baking but, obviously, I didn’t put my heart into the matter as the cut turned out pretty anemic.

 

 

The loaf pan was oiled and lined with a small sheet of parchment paper which made removing the finished loaf a breeze.

I didn’t want my buns to round up too much during proofing so I pressed them down after 15 min, as in my earlier hamburger buns, and let them continue proofing for another 30 minutes. I found the oven spring a bit disappointing though the crumb was nice.

While my bread was proofing, I made a quick batch of spaghetti sauce with a couple of 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (with herbs and spices) and 4 hot Italian sausages. I doctored the sauce with some additional dried Italian herbs and hot pepper flakes and served them over ditali pasta. There was enough sauce for 2 two serving containers to be tucked away in the freezer for later. All in all, a very successful cooking day.

Home Made Sushi featuring a Volcano Roll and a Red Dragon (sort of) Roll

I get periodic sushi cravings and try to shop appropriately for making it at home cause I’m trying to be financially responsible when it’s a choice between a tank of gas (or getting my grass cut) and going out for sushi.

I had bought an avocado a week (or more) ago, and I had a package of tempura shrimp in the freezer. I was going to make tempura shrimp onigiri, but … plans change.

I had good quality salmon in my freezer and decided to risk raw salmon rolls. When I cut into my avocado it was bruised and yucky. I couldn’t save any of it so it went into the garbage. Luckily, I bought a mesh bag of little avocados a few day ago so I cut into the ripest looking of the bunch.

After making four pretty boring regular rolls on Saturday: spicy raw salmon, spicy tempura shrimp, tamago (sweet omelet) and avocado, and baked teriyaki salmon and avocado, I challenged myself with two specialty rolls on Sunday.

Volcano Roll  – There are different kinds of volcano rolls depending on where you go. Classically, julienned cucumber sticks and cream cheese fill the rolls. Then, they’re sliced and topped with a mixture of mayonnaise, Sriracha and some sort of seafood. (I’ve had shredded fake crab legs but you can use diced raw shrimp, salmon and scallops, alone or in combination.) The topped rolls are placed in a toaster oven, or put under the broiler in your regular oven, until the topping is hot and bubbly and browned and the raw seafood is cooked. I’ve read that shrimp may take a bit longer to cook so you can partially saute them before adding them to the mixture. Or just use cooked and thawed shrimp.

Since I didn’t have any cream cheese and I don’t care for cucumber, I was going to use sliced avocado in my volcano roll filling. But I got distracted and used the strips of raw salmon that I was going to use in the red dragon roll. You can also use roasted asparagus, sweet potato or yam.

I didn’t have any fresh green onion to garnish with so I topped the roll with frozen sliced green onion before baking. A bit wilted but they gave the volcano rolls a nice look.

Red Dragon Roll – This is a roll within a roll. The red dragon roll I’ve had at my favourite sushi restaurant is an inside out roll filled with tempura shrimp, sliced avocado and julienned cucumber. Thin slices of raw salmon are overlapped over the top. The green dragon roll is covered with overlapping thin slices of avocado. There’s a rainbow roll which has alternating bands of salmon, sea bass (or white tuna) and avocado. The latter is my favourite but I didn’t have a second kind of raw fish so I stuck to the salmon. The filling was just sliced avocado.

 

Cover the roll with a sheet of plastic wrap and use your sushi rolling mat to press down and firm up the salmon covering.

Leave the plastic wrap on the roll and cut through it so you don’t mess up the salmon layer. Then, garnish with black sesame seeds or nigella seeds and volcano sauce (mayonnaise and Sriracha).

Old and New Meals, Again

Nothing too exciting happening in the kitchen. I made an attempt at a type of hand shaped pasta, called strascinati rigati, using a sushi rolling mat, but the results were a bit disappointing. Next time, I’d roll the pasta much thinner and cut smaller pieces for shaping. I’d also cook them fresh rather than drying them. Taste wise … well, it’s pasta with a home made marinara sauce. Tasty but nothing to write home about.

The pasta on the left was made only with all purpose flour while the pasta on the right used half fine ground semolina flour as well.

Once again, the freezer is providing the start of some great meals … leftover pork ribs (remember that blueberry bbq sauce) with purchased hash brown patties.

And pulled pork sandwiches with roasted potato wedges.

I had a sirloin steak in the freezer so I thawed it out, seared it in a cast iron frying pan and served it rare. Simple but delicious with mashed potatoes, carrots and salad. There was enough steak leftover for a steak sandwich too.

I had a bit of a chocolate craving so I whipped up some blender chocolate mousse/pot de creme, flavoured with orange liqueur (Cointreau), to pour into a couple of prebaked pastry shells from the freezer. I had visions of something like a chocolate cream pie but since the shells had shrunk so much, not much of the mousse fit into the shells. So, I poured most of the mousse into a couple of ramekins and topped them with a dollop of whipped cream.

I should have let the pies set a bit longer before cutting into them but I couldn’t wait. (Sorry for the poor lighting in the first picture.)

Flavoured Sourdough Tortillas

I used to buy various flavoured tortillas … pesto and jalapeno cheddar come to mind, so a recent FB post which mentioned a rosemary olive oil tortilla inspired me to flavour my own home made sourdough flour tortillas. I was going to add dried rosemary to the sourdough tortilla dough but the jar of pesto, which caught my eye, when I opened the fridge door, led me in another direction.

Shiso pesto tortillas … one tablespoon of the vegetable oil was replaced with pesto.

For these sun-dried tomato tortillas, I pureed 2 tbsp of sun-dried tomatoes with the water in the recipe and added 1 tbsp of tomato paste for colour. A couple of pinches of sugar were added as well as I was afraid the tomatoes would be a bit … bitter. They were fine, by the way.

Other flavours I’m thinking of making one day … chipotle in adobo, roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, spinach, sun-dried tomato and garlic. What do you think would be a great flavour?

… And here are a couple more tortilla pizzas. I’ve pretty much stopped making regular yeast pizza dough, or even bread, as these tortillas are much more convenient for a single person. One has bacon on it and the other has a meat ragu sauce base with fresh basil leaves.

In place of sandwich bread, wraps are more fun, like in this breakfast or lunch scrambled egg and pepperoni wrap

Blue Monday … Blueberry BBQ Sauce and Blueberry Hand Pies

Happy Labour Day US/Canada!

Two ‘blue’ themed dishes for the last day of the summer holidays.

And a link to a song that just says it all.

Blueberries have been on sale for the last couple of months so I tossed a couple of clamshells in the freezer … for later.

Well, later has come, and I started with a marinade/bbq sauce for the strip of pork ribs I found in the basement freezer. I took the lazy route and didn’t saute an onion and garlic, as I should have. Instead, I added a tablespoon of dry minced onion and a few shakes of garlic powder to a bbq recipe I found on the Blueberry Council website. It was a lot looser than I wanted even after I simmered it uncovered (and unattended) for a while. You might want to hang around the kitchen and stir it every few minutes so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom and scorch.

Pork ribs before and after marinating and baking

Dessert also featured that juicy blue fruit. Hand pies using a recipe posted on one of the FB groups I belong to.

The pastry was tender and delicious but, even baking it an additional 10 minutes, didn’t brown the whole egg glazed tops as much as I wanted. And, during that extra 10 minutes, all of the hand pies burst open and oozed their tasty filling over the baking sheet. Luckily I had lined it with parchment paper so I didn’t have a mess to clean up. I plan on upping the temperature to 400 deg F, and cut steam vents in the top. (NOTE: Just had a chance to touch base with the recipe poster and she mentions that she now does both those things.)

I had halved the filling recipe because I only had two cups of blueberries, but I had more filling than I needed for the hand pies I made, so I made a mini pie with the surplus. And the extra pastry was shaped into three mini pie shells and blind baked. Disappointingly they shrank quite a bit, even though I refrigerated them before baking. When I serve the mini blueberry pie and decide what to fill those shells with, I’ll share pics.

Labour Day Meal

August/Summer Wrap-Up … Butter Saffron Basmati Rice and Pepperoni Pizza Sourdough Bread Loaf

PICTURE HEAVY WARNING

Summer has been much too short. Of course, I didn’t get much accomplished. In fact, I can’t even remember the semi-ambitious plans I had made.

Next year, I’m going to have to make and post a list of To Do‘s to keep me on track.

I hope work calls are more frequent this fall than last year and that my insomnia doesn’t flare up again. Going to bed at 5am is a bad habit and I need to get my sleep patterns back on track if I keep getting 6am phone calls to work.

And now, for a quick clear out of dishes I’ve cooked and pictures that I haven’t shared in August. Posting should slow  down quite a bit as work starts again.

I made butter saffron basmati rice with which to serve some leftover green chicken curry.

Butter Saffron Basmati Rice – ~3 cups

1 cup basmati rice
1 1/3 cup water
1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 tsp salt

Saffron garnish
pinch or two of saffron threads
2 tbsp boiling water

Combine the boiling water and the saffron threads in a small bowl/ramekin and set aside.

Cooking the rice:

Wash the rice in several changes of cold water and then pour into a colander and drain.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the drained rice. Saute for a minute or two. Add the water and salt to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to the minimum setting on your stove and cover.

Cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the rice continue to steam for another 5-10 minutes.

Fluff with a fork. Every rice grain should be separate from every other. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle the saffron over the top.

Serve.

I tested the suggestion that using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour in my sourdough baking would give me better oven spring. The result did not bear that out but as I made some other changes to my ‘go to’ no-knead sourdough recipe, they’re not conclusive. The add-ins (1 oz diced hot pepperette, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, 2 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, and 1 tsp Italian herb seasonings), at least, gave me a very tasty, if flat, oval loaf of pepperoni pizza bread.

It was great as a dip for marinara sauce and toasted or plain, with butter, peanut butter or as a base for an open faced egg salad sandwich.

 

Mushroom and Tofu Egg Drop Miso Soup – It’s hard to take a nice picture of miso soup

A shrimp appetizer

Shrimp and Mushroom Scampi over home made Fettuccine pasta

Some breakfasts/lunches

 

Spicy pepperoni and mozzarella cheese stuffed omelette

Sourdough tortilla pizzas have been appearing often on my plate – from the classic pepperoni/mozzarella, with or without sweet peppers, Canadian bacon and fresh basil to pulled pork/bbq sauce to shrimp or mushroom on a base of shiso pesto. A bacon and mozzarella pizza made today isn’t pictured.

 

 

I was sure I had some fudgy chocolate cupcakes in the downstairs freezer for a quick dessert (even had a frosting idea that I was excited about) but then I had to scramble for a new plan when I discovered that I had eaten them all up, and all that was left were nine red velvet cupcakes. Making a cream cheese frosting was my immediate thought and, after weighing what was left of the last brick of Philly cream cheese (77 gm) in  my fridge, I searched my hard drive for one of the many ‘one day, I must try this’ frosting recipes that I could scale down. I was very pleased with the result … a thick, pipeable frosting with a touch of lemon juice to cut through the cloying sweetness of so many cream cheese frostings.

The last of the raspberry cupcakes with raspberry curd

Bakudan Onigiri (Bomb Rice Balls)

ETA (08/23/2017) : Some additional notes on onigiri ideas added to bottom of post.

In these last couple of weeks, before school starts again, I’ve been in a frenzy of cooking.

I broke open the one kilo bag of frozen raw shrimp, from Costco, and made two different pasta dishes (I’ll post a picture of the second one soon) with home made semolina pasta. Sales on fresh fruit meant that I finally made another batch of raspberry curd so I could take some pictures. It’s hard to believe the last time I made raspberry curd was before I owned a camera. I made red chile pulled pork for tamales … and then changed my mind and made a vegetarian filling instead and froze away the rest of the pork.

The nigiri in this post had been planned for on the same weekend that I did the last bbq. In fact, I was going to grill a foil wrapped package of teriyaki basted salmon belly meat on the grill, for the onigiri, at the same time. And then I forgot the salmon in the fridge. So I had to bake it off in the oven. Instead of shaping the onigiri into the most commonly seen triangles, I made rice balls or ‘bombs’.

Bakudan Onigiri Platter

Two different ways of serving the rice balls

Instead of stuffing the salmon, or other seasoning, in the middle of the balls, it was stirred into half of the hot rice. Wrapping the rice balls in a half sheet of nori keeps it moist longer. For including in your bento/lunch bag, wrap the rice ball up tightly in food/saran wrap. Biting into the neat package can be a wonderful surprise if you’ve made an assortment.

And for something even simpler, a couple of tablespoons of furikake (rice seasoning or topping) were stirring into the other half of the rice.

Making the Rice Balls:

1 cup of raw sushi rice, cooked with 1/2 tsp of salt
6-8 half sheets of nori
90-100 gm cooked salmon, flaked for ver. 1
2 large shiso leaves, julienned for ver. 1
2 tbsp furikake (rice seasoning) for ver. 2

Garnishes (optional)
tobiko (fish roe)
bonito flakes, moistened with some soy sauce

The cooked rice was divided into two halves and the salmon (and julienned shiso leaves) and furikake were stirred into each respective portion. The salmon portion was divided into 4 larger rice balls as the salmon added a lot of bulk, while the furikake half only made 3 somewhat smaller rice balls.

Various Types of Onigiri/Omosubi

1. Filled onigiri

fish – salmon (sake), tuna, shaved bonito moistened with soy sauce (okaka), shrimp
umeboshi (pickled plums)
tempura shrimp
tsukudani style kombu (sheets cooked with soy sauce and mirin until tender, shredded and tucked into rice ball)
meat – Japanese friend chicken (karaage) or regular friend chicken ***
miso glazed baked eggplant
fish roe – tobiko (flying fish), tarako (salted sac of cod roe) and mentaiko (spicy sac of cod roe), ikura salmon

*** very perishable, transport refrigerated or on ice packs

2. Mixed rice

sushi and brown rice

3. Seasoned

a) Stir the flavourings into the rice after it is cooked
furikake (nori seaweed and egg, ume (pickled plum), shiso, shrimp, and dried fish)
shredded baked, fried or smoked fish
veggies ie sauteed onion, shaved carrot, edamame, green onion
sesame seeds
pickled ginger

b) Cook along with the rice
julienned gobo (Japanese root vegetable)
peas
hijiki (Japanese dried seaweed)
julienned carrot
dashi kombu/soy sauce/sake/sugar

4. Shaped

triangular (traditional)
bakudan (bomb)
hockey puck – dimple and fill then serve filling side up
cylinder shape or tawara (bale of hay)

5. Grilled (Yaki) – brushed and grilled ** Usually NOT filled

soy sauce
miso butter

6. Wrapped

nori is traditional
takana mustard greens
ooba leaf
tororo kombu kelp
salted lettuce
salted green shiso
parcooked bacon and then grilled

7. Coating

furikake
sesame seeds or salted sesame seeds (black is more striking)
ground shiso leaves

8. Onigirazu

Tamales – Black Bean & Sweet Potato and Red Pulled Pork … and a BBQ Pizza

I haven’t made tamales in some time but a craving, a trip to the local Mexican grocery store for various types of chiles, and the timely sale of boneless pork loin, meant that I decided to invest a hot weekend in the second half of August (and an efficient A/C system), on making a batch of red pulled pork. The vegetarian option came about due to a large sweet potato that had been languishing in my basement for a couple of weeks and most of a can of black beans in the freezer.

The basic masa recipe can be found here. The red pulled pork recipe is here.

  

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Filling

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamale Filling – makes about 5 cups, enough for 24-28 tamales

a splash to 1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large tomato, peeled and seeded and coarsely chopped or 1 cup diced, canned tomatoes with juice**
1/2 onion, finely diced or 1/2 tsp dried minced onion**
1 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed if canned
1 cup corn kernels, thawed and drained if frozen
1 large sweet potato, peeled, diced into ~1/2 inch cubes, drizzled with oil, salt and some chili powder and roasted until tender
salt, to taste

Optional
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese (separately or in any combination desired)

** I added canned tomatoes and the dried minced onion as that’s what I had. I had made red pulled pork the day before with pureed chiles, onion and pepper and after straining the braising liquid, I added a couple of tablespoons to the filling below. Chile powder or cumin may be added if desired for a bit of smoky flavour.

In a medium sized saute pan, over medium heat, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and the diced onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the diced tomato and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomato has broken down but the mixture still has a bit of moisture in it. (If using the dried minced onion, just add a splash of oil, your diced tomato and cook until the onion is rehydrated.)

Add the black beans, corn and sweet potato. Stir through to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add a bit more salt if needed.

And if you have leftover pulled pork, give this quick pizza try.

BBQ Pizza with Red Pulled Pork (on Sourdough Tortillas) – BBQ sauce, shredded pork, grated cheddar, Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese and sliced green onion on a sourdough tortilla. Baked at 400 deg F for 8-10 minutes.