Category Archives: mains

Another Something Old, Something New Post

Most of our moms had ‘good’ towels or ‘guest’ towels that you weren’t allowed to use. At my house, they were packed, two rows deep in the bathroom closet, and so tightly that you couldn’t pull any out without causing a towel-slide. After my mom passed away, it still took me several years before I started using the good bath towels. I wasn’t able to make myself throw away any of the old beat up towels I had, except maybe for the worst of the bunch. They would end up in the laundry and then I’d use them ONE more time. Repeatedly.

I finally decided to toss my oldest dish towels and start using the new ones I had bought, this weekend. I went with a red, white and blue theme. And some black. Cause black goes with everything.

Do you prefer fluffy or linen-type dish towels?

And for the old, some pictures I took a couple of weeks ago. I had thawed some sliced pork butt to make Chinese barbecued pork (char siu) and then realized that I hadn’t replaced my bottle of hoisin sauce, which I needed for the recipe. So, I rummaged through the jars in the fridge and found some satay sauce.

Pork Satay

Pasta Possibilities … Egg Noodles

Whether or not you’re on a budget, pasta is the start of many amazing dishes that don’t make you feel like you’re tight on cash.

I ended up making the usual ‘boring’ pasta dish because I had leftovers in the fridge that I wanted to use up … cooked hot Italian sausages and jarred pasta sauce from making a couple of pizzas on Saturday. And, because I’ve already made several heavy Hungarian dishes and both my two other options were also Hungarian. I hope to make them sometime in the next week and post pictures then.

These are the Hungarian noodle dishes I was GOING to make.

Mákos tészta (sweet poppy seed noodles) or Túrós czusza (curd cheese and bacon noodles) or Kaposztás tészta (cabbage with noodles)

Which one do you think I should make??

Instead of using dry pasta, I made fresh egg noodles with semolina … just enough for 2 servings (scaled down to use 1 egg) and am re-posting the recipe here. It’s very easy and you don’t even need a pasta machine to make them though I did for the convenience.

Fresh Semolina and Egg Pasta – 1 lb of pasta, enough for 4 servings

1 cup (170-180 gm) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 gm) semolina flour
a pinch salt (1/8 tsp)
3 large eggs
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. (Remove about 1/4 cup to a separate bowl and use it to knead with.)

On a clean surface, make a mound out of the flour mixture then make a deep well in center.

Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands.

Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. (To know when you’ve kneaded it enough, form the dough into a ball and cut it in half. The inside shouldn’t have pockets/holes in it but look nice and compact.)

Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Roll out the dough with a pasta machine or a rolling pin to desired thickness (<1/16th of an inch or 1 mm).

Let air dry for 10-15 min before cutting, especially with your pasta machine cutters. Cut into your favorite style of noodle or stuff with your favorite filling to make ravioli.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot, adding about a tbsp of salt.

Cook pasta until it is tender but not mushy, 1 to 8 minutes (2 1/2 minutes in this case) depending on the thickness. Drain immediately and toss with your favorite sauce.

Speaking of pizza … here’s what I made.

Sweet Hungarian Farmer’s Cheese Dumplings (Turogomboc)

This should be the last dumpling post … for a while, anyway.

There are as many recipes for making these sweet cheese dumplings as there are Hungarian grandmothers (nagyanya, nagymama).

Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration but, net surfing, even just on Hungarian web sites, will reveal lots of variations. In some, you separate your eggs and beat the whites to hard peaks before you fold them into the sweetened egg yolks along with the rest of the ingredients. Lemon zest or no lemon zest. And then there’s the addition of raisins. Cinnamon or no cinnamon with the sugar at the end? There are even recipes where the only sugar added is in the bread crumb coating.

Since this dish wasn’t served in my Romanian home, I feel that I can pick and choose the ingredients that best appeal to me. The recipe below is a combination of those recipes, with options for personalizing the dumplings to your taste.

I made my own ‘farmer’s or dry curd cheese’, or as close as I can get, which is my paneer cheese.

Here’s a picture of the tester dumpling.

Sweet Hungarian Farmer’s Cheese Dumplings (Turogomboc) – makes 32-34 dumplings, enough to serve 6 to 8 people

For the dumplings:
1 lb/454 gm farmer’s or dry curd or paneer cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 oz/113 gm semolina
1 pinch salt

Optional additions to the dumpling mixture:
zest of one lemon
2 tbsp of raisins
2 tbsp granulated sugar

For the sauce:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, or vegetable oil
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

To serve: sour cream, your favourite jam or powdered sugar

If using commercially purchased farmer’s cheese, use a wooden spoon to press the farmer’s cheese through a medium sieve into a large bowl. For freshly made farmer’s cheese or paneer, as I used, a regular fork should allow you to break up the cheese into even crumbles.

Add the egg, the semolina, and the pinch of salt. (If using, this is the point at which you would add the lemon zest, sugar and raisins.). Mix with the spoon until the dumpling dough reaches a uniformly stiff consistency. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Fill a large pot with water, bring to the boil, and add a teaspoon or so of salt.

Combine the granulated sugar with the cinnamon, if using.

While the dough chills, prepare the toasted breadcrumbs. Melt the butter in a nonstick or cast iron pan. Add the bread crumbs, stirring and tossing until you get a golden brown colour. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. You can add the sugar (and cinnamon) at this point.

Reduce the heat so the water is not boiling furiously.

With a soup spoon, scoop out enough dough to form dumplings about one inch in diameter.  Shape them roughly into balls and drop gently into the water. Do not crowd the dumplings in the water so only use half the dough at a time.

Give your dumplings a gentle stir to make sure they don’t rest on the bottom of the pot and stick. When the dumplings float to the surface they are done. (Test  by removing one of the dumplings and cutting it in half. The interior should be uniform in colour. If the center appears paler, continue cooking for another minute or two.)

Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked dumplings to the pan of sweetened bread crumbs.

Roll the dumplings around until they’re well coated.

Serve immediately with some powdered sugar or sour cream, thinned a bit with milk. Or your favourite jam.

Happy Canada Day/ 4th of July Celebration!

Happy Canada Day!

and

Happy 4th of July!

 

I decided to combine the two celebrations, as they’re so close together, and make a nice meal for one (or two). A spatch-cocked little chicken was roasted and served with corn and spinach malfatti. Simple and tasty.

Dessert … well, I went a bit overboard there. I bought a 3 pack of fruit (2 blueberries and 1 raspberry for $5), mainly because I wanted to make blueberry muffins and came up with two fast and easy “red/white and blue” themed desserts.

French vanilla ice cream …

and

Vanilla bean panna cotta with blueberries and raspberries

Cherry Dumplings (Potato Dough)

There’s a lot of overlap between Romanian and Hungarian dishes, which we learned when my brother married a Hungarian girl. Like these these potato dough dumplings that may be filled with sour/sweet plums or cherries. I had a pound of sweet cherries in the freezer so that’s what I went with. I used the ingredients and technique I found in a recipe online but reduced the amount of butter used and rewrote the instructions.

Cherry Dumplings

Cherry Dumplings – makes 30-32

Hungarian – cseresznyes gomboc
Romanian – galuste cu cirese

Potato Dumpling Dough
1 kg all purpose potatoes
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
400 gm (2 1/3 cups) all purpose flour, divided
1 large egg (55-60 gm), beaten slightly
1 tsp (5 ml) salt

Filling
680 g pitted sweet cherries (90-96 cherries)

Sauce
70 g (1 cup) dried breadcrumbs
200 g (~ 1 cup) unsalted butter (use half or less)
3 tsp (15 ml) ground cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp (30 ml) white sugar

Icing sugar, to serve (optional)

Scrub potatoes and bring to the boil in a large pot of salted water. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 1 hour or until tender. A steak knife inserted into the potatoes should go in easily. Drain the potatoes and cool slightly, then, peel.

For the best texture, pass the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer into a large mixing bowl. Otherwise, just use a potato masher. Add 2 cups of the flour, the softened butter, salt and the beaten egg to the bowl and, with a fork or your hand, combine into a smooth mixture. Turn out onto a floured working surface and gently knead just until you get a soft dough, adding flour as needed. Don’t overwork/handle the dough or it will become tough.

Divide the dough in half and then each half into 15 or 16 portions to get 30-32 balls.

Working with one ball at a time, flatten a bit and place 3 cherries inside. Fold the dough up over the cherries to enclose them and re-roll into a ball. Place dumplings on a floured tray. (At this point, you can place the tray in the freezer and when firm, place into a freezer bag and freeze for 2-4 weeks. Boil from frozen.)

Working in batches of 5 or 6, drop the dumplings into a pot of boiling salted water and cook for 6 minutes or until they rise to the surface. Remove and place onto a large tray while making the sauce.

Melt the butter in a large frying or saute pan over high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook for a couple of minutes or until light golden. Add the dumplings, shaking the pan, for 2 minutes or until well coated.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar, spoon over the dumplings in the pan and shake again to distribute over the dumplings.

Serve 2 to 3 dumplings per person and dust with icing sugar.

NOTE: For the plum version, use one small pitted plum per dumpling. If the plums are large, cut them in half.

Boring Friday

I’m bored again and in the mood to ramble. (Lucky you if you’re reading this.)

After a warmish week which culminated in a HOT Thursday, I woke up to rain and a much cooler Friday.

School/work is done as the last class was yesterday and the chance of getting a call during exam week is slim. Just got my VISA bill, and though expected, the hit is a bit of an ouchy due to the plumbing bill. At least now I can use the upstairs tub after a good snaking out and the downstairs tub won’t be dripping hot water … and money. It’s the last of the big bills (knock wood) til I get my 2nd set of city taxes. Still, it means I have to be very frugal until October when I would be getting my first paycheque of the new school year.

I need to go to the library and pick up a book that I’ve got on hold, but other than that, I have no reason to go out.

So, I guess I’ll do some cooking or rather, baking.

Speaking of … I’ve been scavenging through the fridge and freezer again for meals or components to go with recent purchases.

A bit under two pounds of fresh asparagus for $3.50. Enough for four servings with minimal wastage.

A tray of five boneless and skinless chicken breasts, picked up for 40% off, means I ended up with five top cutlets. One of the cutlets became an asparagus roll-up which was crumbed and baked, along with fifteen chicken tenders from the bottom of the breasts, for supper. The other four cutlets and ten of those tenders went into the freezer. Pretty good for $10. The KFC flyer has a bucket of 8 chicken tenders (ok, they’re bigger pieces) for $10. I laughed.

PS: The bread crumbs used for the cutlet and tenders were made with my own sourdough bread.

The combo pack of six pork chops for under $10 gave me two great comfort meals of pan fried pork chops, baked asparagus, mashed potatoes and pan gravy and there are four more chops for the freezer.

With a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, my fudgy chocolate cupcakes made for a great fast dessert.

The scraps of pasta from my ravioli became tagliatelle and were combined with beef stroganoff from the freezer. Enough for three meals. I’m glad I didn’t throw away those scraps. And, a beautiful fresh mango became a mango lassi when combined with milk, sugar and some yogurt.

I HAVE baked … a tray of sourdough cinnamon rolls, most of which are looking for a good home.

It’s been a productive week in spite of not working at all.

Brioche Hamburger Buns, Hoagies and a BBQ

I’ve barbecued for at least three weekends in the last month because, miracle of miracles, it’s NOT raining.

And I like the taste of bbq’d meats.

No other explanation needed.

I was going to throw sirloin steaks, burgers and a chicken breast on the grill but switched out the last two pork chops in my freezer for the steaks, so I wouldn’t have two beef items. In anticipation of the burgers, I decided to make my own hamburger buns. My recipe makes enough dough for sixteen buns but I made hoagies with half, so I ended up with eight buns and four hoagies. Brioche breads freeze and thaw wonderfully, so that’s why I decided on an enriched rather than a lean bread recipe. It tastes good too.

Hamburgers … naked and dressed – I don’t like raw onions on my burgers but onion rings. Oh mama!!

The rest of the barbecue – Now I just have to figure out what to serve for sides in the week ahead … although I’m thinking of sticking that chicken into one of the hoagies.


Sweet Potato and Ricotta Ravioli with Prosciutto and Pea Sauce

I haven’t made ravioli from scratch in a while but after picking up a pound of ricotta cheese from the local Italian grocery store and with a medium sized sweet potato sitting on the counter in the kitchen, I had my inspiration. An economy ($2.31 for ~3.5 oz) package of prosciutto ends and a cup of frozen peas made for a tasty sauce.

Word to the wise … don’t start rolling out pasta late in the day when your kitchen is hot and you’re cranky and tired. Cause you end up rolling the pasta too thin, and then forget to cover it so it dries out. And trying to turn your thin drying pasta into sacchettini (little purses) when the tortellini shaping isn’t working out. Well, it’s not pretty. I ended up with some misshapen sacchettini and free-form square ravioli which I froze for bagging. Then I dropped the package. Cooked them anyway and covered them with the sauce and grated cheese and ate them anyway in protest.

Broken free-form ravioli covered with sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – It was delicious.

I made a couple dozen ravioli in my molds with the last of the filling, boiled them up, as well as the sacchettini, tossed them with the sauce and then froze them away for work lunch and two future meals.

RECIPE … well, here’s a list of ingredients, anyway

Pasta – 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 3 large eggs make 1 lb of pasta, enough for 4 people

Filling – 1 cup cooled mashed sweet potato, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1 tsp dry minced onion, 1 large egg, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, pinch or two dried garlic powder, salt (1/4 tsp) and ground black pepper (1/8 tsp) to taste. Enough for about 4 dozen ravioli at 1 tsp filling for each.

Sauce – 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into strips, 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed

Prosciutto and pea sauce combined with the broken ravioli … pretty all on its own.

I have the trimmings of the pasta in the fridge and may make plain noodles later today. Or maybe not.

PS: Ended up with 200 gm of tagliatelle noodles.

I made some duck fat brioche dough and turned it into hamburger buns and hoagies earlier that morning for a planned bbq the next day. Watch for pictures.

Victoria Day Weekend and Palak (Spinach) Paneer

Between taking time off for a bad cold which started with the sore throat from …. well, you can guess, and a Friday without any calls, I’ve been home for six days. And doing very little cooking that I can post about.

So, this palak paneer is a stretch to be creative with very little energy.

Palak, means spinach, but the more broadly defined saag paneer, which refers to various ‘greens’ including spinach, mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves, is the more commonly served vegetarian dish found on Indian menus. Paneer refers to a fresh cheese which you can buy in Indian grocery stores but make, quite easily, at home.

I combined a couple of different recipes I found on line for the recipe below.

Palak (Spinach) Paneer – serves 3-4

250 grams / 8-9 oz cooked spinach*
250 grams / 8-9 oz fresh cottage cheese (paneer), cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tbsp vegetable oil

For the gravy or sauce:

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 bay leaf (medium to large)
1 onion, medium, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 or 2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp red chili powder)
1 pinch turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), use 2 tsp if you want a more bitter taste
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 cup whipping cream or drained plain yogurt**
a pinch of sugar
salt as required
1-2 fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (optional)

*  I used a 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and cooked according to package directions.
** I would have used the yogurt but I didn’t have any this time.

Blanch spinach leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water with 1/2 cup of ice cubes in it and leave for 1 minutes to cold shock (stop the cooking). Drain the spinach well and puree in a food processor or blender if you want the spinach to be a fine puree. Otherwise, just chop as finely as possible.

Optional: Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Pan fry the paneer cubes until golden brown on several sides to add additional flavour and texture. Remove the paneer cubes and drain them on paper towels.

Making the gravy or sauce:

In the same oil in which you pan fried the paneer, add the cumin seeds and the bay leaf and saute over medium high heat until the cumin seeds crackle. Then add the finely chopped onions and stir well cooking until they turn a light golden colour.

Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and finely chopped green chilies, stir and saute till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic goes away. (If using the tomatoes, add them now.) Now add the spice powders – turmeric powder, black pepper, and dry fenugreek leaves, crushing the leaves before adding.

Stir well, reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach puree. Season with salt and sugar. Stir well, simmering the gravy for 5 to 6 minutes or until it thickens slightly and the spinach is cooked well.

Add the whipping cream along with the garam masala powder and stir very well. The cream should be mixed thoroughly with the spinach gravy.

Turn off the heat, add the paneer cubes and stir them gently with the rest of the gravy so as not to break up the cubes.

Serve the palak paneer hot with various Indian breads ie. rotis, naan, chapatis, paratha or cumin basmati rice or biryani rice.

I had to eat even though I was sick so I made some other quick and easy dishes …

pan-fried boneless pork chops with leftover enchilada quinoa and

roasted chicken drumsticks which had been marinated in Italian salad dressing, steamed broccoli dressed with sweet Thai chili sauce, vanilla bean panna cotta topped with a compote made with frozen blackberries, blueberries, orange juice and some orange zest.

I even made another sourdough tartine loaf with dried dill weed and minced onion. Great as a snack with some butter or toasted and spread with cream cheese.

Oh, and there was a sourdough pizza and sourdough pancakes with macerated strawberries and strawberry coulis.

Quinoa Goes South of the Border

Cooking for one is a challenge.

On the plus side, you don’t have to cook as often. So the preparation and cooking time for one dish (which will give you six to eight meals) is reduced overall. On the negative side, especially with new dishes, what happens if you don’t LIKE the result? You end up having to eat it for six to eight meals. And some things don’t freeze well. If you’re smart, you halve the recipe to make that particular dish. But then, you often end up with half cans of sauces, beans, veggies etc that are needed for the dish.

Another negative is that you sometimes end up having to buy pre-packaged perishable foods for the dish you’re making that you don’t always use up before they go bad.

This past weekend I brought home a lot of pantry items. Some of them were intended for dishes in which the remaining quinoa in my pantry would be used. And then, I ran across a 900 gm package of white quinoa which was reduced to about 45% of its regular price. So I bought the bag planning to save the pricier tri-colour quinoa for dishes where appearance mattered. Luckily, such items have a long shelf life. But I ALSO bought a hard taco kit cause I have had a Tex-Mex craving for a while. And my Cinco de Mayo meal was just … sad. And it was on sale. 🙂

I DID have to buy some ground beef to put in the tacos, though, because I didn’t have any in my freezer. And old cheddar cheese because I was low on that too. Luckily the cheese was a dollar off.

(The JOYS of grocery shopping.)

Anyway, at this point, I had decided on a Tex-Mex menu for the weekend.

To spare you further headaches of the mental gymnastics I went through, my Sunday cooking ended up being beef tacos, a quinoa enchilada casserole and some mac and cheese (leftover pasta shells) as a side to one of my future weekday meals.

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole – serves 4

2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup rinsed and drained quinoa, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 tsp salt, though you can use vegetable stock)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn
1/2 cup black beans (if canned, drained and rinsed well)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Enchilada sauce

1 clove garlic, smashed and sauteed over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil til golden, discard garlic retaining the seasoned oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo
1-2 tbsp water, as needed

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Garnish

1-2 diced Haas avocados
1/4 cup green onions thinly sliced on diagonal

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized casserole or other baking dish.

In a large sauce pan, combine the seasoned oil, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper, chipotle and 1 tbsp water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add additional water if sauce is too thick.

Combine the quinoa, corn, black beans, jalapeno pepper and cheese in a medium sized bowl. Turn out into prepared baking dish and press down lightly.

Spoon the enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle the 2nd amount of cheese over the top.

Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, or the lid if using a casserole dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve, garnishing each individual portion with diced avocado and green onion.

Expect to see more quinoa recipes … soon.