Tag Archives: vegetables

Edited: Chicken and Dumplings (Trial #1)

Chicken and dumplings were on my bucket list … sort of. As in, I have wanted to make them, for some time, but I didn’t actually write them down on my ‘official’ bucket list.

Recently, someone posted a picture on FB and, since I had six chicken drumsticks thawing in the fridge, and all the other ingredients needed, I thought I’d finally give it a try.

The dish is a soup but I’ve seen a thickened version which is almost stew-like. I found a nice simple recipe online … and then I messed with it by deciding to thicken it with a ‘beurre manie’, a flour and butter paste. I combined a tablespoon each of the two until it formed a paste and stirred about a third of the mixture into my chicken soup. But then, I said what the heck and stirred in a bit more. At the end, I had added the entire thing. A bad move it turned out.

I had concerns about the dumpling part of this dish, too. There are two versions. A batter that’s scooped onto the top of the simmering soup and allowed to steam with the lid on until set. And a rolled out thick ‘noodle’ which cooks in the broth. You need both a big pot of soup stock for this latter version, and time to roll it out and cut it. Neither of which I had. So I went with the steamed batter version. At least this part of the dish turned out well. Another possible problem, along with thickening the soup too much, was my choice of cooking vessel. I used a large (11 inch diameter) saute pot which meant that the soup level was fairly shallow and the large surface area meant that a lot of the liquid evaporated even with the lid on.

While steaming the dumplings, I lost even more liquid to the dumplings, and the thickening soup stuck to the bottom of the pan and scorched. I couldn’t lift the lid but I shook the pan several times to free any dumplings. The dumplings didn’t stick … but the ‘soup’ did because by that point I had something that was more like the filling for chicken pot pie in density.

On the plus side, it was all edible. Even the scorched bits.

It was also saltier than I would have liked.

Oh well.

Chicken and Dumplings

NOTE: The recipe below doesn’t use a thickener for the soup.

Chicken and Dumplings – serves 3-4 people

Chicken Soup

2 tsp vegetable oil
6 chicken drumsticks
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled, medium dice
2 celery stalks, medium dice
1 clove garlic clove, peeled and smashed but still intact
4-5 cups chicken stock, divided (edited: increased from 3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper to start)
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp dried parsley

Over medium heat saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic clove until the onions start to caramelize on the edges. Remove the vegetables and brown the chicken drumsticks on both sides.

Return about half of the veggies to the pot (retain the rest of the veggies until the last 15 minutes so they’ll still have some texture), four cups of the chicken stock, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and parsley. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken at least once.

Remove the garlic clove and discard.

Remove the drumsticks to a large bowl and take the meat off the bones. Discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Return the meat to the saute pan along with the reserved vegetables. Simmer for another 15 minutes. If the soup looks like it’s reduced too much, add the reserved cup of chicken stock.

Make the batter for the dumplings and spoon rounded teaspoonfuls over the top of the soup, leaving some space between the dumplings so they can swell during cooking.

Place the lid on tightly and steam for 15 minutes, shaking gently a few times to reduce the chance of scorching.

Dumplings – makes 12 dumplings, serves 3-4

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter or margarine

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and parsley.

Cut in the butter.

Stir in the milk just until the flour is moistened.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls batter on top of chicken mixture. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. (I steamed them for the full 15 minutes.)

Serve the chicken and dumplings topped with additional chopped parsley.

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Broccoli Rabe Duo

Lesson Learned… AGAIN: When you buy perishable greens like spinach or arugula, use them as soon as you can. They will hold up for a while, but there are limits, and they’ll yellow, wilt and go bad. Even a sturdy green like kale will yellow, and end up having to be discarded after a week or two.

Just before Christmas, I saw some beautiful bundles of Andy Boy broccoli rabe, on sale, at the grocery store and, although I had no clear idea of what I was going to do with the greens, I brought one home.

Then, I got distracted by other cooking projects, and my poor broccoli rabe got wilted and yellow. Still, I trimmed off the worst of the leaves and used up the last of the rabe in these two dishes. The first is an Italian inspired breakfast or lunch dish. It can even end up on your dinner table. The second is a Chinese/Japanese inspired side dish which can become a main with the addition of sauteed shrimp or even some grilled tofu.

Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta Frittata

The recipe for this frittata is a combination of elements from recipes by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich. Frittata recipes are often written for 4 people and can use eight to twelve eggs, but for a single person, that’s too much to deal with, so I scaled it down. With the basic recipe below, you can add fresh ingredients and odds and ends of leftovers so each frittata will be a bit different. Instead of whisking in the ricotta, it’s dolloped over the frittata so it stands out.

3 Egg Basic Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta Frittata for One

3 eggs**
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup (3-4 stems) cooked broccoli rabe
2-3 tbsp ricotta
1 tbsp diced sauteed onions
salt and pepper, to taste

Add-ins (amounts are approximations)

3-4 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 sweet pepper (red, orange, yellow, green) cut into strips and sauteed briefly to soften and remove excess moisture.
2-3 medium mushrooms, sliced, sauteed briefly
2-3 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

** If making this frittata for two, use 4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F.

In a medium sized bowl, break the eggs and whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese, sauteed onions, oregano, a pinch of salt and a grate or two of black pepper.

In a 8-9 inch cast iron frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and stir gently to distribute the ingredients.

Lay the strips of cooked broccoli rabe over the frittata and distribute the ricotta evenly, a rounded teaspoon or two at a time. NOTE: You may want to do this off the heat so that the eggs don’t set before you’re finished. (If using the tomatoes, distribute them, cut side down, evenly over the frittata. The other add-ins may be added to the egg mixture.)

Cook until the eggs begin to set. Transfer the frying pan to the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until the frittata is set. (A minute or two with the broiler on will brown the top, if desired.)

Turn the frittata out onto a plate and serve.

Serving suggestion from Lidia: For a dinner portion, add a green salad and roasted baby potatoes or potato wedges.

Broccoli Rabe Peanut Ramen Noodles

Broccoli Rabe Peanut Ramen Noodles – serves 2

2 (85 gm) pkts ramen noodles**, cooked according to directions and drained

1/2 pound broccoli rabe
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
sesame seeds for garnish
2 wedges of lime, if desired.

Peanut sauce

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp water or dashi stock
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced (or a few shakes of dried garlic powder)
a shake or two red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish

** 180-200 gm soba, udon or wheat noodles may be substituted

Prepare the peanut sauce by whisking together all the ingredients in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. It will look curdled at first, but keep whisking and it will all come together. Set aside.

Trim the broccoli rabe by cutting off the thickest parts of the stem (over 1/4 inch in diameter). Trim the outer branches so you have individual stems.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, add the olive oil and when a drop of water added to the pan bubbles and hisses and then evaporates, add the rinsed broccoli rabe. Sprinkle some salt over the broccoli rabe, toss gently to coat rabe with some of the hot oil. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Toss the broccoli rabe again to make sure that the top leaves and stems get a chance to contact the hot pan bottom as well. Cover and continue cooking until the leaves are wilted and the stems are barely tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Fill a sauce pot with at least 4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook, breaking up the rectangles of noodles as much as you can as they soften. Cook as per directions (about 3 or 4 minutes) and drain. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Reserve until needed.

(You may leave the noodles in the cold water until your broccoli rabe is tender.)

Add the noodles and peanut sauce to the saute pan with the cooked rabe. Toss until the noodles are coated with the sauce.

Transfer to a serving bowl or individual bowls and top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you wish. Serve the wedge of lime on the size. The squeeze of lime juice will slightly offset the richness of the peanut sauce and the sweet/sour tang complements the bitterness of the broccoli rabe.

NOTE: I’ve made a similar sauce using tahini (sesame paste) and added cooked shrimp for a heartier, one dish meal.

The broccoli rabe peanut ramen noodles may be served on their own or as a side dish with something like the teriyaki pork chop below.

Calzone … a Pizza Alternative

Getting tired of making the same old pizzas??

Make a calzone instead, using the same basic pizza dough. In whatever size you like … 4, 6 or 8 inch.

NOTE: For another alternative to pizza, see the Buffalo chicken stromboli I posted a while ago.

Serve with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping

I decided to make a regular sized (12 inch/20 cm diameter) pizza for work lunches and divided the rest of the dough into three 8 inch/20 cm calzone which can each serve one hungry person, or two moderately peckish people. I used a generous 1/4 lb (115-130 gm) of dough per calzone.

Filling amounts:

4 inch – 1 tablespoon
6 inch – 1/3 cup
8 inch – 1/2 cup

Broccoli rabe, ricotta and Parmesan cheese filling – fold over and seal the edges by crimping or with the tines of a fork

Brushed with extra virgin olive oil and baked at 450 deg F/230 deg C in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 min. Make vent slits in the top of the calzone before baking. These were marked with the initials of the fillings … R (broccoli rabe), BR, B (bacon)

Regular pizza … pepperoni sauce, sweet peppers (red, orange, yellow), bacon and mozzarella cheese.

A Comfort Meal for Christmas … Pot Roast

Cooking for one is a challenge during the holidays. You want something special but an elaborate spread is time consuming and can be expensive. The roast below was economical and the long braising time turned a tough piece of beef into a tender and tasty main course.

The outside roast I cooked was small (1.2 kg) so the cooking time was shorter than in the recipe that inspired it. And, while it was braising, there was plenty of time to make the side dishes. I added some new, Christmas-inspired, treats to the meal to make it special.

Purchased Egg nog with a shot of brandy and a grating of fresh nutmeg

Pot Roast, mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, pot veggies and salad

Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream and Mincemeat Kolach

The mincemeat ice cream was a simple variation of the cranberry sauce one I made a while ago. To save time, I’ve posted the recipe below.

Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream – makes 3 1/2 – 4 cups

3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup mincemeat, plus another tbsp or 2 for marbling
1 tbsp brandy

In a large cold bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, brandy and the mincemeat.

Add a scoop or two of the whipped cream to the bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and fold in to lighten the mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream as gently as possible.

Scoop half of the ice cream mixture into a freezer safe container. Place several dollops of mincemeat over the ice cream. Scoop the rest of the ice cream mixture into the container. Place a few more dollops of mincemeat over the top. With a butter knife gently marble the mincemeat into the ice cream. Put the lid on the container and place into freezer for a minimum of 8 hrs or overnight.

Cranberry Sauce Variation: Replace the mincemeat in the recipe above with home made or jarred cranberry sauce. Use whatever alcohol you prefer … Cointreau or Grand Marnier bring out the orange notes in the cranberry sauce recipe I used.

Cooking the pot roast – The roast is seasoned with salt and pepper and seared before continuing with the rest of the braise.

The pot roast was tender after 3 hrs but it could have been cooked for another half hour if desired.

Mushroom gravy made with sauteed white mushrooms and strained braising liquid.

Chicken and Veggies in Black Bean Sauce

This is one of the easiest and fastest stir fry Chinese dishes I know how to make. For some reason I often make the beef version and then overcook the beef resulting in a chewy dish. You won’t have that problem with chicken. I used some of the trimmings from preparing chicken cutlets and made Panko breaded and baked chicken fingers from the rest.

ETA: I just realized that I’ve posted a version of this recipe, with slight variations, three times (once every year) and always with chicken. I guess I’m getting old and forgetful. Or I just love the dish so much that I want to encourage people to give it a try. Pick your explanation.

The recipe below is a basic one which may be adjusted to the amounts of meat and vegetables (use your favourites)  you have or prefer. I didn’t have any peppers so I left them out.

Chicken and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce

Chicken and Veggies in Black Bean Sauce – serves 2-3

1 tbsp vegetable oil
~1/2 pound (200 gm) boneless and skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 tbsp black bean sauce, with or without garlic
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin or sake (substitute with about 1 tsp of sugar if you don’t have either)
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/2 medium onion, sliced in thin strips or substitute with 2-3 stalks of green onion, cut 1/4 inch long on the diagonal
1 thumb’s length (~1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped, if black bean sauce doesn’t have any (optional)
1-2 peppers (red, green or yellow)
1-2 stalks broccoli, florettes and stems
salt and ground black pepper, if needed

Other optional protein choices – pork (tenderloin), shrimp or tofu

Thickener for sauce:

1 tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 cup cold water

Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Preparing the vegetables:

Cut the broccoli florettes off the stems, about 1 1/2 inches in length and break up into manageable pieces. Peel stems and cut into planks of about the same length and 1/4-1/2 inch thickness.

Core and seed peppers and slice into same thickness as the broccoli stems

Peel onion, if using, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

Preparing the chicken meat:

Slice chicken into strips 1/4-1/2 inch thick and about 1 1/2 inches long, as with the veggies.

Cooking the dish:

Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan or wok over medium high heat, add the sliced chicken and cook just until no longer pink. Transfer meat to a bowl and reserve. In the same saute pan, add the sliced onions, ginger and garlic and saute until the onions are no longer translucent.

Add the broccoli and 1/4 cup of water, cover with a lid and let steam for 1 1/2-2 minutes until the broccoli is a bright green but still crunchy. Add the pepper strips and toss through, cooking for another minutes or so.

Return the cooked chicken to the pan, along with the black bean paste, mirin, oyster and soy sauce and stir together.

Stir the cornstarch/water mixture until it’s smooth and pour into the middle of the saute pan. Watch carefully as it bubbles and thickens. Stir the sauce so that it coats the vegetables and meat. If needed add the remaining 1/4 cup of water, or more.

Taste the meat and vegetables adding salt and pepper, if needed. You may also add an additional dash or so of soy sauce.

Serve the chicken and veggies over rice noodles or noodles.

The Humble Baked Potato … Gets Dressed Up

The classic baked potato with sour cream and butter. Delicious. But it can be so much more.

Like twice baked potato skins. Which I’m going to make too. In the meantime, here are some other toppings for that baked potato.

Broccoli and Cheddar Baked Potato – A simple bechamel (white sauce) becomes a mornay sauce when you stir cheese into it. Sharp/old cheddar cheese adds a nice punch but you can use whatever kind you prefer. Microwave some broccoli florettes just until tender, chop them up coarsely and then stir them into your cheese sauce.

The result … like having a bowl of cream of broccoli and potato  soup but with a lot more substance. Makes a tasty side dish to a pork chop or a piece of roasted chicken.

Dress up a pan of baked potatoes with various toppings for game day.

Chili Baked Potato – chili con carne, sour cream, shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese, green onion

I was going to make and post each of the toppings below but I got distracted by other things so I’m sending this out into the LJ/blogging world. I may make and post pictures at some point … but I’m not making any promises.

Other Baked Potato Toppings

1. Pulled Pork – bbq sauce, shredded pulled pork, coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions
2. Breakfast Sausage and Gravy – pork sausage gravy
3. Tex-Mex – spiced meat (ground beef or turkey) mixture, salsa, queso fresco (or paneer cheese)

Leek Duo … from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The first time I ever tasted leeks was in soup made from a packet of “Knorr Cream of Leek”. It was creamy and subtly flavoured and became my ‘standard’ of a leek soup. This soup surpasses that in flavour, nutrition and, time wise, it’s not bad either.

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

I didn’t use any thickeners (cream, cornstarch or flour) to make this soup, other than the two diced potatoes. Although I was tempted to use bacon fat to sautee the 1/2 cup of diced onions, one clove of minced garlic and one large sliced leek, I decided to use 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper to highlight the subtle flavours of the leeks. I wish I had had some home made chicken stock, but I didn’t, so I used a tablespoon of low sodium “Better than Bouillon” to 4 cups of water, which isn’t bad at all. The thickness of the soup was perfect for me, but if you find that as your soup cools, it gets too thick, you can thin it out with some extra chicken stock, or even just some water, in a pinch. Check for seasoning before serving, in that case.

I often make pizza dough from scratch but, having a package or two of flatbreads or flour tortillas, in the freezer, is convenient for quick, last minute meals.

Shiso Pesto, Roasted Leek and Paneer Flatbread Pizza

I ran across some tasty pizza topping ideas using leeks in my recent web search and adapted them to what I had on hand so the leeks sauteed in white wine and cream became leftover roasted leeks with a base of shiso pesto, from the freezer. And, instead of goat cheese, I crumbled some home made paneer cheese, also from the freezer, over the leeks. A sprinkle of green onion for a fresh touch was added, about half way through the baking process and, before serving, grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled over the top.

Leeks (Roasted) … A Versatile Veg

My Saturday grocery shopping had been skipped and there wasn’t much chance that I was going out on Sunday either. I had chicken drumsticks marinating in a spicy Korean mixture with gochujang, garlic, ginger, honey and some other goodies for a type of ‘stew’. And, I had some leftover plain white rice that I could serve them with. But what veggie dish could I include, was the burning question?

A recent purchase of three beautiful leeks meant that after making a pot of mapo tofu, I had two more leeks to use up.

So I went net surfing and found great ideas for using leeks. Some weren’t useful immediately, because I was lacking critical ingredients (or I wasn’t in the mood to go outside and grill on the bbq) but I COULD adapt others. I’m writing down a a few ideas and links from the former category, by the way, for the next time I have leeks. This is the simplest vegetable side dish with leeks that I could find. Simple is GOOD, yes?

Yes, leek soup WAS one of the recipes I found but I don’t have any potatoes for thickening.

Roasted Carrots and Leeks with Fresh Thyme

It’s cold outside but my hardy little thyme plant is still alive so I went out and cut a few sprigs. Salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil over the top, then the carrots were roasted in the oven, while the chicken drumsticks were braised. I only removed one of the outer layers of the leek, so it was a bit “chewy” like with unpeeled older asparagus stalks, but still very tasty.

Ready to roast at 350 deg F for 45 min or until tender and slightly caramelized.

Spicy Korean Braised Chicken Drumsticks – thighs are good too, skin on or off

Slow Weekend for Cooking … Soup, Bread, Mayonnaise and Hummus

Parts of the world need rain but here, in south-western Ontario, we’ve had rain 4 out of the last 5 days, including this weekend. A bit of sun would be greatly appreciated. Since I have lots of food in the freezer, I decided to take a break from cooking … though I did want to use up the last few leaves of kale in my crisper, and some of the sweet peppers I bought on sale (4-pack for $1.88) since areas were getting ‘soft’. The carrots are getting a bit tired too. And, for a change of pace, I soaked some white quinoa to add to the soup in place of rice, potatoes or pasta/noodles.

The result, a Veggie, Turkey and Quinoa soup with the tiny bit of turkey breast left in the fridge after eating it for most of the past week.

If you have some diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) or marinara sauce, you can add that to the soup as well. I just had some tomato paste, so, with that, dried thyme and chicken stock, I made this delicious soup.

Work lunches need bread and since I prefer buns, I made a batch of yeast dough and played with the shaping. Some of it ended up as kaiser rolls (~70 gm) and the rest … well, with Halloween and Thanksgiving (US) ahead, and the Canadian one behind, I shaped some of the dough into pretty little pumpkins (~50 gm) with a whole clove for a stem. For a bit of texture/nutrition/fun, I added a cup of finely ground and sifted rolled oats in the dough in place of a cup of all purpose flour.

Rolled Oats Flour Bread

 

Rolled Oats/Ground Oatmeal Bread – makes ~840 gms of dough

1 cup milk, scalded
2 tbsp butter
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups flour (1 cup rolled oats, fine ground and ~3 cups AP flour), divided
1 tsp salt

Scald the milk in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in the butter and let cool until just barely warm.

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 1 tsp out of the total sugar. Stir in or sprinkle on the dry yeast. Let sit in a warm place to proof until the yeast is nice and foamy (5-10 min).

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the finely ground rolled oats, 1 cup of the flour and the salt.

Whisk in the warm milk mixture and the proofed yeast. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, starting with about 1/3 of a cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir and forms a ball around your wooden spoon.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, using part of the reserved flour. Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with the mixing bowl, and let rest for about 5 min. Continue kneading for another 5 minutes until you have a firm but supple dough. Shape the dough into a round ball.

Add a couple of tsp of vegetable oil to a large bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl and roll around several times to coat the ball of dough. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or a damp towel (so the surface doesn’t dry out) and place in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 min. An electric oven with just the light on works well.

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.

Shaping:

I cut the dough in half (>400 gms each), and shaped one half into 8(~50 gm) pumpkin rolls) and the other half into 6 (~70 gm) kaiser rolls. I let the rolls proof for about 30 minutes in a warm place, covered, then brushed the top with a whole egg beaten well with 1 tbsp of cold water, and then baked the rolls until well browned (15-20 min) and cooked through.

Let cool on wire rack.

For Pigs in Blankets:

300 gms of dough was rolled out into a 6 inch by 12 inch rectangle and cut across the short side into 1 inch strips and then wrapped around each Jumbo hot dog. The wrapped sausages were placed on a baking sheet and baked, unglazed, for 15-18 min, until the top was a golden brown and the bottom was firm and lightly golden as well.

Tasty sandwiches sometimes need a spread, like mayonnaise, and since I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I made a batch of blender mayonnaise. It failed on the first try, so I poured the oily mixture into a measuring cup, added a 3rd egg yolk, a squirt of French’s mustard and a bit of lemon juice back to the blender cup and then slowly poured in the failed oil mixture while my immersion blender was running again. Success. (Every once in a while I get a mayo fail, but I never throw it away. It’s worth adding another egg yolk or 2 to get a thick creamy mayo. In fact, it may have been a bit TOO thick.)

There was one red pepper in my 4-pack, so while my oven was still hot from baking the rolls, I cut it up, brushed some oil over the top, put the pepper on a lined baking sheet and then placed the sheet under the broiler to blister and turn black in places. Peeled and added to a batch of hummus, it made for another great sandwich spread or dip for veggies or pita breads.

Red Pepper Hummus

PS: I made dessert, too, but I’ll save that for a separate post.

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.