Monday, 4 February 2013

Egg Rolls

Egg rolls from a box are bland. I've never had a really good one, always more about the plum sauce than the roll itself. I didn't even want plum sauce with these. They may seem like a lot of work, but they are way easier than any other food wrapped food I've made to date.

**If you don't like tangents skip to the stars below**
It all started with a friend visiting from out of town.

"Hey, Friend," I said over the head of whoever was sitting between us because tall people can do that. "Do you know how to make egg rolls? I have been thinking of trying them out but I can't decide what to put in the filling."

"How funny you should ask," Friend replied with a curiously surprised expression, "egg rolls are my family's specialty."

"Cool beans! Food wrapped in other food is the best!"

Then we high-fived and there was a montage that ended in a food baby photo shoot. Pictures destroyed.
**Story time is over. Back to regular old food talk**

The original recipe was with beef, but I don't buy beef for cooking at home, and generally avoid it for very good reasons I won't mention here. So I used pork, added cabbage, and mixed up the vegetable proportions a bit to what you see scrawled above. The original was essentially a few cooked down vegetables hidden somewhere within the meat. Not exactly what I expected from the boxed variety.

Grate the vegetables, into the browned meat, add sauces & liquids & garlic and cook down until there is very little juice. Or drain the mixture. Whatever. The beans sprouts cook down quite a bit but release lots of juice, so you may have a juicy pan no matter what. Then let it cool down until it is easy to handle. Go listen to side b of whichever ELO album you have. It is excellent egg roll music. Or make something else. Do whatever you have to do to make the time fly.

Packing the egg rolls is the fun part. One letter away from party, so there's that. Use a table spoon and press the filling against the side to squeeze out any liquid. Liquid inside the roll will make it explode (photos later). Put it onto a sheet of egg roll wrapper purchased from your local. Wet three edges with a finger dipped in water and fold one side halfway over, then the other wet side to overlap and seal it lengthwise. Wet the edges, tightly fold and press together. You should get some neat packages such as you see here. Keep doing it until you run out of something.

Bake them on an oiled sheet or shallow fry in neutral oil, I used grape seed. Frying works better in every way except calorie counting. Baked, they turned out crunchy. Not quite as good. Fry them on each side for 2 minutes or until a healthy golden brown colour appears. If you have liquid in your pouch, this is where explosions occur. One of mine ballooned up to the size of a large grapefruit and unloaded in my pot of oil. Not cool, egg roll.
Blurry food and exploded remnants of food.

A couple tricks. You can use egg to seal the pouches but it really isn't necessary. None of mine came open except one and that wasn't because the seals were questionable. Remove egg rolls from oil onto brown paper to soak up oil, then from there onto paper towels or a wire rack. Fry seam side down first to ensure seal doesn't come apart from steam. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Pork Ribs

Tender, juicy and deeply flavourful. Wisk together all ingredients to make sauce/glaze. Season the ribs on both sides. Put ribs curve up in a single layer on a baking sheet; I needed two. Pour over ribs, splitting between the two pans. Cover with tin foil, poking a few holes for steam. Bake at 300 degrees for 2.5 hours. You now have delicious ribs.

They will look like this when done.

You can serve them like this.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Beer can chicken

This obnoxious technique will produce flavourful and moist bird flesh. First prepare the liquid. Open a can of beer and drink a quarter of it. This was the worst part because I used a terrible beer some marketer or other gave me on the street. Bud lite lime mojito or somesuch insult to the public palate.

Add to the open can the garlic and a slice of lime. Fill the gaping cavity of bird with the rest of the lime, sliced. Insert can into bird. Be gentle. Keep the bird upright on its precarious perch.

Season bird with salt and pepper and brush on mixture of 4 Tbsp olive oil and mustard. Add chopped vegetables and remaining olive oil around bird. Zucchini and corn are two other great options.

Beware of chicken from chinatown.
Remove can from chicken. 

What remains is tender, juicy, flavourful and delicous bird meat. The next day the garlic flavour came through very strongly with a hint of refreshing lime. This made a great chicken salad sammich. 
Out of focus sammiches are the best because it means they were too appetizing to take a second picture.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Curry Stew

Warning: Somewhat incomplete list
They say if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Well, I can't stand much heat and today it is 32 degrees out, more with that great Canadian weather invention humidex, but I still managed to make a pretty tasty stew. I even measured everything almost precisely for once.

This is a more Caribbean or West Indian inspired curry rather than of continental India tradition. In fact, with the addition of a can of chickpeas, I imagine this stew could make a nice home folded up in a roti sachet.

Start by making a roux. Melt the butter with olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot. Add the flour and stir together until smooth and bubbling away. Add potatoes, water, chicken bouillon concentrate to turn it into stock and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling again, add a head of cauliflower that has been broken down into florets. The onion, hot peppers, curry powder and bay leaves might as well go in at this point too.

This will boil until the potatoes are tender, about 20-30min. At the 15min mark, add 7 cloves of roughly chopped up garlic. The later you add the garlic and the finer you chop it up means stronger garlic flavour, generally speaking. Add corn here too. It should be noted that the corn needs to be removed from the cob. I use a big knife to do this, scraping with the back of it to remove every last flavourful bit from it after the kernels have been severed. Once the potatoes are tender, remove from heat and let sit for half an hour to let the flavours marry.
Yummy, very yellow, curry stew

Upon tasting, I realized that it was missing something. I added a few sprigs worth of thyme leaves and a squirt of lemon juice. I think this could have been thicker, so next time I'd use 8 Tbsp of fat and flour each. Wonderful! Now this is a dish worth eating. Ladypants even went back for seconds. She doesn't eat anything that isn't fully excellent. If something I make isn't up to her standards on first tasting, I must suffer through it alone, or let it go mouldy in the fridge (undesirable). Not this time, it's received the official Ladypants seal of approval.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Ordinary Humus

Stick all of those things in a food processor and whiz around until it is smooth. Add more water for a thinner humus. I added a half teaspoon of cumin but didn't write it on the big board. Serve in a bowl garnished with chopped cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil and a crack of black pepper. Scoop with pita. Tahini is really important for good humus, don't bother with poor substitutes.

This hummus is the closest to store bought I've made so far, and better than almost every other homemade humus I've tried. The lemon juice balances the richness of the olive oil and tahini nicely. With this dish, a little garlic goes a long way, especially the next day. Not bad for five minutes work.

Fried chicken

Fry that chicken!
 The secret to fried chicken as far as I can tell is to marinate the pieces in buttermilk brine for a full 24 hours. This keeps the meat tender and juicy. I like thighs because they are really flavourful and hold up to longer cooking. Coat the chicken pieces in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice you want, then fry in butter. Once the skin is brown and crispy, I put them in the oven and started browning another batch. The skin didn't stay crispy in the oven, but overall this fried chicken was absolutely delicious. Leftovers came back in wrap form.
Wrap it up!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The salad you make friends with and how to cut everything in it

I made three friends with this salad.
One large handful of baby spinach topped with an avocado, three tomatoes, a third of red pepper, greek feta cheese, sunflower seeds black pepper and a house dressing (olive oil, cider vinegar & tamari sauce). This salad is a staple in my house. Common additions include cucumber and cilantro leaves.

How you cut salad ingredients is important. If you make the pieces too large or small they will be difficult to eat or end up on the bottom. I've found slicing red pepper half a centimetre and then cutting those slices in 3cm sticks is ideal. I like my tomatoes in wedges, about ten for a vine tomato, but half wedges work well too. Avocado should be pre-sliced into one centimetre cubes and then scooped out with a spoon. Only use avocado in a salad when it is perfectly ripe, when a squeeze of the bulbous bottom gives slightly. If you use cucumber, they are best in quarter circles. Feta is good cubed, but looks and coats better when crumbled. Leave the dressing until the last minute to prevent the greens from getting soggy. I prepare it in a shot glass and leave it aside until eating time. Pesto and mustard are both great additions to the house dressing.

Root Beer

Simmer all for 20-30 min, strain and jar.

This recipe is to make a root beer syrup. I mix it with carbonated water to make pop, but you could also dilute it and ferment it with yeast for a true root beer. I had a rough time finding all the ingredients for this. It ended up that the only place around to get everything was the occult shop. It turns out the worker there makes root beer herself and already knew exactly what I needed. I wonder if using a cauldron makes it taste better.
Add caption

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This is pretty much your standard banana bread with a surprising twist. Instead of chocolate chips, use some peanut butter candies, reese bites or somesuch. I couldn't really taste the spiced rum, but it definitely didn't hurt.

Mix your dry ingredients, mix your wets and combine. Add chocolate/peanut butter chips and combine. Pour into two buttered loaf pans and bake for 40 min at 350 degrees or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

I gave this to a friend for her birthday last week. She and the other people at the party loved it, claiming it was, "out of this world" and "best birthday cake ever!" It should have been no surprise that peanut butter and banana go so well together. I just can't work out why I hadn't heard of this sooner. Not even on pinterest.

Banana bread tastes better when baked in glass.

Sausage Gnocco in Tomato Sauce

Brown up some sliced sausage, add extra garlic & thyme to the tomato sauce from the previous post, mix in cooked gnocco sardo (or any other good sauce pasta of your choosing), a hand full of spinach, and you should get something like this:
Spicy Italian fennel & pork sausage meat balls with spinach and pasta in a
garlic and thyme tomato sauce.
Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a small mountain of Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Eggplant Parmesan Etc.

Tomato sauce is pretty essential to eggplant parmesan, but the recipe doesn't require nearly all of it. Prepare for leftovers. Make lasagna, or other pasta, use it as pizza sauce or on sandwiches.

Put all the ingredients into a pot and simmer for 45 minutes. Not listed is 2 dried hot peppers I crushed and threw in. There is no real secret to it. The only trick is to use a tall pot so it doesn't splash all over your kitchen. Seriously, this got everywhere. Once done, take the basil stems out, the remaining rind, and puree it until smooth. You can leave the chopped onion and garlic cloves if you want, but this isn't a texture sauce. I'd smooth it out.

To make eggplant parmesan, first slice, salt, and leave the pieces to sit for at least half an hour, can go overnight. Drain the liquid and roast the slices in olive oil for half an hour at 350, flipping halfway through. They will shrink to about half of their original thickness.

Layer sauce, then eggplant, then old cheddar & parmesan, then more sauce until all eggplant is used up. Bake for 35-45 minutes. I topped this with chunks of stilton blue cheese after 35 minutes and baked some more until they were melted.

The sauce still has that tomato zing to it, with a mild spice. Parmesan rinds give it a lot of extra flavour and body. This is a great sauce that I imagine I'll be using quite a bit in the next week, though it could be frozen for later too.

I'd never made this dish before, not sure I've even tasted it really. Most recipes online call for breading and frying of eggplant. Maybe that makes it better, but this tasted pretty good already. It likely has more to do with consistency. My version is a bit soft and saucy. Breadcrumbs would have soaked up some liquid. I cut the eggplant lengthwise, but I'm thinking circles might be a better choice as the skin can be tougher to cut through. It makes it messy to serve. Still, writing this post I've made myself hungry to taste it again. That's definitely a good sign.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Rhubarb Mojitos

What people who don't like sports do on a Sunday afternoon.
It was a hot summer day and I had been sweating over a hot fry pan for at least an hour willing some cursed tofu to turn colour when an extremely manly friend knocked on my door. The social convention is to offer such a visitor a cold beverage, so I made rhubarb mojitos. Add syrup to muddled mint and white rum, top with carbonated water and serve pink. Look how much fun we're having.

Rhubarb syrup:
2C water
2C sugar
2C rhubarb

Boil for 20 minutes. Strain and jar. Done.

Rhubarb Mojito:
2oz white rum
2oz rhubarb syrup (to taste)
12-16oz fizzy water
1 sprig mint.
Muddle mint, add rum, add syrup, add fizzy water, mix. Drink with silly people.

Vegetarian Tofu Shepherd's Pie

This tastes better than it sounds, in fact it tastes pretty good, but not quite as good as meat. Vegetarians will never succeed in replacing meat, merely going without it. I often say they should stop trying, but then I go and make something like this that puts tongue firmly in cheek. For you edibles counters out there, it is my lowest calorie shepherd's pie to date, though not by much, coming in at 275 calories per serving (3" square).

The method is pretty much the same as my meaty shepherd's pies found here and here, but I'll explain it again because there are some extra steps. First, saute some onions until they soften and begin to caramelize. Crumble up two packages of weight strained extra firm tofu.

*****Skip this next paragraph to avoid information and inflammatory opinions regarding the nature of tofu and those who eat it.*****

Tofu comes with flavourless water trapped inside, water we want to replace with something that tastes good. Tofu doesn't taste good on its own, so some effort must be spent to inject something, anything, that won't make you spit it out cursing vegans and their poorly conceived notions of what constitutes food. I should also note that this recipe would be vegan but for butter. Barbecuing un-marinated tofu and feeding it to people should be punishable by law, perhaps to the extent of a forced stay at one of Harper's super prisons. Hint, they're not super for their food choices. Their vegetarian menu is guaranteed to be more punishment than the company. I've digressed too far.

Tofu and onions in a saute pan. Brown it up, may take an hour
What the above paragraph was supposed to say is that you have to squeeze out the water from the tofu. Do this by putting some paper towel on a plate, topping with tofu blocks, then with more paper towel and something heavy. I used a pot full of potatoes, this worked. In the past I have used a book on modern art that weighs more than most dogs. Leave it sit there for about 15-20 minutes. Then crumple and try to caramelize it in the pan with olive oil. This took me about an hour. You will have to stir it regularly, and scrape it off the bottom. Here is where we add our flavour to it, mostly in the form of soy sauce, but also with 3 cloves of garlic. I used a couple dashes of hot sauce for depth of flavour, but I couldn't really taste it in the end. Maybe it did something, maybe not. Don't dump all the soy sauce in at once because you'll end up with a sticky mess at the bottom of the pan that is more likely to burn than do anything at all pleasant.

When you start to see some darker bits of tofu, add the carrot. It takes a longer time to cook. Keep on keeping on with the tofu until there are a lot of darker bits and the carrots are toothsome. Adjust the seasoning, add frozen peas and corn stripped from the cob, even getting the leftovers by scraping the cob with the back of your knife. That is good corn flavour, don't waste it. Add 2 Tbsp of flour and mix until you can't see it anymore. Add a cup of onion broth and coat evenly on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

This photo was not taken with instagram, I'm just bad at cameras. 
Mash the boiled potatoes and yam in butter, sliced garlic, and remaining onion broth until desired consistency. I like a few lumps. It reminds me that I'm eating things that came out of the ground instead of from a box. Top the tofu mixture with the mashed potatoes and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with a salad to vegetarian friends you wouldn't normally invite over because they don't eat people food.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Homemade Pop (soda for confused Americans)

Chalkboard chicken scratch!
I made ginger ale, orange lime, plain orange, and plain lime so far. They are tasty and refreshing with much less sugar and chemical additives than commercial pop. This means they don't always look like they taste. My orange soda, isn't all that orange. In fact, it looks kinda like lemonade. They are extremely simple to make, 20 minutes from start to end of clean up.

Start by bringing to a boil equal parts sugar and water. Add whatever flavour you want. Citrus zest in this case, or you can use thinly sliced ginger, rhubarb, peach, anything really. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the liquid has roughly reduced by half. With the citrus version, I added the juice for extra freshness. Strain to remove pulp and zest, and store in a jar or bottle until you want to use it. It will keep in the fridge for some time as sugar is a natural preservative.

You now have flavoured simple syrup to add to anything your ambitious and experimental taste buds desire. I add it to carbonated water with lots of ice. I like 2oz per 16oz glass.

This orange pop looks like lemonade but there is no
mistaking its flavour. Refreshing, simple, and delicious!

Perogies - 3 Ways

Fry Bacon (always capitalized). Be careful, it
pops, jumps, and otherwise makes frying difficult.
Write recipe on kitchen chalkboard. Photograph
only part of it.

Fry onions in bacon grease until well caramelized, the colour of toffee.
Convince womenfolk to make perogie dough...
...and to roll it into 3" circles.

Stuff perogie dough circles with prepared fillings.

Line up sealed perogies neatly on a floured tray.
Inspect perogies to ensure perfection.

Boil, then fry perogies in butter until golden brown. Lots of butter.
Serve topped with sour cream, caramelized onions and Bacon.
Eat with maximum appropriate gusto...
...and scrape the plate to show the cook how much you enjoyed the meal.