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.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Bacon and/or Chicken Carbonara

Fry your bacon or roast your chicken. Remove cooked meat from the pan and add cooked noodles (2 Cups dried) to it along with spinach and black pepper. I like cooking some onions in the grease first. Remove from heat and cool a bit. Add a couple egg whites while stirring constantly to create a creamy sauce. Serve with parmesan cheese, the meat if desired (a must for the bacon), and a raw egg yolk to mix in for added richness. This is so simple and astoundingly delicious. Not great for you, but once in a while you have to treat yourself.
Add spinach and noodles, cool, then egg yolks.
I didn't let it cook enough here.

Cooking bacon and onions.

Bacon spinach carbonara
Chicken carbonara without meat.

Cucumber Mint Iced Tea

An extremely refreshing variation on my iced tea. Add a half sprig of muddled mint to the glass and fill most of the way up. Top with a couple slices of cucumber. This will not only add a mild cucumber coolness to it, but keep the mint leaves out of your mouth as you drink. Mostly.

You can fancy it up further if you want, but this is perfect as it is. In the spirit of experimentation, I fancied it up anyways. I added an ounce of Pimms no. 1, an orange slice, and a twist of candied orange peel as a garnish. I prefer the original, but this one made a prettier picture.

Dill & lime trout

First you take some trout (season with salt and pepper), then you take some dill, cut up some lime and stack them onto each other in than order. Then drizzle in olive oil and broil for 10 minutes. Serve with couscous or other light fare.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Sri Lankan Curry Chicken

Thank you for the recipe Gayan's Mom!
I acquired this recipe from a colleagues mom at the place of my last major employ. She gave me a small jar of traditional meat curry shipped in from her homeland of Sri Lanka. I have no idea where to buy it, but I imagine the dish can be made successfully with other curry powders as well. I changed it only slightly, adding some neutral vegetables and not marinating the meat due to time restrictions.

Start by sauteing a small amount of onion in oil over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts cut into approximately one inch (2.5cm) cubes, ginger, garlic, hot sauce (recipe called for chili powder), vinegar, meat curry, and 1/4C water to help the chicken cook. Stir well to ensure chicken is evenly coated. When the water has nearly disappeared, add coconut milk (400ml), zucchini, salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes, the recipe says.

I found after 5 minutes the chicken was cooked, but the sauce wasn't thick enough for me. So I removed the chicken and zucchini pieces and reduced the sauce for a few more minutes until I was happy with it. I realized at this point that this is a dish to eat on top of something else. I hurriedly put a pot of salted water on to boil and made macaroni. When the sauce is done, add the meat back with a handful of spinach. Serve over hasty macaroni.

Food from distant land looks much tastier for the domestic spinach and zucchini.
Macaroni was a good choice, but rice may have been a better one, at least more traditional. It soaked up the coconut sauce into its elbow holes. I really like the taste of this curry. It is sharp, pungent, complex, and dark brown in colour. I love this dish! I thought coconut milk was sweet, having never cooked with it before, but this wasn't at all. If I find out where to buy this curry, I'll let you know. This one might be close.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Healthy Shepherd's Pie

Celery only has one "l". I know this to be true.
Starchy potatoes replaced with vegetables, fat heftily reduced, and lean white meat instead of delicious baby animal red meat makes this significantly healthier than previous versions of this dish I've made. Cauliflower and celery root (or celery yak) replace most of the potatoes. They contain more moisture, so don't require additional ingredients such as milk, butter or cream to make them delightful to eat. All that on lean minced turkey, seasoned so you'll never taste how healthy it is.

Start by preheating oven to 375, then boiling celery root, cauliflower and potatoes in salted water. In another pan, brown onions and turkey in olive oil. Turkey needs a little bit of fat to get going, so let's make it a healthy olive oil instead of delicious butter this time. Add garlic, hot pepper, curry, and soy sauce once light browning has occurred.  Once all liquid has disappeared, add flour and mix well. Spread into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Pour in a bit of liquid to keep the meat sticking together in a bit of gravy after cooking. I used beer, but water or stock would have worked too.

A tray full of food. Healthy food means you can eat more of it right?
By now everything should be soft in the boil pot. Drain and use a hand mixer to mash the vegetables with the legumes. Cauliflower doesn't mash well by hand. Add cheese and mash thoroughly. Add a large handful of spinach and stir in until it has wilted. Spread over the meat mixture and bake for 30 minutes.

This is really tasty for something that is at least theoretically good for you. I would have liked the mash to be a bit firmer, but perhaps it will set overnight in the fridge. I've had a lot worse shepherd's pie that was a lot worse for you. This was really tasty!
Look at that pile of food. Doesn't it look good? Oh yeah, it was good. 291 calories per piece (12 pieces per tray).

Vegetable bacon mash

*I spelled turmeric wrong
Sounds delicious right? I like food that comes all mashed together and can be served as an amorphous blob. This particular blob tasted great! How could it not with bacon, cheese, lots of butter, and a few lighter Indian flavours. Who are we kidding, it's just mashed potatoes with a few veggie friends on a road trip.

If you are in the mood for a tasty mess (even my chalk board writing looks extra messy today), start by boiling the potatoes, broccoli stems and carrots in chicken stock. After ten minutes, add the broccoli tips and boil for another ten minutes until everything is soft.

Meanwhile, fry some bacon in a skillet. When it starts to turn brown, add garlic, tumeric, hot peppers, and a bit of the chicken stock from the boiling pot. Simmer for 2 minutes and add butter, fenugreek and goat cheese. Stir to melt everything together. Add more chicken stock if needed as by this time the potatoes should be soft.

Drain and mash the boiled things and add the contents of the skillet. Mash some more until you like the consistency. I like it with a few vegetable lumps. Eat up!

Boil these first. I peeled the carrot and broccoli stem but not the potatoes. It's probably a good idea to cut them up a bit first.
Add these things later. I didn't quite use all of the goat cheese.
Tasty goo on a plate. The turmeric makes it a lovely yellow colour and is extremely good for you.
A great level of spice. Nice chewy bacon pieces. Intensely flavourful.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Buttermilk Pancakes

The potatoes are simple enough to warrant no further explanation.

For the pancakes, mix all those things in a bowl. Ladle onto a heated pan, preferably cast iron, with melted butter for the first one. After the first one, generally not that great, no more butter is needed to make fine pancakes. Keep the prepared ones warm in an oven on the lowest heat setting.

Serve them with maple syrup and strawberries. Whipped cream optional, but recommended.

Ice Tea

4 Earl Grey tea bags and 1/3C cane sugar or honey and a small amount of lemon juice (unmeasured).
*Note, honey will make the tea cloudy.
Add boiling water and steep until room temperature. Water down to fill jar if desired.
Chill until cold and drink when refreshment is needed.


A week ago I made a number of quiches to feed Ladypants' vegetarian parent folk. No bacon in the pie shells this time. Ladypants makes the best pie crust in the outer rim, but on this occasion flat out refused to make some. Something about yarn and feeling it being more important. I dunno. So I bought tenderflake crusts. They'll have to do in a pinch.

Serve with a salad for a light lunch.
Quiche is easy. For two tenderflake pie crusts, whip up 8-10 eggs depending on how much other stuff you put in. Add 3/4C - 1C buttermilk and season with salt and pepper. This is where the fun begins. To further flavour the egg mixture, you can add any herb or spice you want. For one batch, I added an Indian spice mix that I got in my christmas stocking. That was my favourite of the mix. Indian quiche, who knew. To the others I whisked in some basil pesto.

Add vegetables, meat and/or cheese to the pie crusts individually. Mixing them into the eggs will make for uneven distribution and messy pouring. I used broccoli (just small cut florets), feta cheese, baby spinach and red pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the middle is set. I don't like my eggs runny in quiche.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Port Ice Cream

This one is self explanatory.

Ice cream in a glass. With port. There's really nothing to it.

Tasty though. I like to mash it all together and then try to eat it without dribbling on my beard. Impossible.
Don't use expensive port. That is a waste. Drink responsibly ... with ice cream.

Mushroom Burgers

These are good. I've made better, but I lost the recipe and improvised this one. They tend to fall apart as you eat them, but they are tasty.

Start by caramelizing an onion in olive oil. Really caramelize it. Until it is at least portabella mushroom brown. Do this while chopping up the considerable amount of mushrooms needed to make these burgers. I chopped the 'shrooms up as small as I had the patience for. That worked out to be about half centimeter cubes on average. I used portabella, oyster and shitake mushrooms, mostly portabella because the others are more expensive.

Add them all to the pan with 6 cloves of chopped garlic and a splash of water to get them started. Once the water has left the fungus, add soy sauce as a seasoning and unnecessary source of umami. When all the liquid is gone, remove from heat and let cool. In hindsight, I should have cooked them down a bit further as I think this is what made the burgers fall apart in the end: Too much moisture.

Once cool enough to handle, mix in oatmeal, eggs, hot sauce (could have used more) and parmesan cheese. Mix well and let settle. I added 3 cloves of eviscerated garlic at this point. Really make it a paste to get a powerful garlic taste or chop it for a milder flavour.  Let the flavours marry and the oatmeal soften by letting it rest for a while, perhaps overnight.

Now, it is time to make the burgers. Don't form patties before you have buns. This is irresponsible behaviour, and you will likely end up with ill fitting patties in the end. Or, you can be like me. Get the buns, form the patties to size, and still make the patties way to big to actually stay between the halves. Competence!

See, they don't look too strange. Fry those burgers! 
Fry the patties in a bit of butter or olive oil. I like butter better. Always will, but in this case it makes a big difference. Fry them until they are about to burn, so the edges get crispy. I added extra hot sauce to the patty here. But it onto a bun, top with cheese and something green. Tonight, I made two thin patties, but some goat cheese in the middle and put them together. I stuffed the patty is what I'm trying to say. Good choice. Thinly sliced red pepper is a good addition as well. In the end it should look like this:

It's ok to get really close to the screen here, maybe drool a bit. Can you smell it? Smells like victory.